What I was at was a full-on public consultation where we were all broken up into groups and consulted -- ie., asked to put together what we thought should be included in three waste management options that could be presented to the public.
It was an instructive night.
But first, for the record, I'm putting this on the blog but I haven't really done due journalistic diligence on anything I'm writing here. I haven't interviewed the consultants who ran this. I haven't interviewed anyone from the city. These are my impressions based on my experiences as a participant.
So, without getting into too much detail, I have to say, I felt the outcome was pretty much rigged. The consultants had an idea of what shape they wanted the three options to take and we didn't really have a lot of room to modify them. They went so far as to have suggested answers already checkmarked into many of the response boxes on our worksheets.
And I wasn't the only person in the room who was having a problem with the process. I heard more than a few people complain that the exercise seemed pointless.
For example, by the end of the evening, it was clear that there was near-unanimous agreement in the room that a mandatory curbside recycling program should be included as a "Basic" option. (We were supposed to come up with a "Basic," an "Enhanced," and a "Comprehensive" option.) One of the consultants informed us this was not something we should do, that the "Basic" option should reflect the current level of waste-management service with a couple enhancements -- curbside recycling not being one of them. The room persisted, asking why should the current level of crummy waste removal be presented as an option to the public? Several people pointed out that if curbside recycling is a basic service in most municipalities in Canada, why are we being asked to call it an "enhanced" service here?
In the end, they agreed to note the room's strong feelings that curbside recycling should be listed as a basic option but couldn't guarantee that it would wind up looking that way in the final report. The city might instruct them to do something different.
You see where I'm going with this? Basically, if the report comes out and presents to Reginans three choices of trash removal service and the "basic" option doesn't include curbside recycling, that part of the report was written despite serious objections during public consultation.
Other disturbing things that came up.... There was a great deal of confusion over how much capacity there is in our landfill and how much it will cost us in the next few years to expand it. The consultants claimed we'd decades of capacity so don't worry about that. Someone from the city and an environmental consultant in one of the groups noted that such a claim is premature and based on a massive expenditure (in the 10s of millions) in the next three years.
Also, I have to wonder how serious the city was about making this a truly public consultation. The city's website never listed the date, time or location for this event. Everyone I spoke to only knew it was going on because they just so happened to phone up the city to ask about trash removal or because they'd maneuvered through the city's labyrinthine "Let's Talk Trash" website and had signed up for email updates.
One thing I should note about the people who were in attendance tonight. Everyone -- from the earnest environmentalist to the pro-business, anti-union guy -- were extremely progressive where trash is concerned. That was heartening.
My favourite quote of the night: "The landfill is the first Regina landmark you see coming into the city. Before the two glass towers, before anything, you see the landfill. It's a disgrace."
Sometimes I have nightmares.
I dreamed last night that I lived in a world without Joe the Plumber. In my dream, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher never asked Obama obnoxious, loaded questions about his taxation plans. He never parlayed his ninety seconds of media attention into a gig with the intellectually bankrupt (and now genuinely bankrupt) Pajamas Media. He never went to the Middle East and pretended to report on the almighty can of whoop-ass that Israel was cranking open all over Gaza. In my dream I remember a child, hollow-eyed and weeping, crying out: Who will make us laugh now, Joe? I think that child was me.
But I woke up, poured myself some coffee and discovered that Joe the Plumber, the guy who is neither Joe nor a plumber, is still with us, and still showing by example how to be the worst kind of paleo-conservative douchebag. Joe's most recent gig is spokesperson for the pro-business organization Americans for Prosperity, whose main business seems to be news releasing and union busting. In the video above, Joe is doing his level best to avoid all questions about the Employee Free Choice Act, a U.S. measure that would allow unions to form through both a secret ballot or by card-check. There may be valid arguments against the Act, but whatever those arguments are, Joe does not know them.
Joe, don't ever change. Don't ever become a licensed plumber or let your hair grow in. We need you as you are: bald, phony and dumb.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and is an interdisciplenary conference started in 1984. You can go to TED's Web site, ted.com (click here) and watch tons of video lectures by a diverse cavalcade of smartypantses. Speakers include Jane Goodall, Richard Dawkins, John "and I'm a PC" Hodgman, Bono, Peter Gabriel, Bills Clinton, Gates and Graham, the guy from Mythbusters* and even a parrot. (Click on the links for those videos.)
The TED lecture above--reposted in accordance with Creative Commons guidelines (I think)--is a presentation by Polish graphic designer Jacek Utko, who essentially says the solution to reversing newspaper decline lies with, well, designing better newspapers. Give the art directors power, he says, and they'll boost your readership. My thoughts: he's right.
