Bureaucracy run wild in Calgary costs a homeless charity $350,000 per year.

homeless

Examples abound but this one is a truly magnificent demonstration of the anti-car idiocy that has taken over  in Nenshi’s city hall. It is hard to write anything about the actions of Calgary city hall without the word ridiculous being used too much.

The Mustard Seed is one of the most respected charities in all of Calgary in helping with homeless people. They expanded to a large new building downtown. The new facility provides 228 affordable housing units and three stories for education and employment services. Due to city regulations, the building had to contain 79 parking stalls and 60 secured bike racks.

Due to the reality that homeless people typically don’t need parking spaces, 70 of the parking stalls and all of the bike racks are languishing empty.

Thanks to years of city hall’s anti-auto strangling of parking spaces, Calgary is second only to New York city in all of North America for the highest prices for downtown parking. These rates will only be going up as hundreds of downtown stalls are going to be removed for a bicycle track “pilot” program. This has the side-effect of making downtown parking spaces a very lucrative possession, that is if you are allowed to rent them out.

The Mustard Seed could make $350,000 per year renting out those empty and wasted parking stalls. Unfortunately adding parking goes against the anti-auto ideology of Calgary city hall these days so they refuse to allow the spaces to be rented out. The volunteers and staff at the Mustard Seed get to look at those empty spaces every day and wonder what charitable works $350,000 per year could be dedicated to if only Nenshi’s city hall transportation could drop their ideological agenda and let a little reality creep in.

According to this story, the Calgary Transportation department told the Mustard Seed that letting them rent out their parking spaces would encourage traffic.

Essentially a charity like the Mustard Seed will be paying $350,000 per year to remain in keeping with the anti-auto agenda of city hall councillors such as the Flakey Four (Pincott, Farrell, Woolley & Carra) and their leader Naheed Nenshi. Anti-auto ideology trumps simple common sense and Calgary’s charities are paying the price.

Ward 4 Councillor Sean Chu has thankfully been speaking up on this issue.

chu

Evan Woolley, the councillor for the ward that the Mustard Seed is in has so far remained utterly silent on this issue.  In the next week, I hope we see some more city councillors questioning transportation bureaucrats on this latest idiocy. I expect we will hear nothing but silence from the usual anti-auto suspects. I wonder how good they feel knowing the homeless get to subsidize their anti-auto agenda?

 

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Time to clear up some things on the Calgary Southwest ring road

The hard-left collective four on Calgary’s city council (Druh Farrell, Brian Pincott, Gian-Carlo Carra and Evan Woolley) have managed to stir up quite some discussion through their hyperbolic posturing during a committee meeting the other day. Discussion on issues is always a good thing. The Flakey Four (ht. Rick Bell) however are on more of a water muddying mission than any real pursuit of facts. It has been something of a dark comedy as we listen to these four initially claim to be concerned about costs (they never have shown such concern before), yet invariably go on anti-auto tirades as soon as extended discussion ensues.

The four aforementioned city councillors are all inner-city representatives with long-established reputations of being anti-suburb. These four are extremely ideologically driven and consistently oppose anything they view as being supportive of suburban development or automotive infrastructure. Their opposition to the ring road has utterly nothing to do with the cost of the project and everything to do with the fact that the road will serve the needs of suburbanites.

It’s time to cut through some of the BS.

For starters, this is a provincial issue and not even within the jurisdiction of Calgary’s city council. The province has already made it clear that this project is going forward no matter how much noise inner-city councillors make.

Next is a demonstration of need. Opponents of the ring-road are simply claiming that we don’t need it. In the poorly edited image below I will demonstrate the need.

ringroada

I couldn’t find an image that combines current traffic flow with the projected ring road location so I cobbled one together. If you can squint really well or expand the image you can see the need for this traffic artery demonstrated.

The poorly drawn yellow line is an approximate rendering of where the ring road is going to go. The dark purple lines on the map indicate roads that carry over 100,000 vehicles per day. People familiar with Calgary’s Southwest will recognize the traffic bottlenecks immediately. Glenmore Trail, Crowchild Trail and 14th Street SW are all heavily congested with both commuter and trucking traffic. As can be clearly seen, all of those roads will see a great reduction in traffic with the coming of the ring-road as traffic can and will by-pass those narrow and traffic-light laden routes.

