During the January 15 council meeting, there was a lengthy presentation of a strategic planning exercise (a real one, not the bogus one The Block call our “community-based strategic plan,” which was neither community-driven nor strategic) for the Parks, Recreation and Culture department (read more about it here). The presenter asked council to answer three questions. The third of which (starting at around 1:17:30) was about what Collingwood is missing or needed in its PRC facilities or services.
Skip past the self-aggrandizing yatter of Councillor Madigan, past the insulting comments and architectural ignorance of Councillor Jeffrey, the vapid blather of Councillor Edwards and stop at 1:23:30. That’s when Deputy Mayor Saunderson says one of the “huge gaps is the lack of a community centre.” He then meanders into a blather about operating costs. Of course, this is meant to drive home his one-size-fits-all $35 million Taj Mahal dream (well, a nightmare for taxpayers…) he proposed last term.*
We already have a community centre: our public library. It runs programs for all ages, hosts talks, events, concerts, activities, clubs, chess matches, it’s an art gallery, a computer lab, and more. I know, I know: you’re going to remind me The Block don’t like to read so it’s unlikely that most of them have been in the building aside from the committee meetings on the third floor. Like you, I have a hard time imagining them using a library or even opening a book – much less actually reading one.
And, ironically, we have a council rep on the library board: Councillor Ecclestone. Alright, stop laughing now. Maybe he didn’t come to the library’s defence because it was his nap time.
The library is and has always been the community’s cultural centre. If The Block paid attention to their role as elected officials, they’d know this. Yes, there are private cultural facilities too, especially on Simcoe Street. These complement, rather than compete with, the library.
The library was, at least a few years ago, the town’s most-frequented municipal facility. I suspect it still is. But not by The Block. All those books, those words closing in on them, the seep of knowledge from between the pages – it’s a scary place for our council non-readers: they stay away. Continue reading “Our civic centre the Block forgot”
…council provide no further approvals to the Eden Oak/McNabb development until such time as council as a whole has the opportunity to review the concerns expressed by the neighbouring residents and agree upon any mitigation options.
(Yes, I wondered who wrote it for him, too… whoever did it wasn’t very bright because he or she failed to identify what those mitigation measures should entail, who would oversee them, or if there was any deadline or timeframe for approvals – or what would happen if one councillor went on vacation and couldn’t “review the concerns” for several weeks. Very sloppy and nebulous; an amateur’s wording.)
This motion sets a very nasty precedent for the town: in future, any NIMBY group of neighbours who don’t want a development to go ahead, can stall it indefinitely as long as they can get someone on council to side with them. Or to say they don’t agree with any “mitigation options.” Or isn’t available to review anything.
In this case, there were seven on one side, as you might expect from the groupmind Block. But just one person in opposition or away would mean council “as a whole” isn’t in agreement – that’s what the motion reads – and can hold up a development.
Second, it puts the town in a significant financial and legal liability. If you were the developer and found your work was being held up for weeks or even months while councillors hem and haw over an approval (one they clearly don’t comprehend), all the while you are paying for workers and equipment to sit idle – think you might want to sue the town for the costs? Or if you’re one of the buyers and had planned your move-in date, but now found it delayed for an indefinite period, and had to find new accommodations and storage for your belongings while you wait – get enough buyers together and you have a class action suit against the town.
And that means taxpayers will have to shoulder the costs of any OMB or legal challenge by the developer, or its prospective homeowners (councillors have taxpayer-paid insurance against these lawsuits). Yes, I know: The Block don’t care about how they spend your money or what it costs to get their private agendas embedded in town policy. They’ve been spending like drunken sailors on leave in a whorehouse throughout this term, so why stop to think about it, now? Continue reading “Madigan’s motion jeopardizes town”
You have to hand it to our Deputy Mayor: for all his many, many faults, he does do two things remarkably well: hypocrisy and bullshit. Neither does he do in halfway measures. No, when he dons their mantle, he wears the emperor’s new clothes with pride, head to toe.
At January 15’s council meeting, Brian took both bullshit and hypocrisy to stratospherically new levels. Astounding levels seldom seen outside today’s White House; truly breathtaking to see it here in our little town. More proof the kakistocracy is alive and well in Collingwood.
At 2:23:04 Brian made a notice of motion for the town to give the hospital up to $150,000 to help cover their bills. I know: the arrogance of such an offer staggers the mind. After all, it was our very own Blockheads and the town administration who helped make the hospitals costs larger than anticipated. Had they not put up such resistance to the redevelopment, had they not erected so many roadblocks, had their resistance not forced the hospital to hire a consultant planner and lawyers to defend its plan, those bills would not have been so high.
I know, it made me throw up a little into my mouth when I watched the recent council video. Have a bucket beside you when you watch. The hypocrisy is jaw-dropping in its arrogance. Not that anyone will vote against it – but the slime trail this motion leaves is thick and gooey.
