Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Most Significant Obstacles to a Robust Local Food System in Calgary

#yyc #yyccc #food #urbanag #LFS #LocalFoodSystem #FoodAccess

I remember a meeting with Chima Nkemdirim @chimaincalgary (Mayor Nenshi's @Nenshi Chief of Staff) in late 2010. He asked me what my business model was for growing food & #Urbanag. I asked what his & the city's business model was for growing grass (Kentucky Blue Grass). 

There are 10's of 1000's of local food production economic development opportunities (all sustainable, healthy, nutritious, align with policy: Triple Bottomline, Sustainability 2020, Onward, imagineCALGARY, Food Assessment Action Plan, et al). There are very few for growing grass other than golf/turf management (Almost none that are sustainable, as most require, or are addicted to, massive doses of chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides & significant maintenance resources to the tune of 1,000,000 person hours/annually in #YYC).

The Calgary Food Committee has been around for over 2 years & has, like so many #YYCCC committees, devolved into a back slapping networking opportunity. There is literally nothing that has changed in the #YYC #UrbanAg Local Food System landscape in these 2 years. There is still no #UrbanAg Zoning. There are no new #UrbanAg programs. No comprehensive, ranking, weighted, land inventory to access for aspiring urban farmers (We do however have some 111,000 acres of unused, empty land in #YYC). We continue to exist in a simple proteins only local food environment. Of course, all of this has been suggested to individuals at the highest municipal level, in council committees & to individual elected and non elected officials throughout municipal government since 2008.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Role of an Ombudsman in Strengthening Municipal Democracy

 

The Role of an Ombudsman in Strengthening Municipal Democracy

 

The institution of the ombudsman, first created in Sweden more than 200 years ago, is designed to provide protection for the individual where there is a substantial imbalance of power.
Initially, this imbalance was between the citizen and the state but as the institution has developed, it has embraced other sectors.  Ombudsmen now exist, not just in the public sector, but also covering the private and independent sectors.
As well as considering complaints about public services, Ombudsman Association member schemes consider disputes between consumers and companies or between universities and students, for example.
However, in the private sector, coverage is fragmented and sparse with, in a very few cases, some duplication (where the ‘industry member’ can choose which scheme to belong to). None of this is ideal, but will require legislation to improve the situation as few sectors now readily establish schemes voluntarily.



What ombudsmen do


  • Ombudsmen offer their services free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who could not afford to pursue their complaints through the courts.
  • They are committed to achieving redress for the individual, but also, where they identify systemic failings, to seek changes in the work of the bodies in their jurisdiction, both individually and collectively.
  • They can generally undertake a single investigation into multiple complaints about the same topic, thus avoiding duplication and excessive cost.
  • They are neutral arbiters and not advocates nor “consumer champions”.
  • They normally ask the body concerned and the complainant to try to resolve complaints before commencing an investigation.
  • They usually seek to resolve disputes without resort to formal investigations where this is possible and desirable.
  • Where they identify injustice, they seek to put this right.
In the private sector, ombudsmen usually have the power to make recommendations which are binding on the bodies in their jurisdiction unless successfully challenged through the courts.  The cost of their services is normally met by a charge to the bodies in their jurisdiction.  Most are established by, or as a result of, statute, and the relevant industry or sector is obliged to participate in the scheme.

Monday, January 13, 2014

6 Years & Counting, When Will Calgary Have an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman for Calgary. It's an imagineCalgary Target for 2008, but yet, 6 years later, Calgarians are still waiting for Calgary City Council to initiate this official policy. Montreal & Toronto have civic Ombudsmen

Alberta provincial government dollars are available as defined in the MSI: "Eligible operating projects include capacity building activities that improve efficiency or effectiveness..." 

Let's look a little closer at how an Ombudsman can strengthen our municipal democracy:
The Role of an Ombudsman
The institution of the ombudsman, first created in Sweden more than 200 years ago, is designed to provide protection for the individual where there is a substantial imbalance of power.
Initially, this imbalance was between the citizen and the state but as the institution has developed, it has embraced other sectors.  Ombudsmen now exist, not just in the public sector, but also covering the private and independent sectors.
As well as considering complaints about public services, Ombudsman Association member schemes consider disputes between consumers and companies or between universities and students, for example.
However, in the private sector, coverage is fragmented and sparse with, in a very few cases, some duplication (where the ‘industry member’ can choose which scheme to belong to). None of this is ideal, but will require legislation to improve the situation as few sectors now readily establish schemes voluntarily.

