Saturday, 29 June 2013

Regina Rooming Housing Debate Continues!

Good afternoon Regina!

For those that recall, back in May, there was an open house hosted by some great residents in Whitmore Park regarding the Rooming Housing fiasco. Long story short, the City of Regina tried enforcing a ridiculous and outdated bylaw that forced homeowners to either vacate their premises or evict their tenants if they were simply renting rooms to others. This caused a lot of outrage, understandably, and the need for clarification by the residents and the City of Regina. Mayor Fougere went to the media and stated that this was simply a case of "an overzealous employee" that shouldn't have sent out official letters stating the homeowners have 30 days to comply, or face up to $10,000 fine and/or time in jail. I respectfully disagree with this statement, as I find it very hard to believe that a "low level employee" would have the authority to send out such a letter without higher-up approval.

I received this email today from Adam Knutson, who asked me to publish it on my blog. As I am rarely one to say no to respectful requests, here it is, in all it's glory! For those that want to follow them on Facebook, check out this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/293704457430491/

(I have taken the liberty to bold items that I feel are very important to note)
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I am writing to you about the Rooming house situation in Regina.  The next step in the battle appears to be July 10th @ 7pm at the Knox Metropolitan Church.  This town hall style meeting is being put on by the City of Regina itself this time and they are expecting more then the 250 that showed up for the May 9th meeting that the Whitmore Park Community Association put on.

I have been passed this email and attachment from a source of mine.  The attachment details what the Whitmore Park Community Association(WPCA) expect the city to do in regards to rental and rooming houses.

I personally have a few concerns about their goals.  I personally believe that the source of all the problems here is in fact high rent.  High rent is why there are more people getting crammed into houses simply because they are trying to split the cost enough ways to make housing affordable.  The solutions that are proposed in that document will do 2 things.  Cut supply and increase costs.  I think that this will make the housing situation worse in Regina if they get their way.

1.  Licensing.  This concerns me because these licenses won't be issued for free and because they will have a cost we can expect that cost to be transferred to the tenant.
2.  Sub Point c) "R1-Residential Detached zoned areas have a limit of 2 rooming units." is a horrible recommendation.  Where does this group think that the people who are currently renting in homes with more then 2 people are going to go?  This will horribly cut supply and with our understanding of economics will put severe upward pressure on rent.
3.  Permits.  Essentially between the hassle of licensing and permits I expect a reduction in the supply of rentals.  We both know what that will do to price.
4.  No daily or weekly rentals allowed.  This is contentious to me because I had some pipeliners rent from me before and they wanted weekly rentals because they might be told Friday they would be based in Regina for 3 months and on Monday get told to move to another city.  It was just the nature of their line of work.  It worked out that they did stay at my place for more then 2 months every time they were in town.
5.  The call for city staff to monitor local web-sites that list rooming units to heighten compliance with the related bylaws.  Basically calling for an expensive surveillance state.  This will cost taxpayers and ultimately the tenants paying for the licensing and enforcement a lot of money.  Rent price would be forced up.
6.  They claim "...and likely increase the number of accommodation choices for roomers."  I think I have clearly laid out how and why they are going to increase costs and cut supply with these tactics.

I hope for two things from contacting you.  First that you can provide me some feedback on my views and secondly I'd like to see a lot of people who are struggling with rent come out to the meeting and let this group know that they are wrong and that they can't take another rent hike.  I take it you have some contacts who would be interested in this information and meeting.  The meeting information is as follows:

Knox Metropolitan Church
July 10th, 2013 @ 7pm.
City of Regina Public consultation meeting.


Adam Knutson,
Embattled Rooming House Operator


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Community expectations - Hillsdale and Whitmore Park
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2013 09:43:20 -0500
From: Brian and Kathy Black <hobbes.dog@hotmail.com>
To: wpca.treasurer@sasktel.net <wpca.treasurer@sasktel.net>, secretary@whitmorepark.ca <secretary@whitmorepark.ca>
CC: terry.madole@gmail.com <terry.madole@gmail.com>, Luc Lemoine <lemoine@sasktel.net>, jjking@accesscomm.ca <jjking@accesscomm.ca>, jeffrey.king@aonhewitt.com <jeffrey.king@aonhewitt.com>


I have sent you the community expectation report that was provided to the City managers at our Tuesday morning, June 11, 2013 meeting outlining what we, as representatives for our 2 communities, suggest is a plan of action that our communities expect them to propose as part of the solution for rooming house and other room rentals to our City Council.  The City Managers were very receptive to our proposals and this was also endorsed by our Councillor Barbara Young who was at the WPCA meeting last evening and had talked to them later on.

