Category Archives: Saskatoon

Some quick thoughts on the Saskatoon Mayoral Race

  1. Charlie Clark is going to announce today
    • How does one run against the status quo, when as a councilor, he has been a part of the status quo for a decade.  That will be a big part of his challenge as an sitting councilor.  Over the last four years I haven’t seen an independent initiative or policy come from Clark (or anyone on council).  That is part of the problem of so much stuff being done behind closed doors, it creates a form of party like discipline on otherwise independent councilors.
    • Yes Clark is outspoken in the public parts of council meeting which are held during the day when all of us are at work. 
    • On one hand he won’t tell media he is announcing for sure yet on the other hand everyone has an email telling supporters they want a big crowd out today.   Those kind of games are ridiculous.  I am assuming openness and transparency aren’t campaign planks. 
    • There is a feeling that Tom Wolfe would be mayor if he had started earlier four years ago, it makes sense for Clark to start now.
    • I saw some polling that showed Clark behind Atch but it’s way to early to read into that.
  2. Atch isn’t running for re-election until fall but has a new website, a big fundraiser, and whose campaign phone number is Earnscliffe Strategies.  So at the same time he is saying “nothing to see here”, he is hiring consultants for the race.  Not the best messaging that I have seen.
    • Also, get a new phone number.  You don’t use the number for Earnscliffe as your campaign number.  C’mon. 
    • While Clark is right to start now, Atch does have a point in that the campaign doesn’t start till fall when people start to pay attention.
    • Atch’s big fundraiser is soon.  That’s a big room. If he doesn’t sell out, is his campaign in trouble?  Does that open the doors another pro-business challenger on the right.
  3. How much does it matter that the NDP were beat badly in the last campaign in the city and won’t have the resources to help Clark.  Does a rightward shift in the city help Atch? 
  4. That being said, hiring Doug Richardson with long time Liberal ties help or hurt Atch in Saskatoon?  I know he was John Turner’s Chief of Staff back in the day and is a big Liberal in a little pond but this is a city that is voting conservative right now.  Interesting choice.
  5. Dayday announces tomorrow
    • How long is in the race for?  I can’t see him seeing this through until election day?
    • Does he take voters away from Atch or Clark?  How big will his 0 tax increase base of voters really be?
    • Can he raise enough money to be competitive?
  6. I think there will be at least one more name in the race and perhaps two more by the time August long weekend roles around.
  7. My feeling is an outsider to City Hall could be the wildcard.  No partisan background but running an effective and policy driven campaign around change could be unstoppable.  Does that candidate exist?  I don’t know.

In the end, it’s not a race that I am that invest in and won’t heat up until fall.  I also expect at least three more names to jump into the race which will change the dynamic again and again and again. 

Episode 004: Where would you place a downtown arena?

I saw Charlie Clark’s email newsletter this week and read his thoughts on the new arena debate.  I didn’t really buy his arguments or rather lack of argument but it started me thinking on where you would put a downtown arena if we wanted to build it.  I grabbed a camera and a tripod and went for a walk. 

I set up the tripod for the last shot and it worked a lot better.  I wish I had for the other ones but I was stopped a couple of times by both police and a City of Saskatoon employee.  All of them were super cool about it, they recognized me and wanted to see what I was up to but it was kind of through me off my game.  The next vlog will be better. 

Ward 3: Running Against Ann Iwanchuk

Councillor Ann IwanchukThis election series is dragging on as long as the GOP nomination race.  I had hoped the series would have been done by now but I’ve been sick with the leg again (still).  The medication is taking a lot out of me. 

I’ve tackled Ward 1 (Darren Hill), Ward 2 (Pat Lorje), and now it is off to Ward 3 and a look at one would run against Ann Iwanchuk if you were going to do so.

Well we onto Ward 3, a race that has become far less interesting with it looking like Mike San Miguel won’t be running again.  So there will be no Iwanchuk/San Miguel III, something that political pundits all over the city will miss watching.

Ann Iwanchuk won in a 2011 by-election and won in 2012 against Mike San Miguel.  Some people feel that San Miguel would have won if he hadn’t put out a poorly thought out attack ad on the last week of the campaign.  He may have but the attack ad went out and Iwanchuk won. 

This is how close the election was.  Ann Iwanchuk was driving the #11 car.

