We have seen great progress on the Downtown Master Plan to date and that work continues. Office for Urbanism is now working closely with City staff to fine-tune the plan's technical details. They are also working with the development community to finalize the 'built form framework' that was developed as part of the plan. This framework governs the specifics of building design for the area, including how high buildings can be, how far back they should be set from the sidewalk, etc.You can take a gander at the Downtown Plan newsletter here.
We anticipate bringing the Downtown Plan forward to Council in the spring. The date of the Council meeting will be communicated to you in the near future. This plan is our chance to create a vibrant downtown that is the heart and soul of our community. We are taking the time we need to ensure it is complete, thorough and tested.
Aaaaaanyway, one of the things I do to be less-incompetent is read and learn from other newspapers and magazines, with special attention to pubs that are similar to (but better than) prairie dog. For this reason, we have subscriptions to several alt-weeklies, including Toronto's NOW, Edmonton's See and Halifax's The Coast. I keep an eye on more online.
My favourite alternative weekly newspaper is Seattle's The Stranger. Launched in 1991 by Tim Keck, a co-founder of The Onion, and a great cartoonist named James Sturm, it's loaded with personality, humour and at times genuine insight--and at times ferocious stupidity, like when then-editor (now editorial director) (and one of my favourite newspaper writers) Dan Savage advocated for the invasion of Iraq. But that's another blog post for another day).
The Stranger also has an excellent blog, called Slog. I read Slog a couple times a week, sometimes a lot more if there's something important I'm procrastinating on.
All that to get to my point--this post which I found interesting and maybe you will too. The university of Washington student newspaper contacted Savage, who's also gay and a well-known sex-advice columnist for an interview about anal sex in their sex issue. Savage (click for a video of Dan pummelling a right-wing Christian jerk on Anderson Cooper), is leaning toward not giving them an interview because the newspaper previously published a dumbass, bigoted opinion column equating gay marriage with bestiality.
I'm interested in all this partly because I fouled campus newspapers with my crap for 10 years and still have an emotional attachment to the student press.
But more importantly, there is an issue here. An issue, I say! When media outlets print/broadcast something vile, does that mean people they've enraged should refuse to give interviews to them thereafter? Yes, no or "it depends"?
Well obviously the correct answer is "it depends" but it's fun to talk about.
Something similar but more important happened in Sask last year when the SFL declared a boycott of CJME because of allegedly biased and hostile coverage. I don't listen to CJME so I don't know if this is still in effect. We covered it last year though. You can read Paul Dechene's article here.
[Edited by author because post had some cutsey, coy writing. Coy must die.]
For those who don't know who he is, here's his bio...
Called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by The Ottawa Citizen and "just about the best science-fiction writer out there these days" by The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Robert J Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's top honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award in 2003 for Hominids, the Nebula in 1996 for The Terminal Experiment and the John W Campbell Memorial Award in 2006 for Mindscan. Rob has an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University. He was born in Ottawa and currently lives in Mississauga. His latest novel, Wake, will be published in April of 2009.
You can check out his website here.
2. Downsize that Venti Decaf Misto: Starbucks is laying off 6,700 employees and closing 300 stores. Now, if we can just find some way to get the Broad Street Crossing and its Tim Hortons bulldozed.
3. Council Urged to Consider Extending Shovelling Bylaw: Monday's Regina city council meeting wasn't all condo conversions -- oh no, that was just the first three and a half hours -- there were also presentations by community groups and Canada Post criticizing the state of city sidewalks in winter. They urged council to extend the shovelling bylaw to cover residential property. Nothing seems forthcoming as long as city staff are in the process of doing some sort of new snow removal survey. Maybe next year those of us who number among the carless can expect to see some relief from Regina's pedestrian moonscape.
4. Regina the Not-So Cheap: Regina has dropped from the most affordable place in Canada to the 18th. Cape Breton has claimed the top spot.
5. Obama Throws Down Weather Gauntlet: Worried that coverage of American politics will become as slight as TMZ? Worry no more. The Globe and Mail bravely blazes a trail deep(er) into tabloid trivia land by making Obama's coatless winter jaunt a top news item.
6. Wanking Causes Cancer: File this under "Things I Wish I Didn't Know." Apparently, men who have too many orgasms in their 20s and 30s are at a higher risk for prostate cancer. And yes, that means orgasms by any means are a problem. But they're saying that orgasms achieved by "spanking the monkey" (or do you prefer "choking the bishop"? Or something else maybe?) are especially deadly. Well, that's it. I'm doomed.
