It doesn’t matter what the law says if you’re dead.

The law is pretty clear. Sexual assault is a crime and perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law no matter how the victim presented themselves. In theory, a young lady should be able to walk alone through a shady part of town after having a few drinks and while dressed scantily without any fear of being assaulted because she is under the protection of the law. In reality, such a choice would be very stupid and being legally in the right would be of the coldest of comforts after one has been assaulted.

In theory, I should be able to leave my wallet full of cash on a table in a seedy bar while I go to the washroom and expect it to still be there when I get back because it would be against the law for somebody to steal it. In reality that choice would be idiocy and I likely would lose my wallet. I could scream indignantly to my heart’s content but would not get satisfaction despite my being legally in the right.

What I am getting at is that if we truly want to mitigate crimes and victims we need to look at prevention as well as simply legislation against criminal actions.

Calgary has some of the safest pedestrian stats on the entire planet.

Despite our great record on pedestrian safety, our local anti-auto ideologues have been working to manufacture a false pedestrian crisis by loudly and hysterically highlighting every reported pedestrian incident as they happen. Never mind that in a city of over a million people that having less than one incident per day is actually incredibly safe. Never mind that the pedestrian is often at fault rather than the automotive or train operator. Never mind that these incidents are often minor (though they can often be tragic too). These people want to create a scenario where folks feel that autos are too plentiful and going too fast in hopes of justifying more expensive and idiotic infrastructure such as underutilized bike lanes in order to hinder traffic.

The fact that traffic hindrance costs millions of hours in productivity and is terrible for the environment is lost on these ideologues. They have a simplistic goal of creating a downtown hipster’s Nirvana where the personal vehicles no longer exist and all folks walk to the local coffee collective together to read poetry while bills and taxes somehow magically pay themselves. If it means grossly exaggerating pedestrian incidents in the city, so be it.

All that being said, it certainly is a good thing to try and reduce pedestrian incidents on the streets even if the stats are already good. What we need to focus on though is what actually will work rather than what will hinder cars.

Below is a rather graphic video. It is a collection of pedestrians getting nailed by cars as they mindlessly walk out into busy streets. Many of these pedestrians were in crosswalks and were legally in the right. Alas, the law and a coat of white paint did not protect them from the law of physics and many have been grievously injured and killed.

 

The bottom line is that it is incumbent on pedestrians to pay attention to their surroundings because in a traffic incident, they clearly have the most to lose. It doesn’t matter what the damn law is and cracking down further on cars isn’t the answer if mitigation of actual accidents is truly the goal. We need to change that entrenched and entitled attitude that many pedestrians have where they seem to think that white paint can stop a car dead in it’s tracks.

To any drivers reading this, I know you have seen incidents where pedestrians simply stride into the street without pause or looking left and right as they know they are in a crosswalk. How many times have you had to slam on the brakes and think to your self “I sure am glad I wasn’t adjusting the heat in the car or something or I would have nailed that foolish son of a bitch”.

Hitting one of those crosswalk buttons to make the light flash does not bring cars and trucks to an immediate stop. It takes time for the lights to register, for the brakes to be applied and for the vehicle to stop. One of the things we need to do is change those lights so that they don’t immediately light up upon pushing the button.

I worked in Stillwater Oklahoma for a few months a few years back. It is a college town and at lunchtime or class breaks, the streets and walks are completely flooded with students. Despite this, traffic flowed rather well. The reason was that while there were countless light controlled pedestrian crossings, those lights did not turn on immediately when a pedestrian hit the button. The lights were much like traffic lights in general. The pedestrian would hit the button and wait. Within perhaps 30 seconds, the light would flash a warning to drivers and then would go red so that pedestrians could cross. This forced pedestrians to pause and pay attention. This also gave warning to drivers. On top of it all, it made things more efficient as 20-30 pedestrians would cross and then the light would change so that autos could move again. Otherwise we would see that endless stream of pedestrians that often frustrates drivers into unsafe actions and mires traffic for blocks.

Scramble crossings are another good idea to move large numbers of pedestrians with minimal impact on traffic. Like the lights in Stillwater though, they are only on for certain periods and pedestrians are not allowed in the roadways otherwise.

With uncontrolled crossings, there still is no substitute for pedestrian awareness and education. People need to look out before stepping into that damned street no matter how legally right they are. How can they assume that the driver coming down the road is paying attention? The price is too high to assume that the law will protect you.

Barney covered it well with children. It seems that the lesson didn’t stick into adulthood with many.

