Second-term councillors take on leadership roles (Laura Mueller, Ottawa East News)

City council approved the members and leaders for its committees and boards during its Dec. 10 meeting. Several committees, commissions and boards saw turnover in their leadership positions based on the advice of Mayor Jim Watson and the nominating committee.

Transit commission

Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais said he’s looking forward to tackling one of the most challenging city bodies, the transit commission, as its new chairman. Blais will preside over the commission, which includes both city councillors and citizen commissioners for four of the most pivotal years for OC Transpo as construction of the light-rail system wraps up and the trains being running in 2018. But there will be a lot of hurdles to jump before getting there, such as remapping the bus routes to feed into the new LRT system and overseeing construction detours, and Blais said he is up to the challenge. The role came about because the mayor sought him out for it, Blais said. “It’s obviously a very challenging role,” he said. “OC Transpo has a direct and immediate impact on the daily lives of almost every Ottawa resident, whether you take the bus or not. “We’re at a very critical stage in the evolution of our transit system as we begin the process to move towards light rail and the Transitway conversion coming up next year, so there are a lot of challenges, but at the same time a lot of opportunities to demonstrate how good OC Transpo is and that we really do have a world-class system.” Blais said he has taken transit regularly over the course of his first term on city council and he intends to do so more often now that he is the chairman, including “transit field trips” around the city with the vice-chairman, Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish.

Library board

Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney said it will be a privilege to oversee the library board during a period of “dramatic change.” Tierney, who has sat on the board for four years, was officially named as its new chairman on Dec. 10. The next four years has been set up as a pivotal time for the Ottawa Public Library as it intends to embark on a plan to create a new central branch. “Obviously a central library is a big part of the focus, as a (public-private partnership), so being able to play a part in that is very important,” Tierney said. “Libraries are changing. It’s not just the Dewey decimal system and books, which we still respect, but we have a whole new series of technology programs.” For instance, there is a six-month waitlist to use the public library’s 3D printer located in the makerspace at the Centrepointe branch, Tierney said. Making the library more about creating “spaces and places” and offering programming and access to technology will be a focus moving forward, he said. Tierney will also serve as vice-chairman of the planning committee, one of the more controversial and important committees. Tierney said that as an urban councillor, he felt it was important to ensure councillors from within the Greenbelt were well-represented on that committee. “I have a lot of these infill issues and I think I can bring a new perspective to the table,” he said.

Built heritage subcommittee

Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum was the only one of his newly elected cohort to be given a leadership role in the new city council structure. He will serve as the head of the built heritage subcommittee, which makes recommendations to the planning committee on heritage issues. “Our ward is home to two heritage conservation districts, so it is an important issue for people in our ward,” Nussbaum said. “Even for people who don’t live in a heritage conservation district, I certainly heard at the door (during the election) an interest in ensuring that as a city, we are protecting and promoting heritage in appropriate ways.” Nussbaum said he’ll approach his new role with a humble attitude and be open to learning more about heritage issues from the city’s experts and from the public. “It’s clear as a new member of council that I will have to consult with lots of people who know more about heritage than I do,” he said. “I’m certainly aware that I need to do a lot of homework.” Nussbaum said he has a “reasonable base” of knowledge on heritage matters, having supported the designation of the St. Charles Church in Vanier as a heritage structure while he was the chairman of the Beechwood Village Alliance. Speaking to neighbours and friends who face challenges associated with living in a heritage conservation district has also opened his eyes to some of the key concerns, Nussbaum said. “Particularly recent challenges those residents of heritage districts have felt in terms of feeling that there is a lack of clarity sometimes on how the city approaches protection of heritage conservation districts,” he said. Nussbaum said he will begin to identify priorities for the subcommittee as he meets with citizens and councillors who were members of the group in the last term of council, as well as residents who have an interest in heritage issues.

Environment committee

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko was told he was always a natural fit to lead the environment committee. Now in his second term as a city councillor, he is ready to take on that role. A former Green Party leadership contender and former advisor to Canada’s national round table on the environment and the economy, Chernushenko is well-known for his knowledge of an advocacy on environmental issues. He also served on the International Olympic Committee’s commission on sport and the environment and is certified as a green building professional by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. As a first-term councillor elected in 2010, Chernushenko said it wasn’t the right time for him to take on that leadership role, but with former River Ward councillor Maria McRae leaving politics, the position was open and presented an opportunity for him in this term. Taking on issues such as the green bin program, the city’s maligned organics recycling contract with Orgaworld and Plasco’s proposed waste-to-energy facility will be on the agenda for the environment committee this term.

Source: Ottawa East News