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Creating a future vision for Civic

By Paul Costigan - 13 May 2015 78

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There are loads of documents, reports and expert forums regarding the future of Civic. There is an abundance of pretty pictures, bad graphics, meaningless flowery statements and far too much powerpoint planning rhetoric – but what we need is action.

A recent Property Council report emphasised the need for less regulation and more government financial assistance for developers in the area. Is that what others call rent-seeking?

Last year, a forum on rejuvenating Civic was presented by Big Ideas on the ABC. An expert panel was asked how to breathe new life into what was described as the tired centre of Canberra. The experts came out with some gems, including:

  • Doing away with the pedestrian areas and bring back cars to the streets (I recommend that the academic who suggested this idea read this article on how cities outgrew the automobile)
  • Proceeding with the City to the Lake development, on the grounds that even though it is to be way over to the west of Acton, it will somehow bring people into Civic
  • Arguing that Civic’s future is already being guided by an expert panel called Civic CBD Ltd (that’s the property sector)

There is not much on offer from all these reports and forums. And I do wonder why Civic was not made-over before money was spent on the development of the new CBR branding.

While Civic remains dominated by a big box mall with sad precincts attached, it is no surprise that there was a marketing problem when the chief minister visited Singapore to talk up business opportunities. What did the planning bureaucrats think would happen when the minister’s overseas guests walked around Civic and observed an absence of people?

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The planning bureaucracy is constantly flying in experts who speak earnestly in the current urban planning language. The experts are here for a day, drop a few ideas, do some local media and then head home. The planning bureaucracy gains a few new words to use in their reports to the minister for urban renewal – the chief minister. I hope he has been impressed?

The debate is dominated and led by the property sector. Their predecessors would have argued that Civic, then a series of pleasant and busy pedestrian plazas, had to have an oversized mall, the Canberra Centre. Collectively the experts, the bureaucrats and lobbyists avoid any discussion about the major obstacle to the rejuvenation of Civic, the Canberra Centre, nor do they mention the impact of the massive box on surrounding precincts.

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The current trend, as experienced in Yarralumla, Dickson and elsewhere, is to throw token opportunities to the community for their input and then the planning agencies use their suite of questionable planning codes to open up opportunities for the property sector.

Sadly the perception remains that there is no leadership from the government (or its bureaucracy or other sectorial interests) on how Civic could become a sustainable urban space with new aesthetically pleasing developments that address climate change adaptation and provide locals with a city centre to be proud of.

Canberra is a culturally rich city with a huge numbers of people with an extraordinary range of interests and expertise. Our politicians are not engaged with – and do not empathise with – these people. Our politicians are viewed as being walled in behind layers of advisors, lobbyists and bureaucrats.

The ACT Government needs to work around their entrenched bureaucrats and lobbyists and link directly with the layers of creativity and intelligence in this city. Some form of action is required whereby creative ideas are welcomed, talked about and then sorted through to form a vision for Civic.

Informed creativity is urgently required to be engaged and to formulate a vision for the centre of Canberra. One Big Idea will not do it this time!

I remain optimistic that our local elected politicians could rise to this important urban challenge. Is the Chief Minister ready to take up the challenge?

This article is the second in a three-part series exploring Civic’s past, present and future. Read the first post in the series

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Maya123 10:25 pm 27 May 15

crackerpants said :

rubaiyat said :

breda said :

What planet are these people on?

But NOT apparently on the tiny asteroid that only has Canberra, Queanbeyan and McDonalds drive-thrues.

I am just amazed how Gus Petersilka survived the teeny, tiny, petty, stultified, ignorant and uninterested mindset of Canberrans…

…just to get Outdoor Dining!!!

rubaiyat said :

Maya123 said :

Have you actually tried the bus? I have, and discovered it’s much more convenient than having to find a car park.

I’ll second that. The bus is slower, but not that much slower, and when I get to the City, I simply get off where I want and don’t have to circle around for a vacant parking space, which is usually NOT close to where I want to be, and forces me to return and stuff the parking machine with my hard earned cash.

