In the harbour
1. Allan Rowe
Dartmouth South MLA Allan Rowe died yesterday. He had been hospitalized after suffering a ruptured aneurysm while shovelling snow on February 20.
2. Dartmouth City Hall
Frances Fares has decided not to purchase the former Dartmouth City Hall building. “We did a lot of investigation and no matter how we sliced it, it was not feasible for us to do it as-of-right and we decided to pull out of it,” Fares told the Chronicle Herald.
The as-a-right approval limits any construction on the site to seven storeys. I’m guessing this is the beginning of a bureaucratic dance: Fares will soon come back with a counter-offer for the site, with the offer including a development agreement for a taller structure.
They hate us.
For the past 2 months, the sorry state of the sidewalks has been topic #1 in Halifax, raising the ire of pedestrians and putting politicians on the defensive. “There’s nothing we can do!” they say. “It’s a bad winter!” The contractors get whiney interviews in Metro talking about how they’re unfairly blamed…
And yet, yesterday, somebody was paid to plow the sidewalks at Dartmouth High. It was evidently not the same contractor paid to clear the city sidewalk in front of the school, because the Dartmouth High snow clearer put all the snow in a six-foot pile on the city sidewalk, making it utterly impassable to all but a mountain climber. And no, this was not a case of “oh, there’s nowhere else to put it” — on either side of the Dartmouth High sidewalk is an empty school yard, certainly capable of holding the sidewalk snow. The plow driver could turn his plow to the north or to the south, leaving the snow out of everyone’s way. Instead, the driver chose to drive the plow to the east, leaving us this mess.
The incident demonstrates what’s wrong with using contractors for snow clearing. I don’t know if this is feuding contractors, a turf war between the contractor hired by the school board and the contractor hired by the city, or whether it’s as simple as “I got paid to get the snow off the high school and that’s what I did.” But either way, “fuck you” is the message to pedestrians.
At the very least, someone should be fired. Really, were there any justice in this world, the contractor who did this would be fined, and forced to stand on the sidewalk for the rest of the week and personally apologize to each and every pedestrian.
And while I’m at it, it’s not enough for a contractor to make the pass between Dartmouth High and the Sportsplex just once after a snowfall. The winds across the high school football field redeposit the snow back on the sidewalk, sometimes making it even deeper than it was from the original snowfall. And by the Bridge Terminal there’s another battle between contractors, the people clearing the terminal walkways and driveways depositing the snow back on the city sidewalk. Between the redeposited snow, the hill, and the foot traffic around the Bridge Terminal, the sidewalk gets dangerously iced up.
This is the busiest pedestrian area in Dartmouth, with thousands of pedestrians every day. It requires one person in charge of snow clearing operations, with workers cooperating to make the area safe for pedestrians, clearing the entire area, repeatedly.
It has nothing to do with the weather. An especially bad winter doesn’t cause a contractor to dump a six–foot pile of snow on a sidewalk or to every year utterly ignore a sidewalk after a perfunctory single pass. How can the people hiring the contractors not see the problems with their own eyes? Do they not walk themselves? The alternative is that they do see the problems, and just don’t give a damn.
4. Still more snow
Ten to 30 centimetres of snow is forecast for tonight.
Given the never-ending winter, the people who operate The Oval have decided to extend the season past the originally scheduled Friday closing date. The facility will remain open Saturday and Sunday. That is, unless they have to close because of more snow.
6. Wild Kingdom
A pygmy sperm whale found dead on McNabs Island last year died from plastic trash, reports the CBC:
Veterinarians, along with students from P.E.I.’s Atlantic Veterinary College and Dalhousie University’s biology department, performed a necropsy.
Tonya Wimmer, the coordinator of Marine Animal Response Society, said they found cuts on its neck and tail. In the stomach, they discovered plastic.
“We actually found quite a few plastic bags and plastic strapping — the kind you’d find on boxes of paper or on fish bait boxes. The animal had actually ingested it and got basically lodged just before its stomach, which meant it couldn’t feed after that,” said Wimmer.
“The pygmy sperm whale rarely visits Canadian waters,” notes the CBC article in passing, which prompted me to take to the google, where I found this 1920 article written by Harry Piers, then the curator of the Provincial Museum in Halifax, about a pygmy sperm whale found at Herring Cove. I apologize for the screen shots, as there’s not time to retype it:
Piers went on to describe the habitat and range of the species, and speculate as to how this particular whale came to Halifax. He took detailed measurements of the animal:
And concluded by interviewing local native people:
1. Amherst train station
Peter Ziobrowski alerts us to the uncertain future of the Amherst train station:
Still owned by VIA, it was closed in 2012 when The Ocean went to 3 days a week. The train still stops; however, the train crew handles customer service.
