Friday, December 31, 2010


I wish each and every one a very Happy New Year. I thank you for your participation in 2010 and look forward to an exciting 2011.

Enjoy the evening celebrations and do so safely.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Personally, there isn't much that I don't like about Mayor Atch. I know him to be a good man. He's kind and approachable. I think he is a good ambassador for Saskatoon. He's a visible mayor and attends almost all public functions, large or small. For the best part he is respectful of citizens when they appear before council, even when treated disrespectfully by some presenters. He is patient and tolerant when dealing with some grandstanding councillors. If only he could manage money he would be a great mayor.

Atch has been called a dreamer. The world needs dreamers. Some see him as a visionary. Perhaps he is both. He definitely is an optimist.

But when it comes to spending to make those dreams and visions come true, he might be hallucinatory.

I read his interview with Hutton (SP Dec. 30/10) regarding the year ahead. It sounds good. It sounds expensive. But the focus is on the mega projects. It will be years before any development bears fruit in the form of taxes and thus the wee taxpayer must foot the bill. In the interim the city needs that affect the average taxpayer are not met, or alternatively are met and taxes go through the roof. And the debt, and debt servicing, grows and weighs heavy on city residents.

Our good mayor is on an LSD trip - Lots of Spending and Debt. I hope the trip ends before the credit card is maxed out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Study Political 'Net Benefit'

In Angela Hall's interview with Premier Wall (SP Dec. 29/10) he commented that the government did not do polling prior to making his decision regarding the BHP attempted hostile takeover of PCS, implying of course that the decision was made based on the best interest of the province rather than on the political best interest of his party. He didn't need to do polling as the public voluntarily voiced their opinions and the media did the polling.

The interview further dealt with the future of Mosaic Stadium in Regina. On this decision he should do polling prior to making a decision. He should also do a net benefit examination of this proposed project and an examination of how well other extravagant stadiums do in larger centres with bigger markets.

He should also examine the political career of Geo. Bush Sr. After Kuwait Bush Sr. had a 80% approval waiting. Less than a year later he lost his election bid for a second term.

The thing about riding high is that you have a greater distance to fall and the velocity can create deadly end results.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Aftermath

Once again Christmas has come and gone and with it the manic highs and lows I associate with this season. The family is starting to disperse and I am starting to regret all the holiday ornamentation I used that now must be put away. I go into my down time between Christmas and New Years and recover by kicking back with the papers that have piled up and thumb through new books to be read.

I scanned James Wood's interview with Lingenfelter in today's SP (Dec. 28/10) but haven't yet read the online version. This kinder, gentler Dwain with his positive approach sounds like a true Christmas miracle. Then I got to the part where he quotes the stats that no NDP/CCF government has ever won re-election after one term in opposition. He has set the stage for his loss in the next election. There is almost a sadness listening to a man let go of his dream. I say this assuming that his party will look for a new leader after the next election.

Then again, this is next year country.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. May you enjoy the kinship and warmth of family and friends this holiday season.

I hope each and every one has done one small (or large) act of generosity and shared some of their good fortune with those less favoured.

And I wish this message is one that we can all agree on.

Peace and joy to all.

Again, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How many Scrooges sit on council?

With respect to the recycling debate Pat Lorje says "When Cosmo got assurance council would make sure that there was always a role on any go-forward basis I would have hoped it relieved any anxiety. I don't think it has." Within the same article (SP Dec. 23/10) it quotes from the Globe and Mail piece that some Saskatoon city councillors are "skeptical about the value of the charity but wary of being seen as opposing disability rights." Perhaps this last quote is reason enough for Cosmo to be anxious about its future.

Interestingly enough these councillors are most concerned about how their decision will reflect on them and their political futures than how it will affect the Cosmo kids.

If some councillors are skeptical of the value of Cosmo they should be talking to the families of the Cosmo kids. Cosmo is not just a workplace. It is a gathering place for people with intellectual disabilities that provides them with a sense of purpose, a peer group and a social outlet. Without Cosmo these good people would be languishing at whatever residence they have with little or no contact with one another or with the wider community.

Forcing Cosmo to pay minimum wage would in effect shut them down. The stipend they do get is used in some measure to teach them how to use money and generally pays for their social activities. Should they receive minimum wage from Cosmo Industries the province would no doubt deduct their wages from the monthly support payment which would leave them in a terribly impoverished situation and with no ability to improve the quality of their lives.

