Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

I have been negligent over this last week or so on posting, but I became consumed with holiday preparations.

To each and every one out in blog-a-sphere have a merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.

With family in town, I am taking the rest of the year off and will resume posting in the new year.

Happy New year as well and celebrate safely.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bridge City Blues

As much as I hate to see the Traffic Bridge chopped (SP Dec. 21/11) or totally dismantled it may have to be done. Getting funding for a replacement seems unlikely and the city no longer has the resources to finance the project its own. Added to the problem will be the need and cost of fixing the University and Broadway bridges within a few short years.

Certainly removing the one section at the foot of Victoria Avenue would be helpful to Nutana residents. We have been locked in for literally years. The city will have to look at removing the median at the top of Broadway Bridge to allow for traffic flow and possibly put a restricted time for turning onto the bridge or crossing over Broadway Avenue.

Whatever the decision it will have to happen soon as the bridge is unsightly to River Landing - which governs all that happens in the City Centre.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Early Christmas Gift

It was a pleasant surprise to read in today's paper (SP Dec. 16/11) that the city is finally going to sell the parcels of land on River Landing, bring in some income and hopefully, down the road, generate tax revenue.

I don't know if the zoning on these parcels have been changed (as was the case with Nasser's land) but I hope the concept of a live/work eco village is still in the picture, especially the live/work element.

I will be comforted if in fact the money from these sales actually goes towards the River Landing debt as opposed to some new project still on the drawing board.

Let the bidding begin!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Smart move

Kudos to those Councillors who acknowledged their remuneration as being "adequate" and "abundantly reasonable" - although the for "right now" flag was raised (SP Dec. 15/11.).

While is is true Councillors put in more time over the budget season, it should also be noted that civic committee meetings are suspended over the summer and during July and August council only meets once a month for public and executive committee meetings. There is also a healthy break over Christmas.

And based on the debate and outcome of the budget meetings I would have to wonder about how much preparation some Councillors did for the budget review.

I'm not sure why Councillor Hill wants the "part-time" removed from the position. The 1,400 hours referred to in the news report are hours self-reported rather than system tracked. And not all councillors put in the same time. I don't know how much Hill makes as CEO of Junior Achievement, but if the work load is that heavy perhaps he should make a choice as to which job he wants and try to do it well.

The shared office space relates only to the room. Each Councillor has their own desk, filing cabinet and private cubicle within the room. In this day and age of electronic communication, and each Councillor is given a laptop, printer and Blackberry, I'm not sure why they would need more support staff. Perhaps there are more unhappy people writing than usual.

This matter will be put to rest - at least until 2013.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

They've lost touch with reality

Timing would not be our Mayor's forte. We just finished a useless budget review that gave us a tax increase, new levies, additional utility costs, reduced services, increased bus fares, increased facility fees and so on. We have a planned debt of $309.75 million with more spending pending. Our roadways and sidewalks are in decay.

For all this good work the Mayor now wants an increase of pay for councillors and himself. He cites all the hours they worked to give us all the above. Yet many of these councillors hold full time jobs away from council. Council remuneration is a top up income for most.

Council has more than doubled its salary in the past five years and the perks are growing. And one-third of their salary is tax free.

They already earn more than the average citizen who pays the freight for their efforts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The cart before the horse solution?

Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Clark has asked to have speed limits in residential areas reduced to 40 km/h (SP Dec. 12/11.) citing safety reasons. I live in old Nutana and I can assure one and all that travelling even that speed is dangerous - due to roadway conditions. Be it summer or winter the residential streets are in such decay that both your personal and car body suffer injury should you drive any faster.

For a while I thought letting the roads deteriorate was to encourage Nutana to become a pedestrian zone. But the sidewalks (and medians) are also in rough condition so walking is perilous as well.

We should also note that traffic laws over ride posted speed limits. The infraction is called "driving too fast for road conditions."

How about we fix the roads and sidewalks, maybe restrict parking to one side of the street for the narrows corridors and then talk speed limits.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Santa's Little Helper

I am out today stimulating the local economy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Start the revolution

We have a tax increase of 4% along with reduced services and increased levies and user fees. Thank God its an election year.

I don't have a problem with user fees if in fact taxes were reduced to reflect them. In this budget we get it all -increased taxes, user fees, levies, reduced service and more planned debt. The scrambling for nickels and dimes attests to the financial health of this city.

The 2013 budget won't be as kind. After the next election, Councillors will have four years before they face the voters and can tax with impunity for three of them - and that is when the pain will start.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

East is east and west is west . . .

and never the twain shall meet.

Twice during the budget debates councillors have raised east side/west side comments. Councillor Paulsen raised it on the paddling pool issue saying the east side loses in the proposal (SP Dec. 6/11.) Today's SP (Dec. 7/11) reports Councillor Penner, in responding the Councillor Lorje comments on the police budget debate, that her west-side ward benefits from more officers but she is denying the same for the east.

When River Landing was being developed one of the rationales used was to link and unify the east-side/west-side and do away with that divisive mentality. Apparently this exercise failed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thumbs up and thumbs down

I would support a Council decision for tax deferral program for low income seniors (SP Dec. 6/11.) It could make a difference for these seniors as to whether they can both eat and buy their medications. I will happily pay an additional $.50 on my tax bill to help in this regard. However, since taxpayers will be supporting this cause with the $.50 levy, I would not expect the city to be charging usury interest rates on the deferred taxes. Thumb's up on this idea.

Thumb's down on the closure of paddling pools. In the grand scope of this budget, $25,000 is peanuts. Council finds money to keep the Shaw Pool open, a facility that most can't afford use to use or get to, but takes away a kiddie paddling pools. Even if only a few use them, its a few less kids wandering the streets looking for something to do. And I would have thought that with the Premier's announcement during the election campaign that the school start date would be after the Labour Day weekend that the city would have looked at extending the paddling pool days of operation.

If its $.50 a household to finance the seniors' tax deferral program, then add another $.50 cents for the paddling pools for kids.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I seems that not so long ago former Premier Calvert was trying to lure people to Saskatchewan with the bait of cheap housing. Now, housing in Saskatoon is one of the most expensive places in Western Canada.

In Saturday's SP (Dec. 3/11) the SP reported that the Saskatoon would need ten thousand new housing units within the next three years. Today's SP (Dec. 5/11) reports that we need to get on housing for the homeless.

Where are all these folks coming from and how will they afford the new housing? I expect that expansion of the mining industry is going to offer new jobs for a decade or more. But with the city using new assessment growth to finance current capital projects, who is going to finance the services these areas with need. And according to urban planning professor Bob Patrick some of these cost will be astronomical.

This is sounding a little scary for folks on fixed incomes and the working poor.

Interestingly over the last week I heard of three young families that have moved further away from the Saskatoon area and they are commuting to Saskatoon to work. Two went to Waldheim and one to Hanley. They claim the drive in is no worse than trying to get across the city during peak times and the housing and taxes are cheaper. And they get to use all the amenities of the city without having to pay the freight.

It's an option worth exploring for those who find Saskatoon a little too rich for their blood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Keep a watchful eye

I groaned when I read in today's SP (Dec. 2/11) that the public schools were introducing a new math instruction program. It was a deja vu the whole language concept. Much like whole language, parents are lining up concerned for their children's education and I think rightfully so. And prior to the news report, I listened to a couple of school principals groaning over the matter.

The whole language program operated on the theory that if students were encouraged to read more, they would absorb the mechanics of language by reading. Consequently teachers were not allowed to use phonetics, spelling lists or any other form of rote learning. Any teachers caught using old techniques were disciplined. It didn't take long for parents to figure out that their kids could not write, spell or have any knowledge of language structure. After a long battle, some of these rote elements were slowly re-introduced into the program. But a lot of kids came through school without that knowledge.

I'm not opposed to educators trying new strategies for teaching, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are tried and true rote learnings that can be supplemented, but not absolutely replaced.

For the sake of their kids, I hope today's parents continue to be vigilant with this new program.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coming soon to this blog

When I started this blog I intended it to be an online diary and hoped for feedback from people with an interest in politics. I thought I could learn from other perspectives. For the best part most wishing to comment provided interesting feedback and constructive criticism was welcomed.

