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All In Hand

Here you'll find the sum total of Miss Vicky's Remarks thus far.

Weekend fun: hockey and handmade items

Miss Vicky Fri Nov 30, 2007

Apparently Hintonburg's annual craft show is not happening this year. But fear not, shoppers! There are a couple of great opportunities to check out local crafters, artisans, and makers-of-nifty-things coming up tomorrow.

Fisher Park's annual craft show runs from 9:30 to (I think) 3:30 at Fisher Park School. There will be over 90 vendors present, so lots to choose from.

If your tastes run more toward the punky and funky, then get ye to Jack Purcell Recreation Centre for the annual Not Your Grandmother's Craft Sale. It's hosted Ladyfest Ottawa and runs from 10am to 5pm. Definitely check in on Miss Twiss and the Hintonburg Harlots while you're there - Miss Twiss is offering "lunch apparel" (who doesn't need a hand-knitted cosy for their banana or apple, I ask you?). I'm hoping we'll run into local textile artist Andrea Stokes, whose work is gorgeous, among others. We already have our 50s pinup toilet seat from a previous Ladyfest sale, but I'm sure we'll find something. Miss Vicky has always found some fun items at this show.

After perusing the work of Ottawa's finest and funkiest artisans, why not join us for some kick-butt women's hockey? We are heading en masse to the Sandy Hill Arena to see the Ottawa Capital Canucks take on the Mississauga Chiefs. Admission is $5 at the door, $3 for kids and the game starts at 5pm. Let's get some buzz going about our women's hockey team, shall we?

Budget shenanigans

Miss Vicky Fri Nov 30, 2007

So last night's Kitchissippi budget consultation was sparsely attended and a bit of a farce. The meeting began with a lengthy but comprehensive introduction to the existing draft budget by the City Treasurer (who, I must say, is in remarkably good humour despite what she must be putting up with at all of these meetings, not to mention City Hall itself). Why, I'm not entirely sure, as shortly after folks started speaking and asking questions, Christine Leadman assured us that council has now made a commitment to maintaining exiting services, so many of the options proposed in the draft budget are no longer on the table. This came as a relief to many at the meeting (from the comments that were made it was clear that the majority of people there attended to speak in favour of social services, public health, libraries, child care, museums, arts and culture and so on). But it also raised more questions - like where are you going to find the savings needed to keep tax increases to a minimum if you are not going to cut services? And why exactly are we participating in a consultation on a budget that council has already decided to chuck in the circular file? Christine didn't really have any answers to the first question, besides an oblique reference to putting off the purchase of double decker buses. Fair enough, but you've still got a 70-something million dollar shortfall to make up.

Miss Vicky remains skeptical that enough administrative "efficiencies" can be found to address our city's financial woes. We have spent the last several budget cycles chipping away at the city bureaucracy (remember last year's discussions of "gapping", or the strategy of simply not filling vacant positions? Or the Universal Program Review?). I'm not saying that the city can't find more ways of streamlining and being more effective and efficient - I'm sure they can. But not that much. The simple fact is: the city has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. The sooner we put aside this charade that a zero percent tax increase is feasible - let alone desirable - the better, and then we can talk about what we really need to do. That we had to go through this farce of a budget process to arrive at a conclusion that has been glaringly obvious to so many for so long is absolutely unacceptable. We enjoyed a decade of tax freezes and now it's time to pay for our political short-sightedness.

This is not to say that the provincial and federal governments should be off the hook. Downloading and defunding by both levels throughout the last 20 years is one of the primary reasons we're in this mess. The province, to its credit, is beginning to upload some programs, which is a start, but it's not fast enough. And as for the feds.... well, I'm not holding my breath. But I will join councillors and municipal leaders from across the country this Monday when they march from City Hall to Parliament Hill to demand that one cent of the GST be returned to cities.

The rally starts at noon at the Laurier entrance to City Hall. Hope to see you there!

Tonight and tomorrow

Miss Vicky Thu Nov 29, 2007

Tonight is councillor Leadman's budget consultation for Kitchissippi residents. It takes place at 7pm at the Churchill Seniors Centre. She also has a survey you can fill out regarding your priorities and concerns about the budget.

I suppose some of the edge has gone out of the discussion now that the Mayor has promised no cuts to front line services. How exactly he proposes to accomplish all his goals on so-called "administrative" cuts alone is beyond me, really. Not to mention the fact that the police budget alone requires a 1.something percent tax increase, and the council has already pledged about 2 percent in tax hikes for infrastructure repairs. I suspect Zero will mean about five percent when all is said and done. At any rate, I look forward to hearing what folks have to say tonight.

Then tomorrow morning I am heading off bright and early to the CBC studios downtown to be on Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers. They're doing a live show here in Ottawa, and I'll be part of a panel talking about what's great and no-so-great about living in the Nation's Capital. I'll be on shortly after 9am, so do tune in!

