Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thunder in the Valley Clarification

Taken a bunch of heat in the last few days about my post May 6 2010 "Thunder in the Valley"

So today I am going to clarify things so a few narrow minded people do not take the opportunity to make political hay out of my comments.

Yes I made a mistake on the title it should have been Rum Runner Days & Thunder in the Valley. I did not intend to focus all of the attention on just Thunder in the Valley.

Second the reason for the post, often I receive requests on where "your" tax dollars are spent, when I am asked I attempt to supply that information, I was asked in person via email and phone what the taxpayers spent on this weekend, I posted that information.
For example I was asked last week how much we spent on snow clearing this year versus last, why would I not supply that information?
Do I has a councilor have the right to say I'm not going to tell you?

Third I have been accused of attacking groups that put this event on, not true read the post who do I attack in my post? Look at the words " Great weekend that draws lots of people in to the Valley" which of those words are negative?
"and is a boon for most of our businesses" which of those words are negative? quite the contrary I think they speak very positively about the whole weekend.

Now do I have concerns about this weekend? of course when you have 30,000 people here if one percent of them are idiots that's 300 people, (could do a lot of damage in a small town). yes I see that side of it, I work that weekend as a jail guard at the local RCMP establishment and I see what those people have to contend with.

As far as the comments to my post, I post almost all of the comments that I receive go back and read some of the Crowsnest Centre stuff on this Blog some of the comments I received they were not all favourable to myself. The only comments I have refused to post since I started this blog were a couple of which I believed to be libel, and a couple of comments that made fun of a local persons medical condition.

Anyway back to the point of this "clarification" the original post was presented as an answer to questions I was asked by taxpayers. And under no circumstances was it an attack on any individual or group(s), and if somebody took it that way I apologise.

The idiots put aside this weekend brings a lot of good, business, and publicity to this town.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Municipalities of Alberta receive a clear message from the province

Cold Lake is a municipality in Alberta that was formed a number of years back by the province bringing a number of communities together and making them into one larger municipality. (Sounds familiar?)
Over the last ten years the community as grown substantially incurring added demands on its infrastructure and making it more difficult year after year for its leaders to balance the books.
In a nut shell the communities revenue base as not grown as fast as its added burdens. While around the community are a number of Municipal Districts whose tax base as grown tremendously due to increased industrial activity but most of the people that work in those areas live in Cold Lake.
Cold Lake as attempted to gain financial assistance from those surrounding communities to assist with its growth issues a satisfactory resolve could not be achieved so in an unusual move last year the Council requested the province to dissolve their municipality and merge them into the surrounding wealthy MD problem solved, right?
The province understanding that this issue would be watched closely by many municipalities in the province, commissioned George Cuff to do a study on the sustainability of Cold Lake which he did, that report was presented to their council last week. (Available at the link below all 206 pages of it)

Summed up in Layman terms with out any sugar coating the report basically says the following:

The municipality will not be dissolved, (so why would the province allow it elsewhere? addresses one of the craziest ideas I have heard around here recently)

Get along with your neighbours and try to workout an arrangement with them to share revenues if they are willing, with no legal requirement for them to assist you, (kind of like going cap in hand and hoping your neighbours will bail you out)

Improve your financial situation by raising taxes, or reducing spending. (Cutting services)

In one part of the report it talks about the wisdom of the city building a new arena when its facing serious financial difficulties.

The point of this post and I believe the message the province as just given to Cold Lake and more importantly every other community watching this situation is?
Solve your own financial problems, there is no easy way out, do not expect your neighbours or the province to do it for you.

Get your financial house in order.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dream the impossible sometimes it does happen

It only seems like yesterday we were reading the stories, the editorials, you remember the "death of education in the Crowsnest Pass", "where will our young people receive an education", "throwing groups out in to the street".
Well I said it then and I will say it again fear mongering, if there is truly a need for something in a community that program or service will be provided its not about a building its about the service.
May 18 council was informed by our Community Services Director that he as a Memorandum Of Understanding with the LCC to relocate the Learning Consortium to the MDM.
I remember many people within council chambers and on the streets telling me that they would never relocate. Coming shortly instead of having two community centres running have empty we will have one running close to full.
Does that not make sense?

