You’ve just found the inaugural episode of The Jordon Cooper Podcast. Today I am chatting about the 9th Street on ramp, the ridiculousness of Saskatoon’s City Council’s reversal and the ugly precedent it set.
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 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 donâ€™t tune in enough to care that much at the two year point of a mandate.
Also kudos to McGrane for using the phrase â€œinside baseballâ€ in his interview with Andrea Hill.
I chose not to write anything about the lockout because as soon as it lifted, I got several versions of the in-camera discussions and to be honest, the stories shocked me. Â Instead I put together some excellent posts, columns and articles from other people observing the lockout. Â
The first comes from October 10th and is by University of Saskatchewan law professor Keir Valance who said back then that the lockout was illegal. Â He was right.
More importantly, though, the lockout may well be illegal, and so may be the City’s unilateral changes to the pension plan. And the Union quickly brought an application before the Labour Relations Board, arguing exactly that.
On Sept. 26, 2014, the Labour Relations Board issued an interim Order (LRB File No. 211-14). That Order didn’t end the lockout, but it did prevent the City from implementing any further unilateral changes to the pension plan. On October 14th, the City and the ATU are back in front of the Board to argue about the legality of the changes to the pension plan and to the legality of the lockout.
The language that potentially renders the City’s actions illegal is the same now, under the new
Saskatchewan Employment Act (“SEA”), as it was under the now-repealed Trade Union Act. Section 6-62(1)(l)(i) of the SEA reads:
6-62(1)It is an unfair labour practice for an employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, to do any of the following:
(l) to declare or cause a lockout or to make or threaten any changes in wages, hours, conditions or tenure of employment, benefits or privileges while:
(i) any application is pending before the Board…
[“Pending” means that the hearing of the application has begun but the Board has not yet rendered a decision, so an Employer or Union could not, for instance, file a frivolous application just to prevent a lockout or strike.]
Unfortunately for the City, there was an Unfair Labour Practice (“ULP”) application pending before the Labour Relations Board when the lockout notice was issued. It appears the ULP was unrelated to the lockout – it related to discipline of a bus driver and was heard back in May – but the language in the SEA doesn’t say a “related” application, or anything of the sort. It says any application.
In order for the lockout and the pension plan changes to be legal, the City has to convince the Labour Relations Board that when the SEA says “any application”, the statute really means “any related application”. That flies in the face of the plain wording of the legislation. However, in fairness to the City’s position, most of the time the ULPs in such situations are related either to the lockout itself, or to the collective bargaining process that was underway. The intention of s. 6-62(1)(l) is to ensure that employers don’t “raise the stakes” on a ULP by trying to place economic pressure on a Union that has decided to pursue its rights before the Board. It’s about protecting the integrity of the Board’s process, and not allowing the rule of law to be undermined by economic power.
Still, the Board can’t simply decide what it thinks the law should be. It’s got to operate within the terms of the legislation that gives it its authority (the SEA). Without getting into the intricacies of statutory interpretation, the City would have to have some strong evidence that the Legislature somehow did not intend for the statute to mean what it says it means. That’s not impossible. But the Union has in its favour the fact that the Legislature could have changed the language of the statute when it implemented the SEA – but didn’t.
Okay, so it got weird from the start. Â I knew that law and when I probed members of council about it, they started telling me that the city didnâ€™t like the law and it was ruining their strategy so the Board would have to overturn it. Â When I brought up voices like Valance, they looked at me like I was mad. Â Again, kind of weird.
Oh yeah, there is also this sentence from Valance from that post
Ironically, had the City waited two weeks, there would have been no question that the lockout had been properly issued – because the outstanding ULP was decided on October 3, 2014.
Saskatoon City Council wasted over $1 million of â€œratepayersâ€ (you know those of us they are trying to protect) money because they could not wait two week? Â Think about that for a while. Â If they had waited two weeks, it would have been a legal lockout and they probably would have won. Â
So now the Mayor wants a judicial review on the ruling. Â According to Valance, that stands little chance of succeeding.
If the City pursues judicial review of the LRB decision, the question will be whether the LRB’s interpretation of the SEA was “reasonable”. In my view, it was (though I hasten to add we still don’t have the Board’s written reasons for why it ruled as it did). The Board has the jurisdiction, responsibility, and expertise to interpret its governing statute. It’s owed deference in its decision. And in my view, finding in the City’s favour would have flown in the face of the plain language of the legislation, and would have flown in the face of the fact that the Legislature has apparently – at least twice – refused to change the section in question.
