Archive for February, 2012

The Question Of A Full Time Or Part Time Mayor

Brent Mazerolle wrote an interesting article in todays Time & Transcript regarding the pros and cons of having a full time mayor vs having a part time mayor.

Having read through the article, and considered the question myself in the past I feel there is a slightly different view point that may not be discussed.

When the voters in various municipalities go to vote on May 24th, their vote for mayor is based on the vision that the mayoral candidates have presented. In today’s system of part time mayors and weak mayor systems those votes count for very little. The reason is that a weak mayor system means that often a mayor is handcuffed from moving his vision forward because the city staff feel that a different direction is preferrable and they feel that as the full time long term employees they have the right to make the final decision. Now, because previous mayors have not stepped on this behaviour in any way, they sense of entitlement continues and it becomes an ongoing cycle with the city staff continuing from mandate to mandate putting their vision into action regardless of what the voters and their representatives, the mayor and council, have to say on the issue.

While I do believe that this system could be halted in it’s tracks with a few terminations, what ends up happening then is the long term expertise in the department is lost and we stand the risk of upper management of city staff becoming another patronage position offered to friends or family of the mayor and council instead of being filled by qualified individuals.

This means that without a strong mayor system we do not have any way of being certain that the mayor and council’s vision can be carried out without losing the presence of qualified staff members to keep things on track and keep council from making serious mistakes.

As far as the issue of salary that is bandied about regarding a full time mayor, that to me is far less important. I personally, and history seems to support that past mayors as well have done this, intend if elected to spend the hours of a full time job minimum anyway. So why not call a spade, a spade and say the job is full time. There is no serious reason to increase the salary, definitely not to any serious level. By calling the position full time, we also put the position of mayor as the primary job that the person serving in that position does, instead of a second, full time job, being the more important simply because of it’s full time status.

Long term, I do believe we need to move to a full time mayor and council, however I also believe that the financial end of the issue does not have to change over much. The size of our city is large enough to justify a full time mayor however by the same token it is not large enough to justify a salary in any way similar to the 140,000 that the Halifax mayor receives.

After first trying to get rid of all pets from NBHousing units, including those pets deemed medically necessary, Sue Stultz has now backed down. Slightly. She now says that anyone who has a medical need for a pet and who asks permission to get one before they do so will be allowed to keep their pet. Those who don’t ask permission are still out of luck.

This creates a problem. To start with it allows NBHousing the opportunity to second guess doctors as to who has a medical need for a pet and who does not. This is kind of like saying “because you living in public housing, you must ask permission before you can receive your chemotherapy treatments, we will determine if it is justified or not” Often the criteria for choosing who requires a pet or service dog for support is found only within general studies looked at by specialists in the field of medicine involved, and family of those affected by the illness in question. To expect staff at NBHousing to have the knowledge or background to understand the necessity is to require NBHousing staff to be doing research normally done by medically trained professionals and those with direct interest in the disease and to interpret the information correctly without having the benefits of the appropriate background knowledge.

The complaints involved that lead to these letters were specific and so direct and specific actions are required. One apparently mentioned a vicious dog, deal with that then, and all other vicious dogs (if that is accurate and not just a complaint based on the breed). The other complaint was directed at messes left in common areas and not cleaned up. Deal with this as well, pet owners must clean up after their pet, lose their pet, or be charged for cleaning the mess up.

Blanket pet bans are an abomination as it tells those who are less fortunate that they do not have the right to animal companionship. Ban blanket pet bans and introduce a law protecting parents and pet owners while at the same time allowing some areas for those who have real and actual problems caused by the presence of animals.

If you will not do this then perhaps it is time the City introduced a bylaw to protect it’s citizens from you and your department. We can and will stand up to you, the message was sent yesterday and a single token change is not sufficient we need a major overhaul in this policy.

Time To Stand Up To Tyranny

It is time to stand up against the tyranny of the Conservative government in New Brunswick and even more specifically the tyranny being visited on the poor, the disabled and the seniors by the one woman who is supposed to be their voice.

The “Turkey Lady” long vaunted for her good works for the poor with her annual turkey drive that did so much good for so long allowing families in need the chance to have a turkey on their table at Christmas have shown that in all reality she was nothing but a fake and a fraud. She in all reality is showing that she is the real turkey here.

