This #81 is important as a summary of the shortcomings of the City’s current system of providing the public with information about rezoning and development applications. Brian describes the database he created as an individual, using information from CityHallWatch. And shows how much more the City could do to provide this information to the public. The obvious conclusion is not that the City is unable to. It doesn’t want to.
September 15th 2022—a break from neighbourhood discussions to think about how easy it would be to have City Hall’s planning & building departments move from byzantine to transparent
A somewhat illegible snapshot from the 443 rows + 40 columns in the Homes for Whom database—why is this hard to read but more transparent than all of City Hall?
“Dad, don’t you think folks are getting tired of your database” asked my son, looking over my shoulder. “Let’s face it—data is boring!”
I smiled at his generation’s rejection of numbers. “I agree,” I answered, “it’s not sexy at all, but numbers talk and in the absence of authoritative data, as the next civic election approaches, folks are increasingly listening and paying attention.”
He looked skeptical, so I continued. “For more than a year I listened to many citizens, journalists, social media folks and politicians complain about the impossibility of getting timely information out of City Hall’s planning and building departments.” He continued looking askance.
“So, Dad,” he interrupted. “How did we get here and how do we get out of this mess?”
“I think some of where the city is at is layered accidents, but some is also deliberate.” He waited for me to explain.
“In any bureaucracy there’s a tendency to keep adding layers of requirements. One small scale example and knock on effects—a few citizens build unsafe, illegal building bits, so every single project must be preinspected. As a result there are insufficient staff to examine and shut down illegal AirBnBs or similar situations. Or, an inspector or plan checker is fooled by an applicant or contractor, so a new rule is imposed on every project, no exceptions. After a while, nobody remembers why the new rule or requirement was implemented, but nobody has or will exercise the authority to revisit and refine.” He smiled at the examples he had lived vicariously through me.Continue reading