Friday, December 31, 2010

NIMBY -- But You Pay Our Costs

Citizen Ellie's been out of the loop for a couple of months -- rehabbing a new knee and managing some holiday events for the family.
That doesn't mean she's stopped paying attention to municipal affairs, and a couple of issues which recently cropped up have given her cause for concern.
A small item in the local press a couple of weeks ago caught her eye.
Those of you who follow such things will remember that the anti-development group, Friends of Lansdowne Park, is taking the city to court in an attempt to stop the park redevelopment project.
Those of you who follow such things will remember these thumbsucking NIMBY-ites appearing at numerous public hearings where they set about to demonize community builders such as Roger Greenberg, Jeff Hunt and John Ruddy -- men who've made huge contributions to the public good in this city (The Ottawa Hospital and the Heart Institute spring immediately to mind as just two beneficiaries of their philanthropy).
Guess what ? The Friends of Lansdowne Park, perhaps realizing that they've bitten off a larger legal bill than they can collectively chew, are asking the city to cover their court costs. This means that you, me and the countless thousands of Ottawans who support the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's plan for the park would be on the hook for this courtroom time-waster if council agreed to this demand.
The Friends of Lansdowne Park obviously didn't pay any attention to the recent municipal election results. Some councillors who opposed the Lansdowne redevelopment plan read the tea leaves and decided to bow out gracefully and take their pensions. Others were unceremoniously turfed out by the electorate. Virtually all who voted against the project are no longer occupying seats at the council table.
Doesn't bode well for the Friends. Citizen Ellie believes the new council isn't going to spend taxpayers' money on frivolous legal actions -- and in Citizen Ellie's opinion, that's exactly what the Friends have in their court challenge.
Citizen Ellie was heartened this week to learn that OSEG had been granted intervenor status, which means that it will have a voice in the court proceedings.
And we're starting to hear that voice. OSEG has filed an affidavit responding to the Friends' suit, stating that the Friends' position is based on an "imperfect or incomplete understanding of the plan"; it "challenges not only the good faith of the city, but the good faith of OSEG"; the allegations are "careless and ill-founded, wholly disregarding the time and energy that OSEG has expended in its attempt, along with the City, to bring redevelopment to Lansdowne Park". The affidavit also states that "OSEG will bear the full cost of acquiring a CFL team and is also on the hook for any cost overruns accrued in the $129.5 million refurbishment of Frank Clair Stadium and the Civic Centre arena."
Citizen Ellie is not surprised that the Friends have an "imperfect or incomplete" understanding of the plan. After all, some of them hold unrealistic views regarding vehicle access in the Glebe -- would you believe barring cars completely ? The Friends don't want any changes at Lansdowne Park ! Period ! No argument !
Another group of NIMBY-ites is trying to stop development in Westboro -- on the Richmond Road site previously occupied by the Ursuline Convent. In this case, a combination of residential/commercial development is proposed -- development which meets current zoning regulations -- with plans which have been changed, changed and changed again in order to meet community concerns but to no avail. The Westboro thumbsuckers just don't want development. Period ! No argument !
So they are heading off to the Ontario Municipal Board where they are likely to get short shrift.
As yet we haven't been subject to a demand from this group that the taxpayers pick up the tab for their costs. But they surely won't be far behind their pals from the Glebe if they think their snouts will fit into the trough at city hall.
Citizen Ellie doesn't believe public dollars should be used to pay for actions brought by NIMBY-minded citizens. Taxpayers have already funded, and will continue to fund the city's costs as these two examples of foolishness continue.
Citizen Ellie has this advice for the Friends of Lansdowne: put your money where your mouth is ! Dredge it up from your own pockets or go out and fundraise. Property taxes are high enough without this sort of demand on the public purse !

Happy New Year ! Citizen Ellie hopes to resume regular weekly blogging in January.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Road To Recovery

Road To Recovery
On November 5, Citizen Ellie underwent total knee replacement surgery at the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital.
Some 18 days later, as of this writing, Citizen Ellie is back home, walking unassisted and, having decided to upgrade her home computer system, is trying to learn the Apple MAC operating system. Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks ?
Citizen Ellie needed a new knee because back in the 80's, she suffered a sports injury and had to have the lateral miniscus (cartilege) removed. Things went well for several years, but in 2001, pain in the affected joint was starting to get to her so she consulted an orthopaedic surgeon. At that time, the prosthesis for a partial knee replacement was available (the Oxford procedure)-- provided it was the interior side of the knee which was damaged, rather than the lateral side as was Citizen Ellie's situation. The orthopaedic specialist recommended that Citizen Ellie wear an "unloader" brace to prevent the knee from collapsing inwardly while buying time until the partial prosthesis for the lateral side of the knee became available.
Earlier this year, Citizen Ellie consulted her orthopaedic surgeon again. The Avon procedure was now available-- providing a partial replacement for the lateral portion of the knee joint. At that time, about 14 of these very specialized surgeries had been performed in Ottawa, and Citizen Ellie's orthopaedic surgeon had performed one of them.
This is great, Citizen Ellie thought. One day in hospital and back on the feet within no time at all !
But it was not to be. When the cartilege was removed from Citizen Ellie's knee in the 80s, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was removed as well. Without an ACL, a partial knee replacement was impossible. Back to the drawing board.
What to do ? Wearing the brace had allowed Citizen Ellie to function, but her world was getting smaller as she was finding it more and more difficult to keep up when walking nine holes of golf. Aerobics was too painful to continue. Walking around historic sites while traveling -- especially if an uphill climb was involved -- was no fun anymore. Standing for a three-hour shift in the auxiliary coffee shop at the Riverside pretty well wiped her out for the rest of the day.
After exploring all the options, she decided the time had come to have the knee replaced. It was not an easy decision. There are risks involved in any surgery. Would she come out of it worse off than she was before ? What about the pain ? Could she manage the stairs in her house, drive her car -- in other words, regain her independence.
The surgery went well. As a spinal, rather than a general anesthetic was involved, Citizen Ellie was wide awake in the OR to hear her surgeon tell her she had a nice new straight knee. During the course of the surgery, Citizen Ellie could also hear the sawing and hammering involved in the surgery -- all very interesting and to tell the truth, if the option had been offered to watch the procedure on closed circuit TV, she probably would have jumped at the chance.
Citizen Ellie's surgeon had booked her into the short-term rehabilitation unit at the General campus and this was a fantastic place to be for someone who had set the goal for herself of walking out of the hospital on a cane.
They make you work in short-term rehab, and it's painful -- no two ways about that. Citizen Ellie is one of those who can tolerate a high level of pain so she stopped taking pain medication two days after the surgery -- she's of the opinion that a clear head speeds the recovery process -- purely unscientific, but that's what she believes and it works for her.
Thanks to the physiotherapy program established in the short-term rehab unit, Citizen Ellie was able to meet her goal of walking out of the hospital on a cane nine days after the surgery.
She was told there might be a waiting period of as much as 10 to 15 days before getting a place in the rehab unit at the Riverside campus. Rehab in a hospital setting is covered under OHIP so there's a huge demand because many people who require physiotherapy following surgery do not have private insurance or otherwise cannot afford to go to a physiotherapy clinic. Citizen Ellie chose to get some private physiotherapy while waiting for an appointment at the Riverside because she did not want to lose the momentum gained in the short-term rehab unit. And it has paid off. She's walking without the cane, managing the stairs in her house, and can perform all the necessary functions of daily living.
Her recovery did not all happen by accident. Prior to the surgery, Citizen Ellie worked as hard as she could to be in good shape physically. She exercised faithfully -- following the routine prescribed at the pre-surgery joint-replacement class, went regularly to aquafit classes and took daily walks of at least 45 minutes' duration to build up muscle mass in the legs. Working with small weights to strengthen the upper body also became part of the routine.
If Citizen Ellie had advice for anyone contemplating joint replacement surgery, it would be this: get fit first. And lose some weight. Citizen Ellie wishes she'd been carrying ten fewer pounds because she probably would be doing even better.
We are lucky to have a world-class facility such as The Ottawa Hospital with its excellent staff of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists. The short-term rehab unit ? Couldn't ask for better ! And Citizen Ellie is lucky to have supportive family members and friends -- without whose help and encouragement the road to recovery would have been longer and tougher.
Regular posts on municipal affairs in Ottawa will resume next week.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lessons to be learned.......

