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All In Hand

Our friend, the artist.

The Webgeek Wed Jan 10, 2007

Jenn Farr's beeswax art
Hey all,
Just a quick note to let our readers know about Jenn Farr -- a dear friend, and Offhand regular (I'll let her reveal her 'secret identity' herself), who is taking the plunge and becoming a serious artist. Well, she's taking the art thing seriously now. She's still pretty light-hearted in general, as far as I know.

She's already an accomplished cookbook author, so all the best in this latest endeavour as well.

Zero means .... ?

Miss Vicky Tue Jan 9, 2007

So the budget fun begins in earnest down at City Hall tomorrow. City staff tabled the Budget Directions Report shortly before the holidays. Council will be hearing input from the public tomorrow, and will debate the report on Thursday. Basically, this stage sets the parameters for the 2007 budget. Mayor Larry O has already committed himself to his "Zero means zero" property tax promise, so the budget directions report has integrated this freeze along with other principles . To achieve the tax freeze, the report proposes:

a. Deferral of service enhancements that have not yet been implemented;
b. Use provincial gas tax revenues to the extent possible to offset increases in the cost of transit;
c. Use debt where possible, instead of contributions to capital, to fund the capital program;

d. Incorporate and pursue the cost-sharing shortfall with the provincial government;
e. Identify and incorporate any other one-time sources of funding;
f. Increase user fees and charges by more than that identified in Direction 1f; and
g. Identify program reductions.

What that means for specific programs and services has yet to be determined. But I am pretty concerned. I don't think that a lot of savings can be gained by putting off planned improvements to services....we're just going to have the same problem next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. In the meantime, service deteriorates and taxpayers become even more ornery about getting value for money. It's a vicious circle.

As for the gas tax, what this means is that money that could be going toward fixing and expanding our transit system will just be going toward maintaining current service levels. And then, of course, we've got user fees and program reductions.

Tomorrow the entire day will be devoted to hearing from the public. Citizen groups, community organizations, agencies and individuals will be letting council know whether they think this is the kind of direction they'd like to see the budget take. Now, Mayor Larry has encouraged tax-freeze supporters to let council know they support that approach. But of course there are plenty of folks out there with a different perspective, so it's hard to say what council is going to hear tomorrow. I do know they have been overwhelmed with requests, and that people are being turned away. So tomorrow's council meeting should be pretty interesting! I might try to make it down for the City for All Women Initiative presentation at 10:30am. Gordon willing, that is!

If you want to let your councillor know how you feel, you'll find contact information here


Happy New Year!

Miss Vicky Wed Jan 3, 2007

Happy new year, everyone! We had a quiet celebration here at the Finishing School, consisting of a simple supper by candelight, a couple of bottles of wine, and a good hour watching Gordon play in his new musical activity gym. As usual, we took some time to reflect upon the best and worst things that happened in 2006 and our wishes and goals for 2007.

And here they are:

3 Worst things about 2006
OK, I'm hard pressed to come up with 3 things again this year. Not a bad problem to have, really!
1. Gordon turning breech at week 39 and having to have an emergency c-section was pretty bad. I had a pretty great pregnancy. Despite the aches and pains, the reflux and the constant need to go to the bathroom, I've never felt better in my life. As I counted down my nine months, I had a lot of time to think about delivery, what I wanted, and so on. So it was pretty disappointing to hear that I'd have to have a c-section. I never anticipated being wheeled into the operating room on a "Code 33" and put under, though. It was pretty scary.
2. My weird "vacation" and associated family dynamics. I won't elaborate but I will simply say that spending the season's worst storms alone in a tent while 6 months pregnant is not my idea of relaxation. And no, this has nothing to do with the Webgeek. The bright side: our tent doesn't leak!
3. Losing the election. The more I campaigned, the more I knew that city hall was the place I wanted to be, and that there were many people in this ward who had the same vision and priorities as I have. I was encouraged by a lot of the support I got, and staying at home with Gordon is a pretty great consolation prize, but still, it was pretty disappointing after such a long and hard campaign.

3 Best things about 2006
1) My surprise pregnancy and Gordon's arrival. Of course! It was a stressful delivery, but everyone is healthy and we're having a great time and learning a ton.
2) Campaigning. I really enjoyed the experience. It brought the Webgeek and I closer together... it was a true collaboration and I think it cemented our partnership pretty effectively. It's a stressful thing, being a candidate, so having a sounding board and a source of support at home is really important. The Webgeek was that, and more. And losing the election? Well, it's pretty great to have this year at home. I think I can be grateful for the experience despite the disappointing outcome.
3) New friends and old. This is kind of an offshoot of both 1 and 2. People have been amazing. A lot of folks worked really hard on the campaign, some for many months. Some of them were people I have known for a long time; others I had just met. People were generous with money as well as time, and I'm happy to say I did not have to take on a heavy personal debt to run. I'm very grateful for that. And when Gordon came along, neighbours came over with food and hand-me-down clothes, we got some amazing shower gifts, and pamused took up a collection from a very diverse selection of friends and gave us a good six months of housecleaning. How awesome is that? Anyway, the whole experience really made me feel very loved. And that's hard to top.

My wish for 2007? To make the most of this year at home. It's already going by so quickly.

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