Whether ss. 6-62(1)(l) and 6-63(1)(b) are good or bad for labour relations is not the point. That’s for the Legislature to decide. And the Legislature has decided at least three times (in 1944 when it proclaimed The Trade Union Act, 1944; in 1993; and in 2013) that these sections were to stay. It should be up to the Legislature to change them.
So letâ€™s get Les MacPhersonâ€™s take on itÂ as he arrived at many of the same conclusions as Valance and also the Labour Relations Board (and might as well toss this in there, the Government of Saskatchewan in 1944, 1993, and in 2013)
I find myself mystified by this transit fiasco.
I’m no lawyer, but, to me, at least, it seems crystal clear that the lockout was illegal in the first place. The labour act says there can be no strike or lockout with a pending grievance before the labour board. There was a pending grievance before the labour board, filed by the union in June. On the face of it, the lockout was illegal.
City lawyers argued that the grievance was not relevant to negotiations. Except the act doesn’t say anything about relevance to negotiations. It says “any” grievance. The city, unwisely, was betting the board would read into well-established law what isn’t there. For that to happen would be almost freakishly rare.
The city further argued that the grievance was not really pending because the board had not started formal hearings. Except the act doesn’t say anything about whether hearings have started. It just says there can be no strike or lockout if a grievance is pending. Again, the city gambled that the board would interpret the law to mean what it doesn’t say. Losing this bet will cost Saskatoon taxpayers into the seven figures in refunded wages for lockedout bus drivers, for refunds on transit passes and for legal costs. For the damage done to those who rely on transit to get to work, to get to the store, to get the kids to daycare, there is no accounting.
The city argued that the law as it is invites labour turmoil. Any looming strike or lockout, otherwise perfectly legitimate, could be thwarted by filing a bogus grievance. Maybe so, ruled the labour board, but the law is the law. There are many legislated restrictions on strikes and lockouts, the ruling explained. This is one of them.
“It is not for this board to rewrite the Saskatchewan Employment Act in the fashion suggested by the city.” The city should not have to go to the labour board to be told the law is the law.
By appealing this decision, the city now will be asking the Court of Queen’s Bench to rewrite the law. Why the court would be any more likely than the board to do so, no one has explained. The board is appointed by a Saskatchewan Party government, and not because it is labour-friendly.
As for the labour turmoil predicted by city solicitor Patricia Warwick if the decision is allowed to stand, I wouldn’t bet on that, either. The prohibition on a strike or lockout when a grievance is pending is nothing new. It has been a part of Saskatchewan labour legislation since 1944, and has remained in place after multiple revisions and amendments in the decades since. The idea is to prevent undue pressure on the board while it adjudicates a grievance. Why a law in place for 70 years suddenly would cause labour turmoil is no more clear to me than it was to the labour board.
He summarizes with this
To me, it looks like council got lousy advice. On a case that might have gone either way, an expensive defeat is bearable. In this case, council was advised to gamble taxpayers’ money on a crazy long shot for something it could have had anyway, and legally, in two weeks. If I were the client here, I would be angry.
What kind of shocks me in this whole thing is that the city has several solicitors to draw advice from. Â They also have a lawyer on Council (Tiffany Paulsen) and someone who is a labour expert (Ann Iwanchuk) who also overlooked or ignored the act. Â There are also some other councillors who bragged to me about their knowledge of the labour act and were 100% confident that this was a legal lockout. Â How did the all get it wrong?Â
What goes on in that bunker where everyone gets it wrong and is utterly shocked when a ruling where all of these outside voices are saying you are going to lose goes against you? Â
There is a weird reality that council puts itself in sometimes. Â Remember snow removal when council voted against residential snow clearing. Â Then it snowed a bunch that winter and in an â€œemergency debateâ€ on it, many of them played the victims and used phrases like â€œunder siegeâ€ and seemed shocked that it snows in Saskatoon in the winter. Â The city wasnâ€™t under siege but as councillors they were. Â It was all about them. Â Then the mayor starts to lecture manager who do not have the funds to do snow removal to do a daily press conference because it must be a misunderstanding right?