This article quickly points out the city's dollar subsidy to Cosmo but neglects to mention the savings to the city as a result of Cosmo diverting 14,000 metric tonnes of paper from the landfill each year. Although there may be cost attached to acts of humanity, it know in this case it is far lesser than the ongoing squandering by this council. And the financial support for Cosmo it a drop in the bucket compared to the tax breaks given to businesses and developers.

This whole discussion angers me in that I feel some councillors are setting the stage for the tragic drama of destroying Cosmo and attempting to make themselves look like good, caring and concerned politicians while doing so. We have some very shameful people leading our city.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Doubting Thomas

I, and I suspect many others, are curious about the investigative documents being withheld by the government regarding Tommy Douglas. I can only speculate that the police activity from that era would violate today's laws. Regrettably, as a public, we take actions from a historical period and judge those actions on today's standards without recognizing what our country and its people were dealing with at that time.

Such was the case with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaka to end WWII. In today's world that action is appalling. In 1945, after years of war which resulted in millions of deaths, people wanted the war to end and applauded the government of the day for the bombing. Yet leaders from 1945 are chastised today for that action.

Tommy Douglas was a good man, but not a perfect one. He did many good things during his era and has been duly recognized, perhaps even canonized, for his work. I'm going to guess revelations from investigative documents will result in his martyrdom. Actions from the Cold War era will become today's political Hot War.

Is there a way to study our history and learn from it without resurrecting it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Too bad there were only three wise men

When Council was developing and "trimming" the budget, one of the items cut back on was funding for the bridge reserve. It should be a concern given the issues with the Traffic Bridge and the fact that the University and Broadway bridges are nearing the end of their lifespans and may require significant funding. I thought this was a short-sighted decision.

Today's SP (Dec. 21/10) reports that the Buckwold Bridge came in $1.3 million over budget due to unforeseen deterioration. No one is shocked. What is shocking is that Council plans to cover this expenditure from the bridge reserve that doesn't have $1.3 million in it and that this over-budget item will strip the reserve until 2016. In essence, the savings account is in a deficit position for five or six years. I'm not sure what accounting practice sanctions overdrafts/deficits on savings accounts. What will happen with the other bridges over the next half a decade should they need unexpected maintenance or repair?

I'm not sure whether the City contracts out its bridge inspections or whether it is done in-house. Given the situation with the Traffic Bridge , and now the Buckwold Bridge, I am suspect of those doing the inspections. I hear the Pink Panther theme playing in my head.

Regrettably three wise men do not form a majority position on Council.

Monday, December 20, 2010

XX vs. XY

In today's SP (Dec. 20/10) MLA Chartier raises the question of the lack of female candidates for elected office. Too bad the question wasn't publicly asked prior to the majority of candidates being nominated for the next provincial election.

I can think of a couple of reasons off the top why women do not seek public office.

I suspect that most, but not all, women feel uneasy about leaving their families for the extended periods of time necessary to perform public service. Although today's husbands/fathers tend to share household and parenting duties, not many are willing to give up and/or slow down their own careers to fulfill the role of mainstay parent while their significant other takes a leave of absence.

Many qualified women have spent decades slamming their heads against the glass ceiling trying to increase their presence in the professional and business world. They have worked long and hard to attain career positions and are unwilling to jeopardize that work, or their futures, for a stint in public service. Although corporate employers may be required to hold career positions for an indeterminate length of time while an employee runs for public office, these women know they will not be considered for future advancement if they have expressed an interest in another line of work.

I don't know how you fix this problem. Appointing female candidates doesn't work as witnessed by Chretien's efforts with Georgette Sheridan. Although she won one election on a Liberal sweep that appointment dogged her throughout her term and came back to bite her on the second go round.

Maybe bright women are just smart enough to stay out of the increasingly comedic debacle billed as government.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Point on Point

Over the last couple of days the blog comments seem to focus on rapidly accumulating debt and largely due to stimulus programs via the federal and provincial governments. Some seem to subscribe to the "make hay while the sun shines" or "use it or lose it" theories.

I think there is a time to accrue debt in these circumstances and the bridge and infrastructure projects make sense. That to my mind is good debt. What doesn't make sense to me is the nice, but unnecessary projects. That to me is bad debt. My example today is the Mendel Art Gallery, soon to be the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.

