In the harbour
1. Linda Mosher complains about Linda Mosher-created problem
Councillor Linda Mosher is complaining about the city’s slow snow-clearing operations. Reports Metro:
A Halifax regional councillor says she’s getting more calls about snow clearing in the past week than when White Juan hit in 2004.
Coun. Linda Mosher, who represents Halifax West Armdale, says the influx of calls came after several streets in her district hadn’t been cleared until late Thursday following last Monday’s storm.
“Some residents had to call into work and cancel, and there were some issues with elderly people,” Mosher said Sunday, adding one person with disabilities couldn’t leave her home because the YMCA snow clearing group that looks after steps wasn’t able to access her street.
Mosher said a main issue seems to be individual contracts for sidewalks, roads and bus stops creating piecemeal clearing.
But of course, those “individual contracts for sidewalks” are the result of Mosher’s own initiative. Having the city clear sidewalks — as opposed to residents having the responsibility to clear the sidewalks in front of their houses — has long been Mosher’s pet project, and she succeeded in getting council to agree to the city-wide plan in 2013, and as I wrote last year:
Having a blanket, HRM-wide policy of the city plowing sidewalks is just plain stupid. Sure, it can be useful in the suburbs, and about half the suburbs already have taxed themselves to get the service. Mosher could’ve encouraged the residents in her district to do the same, but no, she worked to get every neighbourhood in HRM to have city plowing, whether they wanted it or not. The evidence is in: plows don’t work on often-narrow, and often-impeded, urban sidewalks with lots of foot traffic. It takes shovelling, by hand, to do the job right. No sooner had the new policy been implemented than our first ice storm arrived. The plows packed the ice, making sidewalks treacherous. Hundreds of people suffered broken bones from slipping on the ice this winter, and Mosher’s ill-conceived policy is responsible.
This year’s storms are even worse, and the sidewalks still more treacherous. Make no mistake: this is entirely Linda Mosher’s fault.
2. Getting bombed on Spring Garden Road
Sunday midday, police cordoned off Spring Garden Road between Robie Street and Carleton Streets, evacuated the block and brought the sniffer dog in. “‘@CTVAtlantic soon I’ll bombing my self here enjoy with yours…weed #Halifax,’ wrote @need_smook, who posted a picture of Mary’s Place Cafe II with the tweet,” reported the Chronicle Heard. The @need_smook account has since been deleted.
As later related in a police press release:
At about 11:10 a.m. an employee of one of the local media outlets called 911 to report a tweet from an unknown person who indicated they were getting guns and explosives and going to harm themselves and others. It appeared that the person was targeting an address in the 5900 block of Spring Garden Road in Halifax. Several police units responded and one of the businesses in the area was evacuated upon consultation with the owners. Spring Garden Road was blocked between Carleton and Robie Streets with vehicular and pedestrian traffic being restricted from the area. Officers notified people at several businesses and residences in the area regarding the potential threats and most persons left the area on their own. An K9 Unit trained in detecting explosives attended and checked all the businesses in one complex with nothing of note located. The area was reopened after about four hours. At this point there has been no other threats from this Twitter account that police are aware of at this time. Officers in the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division will continue the investigation in the hopes of identifying the person or people responsible.
The business evacuated was Mary’s Place Cafe, which
is was owned (see update below) by Roy Khoury, who is Syrian. As Mackenzie Scrimshaw reported in 2013, the local Syrian population of about 500 people has been deeply divided over the Syrian civil war. One group, opposed to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, held a rally:
They met at Victoria Park to commemorate the second anniversary of the conflict, which has now claimed more than 70,000 lives. Together, the demonstrators walked around downtown Halifax as part of the Worldwide March for Syria.
Masalmeh led an upwards of 30 Syrians and their supporters around downtown Halifax during the Worldwide March for Syria. He repeatedly cried out against president Bashar al-Assad, alternating between “Free, free Syria” and “Down, down Bashar.”
The protestors trailing behind him echoed Mohamed’s anti-regime slogans. They waved six opposition flags as they marched. Two Canadian flags were visible, fluttering between them. One man carried a Kurdish flag.
Mary’s Place owner Khoury, however, is an outspoken supporter of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad:
Roy Khoury, who supports Assad, says that’s not the problem. “Why are you asking the government to stop killing? That’s his job. The president, that’s his job: to protect his country.”
