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All In Hand

Bobcat's Afternoon Delight: Nov 17

Miss Vicky Fri Nov 9, 2007

The fine folks at Bobcat House Concerts have had such high demand for their upcoming show with Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines that they have decided to open up a second concert in the afternoon of November 17. What could be better than an afternoon of great blues with some great company in an oh-so-civilized space?

If you haven't been to a house concert, it is definitely worth checking out. Intimate setting, great music, and interesting folks.... visit Bobcat's website for details, and book your space soon!

Yoga in the 'hood!

Miss Vicky Thu Nov 8, 2007

Miss Vicky received an email today announcing the opening of a new Yoga studio on Wellington St West. Windhorse Yoga offers a wide variety of classes at their new studio and boutique at 1338 1/2 Wellington St., near Clarendon.

You can try out a class for free between November 9 and 16, they are offering a 15% discount on class packages purchased before the end of December and their Grand Opening will be on Saturday, November 24.

Miss Vicky had a quick look at the schedule and there is pretty much something for everyone, including pre-natal classes and Mom and Baby classes. According to the announcement "Windhorse's studios are equipped with earth-friendly cork flooring, indirect lighting to provide a calming, supportive environment for your yoga practice. We have showers to support your busy work-day." That'll be particularly handy for the early morning classes.

"Smart" Management at City Hall

Miss Vicky Wed Nov 7, 2007

So the Mayor "unveiled" his budget plan today. From what I heard, it wasn't much of a plan. Certainly not worth the buildup of the last couple of weeks. Apparently he's going to bring in "new ideas" and "smart management". Um....okay. What exactly does this mean?

The Citizen has helpfully put the speech on their website, so I was able to watch it this evening.
Lots of words, little substance, in Miss Vicky's opinion. And pretty predictable.

During the first part of the speech, he prattled on about his "achievements" in the year since the election. Apparently he and council "have changed the nature of many debates... this is what leadership is all about". Apparently council never embraced the idea of waste diversion before he came on board. He's taking credit for the green box program, despite the fact that this was several years in the making. Oh, and he killed that evil crack pipe plan. He seems pretty oblivious to the fact that council is as divided and dysfunctional as ever (Albion Road, anyone?), that his strategic directions exercise was a wasteful and ridiculous process, and that he has failed to secure council's commitment to his zero-tax-increase promise. I suppose he has change the nature of the debate by defining a zero tax increase as 2% for infrastructure and another 1 point something for the police. But somehow I don't think that's what he meant...

Ignoring the three something percent tax increase he's already committed to, he discussed how to achieve his zero-means-zero "mandate". Staff has been directed to find 188 million in cuts and operational efficiencies in the next 3 years. He said he thinks city management will find them but believes we can find much more if leaders are "consistent, courageous and focused" on changing the way the city operates.

That's all well and good, but what exactly are his ideas for achieving this? The speech was a little thin on details.

He did offer some hints, though. Apparently smart growth is going to require "smart management"... whatever that means.
He cited general administrative overhead (HR, IT and other departments) as one place where "smart management" could be applied. He wants to reduce it from 7% of the budget to 5%. How, exactly? Why, innovation! business intelligence! technology! and of course "courage, focus, and the will to make it so".

Apparently, "sometimes leadership is about setting targets". And then you simply "make it so".

The one concrete commitment he made in the speech was to create the "Mayor's Task force on e-government and Smart Management, which will harness the resources of Ottawa's leading technology community to recommend how we can adapt a business 2.0 model in the city of Ottawa". Details to be announced later; recommendations to be brought to council.

Miss Vicky is not entirely sure what a "Business 2.0 approach" would entail. Does it have anything to do with the Business 2.0 magazine that recently went under?

I predict the task force will be a massive waste of time and resources and will result in no earth-shattering changes to the city's operations. Unless, of course, councillors buy into the mayor's real agenda, which is to confuse public service with private enterprise and outsource as much as he can.

Getting more to the point, the mayor talked about "what services we choose to deliver and what would be more efficiently delivered by others". Apparently we need to understand core services and "focus on excellence". Again, no details. Kent Kirkpatrick has it in hand (that would be the dumb management we have, not the smart management we still need to get, if one takes Mayor Larry literally). When he eventually cut to the chase, he started talking about "contracting to specialists". "Why do we own our own parking meters", he mused. Hamilton privatized theirs, why don't we? Next suggestion: finding an outside agency to consolidate municipal and utility billing.

and therein lies the rub. Outsourcing. We can't be surprised that this is his agenda. He made his money outsourcing (and heck, if tenders go Calian's way, he'll make even more). Problem is, outsourcing in the public sector does not always result in efficient, quality services or even cost savings in the long run.... remember Walkerton?

Further musings: "do we have to own a hydro company to ensure dependable electricty in Ottawa"?

"You can go through the list of services from recreational services, some parts of our social programs... but those conversations will be ahead of us in the next year."

I agree with him on one point: there is no magic bullet to the city's financial woes. And that includes the selling off and contracting out of municipal services, thereby resulting in less control over quality and service delivery, less accountability, and (dare I say it?) less value for money in the long term.

I'd say it's going to be an interesting debate but I am dreading it already. City Hall is like a bad vaudeville show these days - embarrassing to watch. Between the police investigation of the Mayor, his political posturings, the ridiculous strategic directions process and now this cynical lead-up to the budget, wherein city staff are given a directive that no one (except perhaps our delusional mayor) expects them to meet without substantial cuts to city services, Miss Vicky's usual pastime of City Hall-watching has become more and more difficult.

And she suspects it won't get any easier.


Diwali in Hintonburg: Thursday

Miss Vicky Sat Nov 3, 2007

Indian Express and the Hintonburg Economic Development Committee are collaborating to bring you the first Annual Hintonburg Diwali Party, Thursday November 8 from 6 to 7pm.

Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights. It's a five-day celebration marked by candles and lamps, fireworks, family celebrations and LOTS of sweets... which just happens to be Indian Express's specialty (well, Miss Vicky likes their Palak Paneer but that's another matter entirely). Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil, symbolizes hope for humankind, good luck and prosperity.

Our celebration will take place at Indian Express and Somerset Square (Somerset and Wellington). There'll be dancing, lots of light, and... of course, sweets!


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