This date in history
In the harbour
1. Nova Star
“The Nova Star ferry is expected to depart Portland Harbor within the next few days after Monday’s ruling by a federal magistrate judge that the ship may be released from custody,” reports the Portland Press Herald:
The vessel will head south to warmer waters, said Edward MacColl, an attorney for the ship’s owner, Singapore Technologies Marine.
The 528-foot ship was seized and placed under arrest by the U.S. Marshals Service on Oct. 30 while claims seeking payments of more than $3 million were sorted out in U.S. District Court in Portland.
The Singapore shipbuilder has posted a $750,000 surety bond, an amount that substantially exceeds the sum of remaining claims.
The ruling Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III essentially released the ship on bail.
2. Transit discrimination case drags on
Remo Zaccagna has the details.
3. Segways and pedestrians
The Halifax Cycling Coalition testified at yesterday’s Law amendments hearing in opposition to Bill 133, which would increase fines on jaywalkers to almost $700, and Bill 136, which would let Segways run wild on streets, on sidewalks, wherever.
Before the meeting, HCC member Ben Wedge sent me the following chart to explain the group’s opposition to increasing the pedestrian fines:
“As demonstrated,” wrote Wedge, “Nova Scotia already has the highest fines — a greater penalty is simply a punitive measure that shows the Province is not here to support vulnerable road users.”
HCC was also opposed to the Segway law, reports Metro:
“They couldn’t make up their minds what a Segway should be,” [Wedge] said.
The bill says Segways would be on sidewalks like pedestrians when there is a sidewalk, and on the right side of the road like cyclists when there isn’t one.
Wedge thinks Segways should be defined as one or the other, either cyclists or pedestrians, but his group doesn’t have a formal position yet.
The committee rejected both bills, at least as currently proposed.
Five recent incidents of swarmings in the north end are probably related, say police — that is, the same group of young people are out wilding. The incidents all happened after 1am, on or near the Common.
1. Kirby McVicar
Graham Steele sees the events that led to Kirby McVicar’s dismissal as Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff as another example of our broken political system:
The issues confronting Nova Scotia are big and complex. As I’ve written before, the task is beyond the capacity of our politicians. They come to office unequipped to deal with the real issues.
It’s so much easier, and quicker, to focus on destroying one’s opponents.
I have a lot of sympathy for Kirby McVicar, but he was, in the end, a full and happy participant in a political culture that fans those flames of partisanship.
And when the political wind shifted and the flames unexpectedly turned in his direction, he took a wrong step, and he was crisped.
2. Saint Joe
As nearby business owners complain that Nova Centre construction is crippling their sales, Roger Taylor runs interference for Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia:
To blame the decline of downtown Halifax on the amount of construction in the area is a stretch. The business district has been struggling to stay relevant since the 1970s.
I have little doubt the businesses that can hang on until after the Nova Centre and other projects in the area have been completed will benefit from increased pedestrian traffic.
The Nova Centre alone will have the Halifax Convention Centre, a hotel, two office towers and space for retail and restaurants.
No doubt some politicians will want to put the onus on the developers to compensate nearby businesses for their losses. That would be a typical response, but it would be a backward step because it would discourage construction.
Remember that the city’s (rather warped, and probably illegal) financial planning around the project foresees that city subsidies for the convention centre part of the project will be paid for with projected increased property taxes from Nova Centre and nearby properties. So if business think they have it bad now, wait till their 2018 tax bills come in.
Rents have already been jacked in anticipation of Nova Centre opening — that’s why the Seahorse moved, and Night Magick and Strange Adventures were pushed out so the owner could reno the building and charge higher rents to more upscale tenants. No doubt when Nova Centre actually opens, rents will soar still higher.
It’s anyone’s guess what exactly is going to happen after the Nova Centre opens, but I can foresee a situation where increased rents coupled with an increase in taxes push out many of the locally owned businesses. I expect the Argyle Street bar scene will be decimated, and the bars that survive will do so by increasing their prices to cater to the summer weekend convention traffic. Locals will be pushed out, probably to the north end, and except for those summer weekend nights, Argyle Street will become a concrete and glass desert.
The problem isn’t development per se. The problem is the scale of the development: Nova Centre is so large, so looming, so damn expensive for everyone involved and everyone nearby, that it will suck the energy out of the surrounding blocks.
3. Downtown Dartmouth design
Sam Austin discusses the draft Design Manual for downtown Dartmouth, pointing out the main issue:
The main danger facing Portland Street is that the recent interest in Downtown Dartmouth will lead a developer to consolidate most or all of an entire block, level it, and then build a new building that doesn’t reflect the street’s existing rhythm. Modern buildings tend to be much wider than Portland Street’s narrow lots and they don’t always vary the front facade in a meaningful way. Because Portland Street’s Downtown section is quite small, just five blocks long, it would only take one or two poorly planned new buildings to destroy the engaging existing pattern of narrow shops. This would be a huge loss to Portland Street and would make Downtown Dartmouth a much less interesting place. A good example of a hostile streetscape can be found right around the corner from Portland Street at Queen’s Square.