Khoury has a photo hung of Assad at his restaurant’s second location on Spring Garden Road —a decision Khoury says has over the last year cost him many of his Syrian customers. He says the picture’s presence has also caused many non-Syrian Arabs to boycott his business.
In that context, a bomb threat at Mary’s Place is extremely unsettling.
Except, that’s probably not what it was at all. As Examiner reader Chris Parsons points out:
But here’s the thing — the business above Mary’s is High Life Social Club, a lounge dedicated to smoking pot. It seems to me like some idiot decided to tweet at CTV to tell them he was going to go get really high and the cops thought it was a bomb threat.
Again, here’s the @need_smook tweet that got the whole thing started:
@CTVAtlantic soon I’ll bombing my self here enjoy with yours…weed #Halifax [with a picture of the building containing both Mary’s Place and the High Life Social Club]
Two minutes on google this morning and I see the term “smook” is used to refer to, as the cops put it, marihuana, and “need smook” means, well, “I need marihuana.” Here’s a graphic on a Tumbler page called “In Weed We Trust“:
Update, 9:40am: In December, Wayne & Kelly DeCoste bought Mary’s Place II from Khoury. Says their daughter Bridgette via email:
Just wanted to clarify that Mary’s Place Cafe 2 was purchased by my family over a year ago. We are a bunch of maritimers and removed the controversial sirian memorabilia back when we bought it. And yes, as mentioned in the bottom of the article, the bomb threat was targeted at “high life” the cafe upstairs. Roy Khoury sold Mary’s 1 about 6 years ago so he is no longer affiliated with either.
I mean, really cold. And five days out is too far to make a reliable forecast in the Maritimes, but Weather Underground does better than most, and is predicting another 12–20cm of snow on Friday.
4. Wild Kingdom
So far, bat colonies on Cape Breton Island seem to have staved off the white-nosed syndrome that is devastating bat populations across North America. Sadly, this contrasts with the mainland bat population. “Our best case scenario of the five sites that we monitored was a 97 per cent decline,” Hugh Broders, a biologist who studies bats at Saint Mary’s University, tells CBC. “And the worst case scenario was a 100 per cent decline relative to the pre white-nose syndrome numbers.”
1. University funding
“What is most predictably depressing is that the students seem the only ones publicly defending the value of a university education,” writes Stephen Kimber, who clearly sets out the facts:
• “There’s a ‘not sustainable’ $50-million chasm between what Nova Scotia universities need and what the province gives.”
• “The former NDP government slashed university grants by 10 per cent while restricting tuition increases to three per cent,” creating the “chasm.”
• “Since being elected in October 2013,” notes a student press release, “the Liberals have increased tuition fees by three per cent, slashed funding to student assistance and failed to restore any of the $92.8 million cut from provincial university funding since 2011.”
• Meanwhile, says Kimber, Premier Stephen “McNeil’s government is spending another $13 million ($41.5 million and climbing) for a never-sustainable ferry and north of $20 million on a botched Bluenose refit.”
In the scheme of things, and especially in terms of return on investment (far more than any of the “silver bullet” economic development schemes that benefit mostly private corporations), $50 million is chicken feed. If you need a comparison, $50 million is in the same ballpark as the $42 million price tag for the new jail the province just built.
We can afford what we want to afford. We should fully fund universities.
2. Cranky letter of the day
… I knew that when property owners are responsible for clearing their own sidewalks, the job gets done better and faster.
We’ve had seven or eight snow events this year and all were a huge fail in terms of sidewalk-clearing. At the time of this writing, it had been about 54 hours since the snow stopped and the sidewalks to my office still had not been touched by a plow.
The HRM needs to stop this experiment now. The snow-clearing is just not happening, and as a taxpayer, I’m not receiving the service I paid for. I want my money back.
George Publicover, Halifax
Grant Committee (10am, City Hall)—City council has committed $300,000 of funding for arts organizations this year. City staff is bringing forward a recommended grant schedule. See the full list of organizations and the amount they’ll receive if staff’s recommendation is accepted, here.
Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall)—not a lot going on, except the commission will look at next year’s budget as tweaked by council. Meaning, more money, basically.
No public meetings.