Over the last several weeks the so called Minister for Social Development has gone on an offensive that is by all accounts completely offensive. She started by attacking seniors by saying they must give up their pets or leave their provincially owned seniors building. She then turns around and starts on a new offensive at the Parkton Heights housing complex and has gone as far as to tell a man with Cerebral Palsy that he must give up his companion animal as well.

I am forced to ask my self what is next. Is she going to ban the blind from their guide dogs, the autistic from their companion dogs. This woman has shown she has absolutely no shame whatsoever. Many doctors tell their elderly patients that having pets for companionship will help them lead a more fulfilling life and there are suggestion is that it often helps extend their lives and yet this woman has decided that she is going to go against all common sense and put a full out frontal attack on those less fortunate.

It is time to stand up to the tyranny of this woman and as such if I get elected as mayor I am going to look into a bylaw banning the practice of discriminating against those who own pets by saying that it is illegal to discriminate against pets and/or children when renting apartment units of any kind.

I understand due to space constraints that perhaps there may need to be some limitations to this bylaw as large dogs in a small one bedroom upstairs apartment is not logical however these can be sorted out when designing the bylaw.

This is a bylaw that is in place in many cities and it is well past time that this bylaw is enacted here in Moncton as well.

Rebuild Moncton High As a School

moncton high new idea

My plan for redeveloping the existing Moncton High complex, which is the real idea for that most people are interested in, is to reuse the existing structure.

To start with all present exterior walls are saved. however the entire roof should be removed and completely rebuilt. The entire structure needs to be removed back to the existing exterior walls and new support beams and new floors and interior walls built completely from scratch. The only portion of the existing building that should be rebuilt within it’s own capacity is the auditorium. The only walls left standing should be concrete or cinderblock walls if they are in good shape.

The exterior faces that become interior walls should be a hallway with a 3 storey glass and steel wall across the hall. It should be allowable for walkways to cross this gap entering the old wall and new walls by way of a glass and steel walkway.

One of the Major reasons for moving from this location was available space.  By utilizing the entire land allotted to the present location I have alleviated this problem. However this will create a problem with parking. This is alleviated by having the lower floor area of the new area of the building dedicated to parking (it would actually increase the amount of parking available) and by placing two or three stories of building above this to house the additional classrooms, labs and other area’s that were not available in the old school due to space.

In all honesty it is highly likely that a project like this could be started almost as soon as school finishes for this year. By clearing and levelling the parking areas and building the onsite parking area and then building at least the first floor area above this while students are on summer break.

By doing this it would allow construction to continue on upper levels of the new portion of the complex after the high school was back in session. Once the new section was completed classrooms could be moved into this area while the old or existing section of the school was rebuilt. If outdoor area’s are required for the students the walls on the upper areas of the new section could be raised higher and an area on the roof be made available for the students there.

I strongly believe that this project designed in this manner would be cheaper then the cost of rebuilding this building on the outskirts of the city. This is especially true when the cost of rebuilding the road is taken into account.

Bullying: The Missed Lessons

Everyone has heard of bullies, many of us have at one point or another in our lives spent time as a victim. For kids at school this can create a serious problem. Bullied students lose interest in school, and in most cases even at bare minimum contemplate suicide.

There is no real new knowledge in any of those statements. However over the last couple of weeks the discussion on bullying in New Brunswick schools has come to a head. In Fredericton, one family pulled their son due to harassment by an ex-girlfriend, another parent came forward detailing attempts to get school administrators to deal with the bullying suffered by her child, things that went as far as sexual assault. In Saint John, a girl had her hair set on fire. In Moncton earlier in the year, a child was transferred because of bullying and another child was attacked by students from another school entirely and it was done in front of the school office.

Some administrators would prefer to see these incidents separated into assaults and bullying, with two separate categories of incidents. What they fail to realize is that many of these “assaults” are escalations on bullying behaviour that has not been stepped on by administration. It is a continuation of the same ongoing bullying that many of these students experience.

