1. Engage, or else
Halifax council’s Community Planning & Economic Development Committee meets this morning. I have in the past given this committee a bit of grief, but I take it all back; to its great credit, the committee demanded some accounting from the provincial agency Engage Nova Scotia. And that agency wrote back, explaining itself:
What does Engage Nova Scotia do?
The Ivany Report and the One NS Coalition identified three basic challenges facing the province: i) our economic health, ii) demographic trends and iii) our attitudes/culture. With respect to the third priority, The Ivany Report said:
“Overcoming the psychological barriers of division, distrust and discouragement may be just as important as raising capital, producing more products or finding new markets. Indeed, we may need to accomplish the former transformation before we can make much more progress on the practical aspects of economic development.”
Engage Nova Scotia’s work focuses on this third priority. We work with Nova Scotians to foster a culture and practice of trust, collaboration, optimism and citizen engagement. We believe this work is a foundation that will support and enable economic and demographic progress.
They are, in short, the Ministry of Thought. If you are not on page with the completely amorphous agenda of “trust, collaboration, optimism (!), and engagement,” you are an enemy of the state.
This is all meaningless drivel, but if it did have any real substance, it’d be completely antithetical to capitalism, which values distrust, noncooperation, cynicism, and disengagement.
Looking at Engage NS’s budget, I see $220,135.64 spent on consultants and professional fees:
Contracted Staff (4) — $201,198.41
Accounting & Legal — $2,936.25
Outside Consultants — $5,250.00
Non recoverable HST paid on Professional and Consulting Fees — 11,011.85
Another $30,181.75 was spent on “Attitude Research.” Attitude research? That cracks me right up.
And $7,779.28 went to “Learning Events (Thought Leaders).” Pat Kelly explains “thought leaders” to us here:
“The intersection of Windsor Street, Chebucto Road, and Cunard Street, with its skewed and offset configuration presents operational issues and safety concerns, and has been considered for re-alignment since the 19th Century,” reads a Request For Proposals (RFP) issued by the city this morning, in something of an understatement.
Back in 2014, Tristan Cleveland gave detailed instructions on how to navigate the intersection:
East on Cunard
A. First: choose which turn signal to use. Now, you may wonder, “Am I going right, left, or straight?”
The answer? All three! You may do as you like with your turn signal because it will not mean anything anyways! (Fun morning game: take bets on who will choose which).
B. You are now going straight on Windsor, and also, somehow, straight onto Cunard. Savour the moment: you may now legally turn left on a red light. (Or, feel free to stop at the red wondering when or how you are supposed to turn left, as this will entertain onlookers).
Turning Right onto Windsor from Chebucto
So you have turned and now you are going straight South on Windsor. You may wonder, “Why is there a red light in front of me?” Never fear. That is a “fake” red light. Go ahead, there is nothing to get in your way.
Wait stop! Pedestrian! I forgot the pedestrians—and so does one driver every ten minutes
Remember the rule: there are no pedestrians when you are driving green-right-red-left-straight, but there are pedestrians when driving green-right-red-straight.
Driving West from Cunard to Chebucto
To enjoy this intersection to its fullest, try passing on yellow, so that North traffic will start, and you will be stranded in the centre lane blocking buses and cars lined up on Windsor. Enjoy your time here in this space outside of social and legal norms, and reflect on the choices that brought you here.
Turning South From Cunard
Question. Does that guy in front of you going left-right-straight have priority?
Answer. It depends on the turn signal your opponent has chosen:
- None: He/she is going straight and has priority.
- Left: I don’t know how we got here, but you are both apparently turning left and have equal priority. So… gun it!
- Right: You may be thinking: “Wait…what?…How?” as you should be. Nudge forward uncommittedly.
Once you see an opportunity to get through, floor it and get out of there.
Wait! Stop! Pedestrians! Sorry, keep forgetting that crosswalk.
Biking West or East on Cunard
First, come to a complete stop. Second, make a safe u-turn and proceed to City Hall. Third, lobby for a bikeable intersection. Fourth, become disillusioned. Fifth, purchase a motor vehicle. Sixth, try again.