There were plans for the town to operate an artisan market in the station, but pipes burst last winter, causing $200,000 in damage. VIA is looking to sell the station to the town, but the town requires a use for it.
I get a kick out of riding on the train through eastern Canada. It travels ridiculously slow, and the railroad has thoughtfully put signs on telephone poles so the passing train passengers know where they are.
2. Failed leadership
Two municipal issues are dominating the news in this never-ending winter: the failed clearing of ice from sidewalks and the proposed realignment of fire resources. At their heart, both issues speak deeply to the interplay between politics and governance, and both demonstrate how city councillors have failed to demonstrate the leadership that’s required to run the city effectively.
I went on to explain in detail each of the issues, and how they come back to failed leadership from city council.
After publishing the article, I got a bunch of hate mail from firefighters. Anyone who has read the Examiner for more than a nanosecond knows that I am a strong union supporter, and am quick to come to the defence of workers facing over-bearing bosses. On pay and safety issues, I’m right there with the workers. But for the life of me, I cannot understand the complaining firefighters’ argument. The proposal put forward by Chief Trussler makes sure there are four responding firefighters to a structure fire, and importantly, meets the service standards. We can continue to have too many fire stations servicing the old urban areas, but at the expense of having too few fire stations in quickly developing areas.
As I pointed out yesterday, sure, we could keep the existing fire stations and add more in the new areas, at an additional cost of $7.5 million a year. But we all know that’s not what’s going to happen:
I can see where this is going. Councillors won’t demonstrate the leadership needed to counter an uninformed citizenry demanding that no fire station ever close, so councillors will vote to keep all fire stations open amid some vague promise of in the future adding new stations, buying new equipment, and filling existing gaps in the system. But then, in the future, as with winter operations, councillors won’t demonstrate the leadership needed to tell an uninformed citizenry that providing proper fire protection means increasing funding, which means raising taxes, and so those promised new stations, new equipment, and filled gaps will never materialize.
I don’t know what the fire department version of this year’s icy sidewalks is, but whatever it is, we’re heading there. It probably won’t be this year or next, but sooner or later the fire system is going to have some stresser, the equivalent of a hard winter, and something’s going to fail.
No public meetings.
On this date in 1776, British loyalists evacuated Boston and sailed for Halifax.
Thesis defence, Philosophy (10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Eve Roberts will defend her thesis, “System-Driven Research: Legitimate Experimental Design for Biology/Biomedical Research.”
Ocean acidification (11:30am, Room 5263, LSC – Psychology Wing)—Bernard Boudreau will speak on “Neutralization of ocean acidification.” If you don’t know about ocean acidification, you should read up on it; it’s probably the greatest single threat to most life on the planet.
Collaboration (1pm, Rowe 3089)—Sandra Toze will speak on “Are We Smarter Together? Examining Effective Collaboration in Groups.” Her abstract:
Collaboration is considered a key mechanism for solving complex and wicked problems. At the heart of collaboration is the assumption that many brains will generate more innovative and creative solutions – that we are “smarter” together. In reality, groups do not always achieve their potential, and in extreme cases groups make disastrous decisions. We still do not fully understand why some groups succeed and others fail. This talk will examine a key aspect of group work – how and when groups, working on multiple tasks over time, identify their information needs, find and use information. An information behaviour lens is used to deconstruct group work flow to identify points where information breakdowns commonly occur. Suggestions for better tools and processes to facilitate more effective collaboration during group work will be discussed.
Dithiolene and Diselenolene (1;30pm, Chemistry Building, Room 226)—Eric Bushnel will talk.
Planetarium show (2:30pm, Room 120, Dunn Building)—”The stars have no break” is the title of this show:
Some of the brightest stars visible are ‘up’ in the constellations of the clear Winter-Spring night sky; this year Venus and Jupiter shine brightly amongst them. Come and learn where to find these objects and what makes them shine.
Five bucks at the door. No screaming kids.
Racism (6pm,Room 303 Dalhousie Student Union Building)—Wanda Thomas Bernard will facilitate a discussion on “Racism is killing us softly: Exploring racism in employment as a human rights issue.” There will be a presentation by students from the School of Social Work and testimony from a black firefighter.
In the harbour
Oceanex Sanerling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Halterm
Redhead, bulk carrier, Quebec to anchorage
Yantian Express, container ship, Colombo, Sri Lanka to Fairvew Cove West
Gladiator, bulk carrier, arriving from New York
Opal Ace, car carrier, Emden, Germany to Autoport
Bahri Jeddah, cargo, Baltimore to Pier 31
Zim Monaco sails to New York
Never enough time. There’s no “Noticed” today.
I’ve had enough.
I am glad Fares pulled out of the deal for the old Dartmouth City Hall building.
