I'm not Right. I'm not Left. I'm Pro Human Rights.
From early times Humans have been fighting for their rights. The right to not get eaten by a lion. The right to have some land and shelter. The right to not be slaves to someone else. All the great documents boil down to the same thing. "The Right To Keep Other People from Taking What We Have".
I don't know the future of Humanity. But it seems we all have to get there together. The Door to Paradise is heavy, and we all need to push on it together.
But back to the here and now and local politics.
1. Taxes. Right now old neighborhoods are taxed
the same as new ones. But what they call 'infrastructure', the
pipes and roads and wires, are already in place in old ones. So
in effect old areas are subsidizing the construction of new ones,
who then take families away from the old ones, which causes them
to get run down.
There should be higher taxes in new areas, which would be fair, and also encourage builders to find spots in older areas.
Lower taxes would also be fair to the retired folks. They've been paying 50 years or so. Time for a break. The Government wants to keep them at home for as long as possible. So let's help them do it. Lower taxes and more money for DATS and home upgrades would still be cheaper than putting them in care facilities.
2. The Airport Land. Whoever brought it up right now had clever timing on their part. The choices are leave it as an airport, develop it for industrial, and develop it for housing units. Each has its' arguments, but each one has money behind it that will be lost.
I say there should be full discussion and participation, along with full disclosure, of all the aspects, which would include anyone who wants to be involved.
This is not some corner lot the City got a hold of. This is a BIG area. It has BIG consequences.
And what about traffic? It seems I was the first one to bring up the fact that the airport is a secluded area. New roads will have to be made to connect it to the grid. How will that affect traffic, and how much extra will that cost?
In Ward 7 the Yellowhead/Gretzky interchange has been delayed for years. This project could require 3 or 4 interchanges the same size.
We could also put the new garbage dump there. It would save millions of dollars. But no one wants to be stuck with a big stink in the middle of town.
3. About a week after I brought up the closed school situation, [see below] I read in the paper the Mayor and School Board Chairs-people from Public and Catholic announced a program to 'preserve core-area schools with partnerships'. This will either save schools or re-use them for other purposes such as libraries, with input from the neighborhood.
1 week. Fast action. You're welcome.
Updated- I spoke with the Library Board. The City can decide how much money to give them but can't tell them what to do with it. Right now they are concentrating on 'Iconic' new buildings that meet LEED Silver at least. So this new program couldn't do much anyway. Just more political smoke.
I still think the best solution is to alter the neighborhood to bring back kids, not alter the schools into something else.
4. Epcor. While all this dog and pony show
is going on Epcor has not been spoken of. Epcor was a very profitable
City Owned Utility. Now a big chunk of Epcor was sold off to another
company, with cash coming in but also somewhat worthless stock
that has no market value as is. And the executives are the same
on both Boards. Hmmmmm.
A politicians' proper job is to represent the people and do the most good for the most people. I intend to do my best with that in mind.
The Current Issues.
1. School Closings. I'm going to talk about
this first because it happened in my ward.
Schools and libraries are the heart of any community. Without them you just have a ghetto in waiting. When people hear that a distant city is closing schools they think the worst. And maybe they are right.
In pioneer days the sign of a complete town was when the school went up. Only then would young families come and live there with their children.
It's the same today. A community is built. Young families move in. After several decades the kids are grown and leave. The parents get old and die. Many of their houses are rented out or bulldozed into apartments.
Rentals attract more adults. So services for kids shut down. Then the school closes. So young parents don't want to live there. So houses don't sell and property values go down. More low cost rentals appear. Middle aged brats move in and drive down the neighborhood. The remaining old folks die off.
Now it's dead. It will never recover. Look at any big US city. There's a dead zone in every one. And it's nothing to brag about.
The key is keeping schools open and keeping house rentals out. Yes, usually only a few renters are a problem, and sometimes home owners can be a problem, but in general if you own the house you have more of a stake in the neighborhood. Right now there are many old people and families surrounded by tenants who don't give a damn, and who even purposely want to be a nuisance.
When I attended Eastwood the school was so full there were four portable classrooms outside. Now it has shut down. Yet the neighborhood has the about the same amount of houses and even more apartments.
The problem is the demographic has too many middle aged people without kids. They are people who come here to work, then go back home to raise families. Home isn't here to them. They don't care about Edmonton.
Others say the schools cost too much. That shouldn't matter. They're schools! They're not supposed to turn a profit!
I've been walking around the Ward for the past few months, going to garage sales and casually talking to people about their neighborhood. One day I was at the fair grounds and took a look at the construction.
Northland got 75 million bucks for their new giant building from the Province and the Feds. It's an impressive building, no doubt.
Did anyone ask for a few million to keep schools open? Did anyone say "how about 74 million for northlands and 1 million for schools"? No?
And did you notice the addresses of the schools that closed?
Eastwood 12023 81 ST
Parkdale 11648 85 ST
McCauley 9538 107 AVE
Capilano 10720 54 ST
Fulton Place 10310 56 ST
They make a ring right around Northlands. The schools close to them close, while they get 75 million.
And who's on the Board of Governors of Northlands? The Ward 7 Councilor and the Mayor. Makes you think, doesn't it?
Now everyday I see kids being bused to other schools when they live near a school. So the city is paying for Buses and Drivers instead of paying Teachers to Teach. How much money does that save?
And every local I talk to about the closings suspects that they only closed the schools so some businessman can make condos out of them.
The airport is the same. It seems
to me that it's a unique thing in a city desperate for attention.
But they want to close it to make 60,000 multi-family dwellings.
Is it in the best interest of Edmonton or do some developers just
want a big project to fill their pockets again?
