Thursday, April 29, 2010

Justin Swandel Drunk on BRT Studies

I can't help but take a jab at Justin Swandel for his comments towards Jenny Gerbasi recently regarding BRT.

Mostly because they reduce political debate amongst our elected officials akin to that of a four year old throwing sand in some other kid's eyes because he didn't give his toy truck back. This type of behaviour is utterly ridiculous and it completely hinders the political process. It's fine if two people have opposing views, but this is just plain sad.

Of course the best part is when Swandel takes offense to a return-jab from Gerbasi, but more on that in a bit. Let's look at the Mayor Katz BRT timeline first, shall we?

One of Katz's first moves when he first got into office in 2004, was to scrap Glen Murray's rapid transit plans and ideas that were already in motion. After that, study after study was completed, debating the feasibility of rapid transit, and bus rapid transit. His reason being he liked the idea of using existing rail infrastructure to build transit lines. After BRT studies came out they were deemed expensive, but funding fell in place from all levels of government to, finally, in 2009, after debate that probably goes back to before I was born, start the first rapid transit project. In 2009 Katz also re-stated his love for rail transit, and stated that in the future, the BRT corridors could be converted to light rail. And now, in 2010, city council voted to spend another whole pile of money on yet another study over light rail.

How's that? I managed to write a whole paragraph without interjecting my opinions. If you desire to know my opinions on these matters, use the archive labels to mine through old posts.

Given that, this statement from Swandel, directed at Gerbasi (a known rapid transit supporter), last week:

St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel accused her of "just going off and getting drunk with the term BRT."

Now, really, Swandel, come on. Getting drunk with BRT? BRT has been a topic of hot debate, flip flops, cancellations, studies, studies, studies, and plough-throughs and more since Katz got into office in 2004. Nobody is getting drunk off anything at this point and if they are, it's to drown their sorrows over the sad display civic politicians have demonstrated over this.

Of course, when one is attacked, you can stand up for yourself or just take it and let the bully win. The following are from Bartley Kives' Twitter feed from yesterday's council meeting:

Gerbasi, in response to Swandel "drunk on BRT" comment, jokes Swandel is smoking something.

And like a true four year old in a sandbox, Swandel goes crying to tell on Gerbasi:

Swandel demands she withdraw comment; Says he finds it offensive from "someone who says her residents don't even vote."

Oh, demand she withdraw the comment? Justin, we need to have a talk. When you poke somebody with a giant shit stick? They are the ones who are going to get steamed and probably hurl something offensive back at you. Did you really think saying a fellow councilor was “drunk on BRT” wasn't going to backfire?

I rarely defend councilors for their stupidity over things like this. But I need to speak in defense of Gerbasi. She's only saying we go through with the plans we've been debating since the day Katz got into office, there is nothing wrong with that. No, I personally don't agree with a lot of the BRT stuff but, this HAS gone on for far too long. Furthermore, it helps nobody by offending people who stand on the other side of the fence by touting juvenile insults.

I think Gerbasi might be on to something, perhaps there are weed fumes floating throughout the council chamber. If it takes 6 years to debate and decide where to put a bus route, that might be the only logical conclusion you can draw.

Monday, April 26, 2010

City Skimps Environmental Consultation

I have covered before the "blanket statement" issued to the 37 Active Transportation projects, absolving them of any need to conduct environmental assessments under the guise of time constraints to use federal money.

And today it seems the City hands those same "privaleges" over to developers.

Apprently the prospect of 3500 townhouses near Sterling Lyon Parkway was just too juicy to pass up, even if it means bulldozing high quality park areas to do so.

As I said in my previous post, and this one coming just after Earth Day weekend, just makes me shake my head in even further shame. This is all we have left, people. Once it's gone, it isn't coming back. There isn't just more somewhere else. There aren't other wetlands and other forests and other areas that are this high quality, this pristine, this untouched, with this many naturally occuring species present.

