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Right, sorry, sorry. I am a bit late on this one. It’s just that Top Gear is an actual hour long! And you can’t just watch one.

Things covered in this agenda that I am not going to talk about:

1. The Point 9 development for the absolutely fabulously walkable University Heights
2. The decision to formalize the allotment of extra funds garnered through development
3. The taxi bylaw and accessible cab licensing fiasco
4. The awarding of the snow dump site pushing contract
5. The upgrading of the wastewater treatment plant computer network and software from it’s c. 1995 (!) operating system
6. The awarding of the North Downtown Plan plan
7. The report on the Saskatoon.ca website
8. The 2012 tax assessment report
9. The report on the abuse of engine retarder brakes within city limits (conclusion: it’s a problem, but difficult to enforce.)
10. The report of the Administration and Finance Committee on the Neighbourhood Land Development Fund and the District Energy Systems Feasibility report.
11. The report on the projected return of investment for the Hampton Village and Willowgrove. Actually, I am going to comment a bit on this. It’s rather alarming that the city is expanding three neighbourhoods at once, especially in light of the declining house sales across the board in Canada. I mean, it’s not certain Saskatoon will follow suit. City managing is like turning a tanker around, but I’d rather not see the allegorical sequel to S.S. City of Medicine Hat vs Traffic Bridge. (If the housing market does indeed tank, I get rights to this allegory, journalists! You owe me money!) Anyways Willowgrove is completely sold out of single and multi-family residential lots. There are less that 25 lots in the Hamptons. Come on down! Ha ha, I am such a crank on this subject. Gonna change my Twitter handle to “HENRY MAYDAY”. (™ ME)

12. the sale of the last bit of property – the commercial bit – in Willowgrove Square. You know the place, the goofy square-shaped park deal that always ices up like a motherfucker in winter where you can bust out some sweet slides, not that I would ever do such a thing. Also you can park there and make out/deal drugs/discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything in your little car-box of Emotion, because you’re 17.

Things covered in the agenda that I am going to talk about:
The S.S. CIty of Medicine Hat. It has a lovely report, starting on p. 153, that I badly want to edit for grammar and spelling. Some background: the captain was Horatio Hamilton Ross and Ye Old Boate cost $28,000 to build – about $683k today – for a 130 foot ship. Anyways, they were coming up from Medicine Hat to Winnipeg. Our noble boat (I just like calling it a boat, okay) stopped before the bridge in order to let people off to Not Drink Alcohol. After firing up again, the majestic vessel promptly got entangled in telegraph wires and kronched at a leisurely pace into the southernmost bridge pier (now surrounded by land). There were no casualties. This, my friends, is the Greatest Marine Disaster in the history of Saskatoon. (The runner-up is the person who parked their SUV in the river this fall, with an honourable mention to the dude who tried to escape the cops by swimming across the river.) Other notable marine disasters in Saskatchewan: the one guy in Clavet every year who insists on driving his skidoo across the slough when it’s not ready; Wascana Lake; and the Lumsden Duck Derby.

Wait, what? “At the time of the crash, a small herd of cattle was being driven across the bridge from the east to the west to the stockyards”. This is more exciting to imagine than the ol’ S.S. expiring gracefully on the side of the bridge.

All right, who wrote this report? “Grand Truck Railroad”? The only Grand Truck Railroad I know of in this city is Circle Drive North.

They’ve found approximately 1,000 artifacts. This may surprise you but the Stantec archaeologists have concluded that the artifacts are most likely from the S.S. City of Medicine Hat (here listed as the “S.S. CIty Medicine Hat”. Macros are your friends, anonymous report writer.)

Annnd IMDB is listed as a source. As well as Wikipedia. The City of Saskatoon: less rigorous than your 8th-grade English teacher.

Yay, the North Downtown energy study. Previous to this agenda, this is one thing that I hadn’t thought about: where all the energy is going to come from to power this infill. Anyways the report has found that “a district energy system developed in Saskatoon would be profitable.” Since it’s a bit smaller, the power source can be changed over at a reasonable cost to something more sustainable (insert hot-air-politician joke here). Other areas of the city that qualify for a local energy district are: Evergreen, Holmwood (whatever that is) and the North Downtown. The rest of you lot are not dense enough to justify having a local energy-generating source. (No, but seriously, where is Holmwood? Is the city just making up areas now?) Anyways the report indicates that partnering with a private-sector energy company would produce an “acceptable rate of return for the City”.

