Tag Archives: Darren Hill

Darren Hill: “We’ve screwed this up completely”

No, it’s not Darren Hill’s re-election slogan, about Cosmo, the North Bridge, or about rising crime in Mayfair.

A Spadina Crescent home where author Farley Mowat once lived will not receive heritage designation, which could have brought the owner up to $84,400 in tax abatements to cover ongoing renovations.

Although the city had given the homeowner the green light to start his renovations a year ago and appeared poised to grant his application for heritage designation this spring, the provincial board that oversees heritage properties recommended last month that the application be denied. Council on Monday voted to accept that recommendation.

“We screwed this up completely,” said Coun. Darren Hill, who was alone in voting against the province’s recommendation.

“There’s no doubt that this was a comedy of errors from the start of that application process.”

Mayor Don Atchison disagreed.

“If the province wasn’t prepared to go that direction at all, I don’t know why we’d be going there either,” he told his colleagues before the vote.

So let me get this straight.  The City of Saskatoon told a homeowner to go ahead with renovations (that I assume they approved) and now that the province disagrees, the city walks away and leaves the homeowner with a $84,000 hole in his budget and no one on council cares.

I know this house in in Hill’s ward but it seems a little cold, even from a council that doesn’t often care about individual homeowners.

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).

    The StarPhoenix: When it comes to transit, Saskatoon talks a better game than it delivers

    From today’s The StarPhoenix editorial.

    Given the fiasco involving route cancellations that greeted riders on the first day of a new school year, it’s difficult to take seriously the City of Saskatoon’s commitment to developing a bus rapid transit system, improve services to meet the demands of growth and lessen the urban carbon footprint.

    City Hall seems to be pinning the blame in part on a shortage of qualified heavy duty mechanics in the market, as well as an inability to reach a contract with its transit employees, which is forcing it to advertise for mechanics at wage rates based on the expired 2012 contract.

    A month after transit director Bob Howe apologized to commuters after cancelling seven routes because too many buses needed repairs for short-staffed mechanics to fix them all, and described the situation as an “anomaly,” frustrated university students and high schoolers on Tuesday saw the cancellation of direct routes to campus, downtown and many high schools.

    In addition, no buses will be added to the busiest routes at peak travel times, and transit officials advise commuters to avoid peak morning and evening trips if possible. It’s those who are trying to get to work or school on time, and return home afterward, who are creating the “peaks,” and it’s transit’s job to accommodate their needs, not the other way around.

    The cancellations and delays in the implementation of new routes were announced on Friday, before the Labour Day long weekend. Transit users, who have had to cope in recent years with frequent changes to routes and services, can’t be blamed for questioning why the city cannot seem to get its act together on managing the service properly.

    “We have been in an environment of labour uncertainty for the last number of months which has proven to be challenging,” noted the city’s news release on Friday.

    Yet, what isn’t clear is what role Saskatoon’s policy of buying second-hand buses that other cities don’t want is playing in creating the demand for more mechanics and a repair backlog that had rendered the transit service unable to field a full complement of buses for its routes.

    Mr. Howe says transit has sent as many buses as possible to be repaired by private companies. Given that the problem has been obvious for at least a month, when the previous route cancellations occurred, when did the city began to contract out the work?

    Surely, transit officials should have known long before Friday that they lacked enough buses and told the public, instead of waiting until the last possible moment to disclose the fact. This is far from acceptable customer service and effective issues management.

    Mr. Howe said in July that transit was upgrading its aging fleet and expects to get five new buses this fall. It’s now obvious that the decrepitude of his 158-bus fleet has reached a point where even more replacements are needed soon, making council’s decision to use for the new commuter bridge the funding slated for bus replacements seem unwise.

    When it comes to transit, Saskatoon talks a better game than it delivers.

    Excellent editorial but I have one bone to pick with it. I am not even sure City Hall talks a good game about transit.  If anything the message that I have heard from City Council at budget time is that transit is a burden on the city as they transfer more costs onto riders.

    I have written about our aging fleet before but it is worth repeating.  Some of our busses are so old that people travel to Saskatoon just to ride of them like rolling museum pieces.  They shouldn’t be repaired by Saskatoon Transit but the Western Development Museum.  Instead of replacing them, Saskatoon City Council is building a bridge for cars.

    It is to be expected.  With the retirement of Myles Heidt and the defeat of Bev Dubois, there are no councillors who are strong on public transit.  Unlike Calgary and Edmonton who both feature mayors who use and advocate for public transit, I am unaware of any councillors who actually use it.  Maybe that explains some of the problems that we have.

