1. Basketball courts
Twitterer @HalifaxChris alerted a bunch of us media folk about the ridiculous situation at the St. Joseph’s A. McKay School basketball courts, and the CBC’s Brett Ruskin took the issue and ran with it:
Developers of a nearby condominium project have built a plywood wall to protect the public while workers excavate the lot.
But there’s one big problem: The wall cuts off one end of the court beside St. Joseph’s A. McKay School and runs right up underneath the basketball nets.
The strip of land being negotiated isn’t owned by the parents, the school board or the developer. It’s municipal property.
“It’s hard to have a deal when the property is actually owned by HRM,” says District 8 Coun. Jennifer Watts.
She says the city served an order to comply to the developer, explaining the building codes required for them to construct the plywood wall. The codes dictate the construction method and distance the wall should be from the construction site.
The developer followed those codes, which meant the wall was built in a space that interferes with the playground’s basketball nets.
Ruskin posted photos of the debacle on Twitter:
2. Sawmill River
“An engineering report on replacing an aging Dartmouth culvert appears to challenge claims by Halifax Water and the municipality that unearthing the buried Sawmill River is too costly and complicated,” reports the Chronicle Herald’s Brett Bundale.
Halifax Water has consistently refused to make public the CBCL report examining options for Sawmill River, saying that the report was only in draft form. Still, the utility maintained that bringing the river partially above ground was too costly. But, reports Bundale:
The 361-page CBCL report delves into multiple options for replacing the pipe and settles on both a box culvert and an open channel.
This is recommended as the “lower-cost, least-risk and most technically viable solution,” the report said, adding that it also has “a lower project life-cycle cost and the shortest construction schedule.”
The old steel pipe would be replaced with a roughly four metre-by-four metre box culvert — significantly larger than the existing steel pipe to accommodate increasing storm surges and sea-level rise — and include a fish passage from the harbour to Irishtown Road.
From there, the Sawmill River would once again become an open “daylighted” channel to Sullivans Pond, with needed bridges along the way.
The total project would come with a price tag just under $14 million.
Bundale obtained the report through a Freedom of Information request. Realizing that the release of the report completely contradicts its past public statements about the river, Halifax Water is back-tracking:
Halifax Water spokeswoman James Campbell clarified Friday that the utility has always been on board with an open channel.
“I think there seems to be some confusion with daylighting,” Campbell said. “There is a distinction between a naturalized daylighted channel and an engineered open channel.
This is what we in the business call “not true.” Bundale continues:
Jocelyne Rankin, Ecology Action Centre’s water co-ordinator and an advocate for daylighting Sawmill River, said the CBCL report is extremely detailed and thorough.
She said it covered off many questions related to unearthing Sawmill River, including costs, design, engineering, geology, fish passage, archeology and history.
“Halifax Water has been quite dismissive of daylighting … but this report provides a very different take on it,” Rankin said.
But the municipal staff report, released in May, shot down the option of daylighting based on property, technology and construction challenges. In fact, the report cast doubt on whether any fish passage would work at all.
3. Confederate flag
I’ve been quite clear with my views about the Confederate flag, but I think banning is a step too far. People should be educated about the explicit racism embedded in the flag, and should be shamed for flying it. But while certainly governments and organizations shouldn’t display it, outright banning gets us into a different territory, where the flag becomes the perverse banner of “free speech.”
4. Mother Canada™
About 50 people who used to work in Cape Breton Highlands National Park have signed a letter in support of the proposed Mother Canada™ monument, disagreeing with 28 former Parks Canada managers who have panned the project.
The supporters all appear to be Islanders. One, Ingonish resident Cliff Robinson, told the CBC the monstrosity would help the Island economy:
It does carry some great things — potential improvements to the Cabot Trail. I’m sure if we can get some more people here, it will improve accommodations. Restaurants will be busy, service stations, convenience stores. So I think there is some great spin off.
And Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who grew up on the Island, mocked the proposal in a tweet this weekend:
5. Group homes
Whoops. Halifax councillor Darren Fisher, who represents North Dartmouth and who is also running as a Liberal candidate in this fall’s federal election, perhaps should’ve thought about the political implications of questioning the process of siting group homes, which are administered by the provincial government, now governed by the Liberals.
This pops up from time to time in most cities. Some residents have vague but unfounded fears of group homes — they are perhaps confusing group homes, which house people with disabilities, with half-way houses, which house people involved in the criminal justice system — and start demanding “action” from their councillor.
Thing is, higher levels of government have long ago prevented local governments from zoning or regulating the siting of group homes, for a very good reason: doing so would discriminate against people solely on the basis of their disability. (As with all properties, local governments can regulate for numbers of residents in a dwelling, bylaw issues, and so forth; they just can’t pass a blanket rule against group homes.)
In Fisher’s case, he cited the unnamed concerns expressed by unnamed residents in an unnamed neighbourhood about unnamed group homes, and said he would bring the issue to the next council meeting, and request a city report on the issue. Had such a report been written, it would no doubt say that the city had no right to regulate group homes, but Fisher would perhaps earn some brownie points from the unnamed residents for “at least trying.” It is election season, after all.
