1. Centre Plan
I’ve been exceedingly cynical (I know, shocking) about the drafting of the Centre Plan. In yesterday’s event listing for a meeting seeking public input into the plan, I expressed that cynicism like this: “if you think council won’t grandfather in a bunch of stuff that defies the Centre Plan, and if you think in the future every big dollar developer who wants an exemption to it won’t get their way, and if you think this will all unfold somehow differently than has HRM By Design and citizens’ input will actually matter, then this meeting is for you!”
Frankly, no matter how good the final Centre Plan will be on paper, I have no hope at all that it will be followed by council. If history has taught us anything, we should have long ago learned that all it takes is a Joe Ramia or a George Armoyan to dangle some bauble before council while employing the diversionary doublespeak and lying architectural drawings of every trickster in the trade to get council to jump. It happens time and time again, and I see no reason that human nature, or councillor nature, will change in the future.
Still and all, when reporter Jennifer Henderson pitched a fresh view of the Centre Plan, I thought it worthy. The Examiner should include voices broader than those of my darkened soul.
Henderson came back with a good overview of what the draft Centre Plan now contains, and a succinct explanation of its affordable housing provisions. But she also gave expression to citizens who appear to be as cynical as am I:
“This is all well and good, I’m impressed with its professionalism,” said Halifax resident Susan McCurdy after yesterday’s briefing on the Centre Plan held at Dalhousie University. “But how is Council going to respond when Tsimiklis rips down houses on Young Avenue and Wellington Street is bastardized? How can we have any trust in City Hall not to politicize it?”
On the affordable housing front, Henderson explains how the provisions of the Centre Plan would apply to the Willow Tree proposal — that is, if they apply at all (hint: they won’t because reasons).
More to the point, Henderson underscores that overcoming cynicism is at the heart of this entire planning exercise:
The slogan for the public consultation is “turning what if into how to.” Enlisting allies (citizens and developers) who will endorse a coherent policy and hold council accountable may represent the last chance to control development in neighbourhoods outside the downtown cores where the results have been controversial.
Well, OK. I guess it requires citizens demanding that their councillors do the right thing, and the councillors actually listening. I have my doubts, but then again I never thought I’d see a million kids descend on Washington D.C. to tell adults they’ve fucked up their world, so what do I know? Maybe we’re in some cynicism-defying phase of history.
Click here to read “The Centre Plan, affordable housing, and the Willow Tree.”
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2. Founders Square
“Dozens of people rallied outside a downtown Halifax office building Monday in support of a group of black janitors who were fired from their jobs after they revealed plans to file a human rights complaint based on allegations of racial discrimination,” reports the Canadian Press:
About 70 people gathered outside Founders Square to support janitorial workers, who were told they would be laid off at the end of this week, but were terminated last Friday after the allegations were made public.
Darius Mirshahi, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 2, said the group will file another complaint alleging that the workers were fired abruptly for complaining about alleged racism.
See El Jones’ report on the janitors’ firing from Saturday. The Examiner will have more on this issue in coming days.
The Commission on Inclusive Education issued its report yesterday. Click here to read it.
“The commission estimates about a third of the province’s 118,000 students need some form of support at school,” reports the Canadian Press:
Their 124-page report recommends more funding for psychologists and behaviour support teachers, and calls for faster student assessments and behaviour intervention.
The report also recommends increasing funding for inclusive education over five years, with the province spending $70 million to $80 million annually by year five, a seven per cent increase for the Education Department’s overall budget.
It also recommends hiring 30 behaviour support teachers, 12 school psychologists and 12 regional health nurses this September, as well as paying for 400 school psychology and 200 speech-language pathology student assessments.
In total, the report recommends hiring between 600 and 700 more specialists by 2022.
4. Low Income Transit Pass
Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler provides a short update on the Low Income Transit Pass:
Council’s transportation standing committee approved a motion to leave the Low Income Transit Pass program unchanged with a 1,000-participant cap for the coming year, but to double the cap to 2,000 participants in 2019.
The motion will now move on to regional council, where TSC chair Tim Outhit says he expects it will be the subject of further debate.
Councillor Lindell Smith had originally asked for a report on the financial implications of lifting the cap on the program completely. Smith was out of town for Monday’s rescheduled transportation meeting.
Last week, Butler argued that the cap should be lifted completely.
In other transportation news, the city this morning issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the detailed design of the Bayers Road Transit Priority Corridor. The winning bidder will complete the design work by September, and construction will begin next year.