 

Law enforcement is still important of course. Drivers should be heavily ticketed for blowing through crosswalks and lights. It is terribly dangerous and should not be taken lightly.

That said, we need to see more crackdowns on jaywalking and dangerous pedestrian practices too. Many pedestrian accidents are fully the fault of the pedestrian.

More than anything though if we truly want to mitigate damage we need to look towards personal responsibility.

That means dropping the anti-auto rhetoric and seeking real solutions.

I don’t expect that from Calgary’s distorted transportation department soon unfortunately but perhaps we will see change after next year’s election.

In the meantime, don’t forget to look both ways….

 

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Calgary’s 12 Ave bicycle track causing nearly 1/4 million extra driving hours per year for commuters

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The numbers are starting to come in from Calgary’s controversial and expensive bicycle track experiment and they aren’t pretty. Proponents highballed numbers claiming as many as 12,000 cycle commuters per day when pushing for the tracks. They then moved the goalposts to the more realistic couple thousand per day for a baseline when the tracks went in. Despite those number crunching efforts and an extremely mild winter, the cyclist numbers simply are not that impressive. The tiny but vocal cycle lobby has been sadly trying to cherry pick numbers such as a nearly insignificant uptick in female ridership in hopes of claiming success but it is falling on deaf ears for commuters tired of languishing in traffic only to see empty cycle lanes taking up parking and laneways.

Naheed Nenshi said in a radio interview that on 12th Avenue alone the cycle track has added a 2 to 2.5 minutes for drivers to get a short 14 blocks.

While those numbers sound small at a glance, one really needs to look at the cumulative impact of these tracks and in that context they are staggering and bad.

When crunching the numbers and being generous on 12th Ave alone, we see the addition of nearly a quarter million driving hours per year in the city due to the tracks!


12th Avenue SW in Calgary moves between 15,000 and 21,000 cars on an average weekday. It is a very busy avenue on weekends too as it is a main artery. I picked the lower part of the average and used 17,000 cars per day.

In splitting the difference in Nenshi’s numbers, we get an average of 2.25 minutes of driving time per driver due to the tracks which adds up to 637.5 extra automotive hours per day on that road.

When those extra hours are applied over the course of a year, we have 232,687.5 extra hours per year that cars are running on 12 Ave SW due to the empty cycle tracks.

So much for proponent claims that these tracks would reduce traffic.

The cost of so many wasted hours cant be understated.

What kind of environmental impact is caused by an extra 232,687.5 hours of active vehicular traffic?

What does this add up to for consumers as extra fuel is purchased and extra wear and tear is imposed on vehicles due to this slow, start and stop traffic?

How about productivity? I bet if those 1/4 million hours were applied to work rather than sitting in traffic, we would see some benefits.

How about quality of life? 232,687.5 unnecessary hours are being wasted sitting in cars. What if that time was spent with family? Perhaps in the gym? Maybe simply sleeping or getting a better breakfast. Pretty much anything is better than sitting in traffic without cause.

These numbers are from just one avenue in Calgary. The cycle tracks are on many other streets and are impacting traffic there too. What kind of extra commute time numbers are we talking when all of the cycle tracks are added up? Possibly into the millions of hours.

Millions of hours of time wasted with fuel burned by Calgarians so that a handful of hipsters can use cycle tracks downtown during good weather. Is this a good trade?

Calgary has one of the best cycle path systems in North America but you wouldn’t know it to listen to the few but shrill downtown cycle lobbyists.

City council needs to look at the real and cumulative impact of these tracks downtown. They are a failure and should be removed if the interests of the majority of Calgarians are to be taken into consideration.

Of course, if the interest is an anti-auto agenda rather than that of the majority of Calgarians, we can expect these tracks to stay no matter how terrible the numbers are.

Sad when the damage and cost is considered.

 

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Give credit for labour empowerment where it is due.

modelt

We live in a fantastic time. Our standard of living is the best it has ever been in human history and in general, it is only getting better. Despite this self-evident fact, there will always be a number of luddites who idiotically try to fight and condemn the very things that have led to our comfort and happiness today. Anti-vaccination kooks are a fantastic example of this trend. Another foolish but growing anti-progress group is the anti-automobile movement.