As a bonus I am outside enjoying the sunshine and not entombed in some car-fart filled concrete necropolis.

But I understand that there may be people so overweight and with diabetes problems from sitting either behind a wheel or desk, that they can barely manage to roll themselves out of their cars for the difficult journey across rough terrain to the back entrance into the shopping mall.

Luckily they’ll be able to trade in their 4WD, that they needed for their cross town adventures, for that mobility scooter when they can no longer make it out the front door on their own two feet.

bryansworld said :

breda said :

Right, when I want to do some shopping or have a relaxed meal at a restaurant or go clubbing, I want to ride a bike, or catch a bus. Especially on a chilly winter’s day or night.

What planet are these people on?

Seeing the world as they wish it to be, rather than as it is, is a chronic problem with those who want to redesign human nature. And every failure of their grand plans is just ammunition for them that they didn’t try hard enough, and need to double down.

Sorry if I didn’t articulate it well, but I was trying to say that I don’t think Garema Place’s woes are a result of poor car access. If a place is worth visiting people will get there in all sorts of ways. I’m not a zealot, I do my shopping by car and often pick up the kids by car. But I get a bus when I go out sometimes, and ride to work sometimes, and even ride with my kids to school ocassionally. It doesn’t often help debates to categorise people into one of two camps.

I think Breda’s point is perfectly valid, and I appreciate the points you make bryansworld. But as Rubaiyat’s comments above show, it is all two easy to split people into two camps, and in doing so alienate whole swathes of the community – families in this case. Rubaiyat I always follow your comments with great interest, as a lot of what you say makes perfect sense and sounds like the kind of world I’d like to live in, but you ignore the mundane practicalities of family life, and take a swing at the same time.

As Breda says, designers can’t change human nature, and it’s futile to try and force people into a particular mould. Taking the kids on an outing is one thing. Challenging but doable. But parking is needed. Adding an hour on the bus with 3 little kids beforehand and after is also theoretically doable, but we’d have to start the return journey as soon as we reached our destination. I have no idea what it would cost, but the whole idea would put me off. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe there’s something wrong with my kids, maybe in the 60s they would have walked the 12k in the snow to enjoy the sights of Civic etc etc, but for my family, in 2015, nope.

That does not mean we’re obese car-addicted frequenters of McDonalds drive-thru, waiting to be struck down by diabetes or a freak accident with a mobility scooter. We chose to buy on the edge of town, where we have (walking) access to nature reserves and trails, and will never be built out. So that we can live an active lifestyle (in all weather, we’re not made of sugar) and the kids can play outside in a proper backyard. By definition, that means we do not live in an apartment a few blocks from the city a la New York or any other glowing epitome of urban design. To make Civic, in whatever state it’s in, attractive to families (and there are a few of us), there will need to be parking. I really don’t care if the parking is 5 or 10 minutes away, happy to walk, happy to ignore the kids’ half-hearted whining, but making Civic inaccessible to cars will put families off.

Insulting, dismissing and alienating us will stop from even engaging in the discussion in the first place.

Way out there comments of yours.
In the 1960s was Canberra spread out 12kms? “In the snow”! How often did it snow ? But then again, I walked to school in Cooma a few times through the snow. Kids love snow! Fun walking in the snow to school. But it didn’t snow very often, and Cooma is colder than Canberra.

If you live on the edge of Canberra surely your shopping centre is Belconnen, Tuggeranong or Gungahlin. Just as I rarely visit those shopping centres, as Civic and Woden are closer, why would you need to visit Civic very often? Visit the closest shopping centre.

crackerpants 12:49 pm 19 May 15

rubaiyat said :

breda said :

What planet are these people on?

But NOT apparently on the tiny asteroid that only has Canberra, Queanbeyan and McDonalds drive-thrues.

