There is the campaign for a new central public library, controversies over new public art, public transportation and major infrastructure, and the challenge of finding continued support for crucial public services.
Cities are communities. While we all have our private concerns, goals, and obligations, as a city we also have to think collectively about our shared public lives and spaces. “Public” is at the centre of many city debates and comes up a lot in this column.
On the one hand there is demand for the city to do more to improve our environment and daily lives. On the other there is the seemingly inevitable complaints of city projects always being a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.
Cities, Ottawa included, have a long history of being torn between civic welfare and city budgets—between investing in the public domain and making financially responsible decisions. Sometimes they work together, sometimes one has to be chosen at the expense of the other.
So, what is “public”? Why it’s important to our cities? And who decides what is in the public’s interest? Let’s look at some of the big categories of public projects.