Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amsterdam, Bangkok, Saskatoon

The first thing that upsets me on the adult services decision is allowing for home-based business.  The second is the limited buffer zone.  Potentially, we could have a whorehouse on every corner of the city.  And third, that Councillor Tiffany Paulsen would justify it by saying that children and people in living in poverty deserve this protection.   I wish she had lamented that women and children living in poverty have to resort to prostitution in order to survive.

Why is there concern for clustering these businesses?  Make a red light district - it could become a tourist zone much like in Amsterdam or Bangkok.  And why not push them out to outlying areas?  You would think that concentrating these services in one area would make them easier to control rather than spreading them around the city. 

City planning and development manager Alan Wallace says if we push them to outlying areas, these agencies will subvert the bylaw and not comply.  What does the city do with other businesses that do not comply with bylaws? 

Prostitution is an age-old business.  It's not going away so the idea of controlling it is not necessary a bad one.  It's the "how" its being controlled that bothers me. 

If the next step is a bylaw prohititing the use of red lights in the city, I hope they exempt the Christmas season from it.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

The silly season

The silly season has officially begun.  Grandiose promises are being made for new bridges, the development of North Downtown, a new library, a roadway repair plan and the list goes on.  A big ticket item for every area of the city and the spread of happiness to each and every one.

The only thing not offered is how we are going to pay for it all. 

But why mess with success.  It works every time during an election campaign.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The 10% solution?

We have all received our new assessment notices.  Many will see up to a 10% hike in their assessment and thus an increase in 2013 taxes prior to any mill rate increase.  At the same time the city is giving away millions of dollars in grant money and tax abatement to a Vancouver-based company to build a 192-unit rental complex in the Montgomery Park area.

Councillor Pat Lorje questions why we are giving away money to create a problem down the road.  Based on her comments from the re-zoning battle,  I suspect the problem relates to the existing infrastructure and whether it can accommodate the increased traffic.  Add to the equation Wally Mah's plan for a strip mall to accommodate this area and the re-location of the city yards and bus barns.

Where is the money going to come from to fix the problem?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A few snags

With the big city comes big city problems.

Noise is always a factor in high density areas.  Its not just motorcycles and loud stereos that come with the advent of warm weather.  There is nose emanating from the many events and festivals held over the summer, especially in the core areas. 

What about the outdoor music activities, the Jazz Festival, the Fringe etc.  When I worked downtown, during the Jazz Festival on every corner on 21st Street musicians were playing.  It was great for those coming for a short period of time to enjoy the music.  But it was hard to concentrate on work with the boom, boom going for eight hours of the day.  Will the noise snare trap these types of offenders as well?

When the Fringe Festival operated its beer tent until 2:00 a.m. nightly, everyone within reasonable proximity complained about the noise and their loss of sleep.   Will we snag the Fringe revellers and make them pay?

What about the boats using the river?  Or the downtown nightclubs?  And we are considering outdoor concert venues at River Landing.

Chalk it all up to summer in the city.

Friday, June 8, 2012

No soup for you!

Each year the City hosts a dinner for its volunteers.  These are the people who apply and lobby to sit on civic committees.

This spring, Councillor Randy Donauer said the grace before dinner.  One of the volunteers lodged a complaint as a result of that action and demanded an apology from both the Councillor and Mayor.  At the time he suggested that a moment of quiet reflection would be more appropriate.  He intends to take this matter to the Human Rights Commission.

In today's SP (June 8/12) there is a report that the Canadian Civic Liberties Association supports him.  However, the man has now changed his mind and doesn't even want to allow for a silent reflection.  My question is, how does one individual get to control the format for the masses? 

I've been at events where different faiths offer prayer or its equivalent.  I stand out of respect to those groups, but don't participate in the prayer.  When First Nations do their thanks, I view it as a cultural rather than religious action.

Sadly, we have gotten to a point were we lack intolerance and respect of those around us - and that includes the minority as well as the majority.

The easy fix here, cancel the volunteer dinner. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Open both eyes

Today's editorial (SP June 4/12) warns that, because our provincial revenue is commodity-based and subject to the variances of the market place, the province should exercise more caution in spending, focus on debt reduction, long-term planning and unfunded pension liabilities.  Couldn't agree more and do give Premier Wall credit for his austerity budget this year.

Would these writers offer the same concern to the City of Saskatoon? 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is he from another planet?

If City Manager Murray Totland doesen't believe the national survey (SP May 31/12) regarding Saskatoon residents' response to roadway conditions in this city, then he is stone-cold deaf!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gas up and go

That's quite the little tin can the city police have for a rescue unit (SP May  30/12.)  But who do they intend to rescue?  I thought it was intended to be an assault vehicle for SWAT. 

I tend to agree with David Eby when he states that police  across the country are putting spending priorities on equipment and technology to solve policing problems when the vast majority of the policing issues stem from poverty and mental illness.

I'm torn on this issue because I believe police should have all necessary equipment to do their jobs and protect their own lives as well as ours while doing their duty.  But there is a limit on expenditures and I'm not sure that this money couldn't have been better spent toward that endeavour.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Green lights for red lights

Who would have thought that prostitution would ever become a home-based business?

When the issue of home-based businesses first arose it was to license those who provided services in their homes - hair, nails, sewing, accounting, legal - and one of the arguments was that these types of business allowed people to stay at home with their families while still actively engaging in their professions.  They were limited to the number of people they could service in a day. 

It was also to make them pay licensing fees and taxes that commercial enterprises paid for providing the same services.

If hookers cannot provide services in their homes, then is  it truly a home-based business?

This may be like the "I'm a little bit pregnant" scenario. You either are or you aren't.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Shuffled or shafted?

Wow, you could have blown me away when I read Rob Norris was shuffled out of Cabinet. 

There was a lot of time, energy and money spent on getting Norris re-elected last November.  A lot of big hitters worked his campaign and I imagine they are not overly happy about his loss of a cabinet position. 

Or perhaps it was more about keeping Prebble out of the legislature than getting Norris in.

Premier Wall said the changes were not based on merit or performance.  But if good performance does not merit maintaining a position, what does?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Welcome to the big city!

