Video tour of Calgary’s public art projects.

I have to admit, my expectations were pretty low when I went out with Jane the other day to have a look at the $500,000 Bowfort Towers art display along Highway 1 on the West side of Calgary. I tried to keep something of an open mind but found myself utterly underwhelmed. This was simply a waste of $500,000 that was spent on a foreign artist.

This got me to wondering just how many arts projects at massive costs we do indeed have out there. Most Calgarians don’t have the time to go tour all these fine works as they are busy working in order to pay their ever increasing city tax bills in a recession.

The City of Calgary website lists and gives some good detail on public art projects. I picked a nice loop that I could drive and tour a handful of these pieces of work.

I took video so I could share with taxpayers in detail just where their hard earned dollars are going. My narration could be better, but I think I tend to get the point across.

The sites I visited were essentially random and based on what made for a good circuit of travel.

First I went to Ralph Klein park on the East side of the city. The park is quite nice with some natural wetlands and paths to enjoy. There was what looked to be a very nice interpretive center. I imagine students and such come down to learn about wetlands and water treatment. The other thing that was striking was the totally empty parking lot. Jane and I were literally the only people in the entire park aside from a few City of Calgary vehicles though it looked like the lot could fit at least a hundred vehicles.

Despite it being a beautiful evening not a single Calgarian was out enjoying the art piece.

Now on to this fine piece of work, the one is called the “Hawk Hill Calgary Sentinels”. In the tradition of Calgary art projects, it was designed by an artist from New York. Much like the Bowfort Towers, it consisted of a few pieces of rusted metal along with a couple hills of dirt. Another thing the Sentinels shared with the Bowfort Towers abomination was a lack of direct access.

For whatever reason, the city has fenced off all access to the Sentinels. We could see that paths had been initially built so that visitors could go up to the “art”. Now those paths and the hill was overgrown with weeds and park benches were bleaching in the sun. What could be seen of the art project had to be done at a distance of about 100 meters.

Another departure from the Bowfort Towers was the price. The Sentinels clock in at a healthy $1.57 million. 

How the hell does it cost so much to erect a couple of rusty pieces of metal and push up some dirt???

I will let the video do the rest of the talking on this one.

Next I took a short drive to see a modest piece entitled “One Puck Hollow”.

Nestled deep in the Foothills industrial park, this art piece was accompanied with an empty parking lot just like the last one.

As with the last couple art pieces, this complex design was created by an artist from New York.

The price tag on this work was relatively low at $150,000.

What we got for $150k though was utter bullshit. There was mounded dirt (a favorite for New York artists apparently) ringed by metal railing with a rock in the middle. It was perhaps 20 feet across. How in the hell could this possibly cost that much to create?

We are getting screwed here folks.

Next I drove to the Calgary “Poop Palace” in Forest Lawn. Next to yet another empty parking lot and behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire we have a sewage lift station. Along the walls there is something of a light show which really looks like any Christmas light home decoration set from Wal Mart if a person wants to spend a few bucks.

Because this was “art” however, the “Poop Palace” rings in at $236,000.

The only redemption here is that the artist is apparently Calgary based. The only one I found on my tour.

Next I drove to find the “Bow Passage Overlook”. This is accessed through the park on the East side of Inglewood. It took me quite a bit of walking to find this thing as there were no signs to direct me and there were pathways all over the place. I was somewhat out of breath as I shot the video. Guess its a sign that I need to get out hiking more.

This little pavilion/park or whatever you want to call it was actually quite nice. It is surrounded by construction right now and there were no people there but it is a very nice spot.

The question here though is the cost. This was sourced out to an American artist of course and the bill came in at $3.12 million.

We could build a mansion with better landscaping than this spot for that kind of money. While the site is nice, clearly Calgarians got ripped off again.

My fifth and final stop was on the Bow River again just West of Crowchild Trail.

In my opinion this was the most perverse and utter waste of tax dollars on what was a truly ugly display.

This piece of garbage was entitled “Outflow” and was designed by…… wait for it… an artist from New York.

I guess the tall foreheads at city hall decided that this storm water drain needed to be prettied up.

For the low price of $1.85 million they found a New York artist to rip us off and design one of the worst art projects in the entire city. The forms still show seams, the bottom of these weird creations is filthy and full of debris and it is simply ugly. Nobody was admiring these of course though it is on a busy pathway. It really made me think of the cheap decorations you see at old theme parks such as the old Flintstone Park in Kelowna back in the 80s.

It is almost criminal that nearly two million was spent on this atrocity.

There are dozens and dozens of other public art pieces around the city. These five were essentially a random sample so one can expect pretty much more of the same.

There will be no better time than now to pressure elected officials to end this public art scam upon taxpayers. An election is coming in just a few months and you will never see politicians more receptive than when their jobs are on the line. Hell, even Druh Farrell is finally calling for reform of the city arts policy.

