Archive for the ‘Regional Sustainability’ Category

The last two weeks have been active in our HRM political arena, and in some decisions not for the best.

                                                                                                                                             Solid Waste Issues

Well we have been touted as national and even international leaders in waste diversion…the wheels are coming off the truck.  The report was completed by Stanec and sights cost concerns and service delivery issues.  Presently, the municipality is seeking input from citizens on the Stanec report.   Additionally, in a motion by the Environmental and Sustainability committee, there is a request to the province to allow HRM to collect the 5 cent bottle deposit and reduce the deposit from 10 cents to just 5 cents.   This revenue would go into general HRM coffers, and while on the surface is sounds good—I do not support this motion.

The impact this would have across our municipality to people at or below the poverty level is huge.  Consider people who collect these refundable in your neighbourhood to help supplement their weekly budgets.   Equally important are all the people that enviro-depots now employ, some of these individuals have barriers to employment and programs such as Youth Live help citizens across HRM obtain entry-level employment.   Government should be about making things better for all by providing the framework to do just that, added municipal revenue should not be on the back of the poor.

                                                                                                                                                                                     Crime Mapping

On February 14, the day of love, admit some fanfare Deputy Police Chief Moore debuted HRP’s crime mapping site.  While I believe that information is power, and have concrete factual evidence can help to debunk myths running around our city.  However, alleged comments by Moore about how sexual assaults, between intimate partners are not included on this site, because people are not interested in that is ridiculous.  The max number of days of data is seven days, and you can select which crimes you would like info on.  Furthermore, the potential to marginalize areas is real, and well I overall applaud this project—I hope it will do more good than harm. I do feel overall that our force is doing a good job, and crime stats are down.  However, the HRP needs to continue and build on the community engagement/liaison model.  You can see the crime mapping site here.

Transportation

Winter has been hard on our roads in Dartmouth and across much of the region, daily I observe potholes—some that are true hazards.  As council continues to drag their heels on an improved public transit system, roads will only become worse—more use will result in more wear.  The failure to reinstate full harbour ferry service at Alderney is short-sighted and is sending the wrong message about the value of mass transit.   We are fortunate to have a beautiful harbour, and we must use it as a crucial component of our mass transit system.   Having an integrated land and marine mass transit system in Halifax is the right choice.  It is time council and the bureaucrats at Metro Transit listen to citizens and make a transit system that we so long for.   The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has an online petition to bring back late ferry service, see it here

Metro transit is also starting the process for a new 5 year plan.  There will be public consultations, however if they are like other public consultations in HRM… I’m not sure of the value it will hold.   This year’s installment of new buses is almost approved; HRM will purchase 22 new buses to replace aging vehicles, at the cost of $406,422 each.  Finally, public consultations were held last Wednesday about intersection reconfiguration at Rainne/Cogswell and Agricola/Cunard by switching them to roundabouts.  The current configuration of these intersections is at the best of times scary for all who cross them.  I do feel there is merit in this proposal; however my reservation lies in how the changes will impact pedestrians.  The installation of roundabouts must be mindful of the fact these two intersections are heavy in pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular. You can learn more about the project here.

BJV

 

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Today regional council will meet, with one of the items to consider being whether to reduce ferry service in HRM.   I have included the staff report, HRM staff recommendation is to:

‘It is recommended that Halifax Regional Council implement the Ferry service reductions
effective August 27, 2012, as per the Metro Transit 2012-13 Annual Service Plan approved by
Regional Council on April 3, 2012.”– Metro Transit Ferry Service Recommendation from HRM Staff

Their recommendation is not one that I support.  While, I applaud some re-alignments Metro Transit is making to service delivery effective August 27, namely their creation of a Portland Street corridor.   I do not support, the in my opinion short-sighted requested reductions to harbour ferry service.

Firstly, we need to realize and value the marine component of our public transit service delivery.  Public transit should be about providing people options, options to move people from point ‘a’ to ‘b’ in an efficient, timely manner.  Approving the reductions in ferry service, is removing people’s options and an a minor scale helping to decrease the efficiency and reliability of the whole service.