The result of the town’s fight against the redevelopment meant the hospital missed the funding window and stalled the creation of new, better health care services in this area by at least three years, if not a decade or more. If we ever get the chance, should a new government get elected. Patient care? Community health and well being? The Block never gave a damn about them.
My sources tell me the town’s refusal to support our hospital’s redevelopment plan cost the hospital more than $100,000 extra in legal and consulting fees. The town also hired a sole-sourced (of course), high-priced lawyer and a sole-sourced (of course), expensive consultant to defend their actions. This, as I understand, cost taxpayers more than $40,000. So far the cost as a direct result of the town’s bullying has cost local residents at least $150,000 – all unnecessarily. And now Brian wants us to double that, simply to pay for the Block’s bad behaviour twice.
Isn’t it great how easy and loose Brian plays with our money? And he doesn’t even bother to stay within the ongoing budget process. It’s almost like he doesn’t give a damn about how he spends it. After all, these snollygosters have already raised our taxes three times this term and plan to raise it a fourth time. It doesn’t hurt them because every time they do so, they give themselves a pay raise to compensate. So why not try to bribe the hospital to forget their actions?
And yet neither he nor any of his Blockheads have told us why they opposed the move that all of our neighbouring municipalities, and all of the hospital medical staff and more than 95% of the local medical community have supported. Does it have something to do with the developer who has bought up all the property around the current hospital, and has a vested interest in the hospital staying in place? Or are the Blockheads just too inert to do anything but raise their hands and vote as told?
Here’s a suggestion: take the money from the pay of those who argued and voted and whined about the hospital redevelopment. That would pay for Brian’s largesse from their own pockets, not ours. Let them take responsibility just once this term. Make those who caused the problem pay for the solution. But of course, you well know, The Block always blame someone else: they never take responsibility. So they’ll spend OUR money to try to fix their own mess.
Don’t expect this bribe will make anyone forget Brian and his group’s actions against the hospital. Certainly no one at the hospital, on its board, or in the medical community is fooled; no one among the group of activist doctors who have committed to turfing out Brian and his bunch next election. The Block’s war against our hospital will be a central, critical issue this coming election. Continue reading “Bullshit and hypocrisy again”
I was thinking about how little poets seem to matter to modern political administrations. Maybe to modern society as a whole. Their light has, it seems, been waning for several decades as our collective attention shifts.
I was thinking about what an odd, awkward fit it would be for a poet to be invited to today’s anti-literacy White House. Would he or she have to start each conversation with the question “Have you read…” dreading the answer would be a blank stare, a silent shake of the head and the turning of eyes to smartphones and TVs blaring Faux News.
I was thinking of how John Kennedy asked Robert Frost to read a poem at his 1961 inauguration. Poetry still mattered then. Of how Carter, Clinton and Obama also invited poets to read at their inaugurations. Poetry seemed to fade after Kennedy, possibly because the Vietnam War invited more protest than introspection. Possibly because his death cut down many muses, as well. Possibly because we turned increasingly to TV and then the internet as our source of inspiration, not books. A 2015 CNN article noted:
The cult of people who buy books of poetry in the U.S. is almost certainly dwarfed by the 20 million or so viewers who watch a single episode of “Game of Thrones.”
A mere five poets were invited to attend and read at presidential inaugurations in more than 50 years. The CNN article noted:
Many Americans’ exposure to poetry today is limited to inspirational snippets on fridge magnets or a few verses recited every four years when a poet is trotted out at a presidential inauguration.
But that’s only true for Democratic presidents. Republicans shy from poets. At the Trump inauguration? None: just a handful of wannabe celebrities, some sycophants and has-beens. No poets, no authors, no reading, no evidence of culture deeper than the superficial. Not even as good as a single episode of America’s Got Talent.
Thus is the new world of politics: reduced to a small screen and a handful of words. No deep insight, no big reads. Is poetry disappearing from our lives? Sublimating to texting, Twitter, Instagram and such platforms that require little to no thought, but demand instant response and mindless reaction? Continue reading “Does poetry make things happen in 2018?”
Every Monday it’s the same thing. I walk my dog along local streets, past the blue bins put out on the curb by residents, bins stuffed with content meant for recycling. Two bins are provided to every household: one for recyclable plastics and glass, the other for paper and cardboard. And to remind people which is which, one is clearly marked on the outside, and the county sends around an annual calendar, with reminders on how to sort your materials. Plus, the county advertises in local media about recycling and has a website all about it.
And yet every Monday, I see the same thing: bin after bin of mixed content, and bins with non-recyclable trash in them. (NB: in some areas, the second bin is grey to indicate paper and cardboard, but not every municipality has adopted this and in those that have, some residents still put the wrong things in them).