For those who longed for Saskatoon to hit big city status, I think your wish has come true.  The drug peddlers have us on their radar screens, handguns are surfacing, although knives are still the weapon of choice, the number of homeless are growing, housing is out of range of citizens, gangs are staking territory, family violence is at an all time high - ain't life grand.

I know all of this existed when we were Sleepy Hollow, but not to this degree.  The police station is going to fill up well before we hit the 400,000 population mark.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cut the loss

What the hell was the city thinking when it agreed to buy 18 housing units from a developer at roughly $200,000 a pop? Even with the city offering grants to cover down payments, how will low income citizens get a mortgage for the balance?

The city intentions of developing affordable housing should be applauded.  However, its role should have been as a facilitator to organizations that actually know how to do it and do it well.  Instead taxpayers will now subsidize down payments and forfeit tax revenue from these properties as a result of this action.

The best laid plans . . .

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Born yesterday?

Nothing annoys me more than political snow jobs.  For MLA Don Morgan to suggest that adding three more constituencies to the roster. at a total cost of $675,000.00, will not cost taxpayers any more money is inane.  His reasoning is they intend to cut spending on existing travel and communications budgets to offset these new costs.

If MLAs have this much fat to trim, they should do so and put the money towards public needs.  And if the rationale is better representation of constituents, then why cut communication allowances.

Why can't they simply say Saskatchewan's population is growing and  we believe this will benefit Saskatchewan residents in the long term.  End of story.  Move on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Potholes, sinkholes, washboards . . .

In today's SP (May 16/12) the businesses groups in the airport area are complaining about the poor condition of the roads.  I invite them into my neighbourhood if they want to experience broken down roads.

The article also notes how little money is budgeted for road repair and rehabilitation.  According to city administration the city needs $18.5 million a year to maintain current conditions.  How much for improved conditions?  This year the city is spending $9.5, so I guess my area is out of the running for repair.  But it's an election year and the tax increase was a concern.

It begs the question "How did we get to this sorry state?"  The answer is spending priorities.  It makes the decision to take the $1.5 million out of the roadway repair reserve to fund the first year operating costs of the new art gallery even more shameful.

Next year, after the election, expect to have a "special levy" added to your tax bill for roadway purposes.  And then ask yourself what the rest of your taxes pay for.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pictures and such

Who knew the film industry was so strong?  Or is it?  In today's SP (May 15/12) there is finally an description between what was and what is.  I rather like the new formula. 

I hadn't realized that under the old plan producers actually depended upon and budgeted for tax dollars to fund their projects. Under the new plan they get tax payable forgiven, but no cash in hand.  I actually think that a pretty good helping hand.

It is apparent that the film industry is up in arms, but I'm not sure the public is.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

A few things to be thankful for

Some things never change.  Instead of starting at the top and working down, the School Boards are starting at the bottom.  But cutting Kindergarten will incense parents who will call their MLAs.  Cutting central office staff will not create a blip on the radar.

I would agree that if students numbers of rising, funding should increase accordingly.  But Schools Boards should be setting the priorities for spending and the last cut should be at the classroom levels.

I am thankful they do not have the ability to tax property.  I am also thankful I did not have to hear "let's do it for the kids."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

They deserve it!

Thankfully the city as provided some interim tax relief for seniors at the poverty level (SP May 10/12..)  Given the shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors, being able to defer some property taxes means they can remain in their homes and will be able to provide themselves the other necessities of life.  But I hope part of this plan does not include an 18% interest rate which attaches to late payment of taxes.  Although interest has to be charged I would it expect it to be the same rate the City pays to its lenders.

I've heard  the argument against this program, that being that an individual or couple is occupying an affordable home too large for their needs at a time when young families are searching for affordable homes.  But our seniors have spent their lives paying for their homes and it is their comfort zone.  It keeps them vibrant and active.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bridging the future

Recent reports state that the City will spend about a $1 million take down a section of Traffic Bridge on the Nutana side in order to open up the MVA trail and roadways.  As I live in this area, I am pleased to have the road opened.  And the $1 million would have to be spent eventually to deal with the de-construction of the bridge.

But at the same time we are told that there is no funding source to proceed with the re-construction of the Traffic Bridge, although the decision was made to re-build it.

Then about a week ago the Mayor was reported to have said that a new North commuter bridge would be built by 2016.  But no funding source was identified.  And it would seem that this is in addition to a North Bridge that will be built in conjunction with the province's plan for a perimeter highway around Saskatoon.

We already know that re-build of the Traffic Bridge will fun about $30 million if we re-use the existing piers.

What will a new North commuter bridge cost when you have to add on the cost on pier construction?

Better yet, when the new South Bridge opens and traffic is diverted away from the Circle Drive bridge, will a new North commuter bridge be necessary?

Or is this just election year politics?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Today's daily double

Its a good news, bad news day.

With NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's position on Western resources, and the support he received from the provincial NDP, I would expect this means the party has now moved its home base to Quebec.  This is the good news.

The bad news was the collapse of the sewer pipe and the ensuing fire, which in all likelihood means we will all receive an increase on the infrastructure levy that is added to our utility bill.  And I expect their will be some third party insurance claims against the city that will have to be footed by taxpayers.

 I think its about time for a review of that infrastructure reserve and how its being spent.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Due respect

The provincial government is asking the public to weigh in on changes to the Labour Laws (SP May 3/12.)  I'm stepping on the scale to state that I don't think employers should have to collect dues for  unions.  The unions should collect their own money.

Secondly, I don't think students working part-time jobs should have to pay dues.  They get absolutely no benefit from the union as they never have enough tenure or work hours to qualify for support.  These kids are simply fodder for organized labour. 

Having said that, I do think unions have value in protecting the rights and working conditions of their membership.  I suspect they would receive a lot more public support if they became more reasonable  their demands and job actions - and less political.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Progress or regress?

Saving the historic Third Avenue United Church presents a sticky situation (SP May 2/12.) 