Biking North-South on Windsor
There is a bike lane on both the North and South sides of the intersection. What happens to it, and the bikes it carries, is currently a mystery, and so more research is needed before we can provide instruction on how to navigate it safely. If you or anyone you know has made it through, please contact Planning and Infrastructure and report where you went and what you saw there.
Be careful. The cars around you are having an identity crisis. They do not know who, what or where they are, and are known to accelerate suddenly to escape the uncertainty
The RFP is looking for firms who will provide a preliminary redesign of the entire mess, giving three options at a range of costs for a rebuild.
The obvious solution is to buy and tear down the Needs store and make Cunard and Windsor align as one through street. But I’m sure we can further complicate things. Maybe a roundabout with the church in the middle?
The selected vendor is to complete the design project by March. Then we all get to laugh about how ridiculously expensive it’d be to fix the intersection.
3. The name of a fucking bank…
…will undoubtedly be plastered all over the Sportsplex:
The Dartmouth Sportsplex is interested in acquiring alternative revenue sources to help fund its operation as well as offset costs or enhance its programs, services, and events.
The Dartmouth Sportsplex is seeking to expand its corporate partnerships by leveraging its assets for marketing and sponsorship purposes that are beneficial for the facility and corporate partners. The first step in this process is to develop a master list of the facilities assets that could be leveraged for sponsorship and marketing opportunities and obtain a fair market value for those assets.
Here’s an idea: how ’bout we tax the fucking banks and other corporations at levels like we used to and use the proceeds to properly fund our rec centres?
4. School board
It’s interesting that Haley Ryan and Anjuli Patil, reporting for Metro and the CBC respectively, went to the same school board meeting last night but covered two different issues. (This isn’t a critique.)
Ryan reported on the board’s actions related to a new junior high school in the north end of Halifax:
During an emotional Halifax Regional School Board meeting Wednesday night, the members decided to ask the province for a replacement school consolidating students from Highland Park Junior High and Grades 7-9 at Oxford School, despite outbursts from those who felt the process was flawed without input from St. Catherine’s Elementary.
The request for a replacement school was based on recommendations from the School Options Committee (SOC) who handled the Citadel High family of schools review.
The public gallery was packed with roughly 100 community members and parents, including those who clapped loudly when board member Sheryl Blumenthal-Harrison called the review a “misjustice” for having an absentee SOC member, and not taking into account St.Catherine’s in light of the west-end school sending French immersion students into Oxford.
Multiple board members agreed that more communication with that school would’ve been desired, but throwing out a review that had taken months of work and input from north end residents wasn’t an option.
Ryan mentions it in her article, but Patil focused her entire report on a review of 17 schools on the other side of the harbour:
Two of the schools under review are high schools, three are junior highs, one is a P-9 and 11 are elementary schools.
Nancy Jakeman, the school board member for Cole Harbour-Dartmouth East, as well as a number of other board members noted that 17 is a lot of schools to review — especially considering a decision by the board would need to be made some time in late May.
This is good beat reporting, and I’m glad we still have two capable reporters covering the school board.
1. Social assistance
Robert Devet is running a series of profiles of people on social assistance.
Today, Devet relates the story of a woman he calls Bernice, who has been struggling to pay her power bill. Says Bernice:
I am saving on electricity because I don’t leave things plugged in. I don’t have a lot anyway. I have my freezer. I wash in cold water, I hang things on my line, stuff like that, it helps. I use warm water to bathe and do my dishes in, that’s all. Our electricity heats our hot water tanks, that’s what makes it expensive. It adds up, every time you use hot water, especially when my daughter lived here with her baby.
Bernice cut her use of electricity wherever she could. The result:
Facing growing debts on her power bill, Bernice managed to save $85 per month on electricity. Community Services promptly reduced her allowance by that same amount.
After Bernice pays her rent and her power bill, she has $140 left over to buy food and other living necessities for the month. She doesn’t have a phone.
I got this letter saying your income assistance payment will be reduced, effective September 16, because your power bill has decreased. You have the right to appeal, 30 days blabla bla, all that stuff. The letter is dated august 18, but I received it on the 29th. My reduced cheque went in the bank on the 27th.