    The other problem is the Saskatchewan government contributes nothing to the bottom line of our transit in cities.  Whereas Manitoba pays for almost half of Winnipeg’s transit costs (and injects capital for BRT), we get nothing except some money for Access Transit.  Arguably that money is spent on STC which is still needed but it means that Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, and Regina are some of the few cities that are left trying to provide funding for transit with no help.  While I agree that council has handled this poorly (again), a big part of the blame lands with governments going back to the Blakeney era that ignored public transit in the cities.

    Is the new governance model in Saskatoon for it’s citizens or for the councillors

    The StarPhoenix asks some hard questions about the new City of Saskatoon governance model that seems to more about the lifestyle of the councillors than it is about being good for the city.

    When city council holds its next meeting a week from today, it will be the first such meeting in nearly two months after city hall adopted a new governance model that has cut council meetings in half to once a month.

    Only a couple of voices on council expressed skepticism over the new system, while most heralded the change as making council’s activities more accessible.
    However, there’s reason for Saskatoon residents to doubt whether the new system will improve how the city is run and increase people’s access to decisions and those who make them.

    The StarPhoenix examined governance formats in seven other western Canadian cities and found little similarity to Saskatoon’s new model.

    Few other municipalities hold council meetings just once a month and, of those that do, appearances can be deceiving.

    Regina, for example, generally holds council meetings once a month, but held 23 meetings in 2013 and has held 10 so far this year.

    Will Saskatoon’s new approach be flexible and allow for special meetings to be called to address urgent issues?

    None of the other councils studied held all the major committee meetings on a single day of the week the way Saskatoon city hall plans to on Mondays (or Tuesdays after a long weekend).

    Supporters say the new system will allow people greater access to committee meetings, which will now be held in council chambers and broadcast on the city’s website.

    Why hold all the committees on the same day, though? That would seem to limit accessibility – particularly for those who happen to be busy on Mondays.

    Is the real motivation access for residents, or convenience for councillors and administrators?

    City officials cited Regina, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton as the inspiration for the new system, but Saskatoon’s new approach bears little resemblance to the latter two Alberta cities. Both Edmonton and Calgary hold multiple council meetings each month, making one wonder if Saskatoon is really making an effective transition to becoming a big city.

    I agree with questions that The StarPhoenix is asking.  From the start I have said that this is about the convenience of City Councillors who want to streamline their work load, make themselves less accountable, and make it far harder for the lowly public to participate or communicate with their elected officials.  Saskatoon City Council took this new arrangement so seriously that they actually drew names from a hat to fulfill one of the committee memberships.  You can’t do that and tell anyone that you take governance seriously.

    I’ll give The StarPhoenix the last word.

    No one can credibly argue these changes came about due to public pressure or through extensive consultation with voters.

    It’s now up to the new model’s supporters to communicate how and why the new system is working and to be candid and admit when it’s failing the citizens who are paying for it.

    Otherwise, Saskatoon residents will quite correctly feel they’ve been bamboozled and watched democracy get eroded by those who should be defending it.

    Government needs to work

    The one thing that Bill Clinton has understood better than any American president is that government needs to work.  FEMA needs to be able to respond to emergencies, pension checks have to be delivered on time, and people need to be able to access services; whether it be housing or grants for small businesses.  Government had to work.

    Over the last year the water pipe on the 1300 and 1400 blocks have broken about 10 times.  10 times without water, sometimes for over night or for all day.  Obviously something is wrong with that waterline but they keep patching the patches together.  Sometimes the patches would last for a couple of hours, other times the patches lasted long enough that they would actually patch the hole and repave it until they had to cut through the asphalt again.

    The fact that the waterline is broken is not the problem.  That happens. The problem is that even with a scheduled repair (they cut the asphalt open two days ago) that the city won’t give any notice that your water is being turned of.  Once the water is turned off, it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days until the water truck arrives.

    So with a household with kids in it, how does one flush a toilet?  How does one cook?  How does on bath or clean?

    So the city knows it is going to repair a stretch of road, schedules a crew to come out, makes sure the backhoe is coming (they park the truck so it blocks my driveway each time… ignoring the abandoned lot beside me) and then goes to work and no one thinks, “we need a water truck there for that block”.

    The 1300 block of Avenue D has gone over a week without water this winter.  A week without showers or laundry.  Eventually thanks to a suggestion Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill, the city opened up city owned facilities for showers.  It was appreciated even if residents didn’t have access to laundry facilities.  It’s like no one at the city can go, “these families have gone a week without water.  What would I do in that situation?”

    Last week my water shut off during my morning shower.  No one knocked on my door or let us know.  I was kind of caught of guard because the repair was in a different part than the block and I missed the digging.   Since then I walk out my front door in the morning and check both ways for construction crews before taking a shower.