Terry Madole, Luc Lemoine and Jeffrey King from Whitmore Park have been part of this plan and it was stated at last night's WPCA meeting that this report should be included with the minutes of the meeting.

The City intends to have another community meeting so that city residents will have an opportunity to listen to their proposals that they will include in their submission to City Council on July 29, 2013 regarding the options to control rooming houses and other rental properties in Regina. The meeting will have to be arranged in a larger venue than last time to accommodate the expected larger audience than our May 9 meeting at St. Martins. I would suggest watching the City Page portion of the Leader-Post for the meeting date announcement.

Brian Black


Friday, 21 June 2013

Putting the Rumours to Rest

Good morning Regina!!!

I want to say a giant thank you to those of you in my life who have stuck by me through the good times and the bad, and being there for me through everything over the last year and a half.

Today, I decided to go public with my battle with Mental Health, as I felt it was time to finally put any nasty rumours to bed, and start getting people to talk about Mental Health in a positive way. Please understand, it was VERY hard for me to do this, but something I feel I needed to do, in order to move forward in a positive way with my life.

I would ask for your kindness towards others who face Mental Health challenges each and every day, and most importantly, do your research. What many don't understand is that Mental Health is just as serious of an illness as Cancer or any other physical illness may be. Just because you cannot see it, does not make it any less a reality. Our society continues to revolve around a horrible stigma about Mental Health, immediately thinking that anyone with a Mental Health challenge is "crazy" or "loony" and should be locked away or certainly not allowed to be a part of our every day society.

I am here today to say that, regardless of how many "awareness" days we have regarding Mental Health (Bell Let's Talk Day for example), we still have this negative stigma surrounding Mental Health in our society, and it needs to change. I have been witness to some pretty disgusting statements by folks in our community over the last several months, some even going so far as to tell me to kill myself, all before actually knowing if I did face Mental Health challenges. Many went to the extreme of saying that people should be afraid of me because "you never know what he might be capable of", referring to the horribly tragic situations in the United States of late.

What many don't understand is the darkness that can surround many Mental Health challenges. For me, I have Bipolar Disorder, and that can mean a variety of things in different people, but in my instance, it is simply two extremes in your feelings. Some days, I can feel on top of the world, and nothing can stop me, and other days, I can feel like there is no world, and I should do everything to shut the outside world out, so I can just sit and do nothing so the world can't get me more down.

I invite you to watch my Live Video Blog at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/34720629 and you should be able to understand a bit more about this situation.

Thank you for your understanding, and please, share the love!

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

WWTP Petition - Red Herring?

Good morning Regina!

I had a very long, interesting discussion with Rob Court yesterday, at the Design Regina information session, regarding the Wastewater Treatment Plant. At the time, I wasn't aware of exactly who he was, or what role he played, but now that I've had some time to digest what he told me in person, and reviewed online, there are some very serious issues that I have with what he has told me in person, and what is in previous media reports. Mr. Court is a Senior Engineer at the City of Regina, and has been working on the WWTP for some time now. He has been with the City of Regina for two years, and ten years with the City of Saskatoon prior to that.

This article, in particular, is where I have a major concern. While the WWTP Petitioners are focused on the P3 aspect of things, and kudos to them for doing that, the reality is that, according to my research, I still stand behind my statement that we DO NOT require a $230M+ new facility. Why am I being so bold to say that? Well, read the article, "There's Something In the Water" http://www2.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=d26d7034-e91a-45e9-9e37-f350678d42a4. In particular, according to Rob Court himself, we "meet and exceed our permit to operate". I've been saying this for over a year now. The major focus for the City of Regina, that Mr. Court suggested to me in person, is that of Nitrogen, Ammonia and Phosphate being released into Wascana Creek. The question becomes: Is a BRAND NEW FACILITY really necessary to address these relatively minor issues (when you compare it to the overall situation)? Consider that the current facility itself is anywhere between 30 and 50 years old, depending on which part you look at. Consider even further that a majority of the plant has even been upgraded over the years, and in the early 21st Century, Regina's water treatment was, in fact, considered to be one of THE BEST in Canada. Has it really deteriorated that much in 10 years? And, if so, WHY?

