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It’s not “crap”, it’s just not very good.

molson

I promised myself at one point this past winter, that I’d make the time to head down to the Molson Brewery and spend some time taking pictures of brick, and masonry..and history. Passing by the site today, I see that a dismantling of the Molson sign has begun. It might have started a while back, but I noticed it today. If were moving forward with an unpopular development proposal for the site and expecting media cameramen to make an appearance, I’d probably pick this as a good time to have an iconic feature removed from view.

Folks in Oliver have a great community league. It’s active, it’s engaged, it’s forward thinking, and it’s home to the next generation of volunteers on which the future of the community league system will depend. As a community league civics director, and as a member of the Federation of Community Leagues Planning Committee, I’ve been impressed by how they’ve approached the proposed redevelopment of the Molson Brewery over the past year.

Identifying concerns with the site’s proposed rezoning, it’s amenities, and a lack of residential uses on a downtown property along a major transit corridor; The Oliver League has connected with all the right people. They’ve held community meetings. They’ve developed positive recommendations and have been ready and willing to work with city planners and the property owner to develop something positive for the area, for downtown and for the preservation of it’s history.

And today Council passed a proposed rezoning which pretty much ignores all of that. The kind of decision that ends with volunteers leaving forehead sized dents in the fabric walls outside Council Chambers.

The Mayor and Council that famously promised “no more crap” didn’t exactly pass crap today. They just did what they’ve frequently done over and over again, in simply accepting what was deposited at their door. Councillors are meant to be the keepers and dreamers of a city’s vision, someone else could be the status quo rubber stamp society.

It’s the legal role of the Sustainable Development department to process applications to rezone a property. And herein lies my challenge to the next Council that will take shape at the end of October.

Rebuild the road that leads to you.

It’s the job of planners to prepare zoning applications and bring them to Council. They don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to recommend them, they simply have to prepare them for Council’s consideration. Outside of that, our planning and development process is open to a world of change. We don’t hire individuals trained to simply process applications. We hire educated, professional urban planners. Minds that can interpret and articulate a city vision. That can work with engaged stakeholders and incorporate input from all sources into a recommendation for Council.

Council could have sent today’s rezoning application back to city administration for reconsideration. Or city administration could have gone to Council with an additional alternative proposal, built collaboratively with all interested parties, and with our planners’ own sense and vision of what they want for the core of our city.

Voters will pick new faces for Council in October. Which of those, if any, will take on the role of changing the face our city’s administration. The city has hired some excellent individuals to work in it’s sustainable development department. Encourage them to come to Council with more than cookie-cutter proposals built on narrow vision and input. Developers in Edmonton aren’t known for being particularly experimental or open to taking risks. Don’t be afraid, current and future Councillors, to say ‘no’ once and awhile, and show them that the risk they perceive, might just be a great development that a community wholeheartedly wants.

Edmonton Molson brewery site rezoned amid controversy – Edmonton Journal

Edmonton city councillors approve controversial Oliver plan – Metro Edmonton

Controversial rezoning of Molson brewery site approved by council – CBC News

 

Hey Hey Hey Goodbye…

Katz Group puts pressure on potential Edmonton Northlands contractor

Downtown arena may be dead if Oilers owner Katz doesn’t step up

An election is approaching – an unpopular arena funding model seems to become more so by the day – A provincial budget came and went without $100 million in arena funding, leaving the Mayor’s “the money is coming, the money is coming” reality distortion field, bleeding on the side of the potholed road – And a couple more City Councillors have toyed with the idea of possibly, maybe, sort of, voting against the Arena framework as it heads back to Council without the Provincial funding we knew it wasn’t going to get.

Did I mention an election is coming?

Anyway, as it all heads to either a tear-filled finale or a ramming through from throat to rectum, I’d like to offer Council and Council hopefuls a solution, free of charge.

Cut Katz loose.