The hostile streetscapes created by many post-war highrises, such as Queen Square, aren’t just footnotes in architectural textbooks. The form has changed, but some of the same issues continue to appear. Over in Halifax, a developer wants to level the Doyle Block across from the new Central Library to construct a single building. If approved, the mix of buildings and styles that currently exists on the Doyle Block will be replaced with one long structure with little significant variation in its street-level facade. It’s prettier than Queen Square, but it has some similar issues. The Doyle proposal is an example of the kind of contemporary building that could destroy Portland Street’s attractive scale if good design rules aren’t put in place.
Grant Frost gets at something I discussed last week: you can’t just keep punching teachers and expect them to simply take it:
These teachers have witnessed everything from the advent of the cellphone to the rise of standardized test scores as a measure of an educator’s effectiveness. They have found themselves working longer hours to meet ever-increasing student needs, all the while facing accountability standards imposed by systems that make them feel disposable.
They have suffered an almost continuous attack on everything from upgrades to snow days, in every possible media forum, and an increasing narrative that seems hell-bent on convincing everyone that they are not doing a good enough job.
And there is no escape. Driving home listening to the radio, reading the morning newspaper, watching the evening news, even comments from the minister of education herself. Schools are failing, kids aren’t learning, teachers are to blame.
Then the government apparently says, “Take this offer or we will make your life worse.”
Teachers are angry, and they are feeling abused. The pent-up frustration of the last few years of hearing nothing but “schools are failing” is taking its toll. In a nutshell, all those mild-mannered lovely teachers are, finally, looking to punch someone in the mouth. And many feel this is their opportunity to do so.
Frost isn’t exactly predicting it, but he wouldn’t be surprised if teacher reject the deal union leaders made with the government — the teachers vote on the deal today. If so, expect a lockout or strike, a broken school year, and a lot of misery for everyone.
5. Cranky letter of the day
I’ve belonged to unions all my working life. I served on the executive of one local as vice-president and president and headed talks on two contracts for the Dartmouth Fire Department. These were always conducted fairly respectfully by both sides.
This is certainly not the case in Nova Scotia right now. It is nothing short of a dictatorship when the province tells its employees to take what is offered or face layoffs. These are professional people. Nurses must now have a degree, achieved after four years of university; teachers now require two degrees with a minimum of six years of university and all other civil servants have various levels of special training.
What qualifications are required to become premier or an MLA? Absolutely none. It is a popularity contest and a great number of them get turfed after one term.
The premier, with his limited qualifications, is now making approximately twice the average salary of these professionals who work for 30 to 35 years for their pensions. Meanwhile, MLAs qualify for a pension after only two years in the House.
Stephen McNeil should let the bargaining units follow the proper process. Otherwise, he faces the possibility of a general strike by all the provincial civil servants because they are all going to face the same thing when their contracts come due.
George Le Frank, Malagash Point
City council (1pm, City Hall) — I’ll be live-blogging the meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer, but I have an interview to conduct so will have to leave by 3pm.
Legislature sits (1-6pm, Province House)
This date in history
On December 1, 1852, an agreement for the exchange of mail between Halifax and Boston came into force.
On December 1, 2004, George W. Bush visited Halifax. I remember it well because that’s the same day I moved to Halifax, and my flight had to circle the airport for an hour or so because of something to do with increased security for Air Force One.
Thesis defence, Industrial Engineering (8:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — I guess this has already happened — who schedules a thesis defence for 8:30 in the morning???? — but PhD candidate Sara Rezaee defended her thesis, “Risk Analysis of the Effects of Extreme Weather Conditions on Commercial Fishing Vessel Incidents.”
Thesis defence, Microbiology and Immunology (1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Ava Vila will defend her thesis, “The Impact of Histamine Receptor 2 Antagonists on Breast cancer Development and Monocytic Populations.”
“I’m a Muslim. Am I a terrorist?” (7pm, the theatre named for a bank that just laid off 400 people while its CEO gets paid $8.1 million, McCain Building) — Jamal Badawi will lead the “panel discussion on challenging Islamophobia on campus and in our society. We’ll get to hear panelists lived experiences, Islam’s perspective on terrorism, and time for Q&A.”
The CBC reports that Bedford residents Susan Wortman and Kirk MacKenzie are listening to scanners and chasing around emergency responders so they can live-stream accident scenes on Periscope.
This sort of voyeurism is problematic, to put it mildly. How would you like your loved one’s death to be live-streamed to hundreds of people?
I’ve always been uncomfortable with even trained journalists chasing around emergency responders, but they do serve an important public purpose: they can evaluate police and fire responses and report missteps and other information the authorities may not want public. The theory (the practice is often something different) is that trained journalists know what information not to broadcast, protect identities when needed, edit and clip or hold back material when it could adversely affect someone, and have editors who help make ethical decisions when the situation is murky. None of that is possible when two people with no news experience simply point an iPhone at a scene and broadcast without restraint.