5. Lobsters v Whales, Maine v Canada
“The endangered North Atlantic right whale population took a big hit last year with a record number of animals killed by fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes,” reports Fred Bever for NPR:
Now, an ongoing debate over threats posed by Maine’s lobster industry is gaining new urgency as scientists estimate these whales could become extinct in just 20 years.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Mark Baumgartner says that to help the whales survive, the rope Maine lobstermen use to mark their traps with buoys and haul up their catch must be modified or even eliminated. And it’s not just for the whales’ sake.
“I feel the industry is in jeopardy,” Baumgartner says.
Baumgartner was in Maine this month for a Lobstermen’s Association meeting to detail the whales’ plight. If the lobster industry doesn’t respond effectively, he says, the federal government will step in. “As the population continues to decline and pressure is put on the government to do something about it, then they’re going to turn to closures, because that’s all they’ll have,” he says. And that could mean barring traps in the same waterways the lobster fishermen count on for their livelihoods.
But, his warnings are getting a somewhat frosty reception from Maine lobstermen, who feel they’re being singled out for a problem that crosses state and even national boundaries.
Many fingers in Maine are pointing the blame at Canada.
“Canada needs to step up,” says Patrick Kelliher, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Marine Resources.
He says that while the Gulf of Maine is a known part of the whales’ territory, their paths lie mostly far off Maine’s coast. Meanwhile, Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence has suddenly become a killing ground. “With what’s going on in the Gulf of St. Lawrence right now with the Canadian crab fishery, that’s where most of that gear is. If you looked at the diameter of that rope, that’s not Maine fishing gear,” he says. Maine’s lobster gear is lighter and thinner than the gear designed to catch snow crab.
In fact, most of the whales found dead last year did turn up in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, rather than U.S. waters.
“Saint Mary’s University has approved construction of a new, state-of-the-art arena,” reads a university press release:
The on-campus facility will feature an NHL-sized ice surface for the Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams.
“This new arena will not only support our varsity athletes and coaches but will enrich athletics and recreation opportunities for all of our students,” said Saint Mary’s University President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “This facility will benefit the Saint Mary’s community but also Halifax as a whole. As a university, we are community engaged and focused, and our new arena will be available to community sports teams and other groups looking for a place to learn and play.”
The new arena will continue the tradition of hockey excellence on-campus and will be built on the same location as the arena it will replace. The new arena will have seating for 800 fans with standing room for 200 plus. The planning and design of the arena will incorporate flexibility for future growth should that be needed during the life of the building. Cost and funding details will be announced later in the spring.
The arena is scheduled to open in time for the 2019 hockey season.
I don’t know anything much about hockey, but I suspect that most hockey players want a reliable ice surface with reliable hours of operation, which in Nova Scotia necessarily means ice that is indoors.
The city this morning issued a tender for fitness equipment for the renovated Dartmouth Sportsplex. You can see the lists and types of equipment by clicking through here to the three Appendix “E”s. The best thing about the lists is that all the free weights are in pounds. I don’t care whether gyms use metric or imperial weights, but there is nothing more annoying than having both and having to search around to match same with same. (I’m looking at you, Dalplex.)
Executive Standing Committee (Tuesday, 1:30pm, City Hall) — agenda here.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 2pm, City Hall) — agenda here.
Budget Committee – 18-19 Budget and Business Plan (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — council will talk about the PoPo budget.
Centre Plan – Discuss Package “A” (Wednesday, 1pm and 6pm, Mic Mac Aquatic Club, Dartmouth) — see #1 above. Info here.
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the committee is taking up the proposed Schmidtville Heritage Conservation District.
Western Commons Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Art Room, Prospect Road Community Centre) — mostly an orientation meeting for new members.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — a per diem meeting.
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Frances Martin, the deputy minister at the Department of Environment, will be asked about the auditor general’s report from last November.
Bicentennial Commons (Tuesday, 2pm, Tupper Link) — the Dalhousie Campus Master Plan calls for a redesign of the area at the top of University Avenue, adjacent to the Killam Library. More info here.
The Right to be Rural: Reflections on Rural Sustainability in Atlantic Canada (Tuesday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — Karen Foster “will ask whether or not there exists a ‘right’ to live in a rural community — an idea behind debates over funding for rural medicine, schools, infrastructure and enterprise.”
Portrait of Jason (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Shirley Clarke’s 1967 film. Rescheduled from March 13.