The same thing happened with the outrage over roads. Â The city for over a decade (it started when Atch was elected) cut back on road repair and maintenance. Â What happened? Â The roads fell apart and again council acted as it they were victims of this. Now we have the same thing. Â A hashtag, website, new pylons (no I am not talking about new politicians but actual pylons with â€œBuilding Better Roadsâ€ on them) and congratulatory radio ads about doing what other cities just do, maintain the roads. Â I donâ€™t get it but it is a weird group dynamic. Â There are some intelligent members on council but for whatever reason the sum of the whole is far less then the total of the parts and the result is a very, very low functioning city council and we as a city suffer because of it.
The photo below is from Andrea Hill. Â Twitterâ€™s ability to show photos has sucked in recent days so I thought I would post it here. (it took 20 minutes for Twitter to load this up)
Those are some sad, sad looking city councillors. Â Well Zach Jeffries looks angry but by in large, they look sad.
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. Â 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. Â Some of our busses are so old that people travel to Saskatoon just to ride of them like rolling museum pieces. Â They shouldnâ€™t be repaired by Saskatoon Transit but the Western Development Museum. Â Instead of replacing them, Saskatoon City Council is building a bridge for cars.
It is to be expected. Â With the retirement of Myles Heidt and the defeat of Bev Dubois, there are no councillors who are strong on public transit. Â 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. Â 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. Â Whereas Manitoba pays for almost half of Winnipegâ€™s transit costs (and injects capital for BRT), we get nothing except some money for Access Transit. Â 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. Â 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.
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. Â 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. Â Saskatoon City Council took this new arrangement so seriously that they actually drew names from a hat to fulfill one of the committee memberships. Â You canâ€™t do that and tell anyone that you take governance seriously.
Iâ€™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.
The price and focus of community support officers is putting the whole program in jeopardy.
â€œ$450,000 (a year) is a lot of money,â€ Ward 9 Councillor Tiffany Paulsen said at the administration and finance committee Monday. â€œI donâ€™t see how council can measure if this program is working.â€
At the end of July funding for the Community Support Officers (CSO) program expires. The cityâ€™s administration presented a report recommending city council expand the program for another three years into the end of 2017 for $1.35 million.
However, questions about what the CSOs patrol, how much its work overlaps with police officers, and the funding plan have put the future of the program on the bubble.
After reviewing the reports Ward 8 councillor Eric Olauson said he didnâ€™t see the value of this program.
â€œI have a tough time supporting this because I think police here have to change their focus. This was a good idea at the time but I think its run its course,â€ Olauson said.
Councillor Zach Jeffries echoed his colleagues concern noting that five CSOs have written only 15 bylaw infraction tickets over 18 months. He said if they wrote more tickets, council could better measure the success of the CSOs.
â€œThe number of tickets is very small â€¦ people say they want to see more tickets written,â€ Jeffries said, adding it would give council a measurement to determine the programâ€™s success.
â€œI would personally appreciate seeing something more measureable and in my mind itâ€™s something to focus on.â€
Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill said he supports the CSOs, and although he sees how the police officers and the CSOs overlap, he sees the police acting more as a protection measure for the CSOs.
â€œWeâ€™re always concerned about their safety so on occasion we will send a patrol car just to make sure there isnâ€™t going to be any violence,â€ Weighill said. â€œWeâ€™re supportive of the program we think thereâ€™s a space for them to do the work they do.â€
For the programâ€™s initial 18 months, the city resolved that funding for the CSOs would come from parking meter revenues because the patrolling areas (Downtown, Broadway, Riversdale) were metered. However, Riversdale Business Improvement District (BID) executive director Randy Pshebylo said he wants that money to go back into streetscaping.
â€œThe BID board has been very clear that theyâ€™d support a pilot program and that would then extend to an alternative source of funding and that the existing funding revert back to the streetscape reserve,â€ he said.
Well letâ€™s get the obvious one out there. Â Eric Olauson doesnâ€™t see the value in any program that doesnâ€™t involve his ward getting sound walls. Â That is his M.O. Â
Secondly a year ago the same councillors were praising the work of the CSOs and talking about how awesome they were. Â What happened?
The Partnershipâ€™s CEO, Terry Scaddon retired and he was one of the biggest champions for the program. Â Without him there, councillors are feeling far more free to criticize the program.