In the harbour
Kobe Express, container ship, arrived at Fairview Cove this morning from New York; it appears to be running way behind schedule, but may sail later today for New York
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to Pier 41
OOCL Italy, container ship, Cagliari, Italy to Fairview Cove, then sails to sea
Aida, car carrier, Southhampton, England to Autoport
$700!!!! Jesus christ
Retail businesses don’t typically pay municipal taxes directly, unless they happen to own the building they are located in. They do pay rent to he landlords who will receive the higher tax bills, of course.
We had a long discussion about this on Twitter. My experience is as yours: taxes go to the building owner, who rolls them into rent. But, apparently, in Halifax some landlords have a different policy: they sign two leases with their tenants, one for straight rent, the second for variable costs like utilities and, yep, taxes. Lil MacPherson at Wooden Monkey has one of these leases, for example.
Good thinking, Landlords! Squeezing out every drop they can.
Re: how to destroy downtown Dartmouth. This morning I was walking along Barrington Street, south of Spring Garden Road, and noticed signs declaring application to demolition several buildings, one or two of which have heritage designation plaques on them. I thought to myself that future generations, if there are any, are going to be royally ticked at us for not preserving these last remnants of our heritage. Dartmouth is a case in point. The buildings along the downtown part of Portland Street are mostly not, in themselves, particularly wonderful, but the main point in the article is the question of scale. I think few of us would be so against “development” (there must be another word for an activity that is based on destruction), if some respect were shown to the communities that will house the new buildings, and compromises made that maintain original proportions and in this case a sense of a welcoming, working storefront community. You don’t even have to go around the block to Queen Square to find a building that is unfriendly to the existing streetscape. Right on Portland Street is the Royal Bank building which, unfortunately, lacks beauty or design equivalent to the Bank of Nova Scotia on Hollis Street. What I like about Portland Street as it exists today are the many small, independent businesses that have quite recently set up shop. Large scale development will destroy that community which so much depends on affordable rents (like people who need a place to live being forced into the outskirts).
“…compromises made that maintain original proportions and in this case a sense of a welcoming, working storefront community.” We have a lovely example of this in downtown Halifax. It is so lovely, I don’t think most people even realize its true nature.
The pedestrian-only block of Granville Street where the Split Crow is located has a cobblestone charm and a collection of independent businesses and galleries (if you turn your head away from the Boston Pizza). Those historic facades were preserved when the original building were demolished and the Delta Barrington built. Removed, stored, and stuck on to the back of the Delta building.
No one notices that they are just facades because they are, as you say, a good compromise and they create a positive, pleasant ambiance. (This development was done by the same ones who built Waterside Centre, on the block just east of there, Armour Group. Everyone freaked out about that one and I wonder how the small businesses have done, have they returned? Thrived?)
$700 for daring to enter the part of the street reserved for people who can afford to drive? Crazy. It’s worth remembering that jaywalking laws (as well as the end of commuter rail, streetcars and the rise of the suburbs) were lobbied for by car companies as part of a deliberate campaign to equate going anywhere with getting in a car. In addition to lobbying for jaywalking laws (to make getting around cities on foot take longer and be sort of demeaning), car companies bought and destroyed functioning public transit systems wherever they could. Zoning laws requiring minimum size houses, setbacks and space between houses brought us the suburb, because no other arrangement would work with population densities that low. These policies, which only really were applied in earnest after World War 2 could be argued to have contributed to white flight in the 60s and 70s by concentrating poor people (which often meant nonwhites) into the now-less-accessible (without the streetcars or light rail that used to serve them) former working class neighbourhoods. This didn’t really play out in Halifax to the extent it did in larger cities, we chose to mostly concentrate our poor in certain suburbs, but the point remains, stick them somewhere where nobody can see them and make it take hours for them to get elsewhere.
On top of that, I noticed today that the convention centre (can we call it the Joe Ramia Centre for Boldness?) received its first few panels of it’s innovative new mirrored blue glass facade. This stunning architectural innovation will surely make it stand out from all the other monuments to neoliberalism dotting North Amer… oh, wait, no it won’t. I can’t help but wonder what the future of the convention centre is once the economic underpinnings of flying people around to attend meetings in far flung cities go away? What if oil is $250 a barrel in 2025? What if the company that makes the replacement parts for the window glazing system is out of business and there is no practical way to fix the windows as they start to leak?
Also, I thought we were coming up with a bold new plan to deal with climate change? Surely the convention centre and making it harder for people to get around the city on foot (and thereby increasing the incentive to drive) is a step in the wrong direction.
Speaking of ambulance chasers, check out the movie, Nightcrawler, if you want to see a disturbing depiction of crime journalism.