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Nothing much changes…

It’s been a while since I’ve written about City Council. And after last night’s meeting, I decided I wouldn’t mind trying to get back at it. Why not start with a 4 1/2 hour meeting?

First of all, this Council just approved a local improvement plan to get the additional 30% funding from a segment of the tax base in the City. What do I mean by that? Well, you may want to get on the City’s website or take a nice spring walk down to City Hall and determine if you have cast-iron water lines providing you with water to your home, which for some, have reached their 100-year life span. If you are one of the lucky ones who has cast-iron lines, be ready. You’re going to pay more. Maybe not right away, but your cast-iron water line is on the radar over the next 20 years.

But I’m not. We don’t have cast-iron lines coming to our house. Let me use myself as an example of how this is going to play out.

I like the rest of you will be paying my share of the 70% cost oof $117million to replace the city’s cast-iron water lines. This comes in the form of a set tax increase, already in place and other funding sources through the budget. Administration is estimating that the entire project will cost $117million over the next 20 years. They haven’t taken into account any inflationary pressures which could lead it to around and over the $177million mark, but…I digress…

If you are one of the lucky ones, and have cast-iron water lines, you are now on the “list” to have your water line replaced. Whether it needs it or not. Meaning, if it’s not broken, the City is going to fix it anyways. It’s reaching it’s 100-year life span. It needs replacing. Currently, policy states that  if your water line blows from the main line  to your property line, it is your cost. So, if my water line breaks, I will be paying the cost. But only if it breaks. I am not part of the ‘new’ local improvement program noted above. I’ll reinterate. I do NOT have cast-iron water lines connected to my home.

So some of the taxpayers of Moose Jaw, will be paying 30% of the $117million cost and some will not.

Fair wouldn’t you say? I say no.

As I mentioned at the meeting last night, this is not an easy decision. But one I would be prepared to have a dedicated tax increase allocated to across the board (as is already in place) ALONG WITH reduced spending at City Hall. We have long been placing our wants above the needs of this community and it really is time to reign in spending. Now I realize that some may believe that we can’t cut costs anywhere but I would urge you to try and get through one of our budget binders and add up the number of consultants we have hired over the years to provide us with expert advice on all kinds of issues. That’s only one area where the fat could be trimmed. Municipal govenments are beacons for hiring consultants because ‘we don’t have the expertise to determine the best course of action’. Blah blah…

I’ll sum up the decision last night of instituting a local improvement program to replace these lines. There was a gentleman in the gallery until the end of the meeting watching the proceedings. He stood up at the end and said…”this Council should be ashamed of themselves for the decision they just made.” This is not going to go over well once the intricacies of this plays out in the community. Not taking responsibility for past ignorance on infrastructure and asking some citizens to pay more is starting to become all too typical for municipal councils.

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On another note, I gave notice of motion last night to remove a clause to prohibit video from being taken during our public meetings. And to sum it up, this Council once again looks at something I bring forward and makes a mockery of it. A few weeks ago the Times-Herald uploaded a video to their Facebook page, from a public meeting in the Scoop Lewry Room and I thought it was fantastic. Turns out, said reporter was told by City Hall that he had “violated” the Decorum in Council Chambers bylaw. Hogwash I say.

So I brought foward notice of motion to allow video in Chambers (and otherwise) during our public meetings to be more accountable to our constituents. In this day and age everyone has a smart phone, with video capability, and with the introduction of Periscope (a live streaming app), I thought this would be a fantastic way to get our Executive meetings’ discussions out to more people. I thought I would try and do it myself during our public meetings in the Scoop Lewry Room! I am a huge fan of getting more information out to citizens and videos of our meetings and/or live streaming to me makes complete sense.

Well, I should know better than to try and make a change. This Council decided to refer the motion to administration for a report from policy to determine next actions. What a joke! In the whole scheme of things, this really is not the biggest issue Council should be dealing with BUT all councils should be open to being ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT. Doesn’t seem to be that way here in Moose Jaw. Councillor Kirkpatrick even said that she had “hoped it wouldn’t even be seconded” and then actually assumed from my motion that I was going to violate the Cities Act and stream IN-CAMERA/PRIVATE meetings! Where do these comments even come from? It really is unbelievable at times.