With the reality that our city wants to, and in my opinion should focus development in the regional centre and other identified growth centres, I feel it is crucial to have a public transit system that is integrated, diverse in service options and efficient.  Downtown Dartmouth and Woodside are both in a period of re-birth: with new residential and commercial developments.   A diverse, integrated public transit system will be required to move our citizens in an efficient, sustainable way.   Add to that the projected growth that we will experience in peninsular Halifax and Eastern Passage, it is necessary to maintain the current public marine service; while we explore ways to grow the marine component of our public transit. Also, I find lacking in the HRM staff report the mention of the impact of the 2015 closure of bike and pedestrian lanes on the MacDonald Bridge.   The closure of these two active transportation links between Halifax/Dartmouth will add stress to regional core.   It will add stress in terms of how people move from point ‘a’ to ‘b’, and  has the potential to

  • increase the number of cars on the road or
  • increase ridership on peak runs of main bus routes already close to or at capacity.

The proposed peak service reduction of the Woodside ferry and daytime reductions at Alderney would only add to stress on transit while those two lanes of the MacDonald bridge were closed.

Ferry reduction is not simply a Dartmouth issue, this is and should be an issue that concerns all residents of HRM.  If ferry reduction happens, it will be added to the list of decisions that have been made by regional council that are clearly favouring car centric transportation.  I am not suggesting we should never drive our cars, however we need a cultural shift and policy shift to have true options outside of solely driving.  Equally important is to think of if the reductions do happen, those savings will be utilized elsewhere within Metro Transit (as they should be), but I believe that once cut it would be difficult to bring back full service as the capital would have been redistributed.

In today’s decision council should consider the following:

  • Let’s begin to truly value and respect the benefit the marine component of our public transit system.
  • Think long-term not short-term: Our regional core is being reborn, re-visioned and people are moving back into the city.  We need to provide transportation alternatives to citizens, and it should be a variety of public transportation options.
  • Economic impact: Reducing the link that connect both downtown areas in our regional core is bad for business.  Business needs customers on their front doors, the ferry can help bring people to those front doors.
  • It’s due time, as a collective regional council that it breaks away from this car centric policy.  We can no longer govern with models from the 1960s and 70s, and I feel that if council approves the staff recommendation it will be a step backward for our region’s sustainability.

What can we do to realize the value of the marine component of our public transit model:

  • Establish a marine corridor that maintains and enhances Alderney service.
    Increase service for Woodside ferry to meet the growing demands of Woodside, NSCC Waterfront Campus, Eastern Passage and the commercial area of Dartmouth Gate (just before Highway 111)
  • Properly integrate ferry service with bus service on the Portland St corridor, so at Alderney we can provide a more efficient transfer service.
  • Explore the possibilities of ferry service from Bedford to Downtown Halifax.
    From Eastern Passage to Downtown Halifax
  • Examine the demand and viability of commercial water taxis

Below is the staff report regarding ferry reduction.

https://www.halifax.ca/council/agendasc/documents/120807ca1119.PDF

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After sixteen years of being unified as HRM, we as a municipal government are still following economic models and strategies that do not fit.  Continually, we are adopting a hands-off approach and allowing urban sprawl to hollow out our regional centre.  Property taxes are being used to finance to uncontrolled, unsustainable growth of our region.  To move our city forward, I feel we need to focus on social, economic and environmental sustainability.  To continue to be a driving economic centre, we need to unify our region, direct development to identified growth centres and most importantly follow the policies outlined in HRM by Design and RP+5.   In Dartmouth Centre, as part of the regional centre we have witnessed how our downtown and both sides of the harbour have been affected by a combination of poor government policy and changing consumer trends.  We have empty store fronts, empty lots, loss of tax revenue, and lack of investment on infrastructure. We need to invest in growth centres and municipal infrastructure, and invest in our people.  To support our economy we need to invest in the mosaic that is our community by better funding for recreational programming and arts/culture programming.  It is time in HRM, that we listen to all people’s concerns and suggestions on economic sustainability.   We have the expertise and solutions in our community, it is simply a matter of actually involving people and listen.  Furthermore, HRM needs to start looking at best practices from other jurisdictions so that we do not re-invent the wheel.

