1. The problem with the new Bridgetown School: It’s not just the school
Construction of an access road to the new Bridgetown school is more than $2 million over its original $1.3 million dollar budget. A friend of Stephen McNeil’s is the beneficiary of the work, and has been fined for illegally building a boat ramp on nearby public land.
I summarized the points in the article as follows:
[A] project related to the Bridgetown school is plagued with cost overruns, delays, and inexplicable changes ordered by the McNeil government that appear to benefit one private property owner at provincial expense.
The project is called the Faye Road Extension, named for an existing Bridgetown street that is being extended to accommodate construction of an access road to the new school. The access road includes new street lights, sidewalks, and a storm water pumping station.
A Halifax Examiner investigation reveals significant irregularities with the Faye Road Extension project and with adjoining properties, including:
• changes related to the project originally projected to cost $1.3 million have increased costs by over $2 million, to at least $3.3 million;
• the province is building the storm water pumping station on land it does not own;
• at taxpayer expense, the province has spent nearly $50,000 to build curb cuts and sidewalks on the access road and utility service laterals beneath it for the sole benefit of Albert Rice, a private landowner;
• Albert Rice illegally built a nearby boat ramp into the Annapolis River; that boat ramp is on provincial land and was constructed without permits or permission, but besides a small fine, Rice has suffered no consequences, and the boat ramp remains, apparently to the benefit of a future development he intends to build.
Click here to read “The problem with the new Bridgetown School: It’s not just the school.”
I first got wind that something was amiss in Bridgetown in December. I spent a month or so researching the issue from afar, and visited the site in February, when I realized it was even more complex of a situation than I had been told.
I started asking questions of government communications people in the Department of Environment and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, but soon hit brick walls: they stopped returning my emails.
So over the next couple of months I filed three Freedom of Information requests. It became apparent that other people or organizations had filed similar requests, and some portion of my requests were duplicating those efforts. Much of the information contained in the article is actually sourced from FOI responses to other people, but I think those other people (I don’t know who they are) didn’t fully comprehend what was going on in Bridgetown, and that’s why we haven’t heard from them.
It is an extremely complicated situation, but if I’ve been successful, I explained it so even people who have never been to Bridgetown can understand it.
Still, I’m a bit frustrated.
There’s one more FOI request that I still haven’t received. I filed it in March, and in April was notified that there’d be a 30-day extension, at the end of which I was told there’d be another 30 days, to May 18.
In the meanwhile, as I was researching the story, Stephen McNeil called an election. Two weeks after the call, I was told my requested info wouldn’t come until June 18. That response, I think, will bring more answers to the questions I’ve raised in the article.
But then last Thursday, I was unexpectedly told that some of the information I had requested was contained in the response to a FOI response someone else had filed, and that information was now public (FOI responses are made public two weeks after the requester receives them).
I was faced with a not-pleasant choice. I could rush and put an article together without all the information I expect to get in June and publish the article before the election, only to be accused of publishing an election hit-piece. Or, I could hold off until June, when I get all the information I requested, and tell the more complete story, only to be accused of withholding information that may have had some effect on the election.
Fuck, man, I didn’t call the damn election. Why is this on me?
I don’t know if the TIR bureaucrats are purposefully delaying the collection of the info I requested such that I won’t get it until after the election. I’m told they’re not. But I know how these things go… and I can’t even be sure of what I’ll get in June, or that it won’t be delayed again.
And so I decided to publish with the information I had in hand. I have basically been writing nonstop since Thursday, and only finished yesterday afternoon. I know that it’s suspiciously close to the election, but this was the absolute soonest I could publish. If I could’ve published it last week, or last month, I would have.
For what it’s worth, I think the article stands on its own. I’ll of course publish a followup when and if I receive the rest of the information I requested.
Also, it takes a great deal of time and money to conduct these types of investigations. If you support this kind of work, please consider subscribing.
Anyway, I enjoy getting into these complicated development stories. This one reminds me of an article I wrote for The Coast about what happened with Mary Thibeau’s land after she died. (You’ll recall Thibeau’s estate was mishandled by then-Mayor Peter Kelly, which was the subject of another article.) I’ve always thought the story about the land — “The long, strange story of Mary Thibeault’s property” — hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. I’m convinced something untoward happened in that case, and someone with some authority should’ve looked into it.
2. “John-Be-Gone” and the National DNA Data Bank
“It all started with a sentence in a story about one of the men charged in the Cape Breton Regional Police’s ‘John Be Gone’ undercover sting operation,” writes Mary Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:
You remember John Be Gone — initiated after complaints from downtown Sydney businesses about sex workers on Charlotte Street, it saw two female police officers posing as prostitutes over 10 days in the summer of 2015. Under new federal prostitution laws that decriminalized selling sex but criminalized buying (or trying to buy) sex, the operation targeted johns and resulted in charges being laid against 27 men.
In reading over the press accounts of the trials, I was struck by the fact that those men found guilty were ordered to supply samples to Canada’s National DNA Data Bank (NDDB).
What is the National DNA Data Bank, I thought, and why would men whose offenses were not serious enough to involve jail time be required to supply it with samples of their DNA?
Campbell goes on to review the fascinating and frightening history of DNA data collection and associated concerns about privacy and police over-reach. She continues:
Some will argue that worrying about the johns’ right to privacy is losing sight of the real victims in this story, the sex workers. But perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the whole situation is that as a means of helping sex workers, sting operations like John Be Gone are deeply questionable.
Click here to read “‘John-Be-Gone’ and the National DNA Data Bank.” As with the Examiner, the Spectator is a subscriber-supported news site; you can subscribe here.