But in every barrel of apples there are a few bad ones. Those are the ones who can't express a thought on any issue and resort to personal attacks. Last Friday one of those lowbrows posted a lewd and libelous comment about a couple of councillors. The comment has been removed and will not be repeated here.

As a result I have contacted a "computer guy" and will spend the large amount of money necessary to track down that IP address. When I do the name will be published here.

This results in me having to consider putting controls on postings. I'm told I could set it up so I screen all posts prior to them being published, but that would detract from the spontaneity of dialogue - and in truth I don't have all day to sit at this computer screening comments.

When computer guy starts his work later this month, I am considering having posters register with the blog administrator prior to commenting. You can use whatever blog name you like, and your registration will not be public, or known to me, but in the event of slanderous comments, computer guy can track you down.

I know this means some of you will not participate, and for that I am sorry. But it will do away with the few who insist on bad behaviour and it may also raise the level of dialogue when the lowbrows are gone.

Until then, I will do my best to monitor posts and fend off the jerks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

. . .For they know not what they do

I wish the recycling debate would come to conclusion. It seemed that Council was in step to introduce mandatory recycling at $4.24 monthly, under a utility. Now a few Councillors are lukewarm on the idea as it may hurt the people who can least afford to pay - recycling being the first phase of the waste management plan.

The Mayor says the whole thing is predicated on a company being able to come in at $4.24 or below and if it is higher Council can still go back to the drawing board. Glass was not to be included, but now it will be.

Companies are getting ready to bid on collection and processing for a February due date before administration chooses a winning company (I thought that was Council's job) and enters negotiations. What's to negotiate? We could have recycling charges by June or as late as December. I'm betting on December (after the civic election.)

I would like one Councillor to stand up and ask for Environmental Services Manager Brenda Wallace's undated, signed letter of resignation if she can't bring the recycling project in at the costs stated in the reports that led Council to its vote.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Do it for the kids?

As much as I think having a children's centre (SP Nov. 28/11) incorporating the museum, theatre and festival is a nice concept, I doubt that it is financially viable on the long term without public funding. Children's museums across the country struggle to survive and they have a much larger market to draw from.

If we weren't so deep in debt already I might buy into having some portion of the project funded, but not a this point. Unless the business plan proves otherwise and they can reasonably project sufficient monies to maintain the services and renovate to suit their needs, I would be inclined to take a pass. Otherwise we will be paying to support the Mendel building and the new gallery.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A team player?

Councillor Ann Iwanchuk is a quick study. After a month on the job her contribution to the budget debate is "We have cut and cut and cut as much as we can and I don't think there's room to reduce the city portion of the budget." (SP Nov. 25/22.) She followed up with saying the police portion of the budget is the only area she can see with room to move down.

Ironic statements since her campaign platform included beefing up policing for her ward and roadway repair and maintenance. The roadway budget comes no way near to what an earlier administrative report indicated the city would need to rehabilitate our streets.

Perhaps she didn't get a chance to examine the capital expenditures.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Looking forward to October 2012

Dear God I don't even know where to start with the proposed civic budget for 2012 other than to say it is faint hope document to save this sorry council's butts next October. When you back out the police budget increase it doesn't even cover the cost of inflation, much less the proposed capital spending and subsequent operating/maintenance costs.

When they speak of taking money out of the land sales, I sincerely hope that doesn't mean pillaging the Land Bank , which was self-sustaining and intended for use of future land development as the city expanded.

The civic report that required a huge injection of cash for road repair and maintenance is not being dealt with - at least not for the 2012 taxation year. Where is the money for all the approved capital projects? What about the Traffic Bridge? A reserve for future operating costs of the Art Gallery and the new police station? Just how much toes Council project these costs to be and shouldn't operating costs be dealt with in the annual budget - the reserve won't last forever. How will we pay for the wind turbine capital cost? I expect our monthly levy on the light and water bill to go up.

We are building pricey leisure facilities and pricing public use out of the range of the average citizen. Previously we heard that reducing transit fares would increase ridership and now we have Council increasing discounted bus passes. Saskatoon has been known for its urban forest and beautiful parks - but park maintenance is being cut, although money is being poured into park renewal in the form of Kinsmen Park. Gordie Howe Bowl was approved, but no money is budgeted for the plan. This just goes on and on.

While I'm at it, how many homes in Saskatoon are assessed at $200,000? The entry level housing in Saskatoon is well above that sum, and assessment on newer housing will see far more than $70 hike in taxes. Add to this the new monthly recycling fee that is separate and apart from the tax bill. Then there is the plan for the new Library and I haven't heard about the Library budget and its increases.

I would like just one Councillor to stand up and come clean - we are in a financial mess. The only hope they have is that Brad Wall will come to their aid with a huge payola for cities in his budget and that still won't bail us out of this deep hole - it just may keep the hole from getting any deeper.

And remember we still have the issue of the pension liabilities that were flagged in the Standard & Poors credit report.

Worse yet, is Council got themselves an expanded term of office which means after 2012 we will not get the benefit of a "hold the line" budget every three years but rather every four years.

I'm beginning to think the s... has finally hit the fan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank you Joe and Georgie

Last night when reading the CBC online edition, and then in today's SP (Nov. 23/11) I read of the passing of Joe Kuchta, author of the Owls and Rooster blog. I didn't know Mr. Kuchta personally but read his blog periodically. Although I may not have always agreed with his position, I did admire his research abilities and tenacity when addressing issues of concern to him.

I hadn't realized his wife, Georgie Davis, had died in September as I was away from the city at that time. I remember her well and her work in improving the lives of people with disabilities. She not only influenced the powers that be, but brought awareness to the general public of the difficulties of everyday life in Saskatoon for people with disabilities.

Today I salute both of them for their good works - they will be missed.

May they rest in peace together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The gifting season

I believed if anyone could pull off a hotel/condo/retail complex on River Landing, it would be Kay Nasser - and the zoning changes made it a reality (SP Nov. 22/11.) My only question is, were was the Meewasin Valley Authority in all of this?

A half dozen years ago the MVA placed every obstacle possible to prevent this type of development. They have control over the riverbank and exercised that control at every turn. Now there is nary a peep. Have the Friends of the Gathercole, champions of the public access to the riverbank, died or just moved Nirvana to a new site?

Maybe its just the spirit of giving that moved Council, the MVA and the Friends to deliver the gifts of the Magi to these developers.

Does anyone know if the vote was unanimous?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Something old, something new

It was not a surprise that John Nilson was selected as interim leader of the NDP (SP Nov. 21/11.) Immediately following the election one former NDP MLA said to me that they should have gotten rid of Nilson too and allowed the party to renew itself with fresh, young people without baggage from bygone days.

With Nilson declaring that he will not seek the leadership, which of the remaining eight NDP MLAs is the favorite? If the leadership contender is not one of the recently elected, and the leader is selected from the outside, which of the MLAs steps down to allow the new leader to run? Is there a safe NDP seat left?

Saskatchewan is changing and those who are resistant to change will fall by the wayside. The NDP need more than a new leader, they need a policy and platform change. But I'm not sure they can let go of Tommy, Al and Roy and the greatness of what once was.

It brings to mind a quote by J.K. Galbraith: "Few things are as immutable as the addiction of political groups to the ideas by which they once won office."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Democracy in action - maybe

I have been wondering who the wackos were on the Corman Park Council. Today's item in the SP (Nov. 18/11) answered that question. To ask the minister to ignore the referendum recently voted on is an insult to the voters of that region.

Worse yet is to say the voters didn't understand the question and its repercussions. If they believe that, then they failed in their duty to inform the voters prior to the vote.

I going to guess the real reason is that three of them will lose their jobs after the restructuring.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hail to the Chief

Over a 12-year period a 130% increase in police funding gets you a 30% decrease in crime (SP Nov. 17/11.) I think those numbers are a bit misleading in that for years prior to 2000 the police service was greatly underfunded - think back to the Chief Dave Scott battle with a previous Council. There was some catching up to do. Having said that, we might be going overboard here. I would like to see the police statistics for the areas of Saskatoon before determining that new and sparsely populated areas need more policing. And what other cities spend on policing per capita.