Aside from a 30+ year lease for the use of the facility for 41 days per year + the playoffs (if any), let’s do it without him. Let’s do it without the Katz drama, the Katz ego, the $20 million marketing deal and the forfeiture of facility revenues. Let’s do it without his meagre investment to be spread out over decades.

I don’t begrudge Daryl Katz for making fantastically one-sided business deals, I just wish my city could do the same. Here’s Edmonton’s chance – cut Daryl out. If we’re going to build it, if we’re going to own it, if the city is going to stretch its borrowing capacity by a half-billion dollars to do this; then let’s run our rink, fill its seats, and profit fully from it.

If we need partners going forward, who have the expertise and the ability to bring shows through the door; Then starting with a trip to LiveNation, City Council can send Simon Farbrother on the road with instructions to fill the barn, not give away the farm.

Failing the Frail – Homecare reductions in Alberta

 Alberta Health Services cuts homecare services

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“…assessed by START (Short Term Assessment and Rehabilitation Treatment) to develop a treatment plan to improve her quality of life and allow her to continue living out in the community.”

Glenrose program keeps seniors active

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My headline for this blog post is, of course, recycled from when I wrote last year about the closure of the START program at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. The program, highlighted so well in the above quoted article from 2006, was shuttered last year. My father, thanks in no small part to the advocacy of some diligent and committed home-care staff, was one the last patients to benefit from the impressive rehabilitative care offered by the program, and the efforts of staff, a number of whom had been with the program since its very beginnings.

Alas, with little consultation, and wave of approved soundbites in the face of criticism (namely from former patients contacting any local media who would listen), START was quietly closed. Assurances followed that opportunities would be there to treat patients in the community, and that the level of care would not suffer.

Over the past two years, over 5000 additional patients, being treated in their homes, in their communities, have been added to rosters of the Edmonton area’s various home-care providers.

No one asks to suffer from, to endure, and fight to overcome the effects of age, illness, injury, etc. And it’s hard enough finding obstacles and barriers everywhere, and everyday, where healthy individuals may see little more than some steps to climb, a distance to walk, or a curb to step upon. What’s desired is a level of care that enables them to maintain some quality of life, to avoid complications that can lead to setbacks, and hospitalization, and some help for families that struggle to provide and care for a loved one in need.

None of this can truly be appreciated unless it’s been seen or experienced up-close. Unless you’ve witnessed and/or cared for a loved one with medical difficulties, unless you’ve been a nurse, or a therapist, or one of the many talented individuals in the medical field or provide these supports to individuals in their homes, it can be so incredibly easy to under appreciate the issues at hand.

And it would seem that our decision-makers, elected or otherwise, exist detached from the everyday struggles of many Albertans. Perhaps it can be seen in a government that allows a compassionate care bill to die on the order paper. Or maybe in the statement of an AHS official who seems to believe that there’s little connection between a level of care, and the time health-care providers have available to spend with a patient.

“”We are not reducing the level of care for any of our clients. We will be reducing the amount of time spent with them in some instances,” Williamson said.”

 

“I’m sorry Mrs. Johnson, we’re reducing your daily exercise program by 15 minutes, the program that allows you to stay mobile and active”.

“I’m sorry Mr. Jones, we don’t have time to treat all your diabetic sores today, we’ll do the rest tomorrow, or Monday”.

 

The day-to-day life of a homecare worker isn’t just time spent with the patient. Time seems much shorter when a worker new to a patient and unfamiliar with them and their care must deal with the situation. Time which is well used to do more than run through a prescriptive routine, but which can be used to fully assess a patient’s state and condition. Time which is also consumed by travel and the transportation of supplies and equipment.

AHS is once-again acting upon a decision made behind closed doors, without any consultation whatsoever with those affected the most, failing those whose care they have been tasked with.