Ann Iwanchuk wins the 2012 election and 2016 Daytona 500

(okay, that was actually Denny Hamlin winning the 2016 Daytona 500 but you get the point… it was a close race). 

With Mike San Miguel not running again, Ann Iwanchuk should have a clear path to re-election.  If I was thinking about running against her, I hope I’d have someone to talk me out of it.  Here is why.

  1. Iwanchuk is a one term incumbent.  She has name recognition in the Ward.  That isn’t everything.  Rik Steernberg had it and was killed by Iwanchuk in the by-election that saw her win her seat on council but still, it’s a big advantage.
  2. Her husband, Andy Iwanchuk was also a long term MLA in the area.  That helps a lot with name recognition and also a network for a campaign team.
  3. She was backed heavily by labour in the last election and it’s an area where labour matters.  Again, it’s not just the money that matters, it is unions endorsing her.
  4. Iwanchuk is fairly quiet in council (well compared to some of her colleagues) and hasn’t made any boneheaded statements.  I disagree with some of what she says but that doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t thought out.  So unlike many long term councilors, there isn’t this collection of memories of head shaking moments that might be embedded in an electorate.
  5. I have long heard she handles constituent problems and issues promptly and thoroughly.
  6. Lastly several councilors have told me that she is incredibly effective in closed door meetings (yeah I know, another in-camera leak)
  7. Her expenses are boring.  The only thing that stands out is that she sponsored a tournament with the Saskatoon Aces (no one else did anything like that which I find interesting as I think hockey parents are a good voting block to target).  I guess this would the ideal time to point out that her website is offline.  Maybe some more money spent on expenses would be helpful.

So if you want to waste a couple of months of your life and $15,000 so you run against her, here is how I would do it:

  1. Ignore the Mike San Miguel vote totals.  Those came in a by-election and then a quick election just months afterwards in which San Miguel worked hard the entire time building profile and voter blocs.  I don’t think it is going to be replicated.
  2. While Iwanchuk is reportedly excellent with dealing with constituents, she is only a first term councilor.  That means that there is a good chance she hasn’t had to deal with so many voters that they have all developed a bond yet.   That is a small opening but if you are looking for hope, keep looking there.
  3. I wrote after the transit lockout how much people living in her ward were hurt by the lockout and how silent all councilors were all over it.   Being a councilor in a Ward where transit is heavily relied on (and offers some horrible service), that could be a significant issue in some parts of the ward.  The problem is that will they vote in significant numbers on one issue?  I doubt it.   I only bring that up because if there is one councilor that would be hurt by it, it would be her because of the demographics of Ward 3. 
  4. The biggest threat to Iwanchuk is if a tide of change sweeps through council.  If the preferred mayoral candidate runs on a platform of change and it catches, it will bring out voters that are looking for something different.  That isn’t limited to Iwanchuk, that is every politician.  That being said, I just don’t see it.  As I will get to in a later post, I think the status quo will be the defining story of this election.

You are basically reduced to door knocking and hoping your well liked incumbent thinks the election is in November of 2017.  Good luck with that.

It’s going to be a boring election in Ward 3 no matter who runs against Ann Iwanchuk.  While I have heard of one person considering a run, by the time the summer comes along, I could see her run for re-election be uncontested.

Ward 2: Running Against Pat Lorje

Here is the next edition of “Running for City Council”.  Darren Hill and Ward 1 were featured here.  Now I wander across 33rd Street into Ward 1 where we look at Pat Lorje, the long time councilor of the riding.

Saskatoon Ward 1 Councilor Pat LorjePat Lorje is currently a city councilor for Ward 2 in Saskatoon,Saskatchewan. She previously held the same position from 1979 to 1991, when she resigned to stand as the New Democratic candidate in Saskatoon Wildwood in the 1991 provincial election.  She was re-elected to the Ward in 2006, 2009, and 2012.

So yeah, she has some name recognition in the Ward and gets a lot of her support from the neighborhoods of Montgomery and Caswell Hill.  It’s not that other neighborhoods don’t like her, it is just that none of the turn out in enough number to determine an election. 

So what would my strategy be if I was running against a well known incumbent councilor?  During the last election, a politician said that it didn’t matter what their opponent did, they just had to worry about getting to a certain number of votes and there was a number of ways to get to that vote total.  The same thing would apply in Ward 2 and the secret is to cobbling together a coalition of voters who are frustrated with city life in Ward 2 and getting them out to vote.  This is how I would do it.