    This week they showed up, left a drinking water advisory on my door (even though we had no water), dug up the street and then went for lunch.  Just what I want to see when I can’t flush a toilet, City of Saskatoon workers taking a long break (yes I know they deserve a break but what about a staggered break so that would can continue?)

    At the end of all of these watermain breaks over the last five years I have realized that our city doesn’t have the organizational capacity to get men and equipment to a job site at the same time, let alone get a needed and emergency source of water to a site; despite the repair being scheduled.  We also don’t have the technical capacity to fix a seldom travelled roadway properly.

    So what is the reason?  Some say a bias against the westside.  I tend to wonder if we are hiring competent managers in Public Works and if we aren’t, what is the problem and how do we fix it as a city.  This isn’t a manpower issue.  It’s a customer service issue (and apparently an engineering one).

    For those of you who suggest calling Public Works, in 15 years of calling that department has left me jaded from the lies.  People I talk to just make things up.  My favorite was calling about a water truck.  Wendy was assured it was on route to the location.  It never arrived for another 8 hours.  I was told that there was supposed to be flyers delivered about the repair today (and I assume about the repair last week).  There were none.

    Since we can’t coordinate men, equipment, and water to a job site at the same time, I don’t think we are going to be able to solve this one.

    Government needs to work.  Someone needs to fix it when it doesn’t.  Sadly no one seems that interested in doing that.

    Why Saskatoon is so great

    In a lot of cities, politicians are unreachable and need to be lobbied.  Saskatoon isn’t like that as we have a culture of approachable politicians at the civic and provincial level.  How approachable are they?  Well some even troll citizens.  Check out this tweet by my city councillor.


    Of course the background was that I have been criticizing council (and Darren Hill) for voting for six lanes on the bridge when the city’s own report says it isn’t going to be necessary.  We have been taking lots of shots at him (and others) on Twitter and in person for the bridge and last night he replied with that tweet which made me burst out laughing.

    Some politicians take their jobs and their positions very seriously but its good to see some of them being able to laugh and make fun of themselves and in their case, troll those that disagree with them, even if the 6 lane North Commuter Bridge is still a bad idea.

    These were some of the replies

    An Open Letter to Saskatoon City Council

    Dear Councillors,

    Over the last couple of weeks I have seen three minor accidents along the northbound lane on Idylwyld South.  All three have been minor and have “exchanged paint” to use the old NASCAR phrase.  They have been caused by someone trying to brake or avoid a massive pothole around a manhole cover which had been created but not repaired by a City of Saskatoon crew.

    Today while caught in traffic along there, Wendy and I watched a man who was going no faster than 20 kph hit the pothole, blow his tire and bend his rim on a pothole that had been there for weeks.

    Whenever I talk to any of you about potholes, I get told, “report it on the website”.  When a pothole in on one of the major thoroughfares in this city, driven by police, fire, city crews and even you as councillors, one should not have to report a pothole to the city, it should be fixed like it would be in any other city in Canada.  Especially when the pothole was created as part of a sewer upgrade*.

    I have heard many stories this summer of Saskatoonians travelling to other cities and hearing apologies for the state of their roads while those same people are going, “this is so much better than the roads we have have in Saskatoon”.  Some of the ways people have described our roads are “war torn”, “goat trails,” and most of all “unsafe”.

    They are unsafe to our tires, our rims, and our suspensions.  They are also unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians.  It’s embarrassing that you as a group has allowed our streets to get to this point.

    It’s not like you don’t know this would happen.  The 2012 Roads Reports and reports before that ask for more money and tell you each year that unless we have more money, this is going to happen.  You kept telling people how you heard about their concerns regarding roads on the doorsteps.  Instead you gave a small increase and congratulated yourselves on the back despite knowing it wasn’t enough.  Road repair costs rise about 15% each year but Council decides to give about .5% of an increase each year leading to a very big and unsafe gap in services.  You hope to have enough money budgeted to bring hold the status quo by 2020.  By that time there may not be any roads left and the yearly amount needed to fix our roads will be much, much higher.  

    Maybe city crews can’t find the potholes because street cleaning in this city takes months.  On Friday I was in City Park and they were finally cleaning it.  It was July 12!  Two months citizens of City Park have had to deal with gravel strewn and dirty streets because again, the City of Saskatoon won’t pay for the equipment needed to clean our streets.  We have such a short summer, you would think this would be a priority but it isn’t.  An email from another ward councillor today showed that much of that ward hadn’t been cleaned yet so don’t feel back City Park.  The quality of street sweeping is poor to say the least.  Talking to councillors in others wards I hear the same thing.  Locally I heard the sweepers but to be honest, our roads are marginally cleaner.