"Money" (if you can call a runaway credit bubble that) is evaporating, China and Russia are threatening to bail on the U.S. dollar and things are unravelling as they should... or perhaps must is more like it.
The money quote:
"Forty percent of the world's wealth was destroyed in the last five quarters. It is an almost incomprehensible number," said Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the leading private equity company Blackstone Group. "Business will be very different."
Read the whole thing here.
This makes me almost as giddy as reading about the Madoff scam.
Oh, and Linda McQuaig lets the banksters, as FDR dubbed them way back when, have it here, in a really interesting piece that ponders the immortal question: "Would the reaction be any different if unions had blown up our economy?"
And... it's always fun to watch a terrified neo-con sell his "convictions" down the river.
This really is better than Christmas. And I didn't even have to rack up the ol' credit card.
Further to my whining posts yesterday, it is no longer colder than crap outside. It is, in fact, not bad. Minus 11, -20 w/ windchill. Better.
Also, better is this second cup of coffee. My first tasted a little too desperate or something. Mmm. Sequel-coffee.
-Budget: Iggy's going to allow Harper's budget to pass. Yeah, it's all up to him. the budget isn't going to go ahead because of consensus in Parliament, it's not going to go ahead because it's just too good to vote against, it's going to go ahead because a deeply concerned, brow-furrowed Liberal leader (or is that king? I don't recall the leadership contest) has deemed it the best course at this time. He shall permitit. At this time. With caveats. Thank you, sire.
Also, I wish Jack Layton didn't sound like such a phony. I think he's far less a phoney than a lot of politicians, but he sure sounds over-scripted and soundbite ready. I heard him on CBC this morning and...I dunno. I expect more from the guy and his party. Passion. Honesty. A willingness to say unpopular things when they're the truth, sometimes.
More on the budget here and here and here and here.
An additional point: is anyone else getting offended by the phrase "working families"? First, a lot of Canadians live alone. Are we not citizens too? Second, many Canadians are unemployed. They're not important because they're not "working"? There's more to being a Canadiana than being a couple, having some kids and holding a job. There is more to Canada than "working families".
-The problem with print: far be it from me to put down my chosen medium but sometime it stinks working on an immutable two-week frequency. Case in point: last night as we're fininshing up tomorrow's prairie dog, Gwynne Dyer files a new column. It's great--an analysis of Obama's (supportive) position toward the so-called "War On Terror", in the wake of the new President's first air strike. Of course, I can't run it. We're on deadline (actually, cough, somewhat past deadline, as usual...). Also, we've already got a Dyer column in this issue that we promoted it on the cover. But it sure would've been nice to run a timely article on Obama right after he orders people killed for the first time. deadlines suck. I couldn't find it online but I expect it to show up here in the next 48 hours, for anyone who's interested.
That's all from me for now, I'm desperately due for another cup of coffee. Talk to you later.
"The study's authors said there was "no going back" after the report showed that changes in surface temperature, rainfall and sea level are "largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after CO2 emissions are completely stopped."
So should we quit all this green-gab and just pack it in? Not so fast, says the study's lead author, Susan Solomon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the Telegraph:
"Climate change is slow, but it is unstoppable - all the more reason to act quickly, so the long-term situation does not get even worse."
1.) IT'S COLD! -28.8 degrees C, and completely horrible. Make that -41 with the windchill.
2.) BUDGET DAY The drama explodes like a birthday cake stuffed with dynamite starting at three this afternoon (Eastern, so that's what, two here?). Will Iggy's Grits let Harper and company's budget pass? Will Jack Layton go all Die Hard With A Vengeance in the House of Commons? Will Gilles Duceppe be smugly inscrutable? Follow the excitement here or here or here or here.
3.) IT'S COLD!
4.) IT'S COLD!
5.) DEADLINE DAY It's Tuesday, the day prairie dog goes to press. There's sure a lot of work to do.
6.) IT'S COLD! Cold! Cold! Cold!!!
Council did approve the 15 Coventry Road conversion. However, the building owner, PR Investments, indicated they intended to only convert four of the building's 12 units into condos. The remaining eight would remain as rental suites, with funds raised from the sold suites going into building maintenance. Also, PR Investments indicated that they were offering all of their tenants lifetime tenancy agreements and would continue to rent out their units at below market rates. Coucillors felt that under these particular circumstances -- i.e., that the bulk of the units would remain affordable rental units -- they could in good conscience approve the conversion.
Expect more detail on the condo conversion issue in the next prairie dog.
But if I did have time to read crap online, I'd be reading this right now. An excerpt:
"Fortunately, Obama clearly gets it. He devoted more of his inaugural address to clean energy and global warming than even the strongest advocate could have imagined, asserting, "We will work tirelessly to ... roll back the specter of a warming planet." More important, he has assembled a team with unmatched knowledge and commitment to solve the climate problem."