Sure, theres forests and wetlands and such in other places in the province. But think of the boundaries of the City of Winnipeg as a model for the Earth. How many places like this are left now? How important is it that they need to be protected? When we can't or don't want to save what's left, or when we think there is just a bottomless well of great natural places to go to, well, no wonder environmental issues are such hot topics.

The most interesting aspect of all this of course is that, had the city had half a brain, this area could have been turned into a park, not unlike Assiniboine Forest, and allowed the developer to put up townhouses, albeit far less than 3500, on one of the edges of this hypothetical park. That would have greatly increased the land value around this place, and greatly increased the value of the townhouses. Who wouldn't want to live by such a nice park anyway?

Proof that you can be environmentally concious and at the same time, make positive development. But I suppose most Winnipeggers wouldn't want to live by a nice park.

Giving City Hall, Property Planning and Development, the Mayor, and whoever else involved in this a giant, huge, green thumbs down. This is a no brainer. And this kind of thing for the day and age that we live in, well there just simply isn't room for any of it. There isn't any excuse any more.

I guess the City will send MAR Consultants to spin this for us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Damn the Environment, Full Steam Oil Rigs Ahead

After the oil rig off the Louisiana coast caught fire, I thought to myself, what terrible luck for Mother Earth. First, a colossal fuckup when a Chinese oil tanker decided to go one step further than the broad side of a barn and beach itself on the Great Barrier Reef. And now just a couple weeks later, this.

However the damage to an oil tanker is minimal, there is only so much oil.

I read with amusement following the fire on board the oil rig, when "officials" claimed that, no, no oil will spill. Oh but we all know how much the word of oil companies is worth....a infitisimally small fraction of what a barrel of oil is worth. And now, she's spewing crude. Well of course she's spewing crude.

And at the mind boggling rate of a thousand barrels a day. A thousand.

This is no joke or laughing matter, I don't care what you think about climate change or anything else. The impact of oil spills in our oceans is unbelieveable. It's scorched earth on water, killing everything it contacts, decimating fish stocks, washing ashore on beaches, making the water completely unusable. Spare me the photos of ducks covered in oil from Greenpeace, please.

I cannot express how dissapointed I am with people's general outlooks on this, nevermind the policies being put forth by the American Government. President Obama's relaxation of offshore drilling bans comes in at first place, and the American Foreign Policy of starting illegal wars under the guise of a "global war on terror" to better position themselves for Middle Eastern oil trading comes in at number two.

Who knows how long this will take to plug the leak, as if an oil rig goes down, valves could be hundreds or thousands of feet underwater.

Our addiction for oil will see more and more oil rigs built as demand for oil goes up and up and up, and the cost to extract it becomes higher and higher and higher as you can no longer stick a pipe in the ground in the desert somewhere.

Unfortunately I'm not sure I'll ever live to see the end of this continuous, blind quest for the acquisition of oil. Not with a US "Defense" budget of over 800 billion dollars, not when a "war" in a country as irrelevant as Afghanistan takes more than 8 years. Not when the US will seemingly use every excuse in the book to force themselves to believe that Iran is a horrible horrible country....the same excuses they used prior to invading Iraq, and the same excuses that would ultimately prove to be false. The American policy of fear continues to work, and I thought we had brain-dead politicians here in Canada.

Plenty of them we do have, how brain dead does one have to be to be in favour of expanding the tar sands, anyhow? 2:1 drinking water to oil ratio to clean the sand seems perfectly reasonable to me. Maybe those fumes from Athabasca are drifting over to Parliament Hill.

Meanwhile the Earth will keep on spinning and environmental catastrophes engineered by humans, intent on wrecking the very space in which they live all the while denying they do such a thing, will continue, until there will be no place on this Earth untouched by pollution.

Hell, we can even manage to leave garbage in the worlds most inhospitable place, over 8000 metres above sea level, on Mount Everest. Who cares, the Sherpas will pick it all up right?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Real Life

Can you do me a favour and think about your own life in relation to others around the globe? For five seconds?


This article on how the iPad affects the publishing industry and the book market in general is absolutely engrossing. I highly suggest you read it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Volcano only shows how small we really are

The amount of news coverage over the more worldwide newspaper sites I romp through on a daily basis as reached the tipping point and now I have to rant.