S0 the new council members are attending a boot camp of sorts this week, learning the ways of city hall in preparation for taking office on December 1.
Citizen Ellie fervently hopes they're all learning how to say "NO" and working hard at the exercises required to stiffen the backbone. Rideau-Rockcliffe Councillor-elect, Peter Clark, was excused from these sessions. The former mayor of Cumberland and regional chair had plenty of practice running a tight fiscal ship in his previous incarnations.
The ability to say "No" along with a stiff backbone are prerequisites in dealing with the myriad of special interest groups which come out of the woodwork during the budget process, demanding property taxpayers fork over more and more of their hard-earned money to support these special interest groups' pet projects -- projects for which these special interest groups appear to be unwilling to go out and fundraise. After all, it's easier to pick the taxpayers' pockets than to do the necessary work required by a fundraising campaign. The failed concert hall is a case in point. It should also be remembered that some of these "special interest groups" are nothing more than a front for the protection of CUPE jobs and should be treated as such.
Citizen Ellie has always believed that if a group or organization wants something, they should finance it themselves through their own organized fundraising efforts. Start a foundation, obtain a registered charity number, promote the project, convince people to pledge funds -- if the public thinks it's worthwhile, they'll support it. Look at the success of The Ottawa Hospital Foundation's "20 in 20" campaign -- $20 million raised in 20 months for the cancer centre at the General Campus. Look at the Cornerstone Foundation's project to provide housing for 42 disadvantaged women, 20 of whom will be senior women. Construction is underway now on the Booth Street building. The public has demonstrated their support for these endeavors by opening their collective pocketbooks. The public didn't feel the same way about the proposed concert hall. And the public probably wouldn't feel the same way about many of the special interest projects they've been forced to support with their tax dollars.
The newbies joining council's ranks on December 1 should remember they were not elected because of their good looks. They won their wards because Ottawans were fed up to the eyeballs with tax-hiking lefties who thought it was their job to blab on about tanning parlors, signs in farmers' fields, cow statue on roof of a shop selling cheese and other dairy products, transfats in restaurant food etc. etc. Ottawans were fed up to the eyeballs with councillors who worked hard to demonize developers; councillors who worked hard establishing roadblocks to progress; councillors who wanted to be "nannys", interfering in and controlling every aspect of citizens' lives; and councillors who didn't recognize the importance of economic development and job creation.
Economic development and job creation should be at the top of the new council's list of priorities -- especially since unemployment figures in Ottawa are catching up with the national average. New industry, providing good-paying jobs, must be brought into the city -- to offset the job losses which will come as the public sector (federal, provincial and municipal) downsizes.
"No new money" should be the watchword and zero-based budgetting must become the norm. The Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group (OTAG) is once again calling for a financial summit and is demanding the city's auditor-general take a long, hard look at salaries and benefits paid to the city's non-union/management staff. Citizen Ellie is always shocked when the "sunshine list" is published in the spring of each year. Too many are earning above six figures. She was reminded of that again this week when the discharge of the sewer manager was announced. The person who couldn't figure out how to keep raw sewage from flowing into the Ottawa River was being paid in excess of $100,000. What's up with that ?
The auditor-general ought to have a look at the city's use of consultants. We're paying big bucks to city staff so why should we require consultants unless there are exceptional circumstances ? If consultants are being brought in because city staff can't or won't do the job, then maybe city staff should be eliminated. We'd at least save on the gold-plated benefit/pension packages.
The auditor-general also ought to take a look at staffing at the cop shop ? Are well-paid sworn officers performing work which could just as easily be performed by civilian employees at a lower rate, freeing up sworn officers to get out on the streets where they should be -- a solid review of staffing would provide answers.
What do Ottawa ratepayers want ? They want a council which will slash the bureaucracy, collect the garbage, ensure the streets are plowed in the winter and the sidewalks are safe for pedestrians, get traffic moving, and promote economic development -- in other words, a council which will look after the meat and potatoes issues as set out in the Ontario Municipal Act -- and forget the esoteric !
Ouch ! That hurts !
Citizen Ellie won't be posting on a regular basis for the next couple of weeks. She's undergoing knee surgery tomorrow (Friday) and will be out of commission for a while -- at least until she's released from hospital and rehab and is back home where, while she's away, oldest grandson will install her new iMac computer. Citizen Ellie is pretty much of a doofus when it comes to hi-tech, so it's great to have access to the younger generation -- they who understand which USB port is for the printer and which USB port is for the wireless router. In the meantime, she'll continue to keep her eye on city hall in anticipation of the December 1 changeover.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Post-election Random Thoughts

We really need to see them in action before we can determine how far Ottawa's new council swings to the right. We have a new mayor who's been there before and 10 new councillors -- some replacing tired oldies who saw the light and decided to retire rather than go down to defeat, others defeating tired oldies who needed to be booted out.
Ottawans were clearly fed up with the chardonnay socialist elitists who thought they knew what was best for the rest of us. It's unlikely the new, young, forward-thinking councillors will continue the "nannyism" which so characterized council since amalgamation some 10 years ago. New blood brings new ideas and new attitudes toward issues such as development. What a refreshing thought ! But what will the SUN's Susan Sherring do now that she doesn't have Mayor Larry to kick around ? And her best bud, Rideau-Vanier 's Georges Bedard got himself whupped by a 25-year-old ! Quel dommage ! Councillor Diane Holmes woke up on Tuesday to find herself in a lonely position indeed. Most of the lefties are gone -- Doucet, Cullen, Legendre, Feltmate, Bedard. Maybe newbie David Chernushenko will step up -- but he looks like a one-trick pony with opposition to the Lansdowne redevelopment plan his main priority.
Judging from what's already been written about the newcomers, taxes, transit, moving Lansdowne forward and economic development are their priorities. With the exception of Peter Clark, new councillor in Rideau -Rockcliffe (where "elect me because I'm a Francophone" is a slogan which no longer resonates with voters), the newbies by and large are a lot younger than those they replaced. Some of them are political activists, having previously worked with mayor-elect Jim Watson. The aforementioned Mr. Clark is a former mayor of Cumberland and former Regional Chair. He brings a wealth of knowledge to council; he probably understands the budgetting process better than anyone sitting around the council table; and he has a reputation for carefully husbanding taxpayers' dollars.
The budget will be the first order of business facing the new council following the December 1 swearing-in. Hopefully this group will put an end to the farce of so-called "public consultations" at which residential property owners ' legitimate concerns about escalating taxes were given short shrift by councillors who favored presentations from well-rehearsed CUPE minions and their special interest compatriots.
We will all have to exercise a little patience as the new council settles in. Yes, there's a learning curve, but it shouldn't take this group long to get past that. What they need to remember is that they were elected to bring some order to the chaos that's been city council since amalgamation. People are tired of the infighting, the inability to make decisions and stick to them, and the tax and spend mentality which permeated city hall. While Citizen Ellie is not a big Jim Watson fan, she's willing to give him the benefit of the doubt -- he certainly knows how to schmooze and if he can use this talent to forge a council where concensus rather than confrontation characterizes debate and decision-making, he'll have done a good job. He and the new council have four years to show ratepayers what they're made of.
Where Have I Been ?
In August, Citizen Ellie took off on a road trip to Prince Edward Island which included stops in Quebec City and Fredericton, NB.
The highlight of the Quebec City stop was attending the Tattoo which is part of Quebec's Military Band Festival -- a highlight of their summer tourist season.
Sitting in the Pepsi Colisee, watching 800 bandsmen and women march in and then play "O Canada" brought a tear to the eye. Those of us who've experienced the national anthem boo birds at "The Bob" in Gatineau or at the Bell Centre in Montreal had reason to be concerned. There were many tourists from other parts of Canada, the U-S, Europe etc. in the audience and it surely would be an embarrassment if our national anthem was bood. But the people of Quebec City have more class than the smart asses across the Ottawa River who think booing the national anthem gives them some sort of status. Quebec City folk attending the Tattoo (and there were many in the audience) rose and sang "O Canada" with gusto in French.
In Fredericton, we visited the Beaverbrook Gallery and saw "the Turner and the Freud" -- the two paintings which are at the core of the dispute between Lord Beaverbrook's heirs and the gallery.
Prince Edward Island is Citizen Ellie's paradise. When Ottawa becomes too pricey due to ever-increasing property taxes, that's where she'll go. Housing prices on the island are still reasonable and property taxes are still affordable.
Citizen Ellie returned to Ottawa mid-September. The municipal election campaigning was in full swing and she made a conscious decision to remain impartial and not post or endorse any candidate/s until it was all over.
Now she's back at the old stand, watching and waiting to see what develops. There will be some interruptions in The Pitchfork's upcoming schedule as she has to take some time out for knee replacement surgery.
New posts weekly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign.........