Regrets and updates

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 28, 2007

So Miss Vicky has been neglecting her blog of late. It's not that she doesn't WANT to post.... or that she has nothing to say. It's just that there is a lot going on at the Finishing School these days. She's been a tad.... distracted. So it's been difficult to muster a coherent rant about, say, the police budget's 8.8% increase or OC Transpo's plan to spend money on security cameras for buses while fares go up and service (not to mention customer satisfaction) goes way, way down. There is a half-finished missive on the Lansdowne Park redevelopment that may never see the light of day. Alas!

There are a few things happening of a rather personal nature. Don't worry, we're all fine here. But life is going to require a few ... adjustments.

Last week we took WeeG in to an allergist. He's had a few incidents of hives when exposed to milk, so we wanted to get him checked out. It's a strange experience, holding your child while a nurse fills his arms with tiny pinpricks containing various substances and marks them all with purple pen. G was a champ, though. He recovered quickly from the discomfort and was his usual active and happy self in the reception area while we waited to see if any of them caused a reaction. They tested him for the big ones - milk, egg and peanut - as well as a battery of common environmental allergens. Sure enough, there was a nice big hive from the milk.... and an even bigger one from peanuts. So we were quickly given a prescription, a mess of pamphlets and a primer on using an epi-pen... which Gordon must have with him at all times as an exposure to peanuts could cause an anaphylactic reaction, and exposure to milk may develop into that as well.

We are coming to terms with the news that WeeG has potentially fatal allergies. He has two cousins with nut allergies as well, so we are used to the drill. We had already taken precautions at home and have been very careful about avoiding exposure until we had him tested. We've replaced peanut butter with a no-nut substitute made from Golden Peas (actually quite tasty), and had been pretty careful about reading labels. Now we have to make label-reading a religion, avoiding all milk products as well as nuts. There are all kinds of ways that milk can hide in an ingredients list.

We also have to become "those" parents - the hyper-vigilant types that ask a million questions about what's in the food served at playgroups, family gatherings, friends' houses, who have to insist that playmates' sippy cups be monitored, who say no to eating out because of the risk of cross-contamination in all of our favourite restaurants. I can see the eye-rolls starting already. Especially with the milk thing. I think people understand peanut allergies now, especially as it has become more and more common and school boards have had to address it in their policies. But even in conversations with people since we have suspected the milk allergy it is obvious that many confuse allergies and lactose intolerance - a totally different ball of wax. A little intestinal discomfort is a far cry from dying from anaphylaxis.

Accompanying all of this is, of course, the inevitable Mommy Guilt. You know, the "I should have been able to do something to prevent this", the "maybe I shouldn't have eaten all that peanut butter and cheese while pregnant" ridiculousness. Intellectually I know that we did everything we were supposed to - introduced foods gradually, kept him away from major allergens until the recommended age for introduction, avoided processed foods and so on. But intellect and logic is no match for the Mommy Guilt, is it?

Speaking of Mommy Guilt, let me move on to the other reason for my distraction. Because come May it is going to become even more pronounced. That's right, Faithful Legion, the Finishing School is expecting the arrival of a new resident ! It's all rather a surprise to all of us, but a welcome one. So far all is unfolding as it should. I am feeling fairly well, albeit frustrated that I had to change my wardrobe a lot earlier this time and all of my maternity clothes are for the wrong season. But I'm also very excited about the prospect of a sibling for WeeG. It's going to be busy, that's for sure!

Again with the Light Rail

Miss Vicky Thu Nov 22, 2007

Hat tip to the Mike Powell Fanclub for this great rant on the latest incarnation of Light Rail in Ottawa. Miss Vicky couldn't have said it better herself.

Westboro Community Forum: Tuesday

Miss Vicky Mon Nov 19, 2007

The Westboro Community Association is hosting a special community forum at 7pm on Tuesday, November 20th at All Saints Westboro/First United Church (347 Richmond Road).

The new board has been working hard at re-organizing and rejuvenating the community association and they are anxious to hear residents' ideas and concerns. Come on out and share your vision for the future of Westboro!

Save Rosemount campaign

Miss Vicky Fri Nov 16, 2007

Miss Vicky promises she will write about the budget... but it's going to take a while to digest and what with the working and the daycare and other non-blog-or-city-hall-related adventures (more on that soon as well), it's been difficult to find a spare hour or three to pour through the 900-odd pages of documentation.

In the meantime, folks in the 'hood - particularly those of us who rely on our local libary - should note the following:

Volunteers will be handing out postcards prepared by The Friends of the Ottawa Public Library at the Rosemount Branch tomorrow (Saturday November 17). They will also collect the signed cards and deliver them to the Chair of the Library Board.