Anyway I will pass it back to the fear mongers what will it be next? they will move the Golf course? they will move the ski hill.

Isn't a community about having facilities spread out through the whole community, remember according to Census Canada 60% of our population lives somewhere other than Blairmore.
We now have a true Community Centre in Bellevue, a Ski Hill, swimming pool, Indoor sports facility at the Albert Stella in Blairmore, and an arena in Coleman.

Community Standards Bylaws Crowsnest Pass

Well Tuesday night May 18 the Community Standards Bylaws came up for second and third reading.
Both readings passed by a vote of 5-1, with Councilor Salus away on holidays the only Councilor that voted in opposition was Councilor Taje.
With the support of our Mayor and with comments from Councilor Mitchell that "its time to clean this place up" it felt like all of Council would stand behind this very important bylaw.
Previously when the public spoke to council we heard statements from both developers and business owners about how we need to clean the community up to attract both new residents and businesses.
Council Taje voiced his concern about people on fixed income not being able to afford to adhere to this bylaw. The argument was made that the addition of the hardship clause to the bylaw would cover off that concern but never the less he still voiced his opposition.
I really struggle with the opinion that people on fixed income cannot look after their homes take a walk around our community, there are many homes owned by seniors and people on fixed incomes that are very well looked after, and on the other hand I can show you homes where there are people making a $100,000 a year that live in pig pens.
Anyway this is a time to recognize that we have made a bold step forward towards improving the appearance of our community.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thunder in the Valley

Great weekend that draws lots of people in to the Valley, and is a boon for most of our businesses, every year I am asked what does it cost us the taxpayers. So here are the budget numbers for 2010.

Donation for Fireworks $4500
Traffic Control $6200
Policing $10000
Garbage + Toilets $11500
Activties + Entertainers $18000

Total $50200

This number does not allow for any municipal wages that go into the weekend.

Myths regarding the Crowsnest Pass Community Standards Bylaws

(Myth) I will not be able to tinker with my own motorbike despite the fact that I have my own garage:

Amendment provided on May 11:

1. Automotive repairs:
No person may conduct any repair work on motor vehicles, including engine replacement, mechanical repairs, auto bodywork, frame repair, collision repair, auto painting, auto detailing or modifications to the body or rebuilding of a motor vehicle, on any site in a residential area unless it is completed within a structure or garage suited for the purpose and out of public view, unless such land use has been approved by a Municipal authority.

This prohibition shall not apply to routine maintenance work done on any vehicles owned, operated, registered and insured in the name of the owner or occupant of premises, provided that:

A. The activity does not create a nuisance or noise complaints from the neighborhood;
B. There is no escape of offensive, annoying or noxious odors, fumes or smoke from the site;
C. Vehicle fluids, oil, gasoline products or other hazardous materials are properly stored and disposed of and not swept or washed into lanes, streets, or down storm sewers;
D. All discarded vehicle parts and materials are properly stored or disposed of away from the site.

Take a close look at the first paragraph, if you have a structure or garage there is no issue for any kind of repairs.

And regular maintenance is covered of by the second paragraph.

(Myth) This will put undo financial hardship on seniors on fixed income:

Amendment provided on May 11:

The Board will consider applications for a Financial Hardship Exemption Order be it for reasons of health, financial hardship or other reason. In order to be considered for such an exemption, an applicant must complete a form available from the Municipality, must be the owner of the affected property, as defined in Section 2, Q, (i) of this Bylaw, and must provide evidence that they are in receipt of the Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement. A Financial Hardship Exemption Order will identify the owner, the property, the section(s) of this Bylaw for which the exemption applies, and the period (not to exceed five years) for which the exemption is valid. Upon expiry of a Financial Hardship Exemption Order, a person may apply to the Board for further extension. A Financial Hardship Exemption Order will be considered void, upon any change of ownership of the affected property

The above is no different to what we do on the Seniors Property tax rebate if you qualify for the Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement an exemption will be provided.