There's shock and dismay rampant today among Toronto's chardonnay socialists, self-appointed elites and other members of the city's chattering classes. En masse, they're reaching for the Valium, maybe even the Prozac, if something stronger is required.
The cause of all this anguish ? A new poll on Monday, August 23 (yesterday) indicated that Councillor Rob Ford is ahead in the mayoralty race by 10 points over his closest rival, George Smitherman.
The two couldn't be more different. Professional politician Smitherman, formerly of the Dalton McGuinty cabinet (Minister of Health, among other things) is smooth, urbane, well-educated, well-spoken, a sharp dresser. Everything one could want in the mayor of Canada's largest city. Everything one could want if one was a chardonnay socialist, a self-appointed elite, a member of the chattering classes or an editorial writer/columnist with the Toronto Star.
Mr. Ford, on the other hand, isn't an attractive-looking man. In fact, he's stocky and somewhat porcine in appearance. Not a sharp dresser. Frequently puts his foot in his mouth. In fact, he's a bit of a bumpkin, but a bumpkin who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps, built his own business and has become extremely sucessful at it. He's a man who, while rough around the edges, knows what it means to meet a payroll. As a councillor, he didn't treat taxpayers' money as though it was his own personal inheritance. While Mr. Smitherman is the darling of the downtown set, Mr. Ford's power lies in the suburbs -- he speaks for families who are paying more and more in taxes and getting less and less in return. And there are more of them.........
According to this latest poll, Torontonians are willing to forgive and forget about the Florida episode in Mr. Ford's past which resulted in a DUI charge. They don't seem to care about how he might present himself on the larger world stage. They don't seem to object to him speaking his mind -- as he did the other day when he said Toronto didn't need any more immigrants. And they're definitely not being swayed by the daily anti-Ford slant in the Star's mayoralty campaign coverage.
So what's going on ? The Toronto mayoralty race, plus the way Canadians are responding to other recent events indicates a sea change in thought and attitude is coming, if not already here.
Canadians are not opening their wallets to contribute to Pakistan's flood relief. According to recent polls, the majority of Canadians believe the latest bunch of Tamil queue-jumpers should be immediately sent back to from whence they came. This is not the generous, big-hearted Canada of yesteryear. This is the new Canada, where taxpayers are tired of being played for fools by politicians at all levels. This is the new Canada where citizens find themselves being impoverished by punitive levels of taxation, only to see their hard-earned dollars squandered through government waste and useless programs which don't benefit them and which frequently don't work. And finally, they've had enough !
There's a feeling that George Smitherman's difficulties in the Toronto mayoralty race stem from the fact he served in Dalton "The Deceiver" McGuinty's cabinet. McGuinty is not exactly Mr. Popularity in the province right now -- people hate the HST and the "eco fee" fiasco speaks for itself. If a provincial election was held tomorrow, McGuinty would have a hard time -- the most recent poll shows his party neck and neck with the PCs, but worse, it shows Ontarians are starting to like PC leader Tim Hudak -- finding him more "trustworthy" and " less likely to have a hidden agenda" than McGuinty.
What does this mean in Ottawa where we too have a mayoralty race which includes a former McGuinty cabinet minister in the person of Jim Watson. Could Watson "wear" McGuinty's shortcomings ?

Some things are happening in this town which indicate penny-pinching is on the rise. People are apparently spending less money at the Ex. Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa has only raised a third of what's required to meet the demands for back-to-school supplies from "needy" Ottawa families. Wallets are not being opened and it will be interesting to see how the United Way campaign fares this year when folks are scrambling to pay increased hydo fees , the HST, higher bus fares etc. while facing the prospect of wage freezes and possible job loss if a federal or provincial employee.
The attack on Mr. Ford's candidacy in the Toronto mayoral race by the chardonnay socialists, self-appointed elitists, chattering classes and their propaganda arm, The Toronto Star, is reminiscent of what happened here four years ago when Larry O'Brien entered the mayoral race. But in Ottawa, it didn't stop with whispers and media attacks. Mayor Larry was sandbagged with trumped -up criminal charges and subjected to that farce of an influence-peddling trial which resulted in his walking away free and clear.
Citizen Ellie is betting that Ottawans, like Torontonians, might prefer their less-than-smooth, self-made, up-by-the-bootstraps sucessful businessman who may be a bit of a bumpkin but who also knows what it is to meet a payroll and has been bloodied in his first term as mayor -- rather than a very smooth professional politician who is now trotting out the very borough idea which he pooh-poohed in his last incarnation as mayor. Whispers ! Whispers ! Citizen Ellie keeps hearing these rumors that the mayor's chair isn't really the seat he wants -- he's only come back to position himself for the Liberal nomination in some Ottawa riding in the next federal election. Parliament Hill beckons.......


The little toe-rag young offender who broke into and vandalized Citizen Ellie's Cottage at Lac McFee, Quebec, last November, making off with her collection of NASCAR flags (among other things), has been arrested and charged by the MRC des Collines Police. Now waiting to hear when and if there will be an appearance before a judge so Citizen Ellie can make a victim impact statement. Meanwhile kudos to Ontario Court Justice Jack Nadelle who last week upheld the minimum mandatory sentence for armed robbery when sentencing a perpetrator who had two dozen charges related to a string of late-night armed grocery store robberies. Judge Nadelle wasn't buying the excuse that the accused was an otherwise exemplary citizen who had been brainwashed by an older man whom he met while the two were students at Algonquin College. Judge Nadelle also wasn't buying the argument that the mandatory miniumum sentence (in this case eight years with some time off for time already served in jail) constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

New posts usually on Sundays.Citizen Ellie will be on hiatus for the next couple of weeks enjoying some R & R until September 12. But with the magic of new wireless technology and a new laptop she may feel moved to send some thoughts out over the ether.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zero Tolerance for NASCAR Flag Thief !