No, I am not calling for an end to all public art. I don’t think many folks are. I am not calling for an endless string of simplistic pieces either. What we desperately need to do though is fix what is clearly a broken system for tendering, choosing sand placement of public art. Millions are being wasted on projects that nobody is enjoying and it is simply waste. If we don’t speak up, it won’t stop.

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I came! I saw! It sucked!

While outrage over one horrific public art project or another has become something of an annual tradition in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi still doggedly denies that anything is wrong with the public art policy in the city. What would all those filthy taxpayers know about art anyway? How dare they question how city hall spends their money!

Nenshi likened critics of the latest arts abomination to a “lynch mob”.

Acclaimed Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson took issue to this but then again, what would he know about Blackfoot inspired art? Can’t he just bow down to the wisdom of the handpicked city committees who choose these fine “arts” projects? No wonder he earned Nenshi’s insults.

 

Nenshi expanded to point out how it is “dangerous” to make judgements on something that hasn’t been “seen” or experienced.

OK. I went and saw and experienced the $500,000 “Bowfort Towers” for myself this evening.

The only thing that was dangerous was getting even close to the ridiculously placed display. It is set between two busy roads where vehicles are whizzing by at upwards of 100 kph as they approach an underpass. Hardly a nice spot for a person to pause and reflect on the piece of “art” that costed as much as an average city house does.

As can be seen below, I paused and reflected on the piece.

I gazed. I contemplated. I meditated. I came to a conclusion.

This piece of very expensive “art” is a turd that can’t be polished. Its is simplistic. It is terribly placed. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is apparently rather insulting to local First Nations. This was an utter waste of half a million dollars while most Calgarians are trying to recover from a recession.

Video of my visit can be found below.

Look, most people are not opposed to all public art. We are tired of “art” that is expensive, poorly placed and to be frank, damned ugly.

We have multiple pieces of art that we paid for that we cant even access as they were built in city industrial sites. We have a blue ring that is a national embarrassment. We have a silver ball that nearly lit a person on fire. The list goes on and on and on.

The policy is broken and Nenshi and his little “arts” crowd had better come to grips with this. Taxpayers are tired of being insulted and talked down to when they question the merit of their precious dollars being spent on art where the word “shit” is a generous description.

The backlash will grow if we don’t change this ridiculous policy soon. Fear city councilors who want to dramatically cut all forms of public art? Well I assure you, you will only empower those councilors when you deny that there is a problem and continue to defend this abhorrent waste of tax dollars.

There are many models in countless cities around the world that produce far better public art than what Calgary is generating. It is time that we emulated them rather than cling to this broken model that only produces crap.

Otherwise, get used to “lynch mobs”.

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Do we really need campaign signs on public space?

A few weeks ago I found myself in the familiar role of harvesting election signs after the by-election campaign. Again I could not help but note what a colossal waste of resources the placement of election signs on public spaces is. I have written on this before and I think it is time to bring it up again. Having municipalities ban signs on public spaces would benefit both political parties and the pubic in general. It is rare when a policy seems such a clear winner but I think councils need some more nudging on this.

There are a number of reasons why election signs should no longer be placed on public space.

They are ugly!

signs

By the end of any campaign the number of signs piled on public spaces can be astounding and I really can’t think of anybody who likes looking at them massed like that. I have been in the USA for a couple elections and they make our sign placement look scattered in comparison but we are working hard to close that gap.

It is bad for the environment

I am not Mr. Environmentalist by any means but I do appreciate some common sense approaches to conservation. In a general election in Alberta alone there are tens of thousands of signs on public space throughout the province. While the occasional candidate may re-use signs, they are for the most part a one time use thing as the parties tend to change themes, slogans, colors and candidates.

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I found the sign pictured above while picking up by-election signs. The sign clearly had been laying under the grass for over two and a half years. Signs on private space are taken care of by the homeowner if the campaign lapses in picking them up. Public space signs often end up vandalized, blown away and forgotten by campaign teams.

Public space signs don’t work!

The only real reason campaigns insist on placing signs on public space is that they don’t want to be perceived as lagging behind any competitors. If the signs were only on private space it would have no negative impact on any campaign.

millingIMG626The Alberta Party dedicated almost everything they had to their campaign in Calgary Elbow. To keep this from being too evident, they did spend a small fortune and some time on putting out massive amounts of public space signs in the other constituencies.

While Mr. Millington is a decent fellow and while the Alberta Party got a surprising amount of press during the campaign, Troy Millington got a paltry 2.4% of the vote in Calgary West despite the constituency being blanketed by signs small and large.

Public space signs are no substitute for a real campaign. If they were to have any impact at all, the hundreds of them placed out for Mr. Millington would have brought his showing at least beyond an average polling margin of error.

Removing public space signs will improve campaigns!