What concerns me more is the cost of policing once the new station is built. Added on to the budget down the road will be the debt repayment and debt servicing costs, together with increased building operating costs.

Maybe that's why part of the requested increase includes another accounting position and a media relations officer to sell the spending.

I think our Police Chief is on a roll and getting what he can while he can.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Greenbacks for green

I suspect the foundation is being laid for a cost overrun on the new art gallery. In today's SP (Nov. 16/11) project manager Sandy Schultz says under the current budget the "green roof" is in but as they work through the design details some items may have to be re-looked.

I can image that this "green" council will bypass the opportunity for the roof so I'm guessing that cost overrun number one is in the making.

The big shocker was the comment that the gallery team will present the design and and update on the costs in January. I thought the design was already established and the cost fixed at $84 million, parking included.

I feel foolish for thinking that just maybe this one time the city would work within a budget.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Giveth and taketh

IF you are going downtown you are so much better off parking in a parking lot than at a meter. The parking rates are the same and should you be ten minutes late getting back to your car you will only pay a buck or two for the delay rather than a $10 fine - soon to be a $20 fine (SP Nov. 15/11.). As for the complaints from businesses on employees parking at meters, I'd like to hear their reaction when they can't get part-time employees at minimum wage.

But what comes in must go out. According to the news report the new revenue generated from increased parking fines will go to pay for security to protect shoppers from the downtown panhandlers. Frankly, these folks don't bother me that much - or at least not as much as the parking charges. But these two issues alone beg the question - why does anyone bother to go downtown?

Councillor Paulsen states she doesn't have a problem increasing the fine because it only applies to those who breach the bylaw. But the Occupy Saskatoon group were breaching a city bylaw for weeks without penalty from the city. Will the Commissionaires be as generous with those felons using expired meters?

For me, the irony is recalling a complaint I received, while sitting on council, about a certain City Councillor that parked daily in front of his/her place of business using his/her free city parking pass.

People in glass houses . . . .

Monday, November 14, 2011

Notice to Quit

I am thankful that the city is finally do to take action on the Occupy Saskatoon group and the camping in city parks (SP Nov. 14/11.) I walked by the Dumont Park campsite the other day and had the sense this is no longer a protest group but a squatters' camp. It is nicely tucked away from the eye of the general public so as not to draw attention from anyone save a handful of daily walkers and joggers on the MVA trail and, of course, the odd media article on a slow news day.

If you want public attention to the cause, set up camp in front of City Hall. Then again, you would have been evicted on Day 1.

Although not ideal, there are homeless shelters available to those in need. I was a little taken aback by the comment of one camper who stated in today's paper: "At the Salvation Army, you're only really allowed a week or two, then you're left scrambling to go on welfare or to find a job."

Does that mean camping in a park when it is -30, with no toileting facilities, a better option than welfare?

It is important to keep the issue of affordable housing in the forefront for governments. But creating and encouraging long-term camps in parks is not effectively addressing the issue.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Economy of scale?

I noted in today's SP (Nov. 9/11) that the city has increased rates for use of civic leisure facilities. The goal is to recapture 65% of the cost, starting Jan. 1/12 with daily rate of $8.30 and increasing annually by $.50 to 2015 at which time the daily rate will be $10.30.

The Leisure Services Manager states this cost is still at the lower end of the market rates. Not so if you add on the 35% the city taxpayer is contributing. Drop-in rates a private fitness centres seem to range between $7 to $15 and with that fee structure these private centres make a profit.

I know both the public and private sectors have monthly/yearly rates that are cheaper, but the city report is only dealing with the daily rate.

This poses two questions: 1) why wouldn't the city charge full recovery rates and 2) how can the private sector make a profit when their rates would be the same as the city's rates if the city charged full recovery?

I suspect the answer is the swimming pool component to the city facilities and I'm not aware any private centres that have this element. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

As for the taxpayer subsidizing the facilities, taxpayers have already done that through the capital contribution. Perhaps the operating costs of these facilities should be borne by the users through the rate structure.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I need a new shirt!

I lost my shirt last night - albeit a cheap T-shirt.

In fact the only bet I won is that Red Square would stay red, although for a wee bit I thought I would lose that one too.

My bet was 43-15 in seat count. I didn't anticipate that Mr. Roto-Rooter would be that busy in Regina, and I thought that Link's promise to First Nations on resource revenue sharing would make the last election's close seats of Meadow Lake, Battleford and Prince Albert possible wins for him. I also bet that the NDP would have 37% of the popular vote, being their traditional 30% core and extra vote from students and seniors on the rent control issue.

As for Link, although Mandryk flagged in his column last Friday that he could possibly lose it, I just couldn't imagine that a solid NDP seat would defeat its leader.

I'm chalking it all up to the fact that Brad Wall is an unusually popular leader and Lingfelter was an unusually unpopular leader.

Yesterday someone commented on my election night mix. In truth I have long-term friends from various political backgrounds. Good friendships are not one-dimensional - they are built on mutual respect for the opinions of others. Constructive criticism/analysis and friendly jibes are fine, but mean-spirited monologues are not acceptable in my circles. We all know that the benefit of dialogue with people with differing political views is that you can actually learn something if you are willing to listen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Will the people speak?

I have officially "exercised my franchise" in spite of Mother Nature's untimely snow dump. And I am hoping Saskatchewan residents will buck the national trend of low voter turnout.

For those attending gatherings tonight - enjoy. I will be watching the outcome from the comfort of my home with a mix of politicos and either collecting or dispensing loonies - I'm talking dollars of course, not visitors!

My final election comment: Brad Wall has got to get rid of those short-sleeved, buttoned to the neck, nerdy shirts.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Leading the flock from the promised land

I'm feeling a little empathy for the die-hard NDP supporters - its hard to watch everything you believe in get routed in an election. But Saskatchewan has always been "next year country" and they will live to fight another battle.

I was surprised to read in Mandryk's column (SP Nov. 4//) that Lingfelter might be in trouble in his own seat. His loss might be the best thing that could happen to the NDP as its appears, from polling, that his leadership is an impediment to his party in this election. Given the limited number of seats they may salvage come Nov. 7, having an elected candidate step aside to run a by-election for an unpopular leader would be folly. They would have to get a new leader for 2016.

I have $12 riding on the election result and my betting does not reflect the most recent poll. There are to many close seats and variables that can affect the outcome, particularly voter turnout. But I've set that cash aside an will pay my debts when the devils' call.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just what Saskatchewan needs . . .

. . . another political party (SP Nov. 3/11.) With the merge of the majority of Liberals and Conservatives to form the Sask Party we finally evolved into a two party system where the majority vote would form government. And yes I know there are candidates running under Conservative, Liberal and Green banners but they claim a insignificant portion of the vote and the race is essentially between the NDP and Sask Party.

If I thought for a moment that setting aside a portion of resource revenue would improve the quality of life for both on and off reserve First Nations people I might support it. The FSIN control the majority of Casinos in this province and I believe the intent was to use that revenue to the benefit of First Nations people. I don't believe that has happened. Only a handful of Chiefs and their minions live well.

Nor do I believe that they would be content to have the government administer any resource allocation to ensure that the money would be spent as intended - housing, reserve infrastructure, job creation, etc.

If the Chiefs want to tie themselves to the NDP, perhaps they should form a party and then merge with the NDP, along with the Greens, and form one viable party to become either official opposition or government.

Anyone got a snappy acronym for this?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quid Pro Quo

I was surprised to read in today's SP (Nov. 2/11) the comments of both Saskatoon and Regina's Mayors regarding the provincial election, although Fiacco was a little more subtle than Atchison.

The PCS royalty issue is the heart of Lingfelter's campaign. Without the increase in royalties his promises are for not. Nixing the idea of a review is akin campaigning against the NDP platform.

The past rule of thumb was that civic politicians stayed mum on provincial issues, and party politics did not enter into the fray of civic elections. But over the last several civic elections, party politics quietly infiltrated the civic arena.

I don't have a problem with this as long as it is done in the open. Should we look at having party nominations for wards and voting for civic candidates based on party affiliation? Those in tune with local politics know which candidates support which parties, but the average citizen may not.

I would like this crossover to be complete and consistency brought to the civic election level.