Spent last weekend at NASCAR races at Watkins Glen, New York. Citizen Ellie is a big fan of motor racing, tracing her fandom back to the 1950s when short-track stock car events were featured every Wednesday night at Lansdowne Park during the summer months.
It was heartening to see Canadian boys do so well at the Glen this year -- Jacques Villeneuve and Ron Fellows placed in the top 10 in Saturday's Nationwide race, with A. J. Fitzpatrick placing 11th. In the prestigious Sprint Cup race on Sunday, Ron Fellows unfortunately blew his engine, but Patrick Carpentier placed in the top 25. The upcoming NASCAR weekend in Montreal should be a doozy -- unfortunately Citizen Ellie will not be attending this year. Prince Edward Island beckons.
But we digress. We camp in the infield at Watkins Glen -- have been doing it for 14 years now. Same campsite every year -- and we've made some very good American friends -- people who've been camping along side us for the same number of years.
There was something missing at our campsite this year. Our NASCAR and driver flags. Most everyone who camps in the infield has a flagpole and they run up more than one flag -- their favorite driver/s, NASCAR event flags etc. Citizen Ellie didn't have any flags this year. Her NASCAR event and drivers' flags were stolen by the piece of human garbage who broke into her Lac McFee, Quebec cottage last November. He and his companion also had a good time smashing the glass door on Citizen Ellie's kitchen range and discharging the fire extinguishers inside the cottage. And somebody's mom got a brand new boxed set of Henkel knives for Christmas.
This little creep wasn't the smartest. He and his companion helped themselves to some adult beverages and left the glasses they'd used on our dining table. Guess they figured we'd be so busy cleaning up the mess they left behind that we'd just toss the glasses in the sink and wash them. No way ! When Number One son visted the property later in the month and discovered the break-in, he carefully bagged the glasses in Ziplock as he waited for the MRC des Collines police. The CSI series on TV has been a great educator in regard to how one should preserve evidence, and we have a personal philosophy that no crime should go unreported.

In due course, the MRC police reported back to Citizen Ellie. Lo and behold, fingerprints on one of the glasses belonged to someone already "in the system". So Citizen Ellie now knows the identity of this 17-year-old threat to society. She also knows he lives in Lochaber, just north of Thurso. What she doesn't know is when or even if this individual will be brought to justice. Citizen Ellie wants to give a victim impact statement at the trial. She would like to tell the judge about how this incident caused her so much grief and upset that she no longer felt safe at the property which she had enjoyed for 32 years so she subsequently sold it and left Quebec.
Citizen Ellie would also like to know what happened to her NASCAR flags. There wouldn't be much cash value if the perp tried to sell them. But there was a huge amount of sentimental value attached to them and Citizen Ellie probably shouldn't have left them stored in her cottage but she never thought someone would be so low as to steal them. A TV set or VCR -- yeah, you expect they'll be lifted if you have a break -in. That's why all the other stuff in the cottage was permanently engraved with the identifyer "Stolen from Racegirl 3".
There were 12 in all, collected over a number of years -- representing NASCAR events at Watkins Glen and Daytona, Dodge Motor Sports, and drivers Robby Gordon, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Petty and Michael Waltrip. Citizen Ellie would fly different ones on the flagpole at her cottage during the summer months.
Citizen Ellie is not as forgiving as the Ottawa woman whose Greenboro home was one of four broken into and destroyed by teenaged vandals in April. A good day's work by this pair of turds. Their spree included cruelty to animals (roasting one family's pet gecko in a microwave, covering another family's small dog in paint), defecation, smashing furniture and appliances, slashing upholstery and mattresses and throwing paint all over walls and posessions. The crown wants jail sentences of up to two years for the one who was before the courts last week. His lawyer thinks he should get away with the usual knuckle-rapping, probation, 150 hours of community service and the extreme punishment of having to write an essay about the value of property. That should make for great reading. This poor kid (note sarcasm here) has already spent 118 days in jail. Not long enough in Citizen Ellie's opinion -- especially since he's been "in the system" since he was 13. His previous record includes breaking into a school, wearing a disguise with intent, assault and posession of a weapon.
There are young evildoers among us, no doubt about it. But we're not allowed to know who they. They're protected by the cloak of anonymity provided by that wonderful piece of legislation, the 2002 Youth Criminal Justice Act, better known as the Young Offenders' Act.
Bet you didn't know that under the terms of this act, police are discouraged from laying charges against young offenders. If they can avoid it, they are to keep those under 18 from acquiring a police record.
This piece of legislation also prohibits media outlets in Canada from publishing the names of young offenders. This is crap. Maybe the name shouldn't be published if its a first offense. But if it's the second or third ........ in Citizen Ellie's opinion, the public has the right to know.
Citizen Ellie wonders if the publication ban extends to personal blogs such as The Pitchfork ?
It doesn't extend to media outlets in the USA so what's to stop Citizen Ellie from submitting a story about her stolen NASCAR flags, naming the perpetrator and providing other information about him, to a U-S publication such as NASCAR Scene which is widely read by NASCAR fans in Canada and the U-S. If she doesn't get justice through the courts, she may have to take this step.
We now have zero tolerance for young drunk drivers in many Canadian provinces. Citizen Ellie thinks there should be zero tolerance for young criminals too. Too many of them are getting away with too much and receiving far too little in the way of punishment.

New posts usually on Sundays

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Bad News.......

Yikes! How much more can Ottawa property-owners take ?
We learned this week that there's a cost overrun on refurbishing the Fairmount Avenue cop shop -- small change -- only $450,000.
Big dollars, however, will be involved when the pension plan which covers all municipal employees in Ontario increases mandatory contributions next year. The increases in contributions msde by both employees and employers are required to offset a shortfall of $1.5 in the primary plan run by the Ontario Municipal Employees' Retirement Services, known as OMERS. This shortfall is expected to grow to nearly $5 billion over the next four years. How could this happen ? Have municipal employers (including Ottawa city council) been asleep at the switch ?
The Municipal Employer Pension Centre of Ontario estimates all OMERS employers together would pay $51 annually for a 1% increase. The Ottawa Police Service alone is expecting to pay between $1 and $2 million more in pension contributions next year.
So before Ottawa's new council has had a chance to settle into their seats at city hall, they're faced with a situation which definitely will impact on the 2011 city budget. Puts mayoral candidate Jim Watson's goal of holding property tax increases to no more than a 2.5 % increase in jeopardy.
This can't go on. The next four years are going to be tough ones for the city. For all intents and purposes, the province is bankrupt and the feds have told their senior officials that there's no new money. If there's a federal election and Steven Harper is re-elected with a majority (even a slim one) watch out. Cuts will come -- maybe not as drastic as those imposed by governments in the UK and Europe -- but cutbacks and layoffs in the federal service don't bode well for Ottawa's municipal tax base, not to mention cutbacks and layoffs of provincial employees working in this area, and hospital staff as everyone tries to balance budgets and do more with less.
Citizen Ellie lives in a city ward that's number 2 in terms of being home to the city's older residents. She's starting to hear people who are coming up for retirement talk about how they're planning to move as Ottawa is becoming too expensive. She hears pensioners talk about how tough it is to make ends meet and while they'd like to stay in the homes they've lived in all their lives, it's time to go somewhere else where the cost of living (namely property taxes and municipal service charges) is cheaper. And that doesn't mean downsizing from a house to a condo in the city. It means crossing the river to Gatineau, or heading to small town Ontario.
Meanwhile the union representing city employees is paying for expensive prime time television ads touting how valuable their members' work is --a thinly-veiled tactic designed to scare voters into thinking all those services will disappear if they elect a cost-conscious mayor and council. It would be interesting to know just how many on the city's payroll (including police and fire departments) actually live within the city limits and pay city taxes; how many live in less expensive locations such as Gatineau, Embrun, Rockland, Smith's Falls, Carleton Place etc.; and how this affects attitudes of those who spend our municipal tax dollars.
There's a growing resentment among private sector workers who pay for public sector salaries, benefits and pension plans through their taxes. Private sector workers resent the fact that their public sector counterparts have, so far, escaped all the pain of the recession. Prime Minister Harper recognizes this as does Ontario's Finance Minister Dwight Duncan when they freeze their employees' wages for two years. They know that the louder public servants and their unions whine, cry and wallow in self-pity, the greater the anger among private sector workers. There's no sympathy out there for public sector workers and their unions.
That resentment is filtering down to the municipal level. And it will have an impact on the October 25 election despite all those TV ads sponsored by CUPE.
New posts usually on Sundays

Monday, July 19, 2010

Citizen Ellie is thinking..........