Election signs do serve a purpose in bringing about relatively cheap name recognition and when on private lawns can lend a strong effect of momentums as people see where their neighbors appear to be landing on the electoral map. While election signs on public land turn into white noise in the eyes of the voter, signs on private lawns have a real influence on the election.

If the only option for sign placement was on private land campaigns would bring their battle for voters to where it really belongs, to the doorsteps. Campaigns that want signs will have to approach voters directly and engage them. While any real campaign already knows this, a ban on public signs will force campaigns to focus even further on knocking on doors which is better for any campaign.

Resources will be saved as well. Volunteers who used to have to constantly place, repair and maintain public space signs can now be dedicated to something more productive while the thousands previously spent on public space signs can be spent on better things as well (volunteer beer and such).

Campaigns can irritate people and the waste can be astounding with signs everywhere while literature overloads everybody’s mailboxes for over a month. We could simply change this by having municipalities banning public space signs if we could just coax them to put that on the table. I just cant see a downside here.

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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.

rendering

bathers

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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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??

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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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Calgary tax dollars at work.

The other day, I ran across a picture on a Calgary discussion board that depicted the all too typical scene of a large number of city employees standing around while one or two fellows actually worked on the rather simple task at hand.

In this case the task was to paint a green square on the road on a bike track. The forum was at http://www.beyond.ca and the picture was posted by (and presumably taken by) a poster who goes by rage2.  

bike

The picture sort of says it all. We have had a Mayor and council constantly pleading poverty in Calgary while trying to justify a whopping 32% increase in property since Naheed Nenshi took the Mayor’s chair less than three years ago. Our Mayor and city council constantly pretend that it is utterly impossible for the City to streamline or even cut expenditures while scenes like that pictured above show that there is plenty of room to have the expenditure of our tax dollars done in a more effective manner. The excuses fly while countless dollars are wasted on foolish studies of whimsical plans and outright idiotic gameshow style “consultation” circuses that are ignored when the taxpayers wish something different than His Worship intended them to.

I tweeted the image and it took off as dozens of people retweeted this little piece of dark comedy.

This brought about the attention of Mayor Nenshi who to his credit is very responsive to social media. What Nenshi tweeted in justification of the depicted scene is below:

 

This whole scene was apparently a training session.

Umm….. OK… I guess I will just have to come right out and say it: HOW MUCH TRAINING DOES IT TAKE TO PAINT A GREEN DAMNED BOX ON A ROAD????

Seriously folks, we are in a city with over a million people that has thousands of civic employees and city contractors. None of them had been trained already in painting things on the road?

I wonder, is a special training course required to paint the image below:

leftturn

Does another differently trained crew need to come in and flip the stencil at other intersections or will they only need a different supervisor or two?

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Now we are going to get tricky. The painting job below requires two colors and possibly two stencils. How many workers were required? 20? 30? How many months was the training course?

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I have to admit, I could use a gig like training folks to paint boxes on roads. I had a great deal of informal training in my youth with more complicated design as pictured below:

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I can provide my own training manual so that there shall be no confusion for trainees should they find themselves in a circumstance where they may need to paint something with less than 6 supervisors present.

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As a surveyor I am familiar with complex tools such as graph paper and measuring tape so will be able to “confirm final design” on painted boxes with possibly as few as two assistants. I have ArcGIS and could confirm such things alone from the comfort of an office in about 30 seconds but I do understand that our city has a limited amount of resources and needs to be led in baby steps here.

Is it really surprising that Calgary City council managed to blow the West LRT budget literally by 100% in light of how complex painting a simple box on a road appears to be?

In light of all this, I wonder what portion of our city budget is dedicated to road painting alone in Calgary. We have a great deal of pavement out there.

I really have not seen such a scandalous waste of tax dollars on paint since Mulroney purchased the masterpiece below for $1.8 million Canadian tax bucks.

voice

Calgary really needs to flush out City Council this fall in favor of some candidates with at least a little grounding in fiscal reality.

I am making light of this, but the issue of out of control spending by municipal governments is deadly serious. As Detroit how they are loving that great art collection these days.

 

Response-to-City-Budget

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ImagineCalgary; a blueprint for big government madness. Pt. 1

In 2005 it was determined by the municipal powers that be in Calgary that we apparently had way too much time and general resources as a city and had to piss much of it away in what was one of the world’s largest of municipally funded navel gazing exercises which they coined: ImagineCalgary.

Apparently 18,000 Calgarians were asked the five simple questions below:

What do you value about Calgary?
What is it like for you to live here?
What changes would you most like to see?
What are your hopes and dreams for the next 100 years?
How can you help make this happen?

Groups were formed that included the likes of Naheed Nenshi, Brian Pincott and Druh Farrell who interpreted the answers to these questions and created the almost surreal 211 page document called the: imagineCALGARY Plan for Long Range Urban Sustainability.