And that annoys me. I’m a taxpayer and I gladly pay for the recycling service. but I also have to pay for the extra staff time and facilities required to sort the material that arrives unsorted. There is no good reason for that or for the extra costs these people are placing on those of us who strive to do the right thing. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to sort their garbage.
For decades, we’ve seen print ads, books, newspaper flyers, calendars, and direct mail campaigns; we’ve heard radio shows, we’ve seen TV programs and ads about recycling. Recycling is taught in elementary schools. It’s front page news. Thousands of articles and editorials online discuss recycling and what goes into each blue bin. So unless you’re a new immigrant recently arrived from a country without modern waste disposal, no one in Ontario can claim not to know the rules or know where to look them up.
But there they are: bins full chock full of unsorted refuse. I don’t know if this is because these residents are ignorant of the rules, or can’t be bothered to read them, if they aren’t bright enough to understand them, or if they’re simply too lazy to care. Maybe they’re all just millennials too busy on their cellphones to pay attention. I don’t know. But the irresponsibility of it all bothers me.
And it’s costing all of us money. In a town already overtaxed (this council has raised our taxes three times in three years already!), we simply can’t afford for people to be so irresponsible. Continue reading “Blue bin blues”
If there’s something strange in you neighborhood
Who you gonna call? (your councillor)
If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call? (your councillor) With apologies to Ray Parker, composer of the Ghostbusters theme song.
More than three years after I left council, I still get calls from residents, still get stopped in grocery stores or when I’m walking my dog, dragged into conversations with residents unhappy with local politics and how they’ve been treated by this council. Specifically by members of The Block Seven.
I get asked about snowplowing, about why we don’t have more stop signs, about off-leash dog parks, about tree planting, about our utility bills, taxes, sidewalks, the BIA and pretty much everything else. I think I’ve been approached by more residents and town staff to discuss local issues these past three years than I was ever approached when I was actually on council.
I listen politely, remind them I am not on council and cannot do much as a private citizen, then I always ask, “Have you contacted someone on council about it?” And every time I get one or more of the following responses:
I tried, but they wouldn’t listen.
They won’t answer their phone (or email).
They brushed me off.
They wouldn’t give me a straight answer.
I don’t trust them.
They never returned my calls (or emails).
I tried but they couldn’t understand my problem.
They told me to speak to someone else on council.
They told me to call someone on staff.
After what they did to our hospital, I don’t want to speak to any of them again.
I did but they’re as thick as a brick.
They talked down to me.
I did and they promised to look into it but never got back to me.
I did and they promised to look into it but nothing ever got done.
And so on.
Well, it’s not true of everyone at the table, of course. Only The Block. Seems many residents find The Block uncommunicative, impolite and inept. Not a surprise, given their love of secrecy and deception, and dislike of learning and reading. Of course, no one ever claimed we elected the best, just that we elected a clique of self-serving people with private agendas and vendettas. But I’ve said that before. But that’s not where I was going. This post is about how to elect people you can speak with, by improving our election process.
Would you willingly expose yourself to cholera? While treatable, this highly infectious disease causes great physical distress and suffering to its victims, and is even fatal to some. Most readers have never experienced it because it’s rather a rarity in developed nations, those that have the benefit of modern water and wastewater treatment systems. That’s thanks to decades of stringent and effective health and safety standards and constantly improving treatment systems.
But for some, it seems, those systems are a terrible burden; a worrisome threat to their natural state. The very notion of clean, hygienic water bereft of bacteria and pollutants threatens their peace of mind. They demand to be fed unfiltered water, bravely willing to accept the threat of travellers’ diarrhea, Giardia, Cryptosporidium (from cattle feces), dysentery, Salmonella, Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli, found throughout the natural environment), Typhoid Fever, Cholera, Hepatitus A, Hepatitus E, Campylobacter (from bird guano), Norovirus, Shigella and other infections and parasites.
It’s better, these New Age adventurers believe, to risk illness, pain, paralysis and even death than drink water from a municipal tap that might have come into contact with chlorine or fluoride. The taint of civilization, of modernity, or – gasp! – chemicals shall not pass their lips. Seriously: this is truly one of the most bizarre, stupid, and dangerous, wingnut fads to emerge.
“Raw” water – or as The Verge more appropriately called it, “raw diarrhea” – is the latest craze among those obsessed with the internet-driven fads-du-jour.
These are the same people who worship the Queen of Pseudoscience Fads, Vani Hara aka The Food Babe. These are the warriors who spent thousands more to buy free-range chicken, organic avocados, tomatoes, corn, and kale, then crusade against GMOs (oh, the irony, the irony…). These are the folks who refuse to get their children vaccinated because they think having children suffer and possibly die from diseases like rubella, smallpox, polio and whooping cough is more natural than having them artificially healthy through medicine. These are the people who crusaded against the ubiquitous chemical, dihydrogen monoxide in foods (insert laugh track).