Drums and Organs, Or, the Modern Frankenstein (Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30pm, Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — written by Gillian Clark and directed by Roberta Barker. $15/$10. Matinee Saturday at 2pm.
Voice Recital (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Marcia Swanston will perform.
New Classes of Transition Metal Catalyzed Bond Forming Reactions Powered by CO (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Bruce A. Arndtsen from McGill University will speak.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honours Presentations (Wednesday, 3pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — honours students present their research.
Belong Forum (Wednesday, 7pm, Potter Auditorium, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — MIT historian Craig Steven Wilder will speak about his book Ebony and Ivy, which is about the role of race and slavery in the development of several Ivy League universities in the United States. Register here.
In the harbour
5:30am: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
9pm: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
Nice day, looks like.
On the topic of planning: something that seems to have fallen under the radar a little bit is a staff report on Council’s agenda today regarding secondary suites (in-law suites, auxiliary dwelling units, etc.). The staff recommendation is to start a process to allow them in all low-density residential zones and to explore allowing back-yard suites (i.e. secondary suites that are in their own building rather than in with the main dwelling).
This is a pretty big (and exciting!) deal. If Council moves forward with this I think it will do really good things for housing affordability, and for densifying our urban areas in a “gentle” way.
Now that our beloved premier has gotten rid of school boards because he did not like the way they functioned, he has set an interesting precedent. Maybe we can expect him to abolish municipal government as well. After all, municipalities are “creatures” of the province. And if councilors are going to take money from developers and not excuse themselves from debates and votes on their projects, aren’t they guilty of accepting bribes (and aren’t developers guilty of offering bribes?). Then the premier can have a look at the provincial level of government, clean house there, and declare himself emperor for life.
I spent about 25 minutes at the provincial Human Resources Committee this morning in the hope and expectation that I would witness history during ‘Appointments to Agencies,Boards and Commissions’. Sad to say I did not witness history.
Perhaps HRM Executive Standing Committee will make history during their In Camera discussion, item 14.2.1
We will have to wait until next month when council deals with the recommendation from the committee and the co-ordinated announcement from the province and HRM.
Bus service is a heavily subsidized public service anyway. It isn’t “economically viable” no matter what – it should be cheaper for low income people. There’s a model for cheap, environmentally friendly public transit that has been proven – streetcars. Even without the streetcars, some of the most desirable areas of Montreal are former streetcar suburbs. Light rail and streetcars were removed from many American and Canadian cities in a deliberate conspiracy by big oil and the auto industry, which was proven in court, with the usual meaningless fine.
Streetcars are much more practical to electrify than buses, and last forever – there are streetcars in Japan that were built before the second World War that still work and are used for ordinary public transportation purposes. There are cars and trucks that are that old but still work, but they are laboriously preserved garage queens that only lasted as long as they did because they weren’t used every day.
Streetcars would also be a big tourist attraction.
I was fortunate to travel to Melbourne Australia a few years back. Their streetcar system is amazing and a wonder to behold and travel on. Sigh…….
Melbourne streetcars are actually called ‘trams’.
Unlike Sydney (and Halifax), Melbourne was a designed city which included wide boulevards to accommodate trams. Some of their older ones even turned up in Seattle.
It is implied here so I am sure Nick knows, but in case others didn’t realize, Halifax is one of the cities that had streetcars and lost them. It is a really interesting history.
Interesting and would 100% agree. Robie and Spring Garden/Coburg would seem like natural choices and each Spring it seems like the old rails are trying to bloom…
When I innocently took part in all the HRMbydesign public meetings and workshops one of my acquaintances with more cynical eyes said he wasn’t going to waste his time because in his experience these exercises never changed anything. I didn’t believe him. I thought, THIS time it will be different! Well, I was proven wrong. So in consequence I am not going to waste my time on the Centre Plan.
I distinctly remember one of the HRMbydesign meetings, the one where the public was asked to choose their preferred eventual skyline. I saw one which virtually blocked out Citadel Hill and thought that one won’t be accepted. It was, in fact, the one chosen by the attendees. It was also the gathering where it was blatantly obvious that there was a very large proportion of developers operatives present. You could pick them out a mile away. Sigh.
I don’t know what the answer is to protect whales from fishing gear, but I am pretty sure that it isn’t pointing fingers.
SMU should make sure they get their new arena built by someone other than whoever built the Dartmouth 4-Pad.