Monday, May 31, 2010

Hat trick!

Politically, hat tricks happen as often a cosmic cataclysms. When three levels of government all lined up to spend our tax dollars to the benefit of taxpayers I was euphoric. I speak of the sod turning for the South Bridge. Aside from access to all corners of the city and making semi-Circle Drive actually Circle Drive, there will be money saved on repairing and maintaining city roadways that were never designed or built for heavy traffic they currently carry. Pressure will be lessened on the inner city bridges and hopefully extend those lifespans.

I toss in my old hat in support of a job well done.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thank God for fast forward

Has anyone caught the current SGEU ad running on the theme of leave our Saskatchewan as is? I thought the ad televised by the Sask Party last year was trashy, but this one beats it hands down. I don't know whether the script was professionally written or if the union scripted it, but the disrespect for the office of Premier is offensive. Whomever holds that elected office, whether you like them or not, should be addressed accordingly. Mr. Wall is in fact Premier Wall.

If the people in the ad are professional actors they would have been paid union scale for the gig. If that is the case I suggest the union got ripped off. If they are actual union members and they are the best the union has to offer, then we the public are getting ripped.

I think unions serve a purpose. But that purpose is not to hold back the growth and development of the province. The government is elected to serve the whole of the community. The union is selected to serve its membership only. And serve it they do. The best example is the SGI employee who provided home addresses to the Teamsters Union as part of a recruitment process and simply got a reprimand and transfer for that wrong-doing. Had that person been from the non-unionized sector the union would have been calling for a head.

Change is sometimes hard, but usually necessary in order to serve progress. Why any group would want to remain in a time warp is beyond me.

I wish the political parties and union would get rid of the cheesy, misleading ads and be honest with the public. But I guess, in politics, honesty is no longer a virtue.

I think we, the voting public, deserve better.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Private parts

I'm perplexed on the issues of privacy that have arisen lately. When the company that had the contract to destroy records inadvertently lost some and they were found blowing around the streets of Regina, the finder of the records ran them over to his NDP MLA to report the treasure. It somehow played out that the big, bad government did this wrongful deed and should be hung for the offense.

The city has now had its knuckles rapped for providing customer information to another arm of government (SP May 27/10.) Expect more personal questions on your next tax return or census report.

Yet everyday I read Facebook pages and see subscribers volunteer every iota of information about themselves. People post their birth dates and place of birth, eye and hair color, marital status, employment status, photos, contact information - everything except their SIN numbers. For an identity thief, this is the virtual Garden of Eden. Some will even tell you when they are vacating their residence in case you are into burglary.

Thanks to cyberspace, hackers can get into your bank accounts and rob you blind. Nothing is sacred in this day and age. Transparency and disclosure are biblical words in this global world.

I guess information release all boils down to the 'how and why' rather than 'what.'

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I've got the clap . . .

. . . a round of applause for council for finally being reasonable on the sale of Parcel Y (SP May 26/10.) I expect this will not be a unanimous vote on June 14. The lefties will no doubt expound on this being a give-a-away and short changing the taxpayers - although they have no one to step up and pay more. Nothing is worth more than someone is willing to pay for it. I suggest that when you factor in the lost tax revenue for every year this land sits unused, that over the next decade the taxpayer will benefit from this decision. Better yet, maybe this sale can help pay for the $8 million dollar over-expenditure on the 25th Street extension.

So, what is happening with the parcel of land designated for the live/work eco-village space? Perhaps council will make a few extra bucks on this as well, if it ever gets kick started. Has this property been put up for sale yet?

Let the shovel hit the . . whatever.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Mayor's gone mahout . . .

and I thought riding the political circus elephant was my job while he played ringmaster under the big top. I admit Atch's elephant looks a little more upscale than mine and I may be exhibiting a little jealousy here. But I enjoy the beast - both of them.

And while the Shriner's are hosting their circus, someone in the city is creating a circus of their own. I speak of the bumper stickers (SP May 22/10) scattered around the downtown. I might agree that some are borderline innuendo comments, but for the most part they are satirical. I hope the city police will not be allocating all of their resources to tracking down the dastardly disturbers of decency and will spend a little time on the gun runners, dope dealers, burglars, car thieves, rapists, bank robbers, assaulters . . . . .

And here come the clowns.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Summer in the City

Ah, summer has arrived. Streets are ripped up, bridges close and the sport of dodging potholes is in full swing. I know this work can only be done during the summer months so I will lay back and let it happen.

What I can't be generous about is the City's position of shrugging off mosquito management and dutch elm disease. I know the province cut some funding, but somehow there are always funds available for massive projects in the city, counting into the tens of millions of dollars, but they can't come up with what is comparatively a paltry sum to do the things that are important to the daily lives and long-term benefit of all citizens. If parks are denuded of the urban forest and mosquitoes are at unbearable levels, no one is going out and about to enjoy the amenities of the city. After the fact, the city will blame the province. I won't matter at that point who is at fault because the damage will be done.