The program was designed from the start to pressure the province in giving money to help with social issues in Saskatoon. Â We had the Safer Streets Commission and the hope was that the province would help fund some of the solutions to social programs that we have in the cities. Â It wasnâ€™t a real need, crime in downtown Saskatoon was quite low but there was a perception out there. Â Unfortunately we overlooked the fact that the Wall government is very comfortable with the status quo on social issues and that the Treasury Board doesnâ€™t include a single member from Saskatoon. Â To make a long story short, we never got the funding and the program is going to die.
Finally, I canâ€™t leave Coun. Jeffries comment alone. Â Could it be that the reason that there was not a lot of tickets written is that there was not a lot of need in the first place? Â Also, encouraging law enforcement to write tickets is a really bad political direction to be giving them. Â The intention of the CSOs was to be helping people access needed services, not writing tickets. Â Countless cities across North America have cracked down on panhandlers and the homeless and it doesnâ€™t work. Â Criminalizing behaviour that is driven by extreme poverty is the worst form of public policy. Â Zach should know better than that, regardless of which ways the winds are blowing in his suburban ward.
Over the last couple of weeks I have seen three minor accidents along the northbound lane on Idylwyld South. Â All three have been minor and have “exchanged paint” to use the old NASCAR phrase. Â 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”. Â 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. Â 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”. Â 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. Â They are also unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians. Â 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. Â 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. Â You kept telling people how you heard about their concerns regarding roads on the doorsteps. Â Instead you gave a small increase and congratulated yourselves on the back despite knowing it wasn’t enough. Â 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. Â You hope to have enough money budgeted to bring hold the status quo by 2020. Â By that time there may not be any roads left and the yearly amount needed to fix our roads will be much, much higher. Â
Maybe city crews can’t find the potholes because street cleaning in this city takes months. Â On Friday I was in City Park and they were finally cleaning it. Â It was July 12! Â 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. Â We have such a short summer, you would think this would be a priority but it isn’t. Â 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. Â The quality of street sweeping is poor to say the least. Â Talking to councillors in others wards I hear the same thing. Â 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. Â We may as well have Prosperity Saskatoon but we have roads that failing and a bridge that is a laughing stock of the country. Â 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, Â cities can’t grow themselves. Â It’s the national and provincial economies that decide that. Â It took Calgary 45 years to grow from 250,000 to a million people yet for some reason, we need to start building today. Â Hence the $30 million extra for addition lanes on the north commuter bridge that your own city administration recommended against. Â 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. Â The amount of head office oversight that a potash mine takes compared to thousands of oil wells all over the province is miniscule. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â
Eventually we are going to have to make a decision as a city. Â If we keep on this path with crumbling roads and infrastructure many will just choose to leave. Â 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. Â You can’t run old buses, garbage trucks, and city vehicles forever. Â Eventually something is going to have to give and then you have to start paying for bills of broken equipment, water pipes, and roads. Â 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. Â 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. Â I had to personally intervene several years ago while a city run backhoe hit a car and was about to drive off. Â The utility cut took a couple of years to get fixed. Â 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. Â The weather warmed up and it fell over. Â We aren’t hiring the best and the brightest.
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. Iâ€™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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 isnâ€™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.
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 hasnâ€™t said a lot online. I expect Lorje to win by a large margin.
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 itâ€™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.
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.
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.
The lowdown: This isnâ€™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, itâ€™s defensible (even if you donâ€™t agree with it). My prediction is that Clark wins big.
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.
- Incumbent: None
- Challengers: Ainsley Robertson, Dave Wilton, Eric Olauson, Karen Rooney, Kevin Waugh
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.
- Incumbent: Tiffany Paulsen
The lowdown: The question isnâ€™t if Paulsen will win (she will), its if she will win by acclamation (again).
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 itâ€™s too soon to start thinking about what will happen.
Saskatoonâ€™s city council decided to do a spending review on what to cut. One city councillor described their efforts as â€œcourageousâ€. Thatâ€™s not a word I would have used. After many meetings, too much debate, and questionable live tweeting, the final results are known. A paltry $1.7 million.
Here are the cuts as gathered by Dave Hutton. Commentary is mine.