To put Dartmouth Centre and HRM people first and maintain and grow our economy, we need to:

  1. Do not reduce ferry service at Alderney Landing. This is counter to the growth we want to encourage in the regional core.  If we seek to have density in our regional centre, it is imperative we can move residents around our city in an efficient way.  Maintaining and enhancing both the Alderney and Woodside ferries.  If we are to grow we need to have an efficient, quick and reliable integrated public transit system: bus, ferry and active transportation routes.
  2. Hold HRM Council and HRM Staff accountable to abide by HRM by Design and RP+5 policies.
  3. Focus development in regional centre ( Dartmouth Centre and peninsular Halifax) and other identified priority centres. Urban sprawl is unsustainable, and funnels tax dollars out of areas where development needs to be focused and infrastructure made a priority. To grow our district and region, we need to abide by HRM by Design and RP+5.  Our city is evolving, we need to grow sustainably.  We need to grow in a way that will revitalize Dartmouth Centre while respecting our residents and neighbourhood characters.
  4. Fair taxes: Examine current residential and commercial tax rates. Find tax solutions that are fair for both residential and commercial rate payers.  Tax rates that support business and sustainable development
  5. Invest in Arts & Culture to a dollar value that is comparable and fiscal responsible to other cities of similar sizes to HRM
  6. Invest in Youth access to recreation and skill building programs.  Engaged HRM, private business and the province to help provide programs that are free or ‘pay what you can’.
  7. Support non-profit groups in community that provide services to at risk and/or under-represented members of our community.

Finally, our region is the largest city in Atlantic Canada.  HRM is a strong driving force for our region, and our policies should reflect the positive economic impact our city has in Atlantic Canada.   To be a leader and to move HRM forward we should be proactive, not reactive, and have the fortitude the put policies in places that enable a long-term vision.   A vision that goes beyond a mere four-year mandate.  We have been a leader and example on waste diversion.  HRM can be an example once again, and we can do this by addressing an important issus: energy security.    It is time that we as HRM bring together our community, Nova Scotia Power, provincial government and other stakeholders to develop an energy policy for HRM.   A policy that focuses on strong renewable and sustainable energy generation.  We are blessed with many natural forces within HRM that we can harness to help power our city.   From solar, wind, hydro to co-generation models, we can help sustain our cities, create jobs, have a secure, clean source of energy and connect our community like never before.   Other cities across the world and even within Canada have such policies.  Dartmouth Centre and HRM, we can move forward together to guide our city where people are the priority and our region has vision to be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

Together, let’s get started.   Collaboration. Communication. Compassion   In October 2012 Vote Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt for Dartmouth Centre.

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When I decided to run for regional council to represent Dartmouth Centre, I decided that my campaign would be built on sustainability.  However, I do not choose to think of sustainability in only terms of environmental concerns, but also in the context of social, economical.   I feel that by focusing in these three areas, together we can embrace a vision for Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) for long-term growth and sustainability.  In the first of three articles, I will highlight social sustainability.

Social Sustainability

 The driving force of any city are the people. In HRM our people are truly our greatest resource.  From the Eastern Shore to Hubbards to Dartmouth Centre; we can witness on a daily basis the love, vibrancy and potential that is shown by HRM residents.  The best designed plans will be futile if we do not have HRM residents behind regional objectives.