Ohh Holmwood is the area the City just annexed from our friends, the RM of Corman Park, may they rest in peace. Seriously? That’s going to be super dense? I suppose that it’s easier now to just make all new developments denser than integrate density into existing neighbourhood and feel the prickle of many pitchforks in the small of your back. It’s just that Holmwood is going to be, like, so far, from, like everything. (Everything being Broadway and Downtown, where I spend most of *my* non-working time.) Oh, I’m sorry, if you’re looking for journalistic integrity and bias-free reporting, you’ll have to look somewhere else.  I’m not quite sure where, though.

Also in this section, Charlie Clark asked about sucking some more heat off the water entering the river from the power plant, in order to solidify the river’s surface a bit. Unfortunately this would cost A Lot, so no skating on the river for you. Even if there wasn’t any hot water dumped into our glorious waterway, the City would have a hell of a time stopping people from looking for a quick shortcut regardless of thickness of ice.

p. 182, if you’re following along has a terrific bit of manager-speak. The bit it’s about, if you care, is the implementation of the new telephone system along with the establishment of a Unified Communications Reserve (this sounds like socialist propaganda to me.) Here it is, in its entirety:

“This report supports the long-term strategy of increasing staff productivity by being more efficient and leveraging new technology to improve operational efficiency under the Strategic Goal of A Culture of Continuous Improvement.”

Leveraging! I love it. You know what else has “a culture of continuous improvement?” Microsoft. I think of this lovingly every time I update my work computer and my drivers are all fucked. I also love it when I unplug the keyboard and it FREAKS OUT. It also refuses to turn on without a keyboard plugged in. I suppose there’s some sort of analogy I could draw here. Look under “W” on the Saskatoon.ca website for more city worker jokes! Whoops, it’s under “H” for “Hackneyed”.

So, the new telephone system, as I understand it, will be a sort of proto-Skype (phoning people using the power of the intertubes). The police and fire phones won’t be migrated until later. I just have one burning, throbbing question: what happens if the power goes out? The savings gained by switching ($20,000 net) doesn’t mean much if, hello, there is some sort of oh, I don’t know, ACT OF NATURE. I suppose we are in the glorious 21st century, but growing up in a rural area with frequent power outages, the fact that you could still pick up your old landline phone and call your neighbour is worth something. (The conversations would go like this: “Hi, it’s so and so. Do you have power? No? OK. Who else doesn’t have power?” Oftentimes we could determine where the power was out based on our rudimentary form of triangulation. Then we would call SaskPower and ask, not unlike our Eastern cousins, how long we’d have to freeze in the dark.)

Fiiine. I’ve just been reading a lot of Sandy coverage lately and now I’m looking at things like “crank flashlights” and “wood stoves that generate electricity”. I’m sure we’ll be OK. The City is working on a disaster response plan, right? Right? Oh god, how much are zodiac rafts. I’ll take two. Wait, with no power plant operating, the river will freeze. Now I am starting to understand the thought process of certain persons who live in Clavet.

p. 196 makes reference to an “urban village” which seems rather oxymoronic to me. I know what they’re driving at, but do we have to make everything sound quaint in order to make it palatable? That was a rhetorical question. All these questions on here are rhetorical, in case you were wondering. There’s a bunch of stuff here about What Is Allowed and What Is Not Allowed, in case you live around that area and your pitchforks are getting dull. (I keep mine nice and sharp.) Also some things on LEED standards, architectural standards etc.

p. 210 is the RFP. The RFP is fun to read if you’re familiar with the area, as you will enjoy the discrepancy in how the City describes the area vs how it is generally used (see above.) Anyways it should be rather entertaining once it’s done, especially if the city doesn’t use ice-mitigating techniques. Seriously, you can go down there in winter and re-create Tokyo Drift without any loss of tire rubber. (Other forms of loss, such as self-respect, may occur.)

p. 230 recommends the charging of fees for snow-dump users. I am not sure if you read the letters to the editor in the Star-Phoenix, but if you do, then you will understand the following: HOW MANY CHILDREN WILL DIE BECAUSE OF THIS SHAMELESS DECISION? (Seriously though, props to the guy for busting out the child-killing factor. It’s an angle that I wish Saskatoon Cycles would pursue more aggressively in their lobbying efforts.) (Yes, holy Odin, I am being sarcastic here. Or am I? I mean, what are children, but pawns to advance our own agenda? Literally, if you consider the genetic factor. Children: small, occasionally adorable, meat-pylons and/or political wedges.)

