Civic Muscle: don't take no for an answer
(Part 4 of 5)
John Bowker, owner of She Said Boom, a used CD and record store on Roncesvalles Avenue, has been through two main street reconstructions. The first was on College Street, where he used to own a store in the heart of Little Italy.
Construction crews have been at work for two years in front of the store he now runs on Roncesvalles. Business owners like Bowker, along with the residents who make up the community group, Roncesvalles Renewed, saw reconstruction of the streetcar rails as an opportunity.
It was a series of informal conversations with planners at the city's urban forestry department that led the group to decide its priority was better planting conditions for boulevard trees.
It was a series of informal conversations with planners at the city's Urban Forestry department that the group decided its priority was better planting conditions for boulevard trees.
Meetings didn't take place at city hall, but in living rooms and the local library. Bowker believes informal settings and conversations were critical to the relationships between city officials and the community.
"I think the community did a very good job of doing an end-run around formality," he says. "People like Peter Simon (from urban forestry) would attend a meeting in the living room, so while the formal environmental assessment process was dragging on, a very productive informal process was taking place.
"That was something we created on our own. It's not something that would have happened if it was left to the official process."
But as Bowker discovered, civic engagement is not for the faint of heart.
"When the bureaucracy comes to you and says, 'By the way, the consultation is over,' I'll smile and say, 'Thank you, and by the way, we have some notes.' I think the community should be prepared to do that, to be willing to keep putting their input forward. And you will hear no. Don't let that upset you. Don't take no for an answer.
"There's no rule saying you can't keep putting your information to people who need it. And if it's good information, people will hear it."
Municipal Election Features
- indepthCivic Muscle
- Mary Wiens' series on Toronto's new government - you.
- IndepthTransit evolution
- Should the TTC focus on improvements to bus services?
- Ward ProfilesToronto Wards
- Complete riding results ward by ward for councillor and trustee races.
- Last timeToronto Votes 2006
- Last time, voters handed David Miller a sweeping victory.
- News Archive
- Blog: On the Campaign Trail
- Mayoral Candidates' Debate
- Ward Profiles
- GTA Profiles
- Voter Toolkit
- About Our Election Coverage
- Reworking Toronto's Finances
- Transit Evolution
- Civic Muscle