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Thursday, October 25, 2007

On da beatings beat

Mike Fluery muses on bruises.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2007 at 9:12 AM

The mayor's first community session for his round table on violence was held on Monday night in the wilds of Sackville. Yes, we know: you weren't there. Don't lie to us and tell us you were. You weren't. In your defence, you probably don't live in Sackville. There's a slightly better chance (we bet) that you live on Russell Street, or somewhere in the vicinity, and conveniently, that's where the next community round table will take place. Tonight. Thursday the 25th. Ward 5 Community Centre. 7pm. Go.

If you've ever been attacked in Halifax (check, for me), or swapped stories with friends about who's-been-pounded-where (check, for most people I know), seriously: Go. Speaking of which, for a round table inspired by a downtown act of violence (specifically, the murder of US sailor Damon Crooks on Argyle Street in 2006), why hold only one downtown community meeting, which isn't even being held directly downtown? Isn't there a greater concern on, say, the Common than in, say, Hatchet Lake (their meeting: November 1)?

"We tried to divide the meetings among community council districts," explains Kelly, taking a moment out of his mayoral day for a chat about violence. "We're trying to address elements of concern from other parts of the peninsula as well."

The mayor says he's confident peninsula concerns are being adequately addressed, pointing to info gathered by the city earlier this year (1,200 phone surveys, 5,000 mail-in surveys and focus groups, all geared towards identifying citizen concerns about violence.)

"All of that information, including other discussions we've had about the downtown, will be carried forward," says Kelly. The data will shape discussion for the mayor's official three-day round table session, taking place on November 14-16.

The mayor says the sessions are more than an exercise to inform council—they represent a chance for community dialogue; a way to look to the future; an opportunity to move neighbourhoods forward...in general, a gleaming pile of platitudes, each one cheery and bright.

But with so much research going on in their own backyard, one has to wonder: is council out of touch with the dialogue that's happening among Halifax residents? On the streets? On message boards? Among pounded-upon friends and neighbours?

"Yes..." Kelly momentarily considers his answer. He isn't agreeing with the question. "...I think they do have an understanding of some of the challenges. An understanding that we need to come forward with a strategy action for which to move forward. There is a learning curve, but I believe people will see the connectivity in these issues as we move forward."

The biggest challenge (aside from engaging the ever-wily and elusive "young people"), is trying to convince a study-weary public that this much-hyped round table will result in any kind of tangible, concrete action. Kelly insists this public input will not "sit on a shelf and gather dust."

"The whole intent from all of these processes...is that it will give us a direction in which to move forward. We're getting some very unique commentary in terms of potential situations," he says. Any plans that emerge will be benchmarked by city staffers, and progress will be monitored. The ultimate goal is to make recommendations at a federal, provincial and municipal level. But," Kelly adds, "it won't work unless we find a way to engage the public."

That, reader, sounds like your cue.

Lay the smack down. Email mikef@thecoast.ca

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