I've got a name I can give them. The Airport Slum. Because that's what it will soon become. After the contractors walk away the city will be saddled with another crime ridden area. They're closing nearby schools and yet want to put more people there.
If they want to build something there's a big vacant lot where the Yellowhead and Gretzky meet. It's seen by all the visitors who drive by, and it would be perfect for a big mall. Or maybe a park. The trees that sprouted there are about ten years old now.
2. Community Leagues. Did you know you have
a community league in your neighborhood? Most people don't. But
the city funds each of them with thousands of dollars a month.
And they get more from such things as bingos and hall rentals.
Yet each uses the money how they want, on what they want, with
each one using their own bylaws.
What we need is a city wide dictated Community League Act that would spell out what leagues have to do to qualify for funding, with Uniform Bylaws that all must use. Either help the neighborhood or you don't get funding. A few free hotdogs a year isn't enough.
There may be some leagues out there right now that do a good job. Great. We'll look them over and use them as a model for the others. But I know there are some who do nothing and get paid for it.
3. Neighborhood Protection Act. People want
Quality of Life. I've never heard anyone complaining that there
weren't enough businesses on their block. They want to be able
to come home to peace and quiet, and not dread their own neighbors.
Absentee landlords, lousy renters, and nut cases ruin the retirements
that people were guaranteed. People should be able to have a say
in their own area. Who knows it better than them?
Search online for 'bad neighbors' or 'neighbor from hell'. It's happening all over.
England recently passed a law called the Anti-Social Behavior Order, which "is a civil order made against a person who has been shown, on the balance of evidence, to have engaged in anti-social behavior". An ASBO may be issued in response to "conduct which caused or was likely to cause harm, harassment, alarm or distress, to one or more persons not of the same household as him or herself and where an ASBO is seen as necessary to protect relevant persons from further anti-social acts by the Defendant."
I don't particularly like the wording of their act, but I like the intent, which is to muzzle the nuts and give the neighborhood back to those who live there.
Many of these brats do these things simply to annoy the neighbors. They are well aware of what they are doing and of what they can get away with.
As an example, there was a middle aged man who wore a skirt without underwear and stood across the street from a school. Yet he didn't do anything else. No normal law could arrest him, but the ASBO banned him.
Sure, right now there are bylaws. But each incident is treated separately. A single person has to fill out a form and to go to court and swear that on the 4th of the month at about 12noon the neighbors' dog was barking. All other problems on all other days are irrelevant.
What I'm purposing is for constant ongoing weird and annoying behavior to be dealt with once by the neighborhood. The neighborhood decides, and what they say goes.
Other candidates want more policing. I don't want more Police on block. I want the reasons for the Police to be there to disappear!
4. A New Arena. You know what arenas and stadiums
are don't you? That's when poor people buy a playground for rich
people. And then the rich people charge the poor to use it. And
they keep all the profits for themselves. 10% of the local residents
use stadiums and 100% have to pay for it.
If they need an arena then it shouldn't come from public funds but from private sources. If an arena is such a great money making idea then there should be plenty of businesses lining up to contribute and share in all the profits.
[Nov 12. I was browsing my usual websites when I saw a link to a city survey for the Edmonton Arena. I still think arenas and stadiums bring down the surrounding neighborhoods, not build them up. Look at Northlands, or any arena in any city. Even the superfans with season tickets don't want to live beside the sports stadium they spend so much time at.
With all that land at the munci airport, why not build it there? Plenty of parking, an LRT station soon, and hotels are already there for the visiting teams and fans. (and helicopter pads?)
The NAIT Ookpiks could use the ice, which would be a good trade for the land along 118th to widen the road for access. There's a mall across the street, and a museum close by. An entire family could be amused by a night out.]
The same with the Indy race. Everyone is going
hybrid, and Edmonton gets race cars.
I have my own car webpage, am on dozens of automotive forums, and none of them talk about Indy racing very much. The average Joe wants to watch cars that look like his. Indy cars are just more rich mens' toys.
The only city to be famous from Indy cars is Indianapolis, and that's just for a few weeks a year. I dare you, off the top of your head, to name any other city with Indy racing.
[November 7 2010: City council changed its mind and have cancelled the Indy race, citing heavy loses and the millions needed to build a new track, because the old one is the airport runway that will be ripped up for re-development. That's twice I was ahead of the curve.]
Overall this is just another "this will put Edmonton on the map for sure" idea, just like a dozen other "sure fire things" we've all heard of over the years. But you can't buy your way into greatness. Word of mouth can overwhelm any advertising campaign. If Edmonton wants to be seen as a great city, it has to become a great city.
Take Paris. It has a romantic image and people long to go there. The waiters are rude, the bathrooms atrocious, and traffic a nightmare, and yet they dream of living there. People don't dream of going to Paris because of its' economic development plan.
There are 200 cities in Canada
and 19,000 cities in the USA. How many of them do you want to
visit? And in the whole world there are just few Top Cities, and
Edmonton isn't on the list, and they can't buy their way in.
The best thing for Edmonton to do is try to be the best Edmonton it can be. At least your own people may like you.
Did some of this seem a little
harsh? The truth usually is. The truth is blunt. If a patient
is sick the doctor has no good way to say it. But it's better
to know, rather than saying 'all is well'.
Perhaps saying these things will help me. Maybe it will make me lose. But I'm saying them. They had to be said, and it's about time someone said them. Win or lose they are a good idea for the people of the area.
The people in City Hall should be more than janitors. They need to think of what's best for the people they serve and act on it.
We don't need to pay people to do nothing. We can get nothing for free. It's all about Quality of Life and Human Rights.