So enjoy the summer and long weekend while you can. We'll chat on Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Made in Japan

I don't know whether this qualifies under "necessity being the mother of invention" but I recently received a blurb from a friend where in Japan a humanoid robot is performing marriage ceremonies. Seems to me this could solve the recent court hearing on discriminatory practices by marriage commissioners.

Hmm . . I wonder if the robot is programmed to check for shotguns or how it responds to that age-old question "if anyone hear knows of any reason why these two should not be wed, speak up now or forever hold your peace."

What next?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Put them out to pasture

It is evident that the NDP are truly in need of fresh, new members. Many of those sitting today are so long in the tooth they can only run a campaign on one thing - the infamous Grant Devine government. I haven't heard one new or creative thing come from the NDP since they formed the opposition. Just bitch, bitch, bitch - and practise retro politics.

In Mandryk's column today (SP May 18/10) he assists in drawing lines (with hooks) between Wall's government and 25-year-old incidents. The pilot project to build greatly needed innovative new care home now seems to have an insidious motive. The expose of Michael Stensrud as a donor to the Sask Party and appointee to the Saskatoon Health Region failed to mention the Stensrud Family's long history in building and supporting care/nursing homes. My late father was a resident at Stensrud Lodge and I did not fail to note the generosity of the Stensruds when the expansion was done a few years ago, prior to the Sask Party forming government.

The Catholic Health Ministry has a history of involvement with health care in the province stemming back to the turn of the last century, starting with the Grey Nuns and St. Paul's Hospital in this city. Check the yellow page for the list of Catholic sponsored care homes in this city. Would it surprise anyone that they would take a leadership role in this project?

The Donlevy Family has a couple of generations to boast of their involvement with Catholic health care in the province and city. It was not reported that lawyer Donlevy has represented the Catholic Health Ministry both in his capacity as a lawyer and volunteer for years, as did generations of his family. Just that he has a brother that works for government.

I am thankful that someone is taking the lead to fulfill the great need for these care facilities. Ask anyone with an ailing and aging family member who is wait-listed for such a facility and they won't give a damn about a connect the dots parallel - just build the facilities. Right now we have many of our seniors languishing in high cost hospital beds waiting for placement in such a care home where their needs will be met. Getting them out of hospital and into an appropriate care facility will add to their quality of life and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

And since Lingenfelter and Atkinson didn't do much to address this need when they were in government they should be pleased that a young Wall is doing what they should have done when they had the chance. Both will soon be lined up with application in hand.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get the show on the road

I was taken aback on the FSIN's demanding stance for a moratorium the sale or lease of provincial lands pending their TLE settlements with the federal government (SP May 15/10). I might agree to a "first call" on lands, but not the attitude that the government should do nothing until the FSIN give them a green light.

When property comes up for sale or lease, offer it first to the FSIN. If they want that land they should enter into a legal agreement to purchase same, with payment due at the time of the TLE settlement and then be committed to taking that land at the price set. It can then be leased in the interim, but the lessee will know there is no opportunity to purchase down the road.

What I am unclear about is what is included in "First Nations traditional territory." Is it the whole of the province or just the lands originally granted under the old treaties? Wasn't it in BC that more land was claimed than existed?

Speak up now or forever hold your peace. At some point this saga has to end and I hope it has a happy ending for all concerned.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tongue in cheek?

A good day always starts with a laugh,. In today's SP (May 14/10) there is a small blurb about a moose running free in downtown Calgary. Police called wildlife officers who corralled, tranquilized and removed the animal for relocation. The officers comment after the capture: "We figured it came from out of town."

Have a great day and weekend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Back to the future

Brad Wall's popularity stems from the fact that he is viewed as a nice guy. How do nice guys get dragged into the mire? They let themselves be dragged into the gutter by the 'no holds barred' streetfighters. Strength of leadership gives way to survival. Nice guys start putting up fences as a means of defence. The problem with fences is that you close out your friends as well as your enemies.

The legislative chamber has always been the hallowed hall of raucous debate, as it was intended to be, should be and for the benefit of the public. Today's legislative assembly provides no benefit to anyone, including the policitians that participate. Under the NDP leadership of Blakney, Romanow and Calvert debate occurred with opposition on issues and ideologies, whether or not those leaders formed government or sat in opposition. Election campaigns were fought on issues and ideologies.

Under the leadership of Lingenfelter politicial debate passed away and from the ashes rose vitrolic personal attacks. The governance of the province is sidelined in favour of the "win at all costs" election campaign that is being waged, the game plan being throw mud and hope something sticks. Issues and ideologies be damned. What the NDP, and the public, have to ask themselves is what kind of government they will have under such leadership if an election is won based on muddied waters and little vision.

