Initial impressions of comments presented in Draft ISSUES PAPER:
City staff need rural education,
consultations show employees don't understand non-urban Ottawa
The Ottawa Citizen
City staff need to better
understand the rural parts of the city before they'll be able to
serve them well, Councillor Rob Jellett said last week.
"The thing that really stood out
loud and clear is we need an education system for staff."
Councillor Rob Jellett
Mr. Jellett, chairman of the city's
agriculture and rural affairs committee, said anecdotal evidence
that came out of extensive consultations with rural residents over
the past few months emphasizes the need for improved rural-urban
He pointed to the story of a
Sarsfield woman who said she called the city for assistance, only to
be told they couldn't help her because she didn't live in Ottawa.
"The thing that really stood out
loud and clear is we need an education system for staff," Mr.
Jellett said yesterday.
Mr. Jellett's comment came after
the release of a rural "issues paper" that was developed from the
consultations. The paper identified issues that should be addressed
at a "rural summit" to be held over two days this fall, pinpointing
five major areas for discussion: access, communication and
consultation; governance; service issues; policy issues; and
The paper will form the basis for
the agenda of the two-day rural summit this fall, which many rural
residents, councillors and city staff hope will ease some of the
tension between the city's urban and rural parts.
"I'm hoping, and I'm really maybe
hoping too much perhaps, for the rural summit to be able to address
those issues," Councillor Eli El-Chantiry said yesterday. "I still
think there's room for us to work together and build the whole city
as a whole."
The city is spending $150,000 on
the two-day conference, during which city councillors, rural
residents and representatives from the provincial and federal
governments will discuss ways to address various issues raised by
rural residents. No date has yet been chosen for the summit.
Mr. Jellett said the consultation
sessions were invaluable because they allowed rural residents to
openly express what they believe needs to be fixed at city hall.
Many of the 300 rural residents who
participated in the consultation process said it was frustrating to
have to come all the way to City Hall if they need to deal with an
Residents also highlighted the fact
that many urban city staff don't understand agriculture issues, and
that it can be difficult to get through to the city's call centre.
Rural residents flagged the need to
discuss the fact there isn't enough rural representation on city
council and that councillors and staff have a poor relationship with
people living in rural areas.
A majority of the consultation
discussions centred on the fact there has been a serious lack of
service in rural areas since amalgamation, according to some
residents. The need for improved road maintenance, more funding for
upgrades of subdivision roads and the need to upgrade community
facilities are some of the major areas addressed by rural residents.
Some people living in the rural
areas also want the city to recognize that some ideas that work in
parts of the city aren't applicable to rural areas, such as
expanding urban transit into rural areas or implementing restrictive
Even if it can't solve every
problem, the decision to hold the rural summit shows the city is
willing to listen to rural residents, said Janne Campbell, president
of the Rural Council of Ottawa-Carleton. While residents are
encouraged by what they're seeing, they'll remain guarded until they
see the results of the summit, she said.
"It's hard because there is a whole
lot of skepticism out here," she said last week. "They (rural
residents) just sort of feel that they're not cared about."
© The Ottawa Citizen 2005