Fine, I’ll list the gist of this letter: a snow-dumping person wrote in that charging user fees would result in more piles of snow being stored in/on private property rather than hauled away. Children play on the resulting piles of snow, which will invariably collapse and send them off gently into that good night. Ergo: charging fees for snow dumping would result in the deaths of children. Wait till this guy sees the stats on how many children die in car collisions. HOW MANY CHILDREN WILL DIE BECAUSE PEOPLE INSIST ON DRIVING CARS? (A lot.)

Ok, I’m rather done with this lot. Next: the communications to Council.

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Speakers:

Adam Pollock thinks the Traffic Bridge replacement is bollocks, and that the north bridge is where it’s at. He’s got an idea and he wants to present it.

The next letter is from exemplary citizen, Prof. J. L. Grover. He wants to talk about homelessness and affordable housing.

Ted Popel would like to address the subject of committees of council. He does not elaborate further.

The Chamber of Commerce would like to address Council for being declared the “business friendliest Canadian city”. (It appears that the Chamber has dropped the hammer portion of their logo, an issue which I have struggled mightily with in various forms. They sponsor a lot of things which I have to print ads etc. for, and the logo is only available in some bullshit 72 dpi minuscule jpeg.)

Patti from the Heritage Council just wants to welcome new members and remind them that the Saskatoon Heritage Society is always watching.

CUPE wants to talk about the library workers.

Oh, I see. The situation at Marquis Court is that there’s only one exit. It’s for Richardson House of Fixtures and Supplies, in the new area in the Marquis Drive vicinity (which is why it doesn’t show up on the map.) She’s concerned that if there is a fire, they will not be able to leave the property. I am going to suggest that the City abolish their unfortunate plan of surrounding new developments with steep-walled moats full of wild boars. Hopefully the administration will come to their senses and approve another exit, so the good citizens of this development do not suffer an awful and untimely death in case of a totally unforeseen fire. I am also sure that the property managers at this location have installed adequate smoke detectors and other fire-suppression systems. It would be horrible to be responsible, even indirectly, for the deaths of other people.

Neale Hall is, uh, wanting to talk about the disrespectful attitude of the Saskatoon Police Service towards Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Canadian citizens. (He makes no mention of international visitors.) He states that he doubts Premier Wall is going to let this situation continue.

Mrs Gaynor Baker wishes to address the issue of fireworks. She lives on Rayner Ave; there is a convenience store on that same street that sells fireworks. She suffers from PTSD and loud bangs are understandably distressing for her. She would like the sale and use of fireworks limited to public holidays.

The FCM is acknowledging receipt of payment for a thing.

The Santa Claus(e) Parade is taking place on the 18th. The theme is “A Cartoon Christmas”.

Craig Allan says everyone he knows has nothing good to say about the “eighty million dollar art gallery”. He states that it is “for the rich” and that “less the [sic] one percent of the population is into art”. He is also concerned about the South Bridge project. Calgary was able to build their ring road in less time; perhaps the City engineers could go on a field trip and learn how to speed things up. Craig Allan is not taking any of your bullshit. This is my own interpretation of Craig Allan’s position.

The Polaris Institute has sent a helpful paper about P3’s. (No, it is not People Pavement Progress). Sadly, he has sent it to the wrong people, as he says it will help “counsellors” who might have questions or concerns about P3s. In case you were wondering, it appears that the Polaris Institute has goals and positions that are diametrically opposed to those of, say, the Fraser Institute. If you would like to read further, the report is on p. 330. I, for one, look forward to our new Cameco North Bridge To Future Prosperity. It will be a great architectural and engineering feat to sleep under.

