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Month: November 2010

Leadership on Display

Patient welfare and LRT expansion both took a blast through the bow today in the crossfire of party politics.

One of the strongest draws to me in seeking a seat in civic government was the ability of Councillors to act and vote freely based on one’s own conscience and constituent concerns. In the same month where my family was forced to deal with the disastrous state of health care in Alberta, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA, Dr. Raj Sherman took a stand for patients and front-line staff, speaking honestly on the problem plaguing the system.  Today he finds himself suspended from the Tory Caucus. The only physician in the Conservative Caucus, the only physician in the Legislature practicing emergency medicine, is now outside looking in.  There’s no doubt a degree of loyalty is needed for a party to function, however it should never take a front seat over the lives of Albertans.  As a constituent, a future City Council Candidate, and an active volunteer in a community which averages over 420 emergency room visits by residents each year (city average is 346 – source “CofE Quality of Life Indicators), and a witness to the problems plaguing Alberta Health Services and the stress it places on families, I have no problem saying the obvious in that party politics and internal policy is putting lives at risk.

Dr. Sherman now sits as an Independent, pending a return to the Tory Caucus or a walk across the floor.  Regardless, he will have my support in the next election.  The question however is the future of our health system.  Solutions won’t be found in Duckett’s cookies and plans which were quickly drawn up this week.  With the elected official with the closest ties to the health system now sitting alone in the Legislature, the voice for long-term solutions is going to have to grow.  Voters can obviously take that on in the next election, and I do hope health care dominates the discussion at that time.  However, it’s our municipal politicians who I feel also need to take a stand.  Crossing government boundaries is rarely advisable, however the impact of this issue on constituent’s lives is immense, and I feel warrants action, both in public, behind-the-scenes, and through the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association.

Edmonton’s 2017 Expo bid was also dealt a direct hit today, sinking both it and a number of potential local infrastructure investments by the provincial and federal governments.  With both the Liberals and Conservatives jockeying for seats in the House of Commons, the solution by the Harper government to handling competing funding requests (from Quebec City’s Arena to this) was to give everyone an equal share of nothing.  As I said during the campaign, while not a fan of the event itself, I was supportive of the investment that it could have brought to our city.  Expansion of Edmonton’s LRT system is decades overdue.  For the revitalizing Stony Plain Road area, the debate and uncertainty regarding route selection was harmful to the revitalization’s efforts.  Now designated as an LRT corridor, the longer construction of the WLRT is delayed, the more local revitalization efforts will suffer.  It’s far too early to gauge what provincial funding may be forthcoming in the wake of the deceased expo, and whether local MP’s will be working to secure any federal dollars for local transit expansion and infrastructure work.  As a city, we can pick our MP’s, but we’re still pawns in a national game.  Here’s to hoping our provincial leaders pick up the ball and realize the importance of these capital projects in our capital city.

Neighborhood Renewal

During this year’s election campaign, I mentioned the current state of the community of Canora. A partner in the Jasper Place Revitalization, Canora is home to 3,300+ residents,with a future that affects the 15,000 who who reside in the JP area. The Jasper Place Revitalization is important to the whole, the successful conclusion of which requires addressing the individual needs of each community.  Glenwood, Canora, West JP, and Britannia-Youngstown share a need for long-term land-use planning which incorporates vision over short-term whims in order to provide certainty for the future.  An issue identified over 20 years ago in the 100th avenue land-use study.  In Canora in particular, the glut of RF2 zoning across the entire community is a concern which must be addressed.

Revitalization requires building pride in a community, and encouraging investment.  However the dire state of Canora’s infrastructure is anything but a selling point.  This past week, city administration reported to Council’s Transportation and Public Works committee on the current priorities for neighborhood infrastructure renewal.  The report and video of the committee meeting are available below, featuring a presentation to Council by a concerned community resident.  It’s disappointing to see that as current priorities stand, Canora will not see re-construction of it’s infrastructure until after the conclusion of the JPR in 2014.