Firstly, in my conversations to date with people across Dartmouth Centre and HRM, there has been a common theme of not being heard by their elected officials.  Also, there is a sentiment that the sharing of information from the community to regional council, between regional council and other levels of government/governing bodies is poor.  One of our strongest desires as humans is to simply be heard.  If elected as your councillor, I want to reverse this trend and re-open the lines of communication.  Together, I want to build connections between citizens and councillor, between neighbourhoods in Dartmouth Centre, between communities across HRM, and between councillors in city hall and colleagues from other governing bodies.   I believe, together we can achieve this by:

  • Monthly town hall meetings/community pot lucks in our district of Dartmouth Centre
  • A weekly e-newsletter to highlight government business and district concerns and events
  • Social Media Communication via Twitter: @BrynDartCentre, facebook: facebook.com/bryndartcentre and my blog bryndartcentre.wordpress.com
  • District Profile on Halifax.ca’s site, current and up to date
  • Stand alone District Website to provide user friendly info on Dartmouth Centre & HRM
  • Quarterly print newsletter mailed to citizens of Dartmouth Centre
  • Bi-weekly visits to district citizens that may not able to attend monthly town hall meetings/community potluck. Ie. Nursing Homes, Group Homes etc.

Secondly, I believe we need to do better on investing in youth in all of the communities that make up our great region.  In Dartmouth Centre, there is a great energy and vibrance, our community is growing and evolving. Young families are once again choosing to call downtown Dartmouth home, alongside young professionals, under-represented groups and seniors, there is immense potential in our community.  There is a need and desire of residents to help to better foster a sense of community in Dartmouth.  One of the ways that we can accomplish this is by investing in youth.  I believe, together we can accomplish this by:

  • Partnering with community groups, HRM, Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB), adult and youth residents to explore the development of a program to establish a network of community gardens.  These can help to create urban space to increase resident’s food security by growing their own produce in their own neighbourhoods. Also, together we can help to foster new skills for youth and adults alike, and pride in one ’s self and others.  Together, we can help to create community by having communal gardens: we can build relationships with neighbours, community groups and Mother Nature.
  • Working collaboratively with HRM, youth residents, community groups, HRSB, and private business to identify places to create free recreation for youth.  To identify, from youth what activities/facilities they would want to use for recreation.  Also, to engage HRM and HRSB on using existing infrastructure for recreation/youth programming to be housed in.   Lastly, looking at what infrastructure we currently have in Dartmouth Centre for free youth recreation and whether those are meeting the current needs of youth residents.   There is great potential to help get our kids be active and engaged again, we just need to open a dialogue and let them share their voice.
  • Listening to residents concerns, and working together with grass-roots organizations, HRSB, HRM and Dartmouth Centre residents to ensure that access to education is a priority at all levels of governments.   Also, helping to advocate together with residents that access to HRSB schools are meeting the needs of the community.

Lastly, we need to create a stable grant funding program for our arts and culture communities.  Currently, arts and culture funding is administered via the community grants program where a multitude of groups compete for either a project grant of $5,000 or a capital grant of $25, 000. This current funding structure can cause funding issues for certain groups and events.

http://www.halifax.ca/boardscom/bccgrants/communitygrantsprogram.html  – HRM Community Grants Program.

The arts and culture in HRM are an integral part of the mosaic that makes up our city. They are artists, musicians, theaters, and art show events who need secure, stable funding from HRM. It is a necessary change to help support and enhance our arts community, so that they can continue to do what they do best.   To facilitate this, together we can:

  • Examine best practice from other jurisdictions,  in to how they successfully provide secure Arts funding.
  • Collaborate with HRM Arts & Culture community and HRM Council to develop and implement a plan that will provide secure, stable funding for the arts and culture
  • Separate Arts & Culture funding requests out of the community grants program, and create an independent Arts & Culture Grants Program.

Together, we can move forward and make Dartmouth Centre and HRM the most vibrant, diverse, socially sustainable city in our region.

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Six years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, an innovative volunteer began a trend that is now operating in twenty North American cities and counting.   Termed “Land Share”, “Sharing Backyards” or “Urban Garden Share” is a way for people in urban centres to garden and share.  It is a simple yet wonderful concept, not everyone has the ability or time to garden.  Though, there are some with a green thumb but no space to put it into practice. Bringing these two parties together, creates a garden space and an end of season harvest for two families!