Mary Parent is concerned about the sale of the Saskatoon Inn. Those dastardly Winnipeggers are coming in to mineral-spa(m) the place. She says that the name of the hotel represents our city, an irrefutable fact. Anyways, with the loss of the KG and the Victoria Bridge, this is the last straw. She wants to know what we will lose next; I am sure the administration will be delighted to inform her.

Stephen Holinaty would like the smoking ban to include all businesses, instituting a 10-metre zone outside. At this point, I would like to suggest that perhaps it is easier to enforce smoking zones as opposed to non-smoking zones.

p. 334 is a letter to, uh, everyone involved in either governance or health care. It is, ah, a bit difficult to summarize, but it’s mainly about the failure of levels of government to responsibly co-operate on health-care strategy. Parts of it are in both official languages of Canada. He has also copied-and-pasted other communications with government officials.

SEIU-West is concerned about CETA (Canadian-European Trade Agreement). I don’t know too much about this at this point. You do the work. I’ve gotta go back to school so I can participate in this new thing they call the knowledge-based economy.

Sandra Finney would just like to make sure your motives are pure, newly-appointed City Mothers and Fathers. Some people, she says, are being left out of our current economic munificence. Booms are for everyone (unless you are Mrs Gaynor Baker).

Donna Roller says IMAX is planning 110 to 125 new theatres next year and that we should try to get one. The city will get back to you with a PO, Donna. Actually, they can just make out the PO to me and I’ll arrange it. (It’s OK, just leave the amount line blank. I’ll fill it in once I get a final answer from the IMAX people.) Wait, we might want to check if we can get a cheaper one from Europe.

Allan Regehr is an expert on the City. Well, maybe not an expert. But he knows how the city works. He urges Council to get things done and  is rather prescient about the length of time to finish the South Bridge (his letter was submitted before the “whoops, we won’t finish the bridge till July 31, 2013” story which I am not forgetting about despite the fact it was released on a Friday before the long weekend.). He’s upset about the effect the finished bridge will have upon the Circle/Ave C/Idylwyld intersection (a valid concern) and angry that the engineer he contacted didn’t have a solution. I think there was a report on this intersection in a previous agenda, and it’s a big terrible mess but there’s no room to put in a proper cloverleaf intersection without buying out a lot of lucrative business property.

(I should really brush up on the law as pertaining to libel and/or slander. I think I’m covered under fair comment here but not entirely sure as technically I’m not a journalist.)

The Broadway BID wants to be sole vendor for an event, Broadway Spirit of Christmas 2012. They are also wishing to close 11th Street between Broadway and Dufferin. It’s unclear if the jumping green men will be present.

Now some notices of Appeals Board Hearings.

D&S Homes is trying to build a care home that exceeds the maximum site coverage zoned for that property (4.825% over).

Ryan Thiessen, owner of 66 & 68 Davidson Crescent, is trying to shoehorn a 3rd unit into a 2-unit building without a permit.

1302/1304 Avenue D North is another illegal four-unit dwelling conversion. They’re complying with the order but want more time to fix it.

The rest are all fairly generic, the usual setback or site coverage or parking deficiencies.

p. 369. Mr Daniel Hagen, of Bornstein Cres. has some comments about bridges. He is in favour of raising taxes by 1% to specifically target the infrastructure deficit, and an additional 1% for the North Bridge. Incidentally Mr Hagen’s address is on file in the agenda, those of you who feel your tax load is unjust.

Allan Herman is doing the math and is not pleased with the results of the latest infrastructure report.

Jonas Kiedrowski congratulates the Mayor on his election but is concerned with his comments on CBC dismissing the concerns of the people who did not vote for him. Mr Kiedrowski can also do math, and points out that with the current turnout, only 19% of voters chose Mr Atchison as mayor.

Don Sturm wants to know “what is up” with the entrance to the City from the west side. It’s not very…cohesive.

Shelby Trautman believes that if we were to invest in a more efficient system it will be a benefit to the city. High-fives to Shelby. She’s tired of receiving vague platitudes. We all are, Shelby. We all are.

Alex Pfeifer thinks we need to have a police presence directing traffic at Sask Place for all events, not just the major ones. He’s also concerned with pushy motorists endangering themselves by not respecting (or acknowledging) the physics involved with the operation of large semi tractors and trailers that are also present at the Husky station.