This document is so packed full of pie-in-the-sky pap, calls for insane goals and massive government intervention that one would think this is some sort of satirical parody rather than a serious (and bloody expensive) municipal planning blueprint. While the ImagineCalgary website is packed full of platitudes, it is near impossible to find a copy of the document itself. I suspect that even they realize that if Calgarians actually take the time to read the idiocy within it that they will reject it universally. I have kindly loaded the entire document on my site where people can access it in perpetuity through the link in the paragraph above this one.

Below I will be going through the notions in this document piece by piece.  The ideas within do indeed prove that fact is indeed often stranger than fiction. I really don’t think I could make up stuff as loony as what has been packed into the ImagineCalgary manifesto. This is indeed going to be a long posting.

Now dear reader, before we get into this dissection I am sure that many are thinking: “So what? The city wastes money on stupid studies all the time. This one is eight years old and the money is gone. Note it and get over it!”.

I do wish this was something that was just a passing notion that we could forget about but unfortunately Calgary City Hall under Nenshi’s guidance is using the ImagineCalgary document as their main planning plank. The density obsessed “Plan It Calgary” states right on it’s main City of Calgary page that it is modeled directly from the ImagineCalgary lunacy. Our city planners and managers are actually trying to put this insane document and it’s recommendations into action.

At the City of Calgary’s “Office of Sustainability” (yes there actually is one) site, ImagineCalgary is highlighted along with the crazy local food policy that it inspired which I covered at length in a past blog posting.

So yes folks, what I will be looking at below is not something from tinfoil hat country or anything that I made up. These are real items from the long-term plan for Calgary City Hall under Naheed Nenshi’s leadership.

I will begin with the goals laid out under “Social” in the document today. It is going to take a series to cover all of what is packed into ImagineCalgarys’s goals and strategies. This part of the document is among the most lucid so I may as well begin here.

TARGET By 2036, 90 per cent of citizens report that Calgary is a beautiful city.

Isn’t that statement cute? Doesn’t that just feel nice? Now of course, there are few areas more subjective than that of judging what is esthetically pleasing. How exactly these folks plan to get 9 out of 10 Calgarians to agree on what is beautiful is not very well laid out but it sure is a pretty goal and well worth spending a fortune trying to reach is it not? Strategies are laid out for this of course.

STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions regarding the beauty of the city.

Ahh good. Measuring opinions of beauty is priority one indeed! I expect we shall be opening an office of “Measuring Calgarian beauty opinion” in city hall right away along with the associated supports and bureaucracy.

STRATEGY 2 Establish design performance standards for new residential, commercial and industrial construction to ensure beauty is considered in all new development

Of course we can’t let those unwashed Calgarians determining all by themselves what they feel is beautiful! We must enforce through legislation as the above quote from the plan states! An office of “Establishing and enforcing construction beauty standards” should be opened in city hall along with associated supports and bureaucracy as well as a field measuring and enforcement arm!

What better way to get all those Liberal Arts graduates who are currently making coffee into more lucrative employment than to create a department of City Beauty Police?

STRATEGY 3 Create and protect beautiful public spaces to provide more opportunities for aesthetic enjoyment.

Ahh but of course. We can’t simply rely on home and business owners to make things beautiful no matter how hard the Beauty Police come down on them. We must purchase, create and protect even more beautiful things and places in the city. We can always borrow funds and/or raise taxes again to cover all that.

STRATEGY 4 Foster an understanding of and appreciation for the aesthetic value of our built environment so that citizens, developers and others can enhance our physical resources.

Huxley would be proud of the newspeak used in the strategy above. We can’t assume that these unwashed taxpaying citizens will really understand or appreciate all these beautiful things that are being built for them. We must “foster” these sorts of things. Perhaps mandatory courses in aesthetic value should be held. Maybe these courses will only be required if the Beauty Police find citizens who do not perform the appropriate “oohs and ahhhs” at the city’s great beauty initiatives. Either way, we clearly can’t let people simply decide for themselves what may or may not look good!

STRATEGY 5 Create and protect developed and uncultivated natural areas to ensure we can enjoy these areas now and in the future.

Yards and gardens bad! Natural areas good!

There is something of a clash here with density goals too but that can be ironed out later. I am not sure if these folks have heard of Nose Hill and Fish Creek parks yet.

Time for a new target:

TARGET By 2036, 95 per cent of Calgarians report that they have a range of opportunities for the aesthetic enjoyment of nature, arts and culture.

I can’t think of a day that goes by when I don’t see a Calgarian seated on a curb weeping openly due to the deficit in aesthetic enjoyment opportunities in their lives. This travesty indeed must be addressed!

STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions regarding the range of opportunities available for aesthetic enjoyment.

Step one: open office of “measuring Calgarian satisfaction with aesthetic enjoyment opportunities”.

