Tag Archives: Montgomery

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.

Staying the Course in Ward 2

It’s hard to give opinions on other ward races.  I have several friends on campaigns who are either running or helping run them and you end up picking sides, even between people you respect so I tend to stay out of them.  I have a passionate connection with Ward 2 since 2006 when I found myself working in a homeless shelter in the ward and that has stayed with me as I have moved on. 

I had known of Pat Lorje going back to her time on council in the 1980s and later as a NDP MLA when she was elected in 1993.  I wasn’t a fan because as long time readers of this blog know, I am amongst the last two remaining defenders of the Grant Devine administration (okay, I may be the last remaining one) and I was occasionally (and unsuccessfully) campaigning for her opponent.  Later I unengaged from politics and Lorje became a cabinet minister (those aren’t really connected).

When I found myself working at a shelter in Ward 2 and working with poverty and homelessness issues, Coun. Lorje and Randy Pshebylo made some statements questioning the concentration of services in Riversdale.  I emailed Lorje and asked to meet with our management team and we had an excellent exchange of ideas between her, Pshebylo and other managers.  While Lorje and I disagreed on the issue, her viewpoint was well thought out and backed up with some pretty interesting academic policy discussions about concentrations of service (in Ottawa and Cinncinnati) and what it does to neighbourhood.  It set a pattern even when I see Lorje (and Pshebylo) today.  We may not always agree but we are always looking for ideas to solve and improve poverty and homeless issues.  

The first time that I worked closely with Coun. Lorje was on the opening and rezoning of Mumford House.  It was another service in Pleasant Hill but Lorje saw the big picture on the project and knew that we needed a shelter for women and children in Saskatoon.  She was an effective advocate for the community but also with us and served as an effective “power broker” between us as a service provider and the community association.  It was a project that would have been delayed without community support and her support was crucial in getting it open in a timely matter.  It’s always hard to think what it would have been like without Lorje’s support but I have seen home based child care rezoning efforts have more difficult time than what we had.

As an outsider, I enjoyed watching the politics of the wind turbine and the new development in Montgomery.  Lorje has been a passionate defender of Montgomery and while I didn’t agree with her stance (especially on the wind turbine), she did an excellent job of representing their interests both publicly and to me privately.  She has also been an advocate for things in Council that she feels are right for citizens across the city, especially for those that are marginalized.

Finally as someone that loves the culture of Riversdale, I love the changes that have happened with the revitalization of the neighbourhood as a result of the efforts of the Riversdale BID, entrepreneurs, and the City of Saskatoon’s investment; investment that Lorje champions for at every opportunity.

Ward 2 can’t be an easy ward to represent with perhaps the largest income gap between neighbourhoods in Saskatoon but Lorje has done a good job over the last six years. While I can’t speak for the ward, I can speak for the work that Lorje has done and I think she has done an excellent job for both Ward 2 and for all of Saskatoon.  I can’t take a lawn sign but I’ll make my thoughts known here.  Pat Lorje should be re-elected on October 24th.

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.

Column: Turbine Project Handled Poorly

My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

The city announced a couple of years ago that it was exploring the idea of a tall wind turbine in Saskatoon. I loved the idea when it came out and have followed its progress off and on.

The city evaluated sites near the university, Diefenbaker Park and the landfill. Eventually the choice was narrowed down to the landfill site, where a variety of green energy options will be located.

The tall wind turbine that Saskatoon is proposing is one of the largest to be built in an urban centre. It is being partially funded by the Canada-Saskatchewan Provincial-Territorial Base Fund, which will cover slightly more than half of the $5-million capital cost.

The turbine is projected to start generating revenue of $410,000 beginning in 2013 and turn a profit nine years down the line. To qualify for the funding, the project needs to be completed by March 2013, which is why we have seen a flurry of activity as time is running short.

While city hall seems to love the project, residents of Montgomery are strongly against it – something I saw first-hand at the Ward 2 town hall meeting.

While the city has held some open houses, its communication with residents about the project has been lacking or simply ineffective. Civic officials at the meeting pointed out the city had released a variety of environmental impact reports, but had only posted them on the city’s website earlier that day.

I didn’t see any hard copies of the report, presentation on the wind turbine or any other tools that would have been useful in engaging the neighbourhood in a dialogue. As expected, people brought up a variety of concerns, most having to do with how close it would be to Montgomery, and how much noise would be generated.

Turbine locations are controversial everywhere. There are as many regional and national standards as there are reasons for why the Leafs keep missing the playoffs. The setbacks required range from 400 metres to more than two kilometres. There are court challenges and issues over property values in many jurisdictions.

It comes down to this: The farther away a turbine is, the less noise is heard.

While it would make sense to locate the turbine outside Saskatoon in the middle of nowhere, the city needs to keep it within its 1956 city limits so it can be operated under Saskatoon Light and Power.

The city also looked at locating the turbine in Diefenbaker Park, but rejected that idea because of the potential of future commercial and residential development going there.

It decided instead to put it right beside an existing residential neighbourhood. You can understand why the Montgomery residents are upset.

The turbine at the landfill would be more than 500 metres away from homes in Montgomery. At that range, says a report, the noise generated by the turbine in a light breeze will be approximately 40 decibels, which is only slightly more than a quiet whisper. This noise is on top of the noise that Montgomery has to put up with from trains rolling by and the shunting of railcars all day and night.

While the turbine wouldn’t add to the level of noise (the louder noise is the one heard), it adds a constant noise to the equation.

When I looked at the engineering report for how much sound would be created, it was based on the assumption of a light breeze. Not knowing how windy it gets out there, I checked out the Wind Assessment Final Report prepared by the Saskatchewan Research Council, which says: "The site, therefore, would be considered marginal for supporting wind power generation."

It’s not the worst classification, but it’s second worst. The good news is that it may be even quieter than what the noise report suggests, but the bad news is there’s an awful lot of angry people over what is being called a marginal project.

The global energy problem won’t be solved by a few more of us driving hybrid vehicles. It will take a commitment and investment in alternative energy generation, such as wind turbines.

I know the federal money is there, and $2.35 million is hard to walk way from, especially when the city already has spent $530,000 on the project. However, if we are going to spend the money, let’s spend it on something that makes the most impact, not just because we can get some federal dollars.

If we are going to ask a neighbourhood to make a sacrifice and support something, we should ensure that it’s more than a marginal project, even if it is green.

jordon@jordoncooper.com