Photo radar, nasty emails, penny pinching councillors make headlines in Canadian cities this week

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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Two Toronto ward councillors have major cat fight over territory this week...meeeeoooww

It was a busy week in Canadian cities this week. Let's first start with a big kudos to a few civic elected officials in Seattle, Washington (Canada's other unofficial city). A few of them are heading to Montreal on a junket to learn about how they've begun tackling gang violence.

In view of the current economic meltdown, they've decided to pay for the junket out of their own pocket. Here is what Councillor Jean Godden told the Seattle Post Intelligencer:

At a time when the city is having to lay off city employees and trim budgets, I do not believe it was appropriate to travel at city expense.

According to the PI, she also paid out of her own pocket for a $37 tour of Montreal. Councillor Tim Burgess also paid for his trip despite it being an officially "sanctioned trip" of Seattle Council.

The total cost for the trip to Montreal was $2,551.53. Once again, hats off to these penny pinching politicians who are truly leading by example. Now perhaps they can come up to Vancouver (on their own dime, of course) to teach some local politicians a lesson or two on frugality during tough times.

Meanwhile in Winnipeg, they're trying to gouge drivers at every turn - literally. The city is possibly facing a class action lawsuit from folks who are fed up with the police setting up those nasty little speed trap vans in bogus construction zones to catch drivers going above 50 km/h.

According to the Free Press:

While Attorney General Dave Chomiak raised hopes earlier this week of a possible fine rebate for drivers ticketed in construction zones, he and his advisers were less than encouraging Friday.

At the same time, the province set down in law how police can use photo radar in construction zones.

The new rules essentially give photo-radar vans the green light to do what they were doing before this week's political ruckus over speeding tickets in unmanned construction zones -- but this time tickets and accompanying fines will stick.

A frustrated Mayor of Winnipeg Sam Katz said:

We're at where we're at...When you're doing something, you always want to make sure you're making it very clear to the public what you're doing.

Photo radar was a hot-button issue in BC a number of years ago before the province abandoned the program altogether.

The Free Press also reports:

Late last week, the city was caught completely off guard when the province announced it was abandoning its appeal of a traffic-court case that saw a magistrate toss out nine speeding offences because the tickets were issued when workers weren't on the job. Magistrate Norman Sundstrom said workers must be working for police to enforce reduced speed limits in construction zones.

What made it worse for the city and the police traffic division is that the Crown also said the public works department had not properly installed signs at the end of photo-enforced construction zones to tell drivers they could increase their speed to the posted limit. Because of that, the Crown also stayed 875 speeding offences still before the courts on the basis it could not prosecute because of the lack of signage.

The decision stunned police and later outraged the public when Chomiak said tickets issued last year would not be refunded because the fines had already been paid. A day later, Chomiak softened his stance when he said 60,000 tickets had been issued last year -- a huge jump from 3,000 the year before -- making it look like a cash grab, and that officials in the Justice department would examine the possibility of fine repayments.

Over in Calgary, the boom has gone to bust - again. Yes, the neverending cycle of Canada's oil capital tanking is producing some interesting by-products for the city. A number of construction sites that were in full swing about a year ago have been all but abandoned.

This has resulted in a number of massive holes being left exposed. The city has moved in and attempted to get the developers to secure the sites to ensure they are safe. According to the Calgary Herald:

The city is now keeping an eye on a number of concerns: soil erodes, the ground freezes and thaws and shifts, water flows more easily toward an open pit and the shoring -- beams and other devices used in the process--generally has an 18-to 24-month lifespan, and that's when construction is ongoing.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier states:

We're trying to protect safety and we're trying to also assist in keeping development going...It's in the best interest of the public to see projects go, not to see them stalled.

Corporate advertising on the side of pothole repair trucks? Yes, that's what Mayor Sam Katz is considering for Winnipeg. According to the Globe and Mail, the whole idea came from Colonel Sanders. You know, the guy who brought you finger lickin' good.

According to G&M:

The plan comes on the heels of a U.S. sponsorship deal by Kentucky Fried Chicken last month, in which a Colonel Sanders look-alike and a road repair crew filled up hundreds of holes in Louisville, Ky., then stencilled the patches with the slogan "Refreshed by KFC."

Oh boy, this sounds like a real winner to us. We'll be watching the progress of this initiative over the coming months. However, given that cities like Vancouver won't even take money to re-name public buildings such as the Pacific Coliseum to, say, KFC Place, it's unlikely Mayor Katz's entrepreneurial spirit is going to catch fire elsewhere.

Finally, what would our weekly round up be without another great story out of Toronto? Two of their ward councillors were having an electronic cat fight last week. In fact, it was more than just a nasty war of words, it got downright ugly when the emails turned to threats.

The councillor in question is Adam Giambrone (Davenport). He wrote to Councillor Cesar Palacio and stated:

“Stop messing in my ward or there will be problems. I generally ignore your actions, but I am going to start looking for ways to cause trouble for you and when I start you’re not going to appreciate it.”

Meeeeooowwww. And we thought Vancouver civic politics got nasty. According to the National Post:

The impetus for the spat appears to be who gets to place a motion at community council next week to help a local Portuguese group obtain a liquor license for an upcoming festival.

The event is in Mr. Giambrone’s ward, but Mr. Palacio’s office helped prepare a draft motion to have the event declared of “municipal signifance,” which would allow it to qualify for a permit to serve alcohol.

Mr. Palacio claims that the organization kept Mr. Giambrone apprised of their contact.

The whole affair has gone to the Integrity Commissioner for review. For anyone who really loves the ward system, this is yet another example of what happens when councillors take a narrow view of their city rather than looking at the big picture.

That folks is the week that was in Canadian cities. Tune back here next week where we hope to bring you yet another rendition of our city summary.

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