I am just amazed how Gus Petersilka survived the teeny, tiny, petty, stultified, ignorant and uninterested mindset of Canberrans…

…just to get Outdoor Dining!!!

rubaiyat said :

Maya123 said :

Have you actually tried the bus? I have, and discovered it’s much more convenient than having to find a car park.

I’ll second that. The bus is slower, but not that much slower, and when I get to the City, I simply get off where I want and don’t have to circle around for a vacant parking space, which is usually NOT close to where I want to be, and forces me to return and stuff the parking machine with my hard earned cash.

As a bonus I am outside enjoying the sunshine and not entombed in some car-fart filled concrete necropolis.

But I understand that there may be people so overweight and with diabetes problems from sitting either behind a wheel or desk, that they can barely manage to roll themselves out of their cars for the difficult journey across rough terrain to the back entrance into the shopping mall.

Luckily they’ll be able to trade in their 4WD, that they needed for their cross town adventures, for that mobility scooter when they can no longer make it out the front door on their own two feet.

bryansworld said :

breda said :

Right, when I want to do some shopping or have a relaxed meal at a restaurant or go clubbing, I want to ride a bike, or catch a bus. Especially on a chilly winter’s day or night.

What planet are these people on?

Seeing the world as they wish it to be, rather than as it is, is a chronic problem with those who want to redesign human nature. And every failure of their grand plans is just ammunition for them that they didn’t try hard enough, and need to double down.

Sorry if I didn’t articulate it well, but I was trying to say that I don’t think Garema Place’s woes are a result of poor car access. If a place is worth visiting people will get there in all sorts of ways. I’m not a zealot, I do my shopping by car and often pick up the kids by car. But I get a bus when I go out sometimes, and ride to work sometimes, and even ride with my kids to school ocassionally. It doesn’t often help debates to categorise people into one of two camps.

I think Breda’s point is perfectly valid, and I appreciate the points you make bryansworld. But as Rubaiyat’s comments above show, it is all two easy to split people into two camps, and in doing so alienate whole swathes of the community – families in this case. Rubaiyat I always follow your comments with great interest, as a lot of what you say makes perfect sense and sounds like the kind of world I’d like to live in, but you ignore the mundane practicalities of family life, and take a swing at the same time.

As Breda says, designers can’t change human nature, and it’s futile to try and force people into a particular mould. Taking the kids on an outing is one thing. Challenging but doable. But parking is needed. Adding an hour on the bus with 3 little kids beforehand and after is also theoretically doable, but we’d have to start the return journey as soon as we reached our destination. I have no idea what it would cost, but the whole idea would put me off. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, maybe there’s something wrong with my kids, maybe in the 60s they would have walked the 12k in the snow to enjoy the sights of Civic etc etc, but for my family, in 2015, nope.

That does not mean we’re obese car-addicted frequenters of McDonalds drive-thru, waiting to be struck down by diabetes or a freak accident with a mobility scooter. We chose to buy on the edge of town, where we have (walking) access to nature reserves and trails, and will never be built out. So that we can live an active lifestyle (in all weather, we’re not made of sugar) and the kids can play outside in a proper backyard. By definition, that means we do not live in an apartment a few blocks from the city a la New York or any other glowing epitome of urban design. To make Civic, in whatever state it’s in, attractive to families (and there are a few of us), there will need to be parking. I really don’t care if the parking is 5 or 10 minutes away, happy to walk, happy to ignore the kids’ half-hearted whining, but making Civic inaccessible to cars will put families off.

Insulting, dismissing and alienating us will stop from even engaging in the discussion in the first place.

bryansworld 8:54 am 19 May 15

rubaiyat said :

breda said :

What planet are these people on?

On the planet that has New York, London, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Milan, Queenstown, Melbourne and Sydney.

But NOT apparently on the tiny asteroid that only has Canberra, Queanbeyan and McDonalds drive-thrues.

