Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pffffffffffffft

"If we don't go through with [IKEA], we'll be the laughingstock of North America," Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Bill Clement

Oh yes, we must have been the laughing stock of North America up until yesterday.

And your ward will become the laughing stock of Winnipeg.

Will people ever learn that a city is not defined by which corporate retailers you can attract? No wonder our downtown is in ruins, historic buildings get demolished and Plan Winnipeg is so easily amended.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good job, Brodbeck

Brodbeck wrote a very how-dare-ye-oppose-development column today. I might have been able to respectfully read and disagree with his column, except that I have a serious issue with it. He twisted and spun statements that I had made yesterday at the public hearing into a fabricated statement.

"Others thought the Ikea should go downtown. That's a laugh. Right, we're going to tell a multi-billion retail corporation they have to move into the old A&B Sound building on Portage Avenue. "

I will step forward and say both that I was the only person yesterday who said anything about downtown, and I was also the only person who made reference to the A&B Sound building.

Before you go to the "post comment" button and degrade any credibility I may or may not have, read on.

The following events happened yesterday:

1) I was the first to speak in opposition to the plan.

2) I spoke of downtown and the lack of focus on it. I was the only person to say anything about downtown.

3) I referenced the A&B Sound building as an example of vacant buildings as intense development happens on fringe areas of the city. I was the only person to reference A&B Sound.

4) Councilor Fielding was the only councilor to ask me a question. He asked me if I was suggesting IKEA be built downtown. I said NO. (In fact, I had never, ever, ever suggested that IKEA move downtown)

5) Nobody else following me who had to speak said ANYTHING about downtown. NOBODY else following me stated that IKEA should be built downtown.


So how does Brodbeck come up with a statement saying that people were there saying that IKEA should be built downtown, and specifically reference building it on the A&B Sound building?

Brodbeck's column is about people like me. How DARE we oppose IKEA! How DARE we! How DARE we question such a complex project that was rushed through the critiquing process!

Of course, the mood was much different, but Brodbeck failed to capture that. Most people such as myself were concerned not about IKEA, again, but the rest of the plan. The rest of the development. Not the IKEA store. I am confident none of us would have been there had the plan been JUST for an IKEA store.

3 strikes for Brodbeck:

- Made up information about people at the public hearing wanting IKEA to move downtown
- Did not listen to my answer to Fielding's question
- Did not approach me after to ask me any questions about my speech


Of course, he couldn't come and ask me directly afterwards. Otherwise he wouldn't have been able to make such a strong case against those of us pooh-poohing how rushed and quickly this plan has come to fruition without much consultation from anybody. He couldn't listen to my answer to Fielding, because I was the only one saying anything about downtown, and that fit his bill.

In my opinion, Brodbeck had already made up his mind about those of us in opposition before any of us opened our mouths. He wanted to write a piece about how ridiculous it was that people were opposing IKEA...conveniently stepping lightly on the fact that none of us in opposition were actually opposed to the IKEA store. Of course, such a piece would earn him roaring applause and no doubt generate comments and feedback about how ridiculous it is that "somebody" wants an IKEA on the A&B Sound building, and how DARE anybody speak against IKEA, don't people in this city want progress?

That "somebody" is ficticious. Nobody said that and, I reiterate, nobody said anything about IKEA going downtown.

In my correspondence with Brodbeck over this, he declined that he had actually quoted me and said that he didn't use my name, which is true. Based on this, he accused me of "making stuff up," and said that he never wrote anything about me wanting an IKEA downtown. When I asked him which speaker it was who said IKEA should go downtown, he did not answer.

Who's making stuff up, Tom?

We obviously don't see eye to eye on this subject, and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is somebody taking my statements and twisting them into fiction to satisfy his own argument, and then not having the audacity to admit it.

That's low, dude. Low.

The Good, the bad, the ugly, the uglier and the ugliest

I attended over 9 hours of the public hearing on the "Tuxedo Yards Redevelopment" yesterday. I am far less than impressed. Mostly at the Executive Policy Committee, who displayed true wisdom and Winnipegisms that will see this city develop as a backassward prairie town who wants to hang around with the big kids. In other words, about the same it's always been. Here was an opportunity to change things, and well, it's all but gone now.


The Good

I struggled to find any good.


The Bad

After sitting through over 6 hours worth of crap that included a presentation by the developer, traffic people, and then question after question from councilors over absolutely ridiculous things like the positioning of loading docks. Where sidewalks will go. How wide the sidewalks are. Question after question about traffic, how will I turn left, how many parking spots are there, where do the trucks go, how many trucks every day will be going to IKEA, where their product is shipped from. About bike racks and how many bike spots there will be.

After all that we finally got to stand up and say something. The thing is, all those questions, they aren't approval questions. They aren't Executive Policy questions. They're questions with the implication that, well hey, this thing is going through anyway, might as well try to understand it.

