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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The public is to blame

The opaque garbage bag of our souls.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 4:14 PM

click to enlarge Worried citizens inside City Hall.
  • Worried citizens inside City Hall.

“It’s amazing the number of tree lightings, parades, Christmas events happening.” —mayor Mike Savage

"I had a voicemail, Mr. Mayor, that could be perceived as from the '40s or '50s in terms of lack of respect for immigration." —Councillor Bill Karsten

“Have we heard from anybody on the right side? Only the left part of council has spoken so far.” —Random man behind me, while council debated permanent resident voting rights.


Yesterday’s mostly breezy Regional Council meeting didn’t always tackle the most exciting issues, but there were some hidden gems. In particular was the approval of the motion to allow permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections. That’s an idea that was recommended by the executive standing committee, and a big passion project for the mayor.

Steve Adams was the only councillor who voted against the motion, mentioning the many angry phone calls his residents have been making. Surely all those folks are staunch fans of a disciplined citizenship process, and not at all xenophobic jerks.

Permanent residents, it should be mentioned, already take part in Halifax’s infrastructure. There’s about 14,000 in Halifax alone, accounting for about 70 percent of the province’s permanent residents. They pay taxes and are governed in the same way as the rest of us. Giving them representation is the right thing to do. Ultimately, this will be the provincial government’s call to make, so we’ll wait and see.


Director Carl Yates was on hand to present Halifax Water’s annual report to council. Turns out, it was “an interesting year for geosmin.” But, more important were the talks on the current sewage system limitations. Particular concern was paid to the Aerotech business park, which is already at capacity. That’s limiting airport development, said David Hendsbee. Halifax Water wants a rate increase of around seven percent to focus on that problem and other upgrades.

Maybe most interesting, water consumption in the city has been on a steady decrease since 2000. In theory, that’s a good thing. We’re all using less water. But of course, HW will need to up its rates in response as a way to maintain its service.


The city awarded a sole source award to Voith Schneider Propellers for two units to be installed on Halifax transit ferries, at a cost of €850,970. That works out to about $1.35 million Canadian. The construction time for these propellors is 11 months, which meant some financial predictions on the strength of the Canadian dollar come next year.

The staff report here notes the new ferries will incorporate the design of the Christopher Stannix, which has “proven to be efficient and reliable.” Yesterday the Stannix was benched over mechanical issues. One Tweeter said that’s been the third time in as many months. Waye Mason checked into it, and it seems to have been an electrical issue. “Any complex system has commissioning issues,” Mason told me over tweets.


The city OK-ed some new potential names for things, based on some notable former residents of the city. If you have a few minutes, give the report and their biographies a read. There’s some interesting history of civic-minded folks in those PDF pages.


Some unlucky reporters stuck around last night for several hours as a bunch of trash was discussed. Halifax households will soon only be allowed one dark garbage bag, but are still allowed up to six on the curb. Council had originally wanted to drop that down to four, but backtracked from what sounds like angry public commenters.

Let me stress, sometimes the worst voices are the loudest. Often, politicians have to make sense of that in their decisions. Based on the staff report’s finding about how every other municipality in the province has handled the change, there’s no reason a four bag limit wouldn’t work in Halifax. But often the angriest jerk wheels get the grease. Which speaks to the disconnect that happens often with the general public and its government.

The meeting last night went on for more than four hours and only 11 people spoke. Earlier in the evening, some minor adjustments to the Utility Review Board’s district boundary review passed with similar non-interest from the public. The changes themselves weren’t anything scandalous, but given how extensive the boundary review was in the first place, this was a chance for the city to weigh in on a massive electoral change. A public input process was had and barely anything came of it. The staff report notes only eight written submissions were received. One of which called for Clayton Park to be its own polling district. One person spoke at the Halifax and West community council public meeting. Three people spoke at the North West meeting and nobody at the Harbour East.

In the last several months I’ve seen communities band together to save the Halifax Forum, the Khyber and (unfortunately) a dog park. But it’s just as easy to make a stand on the minor, insignificant shit. You can, and should call you councillor’s cell phone whenever you want to complain, or rant or just scream at something. Email them every day with anything you don’t like. Help them help you.

Anyway, the garbage bag bologna comes back again for first reading in the New Year, and there’ll likely be a big PR-campaign in advance of any actual changes so the public is clear about where to put weeds (green bins) and where to put grass clippings (separate paper bags).


The city wants to show you its public body salaries. Or, the 300 or so people who make more than $100,000. Originally, council approved a motion for the province to count us as a public body, but the idea came back to council yesterday after determining it would be easier to just amend the charter. That way, HRM can choose the public bodies that disclose their salaries instead of minor groups below the threshold needing to prepare reports. Some of the public bodies you’ll soon be able to look behind the payroll curtain on, may include:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2014-12-02_at_9.39.41_am.png


There won’t be any licenses for cyclists.


Mike Savage is in Boston until Saturday to watch their holiday tree get lit.


Brad Johns was not in attendance yesterday.

Grade: B—

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