When the Mendel first approached Council for a renovation/expansion the ask was about $12 to $14 million. Council du jour was reluctant to green light the project. Some of today's Councillors expressed grave concern not just for the capital cost but because an expanded gallery would undoubtedly increase the operating costs. The federal and provincial governments were not jumping at the opportunity to put their one-third share into this project, which would have amounted to $4 to $5 million each.

Now the federal/provincial governments are offering a combined $26 million for the new gallery on River Landing which has a current price tag of $66 million (and climbing,) leaving the local taxpayer to foot a $40 million contribution.

It would seem in this instance the city would have been better off footing the original $12 to $14 million on their own and saying thanks but no thanks to the federal and provincial governments. And I do not hear those same Councillors expressing concern about operating costs for the new Taj Mahal.

After the fact, we will have to deal with the costs of renovating the old Mendel site and finding a tenant for the building. Those lining up for occupancy will no doubt be the organizations that rely on government funding to exist. The speculation is that the MVA will take it as their new home. The operating costs of the MVA are solely funded by tax dollars.

As a taxpayer I only ask for reasonableness to prevail.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

$10.00 isn't worth the trip to the bank

My late father used to go to the barber once a week for a trim. It was a bit of a family joke as my Dad was near bald.

I suspect Council learned its trimming skills from that barber. Some of this budget's trimming (SP Dec. 16/10) was a cross between "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and a shell game.

I'm not sure what the money originally allocated for the New 2U program was going to cover but obviously it wasn't necessary. Maybe Hill wanted to be reimbursed for his billboard signs. As for the transit "overtime" does this mean when the budget line for that item reaches its limit that the drivers quit driving? Increasing expected revenues for leisure services sounds a little iffy since none of us will have dollars left to spend on leisure. This is right up there with the school board balancing its budget by using reserves.

I think candidates for council should have to take a little exam on accounting before they are eligible to run for election. Or at least have the exam results published during the campaign.

PS Thank you little holiday helper for yesterday's guest blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mistress on the Mend

The Mistress is recovering from a minor surgical procedure today and will be unable to post. Let's focus today's discussion on the upcoming budget and the fact that after 5 hours yesterday Council was unable to accomplish much in the way of trimming it (and in fact Pat Lorje attempting to increase it ever so slightly).

Get well Mistress and hopefully your faithful readers will give you some ideas for tomorrow's post.

The Mistress' Holiday Helper

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homestead rights

Who knew RV owners were such a powerful lobby group? The only support Heidt received from council on his proposal to ban parking RVs in driveways was from the Mayor. I would have expected a couple of other councillors would have received complainants over the years about this matter.

As much a I personally dislike having a picture view of my neighbours RV, it is his property and as long as the vehicle is off the public street, then my option is to look away. I'm sure he would like me to park the old junker I drive elsewhere and out of his sight. Let's call it quid pro quo

Sometimes big brother can become a big bother.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A man's home is his castle

For most of us, our home is our safe haven and our one and only major investment. Most of us maintain and improve homes under our ownership because it provides safety and shelter for our families and because it is our only investment. Anything that remotely threatens the "castle" threatens the man and thus the man must defend his castle.

Fear, and particularly fear of the unknown, is a powerful emotion.

In Saturday's SP (Dec. 11/10) the report on the city's proposed policy to tackle NIMBYism says that we must remove the emotion when dealing with decisions to alter existing neighbourhoods by introducing development of anything from wind turbines to youth homes. I don't think that any policy can eliminate fear of potential negative impact to the "castle" and by extension, its occupants.

Youth homes seem to be the biggest factor in these development issues. With the daily reporting of the increase of violent youth crime, it is understandable why homeowners are reluctant to open up their neighbourhoods to recovering young offenders, even though these homes may not house these types of offenders.

The proposed policy, as reported, does not seem to contain wording that would work to alleviate the fear. When the policy states that concentration in any neighbourhood will be "discouraged" and consistency with neighbourhood "considered" it feeds the fear. Perhaps "discouraged" should be "restricted" and "considered" should be "mandated."

The "good neighbour agreements," described as voluntary pacts established to address emerging issues, do not leave the impression that any issues will actually be resolved. Perhaps a mediation process with a binding outcome would provide more comfort and acceptability.

I personally have not heard of any serious problems arising in neighbourhoods that have established these homes. Nor have I heard of a decline in property value as a result of this change to a neighbourhood.