On this date in 1847, the legislature created a Temperance Committee, forever ridding the province of alcoholism.
Aquaculture modelling (Monday, 10:30am, Room 3655, Life Science Centre, Oceanography Wing)—this is the job talk for Ramon Filgueira, a candidate for an assistant professor position in the Marine Affairs program. Filgueira is from Spain, and got his PhD in Marine Sciences from University of Vigo, with a thesis on the ecophysiology of mussels. The abstract of the talk.
Senate (Monday, 4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—here’s the agenda.
Tidal inlets (Tuesday, 11:30am, Room 3655, LSC , Oceanography Wing—Paul Hill will talk about “Time scales for clearance of suspended sediment from tidal inlets.”
Where am I? (Tuesday, noon, Room C300, C Building, Sexton Campus)—Description:
The GIS Centre’s Lunchless Learn Series is back for the winter term! These are hands-on tutorials, held around lunchtime, open to all on campus (without the food).
A GIS, or Geographic Information System, is “a computer system for capturing, storing, checking, integrating, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data relating to positions on earth’s surface.” In other words, it’s an easy and fun way to look at the world differently.
This series gives people a taste of what GIS is and how it can be used. We are offering the same session at different times and locations, so choose the one that fits your schedule best. These sessions are meant to be self-contained; after the intro session–take only the topics that are of interest to you.
This is the first of the series. Because so many people want to know where they are, they ask that you sign up for a session; to do so, email contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Faat Kiné (Tuesday, 5pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery)—a screening of the 2000 film by Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene:
A forty-year-old woman refuses to give into the stigma of unwed motherhood and climbs the ladder of success in a male dominated field.
Dirt Talk (Tuesday, 5:30pm, Milligan Room, 8th Floor LSC, Biology Wing)—Emeritus prof Marcos Zentilli will talk about “The Geologist and Porphyry Copper Deposits.”
Finding oddball photos captured by the Google car is something of an internet pastime. Some years ago, the car captured these two fellows at the corner of Alan and Harvard Streets in Halifax:
The picture has since been removed, but the location is obvious:
A Twitter correspondent points me to this man captured at the end of Cutler Avenue in Burnside, evidently on a Sunday, when the business park is mostly empty:
I think the guy on Twitter was ridiculing this man, but whatever floats your boat, ya know? And when I see the pic, the first thing I think is HOLY CRAP IT’S WARM! Regardless, the fellow seems like a real gentleman; unlike the ne’er-do-wells mooning the car, when this guy sees the Google car, he politely waves:
In the harbour
Algonova, oil tanker, Corner Brook to anchor
Atlantic Compass, ro-ro container, Liverpool, England to Fairview Cove
Fusion, cargo ship, to Saint-Pierre
Figaro, car carrier, to New York
I LOVE the fact that my sidewalk is cleaned by someone else. I hope it stays this way forever. I was a one person household who worked full time. I dreaded snow storms. Clearing my part of the sidewalk was an almost impossible chore. I had to get up hours earlier to get out there to shovel, run back in for a shower, get my daughter ready for school before I could actually leave for work. Whew that’s all in the past. happy days now. If your side walk offends you get your shovel out and fix it!
On the one hand, this “bomb threat” story is pretty funny.
On the other, it’s frustrating seeing the local authorities completely lose it over a handful of non-incidents in the last year or so. The police release says someone was “getting guns and explosives to harm themselves and others.” How did the police come to this wild conclusion from a barely comprehensible stoner post on Twitter that mentions nothing about guns?
Not only is this overreaction needless and silly, it also reinforces the Fear The Omnipresent Terrorist Threat line of bullshit that Harper has been pushing. Many news sources were still referring to it as a bomb threat over the weekend, even though it clearly wasn’t that.
This exact sort of misinformation is what cows us into fearing the non-existent terrorist threat in Canada, and only contributes to the environment of fear that our government wants to maintain.
Could we have some recognition of the fact the last two winters have been extreme outliers in terms of snowfall, and in the case of the last two weeks, extremely rapid temperature changes? No matter what snow removal method is used, a day when a foot of snow falls, followed by hours of rain, followed by a 15 degree C drop in temperatures in four hours, will cause problems for snow removal—no matter who is responsible for doing it.