More here." (From Salon.)
Apparently Village Voice Media--the corporation that owns alt weeklies including the Village Voice, Minneapolis' City Paper, Seattle Weekly and many others--has cut way back on comic strips, suspending their publication across the newspaper chain. The Association of Alternative News Weeklies Web site reports syndicated weekly cartoonists Tom Tomorrow (This Modern World) and Matt Bors (Idiot Box) are losing subscribers.
Tom Tomorrow (real name Dan Perkins) says on his blog: "Village Voice Media is hurting in this economy like everyone else, and their corporate response is to “suspend” cartoons and (I think) all other syndicated material across the chain, said suspension to last at least through the rest of the first quarter, and quite possibly beyond."
Of course prairie dog doesn't run any comic strips and never has since I've worked here (although we used to run a one-panel political cartoon by Jack Lefcourt, until he retired it), so once again we're in front of the curve. Arrgh.
Ironically, comics supporters have argued for years that strips are one of the most popular features of newspapers but despite this assertion the daily comic has been in constant decline for, well, most of my life. Remember Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes? Yeah, that's because you're old (I'm old too). You don't see work like that anymore. In fact you don't get much of anything in the dailies, unless it's recycled strips about families or talking pets.
There are a lot of stories behind newspaper comics' decline, but one basic truth: it's a crummy, often unappreciated gig. Over the years comics been allotted less space, they've been subject to censorship (see Doonsbury, The Boondocks) and their creators have been burned out by deadlines and hassles (in Watterson's case, battles with his syndicate over the licensing of his characters, which he was opposed to on principal). The economics almost always stink for cartoonists, the work is time-consuming and labour intensive and it takes years to develop the skills. And the pay is bad.
Basically, nobody in their right mind would ever go into the field--which means there's always a dearth of new cartoonists (not that there isn't first-rate talent out there. There just should be more.)
Anyway, it's a damn shame Voice Media is dumping This Modern World. It's a good strip. Canada needs a comic like it.
As well, there are two other things to seriously look at.
Obama is planning to increase auto emission and mileage standards -- stories from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Secondly, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has appointed a special envoy for climate change. Given that most conservative western Canadian politicians have rejected climate change as an argument for cutting carbon emissions, I think they are going to be pretty lonely people. The sound you're hearing is the sound of Stephen Harper finding out that he has no friends in the world.
Oh yeah, the most eriudite blogger around, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, takes the urine out of the no-conservative movement's environmental policy with the aid of another of the late William F. Buckley's sons. Go. Read.
1.) TIMES ARE TOUGH AND SO'S YOUR MOTHER Some Regina renters (well, 1000 Regina renters) can look forward to paying more in the new year. The CBC talked to one tenant, who's mad. (CBC)
2.) SEVEN BILLION SMACKERS The Conservatives promise a massive injection of cash for neglected infrastrucuture, including two billion for Canadian universities. If their budget passes. Jeez, if they'd been talking like this all along prairie dog would be bugging readers to vote for these guys. (Toronto Star)
3.) NO FUELIN' After eight years of being run by evil bastards, Obama's U.S.A. says it will bring in new fuel efficiency standards tby 2011 hat will make the country less dependent on foriegn oil. What country is this again? And what's this feeling I have for American politicians...feels like...not incredible, constant, smouldering rage. Weird. (CBC)
4.) TOO IMPARTIAL? The BBC will not broadcast a fundraising appeal for Gaza on the grounds doing so would undermine the broadcaster's journalistic impartiality, and British journalists are apoplectic . The appeal is by the Disasters Emergency Commitee, an umbrella group including the Red Cross and Oxfam. (The Guardian)
5.) ENGINEERING LAYOFFS Alberta's oil patch has lost 2200 jobs in the last two months, apparently. Here's a quote from the Globe's story: "It's very hard. Six months ago, things were so good, and six months later, things fall apart." (Globe And Mail)
6.) RHYMES WITH "BEAGLES" Another classic rock group finds warm wallets, er, audiences, in Saskatchewan. (Star-Phoenix)
Some days it's nice to live in a real jerkwater. Where our government continued to more-or-less effectively regulate banks.
Not so great when you come from a jerkwater where the government didn't. Just ask the good folks in Iceland, where they've been regularly protesting against their government for weeks. This video shows just one of the recent clashes with police – and most recently a near-riot at their parliament buildings.
Are you kidding me? Iceland for chrissakes! Go smoke a fish or something. You're not supposed to riot.