Many councillors, past and present, have already indirectly waved their party flags by running for a party nominations or as a candidate for a party. By example, Hill and Paulsen have run for the Liberals, former councillors Wyant and Alm were Sask Party candidates; Clark, Iwanchuk and Loewen have deep ties to the NDP. And you can still have candidates on the ballot that declare themselves as independents.

Your thoughts on this idea?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stretching a nickel

I read PCS CEO Bill Doyle's epistle last week on potash royalties/taxes and then United Steelworkers union economist Erin Weir's response today (SP Nov. 1/11.) I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

My understanding of the royalty structure is that a previous NDP government negotiated the existing agreement with the potash companies so that they would expand operations and create new jobs - and that the agreement for this activity has a fixed time. It is apparently working when you hear of the money currently being invested in this sector.

My further understanding is that potash is a commodity that has fluctuating prices and thus, depending on the global market, the royalties are up and down from year-to-year.

But anyway you cut it, even if the royalties doubled, Lingfelter could not stretch that extra nickel to cover off the election promises being made. The result would have to be increased taxes or broken promises.

Perhaps we should change our election laws to state that any politician that makes promises and doesn't keep them in the time frame specified, must resign from office and is barred from running from public office.

Right now the biggest growth in this province is voter cynicism.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Land of milk, honey and potash

Another day, another million or billion dollars. And everything to be paid by potash dollars. And if sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This is why voter cynicism is at an all time high and voter turnout will probably be low. No one believes what they hear. Billions of spending is being promised by Lingfelter and its all going to be paid for with another "nickel on a dollar" of potash royalties. If that much money can be sourced through potash royalties, after you give First Nations their share, then use it to pay off the debt first.

The only positive in these promises is that none of them would be kept.

November 7 can't come soon enough.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers on a hot tin roof

Brad Wall is either a very brillant man or unbelieveably lucky. Who would have thought that a school start date could take the focus away from potash royalities and rent control.

The school calendar is designed around when the school breaks could happen and it has nothing to do with better education for students. They plan for a break in November, the Christmas break for Dec-Jan, the February break, the Easter break in March or April and ending the school year by June 30. Administration sets up this calendar, in conjunction with teachers, for board approval. It has been, and continues to be, a contentious issue between home and school.

In many cases classes cannot be established until after the long weekend when students who did not register at the August start date, roll in.

In the twelve years I spent on the school board I did not get calls from parents asking for a August start date - but the other way around. They wanted a start date after the Sept. long weekend.

In fact in today's world with both parents working, school breaks cause child care issues for many parents. And with so many high school students working in the market place, even hiring teenagers to help out is difficult.

If you are a parent of a school-age child, be prepared for some hopping mad teachers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Court collections

I don't think the Mayor or Councillors should expect a campaign donation from Wally Mah/North Ridge Developments for the 2012 campaign - or perhaps the ante will go up.

I was surprised to read in today's SP (Oct. 27/11) about the law suit filed against North Ridge and the Arts Board, especially about the Arts Board. North Ridge had a half million reasons to delay notification to the city of his ownership of the land in question, but why would the Arts Board go along with it? I would think that a government funded Board would have advice from legal council prior to entering into an agreement to sell any assets. I can hardly wait for the Justice Department's response on this one.

I can understand Mah's position that the offer to purchase had conditions on it, one being that title would not transfer until such time as he was ready to develop the land, but his subsequent negotiations with the city on the value of some of that land which he would sell to the city indicates he was the owner.

I expect the only thing left on this matter is to decide where the saw-off will be on settlement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nickel and dime debate

I watched the leaders' debate last night - an hour of my life I can't get back.

I wish I had a nickel for every time Lingenfelter said "nickel on a dollar" and wondered whether he would have the same attitude when discussing a fluctuating PST. As for the rich PCS shareholders, the pension plans own considerable PCS stock - does he mean them? Or me with my 100 shares in my retirement portfolio? (Yes, I know me means Doyle and company.)

In today's SP Opinion (Oct. 26/11) column comments are made about BHP optimism for doing business in this province. Would they be so optimistic if a government legislated a change to an existing agreement? And if the agreement is that bad, why did the government that Lingenfelter played a prominent role in negotiate it in the first place?

I think Lingenfelter was just trying to shore up the support he already has and Wall was just keeping his head down and steady his course. But the decorum was much better.

I expect in the dying days of this campaign the gloves may come off and real personalities will emerge. The kinder, gentler Lingenfelter will have nothing to lose at that point and his street-fighter instincts will kick in.

I am looking forward to November 8.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No parking zone

I offer my apologies to Larissa Shasko, former leader of the Green Party, if her departure from the party in September was caused because of the Green's platform development.

I liked having the Green Party around because it was a place to park your vote if the status quo wasn't to your liking. After reading the Green Party platform in today's SP (October 25/11) this party should be designated as a "no parking" zone.

Item 1: Converting the Highways Ministry into a new Crown, giving no more work to private contractors and turning work over to "local people" - who would the local people be?

Item 2: Putting physicians on salary so they would work fewer hours and hiring other countries' doctors? If you think getting to see your family physician now is difficult, put them on a 9-to-5 day and see how long you wait. In fact just trying to get a family doctor right now is difficult. And we have already enlarged the medical programs. "Are doctors here to service the patients - or just make a fast buck and get rich off the patients?" Mr. Lau and his party obviously don't know that family doctors work long, hard hours and are not getting rich doing so. And the specialists would leave this province in droves if they were salaried - and for few that might stay the waiting time for an appointment would be unfathomable. And other countries would be taking our doctors.

Item 3: Capping class size to 20 students in K-12 and phasing out post-secondary tuition. I might agree with the capping class size for primary grades, but by time students get to high school part of what the system does is prepare them for post-secondary. Can you imagine the shock to students when they would leave a Grade 12 coddled class of 20 in June and enter a post-secondary theatre of 300 students in September? As for post-secondary tuition, taxpayers already pick up 80 to 90% of post-secondary costs.

The only good sense exhibited here was not providing estimated costs to these proposals - possibly because he can't count that high.

I truly wish the Greens had kept their focus on energy development and the environment.

Monday, October 24, 2011

They're not listening

My mother is 84-years-old and lives in a seniors' complex. She is a swing voter and not a dyed-in-the-wool political party supporter.

Recently she received a call from Judy Junor's office asking if Judy could count on her support in the upcoming provincial election. My mother responded with "I haven't decided yet. I'm waiting to hear what all the candidates have to say before I make up my mind."

Okay said the caller, but could Judy count on her to door-knock her building soliciting support from her neighbours for Judy?

What didn't the caller hear?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pull out your checkbooks

Well, we know we are getting, at the very least, a 3% mill rate increase based on the City Police budget - and that doesn't include the cost of the approved super-duper police plaza (SP Oct. 21/11.)

Based on the news report it is hard to argue against the police budget - although I would like to know the crime stats for East Division. If the city is expanding, police service must also grow to service the expansion. And I would not want police officers sent out on the job without the necessary equipment to do the job.

Add on to this increase the monies needed to finance the capital projects (although some of this cost will be held back until after the 2012 election), infrastructure repairs and maintenance, library services, etc. and we are in for a substantial tax increase - this year and for years to come.

Good to know before we go on a Christmas spending spree.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 15% Solution

Congratulations to Councillor-elect Ann Iwanchuk. We will look forward to her voice on council - with the exception of when Council deals with unionized employee contracts. In my mind there is a conflict of interest. This lady seems like a down-to-earth personality and an honourable person who will do the right thing when the time comes.

The only real disappointment to yesterday's by-election was voter turnout - about 15%. The heartening aspect was the move toward gender equity on Council.

An honourable mention must be given to Mike San Miguel. I was pleasantly surprised at his second place finish. I hope he continues his quest for a seat on council in the next general election.

I was taken aback by Rik Steernberg's fourth place finish. As a ward resident and former councillor I thought he would finish better. Well, this is next year country.

The best news is, should we lose another councillor for any reason, no more by-elections.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rebels Without a Cause

Although I don't always agree with the issue, I do admire protesters that get off their butts to rally the troops for their cause.

From the first photos of Occupy Saskatoon it appeared this marching troop was protesting everything. It lacked focus, unlike the Occupy Wall Street group.