I see now that Calgary City Hall will have to build a new office tower to house all these new departments. I hope their design passes the muster of the Beauty Police.

STRATEGY 2 Increase public support for the arts to develop additional ways for citizens to enjoy natural and created aesthetics.

Money! Money! Money!

We can’t hire every Liberal Arts grad in the Beauty Police department. With spending of more money though, we can contract the rest to decorate the city further.

STRATEGY 3 Undertake cultural impact assessments for all public or private initiatives, so we can properly consider and enhance the cultural life of our city.

Oh good! Let’s not just let any initiative happen whether private or not! We must assess how that will impact culture! I expect we will spend many millions defining what our culture is and how we intend to enhance and consider it. In the meantime, I guess we will just sort of cook these assessments.

It certainly calls for an entire new “office of cultural assessments” along with the associated bureaucracy.

TARGET By 2016, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that they have opportunities to express their unique gifts and talents

They certainly set the bar high. I am more curious about how many Calgarians actually feel that their unique gifts and talents are actually being hindered. Let’s see how our city plans to get us all to that nice 90% zone.

STRATeGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions of the availability of opportunities for creative self-expression.

Ahh yes. Why did I even wonder? What we need first is to form a department of measuring “availability of opportunities for creative self-expression” along with the associated bureaucracy.

STRATEGY 2 Ensure Calgarians have the support systems necessary to foster artistic excellence and innovation as expressions of their gifts and talents.

This looks like a nice expensive and rather wide open strategy. What does it mean? Art schools on every corner? Free galleries? Subsidized advertising? Free paint? Who qualifies? How? How many?

Yes, this is a formula for a tax-dollar sinkhole.

STRATEGY 3 Identify ways for the full range of stakeholders to co-operate and create connections to realize the full potential of the arts.

The above is pretty much fluff but I imagine money can and will be spent identifying these required “ways”.

STRATEGY 4 Ensure the Alberta Government continues to recognize and strengthen its level of financial commitment to arts and culture in Calgary.

This strategy is easy to figure out and not now. Beg for more money from other levels of government. Nenshi is already demonstrating a strong talent in this.

STRATEGY 5 Boost the strategic roles of the cultural industries and local media for their contributions to local identity, creative continuity and job creation.

What exactly is a “cultural industry” and how and why do we need to “boost their strategic roles”? I am not sure if I want to hear the answer.

How about the apparent “boosts” to media when it comes to their apparent and possible contributions to local identity? How so? Do Calgarians not have an identity? Is it the media’s role to create and maintain this identity? Is this identity defined and is a goal to be reached?

STRATEGY 6 Provide accessible informal and professional arts educational programs to Calgarians of all ages and abilities.

Yes, in this target the best and most expensive strategy was saved for last. We as taxpayers are to be obligated to provide both informal and professional arts educational programs to people of all ages and abilities. I do love that they include “abilities” in there. It means we should have to pay for shitty artists to be taught along with talented ones. 🙂

Yes folks, ImagineCalgary expects the Calgary taxpayers to create an indiscriminate arts Mecca here in Alberta. Police and fire services can wait.

TARGET By 2021, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that Calgary is a city that promotes creative freedom.

While I haven’t seen evidence that creative freedom is being stifled in Calgary, it apparently is a critical goal to ensure that we promote creative freedom even further somehow. How so though?

STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions of how well we promote creative freedom in our city.

Boy I sure didn’t see that strategy coming. Create an office of “Measuring Calgarian’s opinions of how well we are promoting creative freedom” along with the associated supports and bureaucracy.

STRATEGY 2 Ensure the arts and culture sector plays a leadership role in Calgary’s future, so we can build creative freedom into the most influential levels of decision-making processes.

OK this one is getting interesting. I would say considering how much artistic pap has been included in this ImagineCalgary plan that the arts and culture sector is already leading too damn much. How much more is required?

“Build creative freedom into the most influential levels”? How influential? How built?

Are we talking artist quotas at senior management levels? Seats preserved on city council exclusively for folks from this apparent arts and culture sector?

Will these artists have veto power on every project? What will their budget be?

STRATEGY 3 Promote the development and continuity of the cultures of First Nations, Metis and other indigenous people, as they are the bearers of the historic and interactive relationships with our land.

Ahh yes because native culture is not promoted and funded enough by every other level of government. Why do once what can be done over and over again? This is a municipal priority? I think not.

STRATeGY 4 Ensure newcomers from other regions and countries can access, participate in and express themselves through the evolving culture of Calgary, ensuring the richness of our creative freedom is continuously strengthened.

They already can.

STRATeGY 5 Review, revise and develop policies and practices that foster creative freedom, rather than censorship.

Would love to see some examples of this apparent censorship. Hate to think how much will be spent trying to find it though.

TARGET By 2026, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that participation in creative activities is an important part of their lives.