Whats I found really interesting was most of the people that were screaming to protect the seniors, were not seniors themselves. Also anybody that's lived here for a long time knows most of our seniors take tremendous pride in their homes and yards, and probably 99% of them would be well in compliance with the bylaw.

Community Standards Bylaws Crowsnest Pass

Well Tuesday May 4th, in Council chambers we held a public hearing on the community standards bylaw. Probably somewhere between 50-60 people showed up.
First of all our good Mayor gave those in opposition the opportunity and encouragement to speak (I lost count but at one point I was up to 18 times that he requested those folks to come forth).
The issues that I heard from those opposed to this bylaw (16 people spoke in opposition), were one that people would not be able to do their own mechanical repairs on their property, two that seniors on fixed income would be forced to perform costly renovations and three that I have a god given right to do whatever I want on my own property.
On the positive side were eight people that spoke about the need to clean up the community, that 95% of the residents comply with the standards, and that to attract both residents and businesses we need to make the community as appealing as possible.
Response after the meeting almost everybody I have spoke to, is in favour of the bylaw.
Next step May 11 at our committee meeting the floor is open for any councilor to bring forth amendments. I plan on doing that to address the concerns raised above.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Interesting Story for those that like to comment and remain anonymous.

Firefighters given IDs of online critics
Halifax men now free to pursue libel suits against previously anonymous commenters

Two Halifax firefighters can now pursue libel suits after their lawyer received the names of anonymous commentators who criticized them on the website of a weekly newspaper.
Michelle Awad, the attorney for Halifax fire chief Bill Mosher and deputy chief Stephen Thurber, said Monday she has the information she needs to find and sue the commentators from the Coast newspaper's website.
“We have information that identifies individuals. So it's no longer an anonymous person or an e-mail address that doesn't necessarily specify the person's name,” she said.
Ms. Awad applied for the identities of the online commentators in a series of court appearances.
The first step was on April 14, when Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Heather Robertson ordered Coast Publishing Ltd. to provide identifying information about the commentators, who used online names like “scandalous 2010” or “LessTalkMore Action.”
Ms. Robertson said during the hearing that the court doesn't “condone the conduct of anonymous Internet users who make defamatory comments.”
Her order made it clear that online critics can't keep their identities secret.
The Coast complied, providing e-mail addresses and Internet protocol addresses — identifying numbers for the Internet connections to a computer.
Ms. Awad then obtained a second court order that required Internet service providers BellAliant and Eastlink to provide full addresses and names based on the computer addresses.
The firefighters are still awaiting identifying information from Eastlink for a person who used a Gmail account provided by Google. Ms. Awad said she expects that by the end of the week.
She said her clients have a year to decide whether they'll launch a libel lawsuit.
In the meantime, she said she's pleased the courts responded quickly and that the message is being sent that anonymity isn't guaranteed.
“I think our court was very responsive and has continued to be so as the further steps of this matter have been required,” she said.
“People can't defame others on the Internet or otherwise with impunity. They need to understand they will be found out.”
However, she said having to go through the various steps was expensive and time consuming for her clients.
The case has helped fuel a debate on whether news sites should permit anonymous, unmonitored comments to be posted on discussion forums they host.
The comments that upset the two firefighters appeared in a forum about alleged racism in the department.
Kyle Shaw, the co-founder of the Coast, has said that he won't change a policy that allows people to remain anonymous while posting their views on the website.
He said the policy allows other commentators to notify website editors if inappropriate comments are made, and that editors can then decide whether to remove the comment.
He said it creates a free-wheeling and wide-ranging debate that his newspaper fears would be stifled by constant supervision.