Tag Archives: Pat Lorje

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

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.

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).

    Is the Lorje Leak ‘Inside baseball’?

    I tend to agree with Prof. David McGrane on this.

    Charles Smith, an assistant political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s St. Thomas More College, said if Lorje is found to have broken the law she will have a "professional obligation" to resign. "I think she’d have to step down," Smith said. "I don’t see how she could stay on."

    Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, the "whiff of scandal" now surrounding Lorje will "dog her over the next two years," make a re-election bid challenging and "make it very difficult for her to act and do the work she was elected to do," Smith added.

    After her colleagues sanctioned her Monday, Lorje told reporters she had "no intention of resigning."

    She apologized for the breach, but maintained she did not know she was breaking council’s code of conduct when she sent a document to "a trusted adviser" for "private, independent, confidential advice" in early June. Cline, who received the document, was an NDP MLA alongside Lorje from 1995 to 2003 and served in cabinet with her from 2001 to 2002. He owns a home on 11th Street East in Nutana, where riverbank slumping has been a problem since 2012.

    City solicitor Patricia Warwick said the leaked document contains legal advice, is subject to solicitorclient privilege and contains information that could be "injurious" to the city if it’s made public.

    Councillors Darren Hill and Tiffany Paulsen told reporters after Monday’s meeting they have heard from numerous constituents calling for Lorje’s resignation and they would step down from their posts were they in her position.

    David McGrane, a political science professor at the U of S, said he doesn’t see "any reason" for Lorje to resign. He said he suspects voters with short memories will have forgotten about the leak – which he described as "inside baseball" – by the time the next municipal election rolls around in October 2016.

    "As long as this doesn’t reproduce itself, it should really wash away within a short amount of time," he said.

    I’ll add in some disclosure to this.  Wendy and I are both friends with Pat Lorje, something that came up many times in the previous leak investigation that didn’t find anything.

    I agree with Charles Smith.  I think that anyone that is convicted of a crime who is in public office should resign.  There is more than adequate precedent for that and I think it is part of a functioning democracy.  If she is not charged or convicted, I also agree with David McGrane that this will not affect her electability.  People just don’t tune in enough to care that much at the two year point of a mandate.

    Also kudos to McGrane for using the phrase “inside baseball” in his interview with Andrea Hill. 

    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.

    Column:Mobile services effective option

    My column in today’s The StarPhoenix

    My ears perk up whenever I hear Coun. Pat Lorje talk about the concentration of social service agencies in Saskatoon, because it is a very hard problem to fix once it has developed.
    Social services tend to be located in poor areas of the city because that is where the need is. For many people, that is the end of the debate, but it’s more complicated than that. Those agencies are located there because of need and because real estate is cheap.
    Despite the rhetoric of government, most see social services as an overhead cost, and if money can be saved by locating an agency in a less expensive part of town they will do it, nine times out of 10. For agencies not funded by the government, it is seen as a good stewardship of donations and resources to pay as little as possible for rent or a mortgage.
    In Saskatchewan, the need is somewhat artificial because for years the province’s rental supplement has been geared toward accommodation that’s close to supports and services. It provides an incentive for people to live close to social agencies and concentrates poverty.
    Once a critical mass of social agencies gets concentrated in one part of town, they tend to drive out other businesses and decrease property values even more. For people who depend on those services, it makes more sense to move to where cost of living is lower and close to where the services are provided. Of course, then you have more social service needs.
    It’s an endless cycle that can do a lot of damage to the economic districts of some communities.
    An interesting trend in a variety of cities over the last couple of years has been the creation of mobile social services, which are offered all across a city or region. Often these take the form of converted school buses or motorhomes, and provide such things as medical services (i.e. the Saskatoon Health Region’s health bus), as well as mobile showers in San Francisco and even a grocery store that’s driven to areas that do not have easy access to healthy food.
    It’s not an new idea.
    Libraries were doing this long before it was hip and trendy. I know many people who grew up in Saskatoon who can tell you when the Bookmobile came to their neighbourhood, and exactly where it stopped. It was by no means revolutionary, but it was part of community life.
    Today we have the health bus. It doesn’t replace a hospital, but provides many services that one can access without going to a hospital. Being mobile, it can adjust its routes and schedule to meet people’s needs.
    The advantages of mobility is that it allows the provision of services to neighbourhoods that need them, but aren’t within walking distance from the main location of a social agency. When many service agencies located in Riversdale, the area had some of the lowest rent and family incomes in Saskatoon. Redevelopment in Riversdale has significantly changed the neighbourhood.
    The next place that could see big changes is Pleasant Hill, where the Junction development is slated to proceed. The impact that has seen real estate prices soar elsewhere is yet to be seen here, but the potential exists for affordable housing to move far away from the core and needed services.
    There is a reason why studies in many cities show homeless people and those in extreme poverty will walk up to 20 kilometres a day to obtain food and shelter services. Even in Saskatoon, some of the most affordable living areas have almost no access to social services. Either rent eats up one’s food money and you can access services, or you have affordable rent and no access. For many it is a loselose situation.
    Using outside-the-box ideas to use buses, local schools or faith-based organizations to deliver needed social services allows agencies and the government to meet needs inexpensively, while having a minimal impact on a local community.
    Not only are the startup funds needed for such programs relatively small – one community recently made a significant dent in its food desert with a $100,000 bus – but it is temporary. If a grocery store comes in and wants to build in the neighbourhood it can, and the bus rolls out to another section of town. It can create markets, not kill them.
    Without a long-term investment in a property, these programs can also be suited to economic conditions.
    Saskatoon is changing.
    With that comes the need for the province and city to adapt to how they deliver services in a way that helps people and minimizes the impact on the neighbourhoods where they live.
    © Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

    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.