What Ombudsmen Do


  • Ombudsmen offer their services free of charge, and are thus accessible to individuals who could not afford to pursue their complaints through the courts.
  • They are committed to achieving redress for the individual, but also, where they identify systemic failings, to seek changes in the work of the bodies in their jurisdiction, both individually and collectively.
  • They can generally undertake a single investigation into multiple complaints about the same topic, thus avoiding duplication and excessive cost.
  • They are neutral arbiters and not advocates nor “consumer champions”.
  • They normally ask the body concerned and the complainant to try to resolve complaints before commencing an investigation.
  • They usually seek to resolve disputes without resort to formal investigations where this is possible and desirable.
  • Where they identify injustice, they seek to put this right.
In the private sector, ombudsmen usually have the power to make recommendations which are binding on the bodies in their jurisdiction unless successfully challenged through the courts.  The cost of their services is normally met by a charge to the bodies in their jurisdiction.  Most are established by, or as a result of, statute, and the relevant industry or sector is obliged to participate in the scheme.

For more info on an Ombudsman, please consider following the City Ombudsman Project on facebook or the Twitter account: @OmbudsmanYYC

With thanks to the Ombudsman Association.

Paul Hughes, 2014
@paulyhughes

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vancouver Developer's Continued Neglect of Calgary Property

Vancouver Developer's Continued Neglect of Calgary Property

The pics say it all. Continued negligence of an inner city lot on a busy auto/bike/pedestrian corridor. Not an iota of concern from the property owner on the impact on a neighbourhood of an almost non existent property management strategy.  Their motto is DILLIGAF. Similarly, the City of Calgary needs to create stronger legislation that deals with abandoned, neglected properties close to dense population. Efforts to beautify should be encouraged, not "foiled".

From the CBC Story of May 22, 2012: Potato garden plot foiled by city and landowner:

"Randolph Pratt of Adera Developments said his mortgage firm wants the garden removed, but will not pursue trespassing charges. He says everyone is passionate, but misdirected in this case."

Pratt states that Adera Developments (p604.684.8277) of Vancouver no longer owns the company but rather Scarboro Projects Ltd, who he now also owns in a not so subtle "sleight of land", shell game manoeuvre. Pratt needs to reassess his company's misdirected negligence of his property. During the interview Pratt became increasingly agitated, repeatedly stated the property was "Not controversial", stated he had no idea that John Mar had gone down to electoral defeat and eventually hung up. Pratt, adamant that landscaping was part of the management contract, said the property was well maintained prior to his abrupt end to the conversation. He was aware of the City bylaw tickets and denied that it is in fact Calgary taxpayers who are on the hook for his Vancouver based firms property negligence. 

The management company contracted by Pratt stated they have only been asked to do minimal site management - snow, graffitti & erect a fence. This has been done competently.

The City of Calgary has now been forced to hire a contractor, at taxpayer expense, to maintain part of the property.

Contracted workers, on Calgary taxpayers dime,  work to maintain basic community standards on Randolph Pratt's property:



Collection of ignored bylaw infraction notices served to Randolph Pratt, Adera Developments and Scarboro Projects, that would make Saul Alinsky blush:  




randolph pratt, randy pratt, adera developments, scarboro projects, calgary, yyc, potatoes for the people, p4tp, yvr, vancouver, developer, negligence


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Boston has Adopt-A-Hydrant, Calgary has this...

Boston's Adopt-A-Hydrant Program.

Calgary's Neglect-A-Hydrant-oh-and-don't-forget-to-ignore-the-bench-too Program:


Straight to Hell

A favourite song from my youth was Straight to Hell by The Clash.

M.I.A. used the Clash track in her huge hit Paper Planes.

Fittingly, it's the soundtrack for the City of Calgary's quasi efforts to divert waste (resource) from the landfill.

The items below are headed Straight to Hell, aka the Calgary Landfill. 
It will not be sorted. Hello, Sorting Stations!
It will not be reused. 
It will not be recycled.
It will not be used for something useful and thereby eliminating the need to extract those materials from the planet. 
It is a resource that will be turned into a waste by City of Calgary inaction. 
It will decompose over the next 1000 years and perhaps with a methane capture system, 1/1000th of the energy via LFG (Landfill Gas) will be recovered. 

The City of Calgary has waste diversion targets that are almost comedic when juxtaposed with on the ground action. While European cities are implementing intelligent sorting and diversion strategies, achieving 95%+ diversion from landfills, our unused resources (aka waste) are going to Straight to Hell.