Right now I'm beyond disappointed. The whole campaign finance system needs some work, and the guy we've elected to lead, obviously doesn't get it.
When you give a political donation, the expectation is that it will be used by the candidate in his or her campaign. To pay for signs, brochures, parties etc. You know, campaigning! It's not the expectation that it'll be used by the candidate to maintain his or her lifestyle. One of the few concrete rules in the Municipal Elections Act regarding campaign contributions is that campaigns are to maintain a bank account that is separate from a candidate's personal funds. The reason is obvious, mixing funds invites corruption. You don't have to look far to find politicians who took money to enrich themselves. What Savage did by paying himself is legal because our rules are so lax, but I don't think it's ethical and it certainly doesn't set a good example.
Sadly, in some ways, it kind of doesn't matter because, unlike some other Canadian cities, we don't have any rules controlling what happens to surpluses. Candidates often donate leftover funds to charity or hold it in reserve for next time, but there's nothing that says they can't build a pool, go to Europe or buy a boat or whatever strikes their fancy. It's all legal and that's just sad and actually really dangerous to the democratic system. Savage could have skipped the stipend, lived on credit and then just reimbursed himself quietly after it was all done. In some ways, you at least have to give him credit for disclosing the stipend because there's nothing forcing him to say how he spent any of his money! (yet another huge flaw in the process)
Hopefully the campaign finance rules will be tightened during the next 4 years, but this doesn't fill me with optimism.
Well, since you asked, here's my suggested fixes:
1. Break up the rectangular L shape by building 3 buildings instead of 2. We don't need a wall around Greenvale school;
2. Reduce the horizontal mass by making the buildings different sizes and interesting shapes, like the stair steps on Admiralty Place;
3. Differentiate the Irishtown and Queen Street buildings from each other; there is no reason they have to use the same design and materials, and variety will add to the streetscape;
4. No flat facades. The streetfront should be active and fit the traditional narrow scale of our Downtown building lots (more like Founders Corner, the Vic);
5. Step back more gradually and less abruptly from a low front on Ochterloney and by Lock4 to the taller section on Irishtown (more like the design proposed for Ochterloney and Victoria).
It's important to remember that Downtown Dartmouth needs development. Portland Street isn't going to recapture its glory days as a major retail street without people living nearby. HRM as a whole also needs to have more people living and working in the urban core. Our alternative is more and more suburban sprawl and all its related costs while our Downtown stagnates. The Irishtown site is a good location for development and it's not a bad spot for some height, but I find the design to be pretty underwhelming.
What I would like to see would be less horizontal mass. The Irishtown building makes a giant L around Greenvale which might as well be a wall. It's about as hostile as you can get in terms of its relation to that building. The wall effect also blocks potential movement through the site, which could be a real shame given the great asset that the Shubienacadie Canal Greenway could be one day. This building could be a case where tall and slender is better than shorter and broad. Some height behind Greenvale is fine, but surrounding the school isn't. Some cooperation from HRM/Halifax Water regarding their storm pipe easement through the site might really help spread the mass out. If I recall the information presented at the public meeting correctly, the developer is blocked from building on or even overhanging a significant piece of the property because of the easement. That's a real shame.
As for the Queen and Irishtown sides, there is no reason the two buildings have to use the same materials and be built in the same style. They're separated by a street and are located in a very diverse urban area. They should look like different buildings, not twins.
The street front at Queen and Irishtown is also about as bland and boring as you can get. It's just one long expanse that is out of scale with the rhythm of its surroundings. Many modern buildings get this wrong, but it doesn't have to be that way. The Vic and Founders Corner are great local examples of modern buildings fitting into diverse Downtown settings. At street level, they feel like several separate buildings, even though they're part of a single whole, because the facade has been broken up with varying setbacks and different materials. That kind of approach could work well here.
If elected, I will be looking for quality design in proposals that come before me. Victoria/Ochterloney has it, the plan for Dartmouth Cove seems good, this building for Irishtown though, not so much.
Well Tim, I have put some of what you might be looking for out there on www.samaustin.ca You can see my policy video on Downtown Dartmouth here http://youtu.be/ScBJTX0rbdo and my thoughts on commercial tax reform here http://youtu.be/otvUqlJ8UOY
I will have future videos on urban design and on public transit, but I'll summarize my point of view. We need planning rules (and councillors who will stick to them) that emphasizes building forms that results in active streetfronts. Too many modern buildings end up with one long blank wall that sucks the life out of the street around it. We need more developments that take a thoughtful approach and break up long facades and step back when there's height. Vic Apartments on Hollis and Founders Corner in Downtown are great local examples. I spoke at the public meeting on the Irishtown project and suggested several design tweaks.