Voice over internet phone savings: $151,600
Letâ€™s hope they donâ€™t use our company. My work phone drops calls all of the time.
Affordable housing program reduction: $250,000
Beyond disappointed with this. It shows a lack of vision and leadership to cut this.
Eliminate satellite office space for community associations: $20,200
Cut Victoria Park skateboard security: $7,000
Okay, there was a need for this because kids were being beaten up and charged a â€œuser feeâ€ by bullies and kiddie gangs. Now we decide to cut it back. It kind of works like the Saskatoon Police safer streets initiative. Once you stop providing the security presence, the violence and bullying will start again. The other option is just to subcontract out the operation of the park to the bullies. At least the city would get a cut.
Reduce newspaper advertising: $50,000
How will council respond to Henry Dayday now? Also, which newspaper are you cutting advertising in? It better be Planet S.
Close Little Chief community police station: $104,000
This is a really good idea. It wasnâ€™t being used and I can see a boutique or specialty store coming and doing something great with the space. If that doesnâ€™t happen, Riversdale BID could be housed out of it. It would also make a great location for a New York style hot dog cart (which I canâ€™t eat anymore).
Reduce 2012 police budget from eight to six officers: $147,300
Remove purchase of a marked police vehicle: $32,600
I really didnâ€™t like this. Either the city needs eight police officers or it needs six. If it needs eight, then you get eight. If it needs six, then I find it frustrating that two token positions were proposed to be cut. I know that is how â€œitâ€ is done but I donâ€™t like it. Same with the police car.
Reduce park maintenance staff: $120,000
This seemed like a genuine cut and I didnâ€™t like it. I spent a lot of time in Saskatoon parks and I notice when things are broken and I appreciate the work they do when things are looking really good. I think this cut is a mistake.
Mendel Art Gallery cut: $5,700
We just gave them $20 million to build a new building but we scaled back the operating grant by $5700. Wow.
Discounted transit pass : $159,000
I was shocked by this as I thought it was a provincial program to begin with. The Ministry of Social Services actually advertised this on their website. Personally I think the Province of Saskatchewan should pick up the bill for the entire program. I applaud the city for starting the program but we should not be stuck with the bill.
Security false alarm fees: $195,300
Leisure centres: $92,000
Street closures: $12,000
Development permits: $120,000
Sign permits: $14,000
Tax and assessment searches: $18,300
Allotment gardens: $500
Development applications: $120,000
Organic recycling green bins: $24,000
Building inspections: $200,000
Sean Shaw has a post on the cuts as well. In it he reveals a shocking truth â€“ he actually read all of the reports. In my defense, I have been busy taking Mark to football practice every night for a couple of hours which is prime
NFL Network report reading time. The next service review will be just before the next civic election in four year which means that Mark will still be playing football. If he does not go on to play for either the Huskies or the Hilltops, I will be sure to read the next batch of reports in 2019. Dave Hutton has both a story and a post on the cuts.
Huttonâ€™s story had one new fee being discussed. The sound barrier fee.
The lengthiest discussion Wednesday surrounded an administration proposal to move the payment of the construction of sound walls to homeowners via a local improvement levy. Currently, the city’s infrastructure branch budgets $576,000 annually to construct sound walls based on a prioritized list. There is $37 million in sound wall construction outstanding. The walls are now built in new areas or as part of road construction projects, but weren’t for many years.
Coun. Tiffany Paulsen said "logistical and practical issues" make such a fee a bad idea. The cost of a sound wall per lot averages $50,000, council heard. Even if the total is cost-shared by the city or by an entire neighbourhood, it’s still a substantial cost to the homeowner, Paulsen said.
"It’s one thing to have a local levy of $200," she said. "It’s another to have a local levy of $50,000. This is a whole new ball game."
Umm, Coun. Paulsen, what about the $2250 (plus GST) levy for each home that has to have city water lines replaced. While neighbourhoods have done well without sound barriers, I have to â€œflush my systemâ€ by running my cold water for FIVE MINUTES each morning to ensure itâ€™s safe. When (and if) the city decides to replace the water mains on my street, each of us will get a $2250 (plus GST) bill for it. So the city will cover a $50,000 bill for each home for sound reasons while it wonâ€™t cover $2250 a home for clean drinking water.
It would be humorous if only they werenâ€™t running the city I lived in.