I criticize because I care


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“After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy and effectual.”

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“After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy and effectual.”

— Jonathon Swift

I’ve been told that the tone I adopt when I write is possibly too consistently acidic and that feelings may be, and possibly have been hurt, by some of the narrative choices I’ve made and that if I am so relentlessly acerbic then people may tire of it. I can not reasonably disagree with any of this and so, in recognition of both that and the suffering I have caused, I offer the following.

I am a huge fan of active transportation. The benefits of it to an individual and to their community are as boundless as they are well-documented. Focusing primarily on walking, biking, jogging and the like have no recognizable downsides and a healthier population reduces various strains on the system while also reducing lost time and improving overall productivity.

These benefits alone more than offset the costs of placing and maintaining necessary infrastructure. I haven’t even touched on the environmental aspects and how such a focus would tie in nicely with the aspirational carbon-free city while providing for better logistical economy due to decreased road traffic flow.

Equal to my fondness for active transportation are my feelings for the Flats. They are a part of Brandon as integral to it as any and arguably more so than many. As a kid, I nervously biked across the Eighth Street bridge for the excitement and adventure of the other side of town. As a parent, I walked the Flats with my boys and then-partner as it was a quick convenient connection to the Discovery Centre and the walking paths.

The Flats have a character and an atmosphere unique in Brandon, and I feel the disconnect and those memories every time I look across the two blocks that will take me better than 20 minutes to cover.

We promised people in the Flats they would be reconnected, and I passionately believe that we owe it to them to reconnect the north and the south. I don’t say that because we promised — he who trusts a city’s word trusts air — but because we wronged them, and ourselves, and it is only right to fully commit to rectifying that.

We can have both, and more.

We don’t need to balance on the false dichotomy of either-or. We can have both as council have, inadvertently, proven. When the southwest development was first conceived, it was going to cost $10 million all in. Now, 10 years on, it is at $36 million and expected to go north of $50 million in the next 10 years, all of it funded by “significant risk” debt set against a theoretical return we won’t see for a generation.

Yet much of council can’t approve it quickly enough for some. That shows that we can find the money, we can make large-scale commitments and investments in the community given the will. I’d bet that, given the will, we can build a darned fine bridge — for active and vehicular traffic — and some impressive bike lanes, jogging paths and green spaces and have a healthy pile of change left over.

The paths and reconnection might not bring in a future “if you build it they will come” windfall. The development might not either. But they will be of use to Brandonites and at least we will be certain to get something of demonstrable and universal value for the money. We would be working toward zero-carbon in a tangible way and saving money on police and ambulance and, and, and. The full list would read like the “begats,” so I’ll leave it here.

We can have these things without sacrificing anything except, what looks to me like, an expensive and obstacle-ridden luxury of minimal utility and highly questionable future return, but if things continue as they seem to be, we won’t have paths or bridges and we will have some lift stations.

If I have been overly strident, and, in so doing, caused some wounds, it is only because I can see a Brandon that I want my kids to raise their kids in and I have discovered that, to no small surprise, I love this city.

In my way, despite appearances, I have always advocated for an alternative. I have said we need to concentrate resources on resurrecting the downtown and adding to the urban density that will do more for local business than bloat ever could. I have advocated for reconnecting the Flats and for active transportation and anything that would make Brandon a better city, healthier in every way.

But that advocacy has been sandwiched between perhaps too-sharp critiques of the looming opposite and they may have gotten lost. I acknowledge this and can plead only time criticality.

In the future, I will take this criticism into account and write with full consideration of the feelings that may be hurt by my defence of making Brandon more livable for its citizens and my consequent opposition to expensive, burdensome fripperies of dubious merit.

» Elliott Oleson is an eternal optimist living in the city of Brandon.

» 1eternallyoptimistic1@gmail.com

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