It took six hours for that, and by the time it was time for the opposed citizens to speak, it was like the councilors' eyes had glazed over and whatever anyone said went in one ear and out the other.

NOBODY in opposition was actually opposed to the IKEA. I want to say that and make it clear because it's important. The problems people have with this, myself included, is not actually the IKEA store. It's the rest. It's what's happening north of Sterling. While we're claiming to be advancing the city by getting an IKEA and it's going to be basically the best big box store ever (more on that later), the rest is going to be the same shit we have all over the place in this city, including what currently resides on Kenaston and other places like Kildonan Crossroads.

Absolutely no public consultation happened. There was an open house, and a public hearing. The plans were only available to the public for a whopping 13 days. 13 days, for a project that will severely impact the way this city functions for decades to come, was only consulted for 13 days. I'm no expert, but if I applied to put a shed up on my property that exceeded zoning limitations, it would take a lot more than 13 fucking days to get it passed.


The Ugly

Nothing changed. The plans are going through as you see them. Despite hours worth of "public consultation," many of whom gave compelling, legitimate arguments may I add, absolutely no concerns raised were addressed by EPC. After what I said, the councilors seemed to nod their head in agreement and say "thank you." Fielding was the only one who asked me a question, I don't know if he was playing on his Blackberry or what. Despite my whole speech being about how Phase 2 and Phase 3 don't make sense and would be better suited elsewhere in the city, he asked "so...you want to put IKEA downtown?" (IKEA is Phase 1 for those of you who have not actually looked at anything)

Despite all the concerns raised by councilors, nothing is changed. Nothing. I'd love to be a developer in Winnipeg, everything gets approved! I'm sorry, I must correct myself. One thing did change. IKEA now has a clause to, after 2 years, re-examine the use of their bike racks to determine if 50 spaces is adequate.


The Uglier

This shifts the balance of power in Winnipeg. Kenaston and Sterling Lyon should be re-named Portage and Main. 11 fucking lanes. Triple turning lanes. Asphalt everywhere. 8 to 10 years to finish this monster. Does that not have impact on Winnipeg? I cannot forsee any retail development happening anywhere else, other than this place, for the next 10 years. They are isolating it.

Plan Winnipeg is being completely ignored. Yes, they passed the amendment. But in doing so, and not even by voting on it, passed another amendment. The amendment of the entire fucking document.

What use is a plan if we don't follow it? Plan Winnipeg actually makes SOME sense. The first section, 1A, is about downtown. The importance of it, to promote it, promote development, and make downtown the bustling centre it once was. To evaluate the effects of new development on downtown. To get more people living downtown.

There's all kinds, sections on Transportation and Transit. The best they could do? Is re-route the 78 to IKEA. 11 fucking lanes of traffic and there's not a fucking bus lane. There's not any priority lights at the intersections. There is nothing else, despite IKEA claiming they are helping us out with public transit. They're not. They're adding to our problems at this point. Although the EPC seemed to understand this, they paid no mind to it when passing the plan.

Effects on other neighborhoods, concerns with the development, just about the entire fucking thing was axed yesterday. So I ask, what's the point of having a plan? And, furthermore, what is the point of drafting a new PW when it clearly won't be followed?


The Ugliest

IKEA. They pulled the wool over the EPC's collective brains.

It's better than any box store we've ever seen. They have sidewalks in their parking lot. They have trees and landscaping in their parking lot. They exceeded the minimum required number of parking spaces. They even have special lights for the NIMBYs.

But it's what we don't have. Compared to other IKEAs, this is complete garbage. This kind of shit plan doesn't pass in other places. It's just that compared to everything else we have, it's phenomenal. I suppose when you get used to mediocrity a small improvement seems exciting.

I didn't realize it until some of the opposed citizens started mentioning other stores. But Winnipeg really is getting fucked here. In the UK, IKEA gives all their employees bikes. At multiple IKEA locations, you get a discount at the store if you travel by public transit. In some other city, they have their own buses that go to and from downtown, an IKEA shuttle service. In Vancouver, they deliver your shit to your door. In Winnipeg, we have trees in our parking lot.

All of this only indicated to me, is that if you were to twist IKEA's arm, they would cough it up. All they want to do is become the cornerstone store in whichever city they are building in. They want to make it the best, they want to make it stand out and they want to make themselves seem like the best corporate citizen ever. Your best pal. They do it by doing things that other box stores don't do.

In our case, we don't have landscaping in our parking lots. The councilors didn't seem to notice that maybe we could get them to build a diamond lane. Maybe we could get them to agree to do more with public transit. Maybe we could get them to give back to Winnipeg a little more.

But nope...the best we can do is get IKEA to agree that, after 2 years, they will re-evaluate the number of bike spots. Thank you Mr Wyatt for that wonderful clause that is now in their contract.

