Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Call it a shot over the bow designed to attract attention.
North Bay city councillors passed a resolution Monday night to send a message to the Ontario Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne urging provincial arbitrators to consider a municipality’s ability to pay when making an award.
A copy of will be sent to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities in hope of gaining some traction that will be noticed by the provincial government.
A private member’s bill introduced by the provincial Conservatives calling for a revamping of the system was defeated at Queen’s Park last month after failing to gain support from both the Liberals and NDP.
Affecting police and fire departments, the arbitration process has meant hefty increases in some cases, placing further burden on the taxpayer through higher taxes.
“Cities should not have to fear arbitration,” said coun. Mike Anthony, who introduced the motion.
A substantial chunk, 3.7 per cent, of North Bay’s bill for fire services, is the result of an award aimed at encouraging firefighters to stay with the local department.
While retention pay is necessary in some centres, council doesn’t consider it a factor in North Bay.
“We have 500 applications for one job,” says coun. Dave Mendicino. “We have no retention problem.”
“What works in Toronto does not work here,” said coun. Tanya Vrebosch. “The arbitrator paints the issue with one brush.”
The motion received unanimous support.
“The amount of money is substantial and these are items that are out of our control,” said deputy mayor Sean Lawlor. “The bottom line is people are having trouble with costs that have been put on our table to pay.”
Coun. George Maroosis expressed concern council was wasting time and said the bigger question of who is selected as an arbitrator needs to be addressed.
Council veteran Darryl Vaillancourt says the whole system needs examination, but appeals have thus far fallen on deaf ears.
“We’ve tackled this several times over the years,” he said. “It’s a provincial issue that needs to be dealt with. Someone at Queen’s Park needs to champion the issue.”
Also on Monday night, council agreed to an exemption for the local gun show to a bylaw designed to protect local businesses from out of town interlopers who set up shop for a few days, make their money and leave.
Wayne Montgomery, secretary of the Nipissing Rifle and Revolver Club and director of the trade show, asked for the exception, telling council the only local business impacted by the show is actually an exhibitor and does very well at the event.
Under terms of a recently changed bylaw, all exhibitors at the club would have been forced to pay a $25 fee and disclose personal information, something Montgomery said would have led to the cancellation of the show, which last year attracted 1,000 visitors.
He says the personal information is given to the club in trust and if it were to fall into the wrong hands, it could become a shopping list for criminals.
“This is where you get those unintended consequences,” said coun. Judy Koziol.
The gun club will pay a $300 fee, an amount they proposed, to host the event, up from the $100 for past shows.
“They’re good people running a good event,” said Vaillancourt, adding he wants to ensure the club is not forced to look outside the city for a venue.
Council also gave official approval to overturning a decision to remove a bus stop in front of a Douglas Street apartment building as part of a change in a bus loop in the area, after hearing complaints from seniors in the building.
The city said ridership on the route, that included the Douglas Street stop, was very low. The move would have saved $8,000 annually.
“I look forward to this new-found passion for transit during our next budget process,” said Vrebosch.
Mendicino, who along with mayor Al McDonald met with the seniors, encouraged building residents Monday night to take advantage of council’s reversal.
“If you can, increase the ridership and use the service more,” he said.
“Transit is an essential service,” said coun. Sarah Campbell. “That is what residents on Douglas Street have demonstrated.”
Thursday, May 16, 2013
About eight years ago, I had just finished watching the pilot episode of The Office on NBC.
Just as the show ended, a friend called and asked what I was doing.
"Watching maybe the funniest thing I have ever seen," was the reply.
Today, the show goes away forever. As much as it will be missed, the time is right.
Watching shows in decline often spoils the memory of earlier work. There will be no jumping the shark for the Dunder Mifflin family.
Something about the show rang so true for so many.
I would have long discussions with professional people who have "important" jobs in the real world about the state of Pam and Jim's relationship or about a former boss they had who pulled a Michael Scott.
Ah, Michael Scott. Anyone who has ever held a supervisory position is lying if they tell you they have not seen a small piece of Michael in themselves at least once.
In the end, the series was a success because the writers gave us realistic characters who did believable things most of the time.
Sometimes the plot twists were puzzling. For some reason Andy turned into an unbelievably out of touch and insensitive idiot and what happened to Jan was unnecessary
But, at times, the writing was brilliant. Allowing the much-maligned Roy to exit the series on top after years of jerk-like behaviour with our beloved Pam was sheer genius.
