Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do the Occupy Protesters REALLY speak for the 99%

I've been following with interest the Occupy Wall Street movement and it's subsequent incarnations in various cities throughout Canada. As I've stated on this blog, I support the Wall Street demonstrators but am continually at a loss to understand the movement here in Canada. Apparently, if you don't fully agree with the entirety of the Occupy movement you are then labelled and dismissed as intellectually inferior. Allow me to demonstrate. Recently, I happened upon the Occupy Vancouver movement at the very time a court ruled that the tents had to be moved. Someone in Vancouver tweeted:
Whether if you are for or against #occupyvancouver you cannot deny the fact that todays ruling is a direct violation of the charter.
to which I responded:
@alexpensato @soyvancouver not so. Upheld right to protest; just no structures on public land. #occupyvancouver
this was then met with the following:
@BSnowsell Sorry. I made a pact w/ myself not to speak to trolls. Pls stay under your bridge. cc @soyvancouver @infil00p @symbi0 #DNFTT
A few days later I was having a prolonged Twitter debate with a good friend of mine who's political leanings are diametrically opposed to mine. We often spar and generally it is good natured and I value his view even though I don't agree with it: that is the nature of a free and open society after all. But our debate was joined by another and I found it interesting that the pro-Occupy folks feel a great deal of liberty to infer motive to my opposition to the Canadian variant of the movement. When I stated my opposition of illegal demonstrations it was characterized as unease over uncomfortable demonstrations.  But, I was not at all uncomfortable walking by the protesters. I've been in many uncomfortable situations, that was not one of them.

When I suggested that, far from being representative of the majority, this movement was a few malcontents yelling loudly, it was assumed that I was afraid of the voice (of the people) and that made me uncomfortable. I again asserted that I was not opposed to free speech but was opposed to the "fringe trying to derail Canada." I was then labelled as paranoid.

For all my life I've watched special interest groups and professional lobbyists make a scene to garner attention...and it works. It's how Greenpeace and PETA stay in existence. They thrive on spectacle and aim to shut the opposition up by making it politically incorrect to speak against them. If you do, well shame on you--you're against [whatever it is they're for] and NO civilized person could ever be against THAT.

This is exactly what is happening with Occupy, only instead of ONE reason for being, they have potentially thousands and no clear idea of how to acheive what they want. And yet, if you point that out--shame on you, you're anti-democracy, you're anti-freedom. There is no logic. And, if you engage the ardent Occupy folks in a discussion, you will be made to believe that you are in a minority, that you just aren't seeing things clearly.

I don't think that's the case. I think most Canadians would agree that, while there are improvements that can be made, there's nothing so wrong that we need a major upheaval or revolution. I also think that the vast majority of people believe that reasonable limits on protests are NOT an infringement on protest. Additionally, I also believe that most folks respect our courts enough to obey their rulings.

However, I could be wrong. Rather than assume I have a pulse on public perception of Occupy, I've put together a short survey to gauge understanding of (or lack thereof) and support for (or lack thereof) the movement. Please take the short survey and if you'd like to leave a comment below, please feel free to do so. This post is now "Up For Discussion."
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

$550,000 to Panhandlers--wise investment?

Short answer: No.  Long answer: No and Yes.  A report came back yesterday that made some recommendations to city council surrounding the issue of panhandling.  What the report found out was that people were not so much concerned with panhandling but rather with the sense of security in certain areas.  In fact the study found out that many Saskatoonians feel unsafe going into certain areas at night.  Downtown, 20th street, Broadway were frequently mentioned.

The report recognized that there are wider issues of mental health, addictions and poverty that come into play and further recognized that unlike Calgary and other centres that they examined we do not have sufficient resources where folks in need can be directed to.  The second recommendation in fact recognized that the "larger issues" are largely provincial areas but that the city could play a role in the following areas:

(a) designing projects that are right  for Saskatoon and building support for them;
(b) finding private funding to assist with such projects; and
(c) making the business case for Government funding for such projects.

The report noted that in Calgary intox facilities (for example) were run by non-profit organizations and that having them run in such a way was preferable due to the likelihood of receiving ongoing private funding.

In fact, all of the subpoints the committee made in regards to addressing the larger issues of homelessness, addiction and poverty through establishment of facilities and housing initiatives make a lot of sense.  What doesn't make any sense though is the recommendation to hire five "bylaw officers" before there are facilities in place to actually address the larger issues.

