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.