If you can't make it to the library tomorrow, they will leave any extra postcards at the front desk. If there are none left, please consider sending an e-mail (or a letter!) to the Board Chair, Jan Harder: Jan.Harder@ottawa.ca and our councillor, Christine Leadman: Christine.Leadman@ottawa.ca

see the the Friends of the Public Library for more info.

Kent K tells it like it is

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 14, 2007

City Manager Kent Kirkpatrick, at the end of his budget presentation to council today, made the following observation about consultant Gord Hunter's report: It's a "powerpoint slide deck of personal opinions”, based on “personal conjecture and stated anecdotal evidence... to support a stated conclusion for which there is no evidence”. Testify, Kent!

note: Miss Vicky initially reported the statement was made by Steve Kanellakos.... she is not quite sure why her brain slipped this afternoon, but she apologizes for the error.


Budget Day

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 14, 2007

The draft city budget is being released today at 10am. People for a Better Ottawa are gathering at City Hall to witness the release. You can join them there or watch it online or on Rogers 22.

It's not going to be pretty. Among the service cuts leaked thus far are substantial library closures, including our branch at Rosemount. So be prepared to get out to the public consultations and let our councillor know how you feel. There are two meetings for Kitchissippi residents:

Monday, November 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the Assembly Hall at Lansdowne Park (Councillors Doucet, Holmes, Hume and Leadman will be present) and Councillor Leadman's own consultation at the Churchill Seniors Centre, Thursday November 29 from 7-9pm.


Memo to the Mayor: do your homework

Miss Vicky Mon Nov 12, 2007

Apparently Mayor Larry paid consultant Gord Hunter (not councillor Gord Hunter) $80,000 to help him develop his plan for the city budget. Miss Vicky is thinking about getting into the consulting business now, since it seems you don't actually have to do a lot of homework and still get paid a whack of money.

There were few concrete ideas in last week's speech, but one of the specifics the Mayor seemed to be considering is outsourcing parking enforcement. Here's what he said:

So why, for example, do we own our parking meters?

The city currently maintains over 3,700 on-street parking meters with an annual cost to operate the system of approximately $5 million dollars.

The City of Hamilton entered into a partnership with Parksmart and increased net revenues 122% the first year while cutting the number of illegally parked vehicles by over 50%.

I believe the citizens of Ottawa do not spend too much time worrying about who manages the parking meters.

If we were to follow Hamilton’s example we could potentially save $3 million a year with this one initiative alone.

Miss Vicky's readers, apparently, seem to do better homework than Mayor Larry's expensive consultants. Thanks to a tip from reader alf (see here), Miss Vicky has done some searching and made some inquiries. A call to Hamilton's Municipal Parking System confirmed that they are, indeed, a department of the city. They do, indeed, own their own parking meters. They have contracted a couple dozen commissionaires to help with issuing tickets, but that's it.

And it wasn't the city of Hamilton that did the contracting out. It was the municipality of Dundas, which was recently amalgamated with Hamilton. The contract with Parksmart was for 8 years, and the recommendation of the report alf helpfully pointed us toward was to bring parking enforcement back in house, the advantages of which would be:

1. Unencumbered control over enforcement policies and procedures, which allows for more flexible and timely responses to the needs of the community.

2. Greater latitude in the assignment of enforcement officers and their duties, which provides for:
(a) The development of efficiencies to implement cost reductions;
(b) A means to address shifting enforcement priorities;
(c) An opportunity to re-organize based on an effective service delivery model;
(d) Greater control over public relations and an opportunity to dispel the perception of “profit driven” enforcement; and,
(e) Enhanced control respecting policy and procedure development to promote enforcement consistency throughout the City, i.e., enforcement practices that are consistent with the other City Business Improvement Areas.

3. Direct management of parking operations, which provides for:
(a) Better control over parking fee rates;
(b) Enhanced cost recovery opportunities, e.g., increases in interest on revenues;
(c) Greater control and accountability respecting accounting practices and outcomes;
(d) A direct relationship with customers and other stakeholders, improving customer service and reducing client confusion;
(e) An enhanced ability to implement parking programs and special provisions in partnership with the local business community;
(f) A more streamlined decision-making process with respect to implementing infrastructure and equipment improvements by rolling the Dundas program into the city-wide comprehensive Parking Asset Management Program; and,
(g) “Hands on” management of equipment maintenance and customer service staff

And contrary to our Mayor's claim that no one really cares who owns the parking meters, the proposal to bring Dundas parking back in house had the support of both the business community and local residents.

Miss Vicky is a little surprised that the Mayor's claim about the city of Hamilton's "successful" outsourcing of parking enforcement has not been questioned by the media or councillors. Miss Vicky's suggestion: when the Mayor actually brings forward his more detailed plan(if indeed he has one), we'd all better go through it with a fine toothed comb. Especially before we start selling off the city's assets to satisfy his Honour's evangelical commitment to privatization and outsourcing.


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