It's enough to cause one columnist from the staid Times of London to wonder if it's not a harbinger of more to come. Roger Boyes notes that Iceland and other countries aren't by nature “protest cultures” so when something moves them to take action, you know something's up.
There's already a protest movement building in the U.S. over foreclosures. Makes you wonder how it'll all play out in another country that -- at least recently -- doesn't seem to do protests.
Update: Iceland PM "first political casualty" of the credit crunch.
Here's a taste...
U.S. Democracy Server: Patch Day
- Leadership: Will now scale properly to national crises. Intelligence was not being properly applied.
- A bug has been fixed that allowed the President to ignore the effects of debuffs applied by the Legislative classes.
- Drain Treasury: There appears to be a bug that allowed loot to be transferred from the treasury to anyone on the President’s friends list, or in the President’s party. We are investigating.
- Messages to and from the President will now be correctly saved to the chat log.
- Messages originating from the President were being misclassified as originating from The American People.
- A rendering error that frequently caused the President to appear wrapped in the American Flag texture has been addressed.
- The Vice President has been correctly reclassified as a pet.
- No longer immune to damage from the Legislative and Judicial classes.
- The Vice President will no longer aggro on friendly targets. This bug was identified with Ranged Attacks and the Head Shot ability.
- Reveal Identity: this debuff will no longer be able to target Covert Operatives.
- Messages to and from the Vice President will now be correctly saved to the chat log.
- A rendering bug was affecting the Vice President’s visibility, making him virtually invisible to the rest of the server. This has been addressed.
It goes on. Best I can tell, this originated here, on the Chrome Cow site and was written by a guy named Sean Hyde-Moyer. The Chrome Cow server is presently getting hammered as a result, which is why I put the WoW forum repost at the top of the page.
And now the WoW forums are getting hammered as well, so here is another link to the full text.
Just when you thought it might be safe to go into the water, Dr. Doom is back.
If you're not familiar with the work of Nouriel Roubini, there's just a couple things you need to know. He's the NYU economics professor that called the U.S. mortgage meltdown about three years ago and was derided again and again for being a nut – but guess who's laughing now?
Well, not him, actually – he's probably lying awake nights in sheer terror because he knows too much. He's now predicting the utter collapse of U.S. banks, and says stock markets have at least another 20 per cent to drop.
Oh, and did we mention that it's beginning to look like the entire United Kingdom is about to go belly up and go to the International Monetary Fund hat in hand? And that some of the smartest currency traders out there are betting on the Sterling's utter collapse?
Makes you wonder why Wall Street hedge funders are, well, hedging their bets and preparing for the end of the world.
Oh, and just for good measure, the world's newest Nobel laureate in economics? Well, he's calling it like he sees it.
Now, why do I feel like I need a drink before noon again?
The always excellent William Grieder has a great story on U.S. finances and how they're now driving the bus, not any politician, as reprinted here from the magazine "The Nation".
It brings to mind another occasion when a great world power had a new, eagerly awaited, leader that was promising more openness, accountability and freedom. I'm speaking, of course, about Mikhail Gorbachev, and we all remember how that worked out for the Soviet Union, right?
The important thing to remember is that the collapse of the Soviet Union was primarily a failure of their economic system and that the resulting disappearance of Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire was pretty much a complete surprise to everyone.
Arguably, U.S. supremacy has long rested not just on their military, but on the power of having the globe's reserve currency at their beck and call. Today, in the words of writer James Howard Kunstler, “America doesn't produce anything but fried chicken and haircuts.”
And Paul Craig Roberts, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal's opinion pages and Reagan's former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (as well as being a noted paleo-conservative who's sometimes accused of being a whack-job) has gone even further, describing the U.S. as the world's largest ever 'failed state' in waiting.
Even some mainstream columnists are taking up the meme.
Nobody knows how the whole thing will play out, but one thing is certain. The America of tomorrow won't look much like the America of today.
But whether a better country or just another Third World hell-hole emerges out of it is anyone's guess.
President Obama's speech on YouTube -- played backwards.
And something that makes even less sense than President Obama's speech played backwards -- Rush Limbaugh's er, um, 'analysis' of President Obama's speech
1. STOP WHINING AND EAT THE DAMN TAR Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff tells Montrealers they should support Alberta and it's magical mudfields: "The stupidest thing you can do (is) to run against an industry that is providing employment for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, and not just in Alberta, but right across the country." He also apparently said the tarsands development must be made sustainable. Good luck with that.