We've been told, over and over and over again, that we aren't meeting new Provincial and/or Federal Regulations to be implemented by 2016. HOWEVER, no one from the City is willing to publicly release the specifics on the contaminants that we currently release into Wascana Creek, nor are they willing to release the specifics on what these alleged new regulations require. The article briefly touches on World Health Organization standards, but this is far from any Provincial or Federal Regulated Guidelines. "Part one of the study found very high ammonia and phosphate concentrations, both of which exceeded guidelines." <-- What isn't clear with this statement is WHICH guidelines are they referring to? The WHO, Provincial, or Federal?

This is about as close to a public statement that we can get so far - from the article:
"The province has sort of set some mandates with respect to the City of Regina treatment facility by the end of 2016," he said. "So we're aiming to basically upgrade our treatment plant in line with those new coming provincial regulations. As a city, we are committed to ensuring that we're maintaining our regulatory compliance." <--- In this quote, it would be suggested that these new guidelines are provincial, but when pressured, the City of Regina has sent information that doesn't support this. In fact, some on Twitter have referred to the Federal Regulations, which again, we meet and exceed.

In the end, while the WWTP P3 Petition is a great thing for democracy, I feel VERY strongly that we all need to get educated on the realities of this situation. And, that is listening to what both sides are feeding you, but take what they tell you with a grain of salt. Know that both sides will feed you bullshit, and good information. The key is to sift through and figure out which is which. Most importantly, something that I stress to the Regina Media every single day - ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. If something doesn't sound quite right, chances are they aren't. Keep probing until you get answers that satisfy your request. The City is unwilling to publicly share the Risk Matrix for this project, for example, saying that it would compromise Privacy concerns, which would actually demonstrate just how big of an issue, say the Ammonia is, and how big an issue, say our current plant is meeting guidelines. The question then becomes - WHY won't they release this information? I do not buy into the "privacy" argument. These are OUR tax dollars. We DEMAND to know how they are to be spent.

There are too many unanswered questions, and unfortunately, this is all too common with the City of Regina in recent years.


We NEED to demand better accountability and transparency BEFORE this gets put to a vote.

PLEASE do your part and DEMAND it from your City Council and your City Hall. 

Have a great day everyone!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

"Democracy Be Damned!" [sic] - Mayor Michael Fougere

Good morning Regina!!!

What a beautiful start to the weekend. What was looking to be a rain-filled weekend, is now turning out to be sun-filled, at least for this morning so far. This is God shining down on us all, saying that he is watching over us and taking care of us, and allowing us all to get our great City back from the greedy hands of developers and construction related parties.

For those of you who haven't heard the news by now, this past week has been - eventful - to say the least. It began with news that the Water Watch group was nearing it's expected goal of just over 19,000 signatures in order to force a referendum on this very controversial project. Keep in mind, that is almost as many votes as ANY current City Councillor or even the MAYOR received in the 2012 Civic Election. Then, the City of Regina ramps up their continued propaganda campaign to try to convince the general public that the P3 project is "the way to go", no ifs ands or buts about it. What many people, thankfully, are realizing is that, no matter how good something is, there will always be risks involved. We have yet to hear any of those risks identified from the City of Regina. All they continue to do is push, push, push needless propaganda, bordering on outright lies, in order to push their agenda forward. Then, there was an announcement on Thursday that the Water Watch group is very much nearing their goal, and with over a week to go, it was pretty evident they were going to meet and exceed that requirement.

Then...Friday. Friday. What can I say about Friday. Anyone that is familiar with politics, you will know that when you want your news to be pretty much ignored and more of "filler", you publish your story on Friday. Well, I think City Hall needs a refresher on this, because they went to the extent of making a "major" announcement about the Federal Government pitching in "up to" $58.5 Million for the WWTP upgrade project, as long as it's a P3 project. (http://cjme.com/story/update-regina-city-hall-seeks-raise-petition-requirement-water-facility-issue/115003) <----BTW, I LOVE how the headline is certainly NOT the one that the City of Regina was hoping for. MANY KUDOS to Rawlco for doing this. 

One would wonder, why would you do such a "major" announcement on a Friday, given the known risks involved with making ANY announcements on Friday, when it's typically going to be ignored by the majority of the intended audience. Well, this is where things get even more suspect, and certainly add more fuel to the fire that is the pending Legal Action against the City of Regina, and many, many other related parties for the Criminal Code violation of Municipal Corruption. Apparently, on Thursday, City Clerk Joni Swidnicki, whom I had the utmost of respect for - emphasize "had" - sent an email to the Water Watch group telling them that she had submitted a letter to the Provincial Government requesting them to change the number of required signatures for a Petition to be based on the population according to the Health records, and not the Census data, as is already clearly written in the Cities Act.

