Posts Tagged ‘aldermen

Stupid spending

- January 10th, 2012

Bixi

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or the Calgary Sun newspaper, then you know that we are not fans of stupid, wasteful spending by our governments.

And it’s always nice to know we’re not alone.

Not to give another outlet too much credit, but Maclean’s magazine has a great cover piece this week titled “99 stupid things the government did with your money.”

It’s a pretty comprehensive list, including stupidity at the federal, provincial and municipal level. Calgary gets rapped for the public art expected to grace the airport tunnel, as well as the tens of thousands spent in court over a $100 ticket given to our notorious street preacher.

I’m a touch disappointed the soon-to-open Peace Bridge didn’t make the cut for stupidity. It has all the requirements: dodgy process, lack of design competition, big price tag, proximity to other bridges, and it even violates the city’s overarching policy it was supposed to help us meet.

But I digress.

While all the items should be of note to governments and citizens across the country, there was one that should give us pause.

Late last year, the Sun pointed out to Calgarians members of council were looking to spend millions on a bike share program to allow cycle commuting around the core.

This, despite repeated pleas the city could possibly cut anything more out of the upcoming budget.

As Michael Platt points out in the column linked there above, Ald. Druh Farrell suggested Calgary copy Montreal’s vaunted Bixi bike share.

The problem, as Maclean’s points out, is that Bixi isn’t a model anyone should be following.

The City of Montreal has been forced to give municipally owned, and money-losing, Bixi $108 million in loans and loan guarantees as it has run into problems after expanding into Toronto and Ottawa.

From Maclean’s:

Mayor Gérald Tremblay insisted taxpayer money would all be paid back once Bixi becomes an international bike-sharing powerhouse. Not so fast, warned the city’s auditor general. Montreal taxpayers could suffer significant losses, he said, because “basic rules of management were neglected or circumvented.”

As Calgary city audits have shown, neglecting basic rules of management is not something exclusive to Montreal.

The money needed to start up a bike share program in Calgary is far from the $108 million bailing out Bixi, but it would be stupid to spend anything on a program that isn’t in any way a necessity to make Calgary a better place.

Beyond that, proponents of the program haven’t managed to dig up anyone pining for such an extravagance.

When the item was up for discussion at a city committee in December, no one interested in the plan was present to pitch for it.

In my first column of 2012, I asked people to resolve not to be so stupid this year. Killing the bike share discussion would be a step in the right direction.

City has to get act together

- October 3rd, 2011

cityhalllion
Nearly a third of Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s first term is done, and while he remains popular with some segments in this city, some of us have been left wondering.

Where are we with the bold agenda he set out in the election? Here’s hoping he rolls out a checklist around the anniversary, because we’re wondering.

But beyond the mayor, our aldermen have a lot to answer for as I mention in this week’s column. A year later,it doesn’t feel as if anything has changed.

And things really need to change.

Math, logic not qualification to be aldermen

- February 6th, 2011

Say what you will about fluoridation of the drinking water in this city.

Say what you will about the conspiracy theorists, scientists and libertarians all weighing in on the debate.

The controversy surrounding the debate has been the terribly arrogant way with which it has been dealt.

Northeast alderman Jim Stevenson unintentionally illustrated the point Sunday afternoon in conversation with the Sun:

Ald. Jim Stevenson, another staunch opponent of water fluoridation, said a plebiscite leaves the fate of all in the hands of a few.
“I don’t think 53% of the 30% who vote should be able to force a medication on a 100% of the people of the city,” he said.
“It’s not the right way to decide mass medication.”

Sure Jim. Let’s not let 53% of the 30% who vote decide the issue for everyone. But let’s let seven crusaders, elected by just 7.5% of Calgarians and convinced by an even smaller minority fluoride is bad, get one of their colleagues to join them in making a decision for 100% of the people. Math obviously isn’t his strong suit.

Council’s gimme

- December 20th, 2010

During the mayor’s race, and even leading up to the campaign, new Mayor Naheed Nenshi made a point of talking about council getting bogged down with issues that don’t matter, while pointing out our aldermen were letting serious issues pass by with little debate.

A serious problem, to be sure. In this vein, he caught most traction with his swipe at rival Ric McIver over a lack of questions asked about the police budget.

Despite his insistence council needed to worry more about tackling some serious problems, Nenshi’s council recently got caught up in the recurring name game debate, and as of 2013, our aldermen will be referred to as councillors.

As Ian Robinson so expertly put it in his most recent column, Ald. Druh Farrell was right in suggesting the change will do little, if any, of the things proponents say it will.

Nenshi certainly is right that this change will cost little, and be cared about by few, but in terms of pressing problems, it ranks fairly low.

So this is his gimme, his non-issue. We’ll let this one go. Yay we’re all inclusive now, and stuff.

In 2011, let’s get down to business, alder… I mean, councillors.