OK, so here’s this month’s agenda. It’s only 319 pages long and primarily concerns itself with the snow-removal-ticketing scheme, and letters. Both of which I am heartily tired. I get that, since a majority of Council voted against raising your taxes another teensy bit to pay for full snow removal, Pat Lorje is seeking other channels to keep the sidewalks open. It’s the logical result you get when you have a populace who insists upon taking things into their own hands to keep their taxes low, but is rapidly losing sight of why they decided to do so in the first place. Add to that certain parts of City staff who are, due to both circumstances under and outside their control, suffering from a morale and/or motivational problem and you have a lovely big no-win fest for everyone. This I find rather depressing due to my lizard-brain urges to fix everything, since I can’t fix this one. Huzzah.

We start off slow for a parking application at Nordon Drugs on Louise. I know this area since I have relatives who live nearby; we frequented that drugstore often. Anyways they want to put a parking station in and subdivide the lot, also putting up a fence and some shrubbery in the process. Since it’s already a parking lot, this will improve things and no opposition is anticipated or expressed.

p. 17 has some more rezoning for higher density in Evergreen. The map also shows “Funk Park”; doubtless the signs, if up, are being vandalized as you read this. Related: does anyone actually use the park names in Saskatoon or do you just describe the area? I still am not quite sure which side of the river Rotary Park is on, and if you had me name all the parks I’ve lived nearby, I could get one (Don Ross park, but that’s just because some wit retitled the sign Diana Ross).

p. 28 has some land use applications received by the Community Service department. Mostly Evergreen but there’s one there for Edmonton Ave.

$25,000 will be allocated to the Indspire awards, to be held in Saskatoon this year. It’s from February 12th to 15th. The full listing of why they’ve decided to fund it can be found on p. 30.

p. 34. SREDA (Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority, Inc) has some tax abatement recommendations. Receiving five-year tax abatements this year, barring Council vote, are…well, I guess that’s later in this agenda.

[edit- it’s on p. 81. The companies are:

  • ACE Manufacturing Inc.
  • Cameco Corporation
  • CNH Canada Ltd.
  • Croatia Industries Ltd.
  • Dymark Industries, Inc.
  • Industrial Machine & Mfg. Inc.
  • JNE Welding
  • Littelfuse Startco
  • SJ Irvine Fine Foods Ltd.
  • Vecima Networks Inc.
  • Yanke Group of Companies/Marcoux Bros. Trucking Ltd.

IRD and Maple Leaf Foods were denied abatements, and Crestline Coach’s is pending.]

p. 39. Clifton Associates wants $109,488 to do a preliminary survey for the NORTH COMMUTER BRIDGE. I’ll have to think of a snappy nickname for this as I suspect it will be an ongoing concern this year. One thing I’d like to point out that the NCB is proposed to join up at Marquis Drive – a street that already has a 60-70 km/h speed limit (I think it’s 70 now but not sure) and developments zoned along it. Like, uh, 42nd Street, but probably more close to 51st. So, those of you expecting a barren swathe of freeway much like Circle Drive South connecting east to west, you will be disappointed. (Do you like how I said 42nd there? I’m showing my age. Nobody under 45 calls Circle North “42nd”. It’s a fact.)

Anyways I’m so over this bridge. Even the Perimeter Highway bridge is passé. Bridges are for vulgar people who have to rush about making money.

p. 42 is another chapter in the saga of the Riverbank Slope Failure, or the Day the Earth Moved 1.5 Metres, (followed immediately by the Spiral Staircase Incident). Since Golder’s been on the case, the administration recommends that Golder continue to be on  the case, to the tune of $100,500. This is for slope stabilization of the public property. No word on what the poor saps in the million dollar duplexes are up to.

p. 46. Household Hazardous Waste days are now being held at SaskPlace. (Credit Union Centre for the p.c. crowd.) I know you’ve all seen those days marked on your garbage collection calendar; if you don’t already know, you can drop off sundry toxic items such as CFLs, paint, aerosol cans, as well as other things you are NOT supposed to be tossing in your black bins (stern glare). As a user of paint and CFLs I am committed to keeping these out of our groundwater supply and so should you. [Edit: the HHW days accept the following: “aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, poisons, pharmaceuticals, propane cylinders, mercury- containing items, and cleaners, to name a few”. That’s right, round up your batteries and drugs. Get them in those Envirotec bins.]

p. 48 is the notice of raising transit fares. They haven’t appended the schedule of new fares, but I happen to know how much they’re going up (I have connections, I believe it’s called “reading the paper”). If you pay cash you won’t notice any difference but I’d stock up on tickets and/or yearly passes if you’re up for one now. You can’t do too much about the monthly pass increase. I know, it’s not that much in the larger scheme of things, but I’m the kind of person who buys permanent stamps in rolls of 100. It’s not like they’re going to go bad. Now let’s just hope I don’t lose my bus card with my 2,000 trips on it anytime soon.

p. 49 has a bit on the energy recovery feasibility study done at the wastewater treatment plant. I guess there is a biogas flare there that they can use to heat some other thing and recover the energy instead of just having a flaming chimney to impress the locals. I don’t know about you guys, but a pipe on fire always says “classy” to me. This is why I refuse to eat anywhere else but Golf’s in Regina.