Shane Kartz is from Hampton Village and he is convinced the city is trying to make lives miserable for the residents therein. His letter is quite detailed. It involves stop signs and lines of vehicles over a kilometre long. He also threatens to smack himself over the head with a hammer if the situation isn’t resolved. You’re doing it wrong, Shane. You have to threaten to smack someone else. If you take yourself out of commission, all the City gets is less irate missives, so there’s little incentive for them to acknowledge your concerns.

Christine White is concerned about the speeding on McClocklin Road. Motorists aren’t stopping for children to cross the road (at a crosswalk) in order to get to school.

Charlcie Vidmar has had her garbage can run over and the city is not replacing it quickly enough. (The wheels are smashed off so she can’t drag it up into her yard.)  There are a lot of exclamation points used here.

Pat Tymchatyn is angry that Idylwyld traffic northbound is blocking the 31st street intersection during rush hour(s).

Margi Corbett is inquiring about the current status of Parcel Y.

Jennifer Jungwirth has some suggestions for the improvement of the Circle Drive – Airport Drive intersection.

Anita Hrytsak didn’t get her garbage picked up this week (September 25th). Neither did her neighbours. She would like to know when they plan on coming back? Please come back.

Marie Villeneau wants to know when Junor & 37th street will be opened.

Reid Schmidt is disappointed that there will still be an at-grade railway crossing as part of the Circle Drive South project. Wait, we will have an at-grade crossing there? Has anyone been on the Ring Road, like, ever?

We have a couple letters about Fairmont and 22nd St intersection, which has been resolved if news reports are correct. I am relieved.

Elsie Hanel-Jones is upset that the city is thinking about tossing out two faithful golf course employees. Also Holiday Park in particular is looking terribly shabby these days.

Tamara Wiebe wants traffic lights on Highway 11 and Warman Road (another person who refuses to use the name “Wanuskewin”) (Look, I like Wanuskewin, It is a lovely place. I don’t care for renaming roads halfway through the intersection just because.)

Jacklyn Regnier is embarrassed at the level of service 105th Street receives, specifically concerning street cleaning. Her car is dirty and she will not be voting for Mayor Atchison in her first election for which she is eligible to vote. It’s like we live in some backwards flat town…oh.

Joe Penner had a very bad surprise on the exit off Warman Road to Circle Drive East. It “turns suddenly into a sharp corner without warning”. This is alarming to me, as I use that exit often and I’m concerned about any sharp corners that may be installed there. Anyways, he ended up on the boulevard across the road in a “totalled off” car and his wife has a broken hand. I am trying to figure how he did this in my head and I’m saddened he didn’t include some sort of diagram. At any rate, he’s written a letter to council, so his wife’s hand is, er, in their hands. After close reading, the injury is implied to be a result of the crash but not specifically stated so. Someone should have a city lawyer call up and clarify that. It could be important later.
Gary Harbottle is upset that the Circle and Clancy Drive intersection will be restricted for the foreseeable future due to the Circle Drive South project. I hope Gary doesn’t get his hopes up that they’ll open it up over the winter.

Bret Donnelly got lost trying to go to Rosetown and wants some better signs showing the detour around the Shaw Centre. Or, he would have been lost if he didn’t live here.

Miss Gladys Hall has called the “HOT LINE” and has further information pertaining to the “rodent infested trash pile” on 2nd Avenue North between 25th and 24th. She has included a helpful and detailed map of the area. It’s across from the Pat, insert trash-pile joke here.

Lorena Friesen lives in Stonebridge and works at RUH. She is trying to take the bus to work, but the buses fill up at Place Riel and blow by her without stopping while she is waiting at College and Munroe. There’s a half-hour wait between buses and she doesn’t have enough time to boot it to Place before the bus leaves there. I am sure that the current Remembrance Day-themed messages on the bus LED displays are not helping. “Lest We Forget” indeed. She also has children and every half-hour is precious. Come on, buses, just stop for her.