We (as usual) are paying a heavy price for our electoral apathy, particularly on the municipal level. Despite the vast, vast majority of people in North America happily owning and using personal automobiles, many municipal governments are taking on an outright anti-automotive stance on development. Despite need and demand for improved automotive infrastructure, municipal governments focus on initiatives designed to hinder automotive use with no visible benefit. Calgary’s ridiculous and barely utilized downtown cycle track are a prime example. Tens out thousands of autos have been displaced for these tracks as lanes and parking are lost while hipsters numbering in the dozens use these tracks. That is fine for Nenshi’s council as the goal was never to facilitate bicyclists. The goal was to hinder cars. Traffic calming measures, ridiculous pedestrian strategies and the constant choking of parking reflect this ideology as well.

This anti-automotive movement can be far more damaging to us than simply some inconvenience in commuting. If we allow more collectivization of transportation, we will begin to lose individual rights.

The personal automobile was as responsible for the empowerment of workers as labour unions were, if not more so.

In the last few years, I spent a great deal of time working on oil exploration programs in the “Rust Belt” of the USA in the last few years. There are countless small, single factory towns squirreled around Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. One that stood out for me was Avonmore Pennsylvania.

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Avonmore is a town of about 800 and is in the Kiskiminetas River valley about 40 miles from Pittsburgh. The town population peaked in 1910 at 1262 and has been on the decline ever since. This is typical of these types of towns as their industries decline. Many Pennsylvania towns have long histories and some great old architecture. Avonmore however is somewhat plain and it can be seen even in the design of the small downtown that this is a planned and company town. There is one large steel mill in the town and a small number of supporting businesses. That has always been the nature of this town.

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Being in a deep river valley and being so dominated by one company, one cant help but imagine just how dependent workers were in a town like this at the turn of the century. The only route out at that time would have been by rail (controlled by the company), or by wagon (slow and expensive). The dominant company in these towns often owned the associated businesses in the towns from the general stores to the local hotel and often the housing. It is this dependency that led to a great deal of labour abuse. While unions had made strides at the turn of the century, in towns such as this they had little power as labour was essentially captive. What would you do if you were fired? Move? How much do you owe the company store? Back rent on the house perhaps? Can you get all your belongings on the train? Does the company control the train? Can you shop for a new place?

This all changed in 1914 when the Ford Model T took America by storm. Suddenly a factory worker could buy a family automobile with just four months pay. A worker could now commute to other workplaces should they choose to. A family could travel and broaden their shopping options. Employers and services suddenly faced a mobile workforce who could and would commute or relocate if need be should they find themselves abused. A mobile workforce becomes a commodity and supply and demand now could apply to them. Reality set in and work conditions throughout the entire continent improved not with strikes and labour actions but through employees exercising their ability to take their services elsewhere. With Pittsburgh and other industrial communities being only a short drive away, the companies that controlled Avonmore and countless other communities were forced to change their practices in order to retain their workers.

We often take that personal mobility for granted as we allow municipal ideologues to chip away at this important individual right. Aside from labour mobility, the contributions that personal transportation make to our general standard of living can’t be understated. While municipal leaders often chide people to take the bus or ride a bike, how can this reasonably apply to the parent of a few kids who needs to go grocery shopping. Should they simply walk to a convenience store and pay the premium that comes with that? Do we really expect senior citizens to suddenly choose to ride a bike to the pharmacy?  What do we think will happen to the price of consumer goods if people can no longer broadly shop around? Personal autos also allow a possible escape for people in abusive relationships.

We need to be vigilant as ideologues try to take away or limit the very important right of personal mobility and nothing provides that right more effectively than the personal automobile. We have to thank the automobile for so many great things we enjoy in life today and to oppose personal automobiles is pure and simple foolishness.

We can get by just fine without labour unions today. If we lost the personal automobile however, we would all suffer on a number of levels. We should always celebrate this great innovation that has empowered us all.

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A victory for accountability and transparency in Calgary!

civiccamp

Personally I think partisan politics are a good thing in general for a number of reasons.

Many people think that partisan politics is a bad thing. I think that most can agree though that what is even worse than a political party in a partisan system is a hidden political party in a system that is expected to be non partisan. That is what the initial incarnation of the now defunct CivicCamp group was.

It was recently reported that CivicCamp has disbanded. That isn’t exactly true as the legally registered CivicCamp still exists and it was formed over a year ago.

What has happened is that the group that used to run Naheed Nenshi’s personal political party that wasn’t a political party have given up on the name that they purposely refused to register in order to dodge accountability.

Nenshi and some supporters formed CivicCamp prior to the 2010 civic election in Calgary. There are many advantages to having an organization of people focused on common policy goals trying to get a person elected. Without a formal party system in municipal politics however, the ever canny Nenshi formed CivicCamp which claimed to be non-partisan when it was clearly anything but.