    Sure we have the lowest taxes of any city our size in Canada but at the end of the day there is a reason for that, no city can maintain it’s infrastructure at the current rate of funding.  We may as well have Prosperity Saskatoon but we have roads that failing and a bridge that is a laughing stock of the country.  Instead of fixing what we have, all you can talk about is how we need to build more stuff (that needs to be maintained) so we can grow to a city of 1 million people.

    While we are talking about growing to a city of a million people; here is a little bit of information you might find useful,  cities can’t grow themselves.  It’s the national and provincial economies that decide that.  It took Calgary 45 years to grow from 250,000 to a million people yet for some reason, we need to start building today.  Hence the $30 million extra for addition lanes on the north commuter bridge that your own city administration recommended against.  Then again, who am I to question policy made out of a campaign promise?

    Our provincial economy is far different than Alberta’s oil based economy.  The amount of head office oversight that a potash mine takes compared to thousands of oil wells all over the province is miniscule.  We may be overjoyed by BHP Billiton moving it’s Canadian head office to Saskatoon but look at the result, a couple of stories of downtown office space.  It’s not a reflection of Saskatoon, it’s a reflection of the economy of the province we live in.

    Combine that with a city council that just can’t get that quality of life matter in a city and you have a place where companies won’t be able to attract talent to and if they can, they won’t be able to keep it.  Most of the cities that are growing in Canada have higher taxes because a) growth costs b) you need to have great public amenities to have a city that top talent wants to live in.  

    Eventually we are going to have to make a decision as a city.  If we keep on this path with crumbling roads and infrastructure many will just choose to leave.  For those that are left, we are going to have to borrow heavily to pay for the stuff that should have been paid for al along just like Toronto has had to do.  You can’t run old buses, garbage trucks, and city vehicles forever.  Eventually something is going to have to give and then you have to start paying for bills of broken equipment, water pipes, and roads.  When those bills come due, it’s over whelming.

    Council needs to stop playing politics and start doing their fiduciary responsibility for the citizens of Saskatoon and start taking proper care of our infrastructure and city.  If they don’t, the only good news is that they won’t need to spend so much time worrying about it because we will find another group of public servants that will.

    * I shouldn’t be that surprised by a city crew not repairing a pothole.  I had to personally intervene several years ago while a city run backhoe hit a car and was about to drive off.  The utility cut took a couple of years to get fixed.  I also listened to Saskatoon Light & Power crews lie about a pole failure while I was working downtown where they went home for the weekend and left a power pole in a hole without any supports.  The weather warmed up and it fell over.  We aren’t hiring the best and the brightest.

    Column: Save church as gift to future

    My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

    More than 100,000 churches and parishes across North America have closed their doors over the past decade. Entire denominations have disappeared or have had to merge to survive.

    Despite being part of the Bible belt, Saskatoon, too, has been affected by the cultural shift away from Christianity, and we see in the decline the eventual closure of Third Avenue United Church.

    The church been a part of the fabric of Saskatoon for almost a century. Its English Gothic architecture has been acclaimed since it was built. At the time, University of Saskatchewan president Walter Murray called the new building, “The first permanent home of religion in Saskatoon.”

    Most churches have a life cycle. They are started, grow, mature and then die. With populations shifting to the suburbs, the lack of parking and the changing role of faith in our communities, many churches in downtown areas are struggling to survive.

    There are very few examples of a local church being vibrant on its centennial, because many don’t make it that long. In most cases, tears are shed, stories told and the church is closed and sold. That money is invested in new churches and in projects the denomination see as desirable.

    That is the path taken by the River Bend Presbytery. Selling the Third Avenue Church will give it the money to invest elsewhere.

    The problem is that the loss of the downtown church would be a net loss to Saskatoon. This isn’t just another building. The Third Avenue United Church has legendary acoustical properties and rivals theatres across Canada as a great performance space.

    Its capacity fills a niche in Saskatoon as it is larger than the Broadway and Roxy theatres, while at 1,100 seats, it’s smaller than TCU Place. It adds to the city without competing with other performance spaces.

    The Third Avenue Centre, a non-profit group that wants to turn the church into a performing arts centre, has made a proposal to the congregation and the presbytery.

    The congregation approved the proposal, but the presbytery disagreed and instructed church officials to send it back on to the market for other bids.

    As other cities have taught us, when such facilities hit the open market, they can be lost to the community forever. Some communities have learned the lesson and are converting similar buildings to concert halls and performance spaces because of the value they offer a city.

    The market for old cathedrals is traditionally soft.

    Organizations can buy and convert them for far less than building a replacement.

    Once the Third Avenue church is lost, we will never be able to replace it. There is a reason we don’t build facilities like it anymore: It’s too expensive. Its stonework alone would cost approximately $39 million to replace.