The public purse cannot contribute to religious organization.   The United Church presbytery does not want heritage designation on it, which would entitle it to heritage grants, because heritage designation  would also impede the value and sale of the building down the road should the need arise.  Understandably, their fiduciary duty is the the churchs' congregants, not the city.

Although it has been used by performing artists for concerts, arts groups have little or no money to step in and save the day. 

The province could jump in and declare it a heritage building, but it won't because politics and religion don't mix.

The heritage groups will impale themselves on the spires trying to save it, but unless a benefactor steps in this struggling congregation will eventually close the church,  and the building will be lost to a developer who will want to replace with a apartments or condos.

What a shame. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Let the contest begin

I guess someone has to start the worst street for potholes in the city.  I am nominating 1) 8th Street between Lorne Avenue and Sask Crescent West, 2) the road from Sask Crescent West and 8th Street  to Taylor, 3) Taylor Street from Sask Crescent West to Lorne Avenue.  You can't even dodge the potholes and washboard on these roads, although I noted several vehicles veering into on-coming traffic lanes attempting to avoid them. I'm not even sure these can be fixed by the pothole patrol they are so far gone.

A few years back, before this provincial government started putting money into our highways, many felt the broken down secondary highways would be better if they reverted back to gravel.  I'm starting to think the same about some of our city streets.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Burping history?

Wow, today we acknowledge the 30th anniversary of Grant Devine's election as our Premier.  Was it really that long ago?

And we are still paying for the excesses of that era.  According to Murray Mandyrk's column (SP Apr. 27/12) this year's interest on provincial debt is $400 million dollars.  Ouch!  We have paid a lot for that spending era in terms of taxes and loss of services.

Does anyone else see this history be repeated today with our civic government?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

In with the old or out with the old?

I agree with Gerry Klein's column today (SP Apr.26/12) in that Henry Dayday will make this year's civic election interesting.  I also agree that folks who are concerned with the spending in this city by the current civic government should put pen to paper to voice those concerns. 

We should have debate whether Saskatoon's priorities should be more world class facilities - or repair, maintenance and replacement of our basic infrastructure needs.  The recent short-term closure of the Broadway Bridge  will hopefully increase  the awareness of the need for a full-service river crossing as opposed to a cyclist/pedestrian crossing that can double as another festival/market venue.

No matter how creative your accounting skills, this city is in huge debt and planning to increase it.  When the time comes and millions of dollars are needed in the city centre areas for 100-year old underground sewer and water repair and /or replacement, how will it happen when our credit is used up?  Or does a water treatment plant, driveable roadways and underground infrastructure count as world class facilities? 

Although I look forward to the next several months, I do so with some angst as I suspect the cheap politics may override discussion on the real issues.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

This cat came back

I'm back from a month long tour in Asia.  And it appears that I am not the only cat coming back.  Former Mayor Henry Dayday has announced his candicacy for the next civic election.  We will have a race rather than a cornation.  More on that later.

Slowly folks are coming out of the woodwork to challenge incumbents.  Most disappointing for me were the articles on Sean Shaw's purchase of his opponent's domain name.  I know he has apologized and is now willing to transfer those rights to Troy Davies, but it does speak to character.  Although I don't always agree with Shaw, I have come to enjoy his perspective on issues and thus my disappointment.  I thought better of him.

It didn't surprise me that Councillor Darrren Hill thought this move was a great election strategy.  Hill has pushed the envelope on every election he has participated in. But I think his character has already been established - win at any cost.

It will be an interesting year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Summer in Saskatoon

I will definitely avoid the sinkhole on Idylwyld (SP Mar. 13/12) but how do we avoid the multitude of other roads in the city that need repair. Avoiding collected water is difficult when every street in my area has some.

Sunday I nearly destroyed my undercarriage driving through water on a road leading to Taylor Street. I was only doing about 30 klicks when I hit the hole under the water and heard the sickening crunch from my car. Every vehicle I encountered after that joined me in weaving around trying to skirt the potholes.

I'm starting to see this as a spring/summer activity.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stupid is as stupid does

The response of some Councillors to former Mayor Henry Dayday's request for a plebiscite on the art gallery issue (SP March 10/12), convinces me these folks will never be inducted to the Mensa hall of fame.

Apparently we, the voters, are too stupid to weigh in on this very complicated issue. They may have a point about our stupidity since we elected them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Java woes

I am fascinated how people will gravitate to a coffee shop regardless of the inconvenience in doing so. I am a bit of a coffee hound but not so hooked on a brand that I would line up to grab a cup or get in a raffic jam.

I have been around the mall at Cumberland and 8th when traffic flow is stopped to allow for those needing a Tim Horton's fix (SP Mar. 9/12.) I have now taken to avoiding the mall all together.

I have absolutely no idea how the city can fix this other than to restrict left hand turns into the mall area for those heading south down Cumberland. What I do know is that I don't want massive tax dollars spent on roadway infrastructure to accommodate coffee shop traffic.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Marketing magic

Interesting how the Mayor and his ilk have backed out the $13 million cost of the underground parking from the new gallery construction. These two projects go hand-in-hand. But I give credit to the marketing strategists in successfully hoodwinking the public into believing that the cost of the total project is less than it really is.

In past when a project is planned that is so divisive in the community ( Sask Place, casino) Councils of past have given the public their say through a referendum. Why not on this matter?

And since this Council has not brought in a capital project on budget, no one should assume this gallery project will come in at $84 million.

Who was that wise lady who thought River Landing should re-named The Atch Hole?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I have not made adjustments to this blog that have prohibited response. However, Google has changed its format recently. Some report to me that they can post from home computers but not from networked computers.

What a sham!

Well, we have the preliminary report on the operating costs of the Remai Art Gallery and it appears that we will require an addition $1.5 million annually from the taxpayers in order to avoid admission fees - at least at the beginning.

What perplexes me is why the city would budget $750,000 for the bridge and road repair reserve for 2012 and 2013 and then plan to shuffle this money over to the the art gallery for operating costs in 2015 (SP Mar. 7/12.)