..........about throwing her hat into the political ring ! Citizen Ellie could be your candidate for councillor in Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe in the upcoming municipal election in Ottawa.
Interested in joining Citizen Ellie's campaign team ? Volunteers for canvassing/telephone tree etc. are needed. Send Citizen Ellie your thoughts via e-mail:
Send a common-sense, tax-sensitive, consensus-building team player to city hall on October 25.
Get it DUNN ! Right !

Sunday, July 11, 2010

He Loves To Tax

Back in the days when Citizen Ellie worked in the media, a picture was always worth a thousand words. Still true today.
A friend recently sent me one of those a "thousand word" pictures via e-mail. Thanks, Brad. Pitchfork readers may have received the same picture from someone they know.
As you scroll down the e-mail it becomes apparent that pigeons are the stars in this picture. Hundreds of them. They are gathered at what appears to be the foot of a statue -- or the base of a plinth if you're one of those "correct use of language" types. The caption ? "Audience anxiously awaits the unveiling of a statue of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty."
Doesn't this just say it all ! Citizen Ellie bets there are many people in this province who would dearly love to do what the pigeons in that photo have in mind for the McGuinty statue. Especially now that we've had 10 days to feel the effect of the HST on our pocketbooks and are just now catching on to the fact that we're also being hit with new "eco fees" which in Citizen Ellie's view are another form of taxation regardless of what they call it or how the Dalton Gang tries to whitewash it.
When we get our next hydro bill we'll all be howling in pain. The HST came into effect while the province was experiencing the worst heat wave in recent memory, increasing the use of air conditioners and fans. And the worst isn't over. Long-range predictions indicate we're in for a much hotter summer than we've had in previous years and unless folks are prepared to sweat it out, those air conditioners and fans will be working overtime. Let's pray for a milder winter . Maybe we can save a little on heating costs.
Perhaps this is a good time to look at what our beloved premier has done to this province in the seven years he's held office. Remember -- this was a man who ran his initial campaign on the promise that there would be no tax increases during his reign.
He'd hardly warmed the premier's seat in the legislature than he implemented what he called a "health care premium". A tax by another name -- $900.00 per year for singles and as much as $1500.00 per year for couples with or without families.
Then he increased license fees -- another form of taxation. If you own a boat or a car, if you fish or hunt, you're paying more.
Hydro charges were increased by 10% on April 1 and on May 1, the tax on liquor and wine went up by 10%
And then there are all those "eco fees" -- on electronics, tires, paint, laundry detergent, window cleaners, cleaning solvents, aerosol cans, prescription drugs -- the list is endless -- and according to a story in today's paper, even his own cabinet ministers are unable to answer questions on exactly where this windfall of cash is going, especially since us ordinary folk are still using the blue box to dispose of our empty laundry detergent bottles etc. and our black box for paper and cardboard and we're paying a through our property taxes for the blue, black and green box programs.
Sooner or later we're all going to be forced into the SMART meter program which looks like a good thing in that there will be different charges for hydro consumed at different times of the day. We will be required to pay rent for these meters. You will pay less, for example, if you turn on your dishwasher or do your laundry in non-peak periods -- i.e. late at night, in the wee hours of the morning. But we Ontarians are not stupid. In order to save a few bucks, we'll all be doing our laundry and turning on our dishwashers late and night and in the wee hours of the morning. Soon those non-peak periods will become peak periods and predictably, if the Dalton gang are still in power, the charge for consumption during those hours will be steeply increased.
And what benefits have we Ontarians received in the seven years the Dalton gang has been in power ?
There was the e-Health scandal --$2 billion wasted or paid out to friends and relatives of the principals with Dalton giving the CEO of this financial boondoggle a $300.000 severance package. Not a bad payoff for someone who'd only been in the job for seven months. Citizen Ellie bets the laid-off Nortel workers in Ottawa wish they were so lucky !
There have been countless scandals involving Ontario Lottery and Gaming.
Instead of finding a company in Canada or even in North America to manufacture the windmills for hydro generation, Dalton awards the $7 billion contract to a company in Korea. Were there no Ontarians who could have done this work ?
Emergency rooms in Port Collburne and Fort Erie hospitals were closed on the grounds there was no money yet a Toronto hospital got $3 million -- right at the time when a by-election had been called due to George Smitherman resigning from cabinet to seek the Toronto mayor's chair.
And now we have this outfit -- Stewardship Ontario -- a government regulated body which is responsible for the "eco fee" program. It's supposed to operate at arms length from the provincial government -- but wasn't e-Health Ontario opperating at arms length from the Ontario Government and don't we know how that turned out ?
While we're being bled white, MPPs voted themselves a 14% pay increase.
Citizen Ellie could go on and on. But it's sufficient to say that the Dalton gang has taken Ontario from being one of the most prosperous "have" provinces in the country to one of the poor "have not" provinces in just seven years. Thanks to the Dalton gang, Ontario now has a deficit of $27 billion and we have another 18 months before we can send this bunch back to the political wilderness. Just think, Dalton has another 18 months to feast on the Ontario taxpayers' carcass. Our bones will be picked pretty clean by the time October 2011 rolls around.
Don't forget, folks, Mayoral candidate Jim Watson was a member of the Dalton gang. Sitting on the front benches, no less. Watson's got to wear some of this !
New posts usually on Sundays

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some Questions YOU Should Ask.........