    Councillor Darren Hill told The StarPhoenix, “I don’t think it’s the city’s position to get involved in the decision making of the presbytery. That is not our role. But if there is the opportunity to strengthen a bid or a proposal to protect the integrity of the church as a performing arts centre, that’s where we need to come in.”

    While Hill is calling on the city to intervene, an even better solution would be for Saskatoon’s corporate and philanthropic community to step up and invest in the next century of performing arts in Saskatoon. It would be a timeless investment in both the arts and in Saskatoon as a whole.

    Looking at similar and older cathedrals across Eastern Canada, the United States and Europe, there are countless generations of use left in the Third Avenue building if we are willing to invest in it before it is too late.

    Saskatoon would not be alone in doing this. Several cities across Canada have stepped in to transform old churches into performance spaces. Some have allowed the congregation to continue to meet in the space – a solution that would work well here.

    As builders and trustees of Third Avenue United Church for a century, it makes sense to give congregation members a home as it moves into its next phase of life as a building.

    The congregation got us this far. Now it’s up to us as a city to step up and figure out what’s next. We had the vision to add a world-class art gallery downtown.

    Now we need to figure out where a world-class concert hall fits in. This opportunity presents itself only once and, if we seize it, the result will be enjoyed by generations to come.

    © Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

    2012 Municipal Election Roundup

    So after spending last night at City Hall waiting for the election results to be made public, here are my thoughts.

    • It was fun doing a quick segment with David Kirton and CKOM on the election.  I have always been a fan of Kirton and my only regret was not seeing more traction on food trucks (Twitter joke).
    • I was shocked to see Troy Davies win in Ward 4.  I had picked Sean Shaw and all of the metrics that myself and others have used to determine campaign victories showed Shaw winning. Apparently I need new metrics.  Either that or I need to start putting polls in the field.  Congrats to Troy Davies for winning and earning the right to be Ward 4 councillor.  Sean is a good friend and I am sure he will be back politically but it’s hard to see friends lose races.
    • I was also surprised to see Ann Iwanchuk win as after 10/11 polls reporting, Mike San Miguel had a sizeable lead but as the old saying goes, “it’s not over until it’s over” and all of a sudden I was looking at a result that I couldn’t believe and that is that Iwanchuk won by 28 votes.  When I talked to her and Andy last night, they kind of had the same reaction. Congrats to her on a well run race.
    • If I am Mike San Miguel, I have to questioning my decision to go negative late in the race with a pamphlet that attacked Iwanchuk and an attacking robo-call that attacked her NDP background.  If anything it probably motivated people to turn out for Iwanchuk.  It was a great campaign to watch that came down to under 100 votes.
    • Zach Jeffries not only becomes the youngest member on council ever but knocked off three term incumbent Bev Dubois.
    • So Tom Wolf came within a hair of defeating a long term incumbent after getting in the race in September.  Impressive campaign by Wolf and they had by far the best campaign t-shirts.
    • Pat Lorje won again in Ward 2 which is what I predicted. 
    • Since this will be long forgotten by 2016, I am planning to do a series of push polls, probably just to candidate homes that go something like, “Would you prefer crazed socialist (or robber baron) [insert councillor’s name here] or well respected columnist Jordon Cooper to represent your riding?” just to feed on their paranoia.  I have no intention of running but it would be fun to do.
    • I had a fun conversation with Andy Iwanchuk which is the first time we have ever met. When you think of it, the Iwanchuk family has been in campaign mode for a long time with Ann’s election a year ago, Andy’s provincial campaign and now her re-election campaign which makes for a hectic year.  No truth to the rumour that both of them are getting away for a vacation by working on someone else’s campaign.
    • After following the council pretty closely, I found the entire election disillusioning.  Part of it is the sausage philosophy where you don’t really want to know how it is made.  At the last of the last term, it was a very politically divided council.  That division came across during some of the FOI requests that dropped and also it showed that more than one councillor/candidate had lied to me about some issue or another.  Hopefully with some new councillors on council those bridges can be rebuilt but I am not hopeful that the partisanship will change.
    • I want to thank each of you last night that aggressively shook my hand.  If you noticed tears in my eyes, it wasn’t because I moved talking to you or about your victory, it is because I HAVE A TORN ROTATOR CUFF and it really HURT ME every time we shook hands.  I was ready to be put down by about 8:45 p.m.  It hurt that much.
    • The election day someone put up an anonymous Twitter account bashing Darren Hill to the media and anyone who would listen.  Sadly it was done by someone that knows Wendy and I and lives in Mayfair.  I have a pretty good idea of who it was but it’s still sad.  To be honest, if I was going to attack Hill I would stand behind them.  An anonymous account doesn’t do anything other than provide something to laugh at.
    • Got to hang out with Alex MacPherson and Liam Richards for the first time last night.  I always enjoy MacPherson’s writing in Verb and I have long been a fan of Richard’s photography (which always envying his gear). 
    • So this will be it until the next federal and provincial election when some councillors decide to run.  If they win, we get by-elections and the process starts all over again.