Actually, I think print will remain a desired medium for a lot longer than many think it will, because readers--even young readers--like the experience of reading on paper and use it to complement, rather than replace, information collected through television (which is headed for bigger problems than newspapers) and the Web.
There's still the problem of the economic model being broken. Design can only be a band-aid solution while we have larger failures of capitalism. But print itself is here for a while yet. Readers still want newspapers, magazines and even books.
Papers going down in the States like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Rocky Mountain News had daily subscription numbers in the hundreds of thousands. There isn't a problem with the audience.
(TOTH to Paul Klassen)
Here's an update, since today is the first day of the month.
Today, prairie dog moves to fill the news gap created by savage cuts to media both locally and nationally. Since the fall of 1999 this magazine has been published every second Thursday. Starting today, that changes to every day (except Sundays--though that might change down the road).
Besides the move to a free-distribution daily, we're also changing the delivery model of our publication. While the new prairie dog daily will still be available free at over 400 locations city-wide, today marks the start of an ambitious home delivery plan. Roughly 60,000 Regina households will find (or have already found) copies of our magazine delivered directly to their doorsteps. We plan to expand this home delivery in the very near future.
In case you're wondering, this change was made possible by strong growth in our advertising sales over the last few years. This robust revenue stream pays our priniting costs, office expenses, staff salaries (prairie dog employs 260 people full-time) and our new fleet of delivery trucks (well, we only have four so far, but we like to call it a fleet).
For more information on the new daily prairie dog, call us on our fax line: 352-9686. If you can't get through just leave a message after the beep.
Finally, a clarification: due to a typo in last issue's editorial some readers thought we might be moving to a weekly publication frequency. No, we're not doing that. That would be completely nuts.
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.)
1. MULRONEY QUITS CONSERVATIVE PARTY: Piqued over the public inquiry into his financial dealings, the man attached to the most famous chin in the country demanded he be removed from all party lists. (Globe and Mail)
2. PERVY CARTOONIST ILLUSTRATED BIBLE: Robert Crumb is set to publish his own version Genesis and I can't wait! (Guardian)
3. TODAY'S LUXURY SUBURBS=TOMORROW'S SLUMS: Think spending a half a million to live on the city's bucolic fringe is a good investment? Think again. Our beige and vinyl-sided suburban dream is quickly evolving into the slummy nightmare of the future. Says who? Some left wing hippy rag, maybe? No sir. The Wall Street Frakking Journal, that's who. (WSJ)
4. SUN-TIMES KILLED BY A CANADIAN: Thanks in part to its looting by Conrad "The Man in Black and White and Black and White" Black, the storied print home of the best movie critic on the planet, Roger Ebert, has filed for bankruptcy. (Chicago Tribune)
5. BLOB CREATURE ATTACKS TEXAS: No, seriously. A 40-foot wide amoeba colony is on the loose in America's biggest state. (New York Times)
6. NO, I REPEAT, NO VAMPIRES AT BOSTON PREP SCHOOL: Thus states a notice from Boston Latin School headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta reassuring parents that their children are NOT in imminent danger from supernatural bloodsuckers. (boston.com)
Yeah, it's true, as Stephen Whitworth observed in a Monday post, journalists are grievously underpaid. But there are fringe benefits. March 24, I happened to be at Regina International Airport to see a friend off on a flight to Toronto. As was leaving, I was stunned to spot British beauty Keira Knightley, best-known for her role as Elizabeth Swan in the Pirates of the Caribbean triology, descending the escalator in the arrival area. (Celebrity Gossip)
While she was waiting for her luggage to unload at the carousel, she spotted a prairie dog stand nearby and went over and picked up our March 12 issue with dapper David Geiss on the cover.
As she was leafing through it I wandered over and said, "A woman after my own heart."
"Pardon me?" she replied.
I explained my involvement with prairie dog, complimented Knightley on her work with Amnesty International, and we ended up having a great conversation that ultimately resulted in me securing an interview with her that evening at the Hotel Sask where she talked at length about her commitmment to human rights, her battle against dyslexia as a child, her infamous 2006 Vanity Fair cover with Scarlett Johanson (MSNNBC), her upcoming appearance as Zelda in the F. Scott Fitzgerald biopic The Beautiful & the Damned and, at editor Steve's request, her role as Padme Amidala's decoy Sabe in Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace. (You Tube)
We did the interview over drinks, then strolled over to my place on the Scarth St. Mall to watch the new Leonard Cohen DVD Live in London. Great night! Great interview! Look for it in our April 9 issue.