Courtney Reinhardt has a creative solution for garbage at the landfill. She wants to build a “Pre-Loved Depot” for things people don’t want anymore but that other people can still use. OK, she finishes it off with stating she is in grade 10. I would very likely have written the same letter at her age. (Wait till she finds out that the charity she donates her used clothing to most likely just sells her good intentions to the rag merchants. We are drowning in cheap shit here. There’s a reason why Reduce is the first R.)

Iva Beck would like the Lakewood pool to be salt, instead of chlorine (she’s allergic.)

The Water Finance Research Foundation, with a truly awful letterhead, would like to submit a report about water main break rates in North America. If you’re interested, it starts on p. 399. It’s actually somewhat interesting?

Ken Ellis has a grievance about his Evergreen lot. He bought it, realized that it wasn’t a good fit, and then returned it to the store, he estimates, 6 months later. Unfortunately the store charged him a restocking fee, it appears, of some 13 grand and change. And then the store turned around and sold it for 17 grand more than he paid for it. (He states that this is “ludicrous” but if the City were indeed a private business, this would be termed “good business practice” and applauded by the shareholders.) He’s thinking about going to the local press (journalists take note). I am not quite sure of his next point but I believe his premise is that if the City sold the lots for a third of their market value, the bedroom communities wouldn’t be booming and the city would have all this glorious taxable new properties for themselves. Ourselves? Itself? Anyways he gets in a crack about how Saskatoon is just copying Calgary. Zing!

I am so glad that Ken Ellis and I agree on the importance of government-subsidized affordable housing. It is an affront that the government is asking us to pay market value for a public good.

(But seriously, I am somewhat interested to find out whether they ripped Mr Ellis off or if there is indeed a “restocking fee”.)

More Fairlight/Fairmont/Diefenbaker/22nd St traffic woes. There are a surprising amount of letters this month concerning this so I wonder what is going on down there.
The Andres would like to know if they can just add a teensy bit of lane on Circle Drive northbound between Taylor and 8th so they wouldn’t have to do the pesky merge-thing every time they want to go to the Centre mall. Related: did you know the parkade under the Circle Centre mall has 2 levels?? SORCERY. Well, not sorcery, just engineering. Now I need a reason to go to the Centre mall.

Joanne Schenn, bus pass #147526, chooses to ride the bus from Erindale downtown for work. (High five, Joanne.) However, her experience riding transit has become “impossible, unsafe and unpleasant”. She would like the University Only buses to scour the route first and strain out the students like so much plankton. This way she will have a place to sit or stand without being compressed or pushed over.

John Allen hopes that the newly-elected Council will not cater exclusively to the “ultra-rich”. He also calls out Mr Atchison’s comments on the 47% who did not vote for him and brings up the spectre of Mitt Romney’s similar remarks. Unfortunately for Mr Romney he made the key mistake of uttering this before the election instead of afterwards.

Adam Libke is frustrated with the pathetic level of service received in trying to pave 2 squares of sidewalk. Adam is in Ward 7; I suggest he get in touch with Councillor Loewen, if he hasn’t already done so. She can be surprisingly effective with cases like this, which is good, since it’s her job. Based on my impressive Google Map deducing skills, this is the offending sidewalk and offending alley.

Man, I sure hope they update those Google Maps images soon, otherwise I’m going to be making some unkind assumptions about the level of landscaping present in that fair suburb.

Trevor Larose has lived in both Edmonton and Cold Lake and says our current recycling situation is “well below either standard”. My sister lived in Cold Lake for a couple years and trust me, being below Cold Lake standards is not an accolade. He wants to know why we’re so far behind, but fortunately we have reams and reams of documentation, and past city council agendas, to prove it.

Here comes the snow-removal letters. I’m not going to summarize each one, I’ll just cherry-pick the best repartee.

Shauna Beattie, formerly of New Brunswick, is astonished we don’t plow the residential roads. She is also amazed that some people here clear their sidewalks with “LEAF BLOWERS”, instead of a shovel, implying laziness on their part. Especially when we get much less snow than NB. (Seriously though, guys. Leaf blowers?) Her letter is pretty great, actually, p. 434. This is what 6 million bucks gets you, Shauna. (Also, nice touch on the children part. That always plays well.)

Now we are being compared to Winnipeg. The indignities will never cease. Winnipeg salts their streets like McDonald’s does their fries – early and often. Saskatoon salts our streets like they’re heart-healthy.