    Endorsement: Darren Hill (Ward 1)

    I didn’t really plan on endorsing any candidates for the Saskatoon municipal election because I wanted to dispassionately observe it but the funny thing is that when you watch city council as closely as many of us have, you develop some strong opinions on who should and who should not be elected.  While I have strong opinions on all of the wards, I’ll be posting some endorsements for only some of them.

    Since I moved into Ward 1 in 1998, I have been represented by Jim Madden, Lenore Swystun, Donna Birkmairer and Darren Hill.  Of the three, only Darren HIll has been re-elected.

    I had nothing to do with the first three councillors.  Hill was the first councillor to knock on our door in a campaign where he made enough of an impression on Wendy that she suggested we vote for him.  In that first term the house behind us was abandoned, started on fire, and was knocked down.  The abandoned lot quickly became overgrown with a noxious weed that Killex and Roundup won’t kill and started to take over our boulevards.  Out of frustration with my own lawn and looking at weeds that were six feet tall, Wendy emailed Councillor Hill and didn’t expect much for results.

    Wendy was wrong as 20 minutes later, Hill was outside the abandoned lot with a member of Fire and Protective Services.  Over the next couple of days there was a flurry of emails that Wendy was cc:’d on keeping her up to date with the problem, the solution, and what was being done so that she never had to complain again.  While the lot is still abandoned, it s mowed and cleaned up several times each summer and it has never been a problem.  I even got rid of the noxious weed that was in our boulevard. 

    That has been Darren Hill’s pattern through the last two terms in office.  When there is a problem, he acts on it whether we talk to him in person, email, or even on Twitter.  Sometimes the results are better than others but I at least know he worked hard in trying to get those results.  Of course because Hill is so transparent in how he communicates with City Hall, it has empowered Wendy and myself to contact people ourselves from time to time.  Through Hill’s interactions, City Hall is a lot less intimidating of place to dialog with.  While you can’t fight City Hall, you can navigate it and for many, that makes life a lot easier.

    Some of you might ask, “don’t all councillors do this?”  The answer is no.  Some never reply to an email, respond to voice mail, or really do anything with constituent concerns.  You have no idea how many times I have been at council meetings and it is painfully obvious that a councillor hasn’t read their council package.  What makes me frustrated is that they are paid almost $60,000/year to do this job.  I can read their council package, Hilary can blog the council package, yet some councillor’s do not.  So yes this stuff matters and I appreciate a councillor that makes it matter.  Hill does that.

    I don’t always agree with his votes and stances at City Council but that could be said for any of the councillors.  I have questioned some of his votes and at the end of the day, it’s well thought out and considered a lot of factors, even if I still disagree.   By in large Hill has a track record of being open to and a source of new and innovative ideas for the city while remaining a fiscal conservative.  He can dream but understands the bottom line which are two qualities that make for an effective city councillor.

    When over a month ago when we heard gun shots in our alley way (and found the spent cartridges), Wendy and Mark were scared and wanted to move to someplace safer.  Hill had a series of meetings for myself and also for others with the community association and also (others met) with the Saskatoon Police Service to come up with solutions to the crime issues in Mayfair.  Hill’s work at finding the solution was one of the major reasons we didn’t move.  That’s a big deal for all of us.

    Last year when a lot of (poorly informed) people asked me why I didn’t run for City Council, I would always answer back that, “Darren Hill does a really good job representing our ward”.  Not that I was inclined to run but even if I was going to be, it wasn’t going to be against a councillor that does a fantastic job both looking after the ward and city’s interests.

    So what about Robin Bellamy?

    Hill’s opponent is former Ward 7 public school board trustee Robin Bellamy.  Bellamy is a long time candidate for city council and the provincial legislature but his campaign platform leaves a lot to be desired and I think comes from a misreading of the ward and community.  I was at the community meetings over needle exchange and while there are a couple of ideologues that oppose needle exchange, it doesn’t represent the viewpoint of the neighbourhood, the professional opinions of the public health officers from the Saskatoon Health Region, or even reflect an understanding of the neighbourhood dynamics.  What really bothers me about is that it shows a lack of leadership in dealing with the real problem.  His platform reads like John Gormley talking points on the topic rather than anything that resembles an informed platform.