Now there just might be a chance that the province will recognize what a great courthouse that building would make for the Dartmouth Provincial Court. It would be a vast improvement on the mess they have now, the ugly grey blob across from the Dartmouth hospital. It’s got to be among the worst buildings ever for a court. Every courtroom has rotten acoustics, the lighting is dim, and the awkward angle of the building skews the approach and entrances away from the street. The city hall building is far more dignified and more importantly, in contrast to the current courthouse, it actually looks like a public building.
I think there are some material issues with the existing building, but I so very much agree about the Dartmouth courthouse. Besides your complaints, I’d add location and the lack of free parking. Many of the people dragged through the justice system vehicleless, and making it way out Pleasant Street is a big hassle. Many others have cars, but the $3 charge is significant.
On the topic of marine wildlife dying because of human activities (garbage in the oceans, entanglement in fishing gear): People always say “So sad”, frequently accompanied by a heartfelt sad-face emoticon. I wonder if people will ever get mad, in addition to sad. Here is another “tragic” story of a dead whale that has been shared and discussed this week. This one makes me mad. One of the questions I ask myself and anyone within earshot is, if this kind of torture was observed in terrestrial wildlife or domestic animals, causing individual animals to suffer infected injuries for weeks and months, gradually starving to death, would we do more to stop it?
P.s. the pygmy sperm whale carcass was retrieved last fall and stored in a freezer, long before Winter Came, so its death is not attributable to unusual ice unlike the historic example presented. Love the screencap for context.
Money or the lack of it seems to be at the core of every action taken by government/council regardless of whether it is beneficial for citizens. Why?
We need to stop ignoring the huge, smelly elephant gleefully shitting in the corner of the room; 1) what is money, 2) who controls it, 3) why is it scarce (the only value it has is the confidence we, the users, place in it as a unit of exchange). Zoom out, micro is only ever a fraction of the truth.
Another important contemplation for the fire station issue stretches into other territory: public land. If we get rid of a fire station in the core, what will happen to the land? There’s little doubt that CAO Richard Butts and others at City Hall will be jockeying for the lands to be sold, and forever they will be out of public hands. So, what happens if we meet our development targets and urban density increases? We’ll need more fire stations, that’s what. And we’ll have to use other public land for them. We’ll carve off another corner of the common, and the driving public won’t care because they can just scoot out of town ASAP, while those who don’t have that option will be left with a less livable, less walkable city. And so now I’ve devolved into some seriously speculative territory! But I think it’s illustrative of a real concern. I feel we would all lose in a scenario where we sell off these lands. Obviously we could let a community organization use them for 5, 10, 20 years until we need to rebuild the land as a fire station or a school or whathaveyou. But what is the chance of that right now? Our CAO and staff have given us every indication that “everything must go” as the old commercial slogan goes.
This also reminds me of the municipal council-seat redistricting, where the review basically said “we don’t believe the city and the city planners have any intention of meeting their targets for urban growth, so let’s just assume that the suburbs will continue to grow and the core will continue to stagnate.” Yes. Those that do these reviews are correct: our city planners, other staff, and council have given no indication that they intend to push for urban growth. But maybe it would be sensible for our city to at least pretend that their policies, plans, and rhetoric is remotely truthful.
If Canada Post plans proceed, the 63% of Canadian households who get door-to-door mail delivery now will see that service eliminated during the next few years. In the best weather, this will create a completely unnecessary inconvenience (and hardship in many cases). Imagine winters. Imagine the challenge of trying to get to snow- and ice-bound community mailboxes.
It’s not clear whether the municipality or Canada Post will be responsible for clearing access to such mailboxes, but it’s not going to be pretty or cheap. “We’ll get to them after we dig out the sidewalks and intersections and parking meters”.
And what is being planned to accommodate the many residents who will drive to their mailboxes on busy streets and stop to get their mail regardless of the effect on other motorists and on pedestrians? I see an increase in rear-end collisions and slowing of traffic generally (usually an obsession of HRM).
Many municipalities in Canada are asking the tough questions of the federal government and Canada Post and have demanded that Canada Post abandon this foolhardy plan. Mayor Mike Savage and HRM Councillors are outliers. They ignore the interests and concerns of residents as they glug down the Canada Post Kool-Aid.
Re Dartmouth High: I was among those who climbed the sidewalk snow mountain yesterday. Mollified to see I was not the only one perplexed. On the other hand, at least some sidewalks in that area had been done. Busy sidewalks off Spring Garden, including the block with the new library, were still untouched.
The firefighters’ argument is simple: of course they want 4-person crews (all of us should want 4-person crews on the trucks), but they can use FUD with the proposed closing of stations to try and get more firefighters (and therefore union members) hired.
I’m not against hiring more firefighters – but if we can do the job (i.e. meet service standards) with our current staffing simply by making more effective use of our existing resources, then that must be the preferred option!