Friday, March 6, 2009

State of the Blog address

This is more or less directed at reporters who may read my blog, or newspaper people, as well as other bloggers. I was originally going to tack it onto the end of my last post, but it was far too long, and after reading it back to myself I thought it was important enough to have it's own post.


***

Note on the newspaper industry and bloggers

***

After the latest layoff round at the FreeP that included Turner and Paraskevas, and the comment from Cox that it was "because of the economy," I laughed. Blame the economy instead of the switch to online news sources. Cutting loose two exceptionally good reporters isn't going to help the quality of your online content either.

However, the sad state of the newspaper industry is not one to take lightly. Myself and most bloggers rely on news sources for our commentary. [My last] post is an example of that. In fact, I have gone through all my posts thus far in 2009 and have, out of 31 posts, 16 that were not based on a newspaper article (or, roughly half). I based two from the CBC and one from the BBC, two from other bloggers.

10 of my 31 posts (or, roughly a third) are commentary on a specific article from a newspaper or are follow ups. The scary part about this, is that 6 of them are from Mr Kives, and one from the unfortunately sacked Paraskevas. One other is from an anonymous and very poorly skilled editorial writer. The last couple are from a couple random reporters.

I can only speak for myself, but the reason why I use so many of Kives' articles is because he happens to cover what I like to read and write about. I think I owe you a couple drinks, Bart.

This is all just to remind us that out here on the blogosphere, we largely depend on sources like the FreeP and Sun who employ actual reporters who get actual money. I and most bloggers, do not actually break news on a regular basis. I use this oxy-moronically named blog to vent myself on the frustrations I have as a young person trying to make his way through an oftentimes backwards city, and one that is full of many politicians, counselors and such who are stuck in their old ways and refuse to change.

Ultimately, I would rather put myself on the record here, un-anynonymously, than fire a letter to the editor off to the FreeP and Sun once a day, only to find that 1/30 or less get printed. Or sign up for commenting on the FreeP Online, only to have my often, err, passionate comments be modified.

As much as I depend on local newspapers as sources for updates to my website, I recognize that much and also support said local newspapers with my money. My household subscribes to the FreeP and I also purchase a copy of the Sun on weekdays. Especially Tuesdays, need that Sun, need those hockey stats.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Winnipeg needs this

I'm talking about Sport Manitoba's high performance centre they wish to build. All concerns about Facadism are noted, of course. I'm not suggesting this facility be built to sacrifice historic buildings.

Rather, the benefits such a facility would provide to our amateur athletes never seems to come up, we just expect these people to somehow magically become elite. It even concerns me a little, to think that criticism for the lack of these kinds of facilities in Winnipeg rarely if ever, comes up.

The problem lies in that all high performance centres are scattered, and many times, innaccessible. For example, the University of Manitoba Max Bell Field House is where I train, however, by it's nature, it was designed for University athletes and that makes it somewhat less accessible to other, non-UofM athletes. Purchase of a pass will cost a few hundred bucks, and for running, a sport that has almost no cost attached to it, many parents wishing to get their kids into the sport may find this to be a bit much.

The article mentions other sports, such as volleyball, swimming, and soccer. I'd like to take a paragraph and emphasize that we are speaking here, mostly of young athletes, high schoolers in many cases. If other aspects of training such as weights are not available at their high school, they may have to join a public gym. And public gyms are no places for aspiring high performance athletes to train. There are no other athletes there to help them out, nevermind coaches. All these things may be, and in most cases are, innacessible.

As a result we have little athlete development here in Manitoba. You cut your chops the hard way, very little is provided to you and very little is encouraged.

At a single centralized facility, all athletes from all walks of lifes and backgrounds would converge. Hey, I'm a runner, but there's a hell of a lot I could learn from hockey players, volleyball players, and swimmers....hand-eye coordination, acute muscle development, and balance. Vice versa, there's a lot I could teach them, mechanics, the understanding of how your muscles and body react during movement and the importance that can play in efficiency and injury avoidance.

In addition to that, Sport Manitoba can offer many interdisciplinary clinics for their athletes. This is already something they do to some degree, but could be applied across all sports and available to all athletes, under one roof. For an example of this I could refer to a pro athlete (and one of my favourites), Tim Thomas, who does yoga to supplement his training.

To summarize, Sport Manitoba can take direct involvement in the development of amateur Manitoban athletes.

The fact that Sport Manitoba has chosen downtown as the location for this facility shouldn't be overlooked. That's making a statement. They really DO want to have a centralized facility. On top of that, they want to make use of a historic building. Sport Manitoba is doing everything right here, but all I read is criticism for their potential plans for a historic building.

Sport Manitoba came this far. I can at least give them the benefit of the doubt they won't resort to Facadism.