    It goes on with his commitment to Cosmopolitan Industries, which ignores the requirement of the RFP, council bending backward to ensure that Cosmo receives it’s required recycling material, and the “Do No Harm” motion that council has adopted towards Cosmo, all things that Cosmo accepted.  Even Loraas made some concessions that it didn’t have to make to Cosmo to keep them supplied with guaranteed growth.  While there is a debate to be had about Cosmo, it would be great that if it could happen on the merits of what happened rather than the spin that surrounded it.

    At the end of the day I am comfortable with another four years of Darren Hill as Ward 1 councillor.  He has a proven track record, seems as passionate as ever, and brings an open mind and new ideas we will face as a city.  Saskatoon and Ward 1 is a better place if he wins re-election on October 24th.

    Disclaimer:

    I am not part of a campaign team and I don’t sit on any committees with Hill or as far as I know, am dependent on his vote or support for any projects that I am undertaking.

    Does residency matter in municipal ward elections?

    I used to believe that location mattered in civic elections, I believed that one should live in the ward that they represent.  I noticed last week that Mike San Miguel had a “sticker” on this website that asked Ward 3 residents to vote in a councillor that lived in their ward.  I assume Mike does and I wonder if that matters.  

    I live in Ward 1 and so does my councillor, Darren Hill.  He calls City Park home while I call Mayfair home.  Now Darren does a really, really good job of representing Mayfair’s interests.  I wonder if we take up a disproportionate amount of his time in fact yet there isn’t a lot in common between Mayfair and City Park (I have lived in them both).  

    If you look at Ward 2, what does Montgomery and let’s say Pleasant Hill have for common issues.   Both are distinctive neighbourhoods who have different issues.  

    In Ward 4 you have Westmount and Hampton Village.  The list can go on and on.  In some ways Caswell, City Park, and Nutana are all similar but in three different wards.

    You could say that the westside and the eastside have common issues but then you have Ward 1 and to a lesser extent War 6 that cross the river.  Even if you define Idylwyld Drive as the east/west dividing line, you still have Ward 1 which at the end of the day it means that living in your ward means very little in your ability to represent it.  Very few issues that get debated at council are ward specific; the exceptions are the Montgomery wind farm and infill or the Broadway 360 plans.  Most of city council decisions that are local respect the wishes of the local community and city administration.

    Our wards are so diverse that it living in a ward don’t mean nearly as much as listening to a ward.  If a councillor can do that from outside the ward, they will be elected.  If they can’t?  Well history is full of councillors who have been defeated by opponents inside or out of the ward.  It’s just not a real issue.

    2012 Saskatoon City Council List of Candidates

    The race for Saskatoon City Council race is well underway with fundraisers, door knocking and quips on Twitter breaking out all over the place.   Dave Hutton does have the definite candidates list on City Hall Notebook but I decided to create a page myself to keep track of the campaigns).  I have my biases and will disclose them.  Later on this summer I will offer up some endorsements in Ward 1 (where I live), Ward 2 (which I have long had a special affinity for) and perhaps Ward 6 (where I will work) once I have had a chance to talk to candidates and had a chance to review campaign platforms (umm, some platforms would be helpful).

    This year I am going to do something different in that I am going to give up the blog (and access to my Twitter feed) for any candidate that wants to use it to reach out on.  I’ll create an account for them, give access to them, and let them talk about whatever issues they want.  If you are interested, let me know at jordoncooper@gmail.com.

    Ward 1

  • Incumbent: Darren Hill 
  • Challengers: Carol Reynolds, Robin Bellamy

    The lowdown: Darren Hill will be running for his third term as Ward 1 city councillor.  He will be challenged on the right by Carol Reynolds who ran against hill in the last election and long time candidate and Ward 7 Public School trustee Robin Bellamey (who lives in Ward 8).   While Reynolds and Bellamey both say that represent the right, Hill is a fiscal conservative as well which means there isn’t a lot of room to run in a ward that probably is is more comfortable with the centre.  I am going to predict a Hill victory again.

    Ward 2

  • Incumbent: Pat Lorje
  • Challengers: Marcel Petite

    The lowdown: Long time councillor Pat Lorje is running again in Ward 1 and her opponent is Marcel Petite.  Petite is the executive director of the Core Neighborhood Youth Co-op and outside of a closed Facebook page, he hasn’t said a lot online.  I expect Lorje to win by a large margin.

    Ward 3

  • Incumbent: Ann Iwanchuk
  • Challengers: Mike San Miguel

    The lowdown: Mike San Miguel has been running hard in this ward since narrowly losing to Iwanchuk in the by-election.  Of course on the flip side, Ann Iwanchuk won by around 15% and it’s really hard to defeat an incumbent yet at the same time Iwanchuk in a by-election with a low voter turnout.  I have a lot of respect for both candidates which mean in the end Ward 3 wins.  It should be a great race.