Now we are getting to the real attitudes here. The Nenshi gang loves to be dismissive when people use the term “social engineering” but what else can you call the above city target?

Here we have a city document setting out a goal that 9 out of 10 Calgarians must consider creative activities (to be determined by city bureaucrats) as being an important part of their lives.

Piss off! I don’t have to consider those things important nor does anybody else. It sure as hell isn’t the cities role to make me prioritize what I feel to be an important part of my life.

How are we to get there? Let me guess:

STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report citizens’ opinions of the importance of and levels of participation in creative activities.

……along with associated bureaucracy.

STRATEGY 2 Create public opportunities for all Calgarians to recognize the intrinsic value of arts and culture as an important element of our vibrant city.

I have to admit I am surprised that I got this far before encountering the term “vibrant”.

Public opportunities to recognize this eh? We already have those so it must be assumed that we are expected to go further. Mandatory presentation at workplaces? Street displays during rush hour? Ads on TV during the Stanley Cup playoffs?

What if some of us refuse to recognize these things as being intrinsically valuable to us or important? Are we allowed?

STRATEGY 3 Ease or eliminate restrictions on the forms of creative expression that can occur in public spaces, so citizens can participate in and appreciate a wider range of formal and informal creative activities.
Consider abandoning or easing busking bylaws for musicians and artists.
Identify ways to lessen the impacts of liability insurance requirements.
Assess the types of signage regulations that affect the development of murals and other informal expressions of visual art.

OK where to begin.

Not all of us want to listen to some untalented nut playing bongos or be followed by a mime begging for quarters while we eat our lunch outside. We may not even want to listen to the artists with real talents at all times. We have appropriate areas and times for these means of expressing and generating income. Busking need not be banned but yes it damn well needs a degree of regulation in crowded urban environments.

“Lessen impacts of liability insurance requirements”????? Now you nuts are starting to scare me. The only way to lessen those impacts would be to have somebody else assume liability for the actions of street performers. That somebody would be the city and that means me! There is a reason for these requirements. I do not expect nor deserve to be on the hook as a taxpayer when some mentally unstable performance artist hits a passerby with body fluids!

Now on one hand the city wants beauty police and on the other they want to reduce laws so that we can see an expansion of graffiti throughout the city. That idiotic experiment already failed dismally with a city park and would continue to do so elsewhere. Some call them “graffiti” artists and most call them vandals. This strategy is nothing but newspeak for decriminalizing graffiti and seeing even more ugly spraypaint visually polluting our environment. It will take a lot of work for the Beauty Engineers to get 90% of us to say that graffiti is making our city look better I assure you.

STRATEGY 4 Promote creative expression in public spaces to make Calgarians more aware of, and allow them to participate in, a wider range of cultures and creative experiences

Just more words saying more buskers and graffiti.

STRATEGY 5 Build the leadership and facilitation skills of cultural leaders, so they promote the kinds of events that directly engage people in creative experiences.

OK I guess first we will need to find these cultural leaders. Which cultures? How will we build these skills? Free courses? Books? Seminars?

Why is any of this a city responsibility?

STRATEGY 6 Attract and support new talent and creative leadership in the community, including support for and the promotion of local artists from diverse communities.

Attract new creative leadership? What about all those creative leaders that we are already grooming and facilitating in Strategy 5 above? How many creative leaders can we maintain? What if we have creative leaders clashing? Creative turf wars? General chaos!!

Really though, what are we speaking of here? Classified ads in other cities? Craig’s list?

The word “support” is used multiple times. That is an easy translation of course: lavish with tax dollars!

STRATEGY 7 Ensure Calgary artists are recognized for their excellence, to honour the important roles they play in encouraging other citizens’ to participate in and value creative self-expression.

OK we don’t really need this but it will be cheap and easy enough to do. Issue a ribbon for participation for every artist in Calgary and be done with it.

Well that is a breakdown simply on the “Social” portion of the ImagineCalgary plan that is the model for almost all current city initiatives. Believe it or not, the above goals and strategies are among some of the more rational in the ImagineCalgary plan.

In days to come I will break down: Conflict resolution (some beauties in there), Equity, Transportation, Environment, Equity, Employment, Waste Management, Economic, Access, Governance, Health and Infrastructure from within the document.

This will be a long and cynical road but in going through ImagineCalgary one at least can see where the City of Calgary’s government inspiration and plan is coming from even if it is unattainable and irrational.

If Calgary really keeps trying to follow through with ImagineCalgary’s plans, we will make Stockton California look like a paradise within a couple decades.

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Bike Rights!

Being somewhat stranded in Northern Manitoba for a little while, I have been a bit lapse in my rambling and ranting I fear. I can happily report that this exploration project is coming to a close soon and I will be able to enlighten on this site at my usual pace.