2. REGINA DAYCARES CLOSING remember when everyone in Saskatchewan voted Stephen Harper's Conservatives into office and, as promised, they scrapped the Liberal national child care plan for a crummy monthly allowance? Maybe this is karma. (With apologies to the parents who are impacted.)
3. MASSIVE LAYOFFS AT MICROSOFT Five-thousand jobs, poof! gone. Microsoft blames the economy, we blame Vista.
4. STATE OF AFFAIRS Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco will give his State of the City address today. Wonder if he'll mention our town's anorexic rental market.
5. CAN'T HELP YOU, PLEASE GO AWAY The Dziekanski inquiry continues.
6. DRIP, DRIP, DRIP Oh yeah, and it looks like the south pole is melting after all. Global warming skeptics will have to find something else to justify their insane and dangerous delusions.
The first “WTF” moment came, for me, with the sight of Pete Seeger. Seeing the 89-year-old folk singer in front of a crowd isn’t all that new a thing – that’s been his job and career – and seeing him do it at the Lincoln Memorial wasn’t surprising. I would argue that seeing him sing under the gaze of law enforcement snipers and plain-clothes cops wasn’t new, either. But the fact that the guns weren’t pointed at him – and that the then-President-Elect was a few dozen meters away and smiling and clapping along – surely was.
This song was probably the best way to dance on the grave – and tramp the dirt down – on the Bushco doctrine. After everything, and all that’s been done, the ideas Seeger espouses are as unconquerable as sunrise. (video is at the bottom of Al's post)
To be honest, I once didn’t have much use for him. In my teenage years, when I was starting to get into music, I mistook volume for subversiveness, all folk music was suspect. It wasn’t that much different for most of my friends at the time. As well, I did a lot of my music listening in farm tractor cabs – and you just can’t hear a folk singer that well if you’re sitting six feet away from a diesel motor at full throttle.
And when I started knowing a lot more about music – including folk heroes such as Woody Guthrie – it seemed to me that Seeger was merely trying to make a living off the reflected, fading glory of Guthrie. Freaking out about Bob Dylan going on stage with an electric guitar and performing with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival also didn’t endear himself to me – he seemed more like a conservative old fuddy-duddy.
It’s only later, when I read his life story and saw the pain and crap The Powers That Be gave him over his life, that I got a look at the real Pete Seeger. And after all this, he’s still a patriot to his country – partly because he’s not only read his country’s constitution but also he took it to heart.
As for Bruce? Well, one should compare this version of this song with the version he sung with the E Street Band for his first live album. That one sounded tentative, as if Bruce wasn’t sure that his audience grasped what the song really meant: the audience at the Washington Mall respond to Bruce, Seeger, and Seeger’s grandson as if they’ve been just released from jail after a revolution.
There’s a website that’s starting a petition to have Seeger receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, they should give it to him. They’ve given it to worse people …
Now, hang on a second... weren't we told the whole problem with the North American auto industry was that the cars they were making were... well, maybe not crappy, but... inappropriate? You remember. It was that thing about American cars not being fuel efficient or environmentally responsible. The Big 3 were making big ol' gas guzzling SUVs and everybody agreed that just didn't make sense any more. Wasn't the bailout supposed to be tied to a commitment that they'd make better cars and start to take things like CO2 emissions and high fuel prices seriously? That way people would want to buy their cars again. I don't recall wage cuts being on the table back then.
And, another thing... in a period of recession, isn't the idea to keep as much money in the pockets of the public as possible so they can go out and spend it? Isn't that what you're supposed to do if you want to stimulate the economy?
So, wouldn't our government demanding that an industry cut their employees' wages do exactly the opposite of stimulate the economy? Mightn't that make it more flaccid?
I'm just saying...
The non-pardons are expected to be the closest thing to last-minute pardons before Bush leaves office, though he can technically pardon anyone he wants until Obama is sworn in.
Bush previously issued 14 pardons before Christmas when nobody was paying attention, but sadly, nothing and no-one monserously controversial. In fact, at a piddly 189 pardons, Bush trails Clinton (457), Reagan (406) and one-term wonder Jimmy Carter (563).
Even worse, Bush isn't issuing dozens of controversial, pre-emptive pardons for war criminals and torture-boosters his administration was home to.
And here I was hoping to type up an easy afternoon cheap shot against the outgoing Worst American President Ever.
But there's two extra-special reasons to celebrate the successful controlled landing just offshore of Manhattan. First of all, as the blogger emptywheel notes, everybody involved in the emergency and rescue -- from the pilot and co-pilot to the New York ferryworkers and firefighters involved in the rescue -- are unionized workers.
