I’m beginning to think that “open house” is a bit of a misnomer.
Local gays and transfolk packed a 2006 open house about Bank St reconstruction. At the time, we asked that redevelopment plans include some marker to show that a portion of the street is Ottawa’s Village, home to a density of queer people, an area in which we live, work and play.
What we were asking for was a symbol of diversity, inclusively not exclusivity, a symbol of friendliness and openness to gay people — everything that the rainbow stands for.
Then, we packed a second meeting in the spring of 2008 where the city’s plans were revealed. No dice on rainbow flags or street signs. Again, we asked for rainbows. Nothin’ doin.
Then we poured into a public art open house. Again, no dice on queer-themed public art.
Each time we were clear but respectful.
So, now we have open house part four. It’s taking place at the Legion hall on Kent St Dec 3. The purpose is to unveil plans for Bank St between Somerset and Arlington. Again, the plans will ignore our respectful — but increasingly insistent — calls for some rainbows in the Village.
Our time will be better spent virtually anywhere other than at this open house. Perhaps the best place we can spend our time is on Bank St, in the stores, doing holiday shopping.
Here’s where I’m at with these open houses: they’re designed to give planners a chance to defend — rather than reconsider — their plans for the street. Everyone involved with the project, from city staffers to Councillor Diane Holmes, admits that the feedback from these meetings has had a singular message, overwhelmingly: rainbow flags on Bank St.
The City of Ottawa staff, their planners, and our city councillor know what folks in this community want. Going to another open house is redundant. And, for the record, we can send as strong a message by staying away this time as we did by packing the meeting’s previous iterations.
Glenn Crawford and the folks at the Village Initiative are working on a plan to raise cash for flags. They’ve already raised $4,500, but they want to double that figure in the next few months. He needs help to do that, so if you’ve got some free time, drop him a line here. There will be more information from his team in the coming months.
Meanwhile, there won’t be much of a Village to decorate soon, unless we get behind the area businesses.
Consider that six months of construction on Bank St (from Laurier to Somerset) have gutted sales in many area shops. At lucky businesses, sales are down 20 percent — others are worse. Even businesses not caught by the fencing have been affected by bus diversions and decreased pedestrian traffic.
So let’s do our part to support Bank St businesses. That’s job one. It’s holiday time, so get out your plastic.
And in the new year, Glenn and the Village folks will be in touch.