All I see are stories of how passengers are stranded, how restrictions are excessive, about what the EU is doing about it, about how it is affecting other nations around the world.

In other words, about how the entirety of Europe has just stopped on account of a volcano. A volcano, folks. That the restrictions have to be eased or lifted or removed, that the world has stopped spinning. Of course the airlines want restrictions removed, all of the money they're losing or not making because of this?

Over the last 10 years or so we have seen a myriad of natural disasters that have nearly shut down entire countries for weeks, if not years. The Tsunami, for example. The Haiti earthquake, more recently and, right now another earthquake in China. Mudslides and rain in Peru, stranding thousands of tourists visiting Incan ruins. Several tsunami warnings sparked after off-coast quakes, triggering the memory of the tsunami from 2004, a day after Christmas. Lest I forget Hurricane Katrina.

And now, a single volcano, has unleashed havoc over half of a continent.

While the news outlets will focus on the economic brick wall that they hit in developed countries, be it airlines in Europe or fears over oil shortages when a hurricane is about to hit, what none of them never ever mention is how clearly it demonstrates that humans are, suprise suprise, not actually in control of the planet. We are but a single species living on this planet and just as vulnerable as the rest.

Whether or not planes can fly through ash or, how much ash they clan fly through, is irrelevant. This could go on for a lot longer than it has. And it has far, far, far worse consequences than some giant corporate airlines losing some of their profit margin flying out of Heathrow.

It has a immediate and direct effect on, gasp, Iceland. Yes it seems during all the hoopla over air travel we forgot about the country this volcano actually exists on. If that isn't enough to demonstrate how selfish and grande the general human race thinks oursleves, I could easily list a dozen more from the last 20 years.

Google is thy friend, right? Well at least to us uneducated, lowly bloggers with no credible journalism skills. Volcanic ash is, or can be, incredibly devastating to the entire globe. This shit can be seen from space. In a giant, huge plume rising miles and miles into the air, blanketing huge regions. Ash it turns out can cause all kinds of weather catastrophes, from Wikipedia, thy second best friend:

"The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora created global climate anomalies that became known as the "Year Without a Summer" because of the effect on North American and European weather.[7] Agricultural crops failed and livestock died in much of the Northern Hemisphere, resulting in one of the worst famines of the 19th century."

Compared to that, some ash grounding some planes for awhile doesn't sound so bad. It's events like the one happening now that make us forget the absolute power of the Earth and Mother Nature. Nevermind other things:

"All vegetation on the island was destroyed. Uprooted trees, mixed with pumice ash, washed into the sea and formed rafts of up to 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) across."

If 1815 is too far back for anybody to care, perhaps those with greater institutional memory than myself can remember Mount St Helens, which erupted before I was born, blowing it's cork so to speak and levelling an unbelieveable amount of ground in Washington state and even covering entire cars with ash.

Of course comparisons to those volcanoes to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland may be extreme, given they aren't the same type of volcano. However this is no suprise event, Eyjafjallajökull started erupting again in December of last year, some five months ago.

When events like these happen I cannot help but sit back in awe at the incredible power of the Earth, and it's ability to completely stop human function for extended periods of time. It only serves me a reminder how humans have lived here for but the blink of an eye, and my own lifespan is less than a fraction of that. The Earth does not need humans to keep spinning, and it will be here long after we consume ourselves out of existance or blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons.

It also makes me glad that I live on the Canadian Prairie, where all I have to contend with are thunderstorms and the occasional tornado.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Big Victory, Small Neighbourhood

It's fantastic to see that the community of people around Omands Creek rose up with enough opposition to kill a ludicrous plan that was completely unecessary and as we have seen, without consultation. Had Bill Woroby and crew actually listened to the residents "consulted" in the February meeting, this would never have blown up like it did.

One wonders what would happen should the neighbourhoods the other 36 AT projects planned are going in were actually informed of what these plans mean for their neighbourhood.