Ramona wants to know why the graders will leave a spot for her neighbours’ driveways but don’t clear a concurrent space for her car. (She doesn’t have a driveway.) I guess 6 million bucks only gets you a certain level of consideration from the grader operator.

Time for the Edmonton comparison. They have 130 sanding trucks, 20-30 plows etc. Taxes in Edmonton are also lower, she adds, to pour (road) salt in the wound.

Brian would like to know in advance if his left-turn arrow suggestion for Diefenbaker and Fairlight is going to get shot down.

Phyllis Schmidt would like to have signs posted on the bus that no swearing and/or foul talk is permitted. Also, the bus driver was listening to the radio and it was on too loud and she had to hear an interview with “a witch” as well as some “heavy metal music”. Her third request is that the advertising on bus windows be moved up so that she can see out and know where she is. I agree, window perf is technically see-through, but only when the conditions outside are lighter than the environment inside. As for the witches, I can’t really help there. I’ve watched 5.5 seasons of Buffy but that’s it.
Alana Zimmerman moved to Evergreen and is dismayed to find out that there is no bus service there. Since she is a student, she is paying to take the bus which doesn’t exist (yet, we hope). I’d make a crack about subsidies cutting both ways here, but I remember being a student. I’d make another crack about Evergreenwashing but I’ve done that already in other venues. And I just did it here. Again. Moving on.

(Seriously though, your main selling point for Evergreen is that it’s a “sustainable development” and you can’t even get public transit out there? Oh great, now I’m the one yelling at the city administration.)

The fluoride/florine/floride/flouride brigade (platoon?) is out in fine feather this month.

Westcon is concerned about the 60th Street and Idylwyld. I agree, having the three way stop there is dumb and does not accommodate large trucks. He also says it’s a speed trap and that the speed limit should be higher on the service road.

The rest is just proclamations of assorted days, weeks, or months to celebrate/commemorate/bring awareness to assorted causes, diseases, and organizations. I must leave you here because Autism Services has written in, using their letterhead, featuring their giant logo in Comic Sans, and I am now blind.

Sup, guys. I wrote the following (or most of it) in January of this year. Snarky commentary by October version of self in the brackets. Parentheses. Whatever. I am also editing this quickly after attending the Ward 8 forum, where this program was invoked several times.

So every six months or so I have an argument with parents and other interested parties about why we aren’t buying a house.

Warning: woefully self-indulgent post to follow, with absolutely no humour and dollops of privilege. Also assumes basic familiarity with affordability. If you don’t feel like reading it, here is a summary:

1. The Equity Building Program, as outlined by the City, promotes 0 down mortgages by providing a loan for your down payment

1. a) #1 is a bad idea, because we are subsidizing unaffordable mortgages (sometimes well over 4x household income)  Full disclosure,  I am a household who would qualify for this program.

2. I won’t be buying a house until interest rates go up, because obviously I don’t want to have any money. Ha ha! Trick question. I will likely never buy a house because I am too lazy. (And I am a Millennial and am too busy buying bikes and computers and iPhones. I think I am a Millennial anyways, they keep moving the stupid generational goalposts as it suits whatever frothy editorial they are trying to write, “they” being The Media, yes all of them)

3. This is a rather long summary.

3. a) Sorry.

4. Renting sucks but so does buying a house.

Of course, it is debatable whether we should be buying a house at this point in time – I’m only 28 (+7 for the S.O.) & we’re not quite sure what the next 10 years will bring. Lots of younger people in our age bracket have been snapping up properties in the last decade or so; low interest rates, an upwardly inclined economy, and rising rents have been driving this trend. (See, even I can talk like a dusty economist if I so choose!)

(deleted paragraph of vacuous debate over whether there is or isn’t a housing bubble here, as if I get to decide, what a pompous ass)

What remains to be seen is what will happen when interest rates go up.

(ATTENTION FAMILY AND FRIENDS) Which leads me to my next point. After watching the events unfold in the U.S., it seems prudent for me to assert the following criteria for buying (or not buying) real estate. (since you care sooo much)

1. Purchase price of house, including all associated fees (generally 10% of price) should ideally not exceed 3 times yearly gross household income. (3.5 at the absolute most.) For us, that’s around $200,000; I’m not comfortable assuming more debt than that.