I am just amazed how Gus Petersilka survived the teeny, tiny, petty, stultified, ignorant and uninterested mindset of Canberrans…

…just to get Outdoor Dining!!!

I’m not surprised we have an obesity epidemic.

sepi 10:27 pm 18 May 15

It is also about the type of walk. A pleasant stroll past nice little shops or trees etc – nice. a walk past the blank wall outside of the mall – not so enticing.

I will walk to something i want to go to, or for a nice walk. But if I’m already in the mall because I parked there, I’m not going to go outside past depressing beggars and blank walls to get to some other shops, if I’m already at some shops.

and i am someone who actually prefers to walk from shop to shop outside.

rubaiyat 8:41 pm 18 May 15

breda said :

What planet are these people on?

On the planet that has New York, London, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Paris, Milan, Queenstown, Melbourne and Sydney.

But NOT apparently on the tiny asteroid that only has Canberra, Queanbeyan and McDonalds drive-thrues.

I am just amazed how Gus Petersilka survived the teeny, tiny, petty, stultified, ignorant and uninterested mindset of Canberrans…

…just to get Outdoor Dining!!!

bryansworld 4:23 pm 18 May 15

breda said :

Right, when I want to do some shopping or have a relaxed meal at a restaurant or go clubbing, I want to ride a bike, or catch a bus. Especially on a chilly winter’s day or night.

What planet are these people on?

Seeing the world as they wish it to be, rather than as it is, is a chronic problem with those who want to redesign human nature. And every failure of their grand plans is just ammunition for them that they didn’t try hard enough, and need to double down.

Sorry if I didn’t articulate it well, but I was trying to say that I don’t think Garema Place’s woes are a result of poor car access. If a place is worth visiting people will get there in all sorts of ways. I’m not a zealot, I do my shopping by car and often pick up the kids by car. But I get a bus when I go out sometimes, and ride to work sometimes, and even ride with my kids to school ocassionally. It doesn’t often help debates to categorise people into one of two camps.

breda 3:33 pm 18 May 15

Right, when I want to do some shopping or have a relaxed meal at a restaurant or go clubbing, I want to ride a bike, or catch a bus. Especially on a chilly winter’s day or night.

What planet are these people on?

Seeing the world as they wish it to be, rather than as it is, is a chronic problem with those who want to redesign human nature. And every failure of their grand plans is just ammunition for them that they didn’t try hard enough, and need to double down.

dungfungus 3:00 pm 18 May 15

bryansworld said :

dungfungus said :

bryansworld said :

dungfungus said :

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

This is precisely one of the problems. The other is drunks and vagrants.
Someone suggested that markets be held in Garema Place and my response was “where do we park?”
City planners please note that a future tram will not solve the problem – it will only serve as another place for the drunks to vomit etc.

This seems to be a bit unreasonable. Does somewhere need to be nor more than thirty seconds-walk away from a car park to be viable? Would it be too much to walk for a minute, or three? Is exercise dangerous? I think this attitude of expecting to drive right up to everything is very dangerous.

I challenge you to find any legal, affordable parking within 31 seconds walk from Garema Place.

No hope. You win. But easy to find affordable parking within two minutes for stays shorter than a couple of hours. Or walk a little bit further. Or catch a bus. Or ride a bike. Why the need to drive right up to where you want to go? I can appreciate the utility of this for a quick drive-thru Maccas stop on the way to Sydney with a kid sleeping in the car, but as a guiding principle for sustainable urban design?

Your points are just as valid as mine – I am not trying to win.
I think I have just seen what the problem in the question you asked:”why the need to drive right up to where you want to go to?”
The answer is that I never want to go near Garema Place and I suspect hundreds of others are just like me.
No doubt the government will spend millions of dollars there to convince me I am wrong.

bryansworld 1:41 pm 18 May 15

dungfungus said :

bryansworld said :

dungfungus said :

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

This is precisely one of the problems. The other is drunks and vagrants.
Someone suggested that markets be held in Garema Place and my response was “where do we park?”
City planners please note that a future tram will not solve the problem – it will only serve as another place for the drunks to vomit etc.