While this, apparently, is an allowable request, it is pure filth, and filled with nothing but the worst of intentions, in my opinion. Not only do the Health records indicate those within the "Regina Qu'appelle Health REGION", but it also unfairly adds another 1,400 required signatures to the petition requirement, which is less than a week from it's deadline. This, to me, is nothing more but a giant slap in the face of Democracy. And, what's worse? Mayor Fougere is playing ignorant on this subject, claiming that he "wasn't aware" of that letter, but if it were indeed sent, then "it's just for clarification as to the actual number required". To this I have to quote Seth and Amy from Saturday Night Live and say - REALLY?!?!? For a "seasoned" politician, Mayor Michael Fougere is probably one of the worst under pressure that I have ever been witness to. At least the former Mayor would (allegedly) tell them where to go and threaten them with their jobs if they dare call him out.

So, in the end, this week has been quite the eventful week. Thankfully adding even more to the pending Legal Action, and the impending need to call for the resignation of quite a number of senior officials at the City of Regina. They have had plenty of opportunity to come clean, and avoid legal action for months, if not years now, and they continue to deflect, thinking that they are untouchable, and no one is going to bother to attempt to bring them and their castle down. Thankfully, that is soon to happen, either forcibly through the Criminal Code enforcement, or voluntarily, through their tendered resignations.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Why Don't I Accuse the RM of Sherwood of Conflict of Interest?

Good morning Regina!!

I've been asked this a few times already, by parties that have a genuine concern for why I am going after the City of Regina and related parties for Conflict of Interest, and not the RM of Sherwood, specifically the RM's Reeve, Kevin Eberle. Well, CJME printed an article this morning that pretty well sums up why I don't feel there has been any malintent by the RM or the Reeve. Yes, he has lands, it's pretty out in the open there. Yes, he stands to make some money from this development. But, as outlined in the article itself, he actually has a home on these lands, his family homestead, and they continue to farm it to this day. If that doesn't tell you that he didn't just buy this land to make money one day, I don't know what else will. This is in direct contrast to certain parties that stand to eventually profit (substantially) from the annexation of their lands from the RM to the City of Regina, who have never held the lands for any true personal reason, other than that of land speculation. There is nothing wrong with land speculation in a regular circumstance, but as will be outlined in the Court Documents, it's the intent that is key in the City of Regina and related parties' situation.

Quotes to note from the Article:
"I'm not interested in having a process that a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to work forward to have this all derailed just because an unsolicited offer came to us," he stressed.

Eberle explains that 469 acres of the 736 acre space laid out to house the development currently belong to him and his wife. Initially they rejected the idea of selling their land, he claims, uncomfortable with the idea of selling off the only home his children have ever known.

"It's where I live. We're quite comfortable where we are," he said.

Since the original pitch was made, however, the company adjusted it's footprint to exclude the Eberle's home quarter. Since the family still has land to farm north of Regina they decided to agree to contract out the land. Eberle says the project is just too important to the area, partially because developer Great Prairie is including a fully self-sustaining sewage treatment plant and water system in the plans. He feels the ability it will give the RM to service other developments in the region will help advance the council's desires to open up to development.

"We've been struggling to try and bring land use change into the RM for a very long time. This dates back to 2000, 2001."

Eberle is referring to the history of discussions around putting an Official Community Plan in place and the years of disagreements the RM and the City of Regina have had over regional development planning. He says he takes the possible perceptions of impropriety so seriously he's actually recused himself from any discussions having to do with the OCP as well. The document, which lays out the council's vision of long-term future growth, has gotten a lot of attention the last two weeks because it conflicts with the recently-revealed plans of Regina's council to annex large tracts of lands the mayor insists will be needed to grow the city in the future.

"I don't want this to harm the reputation of the RM or the council in any way, shape, or form so I've completely recused myself."

http://www.cjme.com/story/sherwood-reeve-denies-conflict-interest-plans/112945?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Regina Housing Crisis - All Talk VS All Action - You Decide

Good morning Regina!!!