I doubt one of them knows how municipal water is treated, how the infrastructure or facilities work, what technologies have evolved or changed, and how many millions of technicians, scientists and engineers work every day to improve our water systems. I doubt one of them actually knows the science or history behind chlorine or fluoride. To New Agers, science is a dark art: scary, mystical, untrustworthy. Continue reading “Raw water: the New Age death wish”
“But for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality [it] would be a classic of the first water.” So said H. P. Lovecraft of the 1908 novel, The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson. But, Lovecraft admitted, the book was also a major influence on his own, later work. And for good reason: it created the ‘unknown horror’ effect that Lovecraft (and later writers) exploited so well.
House on the Borderland is a seminal work in its genre and, despite its age, deserves not to be forgotten by modern readers. Here’s a passage from the book:
And then, as I peered, curiously, a new terror came to me; for away up among the dim peaks to my right, I had descried a vast shape of blackness, giantlike. It grew upon my sight. It had an enormous equine head, with gigantic ears, and seemed to peer steadfastly down into the arena. There was that about the pose that gave me the impression of an eternal watchfulness—of having warded that dismal place, through unknown eternities. Slowly, the monster became plainer to me; and then, suddenly, my gaze sprang from it to something further off and higher among the crags. For a long minute, I gazed, fearfully. I was strangely conscious of something not altogether unfamiliar—as though something stirred in the back of my mind. The thing was black, and had four grotesque arms. The features showed indistinctly, ’round the neck, I made out several light-colored objects. Slowly, the details came to me, and I realized, coldly, that they were skulls. Further down the body was another circling belt, showing less dark against the black trunk. Then, even as I puzzled to know what the thing was, a memory slid into my mind, and straightway, I knew that I was looking at a monstrous representation of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death.
You can read or download a copy at Gutenberg.org. It’s not very long – just over 50,000 words, and is a fairly quick read.
Hodgson – whose 140th birthday was celebrated by fans last November (the 100th anniversary of his death is in April, 2018) – was prolific in his lifetime, but is an almost-forgotten figure these days. Only two of his novels – the other being The Night Land (1912) – got any significant attention or popular reprints for many decades after his death. Thanks to the internet, digital files and the magic of on-demand publishing, a lot of his work is available online; five of his novels are now downloadable from Gutenberg. And this slowly growing popularity has seen a few publishers reprinting many (maybe even all) of his works.
While still in the shadows compared to other writers, he is read today by fans of classic horror and early scifi. But he’s not anywhere near a popular writer. In part that may be because better, subsequent writers like Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany and Edgar Rice Burroughs captured (and continue to capture) the public’s imagination. Plus, they wrote about the modern, post-war world: with radio, cars, telephones, movies, steamships and the like. They are easier, I suspect, for modern readers to comprehend than those from the Edwardian era. Continue reading “The House on the Borderland”
Late last year, BMA Management Consulting produced a hefty 517-page report called Municipal Study 2017* that examines a wide variety of socio-economic indicators in more than 100 Ontario municipalities: taxes, user fees, population, average home value, water/sewer, economic development programs and more. As Owen Sound notes on its website:
The study identifies both key quantifiable indicators and selective environmental factors that should be considered part of a comprehensive evaluation of a local municipality’s financial condition. Use of the study over a number of years provides trends to allow decision-makers to monitor selected indicators over time. Trend analysis helps to provide interpretive context. In addition, context can be provided by comparing a municipality’s own experience with the experience of other municipalities. In 2016, 105 Ontario municipalities participated in the Study.
Sudbury also notes on its website (with links to studies from 2011-17):
In 2017, 102 municipalities participated in the study which provides comparisons of financial information, select user fees, tax policies and rates, sewer and water services, and taxes as a percentage of income.
Collingwood data is listed among those 100+ participating municipalities (see pages 10 and 25 of the full report). But as far as I can tell, we were not presented with a copy – at least not for public consumption.
Did we even participate? If so, why hasn’t the report been released to the public? Are The Block hiding it from us? (I know what you’re going to say: because The Block encourages the culture of secrecy in town hall, they don’t ever like to release ANYTHING). A search for it on the town’s website turns up as much as you’d find in our Blockheads’ grey matter: no results.
Or was the data merely lifted from an earlier study BMA did of the town? By my count, we have used BMA for at least four such reports (Jan. and Dec. 2014, Nov. 2015, and Nov. 2016). I cannot find any record that these were actually put out to tender, but given The Block’s and the administration’s eagerness to sole-source everything and hand out contracts like party favours, I doubt it.
Maybe the town declined to buy it because some folks in town hall didn’t want it to be made public because it might reflect badly on their policies and practices.