Oh, and Councillor, when you respect your other colleagues on Council, protocol that I’m familiar with says you second the notice of motion to allow it to come to the floor and be debated. You then have a right to vote against it if you wish. But allow your colleagues to have their say and express their opinions. 

Time will tell if this Council will allow citizens to join our meetings that are held publicly outside of Council Chambers by way of video clips or streams. As someone said on Twitter Sunday after the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather fight, “I watched the fight on Periscope and saw the future”.

Maybe this Council will see the light and let even more of you see the discussions that go on outside of Council Chambers.  After some of the decisions that were made last night, you all deserve to hear and know more from your elected officials.
Have a happy Tuesday!

Cool your engines please

As pieces of certain “stories” or situations hit the media in Moose Jaw, I overwhelmingly find myself wanting to tell everyone to “calm down” and please try and get both sides of the story.

Tonight, some are now worried about the status of the CPR Dam and essentially, nothing has changed. The dam is still happening. The motion that passed at Council last night was to look at the situation again, in an Executive meeting, before the RFP goes out. I will admit that I had someone tell me a bit ago that the CPR Dam is just for esthetics and that there possibly wouldn’t be as much flooding if it wasn’t there. On the flip side, Wakamow Valley, in my opinion, is probably the #1 tourist attraction in the City and I will consider the benefit of everyone in this community over a few who believe in some special interest surrounding the dam. It’s been put off for so long in the capital budget, it’s again one of those issues that should have been dealt with long ago. But, as is most basic infrastructure in our city and others, infrastructure is continually ignored for wants and one-time special interests that don’t necessarily benefit the entire community.

Then there has been the media storm started by Silver Star Salvage. They didn’t get the tender for the City landfill. It’s plain and simple. I do not believe their business revolves solely around the City landfill and in truth, you shouldn’t be trashing your metals in your garbage. It ends up in the landfill. We all could be doing our part and delivering that metal directly TO Silver Star Salvage. If everyone did that, the City wouldn’t require someone to pull it off the face of the landfill. You can drop your metals at Silver Star Salvage and onto their platform during any regular business day. You could also subscribe to Crown Shred who will take it away for you. That’s another story for another day.

And then, the Humane Society. I can’t even get into details on this one because all of our discussions on this topic have been “in-camera” or private. Just know, there are two sides to every story and for a third party board to ask for more money, we are simply asking for some more information in order to make an informed decision. I will not be bullied by anyone.

In all of these cases, I absolutely deplore the fact that fear starts to take over. Fear never works with me. If you challenge me, without all the information, I will challenge you back. I will defend my position on all aspects of these situations. I try my very best to educate myself for each and every decision. I do hope that if you read something or hear something in the news please consider that it may only be providing you with one side of the story. There is for sure only one side being reported when discussions are private and held in-camera as is the case currently with the Humane Society.

In my opinion, the City of Moose Jaw has very serious planning issues in many areas. How I would like to see things fixed is not necessarily how some of my colleagues would like to see fixes. What worries me the most though is the ignorance towards the wisdom and experience around the table with history and how things have been done in the past. I see a pattern of certain decisions and I believe I have a good perspective on what the City’s issues are. We need to lead in all areas and we are not leading. Remember, as per my previous blog post, the status-quo does not require leadership.

Further, the ignoring of the loss of jobs at Valleyview is worrisome. It was confirmed about two weeks ago that Moose Jaw is going to be losing the laundry services and those jobs are being centralized into Regina. As a member of the SUMA board, this is an ongoing theme that I’ve seen with all provincial governments, not just the current one. There is a history of moving good paying jobs from anywhere but Regina and Saskatoon. So much for supporting the entire province.

But where has our voice been on this issue? No where. In my opinion, these are the issues we should be more vocal about. This issue surrounding jobs is where this council and our mayor should be starting the engines and revving up. We stand to lose a lot more if we lose these employees to other communities.

All issues piece themselves together into a cohesive community. We need all the information to make an informed decision. Before you get concerned about an issue, please ask me about the other side. I will do my best to ensure you have all the info as well and also, my perspective. As many of these stories float around the community, let’s all educate ourselves for a better discussion.