In his state of the city speech, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes 2013 as a “year of action,” and 2014 as a “year of progress.” I suppose that’s the best way to brand a 12-month period during which you fulfill promises that have already been voted on and paid for.

Alistair Steele municipal reporter CBC Ottawa

Alistair Steele is CBC Ottawa's municipal reporter.

Not to take anything away from those accomplishments. They are many, and they’re significant: The Confederation Line, Lansdowne Park, the Ottawa River Action Plan, Arts Court and the Ottawa Art Gallery and Ottawa on the Move. All vital, multi-million-dollar, city-building projects.

Add to all that new recreation complexes in various corners of the city, vital to the health and well-being of our communities, plus the innumerable, small-scale infrastructure projects that make neighbourhoods tick. Progress indeed.

Yet the state of the city speech always comes with the promise of something new. This one was no different, but it turns out there’s no “big reveal,” just a bunch of small parting gifts to end the term on a pleasant note. Think of it as a loot bag of inexpensive but thoughtful gifts at the end of a four-year party.

  • ot-recycling-doucet-model-080613

    Watson wants to see recycling bins like this one across the city. (CBC)

    Recycling: The city will expand a successful pilot project that replaced a mish-mash of recycling receptacles on Elgin Street with more streamlined containers to a stretch of Laurier Avenue East in Sandy Hill.
  • Beautification: Taking a cue from Little Italy’s Preston Street overpass, the city will get together with other neighbourhood groups to make the Queensway’s underbelly a bit more colourful. Local MPPs, including the Minister of Transportation, have given the mural project the thumbs-up.
  • Snow angels: The city will expand its 'Sno Go' program to formally recognize people who help shovel out their elderly or disabled neighbours.
  • Nelson Mandela Square: The recently landscaped area in front of City Hall’s Elgin Street entrance will be named in honour of the great South African freedom fighter. The small patch of green space is wedged between the Human Rights Monument, which Mandela visited in 1998, and Watson’s office window, just above and to the left.

All that and a Karst! Yes, a Karst. It’s not new, per se. In fact it’s very, very old. But the unique geological formation in Cardinal Creek earned special mention in the mayor’s speech and sent many of us rushing to Google. (The Citizen’s David Reevely chimed in on Twitter with this helpful link.)