This seems to be a bit unreasonable. Does somewhere need to be nor more than thirty seconds-walk away from a car park to be viable? Would it be too much to walk for a minute, or three? Is exercise dangerous? I think this attitude of expecting to drive right up to everything is very dangerous.

I challenge you to find any legal, affordable parking within 31 seconds walk from Garema Place.

No hope. You win. But easy to find affordable parking within two minutes for stays shorter than a couple of hours. Or walk a little bit further. Or catch a bus. Or ride a bike. Why the need to drive right up to where you want to go? I can appreciate the utility of this for a quick drive-thru Maccas stop on the way to Sydney with a kid sleeping in the car, but as a guiding principle for sustainable urban design?

dungfungus 1:27 pm 18 May 15

bryansworld said :

dungfungus said :

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

This is precisely one of the problems. The other is drunks and vagrants.
Someone suggested that markets be held in Garema Place and my response was “where do we park?”
City planners please note that a future tram will not solve the problem – it will only serve as another place for the drunks to vomit etc.

This seems to be a bit unreasonable. Does somewhere need to be nor more than thirty seconds-walk away from a car park to be viable? Would it be too much to walk for a minute, or three? Is exercise dangerous? I think this attitude of expecting to drive right up to everything is very dangerous.

I challenge you to find any legal, affordable parking within 31 seconds walk from Garema Place.

bryansworld 11:28 am 18 May 15

dungfungus said :

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

This is precisely one of the problems. The other is drunks and vagrants.
Someone suggested that markets be held in Garema Place and my response was “where do we park?”
City planners please note that a future tram will not solve the problem – it will only serve as another place for the drunks to vomit etc.

This seems to be a bit unreasonable. Does somewhere need to be nor more than thirty seconds-walk away from a car park to be viable? Would it be too much to walk for a minute, or three? Is exercise dangerous? I think this attitude of expecting to drive right up to everything is very dangerous.

rubaiyat 10:09 pm 17 May 15

Maya123 said :

Have you actually tried the bus? I have, and discovered it’s much more convenient than having to find a car park.

I’ll second that. The bus is slower, but not that much slower, and when I get to the City, I simply get off where I want and don’t have to circle around for a vacant parking space, which is usually NOT close to where I want to be, and forces me to return and stuff the parking machine with my hard earned cash.

As a bonus I am outside enjoying the sunshine and not entombed in some car-fart filled concrete necropolis.

But I understand that there may be people so overweight and with diabetes problems from sitting either behind a wheel or desk, that they can barely manage to roll themselves out of their cars for the difficult journey across rough terrain to the back entrance into the shopping mall.

Luckily they’ll be able to trade in their 4WD, that they needed for their cross town adventures, for that mobility scooter when they can no longer make it out the front door on their own two feet.

Maya123 3:47 pm 17 May 15

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

Have you actually tried the bus? I have, and discovered it’s much more convenient than having to find a car park.

dungfungus 1:40 pm 17 May 15

sepi said :

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

This is precisely one of the problems. The other is drunks and vagrants.
Someone suggested that markets be held in Garema Place and my response was “where do we park?”
City planners please note that a future tram will not solve the problem – it will only serve as another place for the drunks to vomit etc.

sepi 11:01 pm 16 May 15

You need to be able to park closer to Garema place for anyone to go there.

If you have parked in the multi-storey which lets you out already int he mall, you won’t walk outside thru the cold to Garema place.

The Casino end is gradually dying too since they built a big department on the little carpark.

If you could park close, and didn’t have to walk through the feral bus interchange, civic would have more hope.

breda 1:52 pm 16 May 15

Canberra’s “planners” are just creatures of whatever trend was current when they were at university, or is fashionable this week.

Exhibit A – Green Square in Kingston. Because they were all in Tim Flannery’s thrall, they destroyed a lovely community gathering place and replaced it with pebblecrete and spiky “drought resistant” plants. For Da Environment, dontcha know.

