Thursday, January 28, 2010

Suites are not sweet for all

After pondering the garden/garage suite issue I now understand the NIMBY stance. It doesn't surprise me that only 25% of people surveyed supported the concept without reservation. My bet would be that 25% included landlords and/or residents of new high-end neighbourhoods that would, in all likelihood, feel immune from the development. Nor does it surprise me that several Community Associations, particularly Nutana and Varsity View, oppose this zoning change. These areas have already felt the impact of absentee landlords and suites, both legal and illegal, in their residential areas. They know this is not a sweet deal.

All neighbourhoods have a mix of zoning that include residential, multiple dwelling and commercial. If you buy a home next to a commercial property or multiple dwelling complex, you should not expect to change the surrounding existing zoning. When you buy a home with a residential zoning in place you expect it to remain residential. For the city to arbitrarily consider changing that zoning without consent of the residents is at best high-handed.

When a residential neighbourhood starts to increase its rental component, families start to leave. When families leave and student populations decline, schools are at risk of closure. The decline begins.

I know there is a rental housing shortage, but I am not convinced this is the way to solve it. I am unclear as to whether these garden/garage suites will be subject to the Rentalsman. What I would bet money on is that these suites, if located on property where the homeowner is resident, will not be renting to Grover's former tenants.

The demonstration suites being proposed will no doubt be glitzed up. They will not look like the illegal ones that will spring up. And the city will not enforce its bylaws against illegal suites because the need for housing would be impacted. And if there are problems with noise or unacceptable behaviour you will find out how far down on the priority list those calls are to the police. This is like a bad movie playing over and over again.

I can see from council's perspective why this would be a sweet deal. It solves some of the affordable housing problem and properties with suites would garner a higher assessment and thus pay more property tax.

Why am I so concerned? I live in Nutana and I suspect my future is not going to 'shine.'

Sour cream or sour grapes?

This morning Les MacPherson (SP Jan. 28/10) summed up my views of proroguing.

I heard one Liberal MP on radio the other day stating that with parliament shut down he was unable to address his constituents' concerns. Bunk. With the exception of those few national issues, ( ie abortion, death penalty, etc.) the average constituent concern is personal to them or their organization and is not dealt with in parliamentary session. The majority of MPs work is done through committees and within their own offices. Parliament is simply the big tent and the Prime Minister du jour the ringmaster. The only people really missing the session are those regular viewers of the gong show and opposition members wanting to kick start their campaigns.

If the press hadn't made an issue of a prolonged break in parliament the country wouldn't know or care or for that matter notice a difference. If the public really wants to change the format, fix in stone the days parliament will sit with a proviso for emergencies. I am not hearing the opposition leaders asking for that change.

So it is sour cream with peorgies, and sour grapes with proroguing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snow Job

I heard the Mayor saying on CBC this morning that he is considering adding $3 million dollars to the snow clearing budget. In days gone by that would translate into about a 3% tax increase.

This is in reaction to the current snow clearing issue. I think it is unrealistic for people to think that the city could clear snow much faster in these circumstances. The snow plows were clearing the same arteries over and over again as the storm raged on. They are now clearing and hauling tons of snow out of the city. It is a laborious job. It takes time.

I might support the increase if it meant residential streets would get cleared periodically and the snow hauled away during the winter season. I live on a bus route so eventually the plow comes down my street and creates a massive snow bank making it impossible to park or get your trash can out for pick-up. Eventually people come out and start shoveling the snow back on the road so they can access the street. Then we wait with bated breath for the street flooding in spring. Its actually kind of funny in an absurd way.

We live in Saskatchewan. We get a couple of bad snow storms a year. If you lived in Eastern Canada you might be dealing with freezing rain storms and loss of power for days. If you lived in California you'd get torrential rain storms and mudslides. Get the drift?

Mother Nature can be a bitch sometimes. And if mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. Get on with it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Loose lips . . .

In catching up on local news I note Councillors Lorje and Dubois are both named in a law suit regarding actions allegedly taken regarding the sale of the Barry Hotel (SP Jan. 21/10). I am unclear what Dubois' participation was but if the allegations against Lorje are true, she deserves to be sued.