Through programs like Sharing Backyards ; people who have the land but no time or ability to garden can share their land with individuals who are green thumbs.  At the end of the season, both parties split the harvest equally.   It is an amazing grass roots approach to local food sourcing!  Also, it is teaching both parties involved about community, teamwork and the true cost of food.   The price of produce seem in the large grocery chains does usually not reflect the true cost of production.  That is to say to include the labour, time, and materials used to grow said produce.

Equally beneficially, are the positive environmental impacts.  Firstly, growing your own food helps to reduce your carbon footprint.  It eliminates the need to consume resources for food transportation.  Secondly, gardening is good for the local environment.  It aids in protecting and increasing the local biodiversity and aids to support the communal ecosystem.  Through techniques such as companion planting, one can reduce the need for harmful herbicides and insecticides while supporting a healthy insect population in the garden.

Sharing land and resources will also help to create new notions of community or strengthen old ones.  Historically, neighbours have been there to support one another.  This program brings back an old custom, that in the last fifty years has slowly been dying.  Bringing people together through food, whether in production or feast has always made us closer.  It allows us to see what makes all of us similar, celebrate differences, celebrate nature and the bounty from earth that our hard work yields.   Most important, it breaks down barriers around race, status in life, family situations, economic status and knowledge.

Urban gardening is a must as we move further into the 21st century.  It will help to foster a strong, local secure food source.  It will allow us to act in an environmentally sustainable manner, growing and consuming in season.  Reducing demands on resources for food production and transportation.   Finally it will bring our families and communities closer: making life better for everyone!

Ecology Action Centre: http://www.ecologyaction.ca/content/food

Sharing Backyards: http://www.sharingbackyards.com/

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Councillor Dawn Sloane, recently sparked a debate in regards to exploring the possibility of banning plastic bags in HRM. This is an interesting issue, and it raises many questions.   Firstly, there are many other cities that have banned plastic bags: Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, Toronto, Alberta’s Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to name a few.

Other cities who have banned plastic bags are listed in this article: http://people.howstuffworks.com/how-many-cities-have-a-ban-on-plastic-bags.htm

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, and can last in the environment for hundreds of years.  They fit nicely into our current consumer and consumption based society.  Currently, in HRM Pete’s Frootique charges 5 cents/bag and Quinpool Road Superstore is bag-less.  However, most people have countless cloth re-usable bags, and speaking from personal experience charging 5 cents/bag is truly not a deterrent to using plastic bags.  In Ireland for example, they began charging 15 cents/bag in 2002. Within five months, a 90% reduction in plastic bag use was recorded. Additionally, the money raised from the bag levy is used to fund environmental projects. While, I feel a bag tax may in the short-term address use however it is in my opinion a band-aid solution.  I agree with Lezile Lowe in that we need a cultural shift to consume less, and reduce the need to recycle these plastic bags.

I think we need to take it further and develop some long-term vision on environment at the municipal level. We need to systematically shift our perception of the relationship we share between humanity and the Earth.   There are strong collectives in HRM raising the alarm such as Our HRM Alliance.  We as a municipality need to seriously look at striking plans to invest in renewable energy, improved public transit/active transportation systems, water protection, urban farming, coastal protection.   Additionally, as noted by Our HRM Alliance I second their desire to have a master plan for Halifax Harbour. We want to move forward and be sustainable: we need to focus more of healthy communities in the sense of humans, flora and fauna.  In developing  HRM environment  policy we can evaluate past successful practice in other jurisdictions, which will save time and money as we would not have to re-invent the proverbial wheel.

We need strong encouragement and policy in HRM to foster smart, development that is sustainable on the social, environment and economic areas.

Referencing Articles:

http://www.openfile.ca/halifax/story/explainer-plastic-bag-ban-scare-2012

http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/107427-lowe-let-s-try-a-250-plastic-bag-tax

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2205419.stm

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