We got to see David Wallace, the once-powerful company executive outside of the business world as just a strange dude trying to invent the next big thing. It was a brilliant demonstration of how and how far and how fast people can fall. Even his return to prominence in the company was handled in an almost plausible way.
We cried when Pam and Jim got married, rolled our eyes at Michael's attempts to be cool and understood that under it all, Dwight was man of true integrity and loyalty.
Today they shut The Office Door for the last time.
I realize it was only a television show, but somehow I feel like I'm saying goodbye to friends.
And that makes me sad.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I should have known better.
After half a century of being a Toronto Maple Leafs fans, I have seen far more ups than downs.
I idolized Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Tiger Williams and later Rick Vaive, Wendel Clark and Curtis Joseph.
I caught pucks at playoff games at Maple Leaf Gardens back when they came along more than once a decade. Many intermissions were spent talking to Harold Ballard and King Clancy.
The Philadelphia Flyers and their fans were my sworn enemies.
Then came the professional sports labour disputes. Working as a sportswriter, it was my job to keep up on them.
Day after day of millionaires fighting with billionaires became tedious and I backed away for a long time.
When I came back, the Leafs were still struggling, but being a Leaf fan is terminal, it doesn't go away until you die.
I started to believe again this year.
And then came Game Seven in Boston.
The Leafs broke my heart - again.
But, there's always next year.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Sometimes you can fight City Hall.
That’s the message Coun. George Maroosis hopes he and his colleagues on North Bay city council sent Monday night by changing their collective mind about removing a bus stop on Douglas St. as part of the elimination of a transit loop in the area.
“It’s a victory for people to understand that you can come before council and affect change,” he said.
Maroosis had brought forth a motion sending the route change back to committee to be reconsidered after a presentation from a group of seniors in late last month.
After hearing from and meeting with residents in the area, council decided to keep the route.
“I hope they mean it,” said 75-year-old Ruby Trudel, who addressed council late in April to outline the hardship and potential danger she said the move would create. “I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t trust this council.”
The city said low ridership on the route led to the change. The change was approved in the city’s 2013 budget and expected to save about $8,000 annually.
Mayor Al McDonald and community services committee chair Dave Mendicino both met with residents of Wanner Towers on Douglas Street at their building. The bus stop in front of their building had been scheduled for decommission on May 1.
“They made some good points and it was something we could accommodate,” said Mendicino. “They were very passionate about why it should stay. They made a pretty convincing case.”
Coun. Daryl Vaillancourt voiced his opposition to reversing the decision.
“It’s not an easy decision,” he said. “If I obliged every time someone asked me not to do something in the last 10 years in council, I would have never got anything done. Virtually everything we do ends up with people in front of you saying ‘please don’t do that’.”
There was also discussion about a transit study to be done this year to determine changing priorities.
Coun. Mike Anthony suggested consideration be given to staggering the bus times to make it easier for riders.
“Any decision may look great on paper,” he said. “And may not turn out so well in real life.”
Also on Monday night, councillors heard presentations from several residents who live in the area of a proposed development near Circle Lake in the Sage Road area.
The development by Grand Sierra Investments Ltd., would include 37 single-family homes and 103 townhouses. The original proposal back in 2004 called for as many as 200 townhomes.
Monday night, those who spoke expressed concern over increased traffic, the lack of sidewalks in the area, the physical state of Sage Road, worry over increased population density in their neighbourhood, the future of a park in the area and environmental impact on wetlands. Because the original application was submitted in 2003, the area in question is subject to older provincial legislation, which allows more development on wetlands than existing rules do.
The plan is for the park to be relocated about 500 feet from its existing location. The developer would also donate about 40 acres of parkland.
“This type of development has an impact on not just the immediate area,” said former city planner Keith Harriman, who addressed councillors. “You have to look at the bigger picture. It’s in everybody’s interest if we work with people in the area.”
He suggested a survey of local residents be conducted in order to get further input before the project moves forward. He also called on the city to undertake a full housing needs analysis for North Bay.
There is another future development nearby on Circle Lake, which would also add to traffic in the area. The city is recommending the developer contribute $100 per home to help offset any road improvements that may eventually be needed in the area.
After hearing those concerns, the proposal will stay with the community services committee for further study.
“I have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said McDonald. “When you deal with complex issues like building subdivisions, questions bring more questions.”