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Mayfair

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.

Safeway on 33rd Street

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OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides

OurYXE was never intended to just be a podcast and if you have been paying attention at all, you will notice we are adding new features to the site in 2014.  We have started with adding Saskatoon neighbourhood guides and have the intention of creating a guide of the best and worst of each neighbourhood in Saskatoon.  So far we have done one for downtown, Riversdale, Nutana, and Mayfair.  

Creating them takes a lot of time and even more time is needed to take the photographs needed to bring the project to life.  I have been able to cheat by using some public domain images of Wikimedia, most of the photos have been taken by myself or those submitting to the growing OurYXE Photo Pool on Flickr (if you haven’t yet, please join and add your photos).

That’s the best part of the project.  Exploring Saskatoon neighbourhoods that no one thinks of or cares about.  Last year I was researching a project for Stewart Properties in what is the most uninspiring neighbourhood in the city.  As Wendy and I walked the neighbourhood, explored the parks, found shops and businesses that I never realized were there, I realized that I would really enjoy living there.  I later followed the same process for my own neighbourhood and created a site for Mayfair.  When you stop, sit down and write it out, there is far more to our neighbourhoods than you realize.

That is the plan for these neighbourhood guides.  I want to explore all of Saskatoon, find out what is cool, and share it with others.  I am already excited about visiting and writing about several parks, hidden stores, and exploring some odd urban planning decisions just to see what is there.

Of course my fear is that I find a neighbourhood that has no redeeming qualities and absolutely nothing of interest worth exploring.  If that happens I’ll make Sean or Hilary write that neighbourhood guide.

The inspiration for the OurYXE Neighbourhood Guides is Norm Fisher’s amazing guides that he has created for his real estate site.  His work is the foundation for many Wikipedia entries and our course our own guides.  While our focus is different, his neighbourhood guides are a great resource for anyone wanting to know more about their neighbourhood.

13 Most Popular Photos of 2013

Flickr tracks your most popular photos based on page views, favourites, and comments.  Here are my 13 most popular photos of 2013 that I have posted to Flickr.

Fish Creek Church

Fish Creek Church

The historic and abandoned Fish Creek Church.  We first photographed it a couple of years ago and returned this year on a trip up to Prince Albert.

Ukrainian Catholic Ascension Church

Ukrainian Catholic Ascension Church

A rural Ukrainian Catholic Church on Fish Creek Road north of Saskatoon.

Midtown Plaza

Midtown Plaza

Village Guitar & Amp

Village Guitar & Amp

If there was a sign that Riversdale’s revitalization was here to stay, it was a high end boutique guitar store moving onto 20th Street.

Nikon Df

Nikon Df

The 525

The 525

RCMP Dragonfly Quadcopter Drone

RCMP Dragonfly Quadcopter Drone

Safeway on 33rd Street

Safeway on 33rd Street in Saskatoon

Carl Zeiss Spotting Scope

Carl Zeiss Spotting Scope

The Saskatchewan Legislature

Saskatchewan Legislature

Behind the Scenes in Riversdale

Riversdale

Ground & Pound

Ground and Pound

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Project

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

Inspired by Dave King’s 12 most popular photos of 2013

Heading towards disaster

Heading towards disaster

Community Association Website

I spent most of the weekend working on a brand new website for Hudson Bay Park | Mayfair | Kelsey Woodlawn Community Association after the last one kind of disappeared.  I used WordPress.com and then bought a domain name for it.  The idea is that WordPress.com is really easy to use and eventually someone else will be taking care of it.

Take a look, let me know what you think.  There is still some work to be done on it but I am always open to suggestions.

Safeway on 33rd Street

33rd Street Safeway

Experience Mayfair

For all of my complaining about Mayfair, it is a pretty cool neighbourhood to live in.  There is a now a website highlighting all of the amenities of Mayfair from shopping, restaurants, education, and parks.

Experience Mayfair

Expansion of services for 33rd Street Methadone Clinic

From the StarPhoenix

When staff at the 33rd Street pharmacy learned that lack of transportation hampered many of their 250 clients from seeing addictions counsellors, they approached the Saskatoon Health Region, offering to renovate and build a state-of-the-art methadone dispensing and distribution system.

“Because people have to come here to pick up their medication, the idea came up – ‘Is there any way we can help these people access services?’” Carlson said.

The health region agreed to lease the 800-square-foot clinic, which will have a counselling space, a doctor’s office and examination room, and a children’s play area.

It is expected to open around the end of April, said Tracy Muggli, director of mental health and addictions services for the health region.

I think this is a good step for the Health Region, Mayfair, and of course those that use the services.

Why not Caroline Robins School?

Excellent article by The StarPhoenix’s Janet French

Why do so many parents spurn Caroline Robins for the stuffed halls of Dundonald?

One Hampton Village resident said some of her neighbours can’t get over the outdated “community school” label.

Justine McCaffrey, the president of the Hampton Village community association, has two sons, four and two years old. Although they had strongly considered Caroline Robins, her older child attends Dundonald preschool because it’s closer to their house and a teenage neighbour can walk him to and from school.

“Had we lived any further away from the schools, I would be taking my kids to Caroline Robins.”

She’s heard parents say they won’t consider sending their kids to Caroline Robins because it was a “community school.” That used to be a designation that gave schools extra provincial funding for nutrition programs and other extras to help lower-income students.

A third of Caroline Robins’ students are First Nations and Metis.

It’s up to the school division to dispel stereotypes about Caroline Robins and tell parents what the school has to offer, she said.