2. Plan for mortgage rates to be at least 6% or more. Even fixed mortgages only have fixed rates for a max of 10 years. This may seem draconian, but I’d much rather be proven wrong on this than to lose the house after paying on it for several years.

3. Condo fees (and associations) should be regarded with a healthy amount of scrutiny. What good is an affordable mortgage if your condo fees keep increasing unreasonably? Not to mention, a bad condo association or high fees will hurt your resale value, if you decide to get out. Any major improvements or maintenance have to be approved by a majority of the condo association, so tight budgets can really affect the long-term viability of your building. Not to mention, if you have to sell the entire building, it’s much less than the sum of its parts. What I’m trying to say here, is that condos don’t hold their value as much as a house, since it’s easy to buy a house from a single owner and do whatever you want (within reason) to the building and/or land. It’s much harder to buy out dozens (if not hundreds) of individual owners. Of course, if you own a condo near Market Mall, you’re set for life, or at least for the next 30 years. (SUMMARY: CONDOS ARE OF THE DEVIL)

4. This is the big one: Down payment should be at least 20% of house price. If you have to borrow for the down payment, you can’t afford the house. Honestly. This is my massive beef with the program brought forward by the City of Saskatoon. You can get a loan for 5% of the down payment if you qualify. It’s an interest free loan. But only for a bit. You have to pay it back within 5 years. Oh, and the purchase price of your house has to be within $180,000 and $280,000. And your household income has to be between $44,500 and $70,000. And you have to pay back this loan on top of your mortgage, because I’m sure the bank isn’t going to sit idly by. Now, I’m not sure about you, but I’m seeing a disconnect here. $180,000/4 = 44,500. And that’s just the low end of the “approved” price range. 5% of 180K is $9,000. Let me tell you: it is not good to assume that you’ll come up with an extra 9K in five years. You are saddled with a house that, unless you are at the minimum approved price (or the maximum approved income) is above the 3x yearly household income rule. If your down payment is less than 20% you will most likely have to pay mortgage insurance premiums, which vary depending on what you buy and what your income is, but I would budget for at least five thousand dollars. (#DIDACTIC)

The international Demographia  housing affordability survey has Saskatoon pegged at 4.3x median income (I vastly prefer the median metric over average). They rank anywhere from 4.1 to 5.0 times median yearly income as “Seriously Unaffordable”. (Affordable is 3.0 or less, Moderately Unaffordable is 3.0 to 4.0 and Severely Unaffordable is 5.0 and over.) So you see, 3x is a fairly high estimate. Especially if, like us, your current rental situation is comfortably below the 1/3rd monthly income cutoff. (HATERS TO THE LEFT)(Also I think this Demographia link is old, hang on, here is another one – PDF.)

Your monthly housing costs shouldn’t be more than 32% of your gross monthly income. (I really wish I didn’t have to use as many “shoulds” in this post, I really do.) This includes property tax, interest, and heating expenses. (Thank you, CMHC.) (So we’re under that, but I have to put up with my neighbours parking like assholes and random people stealing recyclables off the neighbour’s deck. (Unfortunately not the same neighbour, the arc is still bending towards justice. Not to mention a dearth of sidewalks. These are pretty trivial concerns when compared with other neighbourhoods, though. I’m not really sure where I’m going with this.)

(I deleted a whole puffy paragraph here full of vapid speculation about what happens when interest rates go up. We all know what happens, Baby Jesus cries, Mark Carney cries.)

***

I wrote this in January; things have changed a bit since then. We’re now hearing more talk about a “soft landing” or a “cooling” of the housing market; with the changes to mortgages and HELOCs sales have dropped 15% year-over-year; prices have risen 1.1%. Those are CREA’s numbers, and they like to make things as rosy as possible.  I’ll finish this up by citing a realtor who shall remain anonymous (the best kind of realtor) who confided in me that the Equity Building Program was an awful idea and sure to promote inflationary tendencies in the housing market. We don’t have affordable housing in this case; it’s affordable financing. (thanks for the snappy quote, Ben Rabidoux.) Those are two very different things.

FIN