By MAGGIE M, Editor, Wedgee-in-Chief, theWedge.LIVE
Late Monday afternoons in downtown Smiths Falls are no longer peaceful.
Locals, citizens and business owners, flank both sides of Beckwith Street with placards, bullhorns and shouts mere feet from municipal buildings at the onset of council meetings. Cars honk their horns almost without cease passing through in a show of support for the message.
“We are not going away!,” the business owner with the bullhorn howled.
You could not hold a conversation.
Smithsfallians are angry, livid to a froth, in response to the newly elected council’s reversal of the last council’s vote to maintain angled parking on Beckwith in its revitalization. A petition signed by citizens and those who shop and dine primarily in Smiths Falls is said to number over 1,800–this number in market research would be sufficient to reflect the town’s position at better than plus or minus 1% accuracy.
“Smiths Falls is more united than ever,” states Karen Salter who spearheaded the movement in a Facebook campaign . The group will meet this Sunday at the Legion to discuss a plan of action. She is clear that she does not want the town divided, but rather openly reviewing the plans armed with the facts.
There had been a well attended public meeting in 2018 on the matter of this historic road, the widest in Ontario. The consensus favored angled parking and not parallel parking and bike lanes.
That’s all history now. Shovels go into the ground this May according to Mayor Shawn Pankow with his vision of Beckwith, “Complete Street.” In our conversations, it appears the street design stems from the theology of “climate change” which he mentioned often.
The Mayor spoke of Smiths Falls’ large senior population “downsizing and making way for a younger population coming from Tweed.” He spoke of autonomous vehicles picking-up and delivering multiple passengers to their destination for a fee–no need for a private vehicle. I appreciated his openness–even in regard to his own vehicle, Tesla, as pricey and not viable in the near future.
Pankow then suggested I watch Tony Seba’s video to understand his mindset.
“Peak car ownership, it’s already here, folks are giving up on owning a car already,” Seba states. “I don’t own a car, it’s insane,” he adds. (scroll to 25 minutes). “The disruption is over by 2030.”
Complete Street is more than a plan designed by Parsons, a U.S. engineering company that specializes in defense, cybersecurity and smart cities. It is a living paradigm shift, far from the old and even the now. Let’s call it Stage 1 i.e. prepping for AVs and diminishing number of cars–driving and parked.
Parsons is also global and located in Canada. Here is a video of their work in Toronto. This is the same company on the drawings for Beckwith Street.
Is Smiths Falls a test market for a futurist model of cities and towns re-engineered to meet new global edicts about living more compactly and frugally?
In April 2018, OGRA (Ontario Good Roads Association) presented to Smiths Falls council by way of a letter read by its CAO requesting a resolution to join an autonomous vehicle experiment, a corridor from Windsor to Ottawa. The resolution passed. AVs were green-lighted.
“Sensors are going in the ground,” Mayor Pankow states, “into the pavement to assist with traffic lights.” The $933,000 funding received for digging, changing pipes and paving includes this technology.
“We are moving forward with our plans,” says Mayor Pankow.
The people feel angled parking is part of their heritage and evidently cherish it.
Notwithstanding, a number of parking spaces will be lost to parallel parking. One side says 40% of spaces will be lost. The Mayor disagrees stating only 25 spots will be lost out of 126. Never shall the two agree, it seems.
The vitriol is shifting toward cries about democracy on both sides. “This government is not listening to us,” one protestor seethed. “The people chose us to make decisions for them,” Pankow states.
That reversal thing without consultation with the people who elected them is not going quietly into the night it seems. Both sides need to review democracy, mandates and may have to go to the mattress.
This process of reversing promises, bills, acts, treaties, laws and regulations is not new. In Western democracies, it’s happening again and again. Simply, in Smiths Falls it is unfamiliar territory.
If they unite powerfully on angled parking–and trust–imagine what these people can achieve.
I believe this Council is doing all it can to obtain financing for the $5M-$5.7M work required to complete both phases over two years. Tenders go out to suppliers this March 11th. At the moment, only funding for below the ground has been raised and must be spent this year or lose it.