I challenge AHS to do better. I challenge everyone from senior management to the Minister of Health to set foot in our communities, in our neighbourhoods – to book our community halls and events centres and discuss this issue and many more, face-to-face with everyday Albertans. Listen to those who receive home care, those who provide it to the highest of standards, those who strive to provide the highest level of care to their patients, and those who support and care-for a relative or a spouse in need. It’s called public consultation, it’s called stakeholder involvement, and it shouldn’t take digging by a political party or the media to break an issue out into the open. Transparency, consultation, and open decision should, as a principle, be the standard of this government, and in particular the department with which we entrust our health, our lives, and that of those we care about.

State of Democracy

EDMONTON—In findings that should disturb every politician across the country, a series of new national surveys suggest record numbers of Canadians are fed up with the state of our democracy.

Worse for elected leaders, more and more Canadians believe that politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, don’t listen to them, don’t care about the issues that really concern them and aren’t willing to act to preserve and improve our democratic institutions and traditions.

Only 17 per cent of Canadians trust Parliament and only 10 per cent trust political parties.

Read the rest @ TheStar.ca

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I can’t find myself disagreeing with the results of any of the referenced studies. Anyway, I’ve hacked out some thoughts..bit of a rant on the subject of engagement, good governance and political involvement.

 

“Neuman told the delegates that growing numbers of Canadians are disillusioned with elected officials and have now turned to supporting grassroots citizen actions, such as the last fall’s Occupy Movement, the B.C. referendum on the HST and this summer’s Quebec student protests, as a way to make their voices heard.”

 

It’s pretty simple at the end of the day:

No un-returned phone calls.

No unanswered letters.

No letters advising you “to be cautious as to how you approach future communications as your comments could be upsetting to some individuals. This could delay the decision on a new school”.

No party whips, and party leaders, and party agendas to wade through.

And no bureaucratic and political hills to climb and barriers to entry, that have been built up to the point of inaccessibility for the average person.

 

These are things that don’t exist in any successful and inclusive grassroots & community movement. And for the average person who wants to be an engaged citizen, who wants to be involved and have say – these require the strength in numbers of grassroots organization to overcome.

It’s why I joined a community league. To advocate on behalf of my community with like-minded individuals, in way we could never, ever, do on our own. It’s the reason Edmonton’s community league movement was built, to provide citizens with the ability to positively affect the growth of a city in which the voice of the individual was increasingly being drowned out.

As for other levels of government….

In the provincial legislature, my community is represented by an MLA who was thrown out of government caucus for bluntly laying out the state and management of health care in Alberta. Party came first, and a decision was made behind closed doors. against our constituency, our MLA, without any consultation. And yet their smiles were warm and friendly when they came to ask for our support in 2012.

Federally, my riding is represented by an MP who is chronically disengaged, and often unreachable. What accessibility to government and policy can there be for an individual or small-group when even a simple discussion can’t be had, or an inquiry answered?

Of course Canadians feel disengaged, unheard and detached from government. Time during the day is short, our lives are hectic, and we have little tolerance for spending precious free time talking to a wall or wading through rhetoric.

But if we want something more than a depressingly low voter turnout, policy developed in a vacuum, and partisan sniping, then folks need to find the time and fortitude to go out and demand it. It’s the only way we’re going to cultivate future leaders with the will and desire to make their time in government as demanding one them and their colleagues as possible, by initiating engagement, transparency and citizen participation from the top-down.

*ability, Oxford and Edmonton – A green neighbourhood with an auto obsession.

My volunteer life has taken a turn towards looking at walkability, and the accessibility of neighbourhoods to all forms of transportation and all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities. It’s through that lens that I find myself looking at north-west Edmonton’s Oxford Neighbourhood. A suburban community, with the city as it’s developer, aspiring towards “mandatory environmental standards and sustainable development”.

At least, for the built-form of it’s homes.