Mayor Larry's decision to throw his hat into the ring has heated up the municipal election scene in Ottawa. That is a good thing. It will bring out the vote.
This could be the year of big changes at City Hall. Four council seats are vacant -- with the retirements of Councillors Legendre, Feltmate and Hunter; and Councillor Alex Cullen giving up his Bay Ward fiefdom to seek the mayor's chair. At least two other councillors -- Doucet and Leadman -- are in trouble and vulnerable.
Possibly seven (including the mayor's) new faces around the council table ! Unheard of in the living memory of most people in this city !
In Citizen Ellie's ward, four men hope to replace Councillor Legendre. Looking at the city's elections web pages, it would appear that a lot of people see a council seat in their future. That is not a good thing in those wards where an incumbent is seeking re-election. A plethora of candidates in such situations virtually guarantees re-election of the incumbent. That is not a good thing. There's a lot of deadwood among the incumbents, many of whom fall into the "councillor for life" category and need to be put out to pasture.
Citizen Ellie has developed a series of 10 questions that she's asking the councillor candidates in her ward. She will also be soliciting answers to these questions from the mayoral candidates. You can use these questions -- even if you plan to vote for an incumbent. Most candidates have e-mail. You can get their e-mail addresses by accessing the city's web site ( Citizen Ellie suggests using e-mail to submit the questions. If you don't get an answer from a candidate, then that individual isn't deserving of your vote.
Here are the questions. Feel free to add to the list.
1) What is the candidate's position vis-a-vis reducing the city's bureaucracy and keeping property taxes to a minimum? Would the candidate favor a "no new money" approach to the city's budget -- similar to the approach taken towards spending at the federal level by the current federal government ?
2) Does the candidate support the proposal to build a transit tunnel beneath the downtown core ? Or does the candidate want to go back to the drawing board again on the transit issue ?
3) What is the candidate's position on the revitalization of Lanssdowne Park ? Does the candidate favor moving forward or would the candidate support reconsideration by the new council ?
4) Does the candidate favor privatizationof those services better left to the private sector ? OC Transpo is a good example -- would the candidate support privatization of this operation which currently cannot meet its operating costs without a taxpayer subsidy ?
5) Does the candidate recognize that the city's major employer, the federal government, is shrinking and will continue to shrink ? Is the candidate prepared to support a major move on economic development which would attract businesses to the city, creating jobs to replace those which will be lost as the federal government continues to downsize ? Does the candidate see economic development as a top priority in order to maintain the city's financial stability ?
6) Would the candidate support term limits ( two four-year terms) for councillors and mayor or is the candidate a "councillor for life" advocate ?
7) Is the candidate a forward-thinker with the ability to see beyond ward boundaries and support what is good for the city as a whole ?
8) Is the candidate affiliated with a community association or special interest group ?
9) What life experience has the candidate had which would make him/her a good councillor ? Why should you vote for that candidate ?
10) Is the candidate action-oriented and prepared to respond to constituents' queries/complaints in a timely manner ?
In Citizen Ellie's view, an informed electorate makes good choices. So inform yourself.
Voter turnout in municipal elections has been abysmally low in recent years. That's why the deadwood get re-elected, year after year, ad nauseam. These are the people whose decisions have a direct impact on your pocketbook and on the quality of life in this city. It's not enough any more to leave voting to the next guy. It's not enough to say you don't understand the issues or can't be bothered b ecause you're too busy.
People get the government they deserve. We deserve better in the nation's capital.

Legendre Watch
It's now almost a month to the day since Citizen Ellie sent Councillor Legendre (at his request) an e-mail asking for answers to three questions. One of the issues is now moot -- the financial sustainability summit supported by the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group has come and gone while the Councillor was away on his cycling fact-finding tour of Copenhagen. But Citizen Ellie would still like to know a) why work on 245 Crichton has ground to a halt and how long will neighbors have to put up with this eyesore and b) when will work be done to install storm sewers and resurface The Mews ? Perhaps Councillor Legendre feels that as he has announced his retirement, he no longer has to respond to constituents' queries.
Time-wasting Boredom
Citizen Ellie spent last Monday watching city council's final "debate" prior to voting in favor of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group's private-public partnership plan for the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park.
It was gawd-awful ! Sickening ! The same questions which had been asked at previous sessions were asked over and over again albeit in different formats as the opponents of the proposal desperately tried to throw up roadblocks to progress. Councillor Doucet distinguished himself with yet another childish tantrum -- as he packed up his stuff and left the council table he looked every bit like the little kid who takes the baseball, stops the game and goes home because he can't get his way. Hopefully the voters will pack up his stuff and send him on his way come October 25 !
Mayor wannabe Alex Cullen put forward a motion to defer the entire item until after the election so the new council (with himself, presumably, in the mayor's chair) could make the final decision. This motion sensibly was defeated by council's forward-thinkers. Citizen Ellie was enthralled by the thought that motions to defer will become few and far between at council when Councillor Cullen is also sent packing by the voters. On the other hand, this guy is slick. He'll read the tea leaves and if it looks like he doesn't have the proverbial snowball's chance at being elected mayor, he'll withdraw his nomination on or before September 10 and stand once again as a candidate in Bay Ward.
New Posts Usually On Sundays

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Going.........Going.......Gone !
Another city council dinosaur is riding off into into the sunset -- presumably on a bicycle.
After 19 years at the trough, Councillor Jacques Legendre is calling it quits. Despite having previously indicated his intention to run again, he announced his departure in his "annual report" to his constituents which was circulated in Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward last week.
While his constituents were digesting this piece of news, the councillor was swanning around Copenhagen -- ostensibly attending a cycling conference or studying how the Danes have managed to convince their citizenry that cycling is the only way to go.
Now there's something in that. Citizen Ellie was in Copenhagen herself some six years ago and she couldn't help but notice the thousands of bikes parked on lots adjacent to the train station when she arrived in the city in the evening. The following morning, the bikes were gone and the lots were empty, only to fill up again at the end of the work day. Citizen Ellie's budget-priced hotel was adjacent to the railway station so she was able to observe this phenomena first-hand.
According to Citizen Ellie's tour guide, no one steals bicycles in Copenhagen -- thus the sucess of their "bikes in the downtown core" program. Councillor Legendre probably could have elicited this information from the Danish Embassy right here in Ottawa, thus saving the taxpayers the cost of this junket. But what's a few thousand bucks .............
Councillor Legendre knew in May (when his "annual report" went to press) or even sooner, that he was not going to run again. At the New Edinburgh Community Alliance annual general meeting earlier this month, he advised those in attendance that he was not going to give a verbal report to the meeting as his annual report was on the way and we could read about his "accomplishments" for ourselves.
So that begs the question: why, if you're not going to seek re-election, would you go off on a fact-finding jaunt when you know you aren't going to be around to present those facts to council or champion the cycling cause at the council table during the next four years ? Was this his version of the "farewell tour ?" The Tivoli is particularly nice at this time of year.
Councillor Legendre will be back at City Hall tomorrow. Never let it be said that he missed an important vote. He already telegraphed his position at the aforementioned NECA meeting where he exorted the audience to join him in objecting to the Lansdowne Live project on the basis that "if they could do it to the Glebe, they could do it to you" implying that evil developers could convince some future city council to OK construction of a football stadium and a shopping mall in Stanley Park. Enthusiastic applause from his pal, Councillor Clive Doucet, who just happened to be in the audience, having ridden to the meeting on his bicycle.
In the meantime, Citizen Ellie waits with baited breath for the councillor's response to the e-mail she sent to him (at his request) on the morning following the NECA meeting. It's now 20-plus days and counting. It's interesting that after announcing the "Legendre Watch" in last Sunday's edition of The Pitchfork, Citizen Ellie received an e-mail from one of his staffers apologizing for the fact the councillor did not have time to reply prior to leaving the city. Didn't see storm sewers and resurfacing of The Mews Lane in the list of 2010 and 2011 works projects approved for Rideau-Rockcliffe which he included in his annual report. Didn't see anything about cycling or trips to Copenhagen either !
Financial Sustainability ? Not For These Dolts !
There's a certain arrogance evident when only two councillors show up for the financial sustainability summit which was held on June 22 -- especially since some 19 of them voted in favor of holding such a summit back in April.
Talk about thumbing their collective noses at the electorate, especially in an election year. They must all feel very secure in their positions. A big mistake if they thought taxpayers and the media didn't notice !
While some councillors may have had good reason to be absent, it's obvious that money management -- fiscal responsibility when it comes to spending your tax dollars -- isn't a priority for most of these people. Is it because they can't grasp the concept of money management ? Is it because they prefer not to think about the possibility of the well running dry, leaving them without the power to grant the wishes of every special interest group that knocks on the city hall doors ? Is it because they're afraid of having to take tough measures such as trimming the city's payroll ? What is it about "no new money" that they don't understand ? Questions you should ask when they come knocking on your door seeking your vote in October.
Biking In The Capital
If members of city council (Councillor Clive Doucet, mayor wannabe Councillor Alex Cullen et al) are serious about encouraging people to ride their bikes to work, they need to campaign to make bicycle theft a really serious offence with an appropriate penalty. Knuckle-rapping just doesn't cut it.
Citizen Ellie suspects that the reason Ottawans aren't emulating their Copenhagen counterparts is that there are no safe places to leave one's bike in this city. Even if it's stored in your backyard, let alone chained to a bike rack or lamp post, you're at the mercy of crackheads and other low lifes.
In Copenhagen, citizens living in the suburbs take the train in the morning to their jobs in Copenhagen. Then they go to the bike lot where they parked their bike
the night before. Lo and behold, it hasn't been stolen or vandalized or broken up for parts-- the norm in Ottawa. They ride their bikes to their places of work where bike storage is provided and after work it's back on the bike for the ride to the bike lot at the train station and then it's on to the train and home.
In order to achieve what's been achieved in Copenhagen, there has to be a change in Ottawa's culture. Bicycle theft has to become as unacceptable as honor killings. The cops have to charge these people and the courts have to punish them severely. Safe, secure bike lots and bike storage areas have to be provided. Until then, those who advocate bike traffic only in the downtown core are dreaming in technicolor.
New posts usually on Sundays.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Are You Contributing To Ottawa's Drug Problem ?