Macdonc may be scrupulous about shovelling his walk, but thousands of HRM homeowners and renters are not. Under the old system, it was impossible to find a single city block on the peninsula that was cleared from one end to the other. The libertarian, each-one-shovel-one scheme pushed by business owners and able-bodied 30-somethings will leave thousands of their fellow citizens housebound every winter, not just the extreme ones. Having this necessary community task carried out piecemeal by individualism is, frankly, foolhardy.
If the sidewalks have not been plowed properly, the solution is better management of the process, not abandoning the commonweal to some Harperesque Reform Party fantasy. Thank you, Linda Mosher, for supporting a system the benefits all Haligonians, not just the young, able, and wealthy.
I think that the specific snow-rain-freezing cycle is painful, but not too unusual to handle. Not to make a slippery slope argument, but imagine saying that buildings collapsing because it was 100km/hr winds is acceptable. 100km/hr winds are unusual, but *to be designed for*. Sure, some buildings will sustain damage at that once-a-year event, but its not total failure across the board.
When residents were responsible for shoveling, they had 24 hours after the end of the storm to get to bare pavement. The contractors have 36, and for any snow event more than 3″, I’ve not seen it get to bare pavement. The system, at ~$50/house is designed to be worse than no system at all. What would it take to guarantee as-good-as-before? $100? $150? If the city-run system, you know, actually worked, I might be willing to pay $100 or $150.
Paying $50 for essentially no service at all is the problem.
That’s it exactly, Jeff.
We got an inch of snow last night. I could go quickly shovel it off, but to what end? To expose the ice underneath? As it, it provides a bit of traction on top of the ice.
It has been difficult this year, but I live in Dartmouth where the plows have come for a decade, at least. Many times, even in an “easy” winter, I go out and shovel the walk down to concrete, only to have the plow come by, depositing all the snow from up the road and packing it down into ice, on my previously clean concrete.
Did you ever hear of this site called urban dictionary? It’s so bomb it’s the most explosive thing since sliced bread. It’s like all common sense has gone up in smoke.
I agree–city sidewalk clearing has failed miserably.
Regarding university fees–I always find it frustrating when having discussions with colleagues about university funding. We all agree that education has value in and of itself, which is why we publicly fund education–but that belief seems to stop at high school. After that, it’s just a means to an end, which might explain why many believe that majoring in the arts is useless for society. Sure, we don’t need anyone to know more about history or sociology, right? I wonder how many arts majors voted for Tea Party candidates in the States? I wonder how many voted for Bush?
As someone who walks half the peninsula to get to work most mornings, I have found the sidewalks this winter and last to be the worst they have ever been. The city plows do not get the job done. Also, since people are now paying the city for this service, very few take the extra time to clean up the walk in front of their homes, which is understandable. The fact that bus stops and sidewalks on major roadways (Quinpool, Robie, Oxford, Windsor, etc.) were not cleared is possibly a result of an overtaxed system; were the sidewalk plows not required to plow every street, they might be able to get these major routes and the bus stops done on time, although the quality of work would, as it always has been, quite poor. As you note, this was entirely Councillor Mosher’s initiative, so she has little reason to complain about fielding valid complaints.
With respect to the universities in this province, you are entirely correct. The amount of money required to fix the problem is, overall, not that large, particularly when compared to paper mill subsidies, ferries, overpasses, and the like. Think also of the plans to merge NSCAD with Dal, all based on what, in the grand scheme of things, seemed a small amount of money. Our education system, aside from educating students, also employs large numbers of people, brings students in from other parts of Canada and the world (which brings in consumers), and has the potential to generate all sorts of spin-off businesses and services.
As a province, have we placed our priorities with roadways, poorly conceived attempts to increase tourism, and the declining convention market? If not, then why do we elect governments who make these money-pits priorities?
I suggest that the city should only be responsible for clearing bus stops and street corners…. these are the barriers to pedestrians of which I am one. I always shovel my sidewalk and then the sidewalk plow makes a mess as it hurries along and they don’t seem to worry about the snow banks at the corners.
It is really frustrating, especially as the equipment used is so obviously inappropriate for the purpose. Having lived in Dartmouth for many years I appreciated the sidewalk clearing, which was seldom perfect and often needed a little touch up clearing by home owners, but was helpful. Now, however, the bobcats leave a mess often much harder to clear than the original snowfall would have been.