Montgomery

The NDP haven’t faced a serious re-election battle in Riversdale since Jo-Ann Zazelenchuk beat Roy Romanow in 1982.  They generally won handily in the area but that has started to change.  I have written before about the declining margins of victory that Danielle Chartier has won by in Saskatoon Riversdale which has gotten to the point where she is vulnerable to being beaten by the right Saskatchewan Party candidate (Not sure Marv Friesen is that candidate but you never know).  My point is that it looks like parts of that ward are voting right wing more often.  No longer is Montgomery home to veterans, it is home to an eclectic group of people who haven’t been voting for Lorje since before I was born.

Despite Montgomery being her base, it’s been a tough time for the neighborhood.  Despite several passionate speeches to City Council, Lorje wasn’t able to stop the wind turbine (which was a good idea until it came back economically unfeasible) and the construction of hundreds of new units of apartments.  The new City Operations Centre is going south of Montgomery.  The South Circle Drive Bridge and Circle Drive bring 24 hour traffic noise by Montgomery.    For a community that thinks of itself as a first among equals, much has changed a lot and people aren’t happy about it.  In the end, the wind turbine might have been the best of all things that could have happened.

Convincing those voters to either vote for you or stay at home on election day.

The Montgomery Apartments

Even if the older part of Montgomery holds, there are a lot of new voters to the community in those apartments.  They aren’t long term supporters of Lorje and are open to anyone who is going to go after them.  A flyer drop to those apartments reinforcing some of Lorje’s and Montgomery’s residents statements about those apartments could make it really awkward for her. 

Riversdale

The same thing with the Riversdale BID.  Lorje has been a large proponent of the business aspect part of it but against social programs being located there.  In a community that has seen it’s share of gentrification, a campaign reminding voters that Lorje has been against the services that are needed to help them could bring out voters in Riversdale.    Lorje and I have disagreed for years on these kinds of policies but that doesn’t matter.  If the voter is against gentrification, the answer is that it has happened because of the focus on business development on 20th Street with the kind of growth that has locked out local people.  If they are frustrated with the ongoing issues with crime and social issues, it is because there is no room for the social agencies to help them.  The question always is will Riversdale and Pleasant Hill  turn out in enough numbers to vote?  History says no.

Crime

Crime is rising in the city (thank goodness the City of Saskatoon Police were there to save us from the Compassion Club) and it is increasingly violent and more serious in Ward 2 where it is heavily concentrated.  This is one of those issues that is almost impossible to blame on Lorje, the issues are beyond the control of any one councilor but because of the incredible density of it in Ward 2 residents feel it.  To be honest, this isn’t a big issue to attack the incumbent with and it won’t be that hard to beat back but it could be problematic if people are frustrated in Meadow Green, Caswell Hill, Riversdale, and Pleasant Hill and are asked, “Do you feel safer than you were in 2012?”  For most, the answer is no.

Swept Away?

Is Lorje prone to be swept away if a sea of change finally hits City Hall?  Actually no.  That is the advantage of being an outspoken councilor, she has her own brand of politics that is separate from the rest of City Councils.  If a mood to change sweeps across the mighty South Saskatchewan River, Lorje is in a good place to ride it out.

Re-Election Chances 

It all comes down to whether or not someone can figure out the issues to motivate your coalition of voters to turn out on election day.  I think it could happen but it would be a long and drawn out campaign combined with a mayoral campaign that can bring out non typical voters.  If that happens, it could be the race to watch on election night.

What I Want My Mayor To Be

Well that was fun.  My column this morning on the Mayor missing the first day of the Big City Mayor’s Conference got a lot of feedback.  When I say feedback, what I am really saying is that most people hope I move out of the city soon.

One friend asked me that if I was Atch’s chief of staff, what would I do to make him a better mayor in 2016.  I really don’t have a problem with Atch personally and I think some things can’t change but here would be my list for what I think any mayor should do.