I expect taxes will need to be raised to cover bridge and road repairs in the future, but it won't have to raise taxes for the new gallery (LOL.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

There's gold in thos meters

The only thing the city seems to be able to source money from is parking meters. It will take 500,000 hours of parking to recover the $1 million investment (carrying costs not included.) The best this has to offer is that taxpayers do not pick up this tab, only those needing parking downtown pay this freight. At least I hope that is the case.

Councillor Pat Lorje also wants to increase early payment fine costs claiming they are ridiculously low. However, the 10 cent alert for those using the cell service to remind them that their parking meter need replenishing may thwart that cash cow - unless of course you've already gone beyond the two our limit.

Although plugging meters on Sunday didn't fly, perhaps they should extend the hours for meter parking and include evenings. Think of all those younguns swilling booze in bars in the evening that would forget to run out and plug a meter. Or those attending a movie beyond the two hour time limit. You could nail them for a expired parking meters and for parking beyond the two hour limit.

There are limitless possibilities here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

CUC's wearing Lingerie

The Lingerie Football League is bringing out all of Saskatoon's big brothers (and sisters) to save us from ourselves.

Personally I think the idea is ridiculous. But I'm not keen on any events that demean the participants in order to titillate the audience. The best protest is simply to not attend such events. If the money doesn't roll in, the promoters will fade away. As it stands now, every media protest simply helps advertise the event and tweak the public's interest.

CUC is a public facility and available for the events by any organization operating within the boundaries of the law. Not every event held there appeals to every citizen. We don't live in the bible belt and the board and management of this facility was not established to be the watchdog of public morals. If they needed the consent of the citizenry before booking every event, CUC would be dark most days of the year.

The bright side to this would be getting CUC's name off this facility and re-branding it as a publicly owned building.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Posting problems

Blogasphere residents - I have had people calling that they are unable to post on this site. I hope to have the computer geek fix this over the weekend. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


If the country and province are enjoying such a robust economy, why are the Prime Minister and Premier looking for cuts to programs that serve the most needy in our community? Perhaps they a wisely looking down the road and around the corner. And perhaps the city should follow suit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crime and punishment

Reading this morning's paper (SP Feb. 28/12) was like reading a criminal court docket. It seemed like one pedator after another was paraded out for public examination.

Michael Jeffrey got fourteen months in jail for child porn, and after time off for good behaviour (whatever that is) he'll be free to get on with his life. His lust for child porn will leave in his wake countless children, including infants, who are sentenaced to a lifetime of pain. And he thinks having his name on a sex offender registry will make his life "incredibly difficult."

Then we have serial rapist Grahm James who created pain, suffering and dysfunction to countless young men and their familes. The crown is asking for a maximum of be six years - with time off for good behaviour no doubt. I wonder if he's drawing a pension payment from the hockey associations that served as his hunting ground.

Then there is the on-going trial of Mark Stobbe and the search for a rapist at the university.

It makes me think that Prime Minister Harper might be on to something good with his tough on crime bill. The sentences these people recceive seem to be nothing compared to the damage they've done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

City mouse vs. country mouse

The Mayor suggests we should run our own census to the tune of $1.8 milllion because he believes the federal document is wrong on our population numbers and it would benefit us based on provincial funding done on a per capita basis.

This presumes that the province will do all its funding on a per capita basis, which would take money out of rural Saskatchewan. You have to question why the provincial government would take money from the rural areas which is the backbone of its support. A counter-argument would be that the cities benefit from economy of scale.

Do we really want to kill off what little is left of our rural areas?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hill's Law

Clearly the clarification of election advertising going to Council next Monday is a direct result of Councillor Hill's billboards in the last civic election which he did not claim in his expenditures (SP Feb. 24/12.) He claimed it had nothing to do with his campaign but related only to a recycling program he is proposing for his ward. This may be an prime example of stretching the truth.

I would agree with Hill on his comments on the disclosure statements regarding the expense statements, that being rather than filling in one number for expenses they should be itemized. No one checks the validity of the reported dollar amount unless they are challenged. We don't really know what the expenses include or that in fact all expenses are reported.

Campaign donation are also at issue. No matter what number you pick, donors who don't want to be identified will cut the cheque for $1 less to avoid disclosure. Should all donations, large or small. be included?

He also raises the issue of incumbents using community association newsletters to promote themselves and that which they do. I don't know where you draw the line between communicating with constituents and advertising, but clearly incumbents get the edge on other candidates during an election year. Perhaps this relatively new practice should be suspended for a six month period prior to an election.

Or maybe its time for the province to set the rules through an amendment to legislation rather than having the incumbents setting the rules for themselves.

But the thing about rules, or laws, cagey people will always look for a loophole. It is those who look for loopholes that we should beware of.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A peak into Pandora's Box?

I don't know whether you can close Pandora's Box once it's opened. Gerry Klein's column today (SP Feb. 23/12) calls for a full disclosure on the negotiations between the federal government and the city on funding for the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan so "the heat can be taken off this debate before the election campaign begins in earnest." Given the angst on this issue within the city, I don't think this will help our civic leaders much when they hit the campaign trail.

He also suggests a report should come to Council in the public portion of the Executive Council meeting. Why not at a City Council meeting when the whole of the public can tune in and listen to what is being disclosed?

Personally I get the sense that the majority of the public is ambivalent about the location, but concerned about the amount being spent on this item - as well as other major projects being done. To justify it by saying the federal government put condition on their contribution is not sitting well with taxpayers who know that federal dollars are also their tax dollars. Left pocket, right pocket or back pocket - its all tax money.

And then there is the operating costs . . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The prodigal son?

I have a lot of empathy for the 10 senior residents at the Humboldt senior home who are being re-located by the Saskatoon Health Region. It seems harsh to take the elderly away from one home to another, but it does speak to the lack of fore planning by governments past to provide necessary accommodation to a growing population of elderly Saskatchewan residents in need of care.

In today's SP (Feb. 22/12) it reported that a son of one such resident now wants financial compensation for the trauma his mother has suffered. His mother is being moved to a new seniors' home, being given a motorized wheelchair, a bathtub lift, rent differential for about a year, return of her damage deposit and necessary medical personnel to ensure a smooth transition. She is not being put on the street nor is he required to take her into his home and care for her. You think he would be happy that she will have a decent place to live. Rather he comes across as greedy.