In today's SP (Oct. 19/11) the Occupiers released their statement of purpose as creating "open, participatory and horizontally organized process . . . to build the capacity of an autonomous collective force to conduct itself within the public sphere." Huh?

It seems to me these disgruntled folks want to protest something, they just don't know what it should be. Sad to say there are so many causes they could have picked.

It appears they are just jumping on the American Bandwagon and protesting for the joy of protestation itself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Greed and desperation

Councillor Penner's comment "It's a business day. It's not too different from any other day." (SP Oct. 18/11) in reference to Sunday probably won't sit too well with the Christian community. And I expect the churches along Spadina and in the Broadway area won't be happy when parishioners are leaving services early to plug meters, or worse yet, not attending because of the parking fees they have to pay on Sunday. I guess this is managing the turnaround of those Christians wishing to worship in their church of choice.

And Council didn't even have the decency to enact the meter charge to coincide with Sunday shopping hours. This isn't about managing services - its a money grab.

I assume because of the reference to January 1 that free parking on statutory holidays is off the table as well. And those New Year's Eve revellers who might wisely leave their vehicles overnight because of over-consumption may now consider driving away when they should be cabbing it.

As for the restaurants offering Sunday brunches, forget it. After January 1 I will be heading to the malls and outlying areas where I won't get dinged with a $14 ticket because I visited over a second cup of coffee.

As for those who must go downtown, hit the parking lots. If you are 15 minutes late getting back to your vehicle you only get dinged with a half hour parking charge vis-a-vis a expensive ticket.

And now that Council has feathered the coffers with an additional $395,000 it can contemplate another multi-million dollar capital project.

October of 2012 can't come fast enough.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A degree in decorum

It wasn't that long ago that the University of Saskatchewan rated at the bottom of the list for Canadian Universities. Under the leadership of President McKinnon we have moved way on up that list.

There has been significant increases for infrastructure replacement and repair, new programs, research money, donor dollars for scholarships - in short our university is in better shape than its been for a long while. I applaud President McKinnon for his work.

Serving 12 years on the school board, were time and time again political agendas tried to infiltrate and override education needs, makes me abhor politics in our education systems. If the USS-WORD Senators and their 100 so-called grassroots protesters feel there is a ground swell of public support to change the University Act they should run for public office and move on those legislative changes. Until then I expect the President, council and Board of Governors are bound to that Act that exists - one created by elected legislators. And that is democracy.

Disrupting meetings and tossing around allegations about the integrity of other Senators is not the way to effect change. Chair Nancy Hopkins has served the university for years and is a well-respected lawyer in the city. To my knowledge she has never compromised the university as a result of her professional or outside board activities. The fact that the USS-WORD attack her personally simply tells me their position on the issue is weak.

Protest to your hearts content. It is your democratic right. March, wave signs and put forward your position on issues. Preach your gospel. If you can get enough public support, change will happen. But if you can't, maybe you should reconsider your position and move on.

To the President and those in the Senate who conduct themselves with decorum, thanks for all the good work you have done for University of Saskatchewan and the students attending it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Will he bust out?

How long can Dwain Lingenfelter contain himself in the avuncular role designed for him in this election? And will it work with the voters?

It must be killing him not to be able to come out swinging at Wall. This gentler Dwain runs against his political nature.

Link's announcement of a negotiation for revenue-sharing on resources with First Nations is a blatant vote buy. It was odd though that he would say "This will be a long and difficult discussion and debate that will go on." Its not a great way to start a negotiation if in fact you intend to honor the promise.

Honor may be the key word.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You can drive me crazy without a diverter

I think Councillor Heidt was correct when he stated "Every time we horse around with traffic patterns in this city we move the problems elsewhere." (SP Oct. 13/11) referring to the diverter to be installed at Avenue C and 38th Street. Its a popular short cut to the airport. It has also been used as a detour when Idylwyld has been shut down for repair or maintenance.

It brings to mind the diverter the city installed years ago at the top of the Broadway bridge to keep traffic from crossing over Broadway Avenue or turning left from Saskatchewan Crescent to go downtown. The reason this was done was because crossing over or turning left impeded the flow of traffic on the bridge. I think the better solution would have been a sign prohibiting crossing and turning during peak travel periods. Over the last year and a half this area has been shut down due to the closure of the Traffic Bridge and the construction of the lift station. Now local access is difficult and the residential detour roads have been chewed to hell thanks to the traffic flow diversion.

I wish someone had asked for a traffic study in this whole area and how to provide better access to Circle Drive and the airport for those needing to come down Idylwyld and then fixed the problem rather than simply moving it.

Until the issue of reasonable access to Circle Drive off Idylwyld is resolved travellers will find new routes to use. And the nightmare of Circle and Avenue C is only going to get worse when the new bridge opens.

The area residents may have traded in traffic flow annoyances for inconvenient neighbourhood access.

Pick your poison.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's blowing here is not wind

It pains me to agree with Pat Lorje statement: "I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle because as soon as you announce a project is green everybody stands and salutes the flag."

I share her concern that a decision to invest $5 million on a project before all the reports are in, tabled and made public is foolhardy. Although I am not anti-wind turbine energy alternatives, I'm not sure that locating a turbine in the centre of a city or neighbourhood is the best placement. Nor should the Montgomery Place residents be deemed NIMBYs. They are ordinary folk that have invested their life savings in a home and should be concerned about, not just the effect on their everyday lives, but on their property values as well. But council has already invested $530,000 in consulting and is not about to let that go and its green.

However given Lorje's stance on other green projects, my cynical side suspects her concerns are more about garnering votes for next October and Montgomery has relatively high voter. turnout.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The cat came back

Hello one and all. I am back from a family wedding and mini reunion and just in time for the provincial election kick off, kick in or kick to the curb activities.

First of all, thanks to guest bloggers for filling in. I haven't had a chance to review the frivolity of the last three weeks but will do so as I turn my clock back to central time.

One of the first articles to catch my eye upon my return to Saskatchewan was the Airport Authority announcing its intent (or hope) to get a direct flight to a major centre in Europe. Hallelujah for international travellers. I know it doesn't mean much to those who don't travel, but to those who do it would be a godsend.

After a guelling 10 hour flight from Rome to Toronto we faced unbelievable security check queues in Toronto thanks to the work to rule activity of employees of airport security. People were missing their connecting flights or scheduled domestic flights thanks to security personnel. If these employees thought travellers would vent their anger on the corporation they are in dispute with, they were wrong. The anger of travellers was directed solely on the employees.

The idea of flying directly to Saskatoon and dealing with people who exhibit some good old "western hospitiality" is very appealing. The idea of not having a 4 hour wait in Toronto to catch a flight west is also very appealing.

Its good to be home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are You willing to pay Nine Million Dollars on the Hilltops?

Guest Blogger here;

So a civic committee has approved a 9 million dollar upgrade for Gordie Howe Bowl. Now before I get started on why I am opposed to this it has nothing to do with liking football or even what types of civic services we want in this city. I am a sports friendly blogger.

This upgrade is purely for the benefit of the one private user and that is the Hilltops. If anyone tells you differently they are delusional. Yes high school football play some games there, but that is truly to appease those whiners on the west side that want this facility improved and need to show it is being used. They also feel they have been left out when it comes to civic facilities. Well the East side doesn't have an Olympic sized swimming pool not to mention a CUC or TCU. I know as a fact that some years ago the school divisions spent hundreds of thousands to have football (north American version) played on the sports fields behind the east soccer, including bleachers and lighting for night games.

I heard some time ago track people wanted the place improved but I don't see that happening in this proposal. If this facility needs an upgrade then the city should be asking the group using it to pay for those upgrades. The fact the city spent thousands of dollars on an external review to tell them how to make the facility useable to more than just one entity tells the story. BTW that would cost $30 mil. If the city has gone to a cost recovery basis for all other leisure facilities, are the Hilltops willing to do the same at this venue? I don't think so. It will be left again to local tax payers.

As per my previous blogs on wasteful spending this is just another example of money that could go to better use.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.

