Renaming of Merivale Arena
I agree with both Jeff Darwin, Howard Darwin's son, and with Ottawa Citizen journalist Kelly Egan, on their assessment of the renaming of Merivale arena.
As Mr. (Jeff) Darwin wrote in Saturday's Citizen, the residents of Ottawa should decide whether or not they think Merivale Arena is adequate recognition for his father. While there is no doubt Howard Darwin is worthy of it, he is also worthy of a having a more prestigious building named after him. Merivale Arena is a small, local, community based single pad rink in Nepean. As the long time owner of the Ottawa 67's and founder of the AAA Baseball Ottawa Lynx, Howard Darwin was a pillar of Ottawa's sporting community for many years.
What I find disingenuous about this public consultation process, however, is that Howard Darwin's name was not only put forward by itself but was also announced publicly before the public consultation process began or was announced to the residents of Ward 9: Knoxdale-Merivale in Nepean, where Merivale arena is situated. Since the people living in Nepean are the most likely to be interested in the renaming of this community building, I find it mind boggling that this can happen when it seems so simple for the City, with its $2 Billion dollar+ budget, to implement a fair, open and transparent public consultation process that engages the community in a community building activity, rather than creating anger and disappointment around what should be a very positive event.
Like the mistake the City of Ottawa made when it tried to rename Robertson Road in Bell's Corners last year (2011), this process will have to start anew if it is to be done correctly.
Here is what I suggest:
1. The City of Ottawa announces a new public consultation process will take place for the renaming of Merivale Arena. At the same time, the City asks for nominations to come forward from the public (4-6 weeks).
I can think of three former NHLers off the top of my head, who grew up playing hockey at Merivale arena in the Nepean Minor Hockey Association (NMHA) and who have given back to the local community in many ways. Any of these people would be very deserving of this honour. They are Jamie Baker, Jeff Brown and Darren Pang.
2. The City develops a website featuring all of the nominated candidates and allows for the public to vote online like many online contest do now. See the 'Great Places in Canada' contest for an example: http://www.cip-icu.ca/greatplaces/en
3. When public voting closes after 3-4 weeks, a motion recommending the winner of the contest goes to Council for approval.
This is a very simple, clean, fair, open and transparent way of conducting a public consultation. Most importantly, this approach will help build community because people will engage in the 'positive' act of voting FOR their favorite choice rather than having to vote on the appropriateness of renaming Merivale Arena after Howard Darwin. Something that may end up becoming a referendum on Howard Darwin--the man--rather than a celebration of his contribution to our great City.