The red line is pointing to where development will be happening in the city of Calgary. The city boundary includes those areas and development down there is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. Calgary is a fast growing city and despite the efforts of our density obsessed members of city council, 92% of people are choosing to live in the suburbs. Most People just do not and will not squash themselves into inner-city condos no matter what the inner-city ideological four think.

Hundreds of thousands of people will be building on and living in the Southwest region of Calgary in coming years. Is not one of our common complaints that infrastructure is always built after the fact rather than in anticipation of growth? The need for the ring road is already there and will only become more acute with time.

The need for the ring road is clearly established. The Flakey Four loves wistfully talking about the amount of LRT tracks that could be laid with the money but that will not aid in the movement of goods and services. Your plumber is not going to ride the train to your house, a parent of a family of five is not going to ride the train to get groceries and the grocery store will get it’s stock by truck, not LRT.

With the need established, the more realistic area of contention is the cost. It must be remembered, the need is not going away and the cost will not be going down over time. That said, the ballpark cost of $5 billion is a very large number. We need to break down and work out why it is in that range as much as we can before the province lays out more detailed information on this.

For a history of the ring road click here. The gentleman who created this blog has done a fantastic job of digging up and documenting the history of the road as well as reporting new developments on it. Considering it appears that the province’s first approach to the Tsuu T’ina band on this road was in 1947, there is a lot of history to cover.

The largest cost factor that differentiates the Southwest leg of the ring road from the rest of the segments is that the road goes through the Tsuu T’ina native reserve. This brought about a great deal of added costs as compensation for land and other factors came into the deal that other legs did not have to deal with. Dealing with potential burial grounds and other culturally sensitive issues arise on the reserve.

There are clauses in the agreement that guarantee some of the contracting on the construction of the road to the reserve. When working in the North, mandatory hiring of native contractors is usually part of our obligations in permits to work on crown land. The reasons why it costs so much more to use native contractors would be fodder for an entire series of blog postings. Be assured though that while native contractors can often do a fantastic job, they cost a great deal more than any other contractors tend to.

The ring road goes through the old artillery range of CFB Calgary. The clearing of the land of potential unexploded ordnance before construction is a huge and unique cost.

The Southwest ring road is in some environmentally sensitive areas that other legs of the road did not have to deal with. Crossing upstream of the  Weaselhead area is one example as well as crossing smaller water bodies like Fish Creek.

From the ring road blog:

The Southwest Ring Road includes:

  • 26 km of six and eight-lane divided roadway
  • 37 bridges
  • Crossings of Elbow River and Fish Creek
  • Rail flyover
  • 13 interchanges:
      • Westhills Way SW interchange
      • Sarcee Trail SW interchange
      • Old Strathcona Road SW interchange
      • 90 Avenue SW interchange
      • Anderson Road SW interchange
      • 130 Avenue SW interchange
      • 146 Avenue SW interchange
      • 162 Avenue SW interchange
      • Stoney Trail/Highway 22X systems interchange
      • Spruce Meadows Way SW/James McKevitt Road SW interchange
      • Sheriff King Street SW/6 Street SW partial interchange
      • Macleod Trail SW interchange

 

As demonstrated above, this is a very large project with many unique costs and challenges.

It took two referendums and decades of negotiations to get an agreement with the Tsuu T’ina band to get this ring road going. Part of the agreement also says that if the province does not have this road going within 7 years of the land transfer, the deal will be void. There is no time to dither on this. We can’t navel-gaze and think about it for a few years now. It would take decades longer and unimaginable compensation to do this deal again if we break it with the Tsuu T’ina now.

I don’t know how much it would cost to simply break the agreement right now but be assured there is a clause that states we would be paying the Tsuu T’ina  a great deal of money just to get out of the contract. Something that can’t be measured in dollars would be the lost faith and trust between the Tsuu T’ina band and the province/city. Trust is a limited commodity with First Nations as it is. Breaking new deals won’t exactly help.

One more thing that many folks are neglecting to mention is that the projected costs include 30 years of the maintenance of the ring road. The $5 billion is not simply for construction, it covers decades of maintenance that will be expensive under any circumstance.

It was irresponsible for Alberta Transportation to toss out what they now call a “ballpark” figure on the cost of the ring road. We need more detail before we can properly understand and absorb the costs associated with this critical piece of infrastructure. Having no detailed breakdown for the costs leaves room for opponents such as the Flakey Four to speculate and it is difficult to counter such unfounded speculations.

