Category Archives: Saskatoon

The 33rd Street Bridge

Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill sent this out last night

Hello City Park, North Park Richmond Heights, Kelsey Woodlawn, Mayfair, and Hudson Bay Park,

Please note the PSA below for the next round of future growth public consultations.  I am getting the impression that members of the administration have already determined that there will be a new river crossing at 33rd Street.  They believe that this was supported by the majority of the citizens at the last round of consultations.  However, the attendance numbers were very low at those meetings and no one has provided me with accurate data on the demographics to get a clear understanding of who attended.

I know that many residents of numerous neighbourhoods in Ward 1 are opposed to a river crossing at this location.  They are concerned about new traffic patterns developing as well as increased volumes and speeds of traffic throughout the entire 33rd Street corridor as well as in the residential neighbourhoods.

Please spread the word and ensure that an effort is made to attend the meetings listed below.

I personally cannot understand the need for more river crossings in Saskatoon than Calgary, Edmonton, or even Manhattan have.  With a proper focus on a real transit system to serve the citizens, further development of walkable neighbourhoods, and properly planned infill – another river crossing would not be required.

Here is the PSA

HAVE YOUR SAY IN SASKATOON’S FUTURE! GROWTH PLAN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT OPEN NOW UNTIL WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2015, AT WWW.GROWINGFWD.CA

The City of Saskatoon invites residents to participate in the third round of open public engagement for the Growth Plan to Half a Million (Growth Plan).

Input is being sought on the recommended long-term plans for a new transit system with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT); a new river crossing at 33rd Street; BRT lanes on the University Bridge; and, redevelopment along major corridors like 8th Street, 22nd Street, and Preston Avenue.

The public also has an opportunity to provide feedback on the recommended implementation priorities for putting specific features of the Growth Plan in motion over the short- , medium- , and long-term.

Detailed project information and an online survey will be available at www.growingfwd.ca beginning Wednesday, February 25, through Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

In addition to online engagement, there are several public events being hosted for residents to learn more and provide input into the development of the Growth Plan.

Main Events – Growth Plan Focused Discussions
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
TCU Place, 35 22nd Street East
Daytime Session: Noon to 2 p.m.
Evening Session: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Growth Plan Campus Consultation
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Louis’ Loft, 93 Campus Drive
3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The input gathered during this round of engagement will help to develop the long-term plans for corridor redevelopment, transit, and core area bridges, as well as set the direction for an implementation plan. We will be back in the fall to share what we heard and confirm the final Growth Plan with the public.

Once complete, the Growth Plan will help to guide future infrastructure investments so residents will have more choices for how they live and move around the city as Saskatoon grows to half a million people over the next 30 to 40 years.

For more information on the Growth Plan or to sign up for project update notifications, please visit www.growingfwd.ca.

Not sure if Councillor Hill agrees but I think a 33rd Street Bridge would kill the 33rd Street Business Improvement District and really hurt Mayfair and Caswell Hill.  I really agree with Darren Hill’s view on this.  Public Transportation needs to be the goal.

Saskatoon City Council Meeting in Review

I haven’t done one of these in a long while but here are the highlights from today’s City Council meeting.

  • Both Pat Lorje and Zach Jeffries brought up the missing reports on the city council website.  Administration just kind of made up a reply and suggested they don’t have enough space to host all of them.  They are preparing a report on it and will present that to Council in April.  So yeah, administration was passive aggressive on the issue.
  • Now to be fair to administration, they scan stuff in the most inefficient way possible.  It is basically JPGs of paper reports converted to PDFs.  It means that the reports are often not searchable or indexed and are MASSIVE in size.  I am assuming that administration doesn’t have the space to host normal PDFs but it could be that they are handling these HULK sized PDFs. (“PDF Angry!  PDF SMASH!”).  Either way, disk space as an excuse is a weak one.
  • Eric Olauson brought up the issue of efficiencies for new businesses in getting set up in the city.  It’s a great point and Calgary has made some great progress.on streamlining processes in many areas of the city.  Administration seemed to shrug it off.  Hopefully Olauson keeps pushing for it.  I’ll just post this link to a Vox story that Olauson posted to Twitter last week.  I was hoping he would bring it up today.  It’s worth reading and would have made for an interesting debate considering Council voted to give Urban Systems a large contract to do what Houston did for free.  Of course the mandate for Urban Systems is larger than just transit.  In its mandate is all of active transportation (cycling, pedestrians, long boarding).  Some asked if there was much debate.  There wasn’t but with most of those kinds of things, the debate takes place once it comes back to Council.
  • Darren Hill asked the administration to take into account the impact city projects have on active transportation (walking, cycling, and long boarding).  I believe that if records were kept, Hill is Canada’s strongest long boarding advocate.
  • Olauson also brought up the issue that as a councillor gets complaints about an issue and it is kind of swept under the rug by admin who says, there is no issue.  As Olauson brought up, there is an issue because councillors keep hearing about it.
  • Clark brought this up twice but he called out the administration for using the term customer service in talking about citizens.  He essentially said that we are all in this together and City Hall needs to remember that.  It was a good thought.  Not that customer service is wrong but I am not a customer of City Hall but a resident of Saskatoon.  Clark later referenced that when he said that snow removal is an act of citizenship.
  • Ann Iwanchuk and Zach Jeffries both rose to talk about snow removal.  Both brought up the idea that we don’t want to punish people who are making a good effort or are on vacation.  I know what they are saying but isn’t that a responsibility of home ownership?  Shouldn’t you make arrangements or hire someone to shovel when you leave?  
  • I believe Pat Lorje was calling out City Centre Church for not shovelling their sidewalks.
  • Twitter feedback suggests that some neighbourhoods are way better at snow removal then others.  There seems to be some consensus that City Park is horrible at it.
  • There you go.  Short and almost sweet.  Councillors then retired upstairs where they had an executive meeting that was in-camera (closed door).