Along with oilfield operations slowing in spring, we will see a ramping up of the rhetoric coming from the rather entitled bicycle-cult crowd in urban areas across North America. Many many people ride and enjoy bicycles in urban areas and this certainly does not make them cultish. There is an element of the extreme in the urban bicycle lobby however and like vegans they tend to self-identify rather quickly whether you want them to or not.

The bicycle-cult folks are not so much pro-bicycle as they actually are anti-car. We can and should typically dismiss them but alas they do somehow hold a disproportionate sway on many municipal councils and countless dollars are being wasted around the nation as car lanes are removed from roads and given to bicycle commuters who simply do not exist in any significant numbers. Many cities such as Red Deer, Toronto and Edmonton have been removing these idiotic bike lanes but can’t seem to keep up to the addition of wasted lanes of pavement for invisible bicycles.

Despite inflated claims of as many as 12,000 daily bicycle commuters coming into Calgary’s core, I just can’t seem to find them. I will check again in spring. There must be a road that is simply bumper to bumper with bicycle commuters hiding out there somewhere.

The late great George Carlin pointed out that the common element in any joke is the exaggeration. Anything can be funny if the correct exaggeration is placed upon it.

In the video below from the TV series “Portlandia” a typical bike-cultist is parodied.

The funny thing is, they really didn’t exaggerate much. These types pepper the streets of every nation in the developed world.

It is worth a watch for a short Friday chuckle either way. 🙂

 

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Recount!

Back in early October I headed out one morning to see for myself just how many cyclists are using some of the main bike-lanes in our city. Despite bike enthusiasts constantly tossing out numbers claiming as many as over 10,000 people use bicycles to commute in and out of downtown Calgary daily, it simply did not seem like I was seeing the number of bike riders on the street to justify these rather grand claims. On parking myself on a few main bike commuter routes and doing a formal count during rush hour my suspicions were confirmed.

One Calgary bike lane had only 2 bikes on it during an entire hour during the rush. The 10st NW bike lane as a main artery to downtown Calgary carried a grand total of 51 bike riders during the morning rush on a nice clear day.

Upon posting these findings, the rather hysteric and somewhat extreme self-styled bike crowd in Calgary were predictably apoplectic that somebody dared question and verify the veracity of their exaggerated claims of bike ridership in Calgary. Excuses were made and new numbers were cooked. Some excellent creative accounting of the rather flimsy bike rider counts out there was used but the bottom line simply can’t be escaped; only a tiny minority of Calgarians are using bike lanes to commute to work!

I felt I needed to be fair here though. Perhaps that period of October was a one-off sort of situation. Maybe there was some sort of religious observance where the bike cult all had to pay homage to the great cycle Gods that week or something. In light of that possibility, I went back out to the 10 St NW bike lane to get yet another count.

Well, on a reasonable morning for this time of year, the winds were down and the road was simply wet, on a main artery into Calgary’s downtown on a bike lane that was well established during the busiest hour of the day………….

I didn’t even need my  fancy clicker. I could have taken off my shoes and counted the grand total of 17 bikes that used the 10 St. NW bike lane during the busiest hour of the day.

10 St NW carries thousands of cars daily and is a terrible choke-point for traffic coming in and out of Calgary’s core. Despite that, 1/3 of the road was taken from vehicles and designated for bike use which as we can see today is pretty much pointless.

What pissed me off even more was that two bike riders were actually ignoring the bike lanes built for them and rode on the sidewalk instead while I was there. With the light at the time and with my parking spot, I did not catch shots of them in action though I did get pictures of their tracks.

This action of bike riders ignoring and refusing to use these very expensive bike lanes is clearly a chronic thing as a sign actually was posted (and clearly ignored) telling bike riders not to ride on the sidewalk. If we subtract those two bike riders from my count we get 15 actually using the lanes in rush hour.

Being ever generous though, I thought I should venture further in search of this elusive crowd of bike riders that is packed so tightly that we must take away automotive lanes and give them to bike riders for their commute.

I took a deep breath and ventured deeply into prime hipster habitat (Kensington) seeking this pileup of bikes. I began at the Safeway. Maybe all the bike commuters had paused to get granola and organic-bean sprouts or something.

While the Kensington Safeway provides loads of bike racks, not a single bike was to be found in them. The mystery continues. Following the scent of patchouli, I ventured deeply into this foreign district and found an actual bike shop. The outside had a grand variety of bike racks.

One would think that a bike shop within Kensington with a bike lane leading to it would be a virtual Mecca of bikes. As can be seen though, not a one was parked in the many bike racks. The grand migratory herd of Calgarian bike riders still eluded me.

I carried on with my venture to downtown Calgary. I saw the occasional bike track, but alas no riders as I crossed one of our many many many pedestrian bridges.

I found myself at Calgary’s Eau Claire Market. No bikes were found to be parked there either though but my tour of that dismal little mall ties well into all this.