2. Peter MacKay
“Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay says he simply isn’t good looking enough to take down Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in the next federal election,” writes Matt Brand:
In a press release on Monday, MacKay said, while he did a lot of soul searching, he mostly did a lot of gazing in the mirror and decided his good looks simply weren’t enough to compete with the younger, more handsome Truedeau. As a result, he would not be running to be leader of the Conservative party.
“If it was 10 years ago, I might have had a chance. But I think we all saw the pictures of (Trudeau) shirtless. I’m just not sexy enough to compete with that,” said MacKay.
3. Westlock County
Westlock, Alberta lives in a sort of mirror universe, reflecting back Halifax. After the Peter Kelly fiasco, the county council elected itself a new reeve, which is the equivalent of a mayor, a fellow named Savage. And now the Westlock News opines like the best Maritime pollyanna:
Following a relatively brief search from a thick stack of resumes, Leo Ludwig was hired by council Aug. 31. Granted he’s the sixth CAO under the watch of this current group, and fourth since the start of 2016, but the hope is Ludwig will provide some consistency and occupy the chair for more than a cup of coffee.
Admittedly this council, which is in the third year of its four-year term, hasn’t had much luck with CAOs. First there was the falling out with Ed LeBlanc back in 2014. His successor, Peter Kelly, got a passing grade from us when he left in February of this year, but we’re inclined to use our red pen to revise that rating following the Horizon North fiasco, among other revelations.
His successor, Duane Coleman, seemed like a great hire, but he swiftly left for greener pastures before he could make any meaningful impact.
And Pat Vincent’s experience as an interim CAO has helped the county begin the Municipal Affairs review process and help diffuse what seemed like never-ending controversy in council chambers.
As for Ludwig, his vast experience in the administrative ranks of rural municipalities looks to be a positive to help get the county back on the right track.
The negative? Among the limited information we do have is that Ludwig’s been fired from his last two jobs at the Town of Coaldale and, most recently, Vulcan County — Google hides no secrets. So, is that a red flag? Maybe.
Maybe?! Well, Martha, the rats ate through the floorboards five times before, but maybe this time they’ll stay in the basement.
The provincial government of Alberta is now conducting a review of Westlock County governance, but I increasingly think the real problem is a toothless press.
4. Cranky letter of the day
I find it hard to imagine that in 2016 the residents of the town of Lunenburg at council meetings would have to hold up a sign stating “Louder Please,” just so they could hear what their elected officials are saying.
One can’t help but wonder why. Are they saying things that they don’t want their taxpayers to hear?
Are they trying to discourage attendance? If you can’t hear, why attend a council meeting? If so, that appears to be working.
Maybe the old system has a heritage designation and can’t be changed?
They could try tin cans with strings attached. Maybe even ask the taxpayers to bring their own.
All council members sit on the General Government Committee, which approved the purchase of a new sound system. Then two of the councillors vote against it? At least they can’t hide from the written record.
The Town of Bridgewater’s council chambers has a good sound system. There are lots of time slots these chambers would be available for the Town of Lunenburg to use.
Just an idea. Sharing services seems to be the long range plan to hold off on amalgamation anyway.
Bob Richards, Bridgewater
h/t Anna Shoub
Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — see News #1, above
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall) — among other things, the committee will look at possible connections from the Chain of Lakes Trail to other trails on the Halifax Peninsula.
Design Review Committee (4pm, Media Room, City Hall) — the committee will look at a proposed six-storey addition to the Little Mysteries building on Barrington Street. The graphic above doesn’t really get it, because the adjoining Roy building has now been razed and is being rebuilt into a much larger monstrosity.
No public meetings
Planetarium show (7:15pm, Room 120, Dunn Building) — learn about basic constellations that can be seen this time of year. Well, probably not from HRM, but you can imagine. Reservations: astronomynovascotia.ca. Five bucks at the door per adult, $20,000 for each screaming kid.
In the harbour
7am: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John with up to 4,180 passengers
7:15: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
11am: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Saint John with up to 3,000 passengers
3:30pm: Heritage Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 20 for Bar Harbor
4:30pm: NYK Deneb, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
5pm: Anthem of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for New York
7pm: Carnival Sunshine, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for New York
5:30am: Drive Green Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
We’ll be recording this week’s Examineradio today.
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