On public transit, Metro Transit needs to become more attractive to riders who have options. A bus pass already saves people money. Where Metro Transit is losing out is that taking the bus often means a 2 or even 3 times longer trip. Bus priority infrastructure (signals and lanes) along with more express routing would go a long way to addressing some of the time issue. The ferry service needs to be supported and expanded. We added the Woodside ferry in the late 80s and haven't done anything since. So much of our city is situated around the harbour and the ferry is something people actually like to ride. It seems silly that we're not making more use of the harbour. The cost of ferry expansion could also be significantly offset with new tax revenue from transit-oriented development around any new terminals.
Candidate Dartmouth Centre
I don't think District 6 will be a race to watch. Of the Dartmouth crew, I actually think it'll be Fisher who ends up facing no other incumbents. Karsten may live there, but the district he represents has been almost completely incorporated into District 3 (Eastern Passage). It's way more likely that he'll run in the riding with people who voted for him last time out, so Karsten versus Barkhouse is far more likely. I believe Smith lives in Lancaster Ridge, so that puts him, just barely, in the new Dartmouth Centre district. With the old Dartmouth North district split in two, he doesn't have any great options. Dartmouth Centre has more of his old base though than the new hodgepodge Disctrict 6 so my hunch is he'll decide taking on Gloria is the best of his terrible options.
Business taxes come from the business owner who, yes, is able to pay thanks to the labour of employees and the patronage of customers. Ultimately though, it's owner who is responsible and if taxes gobble up too much revenue, the business will close or relocate. It's not a bottomless well. The way we handle commercial taxes has real problems. Taxes are highest in the core where the most valuable property is. The opportunity to earn more by locating Downtown, however, isn't necessarily there. Being Downtown works for bars and restaurants and some upscale boutiques, but businesses with lower margins, like bookstores or hair salons, are left to struggle as costs increases, but revenues remain relatively the same. This makes it tough to build vibrant mixed-use neighbourhoods since key business services are pushed out. There is also no cap on commercial assessments, which leaves business owners at the mercy of wide swings in the paper value of their property or the property they're renting, which hits Downtown business, again, particularly hard (Downtown Dartmouth and North End Halifax are the recent victims).
The flawed and counter-productive message our tax system sends the business community is that you're better off locating in the burbs where taxes are lower, parking is free and services are subsidized. Why would anyone setup Downtown given those incentives? Our tax code encourages sprawl and makes it more difficult to maintain vibrant urban neighbourhoods that support a mix of services. Perhaps the worst part though is the greatest concentration of independent businesses are located in our urban areas while most of the big national and multi-national businesses are located out on the edge in the business parks. Effectively what we've done is we've decided to tax our own entrepreneurs who are attached to our community and keep a greater share of profits here at a greater rate than their competitors who send the cash off to head office. It's not Wal-Mart and its like that are paying the high taxes that goes with Downtown's high property values! It's our own people! I hope our next council restarts the tax reform process. The first iteration may not have worked, but the status-quo is still broken.
@Joanne. The failing here was letting the guy out in the first place. After that mistake was made, the follow-up seems to have been appropriate. Police were notified in 45 minutes and they were on the lookout. From what has been reported, because of mistake 1 (deeming him fit to go out), it's not like the police were responding to a report that someone dangerous was on the loose. The police have limited resources and it's just not feasible to mount a city-wide manhunt everytime someone's late. To commit to that kind of effort, you need to have something more to go on. Armed and dangerous perhaps? Off his meds? "The following patients that we've deemed low-risk are late" just isn't going to cut it.
Regarding dogs. The jail is in Burnside, the incident was on Gottingen and who knows where the perpetrator was in between. Dogs would have been useless. There is no way they would have been able to follow a trail from Burnside to Gottingen, and that's assuming the patient didn't take a bus or a cab or catch ride from someone to break the trail. I would be surprised to learn he walked all the way to Gottingen. An ankle bracelet, as More says, might have been effective, but they're costly and they can be broken and there is still an issue of deciding when to use them. In hypothetical land where bracelets might have been an option, given the authorities initial mistake in this case to deem the man fit to be out, I don't see any guarantee that he would have had a bracelet slapped on him.
From what's been reported, I don't think the hospital or police response to the patient not returning was the problem, it was that he was deemed safe to be let out in the first place! Everything in this tragedy stems from that initial error and that's where we need to focus our attention. Was the determination that he could go out on a pass appropriate given what was known? If so, is there anything we need to change? Does our mental health system have enough resources?
@Mister Meaty: Carshare is most definitely not a scam. It's a great option if you don't need a car everyday. I often use carshare on the weekends to go get groceries and during the week (until lately) I take the ferry to work. The cost of carshare each month has averaged $50-$100. So that's $600 - $1,200 for the year which includes the use of the car, gas, bridge tolls and insurance! For me to go buy a car, pay for its upkeep, insure it myself etc would cost way, way more. Try $5,000-$10,000 a year! If you don't need a car as part of your daily routine, the economics are an absolute no-brainer.
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