The organization was purposely formed without being legally registered anywhere. This meant that the key people involved and the means of funding never had to be disclosed publically. That avoided the clearly sticky questions that would have come about if folks realized that this apparently non-partisan group was almost exclusively populated by Naheed Nenshi’s supporters. Official campaign financing has some pretty strict rules as well. With a group that isn’t a group however, finance questions could be dodged.

Let’s be clear. CivicCamp was a political party. “A political party is an organization of people which seeks to achieve goals common to its members through the acquisition and exercise of political power.”

After the 2010 election CivicCamp became a useful tool in promoting Nenshi’s policy initiatives and ideals to a divided council. Again, no disclosure was given on who ran this group or who funded it despite their making formal presentations to council and providing input on committee. Rather nifty politics.

In the 2013 CivicCamp went back into campaign mode. This is where the line really was crossed as this group that wasn’t a group somehow secured financing from the Calgary Foundation and then proceeded to go into full campaign mode for Nenshi and his chosen council members (an informal council political party).

While refusing to disclose their own financing until late into the election, the CivicCamp group hypocritically, selectively and relentlessly harangued candidates who were not a part of Nenshi’s slate by demanding that these candidates disclose their finances earlier than the legally required disclosure date. In one circumstance one of the CivicCamp gang even camped outside of the campaign office of one of the candidates. They were conspicuously silent on the disclosures of the Nenshi slate however even though some of them were pretty slow in releasing their backers too.

In a political move worthy of Frank Underwood, the CivicCamp group assumed control of all of the forums for mayoral and council candidates. Organizing forums is a tough and thankless task so when a group of folks raised their hands and offered to take on the task, alas few took issue with it.

In election forums, people can usually ask questions from the floor. This allows ground level concerns and issues to be presented directly to candidates and we can watch the unvarnished responses and answers from the contenders for the electoral spots. CivicCamp would have none of this however. What they did was “crowd source” among their supporters and created a set of ranked questions that would be presented to the candidates. Unsurprisingly the questions came out looking as if Naheed Nenshi’s mother (or likely his sister) wrote them. While tax increases polled high on the list of concerns of most Calgarians, somehow it didn’t even make the list of CivicCamp softballs for Nenshi. It was simply brutal and took away the whole point of open forums.

In one of the forums, Brian Pincott (hard left councillor and part of the Nenshi slate) didn’t like the moderator and complained. The CivicCamp group quickly obliged and replaced the moderator with one to Pincott’s liking of course.

Having watched this display I simply couldn’t stomach it any longer. I did a NUANS search and then formally formed and registered CivicCamp as a non-profit society. The initial group’s careful efforts to conceal themselves left them wide open for me to do so. Had they simply spent $80 and filled out a form they could have prevented that but of course that would have meant practicing the accountability and transparency that they tried to demand of some candidates in the election.

While the disbanded group is claiming that they are simply moving along because they have accomplished so much (sounds like Danielle Smith) The reality is that they simply cant do anything any longer now that I own the name. I even offered to give them the name and registration if they wanted to make things open and formal. They refused the offer which is rather telling.

To be clear here, many if not most of the people involved in that CivicCamp group were well meaning. These were not people trying to harm the city and they were volunteers. It is not like they were pocketing funds. Despite those intentions, they still were participating in an astroturfing effort that masked what was essentially a political party. I could not abide by that any longer.

There is nothing and there was nothing stopping this group from forming and operating as a registered non profit society. They just have to embrace accountability and transparency. As long as they refuse to do so though, I can hardly feel badly that their club just cant hold itself together.

Practicing accountability and transparency is more difficult than demanding others do so. It sure ads credibility when one practices these things as well as preaches them.

I do hope that the folks behind the initial CivicCamp group have learned from this.

 

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Quit peeking over the fence!

fenceAs I have grown and matured, I have learned a few lessons (still lots of maturing and learning to go). I am going to share one thing that has greatly reduced stress in general in my life and I hope that many learn to take this one to heart.

QUIT WORRYING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO!

Before school I envied the toys of others. In elementary school I got outraged thinking some kids got preferential treatment from teachers. In high school I thought it was unfair how some guys got the girl of my fancy while I did not. In my first few years in the working world I constantly stressed over which co-workers made more money than me or had what I perceived to be better positions or roles within the company.

It took me some years but I have learned to stop caring what others have or do as long as it doesn’t impact me. I must say, this has been one of the most relaxing revelations of my life.

kids

In this last week folks on both the right and the left have been acting as fools as they fret about things people do that have utterly no impact on them at all.