    Spin City

    The old City of Saskatoon website had reached the end of it’s practical life.  It was designed by Zu back before these new fangled things called CMS’s existed and when hand coding HTML was a way of life and while they did a great job of it when it was launched, it was coded in part by Microsoft Frontpage 97 (having used Frontpage 97, you can’t imagine how painful that must have been).  The City of Saskatoon decided last year to get a new one.  After ridiculous comments by city councillors (looking at you Councillor Hill who suggested once that we get a website like Calgary’s for cheap once the prices came down), RFPs, consultations, leaked screen shots, a website promoting the new website, and much hype. it finally launched.

    It looks okay outside of some truly horrible font choices.  When I say, “okay” I sadly mean that it looks like it was powered by Joomla (which is was).  It is a lot faster then the old one but there were some problems.  The search feature doesn’t work because someone forgot to upload a new site map to Google Webmaster Tools so all of the old results are there.  Instead of forwarding all of those results to the matching pages on the new site, they left them there as dead links.

    Most troubling is that not all of the old content made it over from one site to the other.  Trimming content from a website is nothing new.  Companies do it all of the time.  Governments on the other hand rarely do it, even when they change parties.  I can find press releases and reports on the Government of Saskatchewan or even Government of Canada website going back to the launch of the internet.  Some governments have been aggressive in getting even older stuff online in a variety of searchable formats.  It takes time but in some jurisdictions you have access to an incredible amount of historical information and not all of it flattering.  Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg are all great examples of cities who have large expansive archives that share the good and the bad.

    With the launch of Saskatoon’s new website, we have lost a lot of that information.  The City Clerk’s portion of the website used to hold the reports, papers, and even articles related to Saskatoon’s history that were accessible nowhere else.  The City Clerk doesn’t even have a section on the new site.  Old archived videos and council agenda minutes and reports are gone.  They are supposed to be uploaded “soon” but why launch without the content that used to be there?

    After I wrote Councillor Darren Hill about this. Within a day of that, there was a note say that if you were looking for that information, you could ask the city for it. So I did.  I asked for all of it.  So far I have been promised that someone will be in touch.

    I could ask for it, because I knew about it but if you don’t know about those reports (last year I was sitting down with a City Councillor who had no idea that the City of Saskatoon had benchmark reports comparing us with other western Canadian cities), you won’t even know to get them.  That is why you have a city website with all sorts of information on it, so people can browse.  It is something that we have lost now and unless City Council puts their feet down, we won’t get it back.

    Why does this matter?  The City says that people rarely access those reports.  They could be right.  Maybe it was only Hilary and myself who poured through them (I know there were others) but they were there and gave anyone who cared enough to access them some insight into how the City of Saskatoon was run and the data, rules, and regulations that drove decisions (or in most cases, were ignored by councillors.  

    That information was commissioned by the City and now isn’t available to be browsed for really no reason.  It isn’t 1995.  The City of Saskatoon isn’t being hosted on the Saskatoon Free-Net or GeoCities.  They have more than a megabyte of storage to work with.  Actually if storage is a factor, then the City of Saskatoon has the most incompetent IT people in the world.

    Apparently us wanting to look at that information is part of the problem.  For long time readers of my blog and my column, I have used that information many times to praise or call out the city and their statements as being inaccurate.  I have written many times that I tend to cover Saskatoon City Council as I would a sports team.  I want them to do very well but when they don’t, we talk about that as well.  If council wants better coverage, do better things.  Instead of doing better things, the city is doing more and more to hide what it does.  I have said this many times but it is easier to find out what other cities are doing across Western Canada than it is to find out what Saskatoon is doing.  So what are we doing that is so secretive?

    The reason is that Saskatoon doesn’t care about transparency anymore.  It is all spin.  The City comes out and spins Standard and Poor’s financial rating report and at the same time tries to refute Phil Tank’s fair summary of it.  They do this without publishing the actual report.  This is the same City that had attack ads of its own Transit Union after it locked them out.  It is the same City Admin that underfunded roads for over a decade and then spent thousands on new decals for pylons that said, Building Better Roads.  Press releases went from informative to almost partisan sounding complete with meaningless quotes from politicians and city managers.