  1. Represent us on the national stage well.  That means showing up for things like the Big City Mayor’s Caucus when the federal government changes.
  2. Engage the population well.  Nenshi, Tory, Ivison, and a lot of other mayors use Twitter to not only communicate but listen to citizens.   He needs a website.  My preference would be that we did mayor.saskatoon.ca but even mayorofsaskatoon.ca would work as his platform for which to inform the public.  A couple of years ago I visited Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral website.  I was blown away but the design and the content.  I could find essential services information, New York City research, and all of his initiatives.  Really, how much does that cost?  It’s all being prepared anyways, so why not make it available to the citizens.  Using social media, you can not only talk to people but listen and make them feel heard and connection to their mayor.  Some do it better than others but there are people who have ideas, problems, and issues with the city.  Give them a voice and help them be heard.
  3. Be transparent: That debate over Atch posting his schedule online (which he did exactly once) was insane.  All he has to do is post the special interests he meets with.   Nenshi does this on this website.  It lists community groups, consular visitors, business leaders, and the occasional celebrity.  It doesn’t give away secret negotiations (which the Mayor doesn’t often do, city managers do) or even his lunch plans.  It does let Calgarians know what their mayor is up to and what people are shaping his decisions.  Why can’t Saskatoon’s mayor do the same thing?  Why can’t the Mayor of Saskatoon have the same disclosure as councilors do over travel and other expenses? 
  4. Acknowledge all of the data that is out there instead of going, “Saskatoon is different”.  This isn’t just about complete streets, density, homelessness, suburban sprawl, bike lanes, or policing.  It is all of them.  Other cities have fought our battles, been confronted by our problems (and found solutions) and many have researched the results.  Yet that kind of thinking if rarely shown in Saskatoon.  It is the kind of thinking that should come from a Mayor’s chair.  They are the one that is there full time, has a staff, and sets the tone.  Can you imagine a data driven City Hall adopting best practices from across the continent?  No I can’t either.  Is it too late to recruit Michael Bloomberg into Saskatoon?
  5. Be able to articulate where you want the city to go and become.  I am not just saying “1 million people” but do you want it to be a car driven city that is all about freeways or a city based around public transit and alternative forms of transportation?  You can’t be for everything, have a vision and drive it.  Let the people decide what they want, if it isn’t that vision, well that is the cost of leadership.
  6. Be financially responsible but understand the need for good investments that will save the city money down the line.
  7. Hire the best managers in the country.  Get managers who will push council as much as they will be directed by them.  Calgary’s manager calling for investment in the city was great.  Jen Keesmat calling out John Tory’s plan for the Gardiner Expressway is how cities are supposed to work.  Strong leaders bring conflict but they also bring out great ideas because they are all working on making Saskatoon a world class city.  I loved to see Mike Gutek battle with City Council, not because I liked to watch the fireworks but because I honestly felt that we were making progress as a city during those questions and answers.  Hard questions were asked and hard answers were given back.  That is often where progress is made.   On the flip side, the transit debacle showed that competence is hard to come by in our own City Council and administration when they locked out the ATU once illegally and then tried to do it again.   If you are going to lock out the transit drivers and make your own citizens going through hardships, at least do it correctly.  Maybe it is time to look outside the city for top talent.
  8. Speak bluntly about the city’s issues.  I miss Ralph Klein but we all know what Calgary was going through when I lived there.  The same thing with Nenshi today.  We are going to face some challenges ahead and some of them are because of the federal and provincial governments.  Others are going to be from the business and non-profit communities.  Call a spade a spade.  The Mayor doesn’t need to be everyone’s best friend, they need to be the leader of the city with our interests at heart.
  9. Go the galas but attend the community barbecues as well.  There are a lot of people in this city that will never be able to afford a Mayor’s Cultural Gala or Swinging with the Stars but things like a community barbecue mean a lot to them.  Be at the events on both sides of the river and for all economic classes.  There is more to the westside then the Farmer’s Market.

I don’t know if anyone running has those traits but the more they do, the better off the city will be.

Suburban Office Complex’s are Obsolete

Something for Saskatoon business owners to remember.

What tenants want in an office building is changing, and the old model of the isolated suburban office park is going the way of the fax machine. That’s according to a new report from Newmark, Grubb, Knight and Frank [PDF], one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world.

Suburban office parks are losing their luster, industry analysts say.

The old-school office park does “not offer the experience most of today’s tenants are seeking,” according to NGKF. As a result, the suburban office market is confronting “obsolescence” on a “massive scale.” More than 1,150 U.S. office properties — or 95 million square feet — may no longer pencil out, the authors estimate, though a number of those can be salvaged with some changes.

