Centre For Local Research into Public Space (CELOS)

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Citizen-Z Cavan Young's 2004 film about the zamboni crisis





Policy-making Principles (Belinda Cole)

Below are some questions we may want to ask when we consider how existing or proposed new laws or policies affect our local parks and public spaces.

1. What are our central goals for our park (or pool or library or other public space)?

  • For example, is it to keep our park in good repair and to encourage the widest possible use of city facilities for Toronto citizens? To make parks and public spaces welcoming and lively? To hire responsive staff who collaborate with neighbours and help make local initiatives work?

2. What is the central goal behind the existing or proposed law or policy?

  • Whose goal is it, and what does the law or policy say about our park

and how it should be used?

3. Does the law or policy reflect a “live” issue in our park?

4. Who has raised or identified the issue?

5. For whom is it an issue or problem? Citizens? City councillors? City staff? A particular neighbourhood? etc.

6. What exactly is the problem/issue/ill we are trying to avoid, or remedy?

Is there any hard data that tells us that there is a problem?

  • What is the data? Who collected it? How and why? Is it reliable?
  • What is the anecdotal evidence, and can it be verified by observation, etc?
  • What is the worst thing that we might imagine could happen by not addressing the issue?
  • Has this worst thing every happened before? If so, where? Were the circumstances similar in important ways?
  • Is this worst case scenario an actual or projected, theoretical harm?
  • Who benefits or makes money if we decide to respond to a theoretical harm?
  • If the issue or problem has led to real harm and generated sorrow and fear of loss (for example a child is injured or died), how can we respond to our sorrow and fear and also act wisely to prevent further harm?

7. Is this a city-wide or a local, neighbhourhood issue?

8. What do other people who animate strong, lively, popular neighbourhood parks and people involved in community building, food in parks, bake ovens, community gardens, etc. say about the issue being raised?

9. Do we agree that the issue needs to be addressed in some way?

10. If so, how do we wish to respond in a way that fits our local park?

11. How have other neighbourhoods or neighbourhood leaders dealt with this or similar issues or problems?

12. What alternatives are available to us?

  • Are there existing neighbourhood channels and processes that could be respond to this issue/problem?

13. If it is a city-wide issue, what are the tools available to respond?

  • Formal, informal?
  • Does the situation call for a specific, localized response or a broad city-wide approach?
  • If any measures or policy are, in fact, necessary, what approach would best fit our overall goal of making local parks lively, friendly, and welcoming?
  • What are the unintended effects of using different tools including laws or policies?
  • If we choose a formal way to respond to the issue, what law and specific provision allows us to take this step? What does the law say about the power to enforce the proposed solution? How can we refer people to the exact wording of the law so they can read it for themselves? Do we want to write a law that affects our parks and public spaces in a traditional way, or would we prefer a simple straightforward way so that the law is easily understood and can be discussed by us all?

Policy-making Examples

Content last modified on August 26, 2010, at 01:15 PM EST