    Ward 4

    The lowdown: Shaw ran hard against Myles Heidt three years ago and narrowly lost to him.  Shaw is an environmental geochemist, head of the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee and local activist while his opponent Davies is the spokesperson for MD Ambulance and involved in Synergy 8.  This will be another really close race.

    Ward 5

    The lowdown: I am not sure why anyone would run against Donauer in Ward 5.  He won in the by-election to replace Gordon Wyant, votes to the right of most issues, and does an excellent job of communicating with his constituents in a riding that traditionally votes Conservative/Saskatchewan Party.  James Ford is a progressive and according to his website will be releasing his platform based on the feedback he gets from constituents.

  • Ward 6

    The lowdown: This isn’t expected to be a close race.  Clark, a popular two term incumbent is a centre/left candidate is a part of the city where centre/left is how they vote.  He is probably one of the more astute thinkers on council which means that when he makes a statement or decision, it’s defensible (even if you don’t agree with it).  My prediction is that Clark wins big.

    Ward 7

    The lowdown: Loewen beat Bzowey to win the ward after Bob Pringle stepped down.  Like Ward 3, this will be a rematch between a popular incumbent and challenger.  While Bzowey has been spending a lot of money in and around the ward with name recognition, Loewen is very popular in the ward and has a motivated campaign team.  My feeling is that with both the advantage of incumbency and a good ground game, she will win again.

    Ward 8

    The lowdown: Glen Penner grew tired of winning all of those elections and has retired.  Ainsley Robertson who ran in the Ward 5 by-election before narrowly losing to Randy Donauer and Eric Olauson who ran in Ward 3 before withdrawing are both running in their home of Ward 8.  Karen Rooney, registered nurse is also running in the ward.

    Ward 9

    The lowdown: The question isn’t if Paulsen will win (she will), its if she will win by acclamation (again).

    Ward 10

    The lowdown: Dubois is another long term councillor being challenged for the second time by Mark Horseman.  Horseman is a data analyst at the University of Saskatchewan and long time Conservative Party activist.  I keep hearing rumours of other jumping into the race so it’s too soon to start thinking about what will happen.

    City of Saskatoon to seek exemption for international trade deal

    This still boggles my mind.

    Saskatoon should request an exemption to a large-scale free-trade agreement being negotiated between Canada and Europe, a city committee agreed.

    City councillors, sitting as an executive committee, voted 5-4 Monday to seek a permanent exemption to the proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, a free trade and economic integration pact between Canada and the 27 European Union countries that is in the final stages of negotiation.

    The resolution still requires council approval in February and will face some difficulty with two right-of-centre councillors, Coun. Myles Heidt and Coun. Randy Donauer, absent at the committee Tuesday.

    I know this will die in council with Heidt and Donauer’s return but still…

    Access to government procurement at federal, provincial, municipal, regional and local governments, as well as Crown corporations and utilities, is Europe’s main goal in the pact. Saskatoon has seen interest from European firms on a small number of major infrastructure projects, including the $300-million Circle Drive South project, which drew a bid from a Spanish firm.

    Cities only have to be concerned about the effect on construction contracts, not the takeover of city-owned utilities, according to a briefing from provincial officials, Jordan said

    “I’m confident from the information I’ve received there’s not much need to be concerned about that aspect of it,” [Michael] Jordan said.

    Okay, at least the city managers are thinking clearly on this one.

    Coun. Charlie Clark questioned if the private sector could challenge the city to open up municipally operated services such as Access Transit, the lift-equipped bus service, or if city hall could no longer enact a local food first policy or a bottled water ban under the agreement.

    “There’s enough unknowns about how this could impact the city and because we don’t have a seat at the table it’s best to request an exemption,” Clark said. “I think that as a democratically-elected city council we should make sure we can make the decisions we need to make to protect citizens and there’s no real benefits from what I can see for cities to be included — so it’s easier to be excluded.”

    Can local municipalities actually be excluded under international trade agreements?  The truth is that on big projects like the bridges that we are building are being designed and built by international firms because of their complexity and scope and the consolidation of international design and engineering firms (which as a city we benefit from).   I also hate the idea that we need to protect local companies from international competition.  The reason we need to protect them is that we think as the city grows, they aren’t good enough.  Sometimes they won’t be good enough (which is why international firms exist and why there has been increased consolidation around the super engineering firms) but protecting them from competition doesn’t make them any better either.

    Of course all of this was grandstanding because the city doesn’t even have a local procurement policy.

    The bigger impact is the New West Partnership which will open up construction contracts over $200,000 to companies across the west.  It will have a far greater impact on small and medium businesses in this province than CETA will, yet that passed.