A couple of weeks ago a local politicians phoned me up and simply said, “You are stupid and naive”. That intrigued me so I said, “go on”. During the conversation I was told the city “actually works” and no one cared about the social issues I was talking about. I was reminded that “people vote in their own self interests” and they don’t care for others.
They are right. Statistically I can prove to you that people don’t care about poverty issues. People don’t care about battered women unless it is an NFL player hitting them. People don’t care about the children being prostituted or the girls taken from reserves to work the streets. People don’t care about global warming very much or at least not enough to change. People don’t care about how we can built a better city. They only care about their own commute. The proof is in the hashtag #yxetraffic when there is an accident on Circle Drive. You would think the world has ended because people are delayed a little bit.
People do care about their taxes. Personally I have long felt that I am under taxed for the services we get but despite having a really low property tax rate, people tell me all of the time how much tax they pay. Apparently they don’t read about anyone else’s tax rates. People care about how rough they have it. I get letters from people who live in multi million dollar homes on Whiteswan Drive telling me how bad it is there because of the traffic noise. When I minimized the road design of Saskatchewan Crescent, I got email from many people who live there about how hard it is to live on Saskatchewan Crescent. I know, who thought the two worst streets to live on are Whiteswan Drive and Saskatchewan Crescent and where do I send a donation to make it better?
Politicians tell me all of the time of the people that they fear the backlash from. It’s not those that are struggling. They don’t donate and they don’t vote. It’s those who complain about their taxes, who think the city is spending their money in the wrong places, that only care about the pothole on their street. It is why the communications that the City of Saskatoon ran as soon as the lockout started mentioned keeping a promise to taxpayers (a promise I can’t find anywhere) and putting the blame on the ATU. Who runs ads attacking the group of people you are supposed to be negotiating with?
The special city council meeting that was called to vote on the pension changes had a great Q & A with Murray Totland where each councillor lobbed softball question after softball question at him to help build political cover. What never came up? What the city was going to do to help people who rely on transit.
This is a city council that spent hours a couple of years ago debating what kind of fence that the city should build. Should it be wood, brick, chain link, cement block, a combination of materials? Seriously, they went around and around over the most minuscule of things. Yet when a couple of thousand of people were left out in the cold with no transit, there was no discussion at all?
I agree with labour action. Lockouts and strikes are part of the process. At the same time this lockout is different. There are some hard working people that are being negatively affected.
- A guy I know who pulled himself off the streets lost his job because of not being able to get to work because he lived on the westside yet had a job in the far north side of the city.
- A waitress I talked to lived on the westside, attends University of Saskatchewan and works downtown. It’s almost impossible to get to class, work, and home in the same day. When I went back to talk to her about it, she broke down in tears from just trying to spend an additional three hours a day walking and not being able to get home between class and work.
- A couple that has been married for 62 years in our neighbourhood was separated last year when Alan had to be placed in a care home because of his dementia. He doesn’t eat when his wife isn’t there so she takes Saskatoon transit from Mayfair to his care home everyday to help make sure he is okay. Now she can’t see him and he isn’t eating. As she said, “I talk to him on the phone but it’s not the same. I’m so lonely without him”
And where are city councillors? Well they are refuting a story from the Huffington Post on property taxes but are silent on a transit lockout that is hurting all sorts of people. I have some on council that I consider friends but as I have told them, they are failing the city as politicians and as human beings.
A couple of people I have talked to have told me that they are leaving Confederation area at 6:30 a.m. to get to work or class on time. Next Wednesday I am leaving the Confederation Bus terminal at 6:30 a.m. and am walking to the University. It is 6.1 kms. Google Maps tells me it is a 90 minute walk.
To keep me company on the walk, I invited City Councillors along with me. I thought we could talk about some poverty issues and maybe even a little about the lockout. So far two have gotten back to me on the record. (out of town)
We will be walking through parts of Wards 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1.
I am not sure why I am doing this except to work through the incredible disappointment I have with all of city council. It’s not just disappointment with them as politicians (I feel that after every single city council meeting ever) but rather with them as the leaders of the city. Of my city. They are hurting people that I spent almost every waking moment for a decade trying to help and none of them even want to acknowledge that they exist. Maybe by walking with me we can get some sort of understanding of the challenges they face just getting to work or class.
You can come with me if you want. We can talk minimum wage increases, Saskatoon Transit, and what it is life to work hard and be ignored. You will see first hand that I can’t type on a phone and walk at the same time.
I’m not leading a protest. I’m just trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with a city that hurts that many people and doesn’t think twice about it. If you have any ideas why, let me know. Or join me on Wednesday at the Confed Bus Terminal at 6:30 a.m. I’ll be the guy that looks like me. Bring your own coffee.