Just zone all new areas to include provision for such development. If you buy your home in a neighbourhood already zoned for that purpose, then by extension you have agreed to inclusion of youth, senior care and day care homes as part of your residential make-up. There is no argument to be had or emotional decision to be made regarding zoning amendments.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bah Humbug

I was meandering down 21st Street East the other day, heading towards the Midtown Plaza. I passed a guy begging for alms. Although I know it is frowned upon by the downtowners to give to panhandlers, I was moved by the spirit of the season and started fishing in my purse with the intent of tossing a toonie into his empty tin cup. While doing so I heard a cell phone ring. The panhandler reached into his pocket and answered the call.

I saved my coins for the Salvation Army.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Points of interest

I was pleased to read in today's SP (Dec. 9/10) that the city successfully enforced the campaign disclosure bylaw and those in contravention were fined. However, the problem that still exists with the bylaw is that no one checks to see if the disclosures are valid and all expenses and receipts are accounted for and legitimate. It simply relies on whistle blowers to expose any infractions.

Also in today's news is the Mayor's comment that trimming the budget will be tough. No kidding. The only time the budget gets trimmed is in an election year. Did anyone note in yesterday's paper the graph on the city's spending history? In 2005 the rate increase was 3.9%. In 2006, an election year it was 1.9%. The increase in 2007 was 4.8%, in 2008 5.4% and in 2009, an election year, it was 2.9%. After the last election the rate increase was 3.9% and for 2011 it is proposed to be 4.7%. Sadly, since council is now going to a four year term we can only expect a reasonable tax increase every four years rather than the historical three.

Sadder yet, the money is not being spent on matters of importance to the public and those that affect everyday living.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Due and Owing

Gasp! I am surprised, awed and shocked that the proposed mill rate hike starts at a mere 4.65% (SP Dec. 8/10.) Thank you to Premier Wall for the additional $9 million in revenue sharing. Thank you Prime Minister Harper for extending the deadline on the federal infrastructure program. You both helped save our bacon, at least for now.

While I like the new budget document, what concerns me is the short-sightedness on priorities within the budget. From the news report less money that is needed for bridge maintenance is allocated to that line. Given the recent issues around the Traffic Bridge, and past reports indicating that the University and Broadway bridges are nearing the end of their lifespans, I would have thought that budget item would be given major attention. Also on the fringe for funding is lane repair, accessibility ramps and cycling infrastructure, all of which are concerns raised by the public and council throughout the year. Recycling seems not to be included but I expect we will see that charge on some utility bill.

Speaking of which, aside from tax increases, the utilities are going up and up. The report is silent on any new levies or increase to existing levies.

The big winner in this budget is transit. More money for a losing proposition. I get the impression that the message on transit has not been heard. It is not about fare cost. Its about service.

The best of all is increasing fees to campsites, golf courses, the Forestry Farm, sports field rentals and, my favorite, the cemetery. I thought taxes would end with death. However, the city will get the last nickel before they plant you. Actually, I don't really have a problem with most of this with the exception of the sports fields. It will simply increase costs to children's sports activities and put average families further behind. Or worse yet, put more kids in front of a TV.

I'll leave it to others to deal with affordable housing being pushed to the civic level and what increasing taxes does to rents, the poor and young families hoping to buy a home. This part really just depresses me.

I have to go and return some of those Christmas gifts I purchased earlier. I'll need the cash to plump up my accounts for taxes, utilities and user fees.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Thumbs up to the majority of Council for last night's performance. I didn't listen to all the presenters but caught the Councillor comments prior to the vote.

Although I didn't agree with Clark's position he gets credit for being consistent and speaking for those in the minority. Lorje on the other hand continued to master the position of playing both sides of the fence. I'm not sure what Hill was saying nor am I sure that he knew what he was saying. As for the rest of Council they seemed to be voicing the opinion of the majority of their constituents and it seemed to run 75% in favour of a replica and 25% against. I suspect that was pretty accurate. I hope they re-do the bridge prior to applying for heritage status. It would be a shame to get the designation and then find out as a result of the designation they can't do what they intend to do.

Many comments were made yesterday about community associations. I personally think those groups play a valuable roll in that the majority of the organizations serve their communities in providing recreational and activities of interest to their particular communities. I applaud the majority of people involved for their interest, activism and volunteerism. These groups are established and receive some funding from the city. Every association has a difficult time filling the roster of volunteer positions. They should be appreciated for what they do and they are few and far between.