Secondly, the captain of the stricken Airbus is 57 or 58 years old. Usually, airlines try to pension off guys as old as Sully, because pilots with less experience are cheaper. Sure, an airline might save a few thousand bucks if you let someone with experience go. And if the end result is a smoking hole in Midtown because of that ...
See, book reviews and interviews with authors have become the red-headed stepchild of a newspaper’s arts coverage. Newspapers have less and less space for even the most important news, and what passes for ‘arts’ coverage in most newspapers (prairie dog and Planet S excepted) has degenerated into tabloid press releases – what Tysonian level has Britney/LiLo/Amy Winehouse/et cetera achieved in their state of mental breakdown for the sheer fact that they are famous for, well, being famous.
Given this state of affairs, it’s hard – very hard – for editors to make room for book reviews. If I strode into the office tomorrow and announced that Sharon Butala or Ken Mitchell had just authored an opus that was worthy of comparisons to Hemmingway and Shakespeare, Whitworth would barely lift his eyes from his desk before intoning, “400 words. Max.” (EDIT: this isn't, or shouldn't be a slight against Whitworth. Unfortunately this is happening to everyone who's reviewing, or promoting, books. Before Conrad Black bought the paper, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix once devoted two pages every Saturday issue to local book reviews. Today, it's a half-page of canned copy.)
Don’t feel bad, Rod. You could be Jim Pitsula. His publishers gave prairie dog two books this year … and in the end I had about the same amount of space allotted for their reviews as I had for yours.
1 GETTIN OUT OF GAZA Israel's troops depart, devastation is terrible, Hamas vows to rearm.
2 DEATH AND TAX CUTS Grits tell Harper the road out of recession is through spending, not slashing taxes. We'll agree with that though we suspect the Liberals are a little conflicted on this one.
3 CHILD SHOT IN SASKATOON Ugh.
4 FOUR YEARS? NO PRESSURE Scientist says Obama has only four years to save the planet.
5 OFF THE HOOK The George Bush pardon countdown is on. What criminals will the outgoing prez protect?
6 GOAT TRAGEDY Rare animal dies in Calgary zoo accident. Mouth to mouth is unsuccessful.
The recommendation for approval comes despite the fact that city staff drafted a strongly-worded report recommending denial; and despite the fact that city policy and provincial legislation indicate that conversions should be denied when the vacancy rate drops below 3% (as reported on this blog back on Dec 11, the present vacancy rate is 0.5%); and despite the fact that five tenants appeared before RPC to express their opposition to the conversion; and despite the fact that according to the city's survey of tenants, 64% of them are opposed to the conversion (when vacancy rates drop below 3%, city policy requires 75% of tenants be in agreement with an application); and despite the fact that two members of the Cathedral Area Community Association and one from the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry appeared before RPC to oppose the conversion.
In short, the 2141 Rae application has failed every test put before it, official and unofficial, and yet the RPC has recommended approval.
The reasons for the approval? There seem to be two.
On one hand, it was pointed out that at the time the application was made (early last year) the vacancy rate for the central area was 3.5% (the citywide rate was around 1.5%). It was felt by some that because the 2141 Rae application has taken so long (this its third time before RPC) the applicant shouldn't be punished because of the delay and the older area rate should be used (and the older citywide rate ignored). This, of course, ignores the fact that the old area vacancy figure was based on October 2007 data which was already several months out of date at the time the application was made. Assuming the rate was dropping over that time (it had to have been to get from 3.5% to 0.5% in a year) then it's unlikely the actual vacancy rate for the central area was above 3% at that time.
The second reason cited was that the applicant -- DR Realty which is being represented by property manager, Nicor Developments -- is willing to let tenants who moved in before the application was submitted to stay for up to five years (or for life if the tenant is over 70 years old). Also, those tenants will have rent controls in place while they live there. RPC noted that if the conversion is not approved, the property owner will still go forward with renovations to the building but would be forced to finance those renovations by raising rents. Seeing as there are no rent controls in Saskatchewan, the applicant could simply price the apartments out of reach of the current tenants.
Sound to you like a case of a developer holding its tenants and the RPC hostage with threats of massive rent increases? Yeah, to me too.
After 2141 Rae, there are presently in the neighbourhood of 19 more condo conversion applications to be considered before Councillor Clipsham's conversion moratorium comes into effect. That means there are 500 more rental units that will likely be lost to the market and that's going to be a disaster for anyone who rents in this city --- not only will they find it hard to move if they have to, there's also the problem that, as anyone who has taken Econ 101 will tell you, constricting supply while there's an increase in demand is going to lead to a spike in rents.