After the perfectly predictable results, i.e. the end of the drought and loss of business for local traders, it took the local businesses getting together and putting up their own money to get the grass back. Guess who paid for that politically correct debacle?

Exhibit B – outside Canberra, but analogous to Garema Place. The Parramatta council agreed with the latte crowd that cars were bad, m’kay, and created a vast windswept mall. Result – it’s now a desert for small business, a haven for junkies and drunks, and no-one in their right mind walks there at night. Encouraged by this success, the “planners” now want to do the same to Church Street, a vibrant and (currently) safe restaurant precinct which has – quelle horreur – a functioning road through it.

I guarantee that if they do it, within five years it will be another boarded-up, crime-ridden slum like the current mall. And like Garema Place.

Evidence? We don’t need no steenking evidence. Because, we have seen the future, and everything else just means that we need to redouble our efforts, m’kay?

Maya123 5:22 pm 15 May 15

rubaiyat said :

Masquara said :

That Westside aesthetic might work in the middle of an industrial area – but artificially creating that “packing crate aesthetic” just hasn’t worked. Their facebook feed is pathetic – take out the boot camp ads and the coffee roaster promos, and there’s simply nothing happening there. It’s like the back parts of the Exhibition Centre, you know, where the horses get hosed down or the lettuce outside leaves are chopped off ahead of the Farmer’s Market, have been trundled to the lakeside. Seriously dreadful – the rest of the lake has monuments, great buildings, a palliative care resting place, gardens … and this ill-thought thing. Let’s just hope its shelf-life of 18 months is just that. This is one endeavour for which there will NEVER be a call to keep it.

Lonsdale Street WAS a semi industrial area.

I wouldn’t go too much on the rendering, the perspective is all way exaggerated for a start and it certainly isn’t “packing crate”. It all comes down to the finishes and details. I am more concerned about the street level and what appears to be blank walls, although with some nooks and crannies to explore.

Canberra’s lakes were created in living memory and are now badly polluted, infested with carp and with neglected and run down landscaping best and usually only seen from a distance in a car whizzing past, so you don’t catch all the rubbish stuck between the greenery, that people threw out of their cars.

The Carillon, a gift from Britain and one of the best landmarks in Canberra now looks like a locked up toilet block up close. Sad that that is what we do.

“The Carillon, a gift from Britain and one of the best landmarks in Canberra now looks like a locked up toilet block up close.”

Trying to picture that as you see. I just can’t.

HenryBG 5:08 pm 15 May 15

rubaiyat said :

2015 03 03: Andrew Barr anounces Art Not Apart for 2015 03 14 (never happened to my knowledge):

http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/barr/2015/pop-up-village-renews-west-basin

Don’t confuse me with any kind of fan of Andrew Barr’s, but “Art Not Apart” was a great day. Lots of people there. A very varied selection of events.
Not that I bothered to walk over to the new shipping terminal on the futsal field – so I don’t know what it was like over there.

As for Civic, a few things:
1. Exhorbitant parking. I can park for free at Belco, Woden, Tuggers oir Quangers.
So guess where I go to do my Christmas shopping or see a movie?

2. At night: violent drunks and over-reacting police. It feels unsafe, and bizarrely, my experience with the policing of this circus was to almost end up in a paddy wagon after they mistook me for one of the violent drunks they were trying to catch.
Never again.

3. Daytime: My taxes at work in the shape of Garema Place’s screaming drunks. It is almost unbearably depressing seeing my taxes being squandered in the form of handouts to human detritus who promptly spend it on getting hammered in the middle of the day, in the middle of an otherwise attractive public space, effing and carrying on.
Meanwhile, the law enforcement my taxes *also* help fund fails to sweep up this rubbish and dump it somewhere else where it’s not in my face.
Never again, certainly not with my children.

Been to Civic once this year so far.

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