Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, March 15, 2010

Are More Demolitions of City Facilities on the Horizon?

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
March 15, 2010

Is the Mayor and city council preparing to demolish our network of twenty Neighborhood Association Clubhouses that have been centers for organized recreational youth hockey, soccer, and softball run by dedicated volunteers in Oshawa for over 60 years?

They are if reports surfacing from a recent OCCNA (Oshawa Central Committee of Neighborhood Associations) meeting are any indication. A recent OCCNA meeting was attended by a member the Provincial Government who stated that the Mayor and some of his councilors are planning to shut down any Neighborhood Association Clubhouse that is not handicap compliant by 2025.

A city official was quoted as saying that the city and the OCCNA need to be aware of legislation and work towards upgrading their clubhouses by this date. The source inferred that the city did not plan on funding any of the required upgrades, and instead, will simply bulldoze the facilities if the clubhouse members do not fundraise and complete the work themselves.

According to one key longtime clubhouse volunteer, the mayor and some councillors must be trying to get back at OCCNA groups for making sure there were no user fees for baseball and soccer fields and for opposing the closing of arenas. He says that some of Oshawa's municipal politicians just seem to try and think of any underhanded scheme to try and ruin the unique system that the OCCNA provides for sports to the children of this city.

These reports of the potential bulldozing of the OCCNA clubhouses are consistent with city council’s seeming desire to wipe out youth recreational activity through huge increases in facilities fees for swimming pools and ice pads putting costs beyond parent’s ability to pay.

This short-sighted city discouragement of youth activity is inconsistent with national concerns about child inactivity and obesity, and the future costs to our health care systems.

It is public knowledge that Mayor John Gray and his City Council of incompetents have already demolished North Oshawa Arena and Council Chambers and City Hall “A” Wing which they are replacing with an aluminum $20 Million "Beer Can" centering the traditional limestone buildings now encircling city hall square. The new council chamber will stick out like a sore thumb...and look cheap and temporary within the surrounding architecture.

They also have approved demolition of the Civic Auditorium in April and have disguised this demolition in news reports as “an exciting” rejuvenation project.

Note they have chosen the word rejuvenation carefully….like the “renewal and renovation” at city hall which was a $20 million money-wasting and unneeded demolition and rebuilding project.

You know also, of course, that studies are underway to demolish Harmon Park Arena and Children’s Arena.

A large part of the rationale for demolishing four out of Oshawa’s five arenas was a surplus of ice pads resulting from city hall’s approval to build the GM Centre whose operating losses cost taxpayers about $1 million annually ($3M when debt charges are included), the multi-pad Legend’s Centre, and also the city’s partial funding of the multi-pad ice complex on the university grounds.

After approving these projects, how can civic administrators now say that this recent overbuilding has given Oshawa a surplus of ice pads thus necessitating the demolition of the older but strategically placed skating and hockey facilities?

If these facilities needed some upgrading, as claimed, wouldn’t it have made sense spending a fraction of the capital costs of new projects on the upgradings?

I get the impression that city council is like a bull in a china shop. It just crashes ahead in an unthinking way and then looks for a rationale to support its decisions to the taxpaying public.

In the case of city hall rebuilding, for example, the reasons offered in turn were: 1) a leaking roof, 2) not handicapped accessible, and finally, 3) not energy efficient.

In truth, city hall was grasping at straws to support an unneeded and wasteful project at great cost to the taxpayer.

The first and second excuses were low cost maintenance items and the third (energy inefficiency) is a characteristic of every public and private building in the world that has been around for any length of time. Count the Parliament Buildings, The Louve, Buckingham Palace, and Washington's Capital Hill and Toronto "New" City Hall built about the same time as Oshawa's demolish council chamber probably inspired by Toronto's iconic city hall in this lot...but only the insane would ever contemplate demolishing any of them.

In fact Toronto preserved its "Old" City Hall built in 1899 which it bills as a showplace of history and exquisite craftsmanship. No such thinking with this city council bunch. They even allowed the demolition of Rundle House which was important enough to be featured on an city publication, "Historic Walking Tours of Downtown Oahawa."

We must put an end to this council and their “search and destroy” missions which are blowing up every city asset in sight.

Little wonder Oshawa suffers the highest taxes in the GTA and among the highest in the country.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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