"We are working to develop practical solutions and specific 
action plans to address the number of issues raised during  
the intensive consultation sessions that were held."


                                                                                   - City Manager, Kent Kirkpatrick

From The Ottawa Sun...

Summit faces high expectations

By Susan Sherring
The Ottawa Sun

August 18, 2005

Can a two-day Rural Summit really solve the great divide in the amalgamated City of Ottawa?

There's a growing concern that too much stock is being put in the Rural Summit, an idea first proposed by Mayor Bob Chiarelli as a way to deal with the frustrations found outside the urban and suburban areas that now make up one big Ottawa.

Planned for this fall, the summit is designed as a forum to air rural beefs and find solutions to the disconnect felt by many rural residents, who have found themselves unhappily forced into one big city.

 
 
Many rural dwellers feel their urban counterparts don't know the first thing about their way of life, and that they're footing a bill for something that not only doesn't provide them with any benefits, but gets in the way of their established way of living.

 
 

Cumberland Coun. Rob Jellett, whose ward is an even mix of rural and urban residents, knows the summit won't be a panacea for all the rural woes in his area.

But he's still hopeful inroads will be made.

He chuckles out loud as he tells this tale, a story he freely admits he heard second-hand and really has no way of knowing if it's even true.

But as the story -- or tall tale -- goes, a fire breaks out in rural Ottawa and the volunteer firefighters are soon on the scene.

Shortly afterward, they're joined by their city-paid counterparts as backup.

While the volunteers attempt to put out the fire, the paid firefighters are running up and down the street looking for the fire hydrant.

Of course, as rural volunteer firefighters know, there aren't any fire hydrants out in the rural areas.

Urban legend? Or should I say rural legend?

Perhaps.

But while it just might be a complete fabrication, its repeated telling epitomizes the sentiment felt out in the rural areas, an angst fueled by amalgamation that doesn't appear to be subsiding.

Many rural dwellers feel their urban counterparts don't know the first thing about their way of life, and that they're footing a bill for something that not only doesn't provide them with any benefits, but gets in the way of their established way of living.

With the unrest growing, there's increased focus being placed on the summit.

Take this letter written by city manager Kent Kirkpatrick for starters.

'Practical solutions'

In a series of ongoing e-mails between some of the rural civic leaders and city manager Kent Kirkpatrick, he attempts to define what the aim of the summit is.

"One of the key goals of the Rural Summit is to identify specific ways in which the city can improve how it delivers services to its rural neighbourhoods. We are working to develop practical solutions and specific action plans to address the number of issues raised during the intensive consultation sessions that were held.

"In fact, the summit process has already led to changes to how the city approaches things and I anticipate that the Rural Summit action plan will have a profound effect on how the city delivers its programs and services," he said.

Sounds a little over-optimistic, doesn't it?

Can one two-day summit really be a panacea for the problems out in the rural areas?

Some, like Innes Coun. Rainer Bloess, appear ready to throw in the towel before it's even begun.

"It's clear this isn't a good fit," Bloess said. "I recognize they're not happy in the city. Maybe it's just time to let the rural people go. Let's give them what they want."

West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry disputes that sentiment.

"I'm very optimistic about the rural summit," he says, but the frustration in his voice is apparent.

"There's a real disconnect and we have to find a way to deal with it."

He refers to a recent 2004 survey by the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton that found a majority of rural residents are unhappy with how the city is being run after amalgamation.

El-Chantiry might not admit it, but he has to count on the Rural Summit for solutions.

Right now, it's really his only hope.

Every day he hears constant and consistent concerns from his constituents about how the rural voice is being ignored, about how no one is listening.

"I know there's a segment that will never be happy, a group that will always call for deamalgamation. But we have to be past that," he insists.

The Ottawa Sun


 

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