The debate on gay straight alliances has really brought out more intolerance than I imagined still exists. The comments on my blog post just prior to this one were disappointing to say the least. If people have different sexual orientations why do some other people care? Really, how the hell does it hurt you? Why do some folks fret and lose sleep at night because some same sex couple is happy together? Nobody is forcing you to be gay (nobody could), in fact nobody is forcing you to do anything so why so bothered?

To the indignant social conservatives who are getting ulcers over same-sex relationships I say get over it! Quit looking over the fence and quite worrying about it. People being gay isn’t impacting you a bit but your working yourself into a lather over it is bad for you. If you would just quit worrying about what others are doing, just imagine how much extra time you could dedicate to your own activities.

Now I sure as hell am not giving the left a pass here. The left loves to fret about the possessions of others despite it not impacting them at all. The left thrives on the politics of envy and they lose sleep at night wondering what in life happens outside of what their perception of “fair” is. The bitching about the lifestyles of the “rich” truly is intellectual sloth at it’s finest as of course the effort taken to get to this “rich” position is always overlooked. The contributions to society through mass taxation, philanthropy and the employment of others is overlooked as the left whines about a shiny bauble that another may have.

A new gated community is opening in Calgary and the collective short-dick whining from people over this is disgusting. Even city Councilor Gian-Carlo Carra got in on the action saying that people moving into such a community are participating in a “douche move”.

Yes, the commentary loaded with the obtuse politics of envy on this new community is sad indeed. How does it hurt you when people spend their own money choosing a gated community? Do you really think that the world will be better if all these “rich” were dragged down to your economic station in life? I assure you it has been tried many times and failed so why go this route? Look up North Korea if you don’t believe me.

Get over it and stop peeking over the fiscal fence! Either aspire to that financial status and get to work or just relax and get comfortable where you are. Berating the successful is morally worse than the supposed greed that the successful practice as it means that you want all of their possessions but are too lazy to do what it takes to get there.

Reduce the stress and quit worrying over what others have or do. It is not your concern and you are only hurting yourself in spending time on it.

Will close with the great Joe Jackson 80s ballad on the futility of envy.

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Have a rental crunch? Don’t be dense!

manhat

Scarce and increasingly expensive rental properties in Calgary have been making the news lately. Mayor Nenshi took advantage of the issue to ignore basic supply and demand principles while trying to label Calgary landlords as being greedy and gouging.

It is no secret that Naheed Nenshi is a very ideologically dedicated to increasing urban density within Calgary by any means possible such as Calgary’s virtual suburban development freeze. While hindering and freezing outward growth in a city will indeed lead to increased urban density it will also inevitably lead to a higher cost of living, particularly in the rental market. This makes it understandable as to why Nenshi wants to distract people from the consequences of his development policies with a baseless and divisive attack on landlords within Calgary. It would be rather difficult for Nenshi to sell his density mantra if more people realized just how hard those density policies end up impacting low and middle income Calgarians.

The vast majority of people simply do not want to live in crowded downtown situations. That is why when the market is allowed to develop naturally, cities will grow outward to fill demand and it will keep real-estate and rental properties within the bounds of proper market price. When outward growth is hindered by obstacles such as an ocean or ideological city council, higher urban density along with greatly inflated housing costs soon follow.

Don’t just take my word for it though. The numbers tell the tale and the very direct correlation between urban density and high rent is very easy to see.

Below I have listed American cities in order of declining density based on people per mile square and then have the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in US dollars next to it.

New York City   27,778 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $2,933

San Francisco 17,867 people per sq. mile         Average rent: $3,413

Boston  13,340 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,080

Chicago 11,864 people per sq. mile                   Average rent: $1,628

Miami    11,765 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,049

Seattle  7,774 people per sq. mile                      Average rent: $1,402

Cleveland 5,107 people per sq. mile                  Average rent: $635

Portland Oregon 4,375 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $1,106

Houston 3,662 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $1,191

Dallas 3,645 people per sq. mile                        Average rent: $1,090

Phoenix 2,797 people per sq. mile                     Average rent: $776

Las Vegas 1,659 people per sq. mile                 Average rent $766

The pattern is pretty stark. While variables such as local economy, taxes and desirable real-estate have an effect, it is clear that the higher the urban density you have, the higher the rent.

Even with a strong economy and an incredible landscape, the hipster’s Mecca of Portland Oregon keeps rents reasonable through outward growth and low urban density.

