Posts Tagged ‘yyc

Calgary alderman talking the talk on freedom of information

- March 15th, 2013

gordlowe

Gord Lowe doesn’t always say the right things.

He is one of the biggest defenders of the city’s budget, the first to say we’re getting good bang for our buck, even though many of us disagree.

But he deserves credit for his take on information requests.

He’s right, the city should just automatically disclose info that’s routinely requested. It’s a boon for transparency, and could possibly save the city some cash in the long run.

And if the data is publicly available, I have less concern with Lowe’s notion of charging people to have it compiled to their specifications. That’s a user fee I could support, so long as the public data was somewhat user-friendly.

Either way, this is a better approach than the one taken by Lowe’s council colleague Dale Hodges who was more interested in cost recovery.

Calatrava controversy rolls on

- February 10th, 2013

I’m sure there isn’t an employee at city hall, or an alderman on council who doesn’t want to see the Peace Bridge issue go away. Hell, even I think perhaps the matter may need to be put to rest.

But …

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

Stuff keeps coming out about the whole thing.

The Peace Bridge had many critics, yours truly among them.

I think the bridge looks plenty cool, but I question whether it serves the purpose as it was pitched, whether it’s needed cycling infrastructure, whether the design contract was awarded according to the rules laid out in the city’s own master plan for the core — CentreCity.

Anyway, all that aside, the bridge had fervent defenders. Bloggers, tweeps, journalists, online commenters, but none more fervent than bureaucrats and aldermen.

Trust me. I took my fair share of criticism for columns assailing the bridge. Some warranted, some not, and all in all, I’m fine agreeing to disagree. I just hope the city learns a lesson from what was, arguably a PR nightmare.

So it’s baffling to think the city would have to defend itself against an architect who was hand-picked, heralded by bridge supporters and promoted every step of the way.

I may not have agreed with what they had to say, and find this development a delicious twist of irony, but I will give them credit for lovin’ the one they were with. To the bitter end. Even though I didn’t agree with it.

Just a shame the Chosen One couldn’t see that from his perch in Manhattan.

Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson ends 2012 on right Opportunity

- January 1st, 2013

Rickhanson

Calgary’s top cop can be hard to pin down, and I often don’t see eye-to-eye with him.

I’ve disagreed with his stance on the police budget, distracted driving, and his response to investigations involving his officers. Just about a year ago, I took him to task for pushing a very old-fashioned approach to dealing with social disorder: Raising the drinking age. The numbers, I said last January, just don’t bear out his theory.

But there are times where we see eye to eye, and he has ended 2012 pushing a very progressive approach to crime — attempting to keep people with mental health and addiction issues out of the justice system.

Programs like the Calgary Drug Court have proven successful because they help deal with the cause of some people’s criminal ways, drug addiction, and ensure they receive help for that addiction.

Recidivism rates among graduates in programs like this are low, so they help reduce crime, and keep the costs to the taxpayer down. A win-win for people who want to stamp out crime and save cash.

Hanson has taken the approach a step further, and announced in a year-end interview with the Sun the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre would open this year, helping people get in touch with appropriate resources, whether health or social care, and hopefully prevent people from turning to crime.

These kinds of initiatives are essential to help keep streets safe, and are an important step forward.

With this pilot project a go, here’s hoping Hanson moves to pressure the province on his next big cause: So-called “safe jails,” where addicts whose crimes are more serious are serving time in facilities for addicts.

Every addict who comes out of jail clean of drugs is one less addict we need to worry about.

Calgary’s bar scene leaving Beltline shaken, stirred

- November 12th, 2012

I have a bit of sympathy for residents who live near 17 Ave. S.W.

For the most part, people are accepting of the trade-off that comes with living in the core: you’re in the middle of town, but that means it’s going to be noisy, especially on the weekend.

But I get why people would want drunks doing a number 1 or, worse, a number 2 near their front door.

At some point in time, Connaught and Victoria Park were probably a little more quiet, but anyone who moved here in the last eight years would kidding themselves to think it was solely a residential area with some restaurants and retail.

I’ve often been baffled that the bar scene in Calgary, and Edmonton, for that matter, didn’t crop up downtown. In Calgary’s case, the Beltline is at least adjacent to the core than in the capital, but I digress.

As drunks are wandering near where people live on a weekly basis, there are complaints, and now a move afoot to clamp down on the problem.

What reports like this fail to recognize, and what Mar, as someone who raises the spectre of Electric Avenue need to realize, is that attempts to engineer results in an area like this may cap the problem, but it won’t reduce the problem.

It will also push the problem to other areas.

A concerted “social engineering” push may have quieted Electric Avenue, but 17 Ave. eventually cropped up.

A reduction in concentration of bars, or winning a war of attrition, may reduce problems for some residents in Mar’s ward, but it will spread drunks elsewhere, make it harder to plan transportation strategies for dealing with bar crowds, and, honestly, will help kill Calgary’s growing image as a place with something going on.

A vibrant nightlife is part of building an image as a city that isn’t just a stopping point on the way to Banff.

And, if social engineering ever actually worked, wouldn’t the success in dealing with Electric Avenue have prevented 17 Ave.’s problems from ever happening?

Dialling up questions on distracted driving law success

- June 21st, 2012

For the last few months, Alberta has been under rule of the distracted driving legislation, banning talking, texting, makeup application, reading, etc., while behind the wheel.

I have written my fair share about problems with the law, including provisions that prohibit changing music yet still allows lighting a smoke, or the nice sections that say you can’t even check your phone if you’re stuck at a rail crossing. And as a top traffic cop has suggested he’s seeing people go to greater lengths to hide banned behaviour, thereby taking eyes further off the wheel, there is fear of a greater risk of crashes.

But at least one member of the force is crediting the law for a reduction in crashes.

“I personally believe that’s the reason,” said CPS spokesman Kevin Brookwell, regarding the perceived link between the province’s distracted driving law and a large drop in crashes in the last three months of 2011 and the same period of 2010.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, there were about 9,400 crashes, compared to more than 13,000 in 2010.

A nice drop. Nothing to sneeze at, really. Fewer crashes are a good thing.

But because of the distracted driving law? Prove it.

Just because the legislation came into effect Sept. 1, doesn’t mean it gets credit for the drop.

After all, in the previous year’s three months, there was a drop of 2,000 crashes. And that followed two years of hikes.

Maybe some drivers were being extra cautious in Calgary in 2010 AND 2011. Maybe the new law played a role, but no one can give it credit for the whole drop.

To continue the analysis and looking at the first three months of 2012, a similar claim could be made. After all, from 2011 to 2012, there was a drop of about 2,000 crashes for the quarter.

But there was a larger drop, 3,000 fewer crashes, between the same periods in 2009 and 2010 and that drop was book-ended by spikes.

Traffic patterns, including crashes, fluctuate.

A drop can never be attributed to a single factor, and that includes distracted driving legislation.