Guest Blogger here,

I can't say I'm surprised the the City administration is trying to find new and lucrative ways to take more money out of the local tax payer. And it is in a way that councilors going into an election year can take to the public and flaunt as a model of taxation used elsewhere. Just because Edmonton's council went with a dedicated tax levy for roads doesn't mean our city needs to do the same. How can Regina put away more money for roads then we do? It's simple PRIORITIZE!!!!! Now had Administration said they want Council to dedicate an increased portion of taxes, what every that may be, to roads and I would be in favor of that. But to start piecemealing tax increases isn't going to get us where we need to be. First it was show removal, then it was garbage/recycling, the Local improvement levies, now roads. What's next a special levy to cover Councillors wage increases? If council agrees to this concept I say come election time we will all be singing "hit the road Jack and don't you come back, no more, no more, no more." and that goes for the lot of them.

Get to work council and find us some true savings and spend our tax dollars where we need it most in basic civic services not the filly handouts and wasteful expenditures.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who is more likely to pay for an expanding city

Guest Blogger here;

So the Chamber of Commerce believes you and I should be the ones picking up more of the city's costs thru our property taxes. The slippery slope started some years ago when they got the city to reduce their share down to 1.75 to one over the last few years and now want them to move even more of the tax burden to the local home owner. If this process continues, as I am sure business wants, personal property tax rates will be equal or even favour business.

My sense is that most people would believe businesses should be paying more for being in a growing city with more personal wealth which means more purchase power and more profits for them. The homeowner doesn't have the same ability to adjust their income to cover rising costs as business does. Many homeowners are on fixed incomes and get no relief from these tax increases. This is ultimately the problem with the type of archaic tax system (value assessment) that we currently use to gather the tax dollars the city needs to operate. The fact this business group is lavishing bouquets on this council for all the improvements in the city, shows they will go to any extent to schmooze those that make these decisions. It was only a couple of years ago this group lambasted council about cost increases.

I agree the city needs to provide the infrastructure necessary for our city to grow, but when was the last time you or I received at 5 or even 10 year tax holiday for buying a new home? The city should be looking at how it reduces the tax load on all of us instead of just transferring their out of control spending onto which ever group of people they feel will hurt them least at the polls.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Expressing your Thoughts on Voting

I encourage everyone to read the Mistress' column in this weeks Express . The topic of how we vote has been an ongoing issue. The premiss that each vote should carry the same wait is one I have to stand with.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our debt worries are over thanks to prostitution.

Guest blogger here;

Finally the city is going to start to make a little cash off a business that has been running wild since the beginning of time. The fact Council is even looking at some kind of fee for service on escort services by way of licensing these outfits is one positive. Now I wonder which will be more valuable an escort service or a taxi drivers permit? Once we get some legalization we can start taxing this industry to the same extent as every other business and we will be in the black in no time.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just as our summer ends full year schooling rears its ugly head

Guest Blogger here;

In today's SP there was an article on the fact that more Vancouver School districts are looking at providing a balanced year for some of their students. Does anyone think this debate could be had in this province let alone in Saskatoon? Given the lovely fall we have had this year and the extended summer temperatures is it time that we look at other reasons for staying with the system we have today. I'm not convinced that it would be to the benefit of the students. However if there are waiting lists in B.C. for this choice why not start a pilot here. Today's education system has many programs for our diverse population why not this one. I doubt our elected officials would touch this one with a ten foot poll or course unless the administration came up with the idea.

Enjoy the temperatures thanks everyone for the CO2 gases. If this is what Saskatchewan gets for "global warming" I'm in.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sutherland small town feel- big time dollars

Guest Blogger here;

Sutherland, now remind me where is that again.. Only kidding, I remember the days that I would visit this unique portion of Saskatoon. I always liked the types of businesses that were part of the main thoroughfare. Small mom and pop shops that truly were just like walking into small town Saskatchewan. Today's central street has none of that. Most of those business have made way for the likes of large bars and things such as car dealerships. Even the road system into the area means one doesn't need to travel down central to get into the neighbourhood.

I applaud the local business group for wanting to bring back that type of atmosphere, however it will take more that just some signs to get there. Just as Broadway, 2nd Ave and now 3rd Ave have had major upgrades, it is about time the town that got swallowed up by the neighbour next door receive some needed financial support. Keeping Sutherland vibrant and a unique part of our heritage is money well spent.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SP Editorial Staff Still Think it is 2007

Guest Blogger here;

It's always disheartening to see a huge mistake in the first paragraph when the Star-Phoenix writes an editorial. Unfortunately it's not a rare occurrence. The SP's editorial on the NDP's wind power pledge is a good example. (SP Sept.20, 2011) The editorial states, "it's understandable that the provincial NDP would seek to capitalize on growing public concerns about global warming." That line might have worked 4 years ago but polls from the major public opinion consultants show that concern over global warming has cratered in the past 4 years. In the past couple years, since Climategate, not only has the public's belief that global warming is primarily caused by human activity dropped, the number of people who think that global warming is a serious concern has dropped as well.

If the Star-Phoenix was up to date on the latest information from NASA and CERN which discredit the basic assumptions of global warming, they wouldn't only be asking Link to cost out his proposals, they'd be asking why we are spending any money at all to solve a problem that doesn't exist. If the SP didn't want to join the growing ranks of sceptics they could at least ask whether the proposed action will make a difference in global CO2 emissions thus making the expenditure worthwhile. The answer, as it is to all such inconvenient questions, is NO! The truth is that our emissions are best described as completely insignificant. Our emissions are a rounding error when compared to the really big emitters like China. Saskatchewan could close down, move everyone out and leave the province to be repopulated by buffalo and it wouldn't make any difference. Link's proposal would cost a mint and accomplish nothing at all. In other words, par for the course. The SP got the first part right in wanting to know the cost. It's too bad that they didn't take the next step to look at the effectiveness of the proposal as well.

Maybe the problem is their taste in music. I'm sure that in the offices of the David Suzuki Foundation, the NDP, and the SP editorial staff an endless loop of Neil Diamond's I'M A BELIEVER, plays at top volume, drowning out rational scepticism.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bridge over the River WHY?

So over the last couple of weeks there was a lot of discussion around not only maintaining bridges in this province but also building new ones. It looks like this may be one battle ground neither party is willing to shy away from.

The NDP came out swinging with promises of a new bridge in Prince Albert. Something that was requested of them while they were in power for so many years and did nothing about it. Interesting it is so important to them now that they are in opposition. The SaskParty rifled back with the announcement of moving up a new north perimeter bridge in Saskatoon. An city with many more seats. I would say with a much more pragmatic approach of ensuring the design work and funding are in place with all levels of Government on board before making a formal announcement.

We have seen in Saskatoon that crossing the river isn't as easy or cheap as it may seem and isn't something you plan in a couple of years. The traffic Bridge is still some years away from even having a consensus on what should be done. The existing bridge in P.A. although suffering from fatigue, crossing of the river has only been slowed and not shut down to most travelers. The SaskParty was already committing to full funding of the repairs when the situation appeared. Another blow to the NDP's want to make some political points before the fall election. Score a point for the SaskParty.

So what does this mean for people in this province .... no matter who takes power this fall we will be seeing more money going into roads and I for one am happy to see it. If we want future generations to benefit from our new found growth, we need to spend the money now and build the infrastructure of the future. Putting a bunch of money into a so called savings account for future generations will only mean they will to spend more for what we can do now.

It may take a toll on our fiscal resources but then again maybe a "TOLL" is what we need.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I can find the poor $7 million can you.

Guest Blogger Says....

I found the opinion piece in Firday's Star Phoenix (Service Review Lacks Equity) an interesting take by those identifying themselves as advocates for the poor in our city. I'm perplexed at how these people take to task the service review and the cuts that will be affecting low income people and the increases in everyday costs should the transit fees be increased. Where were they crying fowl when the Recycling discussions were removed from those review discussions. Is the $7 million a year it will cost tax payers not coming out of their pockets as well. Are we to assume the $4.87 or what ever it may be most likely $15-$20/month to pick up what is currently being done for much less, going to come out of the available money low-income people have.

Costs in this city are going to be going up that is a certainty, the individualized pick-up of recyclables is a waste of money given the demands on civic services we have today from the years of neglect of councils in the past.