“Homebuilders for the 87 available lot spaces are required to meet eco-friendly guidelines for conservation and energy-efficiency including achieving a minimum EnerGuide rating of 78 or be certified to Built Green Silver standards or equivalents.” – CTV News 

Oxford’s Residential Design Standards for builders and lot owners.

But for a city in which walkability, bikeability, and ability to reduce auto dependence are increasingly on the minds of many residents, and seemingly with the support of a number of city policies, directives, and statements – how does Oxford fit in.

Well – It’s a suburban development. There are no back lanes and “attached double front garages are required”. The sort of design that leads to a cluttered, vehicle dominated streetscape and certainly limits the ability to have treed boulevards separating pedestrians from traffic. The subdivision has a suburban block style, but there are walkways to provide pedestrian connections. A larger question could be what amenities, and supporting densities are planned for the eventual, large-scale neighbourhood build out that would support a greener lifestyle by allowing residents to do more close to home?

Appreciating the environment standards which the city has set for the community’s homes, there a larger issues at play. And with the city assuming the role of developer, I would expect, and would have expected that a push towards greener living include local streetscapes which are friendlier to people and their bikes and feet, rather than their cars.

Dizzy

The City of Edmonton says it can’t ‘affirm’ his economic claims, Councillors say they don’t know what he wants, and to date we’ve been threatened with relocation to Hamilton, Houston, Quebec and Seattle by two different owners of a team that’s been rebuilding for 20 years. If anyone wants the ride stopped so they can get off, I don’t think you can be blamed. The Mayor has set an October 17th deadline for Mr. Katz or representatives to appear before Council, although what would happen if they’re no-shows as the deadline comes and goes is..undefined. I’ve written on the arena a few times before, so until something actually moves other than politicking and posturing, I think I’ve said my piece.

The comments from the Mayor about the two sides being ‘far apart’ despite the existence of an approved financial framework are interesting. To that end, I went looking for old news articles from the time of it’s approval for comments from the Katz Group. Just to try and glimpse their level of support for the framework at the time. Anyway, in the process I compiled a number of articles from the past several years. Time clouds details, and it’s interesting too see the specifics that have been washed out from memory. If you’re interested in some arena-saga nostalgia, check out the collection below.

More confusion over Katz plan

Skepticism, tough questions must stick to arena debate like glue

NHL commissioner adds his say about downtown arena

Research on downtown arena has cost Edmonton $450K

Oilers bid makes arena plan more feasible: councillor

Mandel sets Oct. 17 deadline for Katz Group to spell out arena demands

Concern grows over the future of Rexall Place

NHL’s Bettman asks mayor for meeting on arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Angry taxpayers protest arena

Ex-NHL owner disputes arena economics

Mayor, Katz Group to meet with NHL commissioner in New York

Arena funding model mulled

Edmonton arena deal within reach, mayor suggests – Edmonton – CBC News

Alberta looking at funding Edmonton arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Stelmach, Mandel meet to discuss proposed downtown arena

Oilers owner Katz drops arena non-compete clause

Arena funding hot topic at public hearing – Edmonton – CBC News

Katz sets the record straight in a letter to Edmontonians

Edmonton, Katz Group agree to $450M arena deal | Hockey | Sports | The London Free Press

Oilers talking about move to Quebec City?

Downtown arena framework approved – but not all convinced

Arena decision reaction

Katz Group postpones public hearing

No federal money for downtown arena

Edmonton mayor wants vote on downtown arena

 

 

 

FOIP’ed Ya!

The FOIP Act adds to all the other rights of individuals and organizations with respect to the access to information and protection of personal information within local public bodies.

Good business practices are the best way to operate in a FOIP environment. When you are making notes, or sending an e-mail, write it as though it could appear on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow. The Act doesn’t allow severing to avoid embarrassment. If events are recorded in an accurate, descriptive fashion, there is no cause for alarm in releasing records.

I mentioned e-mail: as e-mails are records, if we received a FOIP request, e-mails would be considered for release. It is worth mentioning them specifically as sometimes people are more casual in how they write e-mails, or mix business and pleasure in one note as if it were a phone call.