The Saskatoon Health Region reports it is spending about $25,000 per senior to assist in the relocation process. The reason for the move apparently is an unstable floor and a need for space for seniors that have need for even greater care. I hope these 10 seniors will settle into their new homes and have as good or better quality of life as they did to date.

As for sonny boy - take a hike.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Short term gains

I appreciate the efforts of the city to improve the quality of life in some west side neighbourhoods through enhanced housing and beefed-up policing (SP Feb. 21/12.) But until you deal with the root causes of crime, these efforts just mean you are moving the problems somewhere else.

Young girls don't go out prostituting themselves because they like having sex with sleazy men. They do it for money and because they have no other means to earn it. Drug addicts do not mug people or rob homes for any other reason than they need money and robbery is easy access to money. The same can be said for most vices.

Throwing offenders in jail only provides a short-term relief to the problems. Poverty, lack of education and discrimination are the issues that have to be tackled and it will require a co-ordinated effort on the part of all levels of government. It requires hope for the future for marginalized citizens.

Decent affordable housing and access to life's necessities may provide some hope, but they also have to have the opportunity advance beyond bare necessities and create something for themselves. To do less may mean we are simply creating tomorrow's ghetto.

This is a start and I hope it doesn't stop here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

RAGS and riches

What is the real value to surveys and online polls?

I was one of the lucky 600 called on the Mendel survey. I didn't feel any response I could give to the various questions asked reflected my real views on the issue but simply whether or not my support was hot or tepid. It implied support was there.

The Mendel survey reported positive results in favour of the new RAGS project. Subsequently two online polls reported the exact opposite. For the online polls both sides were working the phones and emails to have their people vote. So do any of the results accurately reflect the opinions of the general public?

Our public will not pay large admission fees wherever the gallery winds up. And taxpayers do not seem to support increased tax subsidies. Please let there be a half way mark.

My worst fear is as the battle continues there will be no survivors and we will not get a much needed beefed up art gallery.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A tip of the hat

I was very surprised with Mayor Fiacco's announcement that he would not seek re-election in the next civic election. The man was riding high in the polls and I expect would have handily won had he decided to run. It's easy for politicians to hang in after their "best before date" and it takes a lot of self-confidence to walk away from a sure thing to pursue new endeavours. He states he accomplished what he wanted to when he first ran and feels no need to stick around for the ribbon cuttings. He appears to be a man without a big ego.

Given these traits I suspect whatever he has planned will meet with success. I wish him well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Justice for all

I'm not a Vellacott fan, but I was happy to see him win his defamation suit, although the award was insignificant especially if he wasn't awarded court costs. I think it sends a good message that it is one thing to question a politician's stand on an issue or founded facts on their character, but unfounded allegations intended to smear their reputation is not acceptable.

Asking a yes or no question, designed to leave the impression that its true, is the same as stating the untrue accusation. By example, if you ask the yes or no question "Are you still beating your wife." even if you answer no it implies that you once did or that your no response may be untruthful.

Over the last few elections we have been heading into the US style of negative smear campaigns and I for one would like it to stop. Maybe a few judgments like this will help curb these actions.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Does anyone care?

Saturday's SP (Feb. 11/12) reported further delays on the opening of Lorne Avenue and the negative impact on the small businesses affected by the closure. The city offers its empathy, but empathy doesn't pay their bills.

I live in this area and haven't seen anyone working around the site in months, although we have had a very mild winter. We haven't had heavy snowfall and should not expect excess water from melt. We have been boxed in for years as a result of the Traffic Bridge closure, the lift station development and closure of Lorne Avenue due to the South bridge construction. Our side streets have been chewed up as a result of detoured traffic.

It think its time for less empathy and more action.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rose-colored glasses and rear view mirrors

Economist Eric Howe made a comment the other day that Saskatchewan's boom is resource based, to enjoy it, but not to expect it to last forever. Today he was somewhat mocked by Gormley and respected by Mandryk. I tend to agree with Howe.

Resources are commodities that fluctuate wildly. Not too many years ago Saskatchewan's economy was based on wheat sales. Every business held its breath annually to see whether or not the farmers were going to have a good year, which would mean they would have a good year. We are now diversified and not dependent on any one resource - but nonetheless dependant on the commodities market. You only have to look back a few years when the provincial budget went awry because potash revenues did not materialize. This year Premier Wall is cautious on spending because "potash prices have softened."

I took Howe's comments to mean enjoy this boom, but remember that every boom eventually flattens and plan your financial future accordingly.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The fork in the road

A short while ago the city announced its long-term plan to grow the city up rather than out. Our increasing population was going to be accommodated within the existing footprint. It was to be density over sprawl.

Shortly after that, in speaking with a builder/developer, he said it wouldn't work and that people respond by taking their money to surrounding bedroom communities to get what they wanted, being their own little patch of land. He also said that that the average lot cost in the city is now $150,000 and of that about $35,000 represents new levies imposed on developers by the city, which are passed on to homeowners.

With the release of the recent census data it would appear that migration is already happening. Martensville is the hottest spot, followed by Warmen. It makes sense when you think about it. Living in a bedroom community means you have easy access to the amenities of the city without bearing the costs.

It is also a good time to remember that when our civic leaders speak of our growing and thriving metropolis having a population of 250,000 they are speaking of Saskatoon Region, not just the City of Saskatoon. And to also remember it is only those that live within the city limits that pay the cost of our rapid growth and wear the debt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What am I missing?

I am stymied by the argument put forth by labour with respect to opposition to the proposed CETA agreement, particularly the one about privatizing Canada's drinking water and sanitation systems. I thought during the potash debate it was clear that our country had control over its resources and could restrict outside corporations' activities here. Can anyone tell me what this is about?

Councillor Clark says this agreement will tie our hands into the future to do the things we need to do to develop our local economy. I thought most of the city's tenders had a rider that allowed consideration for other elements outside of best price.