When this was pointed out during the Wednesday meeting, RPC chair, Coucillor Fougere, remarked that each of the remaining applications will be judged on its own merits so no one should assume that all of the applications will be recommended for approval.
That's reassuring. Because clearly, considering all the opposition and all the factors working against it, if the RPC couldn't bring itself to say no to 2141 Rae, they'll definitely start rejecting applications any day now.
And, as if to put that to the test: shortly after the 2141 Rae conversion was approved, RPC voted to approve another condo conversion on 15 Coventry Road with hardly any debate whatsoever (and that despite the fact that city staff again recommended it be denied on account of the low vacancy rate).
Both the 2141 Rae and 15 Coventry Road conversions will go before city council on Monday January 26 for final approval.
But it's also worth reading for what it has to say about new media.
I found it very interesting to learn how internet-based shows like Tiki Bar are devising new business models for creative content. Basically, they're managing to make a living even though they give their show away for nothing. (Which is kind of like the prairie dog, come to think of it. Holy crap. We're cutting edge!)
Compare that to the dinosaurs in the mainstream media. The media conglomerates are wringing their hands over their intellectual property being pirated and everyday they're coming up with new, more draconian measures to hinder the free flow of content and punish those who circumvent them. And they're losing market share as a result.
Meanwhile, people like Macpherson and co. are making some truly inspired creative content, giving it away, and rewriting the rules of entertainment commerce as they go. Personally I'm pretty excited to see where this will all wind up.
One thing I think is pretty clear is television is going to be an early casualty in all this. Not being able to get shows on demand and for nothing (or next-to-nothing) is just not going to cut it much longer. (On top of that, switching to digital this year and making millions of televisions obsolete isn't going to help their situation any.) And I have to say, after being inundated over the xmas holidays by my parent's prime-time viewing choices, the networks aren't exactly churning out quality material.
Maybe the networks won't go black, but they might become the exclusive domain of reality shows while all the cutting edge drama and comedy wind up online. Kind of like what happened to radio when television took over.
What do you say when you meet up with someone who you really respect, but in a very public work, you want to tell them – and fail to tell them – that they’ve missed the point? That’s the dilemma I faced at a Conexus Credit Union branch when I ran into Rod Pedersen, CKRM’s sports director, play-by-play guy for the stations’ Pats and Riders broadcasts, and author of Green Magic, a book about the 2007 Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The book, originally (at least in my mind) was to have been the subject of an 800 word review, which got cut down further and further into a squib of a review that appeared in the pre-Christmas edition under recommended gifts (the same thing happened to two other books, by Jim Pitsula, that I wanted to review for prairie dog). Space considerations and other stories thwarted my and Whitworth’s attempts to publish anything else.
The worst I can say about Pedersen’s book is the best that I can say: inside a good book is a great book struggling to get out. Green Magic was written because the Riders couldn’t or wouldn’t publish a commemorative DVD of the 2007 season (something about not being able to secure broadcasting rights). Pedersen’s book is good at describing the 2007 season, but he’s a sports guy, not a political studies major, sociologist or historian. And the REAL story of the Saskatchewan Roughriders – how they went from a mom-and-pop organizations where the season ticket drives could have been themed by Pete Droge and the Sinners to the flagship not just of the CFL but also of, for lack of a better term, Saskatchewan Inc., has yet to be told. I think Steve Mazurak (former Rider receiver, local boy, ran for the Liberals in the same riding where I ran for the Rhinos in 1984, currently the Rider’s VP of marketing) is the Riders’ unsung hero for putting the Riders on a much more stable financial footing.
The Riders took everything in the Al Ford business playbook, made a photographic negative out of it, and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. No more frantic pack the park days that revealed the Riders then-true purpose (not to win football games, but to get 20K or so in the city to buy meals at the restaurants and bars and sleep off the hangovers in the hotels). After Hillsborough, these were acts of madness. As well, the Riders lifted the home blackout policy, got ‘retro’ third jerseys,’ and otherwise gave the Riders a massive warchest.
Somebody writing a story like that could have given the
Hat tip to TPM and Americablog
There's been more discussion around the campaign in the Guardian around this (not really a surprise, people are very attached to their make-believe sky-spirit). I like this article by A.C. Grayling, who brings the smackdown on the the word "probably". Turns out the it's in there because the sales twits who sell ads on buses think it would be legally inaccurate to simply say "there is no God".
Grayling has this to say:
"There is something delicious about the thought of a functionary in an advertising agency doing ontology by arbitrating on the question of which fictional characters need a grey area of uncertainty around discussion of their existence – Little Red Riding Hood? Rumpelstiltskin? Santa? Betty Boop? Saint Veronica (who allegedly started out as sweat on a cloth and became a person)? Aphrodite? Wotan? Batman?"