Yes, it's true. There are none so blind as those who cannot see -- as goes the old saying.
Maybe you're one of those who is blind ? Maybe you're an enabler ? Maybe you're a big part of the problem. Bet you didn't think of that the last time you forked over spare change to a panhandler.
Fact is, most of these panhandlers are crack cocaine addicts (tweakers) and your loonie is helping them towards their next "fix". Ottawa's got a big problem with crack cocaine and other street drugs and you're not helping matters any. When you give these people money, you make the situation worse.
Perhaps Citizen Ellie should be grateful to you. Your loonie likely has spared her from having her car broken into, with the thief stealing her sunglasses or something else which might be sold for a buck or two or traded for a "tab".
Many Ottawans believe that panhandlers are homeless and need money for food.
Please ! Rid yourself of this notion. More free meals are handed out in this town than there are eaters.
Why is the food bank seeing greater demand from suburban areas such as Barrhaven and Orleans ? Could it be because crack cocaine has now found its way into the suburbs and addicts are making choices about feeding their families or feeding their habit ?
A couple of years ago, not too long after he was elected, Mayor Larry got into hot water with the city's bleeding heart lefties and chardonnay socialists for suggesting Ottawans should "stop feeding the pigeons" when asked how he was planning to handle the growing panhandler problem in the By Ward Market and Rideau Centre areas. Apparently referring to panhandlers as "pigeons" wasn't politically correct in the minds of those who make a living from the poverty industry and the other self-appointed apologists for the so-called "weak and downtrodden" .
Last week, Ottawa's Police Chief Vern White addressed the issue when he appeared before a senior citizens' group. While he didn't mention "pigeons" in his talk, he didn't mince words about the city's growing drug problem and how those who dole out spare change to panhandlers are contributing to it. Stop giving them money, he said !
Chief White produced some eye-openers. There isn't a high school in this city that doesn't have its student drug dealers. There isn't a 15-year-old kid in this city who doesn't know where to get drugs at his/her school. Some kids as young as 10 are coming to school with prescription medications pinched from the parents' medicine chest -- which they sell to classmates. You'll be able to read plenty about this crisis in our midst in a major series by reporter Chris Cobb in The Citizen this coming week. If that doesn't open your eyes, Citizen Ellie doesn't know what will !
Crack cocaine and oxycontin are the scourge of our times. Perhaps you've noticed large signs in your local pharmacist's window advising that oxycontin and other narcotics are not kept in the store any more. Those with prescriptions for these meds must call in advance and the pharmacist will order the necessary amount from the secret pharmacy supply house. Why is this happening ? It's because there's been a rash of pharmacy hold-ups by tweakers looking for drugs. Hopefully the signs will discourage this activity and prevent something worse from happening to store staff and innocent shoppers during the course of these robberies.
So, folks ! Take off the blinders. You can be the solution instead of the problem. Keep your spare change in your pocket or purse. Don't feel sorry for them. They don't want your money for food. They want it for drugs ! Don't feed the pigeons.
Legendre Watch
It's now 13 business days since Citizen Ellie sent her councillor, Jacques Legendre, an e-mail containing three questions. Citizen Ellie had attended her local community association meeting on June 1, had spoken to the councillor and at his request, fired off the e-mail the following morning.
Citizen Ellie has sent previous e-mails to the councillor -- rarely has there been a response.
In the e-mail in question, Citizen Ellie asked:
1) Why has work ground to a halt on the apartment building at 245 Crichton Street and how long do neighbors have to put up with the current eyesore ?
2) What is happening with the sustainability summit proposed in a motion by Councillors Wilkinson and El-Chantiry in April -- which Council Legendre supported. When is the summit going forward and when will the public be advised?
3) When is the city going to install storm sewers and resurface The Mews Lane so that pedestrians do not have to wade through ankle-deep water during the spring melt and whenever there is a heavy rain ?
None of these are questions which require copious and lengthy research in order to provide answers. Three phone calls from the councillor's office by the councillor's highly-paid staff to the appropriate city departments (also staffed by highly-paid people) should have elicited answers forthwith.
Citizen Ellie thinks 13 days is surely enough time to provide a response. So she's going to keep track of exactly how long it takes. Watch this space. The "Legendre Watch" starts on Monday, June 21.
New posts usually on Sundays

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Increase our taxes....Please.....Please !!!!