I don't think elected people should be liable for constituent concerns raised in council chamber or board rooms, or questions of concern asked in those venues. However there is a big difference between direct intervention by an elected individual and personal comments that may be deemed libelous vis-a-vis representation of public concerns. Damages resulting from actions taken by elected people outside of their authority and without the sanction of the whole elected body should be borne by the individual not by the people they represent. And they should foot their own legal bills.

On the other side, had the Alberta investors bothered to check Lorje out they might have realized that she holds no sway with this government, or I suspect, with her own party should they form government.

Of concern is the allegation that the fire department and health region were re-evaluating their approvals previously granted. If there were problems why weren't they caught the first time around?

I am not inclined to support blanket immunity to council members for comments in the council chamber for fear it will become the gong show we currently endure in parliament and the legislature. I do think guidelines should be put in place as to circumstances which would provide support to elected people for vexatious suits resulting from actions taken in course of their ordinary duties.

This ship sounds like it is a one-man sail boat with Lorje controlling the rudder.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dastardly Deed or Democratic Dilemma?

It isn't often I get to put a check mark into Councillor Clark's plus column but I agree with his comments on council's vote to lengthen terms of office (SP Jan.19/10). It is not up to the people who hold these offices to make the decision. In past, changes to local government elections have been made by the voters through referendum or plebiscite voting, usually preceded by debate. It is ultimate irony that the Mayor and Councillor Wyant cite cost efficiency as the reasoning for the decision as they are part of a council that spends with impunity.

I have a few other questions I would like to see go to a public plebiscite vote next election. Since voters are restricted to voting in the ward in which they reside, I think Councillors should reside within the ward they represent. Let's get the public's opinion on that issue.

If political parties are now active in civic elections, let's bring them out of the closet. Rather than speculating on whether a council is left or right wing, have it declared. Then we can create minority governments that can bring down a civic government that goes off the rails through a non-confidence vote - with no provision to prorogue.

At the same time we should remember that a ward system was touted as the opportunity to give the average citizen the opportunity to run, be elected and serve. Yet with each passing election we have a growing number of wards in which both council and school board candidates are acclaimed. If you have an election were both the councillor and trustee are acclaimed and the mayor's race is a forgone conclusion, why go vote if you have no choice. How about "none of the above" in those circumstances.

I agree with some form of voter ID. It would be so easy to vote several times in our civic elections and never get caught. And I wouldn't be concerned about "minimal standard" as suggested by Councillor Lorje. If people can come up with proper ID to buy tobacco and alcohol they should be able to come up sufficient ID to vote. Voting is not just a right but a privilege. No one worries about people being disfranchised when they are asked to provide identification and personal information in order to exercise the privilege of collecting benefits or pensions. The privilege of voting should not be less important.

Denizens of democracy debate this issue; or then again, just bitch about it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stuck in the middle

Mayor Atchison should read the migrant study carefully. According to the SP the weather got a C grade and I suspect Regina's weather did as well, yet Regina had a B rating overall. It is the section on society that should catch his attention. We hear from the Police Commission that crime is down yet the report suggests it is high, comparatively speaking. I understand the low income and educational issues. Until we succeed in delivering a good educational standing to First Nations these issues will plague our city. And as much as we have enjoyed job creation they are, generally speaking , not employment opportunities at the upper end of the pay scale.

What I don't quite understand is the income differential between male and female.

Oh well, Saskatoon can be our little bit of paradise. It still is a great city and being away from it makes me appreciate it more. I even miss the eccentric citizenry!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roll over Ghandi

Hi everyone. Had a little computer glitch yesterday and couldn't get to the blog.

I've been catching up on news in Saskatoon through the SP and see Sandra Finley is keeping the courts busy on her constitutional challenge to the Census. I'm going to watch this carefully. If you are not required to give government personal information I hope it will apply to Tax returns - no SIN, date of birth, or perhaps no T4 income thus no tax. If she pulls this off she may move up a notch in my esteem chart.

However, I suspect this is more about her anti-American/war position based on her quoted comments regarding the American company that won the bid for the software. If that is the case I wish she had followed her own advice and followed Mandela's peaceful way. I, and I suspect the majority of the public, detest war; but I suspect protesting war in Ghandi/Mandela fashion would not register with today's terrorists.

If she loses this challenge will she be required to pay court costs?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hide your money if you have any!