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Kudos to CTV Edmonton for putting up the full video of Steven Duckett, the man tasked with running Alberta’s health system, acting like a child waving a cookie around and in a few reporters faces.

My question is, given that he was  still working on the cookie through the full 2 minutes 14 seconds of the video, how long did it take him to finish it?

How long did it take Stephen Duckett to finish his cookie?

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Northern Route

As a Community League volunteer in a neighborhood which was not engaged early on in the West LRT corridor selection process, the timeline of the process which ended with Council’s decision in December 09, was difficult to follow.  In order to better understand it, on behalf on the Glenwood Community League, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the City Clerk’s office for a number of records ranging from Councillor correspondence and Council audio recordings, to public consultation records and internal project team documentation for the 2007 Council term.

The fee estimate from the city to complete the request was $5105.00, obviously beyond the budget means of a Community League.  The FOIP act operates on the principle that the applicant should pay for access to information.  The applicant is allowed to request that the fees be waived when the records in question relate to a matter of public interest.  Given the impact the West LRT debate has had on Glenwood, the Jasper Place Revitalization, and the Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone, I did apply for a fee waiver.  The response from the City of Edmonton was a conditional approval of my request:

After completing an analysis of your request, the City of Edmonton is prepared to grant a fee waiver for this request on the condition that the date range of the request be amended to begin on May 28, 2008 when Council ordered Transportation Planning to begin the planning process for the proposed West LRT line over again.

The minutes of the May 28, 2008 Council meeting are below.  Given that the only item relating to the WLRT is an administrative inquiry and not a motion of Council, I did question the May 28, 2008 start date.  I was put in touch with staff from the Transportation Dept who indicated the change in route planning happened over time through postponements and a change in Council direction.  I was eager to move the request along (it ultimately took 5 months from the date I filed the request to receive the materials), and choose to accept the amended date.

Based on the materials received, and information forwarded to me by the Transportation Dept, for anyone who is interested in the timeline for the WLRT corridor selection, I have put it together below with the relevant meeting minutes, administration reports, Council audio, FOIP materials.

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The Netbook Experience

I’ve been considering a new laptop for awhile now, my older dell 700m is still trucking along, but with it replacing an out-of-commission desktop pc at home,  I was looking for something lighter to take to on the road.  After a fair bit of time with Google, and some more time in store actually handling the units, I finally settled on a Sony Vaio Netbook.

I would have preferred having 2gb of ram out of the box, but I’ve been impressed with what this little guy can do with 1gb.  So far I’ve done everything from light 3d gaming to tone mapping HDR images without any issues.  I have a Linux license plate on my car for a reason, and I quickly set about replacing the default Windows 7 Starter Edition with something far more useful.

My Linux Distros of choice these days are openSUSE and Kubuntu.  Not having a cd-rom drive, I used a USB key to test out both distro’s on the machine.   Both ran well off of the USB key, however wi-fi was an issue for both.  SUSE wasn’t able to stay connected to my wireless router and Kubuntu wasn’t able to shutdown with the wireless adapter’s “rt2800pci” kernel module loaded.  I solved the issue in Kubuntu fairly quickly by blacklisting the module.  Installing Kubuntu was simple enough, I used the Windows disk management console to shrink the default NTFS partition as much as I could, and during installation created three partitions in the free space for the root partition, my home directory, and swap space.   The system is quite speedy, and all the hardware was functional right after installation without much tweaking needed.

While bluetooth works fine under Linux, the KDE desktop’s bluetooth application doesn’t yet provide support for tethering to a mobile device.  The GNOME bluetooth manager does provide this functionality, however a disappointing bug with the latest version of Kubuntu causes the application to crash if using the default theme for the gtk-qt-engine.  I’m working around this at the moment by using a separate user account with a different theme configuration for tethering, as I want to maintain the same look and feel between qt and gtk applications in my primary user account.

The real test will be how this little guy holds up over time.

KDE4 Desktop with Weather and Calendar Plasma Widgets