AECOM’s proposal to harness the power of fire will cost about $1.3 million, net.

p. 54 is about the contract renewal with the Star-Phoenix concerning the City Page. You know, the page you always skip past on your way to Murray Mandryk’s column and the letters. (I, uh, don’t read the Star-Phoenix in dead tree form often.) It’s like a mini-City Council agenda! Without the letters, so of course it’s a bit boring unless you’re directly affected. At any rate I recommend reading it just so you’re not that guy standing in front of Council saying “But nobody tollllld meeeee”, which there were far too many instances of last year. (Mr McClocklin, I’m looking at you.)

We now pause for a quick break while I research digital SLRs. I’m thinking Canon T3i and I saw a kit for a good price at Costco. It’s been a long time since I had a proper camera.

Hmm, looks like Nikon has some serious contenders now too. Normally I prefer Canon but I’m not hidebound. If you have any suggestion that’s around $800 I’m willing to entertain it. Perhaps I shall slither down to Don’s and see what they have on offer. What, now there are mirrorless cameras as well? (Smaller and lighter than SLRs but with minimal differences in picture quality, at least between the lower range SLRs.) Tempting.

Back to the agenda.

Some maps. Evergreen, Kensington. Proposed subdivisions. Yaaah more duplex infill.

p. 64 is the full information bit about the Indspire awards, if you’re curious. It costs 3.3 million to put on.

p. 84 is the Star-Phoenix city page evaluation as well as the rates.

p. 87 is an update on the upgrades to Grodie Howl Bowe.
It contains the secretly hilarious phrase “City Council, as the sole Member of the Friends of the Bowl Foundation”. (I know, it’s not funny to you, but it’s funny to me.) Thus follows a tedious document outlying all the legal ramifications of the organization of the Friends of the Bowl. There is only one member, the City of Saskatoon; there is only one class of membership, and the City of Saskatoon is the sole voting member of the corporation. This sounds like a club I made when I was five, but I digress.

Now we’re onto the reports of the Administration and Finance Committee. (p. 104.) There is a bit again about the hazardous waste collection days.

Now there is a thing about a request from Councillor Donauer. Reading between the lines, he wants to make it cheaper for contractors to rip out trees on City property. Currently you can be fined for damaging a City tree (as you should, they are valuable.) Contractors sometimes find that a tree is in the way of making more building, so they either remove or damage it, and are subsequently fined or issued an order to replant an equivalent shrubbery on the property. More on this later.

Item 3 is a thing about the multi-unit dwelling and recycling program consultations. More on this later.

All right, there is some more in-depth info about the HHW days on p. 107.

Now we’re onto the tree bit as I alluded to earlier. Some history: in March 2012 the council recommended that the administration consider having offending tree-hurters replace the perennials with a shrubbery of equivalent value rather than just paying money for being a slimy topiary-killer. There were three projects that required compensation in 2012; all three scum-sucking foliage murderers opted to pay blood money instead of replacing the innocent arboreal beings.

There are approximately 110,000 trees in this city, each one of whom is precious. If you’re wondering why I’m so het up about this, it’s not because I’ve been befriending any, uh, dank bowls lately. Our dastardly neighbour chopped down the beautiful organism that was shading our massive picture window from the worst of the summer sun. Considering a recent report valued urban treeganisms at about 40k each, due to their overall contribution to the landscape, air quality, and environment, this is no petty crime. Also it probably brought down the value of his house and ours by a significant amount. Happily it is growing back like a bloody weed so I predict many years of shrub wars, or at least until the neighbour goes bankrupt from leasing two new cars every year. Hi, neighbour. I find it unlikely you will be reading this.

Anyways, the cost of a tree is dependent upon its trunk circumference, with an American elm destroyed at St Mary’s going for about 6k. There was one incident with a private contractor who damaged another elm (how much they suffer); the claim submitted was $2,101. The City provided an opportunity to plan three 70 mm elm trees on city property as an alternative to blood money but the contractor opted to pay as he couldn’t buy and install trees for less. This indicates, to me, we’re not charging enough for the trees. Have any of you bought trees lately? They are not cheap. (I am not talking about Reddit trees either, despite my stupid bowl jokes earlier.)