Back in March, Philip Moscovitch wrote a piece on street art for Halifax Magazine. In the article he quotes Uber5000, a Halifax artist who moved to Toronto:
“I have thought about moving back to Halifax, but there would be fewer opportunities to paint. In Halifax, the cops would always come and talk to you if you were spray-painting, even if it was legal. They’d come and harass you.”
Constable Gerry Murney sees no problem with that. He’s the Halifax Regional Police officer tasked with controlling graffiti. Specifically, what he calls “hip-hop graffiti,” a subject he talks about for two hours. Murney favours strict enforcement and seizing the assets of people who paint illegally.
“Legal graffiti is as intrusive and as bad as illegal graffiti,” he says. “It desensitizes the public to what they’re looking at, and it promotes the person [who painted it].” Cities like Montreal promoting graffiti baffle him. He says he thinks that providing places to paint legally is wrong-headed in that it promotes a culture inextricably tied up with drugs, alcohol, vandalism, and even suicide.
Obviously when you need an expert on “hip hop culture” this guy just clearly is the person you should be consulting:
Not pictured: his “All Lives Matter” shirt and his PhD in Art History.
Yesterday, the po-po issued a release walking back that “hip-hop graffiti” comment:
The references to hip hop graffiti and hip hop culture by an HRP officer who appeared in the article were intended to describe a particular style of graffiti. We now recognize and appreciate that the comments could be understood as misguided and wide-sweeping, if not racially biased. That was not the officer’s intent. As a follow up, we’ve reviewed the concerns with the officer and, overall, will continue to ensure clarity and consistency in our response to graffiti.
A Redditor reminds us of the intersection from hell:
When I worked in the area, I used to walk through that intersection nearly every day, always fearing for my life. As a pedestrian, it was patently obvious that the intersection had to be reworked, and yet when the roundabout was being planned, there were a lot of complaints and fears of future chaos, even for pedestrians. Does anyone now think the roundabout wasn’t an improvement?
The commentariat are unusually quiet lately.
The Icarus Report
• last week, a pilot reported seeing a powered parachute in the vicinity of the Airdrie, AB airport.
• Sunday night, a Moncton Flight College pilot reported a “laser strike” from some asshole on the ground. Cops were called, but nothing was found.
• on Tuesday, another student pilot in Moncton managed to taxi off the runway. As crews worked to get the plane out of the way, “multiple” private planes were diverted to another runway, as were Porter flight 245 and Jazz Air flight 8808.
• Tuesday night, WestJet flight 3408 leaving Toronto for Fredericton reported “being struck by a green laser.”
No public meetings; there’s an election coming…
No public meetings today.
Thesis Defence, Biology (Friday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidae Adrian Dauphinee will defend his thesis, “Identification and Manipulation of Key Regulators in Lace Plant Programmed Cell Death.”
In the harbour
2:30am: Malleco, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
3:30am: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
6am: Juliette Rickmers, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
7am: Atlantic Polaris, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp
7am: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
11am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
8:30pm: Juliette Rickmers, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
9am: A U.S. submarine arrives at Shearwater
We’re recording Examineradio today.
I wonder if Gerry Murney is the same officer who used to poison attitudes (esp at council) to the then-thriving Khyber Club, because he labelled it as the main source of tagging in the downtown, like they were handing out sharpies at the K. Baffling. Whether or not he’s the same person, problematic logic and lack of accurate info has been doing harm here for a long time.
There is enough scandal going on to have every party fairly represented in the scandalous department.
Some of the scandal writes itself, no reporter necessary.
It is understandable you would be asked to explain why you published this scandal only.
FOIPOP requests take time; are befuddling , and they cost, and it is particularly disturbing in this case that Bousquet’s request is , at least in part, granted because similar information has been obtained by a third party through a FOIPOP request that has already been granted and will appear in the public record in short order. The annoying part is that part of Tim’s request is being delayed -it appears somewhat arbitrarily. This raises concerns about the motivation of the person or persons delaying this part of his request. It also gives rise to questioning whether this is “accountability at its core” to quote Mr. Pickup. (In other words, does the justification given for the delay hold up?)
I am glad that Tim published when he did; there is ample reason to suspect some degree of impropriety and there is a need for “core accountability”. The publication of to-date info. starts that accountability process- something that would not have happened otherwise.The usual delays in this process and the deferring to TIR are also frustrating, but I guess that’s ‘part of the game’, as is said by the cynics.
Whether in the course of a FOIPOP request or in the course of dealing with officials of a public/government nature, it is always a bad sign when they stop returning, promptly, e-mailed requests.
Terrific work Tim Bousquet; seems like there is at least another chapter or two to be written.
I suppose anything is an improvement but…..it is designed for traffic (car) flow not pedestrian safety.
If it were signaized perhaps it would be better. As it stands now cars run through the pedestrian crossings as if they weren’t there. I’ve lost count of the number of times cars breeze across the striped lines as I wave my arms in a useless attempt to draw the attention of the drivers.
The roundabout has given even more control of the streets to a drivers’ (in) discretion. Traffic lights help mitigate that. There are none at a roundabout.
I avoid them whenever possible.
Re #5, I walk through the roundabout every day, and its predecessor disaster of an intersection, and the roundabout is definitely an improvement. The roundabout design, however, is flawed. The crosswalks are located one and a half car-lengths from the roundabout entry points, so when there’s any amount of traffic, drivers routinely block the crosswalks without consequence.
The North Park roundabouts has to be one of the best infrastructure improvements HRM has made in ages. They really truly improved that area for all users.