Houston and Dallas are commonly demonized by density proponents for their evil “sprawl” but they clearly offer a great standard of living as they both have strong economies and low rents. Phoenix and Vegas have all sorts of space to grow outwards and it shows with their very low density and their associated low rents. Calgary has plenty of room to grow outward too if we would just allow it.

Keep these numbers in mind as Mayor Nenshi continues to promote high urban density and constant tax increases. While Nenshi may indeed create his high-density utopia but it will come at a very heavy price for people with low or fixed incomes as rents inevitably continue to rise quickly. High density and low rent simply does not happen in the developed world.

 

 

 

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Calgary city councillors need to learn what their mandate is

 

Some members of Calgary city council have been complaining for some time now that they are overworked and that we need more city councillors to help share the burden. As is often the case, I have to call bullshit. If anything, Calgary city councillors have too much time on their hands. How else can we explain the amount of time that they dedicate to myopic pet projects that are way outside of their mandate and jurisdiction as a council?

Brian Pincott wants to ban fire pits and end the odious trend of apparent light pollution as well as banning people from cutting trees on their own property. Those all pale in comparison with the council time wasted trying to ban types of soup from restaurants however. With all those foolish initiatives, can we really believe that poor Brian doesn’t have enough time on his hands?

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Druh Farrell came up with the profoundly stupid “Bow River Flow” festival which was nothing more than an excuse to close a main road and poke a stick in the eyes of drivers. It failed terribly after a few seasons and thankfully was tossed in the dustbin.

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Diane Colley-Urquhart took on a pointless crusade against e-cigarettes which sadly has now been taken on by Mandel on a provincial level. I wonder if she opposes methadone treatment for addicts too or nicoderm patches?

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City council now has a triumvirate of twits wasting council time trying to get rid of payday loan companies as they apparently prey on the poor. Can we assume that liquor stores, tobacconists, used car dealers and rent-to-own outfits will be targeted as well? Lower income people tend to make up a disproportionate portion of the client base of those businesses too.

What have all the idiotic, busybody initiatives above got in common?

None of the above pet projects of our supposedly overworked city councillors land within the mandate of city hall!!!!

Below I will quote directly from the Alberta Municipal Government Act. The act is hundreds of pages long but our esteemed councillors really only need to read one part. It is three simple lines and I will quote them below.

Purposes, Powers and Capacity of Municipalities
Municipal purposes
The purposes of a municipality are
(a) to provide good government,
(b) to provide services, facilities or other things that, in the opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or a part of the municipality, and
(c) to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.

There you have it folks. A very direct and simple mandate. Nothing about specifying which soups are legal or not. Nothing about banning things like e-cigarettes or regulating or punishing businesses that may be predominantly serving folks in the lower income bracket of society.

Every month we see at least one or two mind-blowingly foolish pet projects and initiatives from our city council in Calgary. It is galling that this collection of officials can waste so much time and money on these things and then whine about being overworked at the same time.

To Calgary city councillors: read those three lines that describe what your mandate is supposed to be. Follow those instructions! The workload will suddenly be reduced and we will get better government for it.

Sad that council will need to be directed to that act over and over again as they seem to think that they govern some sort of city state with huge, intrusive authority to govern our lifestyle or business choices. If they really want to build such a nanny state, may I suggest that our city council pursue federal seats in parliament as that is where such potential powers lie, not in city hall.

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Let’s get real on secondary suites in Calgary

lawnpark

Every time secondary suites come before city council in Calgary, we hear the usual chorus bemoaning the status of secondary suites in the city. The process is indeed tedious and not an efficient use of city council time as every suite application comes before council for discussion for approval or rejection. There is no doubt that this is a terrible system of approval and it needs reform. That being said, this does not justify the radical changes to zoning that the secondary suite obsessed want to see throughout the city.

Nenshi has a vocal cult following and secondary suites have always been a frustrating pet issue of his. This of course has led to quite the crusade over the years by his faithful to push to have secondary suites legalized throughout the entire city. Every year the hype gets louder and if these zealots were to be believed, everything from homelessness to nose-warts would end if only those darned stubborn NIMBYs in the city would allow widespread secondary suites.

What we have is a mess in the system for approval and regulation that indeed needs to be addressed. The potential benefits of widely legalized secondary suites have been grossly exaggerated by proponents for years though and we have to get back to reality here.