    Now we have a website that is the continuation of the same thing.  It is another tool in spin.  It may look good but everything is presented with City Hall’s slant on it.  As far as I can tell, everyone on council is fine with it.  Why wouldn’t they be fine with it, it communicates one thing and that is that everything is fine in the City of Saskatoon.  For those that used data or facts to disagree or point out inconsistencies, well that data is all gone.  To get it, you need to go through the city or file a costly Freedom of Information Act.

    This is the new Saskatoon.  Hope you like it.

    According to Standard & Poors

    Very Strong Economy But Exposure to The Oil Sector Could Hamper Growth according to our auditors, Standard & Poors update released today.

    Saskatoon is centrally located within Saskatchewan. It is the province’s largest Census metropolitan area, and the city estimates its population to be about 254,000 as of June 2014. It exhibited what we consider to be strong growth in the past three years (4% and 2% in 2013 and 2012, respectively), although more moderate growth preceded this. The population is young: 17% are under the age of 14, and its dependent population is about 30%, based on the 2011 Census. Saskatchewan’s GDP per capita averaged US$70,494 in 2011-2013 and the province had been forecasting growth of 2.2% in 2014 and 2.3% in 2015. However, the recent plunge in oil prices and the weak Canadian dollar will likely result in some downward revisions to these projections because the oil sector, which also contributes a significant proportion of provincial revenues through direct royalties, generates almost 20% of the provinces GDP. We estimate that Saskatoon’s GDP per capita would be in line with the province’s, given its stature as Saskatchewan’s largest Census metropolitan area and the subsequent greater economic diversity than other areas of the province.

    The city is the larger of Saskatchewan’s two commercial centers, and the province is the world’s largest producer of potash. In our view, Saskatoon has moderate employment diversity. Agriculture, the public sector, and in particular the resource sector (mining and potash) are all important employers for the city, with the latter fuelling its recent population growth. Saskatoon has experienced a shortage of skilled labor and has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Canada in the past few years; forecasted to be about 4.1% in 2014 which is flat from 2013 and down from 5.6% in 2012. Its highway, air, and rail transportation link it to markets throughout North America, making it one of Canada’s hub cities. Agriculture is another important employer in the province and Saskatoon provides services and products to this sector. Other prominent private sectors of employment are trade and transport, retail, and food processing. Utilities (namely SaskTel, SaskEnergy, and SaskPower), health care, government, and education (including the University of Saskatchewan) are important public sector employers. We believe the city’s economic fundamentals are very strong, although we expect a downturn in the resource sector would affect its economy through higher unemployment, lower population growth, and lower revenue.

    There is this as well

    We believe Saskatoon’s land development activities expose it to some development risk. The city’s land development business line invests in infrastructure ahead of development and sells land at competitive market values to developers. Saskatoon has developed and follows a plan for growth and its land development activities help ensure it grows according to its plan. Although the city builds out infrastructure in consultation with developers, there is a risk that planned growth will not materialize, likely as a result of an economic slowdown, and the recovery of its land development costs from developers could be delayed.

    Klaszus: Calgary’s Council is Broken

    Metro Calgary columnist Jeremy Klaszus on the dysfunction of Calgary’s City Council

    In 2010, Nenshi ran on a platform of “better ideas.” His No. 1 better idea was secondary-suite reform.

    Last December, for the umpteenth time, council blocked this effort — despite consensus among citizens and organizations that reform is long overdue.

    Some on council were miffed when, ahead of the vote, Nenshi publicly asked business leaders to pressure five on-the-fence councillors to vote “Yes.”

    “If I were to vote for secondary suites now, people would say, ‘Joe knuckled under to the mayor,’” Coun. Joe Magliocca told the Calgary Herald. “That just burns my ass.”

    That’s unbelievably puerile on Magliocca’s part — try considering the good of Calgarians, pal, rather than your own image — but Nenshi’s approach of publicly pressuring his colleagues clearly backfired.

    While Nenshi revels in adulation, he struggles to build crucial relationships and is notoriously poor at handling his critics on council and off. (Remember when he aggressively berated that AM770 caller last year?)

    Yet for all his flaws, Nenshi has a strong vision for Calgary’s future. The same cannot be said of the cadre of councillors that often oppose the mayor — the likes of Magliocca, Ward Sutherland, Sean Chu and Jim Stevenson.

    This bunch would eagerly take Calgary back to 1973 if they had their way. They can’t imagine a city where people bike to work and live in secondary suites.

    Saskatoon’s Chamber of Commerce feels the same way about cycling

    Because Nenshi embraces the future of cities, he’s a magnet for top talent to Calgary.

    City chief planner Rollin Stanley and Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek have both said the mayor was a factor in their decisions to come here.

    It benefits Calgary when Nenshi is celebrated nationally and internationally. Now his challenge is to build the right allies locally.

    If Nenshi can do that, he might be able to salvage this council before it’s too late.

    This is what I want my mayor to do, embrace the future of cities.  It’s what Don Atchison has never seem to be able to do, he has embraced the way Saskatoon used to be and wants us to be that.  In a war to attract top talent, Saskatoon will keep falling behind when we have councillors and a mayor that looks back to the past and not forward.