“People sit there and they look at the label ‘community school,’ and they think (Caroline Robins is an) inner-city school, where there’s less fortunate kids, that the teachers aren’t the same — which they are,” McCaffrey said. “It’s no different of a school than Dundonald is, or St. Peter, or any of the schools in the area.”

The answer is that Caroline Robins school is a community school because the public school system has decided that the kids that go there need additional supports.  Sadly they need the supports (like feeding programs and other supports) because they are not all getting them at home.  Often it means disengaged parents which lead to lower classroom performance.  So as a parent in Hampton Village, do you want to send your kid to an overcrowded school with more engaged parents and students or a community school with less engaged parents and lower performing students?  The numbers answer that question.

A 33rd Street BID?

A great idea for Mayfair and Caswell Hill.  Story is by Charles Hamilton of The StarPhoenix.

When Nicola Tabb looks out the front door of her vintage clothing shop on 33rd Street, she sees a community ripe with potential.

This strip is home to one of Saskatoon’s most acclaimed bakeries, a handful of antique shops, a tattoo parlour, a hair salon and hardware stores.

While prostitution and drug use are still relatively common sights in the area, these few blocks on Saskatoon’s west side have all the makings, she said, of a place on its way to becoming this city’s up-and-coming neighbourhood.

“I get people coming in all the time saying, ‘Thank you for opening on 33rd. I love to support my local business.’ I’m not sure if I would have got that anywhere else in the city,” she said.

Tabb lives in Caswell Hill just a few blocks away from where she opened her store, Better Off Duds, eight months ago. Since then, she said, the community has embraced her and now she is just one of a number of local entrepreneurs keen on the idea of starting a business improvement district (BID) for 33rd Street.

Similar BIDs are already operating in the Broadway, downtown, Sutherland and Riversdale neighbourhoods. The idea of a BID, according to supporters, is to get community and business people actively engaged in development decisions affecting the neighbourhoods.

“You look at what 20th Street was 10 years ago even, and since the inception and development of the BID look at what happened to the neighbourhood. It’s a trendy, kitschy place now,” said Shannon Vinish, a former business owner who was instrumental in the area’s first attempt at forming a BID back in 2004.

BIDs operate in more than 1,400 business areas across North America. The organizations are funded primarily by a levy on business owner’s property taxes and work on lobbying different levels of government for things such as increased policing, street level improvements and zoning bylaws.

“It’s just a natural progression of an area turning in on itself and saying, ‘What happened, how did this happen and how do we fix it,’ ” said Randy Pshebylo, the executive director of the Riversdale BID, which has been active since 1990.

Pshebylo said BIDs can be an effective way of giving business members a voice in shaping the landscape of their community. His BID, for example, lobbied successfully for a limit on the number of pawn shops on 20th Street.

I am actually excited about this.  The Hudson Bay Park/Mayfair/Kelsey Woodlawn Community Association is revitalized, the Local Area Plan starts Thursday, and now a BID for 33rd Street?  These are all really good things happening in the area.

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.

AGM for the Mayfair, Hudson Bay Park, and Kelsey-Woodlawn Community Association

Our annual AGM is on Thursday Sept 27, 5:30 at Henry Kelsey rinkAll residents in Mayfair, Hudson Bay Park and Kelsey-Woodlawn are invited.

Come enjoy food, refreshments, bouncers for the kids all at the Henry Kelsey rink!

Food starts at 5:30

AGM starts at 6:30 – Community programs, events, services, safety, chance to meet others in our neighbourhoods. Have a voice in your community.

I love reading it because the phrase “bouncers for the kids” brings up a great mental image.

For those of you who do live in these neighbourhoods, you need to come out.  Mayfair and Kelsey-Woodlawn have their challenges and a vibrant and active community association is part of the solution.

Mayfair – Hudson Bay Park – Kelsey Woodlawn Facebook Group

There is an active Facebook group for Hudson Bay Park, Mayfair, and the Kelsey Woodlawn community association.  If you are a resident of one of these three neighbourhoods, you may want to join.

There are a variety of good discussions online.  As the group intro says.

Hello and welcome. This community page represents the neighbourhoods of Hudson Bay Park, Mayfair and Kelsey/Woodlawn in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Our group is for everyone who lives in our neighbourhoods, as well as those who might want to join for information on a variety of community topics. Discussions might be about upcoming events in our neighbourhoods, concerns in the community, or other community-related topics.

Have some plants to give away? Need daycare? Great new shop recently opened up nearby? Concerned about something going on? Want to volunteer for your Community Association and help make our neighbourhoods a better place for everyone?

We like to keep discussions as civil as possible, while still allowing for differences of opinion to be discussed. We’re not always going to like what others have to say, but if we can remain respectful while expressing ourselves, we can all have our say and likely learn a thing or two from one another.

Take care of yourselves, your neighbours, and your neighbourhood.

But crime is down in Mayfair…

From the Saskatoon Police

Two males and two females will be appearing in Provincial Court on Thursday, September 6, 2012 charged with a number of drug and weapon offences.

On Wednesday, September 5, 2012 members of the Saskatoon Police Service witnessed what appeared to be drug transactions taking place at a residence in the 1400 block of Avenue G North.  A search warrant was executed at the residence and  four people were arrested.  Two males ages 21 and 23, one from British Columbia and the other from Saskatoon, and two females ages 38 and 18, both from Saskatoon.  Officers seized 36.3 grams of crack cocaine, a .22 calibre semi automatic rifle, and cash. 

The four are are facing a total of 21 criminal charges including trafficking cocaine, possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, possession of the proceeds of crime, breaches and numerous firearm related charges.