I spent a fair bit of time being the victim of nonviolent bullying myself.  One of the few incidents of violence that was done to me (I was in grade 2 or 3 I believe it was a long time ago) ended up with me spending time in detention. In that incident a student in my age decided that it would be good to elbow me in the gut as I was getting off the bus on the way from school. Because he was forced to sit in the front seat because of his already poor reputation, this was done in full view of the bus driver (as was my shoe hitting his head in retaliation, and yes my foot was still in it) I got a days detention which I happily served, he on the other hand got a solid month.

The true bullying began after I decided to go to a different school to participate in the late immersion program. For almost my entire 7 to 9 grades I was subjected to almost constant harassment, much of it based on a religious upbringing that meant that certain facts of life others were fully privy too, I was completely oblivious to.  One thing of note that should be mentioned is that during almost all periods of bullying whether the minor stuff in younger grades, or the harsher stuff in junior high there was always a girl holding my attention and usually engaging my attention sufficiently to keep me from sinking into a total wreck.

It should be noted that during the junior high years the bullying that I dealt with did not just come from the students but at least one teacher was involved as well through his constant belittling of my efforts. This teacher who taught not only my English class but also was my guidance counsellor who had the final say on my high school course selection did incredible damage to my future with moves that he forced on me. The first signs of serious problems was when he denied my first choice of book report book (Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter, a fairly heavy book written in Old English) only to approve a Hardy Boy book, calling Freckles to childish (To this day I suspect his issue was that it was to difficult for him to read). He carried his garbage through into my course selection refusing me level one courses in both math and English, and suggesting that instead of looking at medicine I should be looking at a trade as a mechanic. His objection to my math suggestion was overridden early in my grade 10 year when I heard of a math competition that while essentially open to anyone usually was limited to only level one students. After forcing the teacher to allow me to write the competition I placed 3rd in the school and top 25 in the province, when I suggested I really should have been in the level one course the teacher agreed (because of time I do not remember if I was transferred in or whether I was moved to level 1 for grade 11). I never have fully recovered from the damage this teacher caused to my curriculum as the courses he made me drop actually cost me greatly in any interest in making much effort in my school work and cost me a lot of opportunities.

Major things that need to be realized when dealing with bullying incidents. Almost all victims of bullying contemplate suicide at one point or another. Some seriously and some throw the idea away. Others take into account how much better life would be if only their bullies no longer were around to cause them problems.

This statement here is something that all people involved in bullying need to understand.  Others take into account how much better life would be if only their bullies no longer were around to cause them problems. Administrators are trained in how to look for signs of school shooters. However there is one key piece of information that is left out of this equation. School shooters are almost all victims of bullying that have finally had enough.

When staff do not react promptly and aggressively to stamp out bullying there really should be no surprise when the victim chooses either to end their own life or to attempt to end the life of the bully (and invariably take a few others who stood by and did nothing in the process).

Some may choose to mock my belief but I sat through and studied several of these school shootings in an effort to understand the shooters motivations and was shocked when I followed the discussions. With out fail the reports detailed the withdrawal that is classic signs of bullying and even in one case actually documented the bullying, and yet without fail they were all left asking the same question. What was there motivation.  While it was staring them right there in the face in pure black and white, the investigators completely missed the signs of the bullying that was common in almost every instance.

I looked into these cases for one simple reason. I wanted to know what was different between them and me. What was the difference that made a student go from contemplating removing their bullies from the face of the earth to actually doing it.

I came to a simple answer. A couple of well placed friends. A bit of luck. A couple of girls who wanted to talk. That is the difference between any victim of bullying and a school shooter or suicide.

That is the important message that all school officials need to take from this. Any victim of bullying in your school could tomorrow walk in with a gun. Failure to stamp out bullying means that this could happen here.

This is not a problem that is talked out. This is a problem that needs quick decisive and aggressive response. Bullies need to be cut off at the knees. They lose their sports, they lose their activities, they lose their free time. And if they do not get with the program in a very quick hurry they also lose the right to go to school. This is not a time for talk therapy. It is not a time to hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Save that for the victim. The bully needs to be stepped on quickly and decisively and it needs to be done in such a way that the victims and their families know that their problem will not remain a problem any longer. The punishment of bullies can not remain hidden behind a cloud of secrecy.