Problems result when, every now and then, an individual(s) gets involved for the wrong reasons and attempts to use the association for their own personal best interest. At this point they usually over step the boundaries. When it comes to a major decision, like the Traffic Bridge, I would think that if the association wanted to speak for the community it should require community input in the form of a special meeting that is well advertised within the neighbourhood. In this particular case, although the association published its regular meeting dates, it published no agenda listing this item as a topic for discussion.

Enough said.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Speak for yourself

I will be very happy if Council finally makes a decision tonight about the damn Traffic bridge. Then we can move on to phase two - how much over budget will it go.

What annoys me most is comments from some of the proposed speakers. Mr. Bobyn, President of the Nutana Community Association, will imply that Nutana is in support of rehab rather than replica. I am a resident of Nutana. Yet outside of the City sponsored meeting at Victoria School last fall, I do not recall receiving a notice of a meeting by the Community Association or a survey on this issue. Thus Mr. Bobyn does not speak for me or for many of my neighbours that I have spoken with on the matter.

In today's SP (Dec. 6/10) Bobyn states that widening the bridge would "destabilize" the area and would funnel more traffic into a residential area already burdened by congestion. This is the same area that many want to increase the density in. If you are not an area resident, many of the eight thousand users of this bridge simply travel up Victoria and out of the neighbourhood. Those of us actually residing in the area need the bridge for reasonable access to our homes.

I can't bring myself to even respond to his idea of alternating one-way traffic.

I have no problem with people voicing their opinions, but please don't speak for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back to demi-gods

All the hoopla around the Sask Party snagging Gene Makowsky as a candidate in next year's provincial election escapes me. From where I sit it appears this gentleman is nearing the end of his football career and needs a job. Not much as been noted about what he supports or opposes. His sole credential for running for office is that he is currently a sport demi-god. Come next November will he be on the field for the Riders or Wall?

What play does the government need to block that necessitates securing an offensive lineman for the team?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveth and taketh

On the Forum Page of today's SP (Dec. 2/10) there is an an article by Catherine Ford of Troy Media regarding urban sprawl in Calgary. The new mayor has dropped the gauntlet for developers in Calgary. In essence the Mayor stated that the developers, not the city, will pay all infrastructure costs in new areas. Needless to say the developers are not happy as it may curb their quest for urban sprawl.

Saskatoon has, and I expect continues to, levy these costs to new areas being developed. When a new area is being developed the infrastructure costs are incorporated into the cost of a lot and when the city sells the lots it recovers those costs, with a small premium, and uses those monies for the next development.

Included in the article is the tax breaks that have given to developers, and the subsequent home owners, for "enhanced" amenities.

It would seem that on one hand an attempt is being made to curb the sprawl by increasing costs, and on the other hand to encourage it with tax or other incentives.

Saskatoon seems to have half of this right, that being recovering at least some of the cost of the infrastructure. It needs to work on the second half, that being the incentives.

The writer also refers to the 'whining' by these new neighbourhoods for "police stations and fire halls and schools and all of the other urban niceties." I disagree with her on the police/fire services but take her point on the schools and other civic niceties. We have schools in older adjoining neighbourhoods that are under-utilized to which school boards could transport students rather than investing in new facilities. Perhaps swimming pools, branch libraries and recreational civic facilities should be fully financed by the sprawlers. Add large taxes to the gigantic parking lots of the big box malls that service the sprawl and eat up valuable land, yet pay relatively little for the existence.

I guess the discussion should be is Saskatoon growing to the point that we need to plan for boroughs?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help the challenged

I agree with Council that the streetscaping on the 25th Street project is grand (SP Dec. 1/10.) I like the architectural controls that will compliment the area. Although I understand that they couldn't re-route the rail line, I had hoped that some type of overpass would have been created to prevent the traffic jams that occur when the train takes a break and sits across Idylwyld during peak traffic periods. Is there anyway to restrict the times that the train can come through the city?

I admit to being 'directionally challenged' so help me out. Remember it is not nice to mock people with challenges and we are in the naughty or nice seson.

I cannot tell from the artist rendering in the paper the East/West connection. I get the turning lane to head North. I get the turning lane to head South. I think if I am travelling down Idylwyld North to South that at the intersection of Idylwyld and 25th I could turn left onto 25th Street East and just prior to the intersection I could turn right to 25th Street West. How do I cross over Idylwyld going from 25th Street East to 25th Street West? By example, if I'm coming off the University Bridge, travelling down 25th Street East and want to get to the Holiday Inn Express, how do I get there?

Out of necessity I'm putting a GPS on my Christmas list.