But Fisher didn’t factor in the response from provincial politicians who, as reported by Metro’s Stephanie Taylor, responded appropriately:
“Fear always comes from the unknown,” Department of Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said of the issue Tuesday.
Bernard explained these homes are run by either non- or for-profit organizations, not by the province.
Each service provider must follow a “rigorous process” to obtain a licence, meet departmental standards and undergo inspections, she added.
“We are a caring society. We have an obligation to provide the best possible services and quite frankly, people deserve where they want to live. They have the same rights,” she said Tuesday.
1. Shubie Park
“I’ve walked in [Shubie] park perhaps once before, but not in this century,” writes Stephen Archibald, but then on Sunday returns to the park and notices a bunch of stuff that’s escaped my attention even though I’ve been there probably 25 times this year alone.
2. Pan Am Games
Jan Wong disses the entire experience:
In a completely unscientific poll of my friends, only two said they were going to events. Another was a volunteer driver. That worried me because the last time she backed out of my Toronto driveway, she hit my oak tree.
Most people, myself included, couldn’t figure out what was on or where to go, and we were too lazy to find out. In our defence, finding Pan Am venues was like ordering coffee at Starbucks: you had to speak the lingo. Corporate sponsors had renamed existing fields and arenas. Pan Am disorganizers increased the confusion, identifying sites with mystery initials such as MRT, HEN, CEP, TTS and WFC.
Toronto spent $2.5 billion it didn’t have on the Pan Ams. When we finally surpassed one million tickets at the midpoint, the city declared the Games a success. But that meant 400,000 tickets were still unsold.
3. Cranky letter of the day
For the past three years, my daughter has studied at Auburn University in Alabama. On July 21, I flew to Atlanta to join her and begin the long drive home to Nova Scotia. I booked passage on the Nova Star for July 24 (an overnight voyage from Portland). We reserved two seats plus kennel space for her cat: total cost $540 Cdn. (If we had reserved an inside cabin, the 12-hour voyage would have cost in excess of $1,200 — way too rich for our budget.)
After parking our car on Deck 5, we were instructed to leave her cat in the kennel before accessing the stairs to the upper decks. The “kennel” is actually several wire cages mounted on the wall of the vehicle area. There are no walls between the cages, so the animals are face to face unless they’re in their own carriers. Water is available from a hose. Passengers are responsible for cleaning up after their pets, but it was obvious that previous passengers had failed to do so, as empty water dishes and food containers littered the area. The animals are locked in for more than 12 hours and their owners cannot access the area during the voyage.
Our assigned seats on Deck 9 were not together, but it soon became clear that few passengers would be travelling “cheap,” so we were at least able to sit together. Showers are available, but one has to ask for towels. As the evening progressed, Deck 9 became very cold and we had to demand blankets which were reluctantly given. Pillows were refused to us, with the comment that passengers in seats are not allowed such luxuries. Lights in the seating area are not dimmed during the night. To get some sleep, my daughter resorted to lying on the floor.
The website also fails to mention that passengers cannot bring food on board. Fortunately, we had supper before boarding.
In the morning, all passengers are mustered to common areas before disembarking. We went to one of the pubs where coffee and pastries were offered. A small muffin and coffee cost $7.40, tax and gratuity included. We sat beside two seniors who were on a bus tour. One had considered breakfast in one of the restaurants until she learned that egg, toast and coffee would cost her $13.50. She also mentioned that her cabin was adequate as a place to sleep, but nothing more — in other words, hardly worth the cost.
As a Nova Scotia taxpayer, I am highly offended that the $30 million we have contributed to the Nova Star gives us little in return. The crew did not engage with us in a friendly, welcoming and helpful manner, and public areas such as bathrooms and the kennel area had not been cleaned prior to our boarding.
At no time during the voyage did any crew check to see if those of us on Deck 9 were comfortable or in need of anything. I sincerely hope that a decision regarding the Yarmouth-Portland ferry service does not include the Nova Star and that an alternative carrier can be engaged who will offer exemplary passenger service to all on board.
M.J. McMaster, Gaspereau
No public meetings.
In the harbour
ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 this morning, sails to sea before noon
Baltic Mercur II, general cargo, arrived at Pier 42 this morning, sails to sea this afternoon
ZIM Savannah, container ship, New York to Pier 42
Asphalt Sailor sails to sea
The tug Ocean Arctique arrived at Pier 9 last night, and is awaiting a permanent berthing assignment. It is here to work on the Macdonald Bridge reconstruction project.
Am I the only one who dislikes the “Big Lift” branding? It’s a clunker to my ears, and why does a construction project need to be branded?
A reminder that on Thursday, at the Central Library, at 6:30pm, author Philip Slayton will be discussing his new book, “Mayors Gone Bad.” I was interviewed for and am quoted in the book.
Later today, I’ll publish an article by Moira Donovan about environmental racism in Nova Scotia.
Despite the sparsity of new material on the site, I’ve been quite busy researching and interviewing people for a larger project I’m working on. I have no idea when that’s going to start rolling out, but I’m making progress.
Today and tomorrow, we’re working on the next two Examineradio podcasts.