Another glorious weekend ahead of us here, with the perfect temperatures of a balmy 70F, which in my eyes, is better than any of the 90s (sounds better when you use the Imperical system), because you don't have to worry about wasting energy of A/C and/or fans, and can truly enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Something that has been an issue for me for some time now, basically since I opened my eyes and started listening to those actually affected by the housing crisis in the most visible ways, has been that of homelessness. Whether we choose to believe it or not, it is a serious issue in Regina, and we need to do something NOW to address this known problem, before it gets even worse. Step 1 is to open our eyes, and the City of Regina seems to want to do everything in their power to downplay the seriousness of this situation, in an apparent attempt to make the problem even worse, which in the end, helps their developer friends literally profit off of others' pains. I met one tremendous Social Activist over the last year and a half, that being Stella Rogers. Anyone that knew her, knew that she always, always had her heart in the right place. She had faced the severity of homelessness in a number of ways, and had experienced it in several cities. She had lived in Regina for some time, and I actually had the pleasure of meeting this fine lady during the Occupy Regina movement. Sadly, she had since relocated back to Vancouver, and recently passed on to the Heavenly Father.

For anyone that had been following that movement, you would be aware that I did not like the idea of what Occupy Regina was doing, that being what I saw only as what the media portrayed, and that being deliberately breaking bylaws to prove some apparent point. My eyes were closed to the realities of the situation here in Regina, and as such, I actually sided with the City of Regina saying that these people should be obeying by bylaws to demonstrate whatever message they wanted to get across. After having the courage to attend ONE of their meetings, after several invitiations to do just that, I must say I was blown away. These people were not the bums that the media made them look to be, they weren't the "get a job" crowd that some in our community only saw them as. They were real, living, breathing human beings, who had the courage to bring about an awareness campaign, and in that regard, the point of breaking the bylaws was that of civil disobedience. Since that day, I have never been the same. That was the inspiration for my Mayoral Campaign, and also for my steadfast approach at standing up against the ridiculous rule of our current City Council and their alleged decorum, which is unique to Regina in all of Canada.

Fast forward to the Mayor's "Housing Summit" and the RM's recent announcement for (in my opinion) a TRUE attempt at working towards a solution of this ever growing problem in our community. The Prairie Dog wrote up a very well written article, http://www.prairiedogmag.com/2013-05-30/lets-not-think-big/#comment-106493, and it addresses the issue directly. Without some great community activists like Stella Rogers, Patrick Smythe, or Dr. Marc Spooner, to name but a few, this issue would continue to be on the back burner, and Mayor Fougere would continue to pretend it's not a real issue, and continue to say it's not his problem. (Oh wait, I guess that last point is still true - he still uses that as a fall back excuse)

This article brings the crux of the problem right into the forefront. We need to change out approach and our attitude in this City and Province in order to truly affect change. We need to first recognize that we have a housing crisis, a serious one at that, AND we have a homelessness crisis, a VERY serious one at that. What's the way to bring this to the forefront? Tent cities? (Like Occupy Regina attempted to do?) Unfortunately, I think that seems to be the ONLY THING that the City of Regina will listen to, which applies severe PUBLIC PRESSURE.

It's sad that the City of Regina won't listen to the people who are actually facing the problem, and instead continue to cater to the developers who make billions off these exact problems, and actually profit by making these problems worse. Something needs to change Regina, and it's our attitudes. If the City of Regina doesn't want to recognize this is a serious problem, and the Council continues to pretend that they are actually DOING something to fix it, we the citizens are forced to take drastic actions, like the one I am doing, that being taking legal action against the City and other related parties.

Did I WANT to have it come to this point? Of course not! Did I do everything I've done over the past year and a half, specifically with the intent to sue the City? Of course not. BUT, after banging your head against the wall over and over again, there comes a time that you begin to realize that the only way to get through that brick wall is with a (metaphorical) sledgehammer. The lawsuit IS that (metaphorical) sledgehammer.
Stay tuned Regina - the City has until Saturday, June 8, 2013 to respond to my Notice of Civil Action.  
Will they implement the actions I demand of them? 
Time will only tell.

Notable Quote from the above article:
"You have an opportunity here in Regina and in Saskatchewan to get at this and fix it while it’s a million dollar problem before it’s a billion dollar problem

My Two Cents:
I think there’s only one statement that needs to be made here. The City of Regina is all talk. This has been proven. The RM of Sherwood: Seem to want to walk the walk. As demonstrated by their MEGA PROJECT announcement this week. You can’t get a better real-world example of a situation where talk means nothing without action. I heard very little need for BS talk from the RM, and pretty much all action. I guess we will see who actually cares to address the affordable housing situation in Regina. So far, RM of Sherwood: 1 City of Regina: 0 (Hell the RM, in my opinion, deserves bonus points for not spending months upon months promising something and delivering nothing – like a certain other former mayoral candidate, now mayor)