While most people don’t make plans weeks or months in advance, the city must take on the daunting task of planning for an entirely new generation with the Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031 project.
The idea of planning 20 years in advance has its merits, most notably giving the city time to consult the public on what they want for the future of Ottawa.
However, the people making the decisions today may not be the ones who will oversee the end results.
In 20 years, it will be today's young people who will make up the majority of the workforce. They will be the ones knocking on the city’s door for better roads and infrastructure, better public transportation and better social programs.
The task of keeping skilled young people in Ottawa in the future can be helped by getting them involved in the planning process today.
Part of the hype surrounding the Liveable Ottawa plan is that the city is seeking feedback from the public. Last week, the city hosted an information open house; it has also launched an online survey asking residents for their opinions.
Getting residents online to participate in the project seems to be the focus for those promoting the Liveable Ottawa plan. However, their strategy will run amiss if the city is not prepared for the online response.
While the information open house was well attended, the online feedback will be what draws in the majority of residents, especially youth, who may not have the chance to attend an open house or feel comfortable getting involved in city politics.
The survey, available on the city’s website, should only be the first step. While it will give the city data on bike lanes and public transit, there is no room for suggestions and creative ideas.
As well, these surveys will not be reviewed until the summer.
Going online means that people can get immediate responses and have real-time conversations. Scheduling online live chats with planners and councillors would give people the opportunity to ask questions and help them to better understand the project.
If the city is looking to get a response from residents, it should become more involved with social media, such as interacting through community association Facebook groups and be aware of what people are saying on Twitter.
With hashtags such as #LiveableOttawa, it makes it simple to see what people are discussing and posting.
Even at this early stage of planning, people are already giving feedback through blogs posts and comments.
For example, Twitter user @katychancey shares a blog post discussing the Liveable Ottawa project and ends the post with an anxious plea: “I hope #ottcity is listening!”
People shouldn’t have to search for ways to make their opinions heard. The city should work to promote and observe the discussions that are taking place. Let’s hope it is already listening.