Councillor Loewen said that we already have a procurement policy that is open to bidders from around the world and that CETA doesn't add much to the arsenal in terms of getting advantages. If that's the case, why oppose the agreement?

And I am taken aback that Councillor Iwanchuk was absent for this vote and to speak to the motion she put forth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is there a better way?

Is money the only way to compensate victims of institutional wrong-doing?

I do not make light of the abuse young boys may have suffered at the hands of the very people charged with their care and rehabilitation at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre (SP Feb. 6/12). I believe that anyone connected with meting out that abuse should be charged and tried for their crime. Victims should be given counselling and whatever other supports they need to recover.

If you are an innocent victim of a car accident, you can no longer sue for financial compensation for pain and suffering. Supposedly you get all necessary services to aid in your recovery.

The only people getting rich off these claims are the class action lawyers. Scarily, Regina lawyer Tony Merchant says this is just the tip of the iceberg and that these sorts of things must have been happening in other similar institutions. I expect he means our prison systems.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I don't think it's throw some money at it and hope it goes away.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Timing is everything

So Councillor Pat Lorje wants to be paid more money for the great job Council is doing and points to her counterparts at the Provincial level. Perhaps she should have continued her political career as an MLA.

Alternatively she wants more Councillors or to designate the position of Councillor as a full-time job. If Councillors are to be designated as full-time, then I would expect everyone holding outside jobs or running businesses to give up those other jobs and to park their butts at City Hall and punch a time clock as do other civic employees.

This Council collaborated with the province to increase their term of office without input from their voters. If they now want to implement changes to their status or give themselves whopping raises, we have a civic election coming this fall and she should lobby for referendum questions on the ballot regarding these issues.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A straight answer please

I know it is the year in which Councillors will try to profile themselves on issues related to their own wards and I expect that is what Councillor Darren Hill is trying to do in asking for a review on the future of the Traffic Bridge. Thus he raises the issue of the Traffic Bridge vis-a-vis a North Bridge (SP Feb. 2/12.) But there is a time when you have to look at the city as a whole and not just your own turf.

I assume Hill knows that the province has a long-term plan for a perimeter highway around the city connecting to a North Bridge as a route into Northern Saskatchewan. It is not intended to be just a city bridge but a provincial crossing and I expect the province will be bearing much of the cost.

I also assume he knows that a least a half dozen years ago the city had reports done on all the bridges and the University and Broadway bridges will need massive and expensive repairs in the not too distant future. When one of those bridges is closed for repairs, pressure is placed on the remaining bridges to carry the traffic load. And in its day, the Traffic Bridge carried a surprisingly high volume of traffic.

I do think when the South Bridge opens that a considerable amount traffic will be diverted from the city centre bridges. But the city also has a plan to increase the density in the core areas through in-fill projects and, in particular, the city centre. I recall the goal was to increase downtown residency to 10,000 souls.

It seems to me it is poor planning to want to double the size of our population within the existing city footprint without a plan as to how all these folks will get about the city.

As well, I thought the issue of a full service bridge vis-a-vis a pedestrian/bike bridge had already been determined. And I won't get into the heritage issue.

Could we not just have a valuable dialogue on this matter rather than political monologues?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Hail Mary pass

I am wondering if there are too many people in leadership positions that have suffered head injuries related to sports activities. I speak of the news items in the SP (Feb. 1/12) that report explorations to secure a CFL franchise for Saskatoon together with a stadium.

We are living in a period where citizens are struggling to secure affordable housing, expressing concerns about the homeless and growing line ups at food banks, together with a medicare system that may be in crisis. Added to the fray are reports from the Prime Minister and Premier that "revenue challenges" may equate to austerity measures. And yet we have people exploring high-cost sports teams and arenas.

They point to Alberta having two professional teams. Calgary has a concentrated population of about a million people along with numerous wealthy corporate head offices with money to spend. Edmonton is around a half million in population. And the whole of Saskatchewan boasts a little over one million in population spread out over a huge geographic area.

And let's not forget the number of times our Roughriders have claimed financial stress to rally the sports fanatics province wide.

Merciful God let this end quickly.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A man of conscience?

MP Brad Trost questions the discipline meted out by his political party on members who hold differing views from the party's established policies and platform (SP Jan. 31/12.) While I might agree that vigorous debate is necessary during the development of policies, once that has occurred and the party majority votes on the issue, the rest of the party is required to support it, although some simply choose to remain silent after the fact. It is our parliamentary system. If a member simply can't abide the majority decision then he or she should leave the party, join another or become an independent. Former MP Jim Pankiw is an example.

Trost stated that he admired politicians of all stripes who have vote according to their conscience or the will of residents in their ridings rather than blindly following the national party line. That is more the republican system. The flaw in his agrument is that he may not be voting the "will or the residents." I live in his riding and have never been surveyed as to my position on abortion, birth control, Planned Parenthood, gay rights or any of his other issues. Nor have many others in this constituency.

I know of people in this riding who voted for Trost in the last election only to avoid the "orange crush" that the media was reporting was sweeping the country. Trost didn't mind standing under the party banner when it seemed to help his electoral opportunities. Although Trost attempted to re-open the abortion debate late in the election, Harper clearly stated that was not going to happen. If Trost is a man of conscience, why didn't he then step away from the party and run as an independent? And he doesn't seem to mind the backroom rule that other party members to not challenge an incumbent for the nomination.

I sincerely hope that Harper tosses Trost in the same fashion Pankiw was "released" from the Conservative party. Perhaps its that threat that has him bringing this matter forward.

As a resident of Saskatoon Humboldt I was embarassed to have Pankiw as a MP and I am equally embarassed to have Trost representing my constituency. And I say this as an independent.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Frying pan to the fire?

With our rapid expansion as a city, you would think that election of civic politicians would attract some bright, new talent wanting to lead us into the future. Instead all the old has-beens are lining up - and before anyone can say it - this has-been will not be one of them. I refer to Saturday's SP (Jan. 29/12) article on the list of Council hopefuls. Quennell, Atkinson, Swystun and Dayday are sending out feelers. I don't discount the work these folks did or appreciate their service. But I question why they are considering this move.