From:

The FOIP Act. Presentation for Elected Officials

www.servicealberta.ca/foip/documents/newly-elected-officials-foip-speaking-notes.rtf

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The FOIP act does make it possible for individuals and organizations to acquire the correspondence of individual politicians relating to government business.  In my experience, it’s neither easy nor possible without several months of exchanging correspondence and occasionally barbs with FOIP coordinators.  I’ve done it twice in the course of my volunteer activities, in relation to a specific decision and a government program.  Both requests took nearly six-months, with one ending successfully with delivery of the requested records, and the other ending in a dispute which the Privacy Commissioner ultimately refused to move on to an adjudicator.

The FOIP act does work to protect the personal lives of politicians and the right to individual privacy.  No need to worry about a FOIP coordinator copying letters to your mother and the notes on your fridge.

So when the business of government starts taking place away from formal channels, the communication resources paid for by our taxes and access to Freedom of Information requests, is there an issue?

Morton accused of evading public scrutiny with secondary email address, shredded documents

Campaign spokesman insists both practices common in government

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Morton+accused+evading+public+scrutiny+with+secondary+email/5371349/story.html

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/alberta-investigating-tory-leadership-candidate/article2159129/

“I think I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary,” Morton said

Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed that he, too, maintains a secondary email address and uses it to conduct government business. Former deputy premier and leadership candidate Doug Horner also used a separate government email to do ministerial work.

Do provincial FOIP coordinators have access to all secondary communication channels, outside the control of the Government of Alberta, used to conduct formal government business?  Are these email addresses subject to the same data retention policies and practices in use on officially provided communication tools?  Has official government business conducted on secondary addresses been excluded from Freedom of Information Requests; ie, considered personal, not government correspondence?

Until questions are answered, I’d call this a wee bit of a problem, definitely one worthy of further investigation, both at the provincial and municipal levels.  As for it being “out of the ordinary”, well, if everyone is potentially dodging the FOIP act, intentionally or not, then I guess it isn’t.

Make up your mind

There’s an interesting article out in the Edmonton Journal regarding resistance to the proposed downtown LRT corridor (part of the proposed Lewis Estates to Millwoods low-floor corridor).

Of course having been neck deep in the WLRT corridor debate back in the day, there’s a few things that caught my attention, bringing back memories of 2009.

“All I hear from communities, and I hear lots, is that our administration is absolutely intransigent,” Mayor Stephen Mandel told transportation officials.

“(You) say, ‘We will listen to you’, but you have no intention of listening to anybody. You have your minds made up.”

The first being a word (highlighted above) which no doubt gave the senior transit planners in attendance, bad flashbacks to 2008.  The second being my flashback to 2009,“(You) say, ‘We will listen to you’, but you have no intention of listening to anybody. You have your minds made up .”

The 2009 public involvement process for West LRT corridor selection was preceeded by the annual  State of the City address (quoted below)…

Imagine an area like Stony Plain road maybe, with tons of shops and cafes and trendy apartments or lofts above each one. You can live and work on the same street and have the LRT connecting you to everything else, and everything else to you.

It wasn’t easy trying to find value in “public consultation” when the city’s lead decision maker picked his route, and announced it at the podium the day before.  In the end, someone’s gotta make a decision.  In the beginning, sometimes it’s best just to be quiet and listen.

A Downtown Arena and The Hockey News

From the October 25th edition of the Hockey News….

Early reports had the Katz camp seeking 100 percent control and 100 percent of the revenue (hockey and otherwise) of a 100 percent taxpayer-funded arena.

Once the laughing stopped in Edmonton, the Katz Group agreed that further discussion might be necessary.

“of a 75% percent taxpayer-funded arena” would have been more accurate, but it shouldn’t stop us from filing this under the funny ’cause it’s true category.