Fun stuff. Read the whole thing here.
So when I read their latest separate blogs, there's a little bit of 'I-told-you-so,' combined with a feeling that these gomers are just discovering what we in prairie dog already knew -- that there's only two sides to Stephen Harper and his minions: the devious and the incompetent. These guys couldn't run a beer stand in a baseball game in Hell.
Wells' analysis of the Harper government's failure to hold an investigation into the listeriosis outbreak is here: Radwanski's is here. Both are required reading for anyone -- ANYONE -- who sincerely thinks Harper's government has any idea about what governments are supposed to do.
Well, despite what the supermarket tabloids would have you believe, the guy's from Hawaii. And that means we could be in for a long overdue revival of Tiki culture. Heck, if the Wall Street Journal can be trusted anymore, then one has been brewing for some time. Now, maybe it's the mai tai in me but if that's the case, all I have to say is, Hau’oli makahiki hou! (That's "happy new year," by the way.)
Could this perhaps finally reverse the tide of faux-Irish pubs in which our country is awash? Don't get me wrong. Few things make me happier than to swill beer surrounded by Guinness posters and Harp logos while Great Big Sea plays overloud on the soundsystem. Oh, those things never get tired. But just once I'd like to go out and order a fogcutter and have it come to me in a moai mug with a little parasol. And sit on wicker.
It's not like that's without precedent, even in this city. Why, the Regina Inn was once home to the Ky-Tiki Polynesian Theatre Restaurant, one of western Canada's last great tiki lounges. That image in the top left is the cover of its menu. I've also included pics of the cocktail list and a swizzle stick as further proof of Regina's luau legacy, all courtesy the collection of Mimi Payne via the Critiki website.
Tax cuts aren't the economic answer. If you're scared you're going to lose your job, you're going to stop spending, no matter what tax breaks the government may offer. If you think your job is safe, then you'll buy that house or car. That was the lesson that should have been learned from Flaherty's cut to the GST. But Flaherty is a Conservative. Conservatives never learn.
First of all, Saskatchewan's municipalities have not only been chronically underfunded (especially since the Romanow-era cutbacks, in response to the debt left behind by the Devine Comedy of Errors) and are facing big problems resulting from a crumbling infrastructure and (in the case of Weyburn, Estevan, Swift Current, Regina and Saskatoon) increased economic and population growth. While Lorne Calvert's government provided a few more shekels to municipalities, it all appeared done on a catch-as-catch-can basis: municipalities couldn't bet a guarantee from the province that there would be as much money coming their way in the next fiscal year. And why was that? Did the NDP believe that the province would suddenly fall into recession? Or did the NDP believe that they the better arbiters of what municipal governments should be doing with their money? A bit of column A, a bit of column B.
Wall says that the provincial government should be able to provide the equivalent of one point of the PST to municipalities. This would mean, says Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco, that the municipal revenue pool would increase by $40 million, and that municipalities would have a steadier flow of cash from the provincial government.
So, from here, Brad Wall appears to be doing the right thing. Before there's a killing frost in Hell, however, let's see the details.
I posted the unabridged interview on the Act Up In Saskatchewan website. Harper had just called his federal election and I reckoned the province needed as much Naomi Klein as was available.
Act Up In Sask, by the way, is a great site worth checking out --- great political commentary and their event calendar is invaluable, especially if you're interested in knowing the when and where of progressive gatherings such as rallies, talks and fundraisers. Thanks to them for hosting this interview.
Interview with Naomi Klein
Turns out the writer and director are from Saskatchewan. (As I mentioned in the article, I accidentally wound up chatting with the family of director Nathan Frankowski after the Regina premier.)
As part of my research, I interviewed the movie’s writer, Kevin Miller, via the email but opted to write a more straight-up review of the film for the prairie dog and didn’t end up using any of it.
In hindsight, I wish I would have challenged him more on the misinformation in the film. Thing is, there was just so much crap in there masquerading as truth I found myself a little overwhelmed.
Anyway, here's the interview in its entirety. As a Google doc. (My first time making one of those so let me know if it doesn't work on your machine.)
Interview with Kevin Miller
Fill out the ballot in the current issue of prairie dog and drop it off at our office (#201-1836 Scarth St.) and grab some Easter candy while you're at it. Or e-mail us here for a digital ballot.
Polls close 5:00 p.m. Thursday. (We MIGHT count late ballots, MAYBE, but that's the last day to be eligible for the AWESOME PRIZE: a $500 Cornwall Centre gift certificate!)