To begin with, how many new secondary suites would Calgary really gain if they were legalized throughout the city? A study back in 2008 estimated that there were 50,000 to 80,000 “illegal” suites in the city already. In the six years since then the city has grown of course so those numbers are likely higher. What this tells us is that those who want to build secondary suites are building them already despite current regulations. Clearly whatever legislation there is against secondary suites is of little to no deterrent for people who want to build these suites. Getting realistic, how many more suites could we expect if the suites were legalized? To be blunt, not a hell of a lot.

The numbers above do not mean that there is no benefit to legalization of more suites, but it does demonstrate that legalizing suites will not be the panacea to solve issues of high rents and homelessness in the city as the fanatical pushers of these suites like to imply they are. The supply really won’t grow by that much.

druh

 

Druh Farrell has long been a strong proponent of the mass legalization secondary suites throughout the city. Druh loves to wax on about the misery of tenants living in illegal suites as they have limited protections in landlord/tenant issues and can often live in unsafe conditions. Druh then loves to point out how high rents are and how limited availability is within the city. The true depth of Farrell’s rationale came to light in a radio interview though when she vapidly went into circles in confusion when confronted with the reality that if we found and regulated all of these illegal suites as she wants us to that we would actually end up with less suites and much higher rent. Druh and her ideological kin have always had something of a deficit when it comes to the concept of supply and demand.

We may have as many as 100,000 “illegal” (grey market) suites in the city of Calgary. Likely well over 75% of them need at least some upgrades to bring them to code in a legal and regulated market. Bringing a suite up to code in Calgary can range in cost anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000. It simply isn’t cheap. Landlords who find themselves confronted with the sudden legal need to upgrade these suites will have to choose between closing the suite and evicting the tenants or doing the renovations and raising the rent considerably to recoup their costs. Landlords are not charities people. The bottom line is that we will either lose a suite or costs will rise. Neither of those two options aids in availability of suites or rental costs of course (that supply and demand thing). We need to work to ensure that suites are safe but let’s not pretend that enforcement won’t have a very big impact on supply.

Now the next question is whether or not a big market of prospective landlords is waiting in the wings just salivating at the prospect of opening a secondary suite but has not done so yet because it is illegal. The city of Calgary waived their ridiculous $4,500 application fee which is a good thing. This led to what was described as a “rush” by homeowners to apply for rezoning. How many applications were in this “rush”? 11!!! Yes, folks even with free application costs the grand total of initial applicants for zoning was 11 people. There were a couple dozen more pending. We are speaking numbers in the dozens in a city of well over a million people. Folks who want to rent secondary suites are already doing so in the grey market and will continue to no matter what the regulations.

We need some degree of oversight and regulation on where we will or will not allow secondary suites. Some neighborhoods simply are not well designed to handle them. Some people purposely seek out neighborhoods with low numbers of rental properties and they pay a premium to live in these neighborhoods. These people have a right to speak up and be concerned if the city wants to suddenly change the deal in zoning. The fervent followers of Nenshi spit out the NIMBY term at such folks of course but it has to be kept in mind that most of those followers are hipster renters who dwell in the Beltline who have little regard for the property values or taxation of others. These are issues that cant be dismissed.

There is a great deal of overreaction to prospective suites too. As I pointed out, there really are not that many folks who want to open new suites out there and having a suite or two on your block wont be a disaster by any means. Stuffing 10 suites into a cul-de-sac however will cause havoc and that is why rezoning still has to be considered case by case even if not by city council itself.

There is a need to reform policy on secondary suites in Calgary. Let’s set aside the zealous density ideals though and be rational about what needs to be done and what benefits can be gained. If one’s concerns are about availability and cost of living in the city, they should aim their guns at the essential suburban land freeze that Nenshi’s administration is practicing. The effect that broadly legalized secondary suites will have on homelessness and cost of living in Calgary will be negligible at best.

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Druh Farrell and her goofy anti-auto ideology yet again.

jaywalking-downtownThe tiny yet vocal anti-automobile crowd in Calgary love going on and on whenever an auto/pedestrian accident happens about how this is due to our sick car-culture and such. They love to paint a picture of Calgary’s streets as if it is a never ending scene of carnage with cars mowing pedestrians down at will. Due to the laws of physics, pedestrian vs. automotive collisions often do end in tragedy and we should examine ways to reduce these sorts of accidents as much as is reasonably possible. This is where anti-auto ideologues such as Druh depart from common sense yet again.

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This week’s incidents proved that people like Druh Farrell and her supporters don’t really care about pedestrian safety. Their goal is simply to attack personal automotive usage however possible.