I personally don't care whether or not a young Brad Wall played gofer to his minister twenty some years ago. Who at that age is going to challenge their boss on a trival matter. I'm tired of hearing about the decades old imfamous Grant Devine government. What I want to hear is the plan for the future - from both leaders.

If the argument is that the best indicator of future performance is past performance, then we should be checking on the past conduct of Lingenfelter as well. After decades in the legislature that closet must be over flowing with venial and mortal sins.

I hope Brad Wall looks ahead rather than over his shoulder and continues to lead this province towards prosperity. Lingenfelter will simply limp behind and prove that he is past his best before date.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Take the bait

Whether or not I have agreed with a position I have always admired groups who have felt so strongly about a cause that they are willing to get off their butts to fund it themselves rather than simply relying on tax dollars. In today's SP (May 12/10) on page A6 there is a substantial ad by the Station 20 group soliciting donations for their cause. On A3 is an article wherein Riversdale BID director Randy Pshebylo and Councillor Lorje raise their concerns about the concentration of social organizations in the Riversdale area. If the BID director and ward councillor want a moratorium on social organizations in Riversdale then the Station 20 group are spinning their wheels.

The Station 2o group can argue that they are simply doing what is suggested - consolidating social services. But these are the same folks that promote consultation prior to action, especially when governments are involved. Are the other social organizations willing to shut down and group together with Station 20? Based on some comments in this article, I think not. This scenario defines "juxtaposition."

I understand Pshebylo's position - he wants his business area to grow and thrive. Lorje wants her ward rejuvenate and thrive. The poor, homeless and socially ill do not promote the goal of thriving area.

Are we really talking about 'give a man a fish' vis-a-vis 'teach a man to fish'? Either way, the fish is hooked.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Go Johnny Go!

This is not just an old rock hit, its John Melenchuk looking for his day in court. On page A4 to today's SP (May 11/10) is a report on the late and/or no filers under the city's election disclosure bylaw. I think Johnny may be surprised when he finds that judges don't take kindly to grandstanding in their courtrooms. Nor are judges interested in old grievances. They simply adjudicate the present case before them. However, this may be interesting because it could be that a judge will point to any flaws in the bylaw itself.

Did the late filers pay the penalty fine for their tardiness? If any of us are late paying taxes or parking tickets, late payment charges are not forgiven. Doreen Day Wapass said she was so totally submerged in employment she forgot to file. Hmmm . . did the city clerk not send a reminder letter? I know she did this kindly act in 2006. Regardless, the Disclosure Bylaw is part of the candidate's package and the onus is on the candidate to comply.

This case could rock and Johnny might roll.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ticket to ride, part II

Saskatoon Transit added bike racks to buses to accommodate cyclists who might want to bike one way and then bus it home. Saturday's SP (May 8/10) ran an article on problems with baby strollers on buses. Although the report said more about bad manners then anything else, it seems this problem has a quick fix. Strollers, like bikes, are wheeled vehicles.

I was particularly taken with the bus driver's response. He wasn't getting involved. I thought all public venues had postings that verbal abuse will not be tolerated. Maybe that's pertains just to verbal abuse of civic employees and not users of public amenities. I wonder if that driver would have become involved if the altercation had been physical rather than verbal. See no evil, hear no evil . . . just keep on truckin'.

If public transportation is to become viable and self-sustaining, then it must be efficient, economical and convenient. To date it is losing on all counts.

Where are my car keys?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Float your boat

The best solvency test for a project is whether or not the private sector wants to invest in it. Although the whitewater project sounds exciting I question some of the proposal. The hydroelectrical facility seems viable, and the pedestrian bridge would divert traffic from the dangerous train bridge, but the whitewater concept sounds iffy. Where are the people, and their cash, who first proposed this project?

In today's SP article (May 7/10) Mr. Neufeld of Saskatoon Light and Power said the feasibility study addresses concerns of safety and that the weir area would be safer as the turbulence would be gone. If the weir is raised a metre or two, is that still the case? The whitewater project would be designed for kayakers and surfers. Yet Saskatoon residents are continually warned to stay out of the river because of the current and in fact the river has postings warning people of the dangers of the river current. Does the study talk about the liability to the city as a result creating a recreation venue that could result in harm to users or the public?

As with everything else, $65 million will soon become a $100 million and be added to the ever-increasing debt load of the local taxpayer. There may come a point when the city really needs something and we will find we are out of cash and credit.

Should something like this go to a referendum? Given the dollars spent on studies the cost of a referendum would be cheap.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pressed off!

