Friday, February 29, 2008

Sudbury Sunday Night

The Mayor is missing Bingo to hear Sir Elton singo
Don’t let the sun go down on Sudbury Sunday night?
Councillors paid their due, so what’s the hullabaloo.
But will they feel the love next Sudbury election night?

(With apologies to Stompin Tom)

Today’s question:

If Elton John came to Burlington would it create a political controversy?

In Sudbury – yes, Sudbury - it’s the new Watergate.

Just last month Sir Elton’s upcoming appearance at the Sudbury Arena was trumpeted as “the biggest concert in the city’s history." No arguments here.

“(M)onumental and will generate tremendous excitement for everyone in our city," noted the Sudbury Arena manager, who next week returns to more mundane matters such as keeping the Zamboni running.

Not the kind of Excitement that was Expected

The "excitement" has to do with the fact that city councillors got first dibs on tickets for the March 2nd concert. Local leaders snared 120 ducats ($87.50 to $129.50) before the box office opened. When the tickets went on sale to the masses, they were gone in minutes. No surprise.

According to the CBC, “outrage among fans who saw no reason why (the Councillors) should be able to jump the line” ensued.

At first Councillors dug in. After all they had paid for the tickets.

Rumours followed - the man who gave us Don’t Shoot Me - I’m Only the Piano Player - would skip the Big Nickel due to the bad vibes.

Municipal officials pressured the Sudbury Star: (C)ontinue “to report on the ticket controversy, the Elton John concert conceivably could be cancelled.”

Now, at Mayor John Rodriguez’s request, seventy-one tickets have been returned to the promoter. Forty-nine tickets are still out there - sold to family or friends or given to charity.

Today, the local paper reported the City has spent $12,000 during the last few days to hire a private law firm, as well as a public relations company to help it “deal with the ticket fiasco.”

Live/Learn and Rest

Sudbury has come clean (more or less) and grudgingly provided information to the public on the ticket buying.

"While this matter has been a significant learning process for the city, we sincerely hope that the disclosure of this information will put this matter to rest," Mark Mieto, the city's chief administrative officer, told the Sudbury Star.

Could this happen in the City of Burlington?

Not likely.

First - ask yourself why would Elton John come here? Sure, we’d like him to sing Candle in the Wind at the grand opening of the new pier. But it ain’t going to happen.

Old timers will remember Guy Lombardo, Jayne Mansfield and other greats at the old Brant Inn. I myself heard Lawrence Gowan at Sound of Music a few years ago and saw - have I mentioned this before - PET in Central Park during the Trudeaumania days of 1968.

But Elton John is big. He is, to these aforementioned entertainers, as George Orwell is to this blogger.

Besides, I’m sure we have policies in our town guarding against the kind of abuse of power we’ve seen this month at Sudbury’s Silly Hall.

Actually, I should know this having been there. But, of such policies, I have no recollection, as they say.

I remain confident, nevertheless, that, if policies are needed Mayor Cam and the Gang of Six will, in their wisdom, attend to it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Greetings on Family Day

For a time I was a municipal councillor.

One of the really difficult things - and I took this seriously – was bringing greetings from the City. This was a frequent assignment for a Councillor acting as deputy when the mayor wasn’t available.

The required off the cuff comments were tough for me.

As today is Family Day I worry what I would have said if I were assigned “greetings” on this date.

So here it is.

On behalf of the City of Burlington I’d like to welcome you here on the first Family Day and tell you to “Take a Hike.”

I say “Take a Hike” not just because the exercise will do you good but also because if you don’t have a car (and many of you don’t) or you choose not to drive for environmental reasons you’ll have no choice as there is no Public Transit in Burlington today.

Take a Hike to our eastern and western borders and ride Oakville Transit or Hamilton Street Railway as they are running today.

Or take a longer hike to just about any other municipality in the area (e.g. Brampton, St. Catharines, Guelph, Mississauga, Niagara Falls, Oshawa etc.) and you can ride a bus today.

But Seriously

Perhaps I’m missing something but isn’t something terribly wrong here? Shouldn’t Burlington residents have the opportunity to visit family members at Joseph Brant or get to work (40% of us are working today) or recreational opportunities by public transit?

A 2006 consultant’s report, accepted by Council, recommended provision of holiday service. Why are we so different than other communities? (I’ve found two where transit isn't running today – Milton and Port Perry.)

Any ideas what can be done?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Something Positive for a Winter Day

I was going to write something on Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller’s annual environmental report - Reconciling Our Priorities – but it is so depressing.

Basically, he says that our planning processes and mechanisms are outdated and loaded with conflicting priorities. We have no effective mechanisms in place to reconcile conflicting priorities.

Who needs such excessive negativity in the middle of February? We’ll come back to Gord’s report at a later day.

Happy Days

How about some good news?

I just read that RWDI Consultants in Guelph have proven that restaurants with a drive-through window are more environmentally friendly than those without.

This is indeed good news particularly as there seems to be one of these things at every corner.

Apparently RWDI found that a drive-through serving 150 vehicles in an hour is roughly equivalent to the emissions from one motorcycle operating at 50 km/h for an hour, or two home woodstoves operating for an hour, or about three six-horsepower lawnmowers operating for an hour.

Last March your blogger sent crack gonzo journalist Hunter R. Wilson to a New Street phone booth to research drive through activity (see Drive Throughs Need Restrictions(03/12/07). How could we have been so wrong as to not take into account all the pollution being caused by non drive through patrons driving their cars around parking lots looking for empty spaces like RWDI did?

Well, I wasn’t very good in science and these consultants are. Four hundred employees with doctorates and engineering and science degrees can't be wrong.

And they get paid for this stuff. Whereas, I with my an undergraduate arts degree, am just blowing smoke.

Proposed Change

So based on this research here is an idea.

Let’s close down these places that sell food but have been unable to adapt to our car culture. Every restaurant without a drive through should be illegal. That will just be a start.

Next step will be a requirement that all retail operations will be required to have a drive through.

It will be good for the environment. And it cheers me up just thinking about it. How about you?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Misleading Data?

GTA residents pay an average of only 5% of their property taxes to run local transit systems, the Sustainable Urban Development Association (SUDA) has found.

Halton is the worst of the Regions at 2.1% and Burlington is worse than that at 2.06. Oakville taxpayers pay 38% more of their property tax dollars to transit.

But you can do anything with statistics. Everyone knows that.

This is a classic example. I'm pretty certain.

How come, you say?

Well because Burlington is committed to transit. It says so right there in their Strategic Plan.

One of the leading causes of smog and pollution is vehicle exhaust with single occupant vehicles being a major contributor. Burlington will provide transit services that offer a transportation alternative to single occupancy vehicles and that integrate with other transit services throughout the region.

And there is more:

Burlington will be a clean, green and environmentally healthy city where the city actively participates and encourages environmentally responsible programs, policies and actions that work to improve and restore our natural environment

So these statistics are misleading although I worry (it is my nature) because Burlington’s air quality is pretty bad. Recently I read we had the worst day in the province in 2006. But this is proably just another case of manipulating data.

Our Medical Officer of Health, Bob Nosal, reports that we have approximately 190 premature deaths in Halton each year because of poor air quality.

He also says that an important strategy in dealing with air pollution includes smarter planning of communities and a greater dependency on transit. We all know that, right?

In the meantime I’m sure someone can explain the fact that Ajax spends 3.4% of their property tax dollars on transit. They are probably neglecting their downtown.

And Markham at 5.38%. Well, that only makes sense because they have some many more transit riders than we do.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Disraeli knew what he was talking about.