We need detailed costs and we need our provincial representatives to debate and work on these costs. There probably is room to reduce the cost of this project if we look closely enough. Let’s be clear though, the ring road is going ahead. To cancel the deal now simply is not a realistic option no matter what some inner-city councillors are dreaming.

Sideline the Flakey Four when it comes to further discussion on the ring road. They would oppose the project if it was 1/4 of the projected cost. Their issue is not with cost, it is with ideology and it always will be.

The ring road needs open and rational discussion and the place for it is in our legislature rather than city hall.

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Going Postal! Brian Pincott burning tax dollars in Calgary to fight progress.

postal

As we see Calgary’s city council pleading poverty while they slam Calgary with year after year of record tax and fee increases, we also see council members pissing tax dollars down the drain on pointless pet projects and studies.

It is old news that Canada Post will be eliminating door to door home delivery in the very near future. The crown corporation has been bleeding red ink as the demand for home letter mail withers away due to advancements in modern communications. Just as pasteurization and modern refrigeration removed the need for a milk-man to deliver dairy products to our doors, the internet has eliminated the need to have a person deliver mail to our doors. Bill payments are predominantly automated and communications are now electronic.

Canada Post began moving towards community mail boxes rather than home delivery 30 years ago. Most of Calgary’s new districts have never had home mail delivery and they are served perfectly fine in getting their junk mail at nearby community boxes. It is a proven means of mail delivery and there really is little need to study further.

But wait!!! Who is this White Knight riding to the rescue of the fast-disappearing unionized postal carrier??

pinhead

Yes, it is none other than Calgary city councillor Brian Pincott. Pincott has a well-earned reputation as a fool who loves to waste tax dollars on things outside of council jurisdiction such as wasting countless dollars trying to  ban types of soup. Pincott also wants to ban homeowners from cutting their own trees or having fire pits and wants to tell you what kind of lights you can turn on. I guess we should not be surprised when we see that Pincott wants to try to protect an utterly obsolete line of work. Perhaps Brian will spend tax dollars studying Calgary’s loss of blacksmiths next.

What Pincott is proposing is to use city bureaucracy to waste time and money to try and hold up Canada Post as they try to establish their community mailboxes. From the CBC article on it: “He wants a community consultation process developed and a report back to a council committee by this December.”

What is to study? What is to report? This type of delivery has been used for decades. There is nothing that a new process will uncover here. This is nothing more than a stall tactic.

Pincott has to know that the evolution away from home mail delivery is inevitable. I am sure Pincott is well aware that this is utterly outside of the jurisdiction of city council. Pincott loves to call for all sorts of studies and consultations so he has to be well aware that these things cost untold millions to taxpayers cumulatively. Why then is Brian Pincott pursuing this foolishness?

The answer is simple. Brian Pincott is propped up by union support. Pincott was very strongly contested in the 2013 election. He needs to maintain whatever support that he has. What Pincott is essentially doing is pissing away untold thousands of taxpayers dollars on a move that is utterly futile in order to kiss the collective asses of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Be assured that the CUPW will likely toss a nice healthy contribution towards Pincott’s next campaign and encourage their mail-monkeys en-masse to help knock on doors for him.

Getting back to why the City of Calgary is constantly hiking taxes, when there are unprincipled councillors like Brian Pincott tossing around  and wasting tax dollars like that, how can we be surprised? Be happy taxpayers! We all just donated to Pincott’s next campaign!

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Privacy Versus Accountability

The world has changed in a way that I think few saw coming. Many people feared and foresaw a world where we all were constantly monitored by government cameras and lost all privacy. What has happened instead is that we now have a society where nearly every person is carrying a video camera at all times and it has actually led to more accountability from our authorities.

There are some privacy issues and there always will be but I think this trend of citizen empowerment through personal cameras is a good thing for us all.

In 1991 video captured the reprehensible beating of Rodney King and brought to light just how out of control police officers can become at times when they think nobody is watching. At that time, the video was an anomaly as video cameras were large, bulky and expensive. People rarely had one at the ready to shoot such a scene. People could not help but wonder how many other episodes such as the King beating had occurred when nobody could record the moment.

Videos of police abusing their authority are now becoming unfortunately more common but I suspect that as more and more police officers are finding themselves fired and criminally charged when caught assaulting citizens that many more officers are now showing restraint in knowing that their actions may be recorded.

This new accountability extends to officers and their treatment of their own dogs as the video below demonstrates.

::warning:: Lot’s of expletives.