The Urban Forestry department is now being brought into the permit loop, so they can monitor any attempts at tree molestation. Previously the only way trees could address their grievances is if an upstanding member of the public noticed an offence and happened to contact Urban Forestry. Also it informs contractors who may not have realized they do not have omnipotent lumberjack powers. Doubtless this is a thorn in some contractors’ sides, as we all love red tape, and the subtext between Donauer’s request, reproduced in full:

“I have received a number of concerns regarding the compensation formula for tree removal within our trees on city property policy.
Would the Administration please review the formula with the intent on bringing forward options that would provide for compensation more in line with citizen and business expectations.”

My expectations are that it should always be more expensive to buy your way out of the problem rather than just replacing the trees or doing the work properly in the first place. This is why Graham Flatiron is laughing at our piddling 10k per day penalty for the South Bridge. It costs them much more to have other projects delayed, so they work on those first while citizens fume, and Council looks like a bag of chumps. (Hi, Councillors.) This is also why we have crap road repairs that are not done properly as it’s cheaper for the  contractors to pay crap fines or do it over again crappily than to do it right the first time.  (Hi, contractors.) I could go on drawing more comparisons to tearing down vs. renovating, buying new appliances rather than fixing, and the overall idea of spending way more resources on prevention vs curing, but you get the idea. The common denominator is that we, and future versions of us, are left holding the bag. My lawn, you are on it.

In case you’re wondering, the city here has the lowest replacement tree cost in Western Canada.

Also, despite what p. 115 says, there are environmental implications to this agenda item.

p. 117 has the form for tree appraisal, if you’re interested in the formula.

p. 118 gets into the lovely shiny happy fun-fest that is going to be the Multi-Unit Dwelling Recycling Program. If you’ve been living under a fantastic rock, Cosmo has been awarded sole-source as a sop for not getting the big ticket item: curbside recycling. This means we now have a two-tier level of recycling in this city (or we will, when it comes online in 2015): single, unsorted bins for the lucky homeowners and home dwelling types; and user-sorted, no-glass-allowed bins for the harried condo and apartment dwellers.

There’s been a distressing movement towards two-tiered (or more) levels of service in this society and I’ll say right now I’m not a fan of it. You can just brush this off as an irate remark from someone making less than the median wage; but mind you, inequality isn’t something that happens to other people. It’s what’s behind the rise in food-bank and shelter usage; property crimes and theft; gated communities and private police forces; and ultimately, hospitals turfing people out on the street. It makes society less safe, less pleasant, and more fearful, and it has a snowball effect. I’m not advocating for Communism 2.0, but it’s time that people who benefit from the system give a bit more back so the system can help others as they themselves were helped. Think Scandinavia, not North Korea. Anyways, if you may permit a vaguely Occupyish tone, dividing society into different levels based on the arbitrary division of resources pits citizens against each other, and diverts your attention from the steady consolidation of real power and resources to the top. [waves fist vaguely in air]

The agenda is now discussing the options for public consultations. There will be afternoon and evening public info sessions in both ends of the city; online Q and As, and info display booths in Market Mall. (Just Market Mall.) Consultations are expected to begin February 15th and be done by April 30th. I strongly urge those of you affected (stacked shoebox denizens) to attend, although there is a lack of information as to when these meetings will occur.

I’ll repost the “environmental  implications” in full here, for those of you under the aforementioned rock, or who claim there’s no real monetary value in recycling:

Recycling will significantly extend the life of the Saskatoon Regional Waste Management Centre (Landfill). An additional 2 years is expected to be added to the life of the Landfill as a result of this convenient and comprehensive recycling program. This is equivalent to recapturing 4% of the landfill airspace each year. The value of this recaptured airspace is equivalent to a savings to tax-payers of $25.3 million.
Recycling also has significant and positive greenhouse gas implications. The energy used to manufacture, transport, and dispose recyclable materials is large. Energy savings of 95% are possible when aluminum cans are recycled and for 6.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas (C02e) is saved for every tonne recycled. For every tonne of newspaper recycled, 2.8 tonnes C02e are saved. For every tonne plastic recycled, 2.3 to 3.6 tonnes C02e are saved.

p. 121 is the riveting PowerPoint. (It’s not riveting.)

All right. I am going to break for a bit here. It’s lovely outside and I need to go research some vegetables for the household. Coming up: we have an exciting subsidized rental housing for Evergreen as well as the massively polarizing Sidewalk Clearing police program. Also some letters. Hot tip: everyone is angry.