Oh and to those couple of councilors that what more money for roads how about just getting your priorities correct I don't see Regina having the problems we do and they receive similar funding.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Teaching an old Dog new Tricks

Guest Blogger here;

I hope everyone will oblige me with going off on a tangent today and I know this blog is for all things Political however I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to talk some football.

In today's Star "Towriss made the right call" the article highlights the career of most likely the best university coach this city will ever see. Now don't get me wrong I don't have a bro-crush on the guy. But even though I, as a fan, don't always agree with BT's decision making on the field the one thing I do know is I am glad he decided to stay in Saskatoon. His teams aren't flashy and at times very predictable however, they definitely get the job done. BT's commitment to a philosophy of respect and that school comes first in university sports has taken a so-so program to one of envy across the country. It isn't just the game day experience, although made one of the best because of its supporters (thanks Dave and Ron), brings the accolades. It is the fact many bright and young athletes are choosing to come to Saskatoon to not only play for BT but to get a great education. Over the years I have seen BT turn away or even drop players that others would love to have on the football field for their athletic prowess, but don't commit to the educational aspects of playing CIS sports. To now see BT moving into the number one spot for wins is something that all of Saskatoon should stand up and applaud. Win or lose this weekend one thing is for sure BT will make sure his team is back at the text books and ready for their classes on Monday. Congrats.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It is all about the missing LINC

Guest Blogger says;

Ever since the Province took the reigns away from the School Divisions to directly tax the public there has been a lack of interest in how the School Divisions spend their money. I can remember years past where budget deliberations where fraught with wild and zany public meetings, where the media covered every second and even the slightest increase in the budget and therefore our taxes was met with angry and disdain.

Fast forward to today's Star Phoenix "Division budget awaits approval" there appears to be a lack of understanding by the Saskatoon School Board in regards to who is responsible for their locally implemented and negotiated contracts. All Boards were clearly told that those portions of their budget were not part of the Education funding given to all Boards. Only 10 Boards receive this type of funding, this alone should raise the ire of all the other Divisions. Many in favour of these types of agreements profess they are imperative in making sure we get the best teachers available. I say poppycock! I have a close family member that is just starting out as a teacher in this city. She comes from rural Saskatchewan and was overjoyed to just get a job in the city and couldn't care less about the LINC agreement. Jobs in our city and many of the other 10 Divisions that have these LINC agreements are sought after positions. For this Division and others to expect all of Saskatchewan to pick up their incentive program costs is laughable. If the Division wants to delay their funding until November, when the Cabinet reviews this type of funding, that is their prerogative. School Board Chair Ray Morrison needs to get his Board to follow the rules and if they can't find the estimated $500,000 in their budget I am sure others can. Election 2012 will be a good time to start.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Too Many Chiefs in the Kitchen Spoil the Dinner

Guest Blogger here,

Is it just me or are the recent incidents of the SFIN and SIGA (SIGA Spending Angers Chiefs, SP sept.14/11) got everyone wondering how these people can be trusted with operating a multimillion dollar entity. The government should move immediately to suspend all rights of the SFIN to operate the casinos and stop any further negotiations to expand Indian gaming in this Province. The main and sole rationale for allowing First Nations to have a monopoly on gaming, was to provide a source of revenue and economic growth for First Nations people. Little did the public know that "the people" meant only the Chiefs of the SFIN. It is now time for the "open for business" Sask Party to allow others to enter the casino market.

The only bright light in all of this is Kirk "on-the-right-track" Goodtrack. His commitment to removing all elected officials from the SIGA board would be a good step. However he will be running into major blockades from those interested in keeping their slush funds. As the old saying goes To Many Cooks Spoil the Dinner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Keep in Touch

Fellow bloggers. I will be taking a short break from posting to tend to some personal matters. I will be checking in periodically and trying to keep in touch.

Watch for guest bloggers and help them along.


Budget austerity? I think not

It is noteworthy that Council's new spending will be delayed until after the next civic election.

The approved in-house cultural consultant (SP Sept. 13/11) will be far more costly than the $65,000.00 salary. The new hire will need space, equipment, support staff and seed money to sponsor cultural events. And it only cost us $150,000 to figure out how to spend this money.

I'm in support of the development of arts and culture in Saskatoon, but what I would like to know first iis what Council intends to take off the table in order to finance this project.

I won't even touch on the newly created death benefit payable to Councillors who die while in office.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not everything should be recycled

The best way to eliminate your competitor is to buy them out. Loraas did exactly that with their purchase of Saskatoon Curbside Recycling (SP Sept. 12/11) and Cosmo has been thrown under the bus by all concerned.

It will be interesting to see how many of Saskatoon Curbside's customers want to continue to pay Loraas $20.00 a month for a service that, according to the city, will soon by provided for less than $5.00 a month.

We now have recycled a competitive industry into a monopoly.

Friday, September 9, 2011

History and histronics in the making

Wow! Brad Wall would have to be caught doing vile things to a dead sheep on consecrated ground in order to lose the upcoming election.

There are a couple of things that amaze me: 1) that the NDP elected Lingenfelter as their leader and 2) that 78.7% of the public polled believe Wall would make the best premier, yet only 63.4% will vote for him. Does that mean 15.3 of those polled would support Lingenfelter for premier even if they think he's not the best man for the job?

Things that I wonder about: 1) how many Saskatoon constituencies will elect NDP MLAs and 2) what labour will do to try and turn this around. If I were a sheep I would go into hiding.

Wall's biggest problems will be getting out voters who will view this election as a fait accompli as a result of the poll, and thereafter controlling an overwhelming and inexperienced back bench.

Well, it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Rah, rah, rah, sis boom bah

I was both amused and annoyed reading Gerry Klein's column today (SP Sept. 8/11.) He states that Saskatoon would need between $18 and $80 million dollars, at current rates, to have the same level of roadway service as do the cities of Regina and Edmonton, both of which are reasonably comparable in size and taxes levied. The question that should be asked is why have those cities been able to maintain their infrastructure with existing mill rate revenues and we have not.

Rather, he suggests the problem may be with the residents and their driving habits. He suggests that if we used 21st Century technology as do the mega cities of New York, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Singapore and Boston, and downloaded apps to track buses, available parking, alternate routes, etc. we would save wear and tear on the roads. Great idea - if everyone wants or can afford to own a Blackberry or similar device.

He believes that this is a paved road to a better, greener and smarter city. He may be right when our city population reaches into the multi-millions

Let the dreamers and pragmatists debate begin.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Green-eyed monster

The Green Party isn't just about the environment - its about green politicians. Larissa Shasko's very public resignation as provincial leader (SP Sept. 7/11) weeks before the election speaks more about the party's organization than issues. It also speaks to her integrity. Changing parties is one thing, but trying to sewer them on the way out the door is another.

Add on to this the sanction of Brenden Cross as a party candidate, the debate about whether to run Green candidates against NDP candidates in some constituencies, would leave me hoping that true Greens would rejoice in seeing her leave. Their gain may be the NDP's loss.

The Greens may never form government in our lifetime, but they offer a role of conscience to others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reality Check

I support Lingenfelter's recycled suggestion of creating a fund similar to Alberta's Heritage Fund for the use and benefit of future generations, but I would prefer that the government pay off the debt first. I think future generations do not want to pay for the debts accrued by past governments, regardless of what government created it. And the current interest on debt would help fill those coffers quickly.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yup, money can by you happiness

I never could figure out whether the controversy around Lonechild was simply about a .08 charge or whether the collective just didn't like changes he was proposing.

I don't fault Lonechild for cashing out - there was no way for him to work productively in such a hostile environment. But I do wonder how much good could have been done for people on reserves with $600,000.

Another chapter closes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The dream debate

On Aug. 20/11, the SP opinion column was "Dreamers must lead debate." It would seem that our Mayor has begun the dreamers' debate with his comments in today's SP (Sept. 1/11) about his dream tax goal of matching Calgary municipal tax rates, a city with one of the lowest levies in Canada. If the new Mayor of Calgary continues with his plan of tax increases, Atch may see his dream come true - if he's still in office 10 or 15 years from now.

However, the report is silent as to whether or not Calgary has user fees for services or extra levies on their bills. Anyone know? I think Jack Vicq, professor emeritus in accounting, makes a good point on using apples to oranges comparisons when examining tax structures and rates between cities without the framework being the same.