If we truly want to look at reducing accidents involving pedestrians the approach has to be multi-facetted and look at a number of things. Infrastructure, traffic movement and the enforcement of traffic laws all are factors in road safety. The anti-auto set only wants to look at one factor however and that is personal automobiles. They endlessly call for traffic calming projects, reduced speed limits, increased enforcement of traffic laws against drivers and even the outright removal of many roads. What the anti-automobile gang never mentions however is that we need to crack down on reckless pedestrians too if we truly want to reduce collisions.

Construction is a pretty common thing in a growing city like Calgary. With construction, we occasionally have to close some sidewalks temporarily for reasons of space and safety. BOMA Calgary excellently explains all of that here.

Sidewalk closures are clearly marked with bright orange signs and a simple detour making people walk on the other side of the street is typically required. At a construction project at 7th Avenue and 5th Street, many pedestrians were lazily and dangerously ignoring the clearly marked detour and walking in the roadway rather than crossing the street as directed. This led to a great hazard for both drivers and pedestrians and led to complaints. This led Calgary police to set up and write 40 warnings and 90 jaywalking tickets.

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Are the signs bright enough? Is the detour not clear enough? I think the picture above says it all. It is even a short block and it is not like it is mid-winter when walking is uncomfortable.

The straightforward enforcement of traffic laws on pedestrians made the usual suspects in the anti-auto set go haywire on social media led by the ever vapid Farrell who tried to imply that the construction company was somehow at fault for these jaywalkers. Druh feels that the pedestrians are not 100% to blame in this and they are sometimes “forced” into traffic. Pardon me? Forced? How? Only by their own laziness. There is a perfectly safe crosswalk and more than enough signage to show them how to get there. Nobody was forced to break the law Druh.

Some called this a cash grab. Really? A few officers for a day issuing 90 tickets? How much was the net fiscal benefit of this? A fraction of that of any red light camera or speed on green I imagine. If they simply wanted to make money, there are many lucrative speed trap spots they like to set up in.

Some said that if the police really wanted to stop the jaywalking they would have stopped people from doing it before they jaywalked rather than waiting and ticketing them afterwards. Huh??? Does that mean the only way for officers to stop speeders is to tail vehicles to make sure they never do it? Can we only stop trespassers who ignore signs by standing there and stopping them? Do we need to assign a police officer to stand day and night at every sidewalk closure to inform people what those bright orange signs mean? No! The signs are clear. The police did exactly the right thing and set an example. If common sense won’t stop these jaywalkers, perhaps the threat of fines will.

Reducing pedestrian collisions requires increases enforcement of all traffic laws and that certainly includes jaywalking. If anybody claims that they want to reduce pedestrian/automobile accidents in Calgary yet opposes enforcement of laws against jaywalking that person is clearly and simply full of shit. Drivers who run red lights and go through crosswalks with pedestrians in them should be ticket just as idiot pedestrians who blindly step into traffic should.

If nothing else this weeks incidents proved yet again that folks such as Druh Farrell and her anti-automobile supporters are driven only by blind ideology as opposed to outcomes. Anybody who is outcome driven and truly wants to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities would have applauded the Calgary police service and their crackdown on jaywalkers.

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Gian-Carlo Carra’s $100,000 “high-level rendering”

OK, it is hardly news when Gian-Carlo Carra and other members of the Flakey Four on Calgary city council waste the tax dollars and time of Calgarians. It is no shock that Carra want’s to transform a portion of his ward into some unpronounceable European modelled walkway at the expense of automotive infrastructure.

Gian-Carlo Carra has really outdone himself this time though when he went begging to city council for $100,000 to study this inane proposal a year ago and we are now presented with the “high-level rendering” below.

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Yes, $100,000 and one year to create drawings that look like they were done by a 6 year old.

The rest of the “high-level” renderings can be found in a Metro article here. The quality and depth rivals the picture above.

Simple words such as “picnic” apparently are beyond the spelling ability of these folks doing this fine study and they depict nude sunbathers in the pictures too (not well drawn unfortunately).

There really is little more to be said about this. It is just another gross example of finite city of Calgary tax dollars being wasted on the whimsical notions of a city councillor. I really wonder what the tendering process is (if any) to do these six figure studies that take a year to draw stick people.

Just wanted to document this beauty so people have yet another thing to point at when Nenshi and his Flakey Four allies on Calgary city council (Druh Farrell, Brian Pincott, Evan Woolley and of course Gian-Carlo Carra) try to claim that we need to keep imposing record high property tax increases as there simply is no waste to be cut in city hall.

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