    New & Noteworthy

    OurYXE in iTunes

    As noticed by Chris Enns, OurYXE‘s podcast appeared in iTunes’ New & Noteworthy category last week.  You can listen to our podcast online, subscribe via RSS, or listen in with iTunes.  There are also two new episodes that went online this weekend.  Episode 8 with Pat Lorje and Episode 9 which features Sean and I talking about an independent election commission and Saskatoon’s inability to understand how things like snow removal is an essential service that needs to be provided.

    City considers spreading affordable housing

    If the city goes through with this, it will be a tremendous mistake

    The City of Saskatoon will likely curtail financial incentives for new affordable rental housing in core neighbourhoods in an effort to spread out social housing throughout the city.

    A city committee voted in favour Tuesday of adopting rules that would make it more difficult for affordable housing units to be built in neighbourhoods such as Riversdale and Pleasant Hill, which are already home to much of the city’s affordable housing.

    “We are never going to be able to rejuvenate these neighbourhoods unless we get at this at some point,” Coun. Pat Lorje told the city’s planning and operations committee.

    The city provides up to 10 per cent of the upfront construction costs for people or organizations looking to build affordable units. If the new rules are endorsed by city council, new units would only receive that incentive if they are not built in core areas that already have a “concentration of affordable housing.”

    Lorje has long been a proponent of moving social services and social housing away from the core neighbourhoods. She says neighbourhoods such as Pleasant Hill, Riversdale and Meadowgreen are bearing the burden of social agencies, affordable housing and, consequently, poverty.

    But for many involved in affordable housing, the idea of “diluting” social housing is flawed.

    “There has to be an understanding of people’s comfort level,” said Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Metis Federation (CUMFI). “We know a lot of these people would not be going across town or downtown to get services. They won’t.”

    CUMFI operates nine refurbished apartment buildings in the city’s core neighbourhood that act as shelters and affordable housing for at-risk women and children.

    The committee was told operations such as CUMFI would likely be exempt from the new rules because they are able to demonstrate “positive impact on the neighbourhood.” But Isbister says the whole philosophy of moving social services and housing out of the core is based on a false premise that affordable housing is the problem, not the solution to neighbourhood problems such as crime and drug abuse.

    Isbister was not at Tuesday’s meeting, but one city councillor echoed her sentiments. “I can’t understand the logic of this,” Coun. Charlie Clark said. “I can’t think of any of (affordable housing projects) that have contributed to the problems you are taking about.”

    I am going to side with Shirley Isbister (and organizations like QUINT) on this one while disagreeing with Pat Lorje and the Planning and Operations Committee.  This is a terrible idea and a tragic misunderstanding of the impact of affordable housing.

    Election Night Roundup

    Last night Wendy and I had Sean Shaw, Jeff Jackson, Pat Lorje, and DeeAnn Mercier over to watch the results come in.    The wifi was reinforced, I bugged DeeAnn about her new job, the NDP jokes were sharpened, and I prepared a story about Joe Clark in case Jeff and I needed to reminisce.  

    Wendy made a bunch of food, Sean brought over a bunch of food, and others brought over stuff as well.  We ate well.  Other than Obama’s personal victory, the win of the night was that Sean was able to get a box of candy for next to nothing.  It’s rumoured that when Karl Rove had his meltdown it wasn’t over Ohio but rather over what Sean paid for his candy.

    All I know is that between Wendy and Sean there was more food here than at either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama’s parties.

    It was a weird night of television.  We alternated between arguing U.S. politics and then would go argue a couple of city reports.  It got confusing.  In the end I think we all agreed that Barack Obama has not been strong as he should be on our north commuter bridge and I think Sean Shaw is thinking of running for a U.S. Senate seat.  It was all a blur.

    Some things broke out on Twitter.  I was assailed for not inviting more of you.  Next time we have an election night, I will invite more people.  While we were all really happy with the election results, I was haunted all night by a comment by Coun. Lorje who reminded me that Mark is closer to growing up than I like to admit.  I worked on my first election when I was age and he already has a couple under his belt.  He reads the Economist.  Girls are starting to call for him.  Pat’s comment made me realize that I was soon to be a parent of a teenager.  I don’t think I am prepared well for it.  Mitt Romney lost the election, I entered into a mid-life crisis.  Maybe I can ask Mitt Romney for advice.  He has time on his hands.

    Update: Take a look at President Elect Romney’s transition website.  Awkward.

    Speaking of awkward, here is Ezra Levant giving his prediction that Mitt Romney will win big last night.  Awesome. 

    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.

    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.