I was almost sick when I read in today's SP that almost every major union is at the bargaining table this year. How does this happen? The government is broke and the province will, no doubt, be under siege as all the unions have strike mandates. After services are withdrawn the public will complain, the government will pay and everyone will point to the poor financial management by government. I feel like I am being forced to watch the same bad B grade movie over and over again and I not sure what crime I committed that warrants this penalty.

And yes, I know about the big, bad government's essential services legislation. I am just not confident that it will matter much.

If I had any money left, I'd fluff up my mattress.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Heidt of decency

I read in the SP that Myles Heidt is suing Public School Trustee Dan Danielson. Kudos to Myles Heidt for taking on Danielson. Expressing one's opinion on an issue is laudable, slander is despicable. I did see the notice that was sent out during the election and Heidt was definitely identified by his position of office and the information was inaccurate. Danielson knew, or as an experienced trustee, should have known that the allegations had no merit. He has a history of this conduct and I'm pleased to see that finally someone has called him on it.

I have often heard from people interested in politics state they would not get actively involved because the issues get shunted to the side and over ridden by personal attacks and skewed information on candidate positions. The only way to end the behaviour is take the course Heidt is taking.

While discussing civic government vis-a-vis provincial/federal governments, a wise friend summed it up as "same sewer, bigger rats."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Laugh or you'll cry

I didn't watch the World Juniors last night as we couldn't find a channel that was showing it but tracked the score on the net. My hopes soared when it tied and I crashed when we lost. Not in the mood for celebration I then started to catch up on the SP local news.

I did catch the article were the Mayor talked about developing the 50 year plan to replace the 15 year old plan for city development. Regrettably he, and thankfully I, will not be around to pay for it. I do give him credit for a sense of humour when he stated it was driven by economics and we will be able to generate revenue. He neglected to say the revenue generation would be derived from property tax payers. Adding $1 million for maintenance costs for River Landing, operational costs for the expensive (and possibly world's largest) swimming pool and bus passes for the working poor do not generate revenue. If past performance is the best indicator of future performance, we are hooped!

The best laid plans of mice and mayors . . . .

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The root of all evil?

I think Americans like me better than Canadians - they must think I'm sweet. Everyone keeps calling me "hon." "Can I help you hon?" "Everything okay hon?"

I am astounded by the religious bent in this area of the USA. Listening to the radio talk shows it seems that everyone signs off with God bless you, God bless America, God bless the world - except for those of Middle East extraction, Democrats and President Obama. I expect it must be because of the 'melting pot' theme all immigrants embrace God and Christianity dominates.

It is interesting how Christians with their values seem not able to embrace social programs that would benefit those in need if those programs might cost them money. I think God has his work cut out for him down here.

Thanks for the comments yesterday. I miss hearing the local issues. On the smoking at CUC it won't surprise me if it is totally banned. Given the aversion by the majority to smoking it is surprising pressure is not put on the government to ban the sale of tobacco in Saskatchewan. Then again, given the loss of revenue from potash, the loss of revenue from tobacco sales would demolish the whole provincial budget. Ah, the things we can over look when money is involved.

Come to think of it if God demolished money the Americans would have social programs and in Saskatchewan we would be a non-smoking territory. And I, along with others, would be holding on to my roots while strolling down the road to hell!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Confessions of a Mistress

Happy New Year! I hope each and every one has enjoyed the fellowship of family and friends over this holiday season.

It is said that confession is good for the soul and for the good of my soul I confess I am not in Saskatoon but enjoying the balmy weather in Palm Desert. I have enjoyed visiting long term friends, swung a golf club more often than I should have over 18 holes, collected a little vitamin D, swilled some decent California wine and endured an epiphany.

Like many of you I have considered myself a little right of centre conservative. Here, in the good old USA, I am experiencing being a socialist. In listening to the radio stations here you would think that President Obama is the devil incarnate. This all stems from his health care plan. I would have thought that middle class America would have heralded him as the second coming rather than an audacious spendthrift. I find myself in dialogue with descendants of Attila the Hun over the merits (and pitfalls) of the issue. I'm leaving here tomorrow before they run me out of town or, worse yet, my political acuity is questioned.

I'm following the news in 'Toon town via the SP online. Would appreciate your comments on news in our city

Best of 2010.