Earlier this week, The Ottawa SUN trumpeted on its front page that the majority of Ottawans are quite prepared to pay more property taxes and user fees in order to maintain city services. According to the SUN's exclusive Leger poll, some 43 per cent of us don't mind being bled white by the bloated bureaucracy on Laurier Avenue.
Those of us who are familiar with polling techniques know that the responses depend on how the question is formed. In this case, the question was: Which of the following statements most accurately reflects your view on city taxes today ? a) The city must maintain its current level of city services, even if that means some increases in user fees or taxes; b) I would be willing to see a significant cut in services in order to hold the line on taxes; and c) Neither statement.
This question was put to some 600 adult Ottawans (over age 18) during the period between May 14 and May 21 and according to Leger, their polls are accurate to within +/- 4 per cent 19 times out of 20.
Forty three (43%) of those polled answered "yes" to (a); 28 per cent answered "yes" to (b);
27 per cent answered neither (a) nor (b) and two per cent said they didn't know. Wouldn't these figures indicate that rather than the majority of Ottawans being OK with a tax or user fee hike, the majority falls into the groups which are either not in favor or haven't made up their minds yet. Citizen Ellie suspects that those who haven't made up their minds yet are likely to be opposed to tax and user fee hikes when they finally do make up their minds. If these folk were hoo-haw happy with tax and user fee hikes, they would have answered (a) in the affirmative -- without stalling.
So before the tax-and-spend chardonnay socialists at city hall start dancing, rubbing their hands together and salivating with glee at the prospect of yet another automatic budget increase without having to undertake any measures which might bring relief to ratepayers, they should think again.
City politicians and bureaucrats have long used the spectre of cutting services to justify their laziness with the red pencil and their unwillingness to change the way they do business. Give the public a good scare -- we'll have to close your library; no indoor rinks will operate next winter; your house might burn down because there won't be enough firefighters -- and Joe and Jane Lunchpail will fall into line. Citizen Ellie has heard them all over the years she's been following municipal politics. And it never ceases to amaze her at the number of well-educated, thinking Ottawans who routinely fall for this guff. Could it be that because Ottawa is a civil service town and the bureaucratic mentality of never changing the operating methodology permeates every segment of life in this city ? Would things be different if the private sector dominated Ottawa's economy --like Windsor, for example ?
Some councillors -- Eli El-Chantiry, Marianne Wilkinson and Rick Chiarelli -- are not averse to looking at new ways. Councillors El-Chantiry and Wilkinson moved the motion back in April supporting a " financial sustainability summit" proposed by the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group (Ottawa TAG) and slated for June 22. This motion, to gather input from the public pending review of the Long Range Financial Plan and future budget process, was supported by Councillors Legendre, Feltmate, Deans, Hunter, Wilkinson, McRae, Desroches, El-Chantiry, Bloess, Monette, Bellemare, Bedard, Jellett, Leadman, Quadri, Cullen, Doucet, Hume and Chiarelli. Nays were Councillors Harder ( a surprise) and Holmes (no surprise).
Ottawa TAG has prepared a series of questions for the summit, questions which examine departmental costs with a vew to maintaining services while at the same time implementing a two-year budget freeze -- i.e. "no new money" -- which is what the federal government has done in its budget process.
There are those who say this is impossible -- including the SUN's city hall columnist Susan Sherring -- on the basis that the city's unionized employees won't accept pay cuts or wage freezes. Non-acceptance of taxpayers' financial realities on the part of unionized city workers is a given. but that doesn't mean throwing up one's hands in defeat ! A wage freeze is one potential tool, but there is no need to be concerned about job losses. If staff reductions are necessary, they can be achieved by attrition or staff can be absorbed by a service which needs to grow. Under a "no new money" program, funding for wage increases would have to be found from within a department's existing budget. That's what the feds have told their employees, and Citizen Ellie would not be surprised if something similar occurred at the provincial level. It would mean department heads would have to work harder to eliminate waste and featherbedding. And there's no reason why non-union, management and executive wages can't be frozen. There are too many on the "sunshine list" anyway !
In order to move away from the generic response that a two-year budget freeze would mean taking fire, police and snow plows off the streets, an Ottawa TAG member who holds a Master's degree in Business Administration, has spent a month conducting a line-by-line review of the city's budget. A herculean task and a volume of information has been amassed. Fifty core services, non-core services and administration costs were identified and each of these was broken down into 20 subgroups. There are efficiencies to be had by taking a serious look at spending on promotional items, performance measurement, communications, planning, billing, processing expense claims, office stationery and furniture, procurement, record-keeping etc. Non-core service items. And there's the all too familiar technique of continuing to carry unfilled positions on departmental personnel rosters in order to bolster departmental funds.
Ottawa TAG has determined that $243 million can be found by implementing a 10 per cent reduction in these areas: executive/board/management; non-service administrative excluding Hydro); non-departmental costs (excluding Hydro); administrative costs for core and non-core services; outsourced legal and consulting services (excluding Hydro); some capital costs; some core services (five per cent cut); and non-core services.
Ottawa TAG also believes the city should look at innovative ways of providing services by putting some of these services out by tender to the private sector. Ottawa contracted out its garbage services long ago. And Windsor is currently looking at outsourcing its parking enforcement branch.
One of Ottawa TAG's suggestions which caught Citizen Ellie's eye was using cheaper civilian employees to conduct police reference checks rather than have highly paid police officers do this job. Citizen Ellie knows of at least one jurisdiction in North America where volunteers are used for this purpose -- Yavapai County in Arizona, where the sherriff's department makes good use of volunteers in a number of capacities, including police reference checks.
Financial sustainability is not something to be sneered at, nor should its proponents be summarily written off as a bunch of kooks who know not of which they speak. Citizen Ellie just sent the city her second property tax payment -- total this year was $7,261.20. In return, she gets the bare minimum of snow removal in the winter. In the spring, summer and fall, when snow melts or it rains, her street is ankle-deep in water as there are no storm sewers. Citizen Ellie supports Ottawa TAG's efforts to force serious public discussion of the city's financial sustainability prospects. It would be better for the city to act in a studied fashion now than react in a panic at some later date when the well truly does run dry.
New posts usually on Sundays

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Random Thoughts During an Unseasonal Heatwave........

Reconsider ! Postpone ! Delay ! These are the words which immediately jump to mind when contemplating the decision-making process currently in favor in the council chamber at Ottawa's city hall.
So Councillor (and mayor wannabe) Alex Cullen did not disappoint when he took a look at the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG)'s magnificent plan for Lansdowne Park and loundly proclaimed that any decision on moving forward with the plan should be left to the new council which will be elected on October 25.
We can only hope that he, along with several other councillors who also exhibit a reluctance to make the hard decisions, are put out to pasture by weary taxpayers who've had a bellyful of tax, spend and nothing to show for it.
Citizen Ellie likes the OSEG plan. She also likes Plan E which is one of the five plans for the parkland adjacent to the canal which were released earlier. All of these plans can be viewed on the city's web site and Citizen Ellie suggests that before you make up your mind, take a good look at what's on offer so you'll be in a position to make an informed decision.
Citizen Ellie is also sick and tired of efforts made by certain community groups, aided and abetted by their elected representatives, to "demonize" the principals of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group in the hope that this demonization will turn the citizenry against Lansdowne development.
On the contrary. While public-private partnerships are hated by unions and their left-leaning supporters, most thinking people see such partnerships as a reasonable way of getting things accomplished at a time when public funds are stretched to the limit. It's time everyone realized that the property tax base is not cash cow which can be milked incessantly. When homeowners' property tax payments exceed their mortgage payments, something is drastically wrong with the system.
Citizen Ellie believes it's time to get on with it at Lansdowne. OSEG's design for rehabilitation of the stadium/Civic Centre along with retail and residential components is good for the city and will turn the current wasteland into a showpiece. OSEG has met all the city's requirements, and for someone who wants to be mayor to suggest at this late date, after OSEG has spent a ton of money on architect's fees etc., that decisions be delayed until a new council is in place is a slap in the face to Roger Greenberg, Jeff Hunt et al, and tantamount to asking for another lawsuit. It's no wonder Ottawans shake their heads and snicker when talk turns to municipal affairs.

Shall We Dance ?
Try as hard as he might, Councillor (and mayor wannabe) Alex Cullen can't get his chief opponent (some say shoo-in) for the mayor's chair, Jim Watson, to engage in debate.
Earlier this week Councillor Cullen had a campaign ad in the local newspapers setting out some of the things he would do if elected mayor and he's miffed that Jim Watson hasn't done the same.
One of these items is giving Citizen Ellie and her property taxpaying friends heartburn.
Due to the province uploading some of the costly services it downloaded on municipal ratepayers a decade ago, the city will have approximately $23 million in revenues which it doesn't have to send to Toronto.
One might reasonably expect that this $23 million could come back to the ratepayers in the form of a rebate cheque or perhaps a reduction in next year's taxes. Not if you elect Councillor Cullen as mayor. He has plans for that $23 million and it does not include benefitting Joe and Jane Ratepayer.
He wants to use this money for the homeless. This begs the question: why is homelessness still an issue, given the amount of money governments at all levels collect in the form of taxes, given the much-vaunted social safety net we all pay for, and given the generous donations made to charitable organizations set up to help the less fortunate ? Citizen Ellie is tired of being "guilted" about homelessness by politicos, social agencies and professional do-gooders. How about you ?
But back to Cullen vs. Watson. Jim Watson is a very skilled, wiley politician and he ain't going to engage himself in a pissing contest any time soon

Ottawa Voters' Coalition Event
Citizen Ellie will be MC-ing a "Candidate Focus Session" being presented by the Ottawa Voters' Coalition (OVC) on Saturday, June 12 from 10.30 a.m. to 12 noon at the Royal Oak (800 Hunt Club Road at Uplands Drive).
Ottawa SUN columnist Walter Robinson will open the event, outlining what voters will expect of candidates in the upcoming municipal election on October 25. He will also review the Ottawa Voters' Coalition founding principles which include revamping the governance structure at city hall and establishing term limits for mayor and councillors.
This is a "by reservation only" event -- you can get your name on the list by contacting OVC at:

New posts usually on Sunday