“Walkability and activated environments are at the top of many tenants’ list of must haves,” the report states. Office parks in isolated pockets without a mix of uses around them must have “in-building amenities” –including a conference center, a fitness center, and food service — to remain competitive, according to NGKF: “If tenants are not going to be able to walk to nearby retail or a nearby office property to get lunch, they had better be able to get it at their own building.”

This is the same for many businesses.

The study took a close look at suburban office submarkets in and around Denver, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In the “southeast suburban” Denver office district, for example, office buildings within a quarter-mile of the new light rail line had a 1.7 percent vacancy rate. For those outside a quarter-mile, vacancy rates were nine percentage points higher.

NGKF’s findings don’t mean that office tenant preferences are in perfect alignment with walkability, however.

This explains the tension in Saskatoon’s governance who are older and therefore prefer to drive.

Parking was also important to the marketability of buildings in suburban Denver. The report notes that a lot of older management personnel prefer to drive, while younger workers want transit access. So buildings that offered both were in the highest demand.

So do you build a office complex (or a city) for the past or for those you want to attract.  So far around here, it is about building for the past.

City of Saskatoon land branch sales fall by $100 million

This is bad news for the City of Saskatoon for a variety of reasons.  The one reason is that it provides funding for civic services and some of the profits were expected to pay of some of the growing city debt that our bridge building spree has cost us.

Long explained most of the land sale revenues go to paying Saskatoon Land expenses like servicing, marketing, land costs and administration.

However, since 2007 about $123 million from land sales has been redirected to pay for other civic initiatives, including another $4 million in the 2016 budget.

“There’s been a lot of benefits from the city being in the business of selling land,” Long said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to city council where the money goes.”

The other thing it means is that this is $100m less in development that is happening in Saskatoon.  I have heard from realtors, contractors, and increasingly laid off or under employed trades people that the boom is over and they are struggling.  Others are making plans to head back to British Columbia or Ontario.  The grass may have been greener in Saskatoon for a while but the fall of oils and the stagnant mining industry has taken it’s toll on a lot of people in Saskatoon.  This is just one of the many number of indicators that show us that things aren’t good right now in Saskatoon.

Council decides to revisit debate on public art funding because two councilors don’t like it.

Saskatoon City Council debates 1% art funding again because Eric Olauson didn’t like it the results the first time so here we are again.  Reporting from the CBC.

Saskatoon city council is still trying to figure out what it’s going to do about public art. At Monday’s council meeting, councillor Eric Olauson tried to rescind a policy to earmark one per cent of the budget of significant capital projects for public art.

The rest of Saskatoon City Council decided to move ahead with this last year but Councilors Olauson and Donauer bring it up again.

Last year, council decided that for high profile civic capital projects of $5 million dollars or more, one per cent of the city’s contribution — up to half a million dollars — would be earmarked to include a work of art. 

The public art reserve is one of the topics that dominated discussion around the council table during the annual city budget review on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Councillor Randy Donauer also questions the policy.

"What we had brought to us at budget this year was a half a million dollar project to put art on sound walls and on fire halls that I don’t think is line with what public perception for funded art is."

He said if art is inside a fire hall, the public won’t see it. If art is on a sound wall it can be vulnerable to graffiti.

Actually, in Saskatoon and elsewhere, graffiti artists leave art walls alone.  It is bare walls without walls that are vulnerable to being tagged.  As for the art indoors, by that  logic, all art should be taken outside of public buildings.

Donauer wants council to re-examine the policy and decide where and when public art should be built.

Council once took hours to debate the kind of material a fence should be made of in Sutherland.  Can you imagine a debate on where and what kind of art should be built?

Meanwhile councillor Charlie Clark said he believes there is some confusion about how the policy is applied.

"Intuitively it’s not one that you would think ‘OK we want to spend a lot of money to add public art into.’ Although I have had a lot of people say those sound walls are pretty boring. And they end up being a scar on the landscape in a way because they’re just plain and divide neighbourhoods from each other."

He said there are innovative ways to make them more interesting while the walls are being constructed.

He gave an example to a privately owned wall along Warman Road intentionally covered by graffiti, which he said has become quite "beloved in the community."

Expect more of this as we get closer to the provincial election where Olauson is desperate to raise his profile and prove his conservative credentials.