In Calgary, the city that is mentioned as having this program in place, "bylaw officers" are used to interact with the panhandlers and people on the street in their given area.  When someone new comes in the area they know who they are and what they are about and when required they can direct them to appropriate facilities such an intox centres or shelters or low-cost housing.  As the report points out, Calgary has a wealth of these facilities (again...privately/government funded--not city funded); and, as the report also points out, Saskatoon does not have sufficient facilities.  Our intox centre is regularly full by early evening.

So, the question I have is where are our "bylaw officers" going to be directing people to go to?  If there are no services (and there is a recognition that sufficient services are currently not available) then what is their purpose?  It appears that the sole purpose of the "bylaw officers" is to provide a sense of security to the general public.  Isn't that what our police are for?

If we are going to create a program that is designed to help panhandlers or those with addiction problems or mental health issues, let's make sure we're actually helping them.  Hiring 5 bylaw officers when there is no infrastructure is really just a band-aid solution that is designed to make the public feel good about going downtown at night.  The only thing they realistically will be able to do is call the police.  And that can be done by the very shop owners, restaurant owners and bar owners that are also in the area.

Feeling safe is not a bad thing. That is what the police are for.  If we're talking about helping people off the street, we've got to have viable solutions.  What the report points out is that it is private, non-profit organizations that are best suited to address those concerns.  What Saskatoon should be doing is finding those local non-profit organizations interested in helping folks off the streets and aiding them in securing funding from private and provincial government sources--ie all the things the report indicates in its second recommendation. Once that is done, then and only then should the city entertain the possibility of hiring "bylaw officers."  To do it the other way around is really putting the cart before the horse.

Carts are useful.  They are exponentially more useful when pulled by a horse. The way the current report is structured is backwards. If it is turned around, then it becomes much more palatable. But, in its current form, it would be a further waste of $550,000.  Let's hope City Council gets this right.

This post is up for discussion.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crunching the Numbers: Roads, Crime and Jobs

I've been intrigued by the idea of "Direct Democracy" recently. So, I decided to do my own little poll to gauge the priorities of the citizens of Saskatoon.  Below are the preliminary findings:

Of perhaps no surprise the top priorities are roads, crime and jobs/housing costs. What I do find interesting is that despite the continual talk by the city surrounding transit issues, poor bike lanes, and the need to "not become Calgary" in terms of urban sprawl, those priorities are not being adopted by the public.  Perhaps the below graph indicates why.

Over half of the respondents were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the job their city councillor is doing.  Of interest is that the majority of the respondents that answered this way did not know who their councillor was, or what their role was. And yet over 80% of the respondants to date voted in the last election and plan to vote in the coming election.

The survey is still open and I welcome your input.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Curbside Recycling

As the debate surrounding mandatory curbside recycling continues on (even though the RFP was approved, the process could easily continue on for another year), it occurred to me today that if city council really wanted to know what the people of Saskatoon wanted for a recycling program they could just ask us. There was talk of a plebiscite, but in the current age of technology we really don't have to have an official plebiscite to get a really good indication of what people think. Nor do we have to rely on special interest groups. Yes we have the John Gormley snap polls, but we can do better. We can ask the question and then see how people answer. And this can all be done openly and anonymously. Maybe it's not scientific. But, as a citizen, on important issues, I think it's important to be heard.

So, I give you one simple question about recycling. What is important to you in a recycling program. It's anonymous. It's simple. It's straightforward. And, as the results come in, they too will be shown. Will we get the program that we want? Vegas will take your bets.

Looking forward to compiling your results

Hey, and while you're here, why not take this other short survey on issues in Saskatoon.

Don't Occupy! Get Involved!

My apologies on the delay in posting. There have been developments in the life of this here father/citizen-blogger. As you may have garnered from my blog, I have an interest in political discussions AND I am a proponent of individual responsibility.

Because I love my city, and because of my interests, I prefer NOT to Occupy Anything, but rather to work within the systems and structures that have already been established.  As such, I applied for a number of civic boards recently and just found out that I was appointed to the Development Appeals Board.

I am excited about this posting as it will give me an opportunity to serve my city. As a servant of the city, I endeavour to make decisions that best reflect the opinions of the people I serve.  To that end, I've created a little survey that I would really appreciate your participation in.  It serves no marketing goal.  I have nothing to sell. I simply want to gauge how the average Saskatoonian feels about the current state of affairs in our city.

So, please take 5 minutes ('s only 10 questions), and click on the below link to take the survey. I don't need your name--I just want your voice.  Thanks!