This accountability extends to criminals too. The video below demonstrates scumbag protestors vandalizing property. These sort of video clips help undercut the claims by protesters that they are being unfairly targeted by police.

The video below demonstrated how shallow, bitter and just outright pointless the “Idle No More” protests were. Without citizen video like this, thugs like those recorded may have retained some credibility in the minds of Canadians.

Of course in the political world, we are finding politicians going down as they fail in adjusting to this new degree of public scrutiny.

Rob Ford has proven not only to have some very serious addiction issues, but has demonstrated an utter inability to learn from his past mistakes as he has been caught in a second crack video.

ford

In Alberta, disgraced former Premier Alison Redford demonstrated that despite losing Alberta’s top political job due to her gross sense of entitlement, she still feels entitled to taking a six-figure salary from Alberta taxpayers to live in luxury in Palm Springs while brazenly refusing to do her job. Had a citizen not taken the picture below, Redford may have been able to convince some that she was on some form of government business.

Alison Redford by Kurt Bowley.jpg

Redford’s ongoing crime against good fashion has been recorded in Palm Springs as well.

redbike

Civil servants are not exempt either. This picture below of 10 city of Calgary workers painting a simple green box demonstrates that there is plenty of room for increased efficiency within the City of Calgary despite Nenshi’s denials and his rather sad claim that this was a training session.

bike

The world is changing and for the most part it is for the better.

Rather than complain about a possible lack of privacy, people should just always act in a manner that is assuming that they are being recorded.

Accountability is never a bad thing.

 

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How about letting Calgary evolve as Calgary?

calgary

Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear from some apparently self-loathing urban dwelling Calgarian wistfully sighing about how Calgary must become like <insert ancient European city here> if indeed are to become “world class”,

Last week during one of the countless obscure festivals that seem to bubble up we saw this attitude in spades at the “Spur Festival” (whatever that is). Guest speaker & American Author Daniel Brook derided Calgary’s “urban character” as being a “Texas in the Arctic” to the roomful of giddy collected hipsters. Brooks then went on plugging his book which celebrates cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai and St. Petersburg and the autocratic regimes that brought them about. I do become uncomfortable when people show admiration for the efficiency of autocratic regimes. Stalin’s 5 year plans did wonders for Eastern European development for example but came at a rather steep price. All of the aforementioned cities developed over 1000 years before Calgary did and in utterly different cultural structures but apparently we somehow can and should become more like them. Maybe if Nenshi had more autocratic powers…… Ahh that speculation goes down the city charter road which is fodder for another posting.

Next up of course was Calgary’s controversial and density obsessed city planner Rollin Stanley. Stanley retreated from his prior gig in Maryland after having offended most of the county having labelled those who challenge his density goals as being “rich white women” who apparently travel in a “coven”. Yes, Stanley is all class and we should be proud that Nenshi managed to scoop him up for us. Surely the room was breathless as Stanley gave his stock speech on why we must fight consumer demand and press development inward.

The trend of berating people who dare speak up for their communities in the suburbs and the contempt shown to them is troubling.

I am sick of hearing how Calgary must change it’s character. I tire of some people within our own city calling the Calgary Stampede our biggest claim to shame. I tire of people wagging their fingers at the 90% or so of Calgarians who dare to choose not to live downtown no matter how hard city council tries to stuff the vaunted “East Village” down our throats. I am tired of whining hipsters labelling us all as rednecks every time a civic policy goes against the density mantra.

Calgary is a city that is booming and growing. That growth is far and away predominantly outward as the vast majority of Calgarians pursue single detached households in the suburbs. We need to quit whining about that reality and begin planning for it. Nenshi’s virtual development freeze has only led to a boom in development among bedroom communities and a catastrophically expensive downtown. These kinds of efforts to fight the natural development and evolution of our city are indeed changing the character of the city but not for the better.

Calgary is still the frontier. People of ambition are coming from all over the world to settle in and make a life in the city. Most of these people are working in the energy industry whether directly or indirectly and the vast majority of these people do NOT want to live downtown. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. Perhaps those people who can’t handle the realities of the true character of Calgary should drop the spite and move to Manhattan where they can split rent on a $3500 per month tiny apartment with 7 other baristas and liberal arts graduates to see just what a paradise urban density can be.

Calgary is unique in culture and general nature. Let’s embrace that instead of aspiring to be something else. The self-esteem movement sure works hard to ensure that individuals accept and embrace who they are instead of trying to be somebody else. That concept should apply to entire cities as well.

 

 

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