Council appears to be the trampoline for politicians. It is being used as a starting point by some to showcase themselves for a future run at the provincial and federal level. Over the last term we have paid for three by-elections, two of which were to replace Councillors who moved on to better personal scenarios. Some City Councillors have attempted to move on by running for positions at the provincial and federal levels without success. Now we have those leaving the provincial level and looking to bounce back at the civic level. This may be the ultimate in recycling.

Will we actually have candidates that are truly committed to serving the city rather than themselves and their own aspirations? Perhaps we should have something in place that penalizes those who leave mid-term for any reason other than necessary personal circumstances - like you get to pay for the by-election.

Its early yet and more will come out to play I hope. But given the current list, the status quo, sad to say, may be looking good.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pandora's Box

I heard on CBC this morning that former Mayor Henry Dayday is strongly considering running for the Mayor's Chair in this year's civic election. I expect after this bomb dropped anyone else considering the position will have to come out quickly.

I like the idea of competition in an election if for no other reason than it forces dialogue.

However, should no one else come out of the woodwork, where will your vote go?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The gods are crazy

To suggest that the population of this city should double and to do so within the current city footprint leaves me feeling that Saskatoon's leaders may be drinking something other than water at City Hall.

I'm not opposed to growth. I understand the cost of urban sprawl on every level. I know their is a need to utilize existing properties to create affordable accommodation. I don't want to become the next Calgary or Toronto with all its sprawl issues. But I also don't want to become Hong Kong.

I would like balance and a plan that accommodates both the new and old. You can do in-fill development without destroying what already exists. And you can have expansion.

My son lives in downtown Calgary in multi-dwelling complex. They''ve enjoyed the concrete jungle and all its lifestyle. As they age and consider having a family they are looking to get out the core and for a home to raise a family in. They are heading out to the 'burbs and part of what they need is access to the C-train. They can't fathom living in a box and having a bird's eye view of the other boxes for the rest of their lives.

I haven't obtained a copy of this planning report yet but the news report (SP Jan. 25/12) left me feeling sick thinking of what's to come.

Worse yet is having the Mayor use this plan to justify if spending extravagances.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thanks for the legacy

In today's SP (Jan. 24/12) it was reported that S&P granted the city its AAA credit rating for all the usual reasons - the economy, strong cash and liquidity levels - but with a long-term review pending due to the high amount of borrowing from a very large capital program.

The next article notes that the City will be increasing its line of credit to $100 million, up from $60 million, in order to pay for some of the borrowing on major construction projects. One of the projects without identified funding in the Major Capital Projects document is the city yards and transit headquarters ($200 million.) We don't know yet where the other $100 million will sourced. This is money over and above the already planned debt of $310 million listed in the projects document.

With planned debt of $310 million for 2013 and pending debt of $200 million, we taxpayers will be in the hole to the tune of $510 million and counting.

Does anybody care?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lights, camera, action

I support the concept of camera surveillance use for police (SP Jan. 23/12.) It will go a long way in abetting police in dealing with the criminal element and/or allegations of police wrong doing. It may also curb a momentary urge by some police officers to use excessive force on any citizen.

Several years back I went on a police ride-a-long. At first I thought I would only see police on their best, rather than normal, behaviour. During the course of the tour I came to realize, as a result of this officer's interaction with the public, that his best behaviour was also his normal behaviour. I also witnessed the abuse heaped on police by some of the seedy residents of our city - and the futility they experience in doing their job.

As this program unfolds there will also have to be sanction ordered for those officers who "forget" to activate their camera when stopping a citizen. This door has to swing both ways.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jack be nimble . . .

It is hard for me to accept Jack Grover's defence of "altruism" as a reason for operating slum housing (SP Jan. 19/12.) His claim of trying to help people in need of affordable housing rings false, particularly given his history.

For him to lay fault with the firefighters for not getting the victim out is outrageous. Firefighters put themselves at risk the moment they enter a burning building. When the building becomes unstable the must exit and contain the fire from spreading. The man who knocked on doors to get all the other tenants out of the building is a hero. Our hero could have done what Grover himself did, which was exit the building and not putting himself a risk to save others. I hope this hero is acknowledged for his bravery.

As a landlord it is Grover's responsibility to ensure the smoke detectors are working. If the drug addict that he was renting to was disabling the detectors he should have evicted him from the premises. He had a duty and responsibility to his other tenants to safe guard them from the errant tenant.

What this article did not focus on was the fact that Grover put hotplates into these rooms when he was not permitted to and it was one of those hotplates that apparently started the fire. A man lost his life and many others lost everything they owned because their landlord failed in his duty to them. Grover on the other hand was raking in about $7,000 a month, if not more.

Now Grover wants out of the rental business and to volunteer his time helping the homeless. I would suggest the homeless have a better chance at survival without his help.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Museum pieces

In today's SP (Jan. 17/12) there is an article about the sale of medals and memorabilia items that once belonged the the late Tommy Douglas. The retired solider who has raised the issue is appalled and angry that none of our MLAs seem to be interested in having the province buy this back as Saskatchewan heritage artifacts.

The medals and memorabilia would have belonged to Douglas' family after his death and presumably it is they that put the articles up for auction. Yet this man is angry at the province for not purchasing same. If they were that important the family would have donated them to a provincial museum. Or perhaps the owners of Tommy Douglas House should have taken them for preservation and display.

I think this old solkier is venting his anger in the wrong direction.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Desperate times, desperate measures

Being a fly on the wall in some of the back room meetings at the Liberal convention in Ottawa last week would have made for some interesting listening.

I'm pretty sure that the party's stance on legalizing marijuana is intended to lure young voters into the Liberal fold. But I'm also pretty sure is will drive senior voters away in droves.

The debate on the monarchy will do about the same. I get the sense that most voters are ambivalent about the Royal Family. But again, many seniors are tied to the monarchy and many Canadians admire the Queen - and are smitten with the Will and Kate.

Although I think any party is wise to open up voting for the leadership to its membership, the idea of opening up voting to anyone who swears they support the party is an open invitation to the opposition to involve itself and skew the result.