I'm a little miffed at this year's reporting of the civic campaign Disclosure statements. From today's editorial (SP May 6/10) there seems to be more interest in how the surplus funds are disposed of rather than in the donations and expenses.

By example, I thought it interesting that the firefighters union gave donations to all incumbents, including those acclaimed. Wasn't this the union that got about a 17% increase from council? What did the other unions give and to whom? Did business collectives give group donations broken into $249.00 allotments, resulting in thousands of dollars to certain candidates?

No one monitors the accuracy of the reporting, and unless challenged, no one submits bills or receipts. Did any candidate pay himself/herself', or any relative, rent for a campaign office? Did they actually claim all expenses? I would like to know whether Councillor Hill claimed the billboards that appeared just prior to the election announcing his short-lived, ward 1 only, recycling program. It pretty much mirrored his campaign material and seemed to fizzle and die after the election. To date we don't know how much each councillor collected or spent.

As for the surplus funds, if I thought my donation to a campaign would wind up in the city's squandering pool, I would never donate. Giving to charities suits me find as long was they are registered charities. Doling it out in your ward like candy seems a little like buying your next vote. Ward communications could mean buying yourself a new computer and using it for other purposes. And money spent web communications, particularly for councillors now running for different offices, should at least be claimed as a donation and election expenses for that campaign.

I was on council when this bylaw passed. At that time some councillors noted the holes and flaws in the format. But it was a start. At the time the thinking was that it would evolve with use.

If you want transparency, set it up like the federal/provincial reporting and require someone other than the candidate to verify the credits and debits. Clearly outline what is deemed to be an expense and make disclosure of all donations mandatory.

The minimal reporting on this to date was simply a waste of ink and paper.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The dead and the dying

The legislature has become a war zone for politicians with snipers tucked away in every nook and cranny. The NDP are led by a master sniper. When allegations of wrong-doing are made against an elected member, that person's political career is over - whether they are guilty or not. Once the seed is planted it can't be weeded out of the voter's mind. LeClerc is a prime example. We don't know whether he is guilty and we will probably never know, but we do know his political career is over.

Minister McMorris is now a sniper's target, but one of his own making. If he isn't eventually bounced for misleading the legislature, he should be bounced for stupidity. Why would anyone make statements that can be so easily challenged? The easy resolution to the privacy issue regarding hospital foundations accessing patient information is to include a simple question on the hospital admission form: Do you consent to having your name released. Yes or no.

Our MLAs have signed up for combat duty and, save for those who have lived a monastic lifestyle, know they may catch a political bullet. They've created the battlefield and use their mouths like machine guns. But I draw the line when they drag "civilians" into the line of fire.

For the NDP to put the Children's Hospital Foundation in the crossfire in order to fire off a round hoping to catch a victim in the scatter is despicable. When prospective donors hear the a project is cancelled they quit donating. It is the drops that fill the buckets - those being the small donations that trickle in from the average citizen. It may be that the NDP have turned off that tap.

Our Geneva Convention and tribunal for political war crimes is next year's election. I hope we all remember this conduct when casting our ballots.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No cocks, please!

I just came from an area in the world that allows for chickens in the city. In Antigua, every morning at 1:30 a.m. a neighbouring cock would start crowing, and more than thrice. The first early call brought nostalgic memories of rural Saskatchewan. Succeeding evenings had me screaming "shut that damn rooster up."

I guess Council could pass a bylaw that provided for smart roosters only, being those who knew dawn from the dead of night. And some young entrepreneur could kick start a business for chicken poop bags - maybe the kind that carriage horses wear in the city. Kids could raid chicken coops on Hallowe'en and continue the age-old tradition of tricking in lieu of treats. And maybe we could have community chicken coops, and . . .

As I facetiously cluck my disapproval on this idea I ask: Did anyone on council support this?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Walk my walk

I hope that council will recognize that the average citizen is more concerned about the care and condition of their neighbourhood than they are of the mega projects. The SP article (May 1/10) on the deterioration of city sidewalks was not front page news to anyone who lives in an older neighbourhood. In fact the only thing that surprised me was that Nutana was not on top of the list for repair and/or replacement.

The only reason some streets have Nutana "ramps or curb cuts" is because the concrete is missing. Nutana is home to a large number of seniors who resort to taking their wheelchairs and walkers on the roadways because of the poor condition of the sidewalks or lack thereof. The article stated that in past sidewalk repair was driven on a complaint basis. If that were true Nutana would have new sidewalks. I suspect that the new "systematic, scientific process" will not work any better since Nutana has not hit the list for this year - and it is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city.

I guess I shouldn't complain. We did get a lift station in our one park and the Traffic Bridge is open some of the time with its twinkling garish lights. If only we could safely walk to that park and over that bridge to access the smooth concrete jungle at River Landing.