Since we have managed, according to a recent CMHC report, to exceed Calgary in terms of cost of housing, whose to say this tax dream won't become reality.

Then today we have SP Columnist Gerry Klein suggesting that the lowbrows in Saskatoon are resorting to "politics of the street" and reducing years of dreaming about creating a cosmopolitan city into base election issues of garbage pick-up, low taxes and pavement. Hmmm.

Let the debate begin,.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Identify yourself

I was raised to believe that being part of a democracy afforded citizens both rights and privileges. And I think it is incumbent upon governments to protect those rights and privileges.

For those reasons I don't understand the opposition to voter ID during elections (SP Aug. 31/11.) The allegation by NDP house leader Kevin Yates that voter ID targets First Nations doesn't wash with me given that the provincial government has offered picture ID to First Nations through SGI. First Nations people also have Treaty Cards. And sufficient notice has been given to allow all people time to obtain the necessary ID. And everybody, regardless of race, should play by the same rules when electing a government.

If the issue is residency at the time of a an election, that issue affects everyone. People move about the city from one constituency to another between elections. I expect that the same rules on residency should apply to all, including First Nations. If there has to be an exception made for First Nations residing on reserves, enumerate the reserve prior to the election. Or put their address on the photo ID card offered through SGI.

We have heard concerns about voter irregularity during past elections. Its time to clean it up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Water - the new gold

Its hard to believe that the City of Regina and the provincial government have known for about fifteen years that the Regina Water/Sewage Treatment Plant was destroying a water eco system (SP Aug. 30/11.) Harder yet is the statement that it will take several more years to fix the problem. Does Wascana Creek and the downstream lakes it effects have years left before they are declared dead?

What I don't get is the statement by Regina's branch manager for environmental engineering that "As far as our treatment facility goes, we meet and exceed our permit to operate." Does that mean the treatment standards set for cities is so low that its standards support waterway pollution?

According to a spokesperson for Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment the problem can be fixed, but it is very expensive. The City of Regina estimates the cost at $120 to $200 million dollars. What what is the cost to letting these water systems die?

This affects not only Regina residents, but all those who live downstream of Wascana. If I were one of them I'd be looking for a "now" rather than a "next year" solution.

And perhaps the message to the rest of us is to ask to have the provincial standards for water/sewer treatments plants examined and beefed up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hello mudder, hello fodder

My husband is an ardent listener of CBC, so every morning I wake up to the sounds of Sheila Cole. For the best part I try and tune her out, but when she gets on a rag not even the deaf are saved from the prattle.

Today she endlessly drawled on about Diefenbaker's "illegitimate love child." Over and over again she asked people to go to the website and view photos. Is this really newsworthy? Do we care whether or not Dief had a fling that resulted in off-spring forty years ago?

Before you jump to conclusions, I am neither or fan nor enemy of Dief. He was bit before my time. From what I've heard or read, he was a great orator, used humour well to make his points and became an icon for Saskatchewan. If the allegation is true, it simply humanizes him.

This alleged son is not the only person searching biological parents, but he is one of the few to get national attention for his search. From the interview, he is estranged from his mother, step brother and the man who raised him and who should be called "Dad." Does it matter who he shares DNA with, other than perhaps to capitalize on past fame?

I hope the Diefenbaker Centre gives him the DNA sample he requested and that this story dies a quick death. If he is a biological son, then he'll know and get on with life.

If he isn't, I won't expect Sheila Cole to spend a full morning on informing the public that her titillating story was simply a wishful tale.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pay now or pay later, but pay you will

Everything is recyclable - including the Local Improvement Program (LIP) program. I remember it well.

Council is down to last options. Its either this or a massive tax increase. Or further decay of the city infrastructure.

The thing that really peeves me is that over the last year and a half my neighbourhood streets have been used as thoroughfares as a result of the city closing arterial roads for the construction of the lift station - that no one wanted. These residential streets were not designed for the amount of traffic that used them or for the heavy construction equipment. The city damaged these streets and I think it unfair to charge homeowners under a LIP program to fix the mess.

My second peeve is the consideration being given to charging homeowners interest on any LIP cost if they can't pay the full cost up front. If that comes to be, homeowners would be better off taking out a bank loan.

And if Council thinks the public will not see this as additional taxation, they're wrong.

What a horrible mess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is just painful

If Council is concerned about people in the community undermining their credibility, they shouldn't - they are doing a good job of it themselves.

Conducting the budget review and cutting services that the public needs and/or enjoys, while at the same time adding to budget lines that are not the priority of the public (events reserve), does not endear the voters.

In today's SP (Aug. 24/11) I read that park services were reduced. Maybe I shouldn't be concerned as most of the public land around my neighbourhood is already weed-infested and unkempt. Thus I agree with the parks manager's comment that this cut would not see a "significant impact" on upkeep. So why have we been spending the $120,000 a year if it wasn't necessary?

Thanks you Myles Heidt for arguing to keep the tree root clearing. In older neighbourhoods roots grow into the pipes and block the sewer drains. It is the city trees that cause the problem and citizens are not allowed to tamper with those trees.

The best line of this review meeting goes to Councillor Dubois during the park services reduction debate - "We can't lead people astray. . . We have to be honest with people."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The second coming?

I wouldn't wish death, and particularly an unpleasant, painful death on anyone. I am truly sorry that Jack Layton died during the prime of his political life and that his death was not easy. I was not a supporter of Jack Layton. I did not agree with his politics. But I admired the fact that he persevered with his beliefs. I acknowledge with he was a dynamic personality. So this comment is not necessarily relative to Layton himself, but about a society that canonizes well-known personalities after untimely or horrific deaths. It started with Princess Diana.

With all that has been written and said over the last 24 hours about Jack Layton, I found Christie Blatchford's column (SP Aug. 23/11 - page C8) noteworthy.

I regret that former NDP MP Simon DeJong, who served this province from 1979 to 1997, passed away and his death will go relatively unnoticed. Again, I was not a political supporter of his, but he too died in his 60s and he too made contributions to society. But he will not be sainted.

I just don't understand why society goes overboard - why we can't recognize the good that one does without embellishing a career that could stand on its own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Running scared?

A sure sign of losing the debate on an issue is when you attack the messenger rather than counter the message. The comments leveled at former Mayor Dayday (SP Aug. 19/11) were clearly an attack on the messenger. If Atch & Co. think the public concern on spending and debt started as a result of a letter to the editor by Dayday, then clearly they have not been listening to the masses.

I would dearly like to see Council put forward a complete list of debt, including amortization, interest and repayment schedule. I would also like a list of pending debt, i.e. the bus barns, library, police station, etc. and the proposed plan for payment. I would like detail on the "other revenue" that will be generated for payment of the landfill. Add in any "off sheet" financing while you're at it..

As for the Mayor's comments on the city's triple A credit rating, he forgot to mention the flags Standard & Poors attached to the rating.

Councillor Penner's comments on the Art Gallery are laughable. And Councillor Hill's comments on the "undercurrent campaign" are naive. After the provincial election in November the civic campaign will be in full swing. Many on Council will grandstand at Council meetings during the final year of their term and they should expect that those planning to run against them will be out and about countering incumbents' positions. Its called politics.

I expect we will have a very interesting civic election this go round. We need only to wait and see who comes out of the woodwork.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garbage and then some

The heartfelt concern stated by Loraas for Saskatoon residents regarding the delays in tendering the recycling contract was touching (SP Aug 18/11.) I'm guessing splitting the tender between collection and processing probably wasn't part of his program either. Although Loraas is the only game in town when it comes to a processing plant (Cosmo only does paper) I can't imagine what it will do to the bottom line should he not get both contracts. Then again, whoever gets the collection contract has to take the recyclables somewhere.

On the bright side the landfill life has been extended for another 40 years. The cost of $54.6 million for the extension is to be paid by tipping fees and other revenues generated by the landfill. Either the tipping fees are going through the roof or the other revenues will be fees charged to households for each bag of garbage disposed of. I'm not counting on the wind turbine generating anything other than power and that revenue will have to go to pay for the turbine itself.

If the tipping fees get too high in Saskatoon, folks can always access the Loras Landfill north of the city.

This whole thing is just garbage.