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May 6, 2016

Block That Metaphor!

When I wrote about the streetscaping of Spring Garden, I was taken to task by friend and fellow wheeler Gerry Post.  I want to make that right.

I got carried away with the panhandler metaphor.  I don't dispute the idea that taxpayers have a stake in the appearance of retail centers like Spring Garden.  We want good public spaces, even great ones like the library.

Gerry promises that the improvements will meet or exceed standards for accessible rights-of-way.  He points to the almost-universal tug-of-war between downtowns and big-box centres like Bayer's Lake. That problem seems equally worth solving or our best efforts with streetscaping could still leave a business-unfriendly environment.

But it was unfair of me to accuse Council of having its pocket picked.  It is a good and desirable thing to improve the two streetscapes, and I am willing to contribute.

I'm still angry that Council raised the subject of panhandlers in the same breath as the streetscaping, as if panhandlers are a problem to be solved like sidewalk width.  Here and here are articles that make a pretty convincing case that there ought to be other approaches.  Beginning by disentangling the various reasons for the situation.  They are homeless, mentally ill, disabled, uneducated, abused, addicted.  All are outcasts, few are demons.  Let's be humane.

As a wheelchair user, I look forward to crossing Dresden Row in safety and being able to enjoy the pleasures of adequate sidewalks.  I still won't be happy about inaccessible businesses like Jennifer's or various eateries on Argyle which will remain grandfathered until the end of time.  Wouldn't it be nice if streetscape designers worked with intransigent businesses to make their premises accessible?

On the whole, I'm a fan of spending on public enterprises.  I willingly pay my share for public education, even though I don't have children.  In fact it's a privilege to pay taxes.  But once in a while I wish shopkeepers felt it was a privilege to treat all customers and job-seekers equally.  And since they don't, government has a duty to nudge them along.

Jennifer's Ramped

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