The last council had applied to the province last year and was rejected. There is no clarity as to why–yet. My opinion, the province, the Ministry of Transport through ” Connected Links,” is dictating how towns will be designed, bicycles, less vehicles and in Smiths Falls, preparation for autonomous vehicles.
This is a Council that is hamstrung by a larger agenda it seems–no untoward intentions. They need funding. Full stop.
It’s time to share the details with the townies and win a consensus with transparency.
NOTICE OF MEETING : There is also a public meeting on Strategic Plans for 2019-2022 being held on Thursday, March 7 at 7pm, at the Community Centre.
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Well-written and well-researched article, Maggie. Thank you.
Very happy to finally see a honest article and not some biased piece from the mayor’s friends.
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This whole “movement” is a few angry citizens. They have asked questions, they have been given answers, they think it’s nothing but lies. They want angle parking, then this isn’t about the parking, they want to speak with the council. They “never asked for a revote or referendum.” The council will give them that chance, but they won’t change their minds on this, so the protesters post angrily “if they won’t change their minds, what’s the point of talking to council?” They don’t seem to have one issue, one goal. They seem to enjoy heckling and name calling online. It’s all very childish.
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Good and eye-opening article. However, the town of Smiths Falls is not the right place for the mayor’s big city vision.
Thanks Maggie for your awesome article that gives both sides a equal amount of press without any bias. In our conversation last night I hope I was of help to you. I was hoping that you could have published the public meeting that is to held on Thursday March 07 at the community center upstairs for the Strategic Plan 2019-2022
Time of public meeting is 7 P.M
Thanks for taking the time to write this well composed and unbiased report about the protests, Maggie!
HAHAHA no grammar checking huh Bullhorn man?
No, no but I did notice your link to the Smiths Falls Fights Back group started by Karen Salter is dead, so here it is again:
It is a private group, though, there is a public group – Vince Hamilton’s Smiths Falls – Speak Your Mind:
And my own Concerned Citizen’s Page where I post live streams of the protests which can be viewed going back to the very first one.
Geez I thought it was because we are not on Facebook. Thanks Justin. Fixed.
Very interesting , I like how you probed in what is behind the mayor’s actions , After watching the video it’s seems he sees own town as some oversized city in need of an emergency transition to a smart city . Are we an oversized city with big slush funds,? That video has so many incomplete assumptions ,it does seem fitting in a hindsight sort of way , Sure one could also say the telephone was disruptive to the telegraph , Was not that long ago we still had telephone party lines in the area , Economic viability and local context has not been a strong ability , Many thought and hoped we voted for a more balanced team . MakIng things more unaffordable for our large senior population does not seem to fit with the needs of affordable for tweed staff or even our overall local economy moving forward.. Watch the utube town hall meeting of a few weeks ago.. “Deer in head lights ” seems to be the hallmark of the new way was my impression . Dreaming of 50 years from now is not the path out of the nightmare we seem to be in now .
So nice to see a story that has new and important Information…I am sure there is lots more to come. I read where Mayor Pankow feels his words have been taken out of context…When we ask why? His main answer it is for the future…unless he has a crystal ball that we do not know about How do we know what the future holds in 50years…l also take offense to his disregard for the “aging population” These are the people here and now that pay their taxes, dine in the restaurants and support local business and many have for there whole lives! Show the people some respect!
Perhaps some real estate people would like to weight in about just who is buying houses in Smiths Falls. I have read and believe that the young people of today prefer the more interesting, fast, disposable lifestyle. Is this what the Mayor is trying to attract and throw out the old, it sure seems like it. I guess the planners of the future have no more use for us although I would say a very high percentage of us “ole” folks have paid our dues to tax hungry governments but now we are disposable. Way to go Mr. Mayor. I now know what you think of us older taxpaying generation.
I would also like to say that our local cannabis corporation has gone before this council to ask for affordable housing, doesn’t sound like even they expect the higher income brackets to come flocking to Smiths Falls to make it a huge city with the latest in technology. i think this Mayor and Council needs to give their heads a shake and put some common sense back into their decisions. Being from in and around Smiths Falls, do they really think this is going to be the next Toronto with unlimited funding?
Thank you Maggie for writing an unbiased report. Good job.