I expect as this drama unfolds it will generate much media attention and in politics the old saw is "Bad press is better than no press."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hit the road Jack

Once again one of Jack Grover's rentals is involved in a fire death. Whether he was aware of a fire alarm being dismantled or not, he rented bedrooms furnished with hotplates which was in breach of conditions as the rooms were to be rented for sleeping quarters only with no cooking allowed (SP jan. 13/12.) Given his history I would have hoped that spot inspections would have been done to ensure he was complying with the condition.

This tradegy brings to the forefront the rental problems in this city. I was more than surprised to read that tenants were paying $450 a month for a bedroom with a hot plate and bar fridge. I suspect the maze of bedrooms was not kept in pristine condition. Grover would have pulled in $4,000 a month on these bedrooms alone plus whatever he received for the main floor suites. That should be more than sufficient revenue to properly maintain and operate this building.

How do you put a man like Grover out of the rental business? Sending him to jail simply means he hires someone to manage the properties while taxpayers pay for his keep. I just don't understand the greed that drives men like Grover.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stay healthy

After reading in this mornings paper (SP Jan. 12/12) the Conference Board of Canada's forecast for our continued growth, I read the article on hospitals and patient care. While I followed with interest the development of the city's infrastructure and amenities, it didn't cross my mind that our medicare services were not keeping pace with our population growth.

With the exception of City Hospital, our two other facilities are antiquated and in need of major repairs and up-grades. Although the province is trying to get a handle on patient wait lists, it will still need to deal with the old facilities and issues around staffing. I hope they won't wait until we hit the wall.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spoon fed pap

The Library Board had best not cancel its late return fines policy because it is going to take a lot of quarters to pay a more than $50 million dollar debt. I give credit to library director, Zenon Zuzak, for his honesty in stating the planned budget of $50 million will probably be higher given current market constructions prices (SP Jan. 11/12.)

While it's true the city has doubled in size since the construction of the current central library in 1966, it should also be mentioned that in that era branch libraries in new neighbourhoods were not the norm. Nor did we have online booking and e-books.

What I hate most is the spoon feeding of these announcements. First we had the library survey to let us know about the user rate of the library. Today its having the library take the police station property and soon to follow will be City Hall taking the central library space to expand its growing operations. Couldn't we just get the whole package laid out with a price tag attached?

It is time to remember that come 2013 we will have debt of $310 million on major projects before we add on the library, relocation of the bus barns and city yards, City Hall expansion, transit mall, roadway rehabilitation and, and, and . . .when does this end?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bottoms up!

No wonder the job of House of Commons Speaker is a stiff competition. Not only do you get a residence and chauffeur, you get to choose the scotch you will drink and serve over your term (SP Jan. 10/12.)

This relatively new tradition, adopted from Britain in 2003 by retired Speaker Peter Milliken, is a pretty nice perk if you are a scotch drinker - and I will assume if your not a scotch drinker when you started in office, you will be when you leave.

To the credit of current Speaker, Andrew Scheer, he didn't go for the cheap stuff or the most expensive libation. And he did do the selection democratically by inviting House members to a tasting and let them cast a vote.

Apparently House Members can buy this gift, and get is signed by the Speaker, for a mere $75 a bottle. Not knowing the liquor board price for this scotch, I want to assume that price includes the heavy tax placed on booze. He also states the initiative is a full cost recovery, save for the nominal label costs, and that House Members buy it out of pocket - although I'm not sure whose pocket he's talking about.

I don't expect to receive this gift bottle from my MP, or to be invited to the Speaker's residence for a nip. I'll just watch for snoozing MPs and figure out for myself who is on the guest list.

Only in Ottawa.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blown away

I admit I was blown away with the news report (SP Jan. 7/12) that the wind turbine project was to be put on hold - even more so for the reason that the project was coming in over budget. I can't think of one other project that got cancelled for that reason. This is what I like about election years - politicians become more cognizant of voter opinions.

What is most irksome is that the City spent $500,000 before coming to this juncture. The budget for the project would have been developed during the consulting process. And the only bid on the project came from the company that did much of the consulting work. You would think this company would have known the prices and advised accordingly while billing for the advice.

Perhaps its face-saving, but to have the folks from Saskatoon Light and Power maintain that they still believe that the landfill is best location for a wind turbine, despite the expert report from the Research Council saying the site was marginal, has to make me question the wisdom of this administrative advice.

There is more blowing in this project than wind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Never a borrower or a lender be

I was pleased to read the province introduced the Payday Loans Act. I admit to not being a big supporter of pawn shops, money marts and the like, but I have come to understand for those in desperate need they are a necessity.

I have a special distaste for pawn shops. While on Council, at the request of the police, the operations of these businesses was reviewed. Police found that too many stolen articles were being sold through these shops. I toured many of them and became horribly depressed when seeing kids' toys and bikes had been pawned for pennies. I couldn't wrap my head around how anyone could be so desperate for $5 or $10 that they would sell off toys.

I also discovered that a big market was construction workers pawning their tools for the weekend and then looking to employers for salary advances so they could redeem them for work the following week.

I'm not sure that posting the fees through large signage so customers can shop around will make any difference. I was led to believe that once a relationship is established between the business and it's customer, the customer is pretty much hooked. And anyone that desperate for money probably isn't shopping for best rates - only quick cash.

Although 23 per cent still seems outrageous, I would guess anything lower than that would see some of these businesses reducing service. Then again, many credit card companies charge far higher rates and get away with it.

Maybe money is the root of all evil.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The race is on

We welcome the new year with Mayor Atch's announcement that he will seek re-election in the 2012 civic election. No great surprise. Given the lack of interest in the position I suspect it will be much like the provincial election with a foregone conclusion.

The provincial economy is booming. Even Mother Nature has lined up in support - there will be a budget surplus in snow clearing and removal.

It would appear that the only issue we have is affordable housing. The solution to that problem is developing another 10,000 housing lots. The fact that lots are priced on average at $150,000 each is not a concern. Why? Because we are not in a boom time - this is our new norm. The good times are here to stay.

If for no other reason than optimism, Don will carry the year ahead.