Eau Claire Market was a terribly planned and incredibly expensive experiment that was created on the flawed logic of: “If you build it they will come!” Sorry kids, that only works in movies about cornfields. In real life one must identify demand before creating a supply.

Bike lanes are based on that logic too. Despite 20 years of effort, no measurable increase in the percentage of people who commute with bikes in Calgary has happened. That little bit of reality unfortunately is still not stopping idealistic city planners and delusional cycle aficionados from promoting and indeed wasting countless dollars and space on bike lanes for which there is no real demand.

Eau Claire Market was supposed to be Calgary’s great entry into a cosmopolitan and “vibrant” world of an active core. This was going to be Calgary’s Granville Island! People would come from around the world to visit Eau Claire and drink at the (very short lived) Calgary Hard Rock Cafe! Trendy development and pedestrian friendly services would naturally expand from this anchor and Paris would be envious of this profound exercise in urbanism!

Alas, reality prevailed. Currently space can hardly be given away in the Eau Claire Market. Small specialty stores with hand-drawn signs fill some spaces while others languish empty. Even the food fair has spaces that they can’t lease out (quite and accomplishment downtown) and the mall itself is cavernous and depressing.

Decades of effort and countless marketing dollars spent would not change the simple reality that Calgarians are suburban people. We don’t want to hang around downtown with it’s purposely inflated parking costs and purposely choked traffic. We have no interest in an urban mall with poor selection where we would be expected to lug our overpriced purchases onto public transit in order to bring it back to our homes. This will not change folks.

With decades of effort, the social engineering experiment of making us all ride bikes to work in a winter nation is failing too.

The 10 St bike lanes are well established. They built it but alas the bikers did not come (nor will they ever). Today was no exception. These bike lanes and this bike demand is supposed to be all year round. At -11 this morning, it was actually much warmer than many mornings will be throughout the winter. On days when it is hot people are not going to be too willing to ride home on a bike while wearing a suit either by the way.

The bike lobby is persistent and extreme though. Yes I do refer to them as the “bike cult” at times and I think it is accurate. Many (possibly most) people enjoy going out for a bike ride now and then. There is nothing wrong with that and it is these recreational users that bike fanatics use to pad their polls trying to exaggerate bike demand. There is a world of difference between a recreational user and a bike cultist though.

The bike cultists are much like vegans, you don’t have to look hard to spot them (they will self-identify if you do not open the conversation on their spandex wearing at the wedding) . These people wear their lifestyles on their sleeves and they live for their hobby. Their twitter monikers invariably will contain the word bike within them and usually include a picture of them on a bike or of a bike they wish they could own.

Hey, it is a free world. By all means wrap yourself around the activity of biking. FSM knows there are far worse obsessions for people to have. The problem with the bike cult though is that like vegans they generally are sanctimonious and demanding. It is not enough that they have chosen what they feel to be a higher way, they now need services to accommodate their choices and they feel that others must be converted. That is when the line from enthusiast to cultist gets crossed and ire gets raised.

Red Deer got rid of some of their idiotic bike lanes last summer. Calgary is getting rid of a purely stupid notion of a bike lane in Lakeview now and Toronto dealt with outright hysteria from their bike cult when they got rid of a completely redundant bike lane that had a bike track running parallel only one block away.

Look at the drama queens in action below as a pointless bike lane is removed in Toronto a few weeks ago. No folks, calling these people cultists is not an exaggeration.

Do we want to be a competitive destination as a city? Do we want to reduce pointless idling? Do we really want a “vibrant” core? We need traffic flow for that and bike lanes choke that.

The case is being made about how bikes take cars off roads. That is a load of horse poop. What the bike lanes have done is choke vehicular traffic however. On 10th St in Calgary 1000s of cars pass daily while the bike lane can barely draw dozens. The number of autodrivers suddenly embracing bike use will have to increase a hundredfold before the waste of dedicating a third of a lane to them can be somewhat justified.

On 11 St SE two lanes were removed to make bike lanes. A person is lucky to see even a single bike ever use those lanes but it is always easy to find traffic hopelessly snarled as it is packed into two less lanes.

The world revolves on supply and demand. Social engineers keep trying to fight that principle but they inevitably lose. The problem is that the loss comes at a great cost in the battle.

People in Calgary are increasingly moving to the suburbs and now outside of the city altogether causing tax-revenue losses while they still commute on city streets. Businesses are now moving to the suburbs and out of the city following the citizens as we become increasingly unbalanced in Calgary.

Let’s plan realistically with citizen demand in mind for a change. Plan for vehicular traffic as it simply is growing despite all city hall efforts to fight it. Quit putting in stupid bike lanes at the expense of automotive lanes. The demand is simply not there nor will it ever be.

A pushback will happen eventually. I fear for how much mess will be made of our city infrastructure before that happens though.

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