Tuesday, 9 May 2017

PARKING IN REGINA - City Solutions VS My Solutions: PART ONE

Hello Regina!!

One of the biggest pet peeves that I have about our great City, and probably the one thing that I heard the most often on the doorsteps during both recent elections, is that of parking.

We just don't have enough of it. Period. End of story.

Okay, well, maybe it's not that simple, but parking most definitely is the biggest problem in areas like the University, Downtown and around our Hospitals.

So, how do we fix it, you ask? 

Well, if you're Michael Fougere, most City Councillors, or part of the Executive Leadership Team at City Hall, you simply jack meter rates up and issue a shit-ton of parking tickets, and enforce the hell out of what limited parking options you actually afford the citizens of this great City. Worse yet, you actually discourage anyone from out of the City to come and visit downtown businesses by ticketing the hell out of them if they dare park 0.1 Metres too far away from a meter, or spend 10 minutes too long in a spot - if they are lucky enough to even find a meter near the business they intend to patronize, that is.

Thankfully, though, since the City jacked the parking meter rates through the roof, there have been plenty of downtown on-street parking spots available. But, if I were a downtown business owner, I'd be raising hell with the Regina Downtown BID and the City of Regina, because these ought to be clear indicators of customers that aren't willing to frequent my establishment because of the inconvenience of parking. These inconveniences aren't an issue in suburbia, so why not just locate my business out there? More and more people are definitely realizing this is the solution, and unfortunately, if we allow the City to keep with the attitude of "it's not my problem", this City is going to realize another ghost town of a Downtown, as we had experienced in the late 90's - early 2000's.

This needs to change.

I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to wait until the situation gets that bad once again before real action is taken to alleviate the situation. That's why, over the next few weeks, I'm going to be sharing with you a series of solutions to constructively address our City's parking problems. I'm going to share some personal stories of great residents who have entrusted me with their heart wrenching ordeals of having to deal with a growing number of parking tickets facing jail time, while struggling to put food on the table, thanks to a fixed income and very limited means. I'm going to talk about the upcoming 'narrow streets' review that the City of Regina promised back in March, and has now been delayed indefinitely. I'm going to talk about the parking options for the new Stadium (Mosaic 2.0), and I'm going to talk about ideas that I've been working on during both of the previous elections, and how I plan(ned) to implement them.

In essence, if you want a City Hall that truly listens to you - the taxpayer - and works on common sense solutions, I'm going to be giving you a clear reason why, 
in 2020, I'll be the best option to be your next Mayor.  

If you want a Mayor that doesn't just cater to big business and developers, I'm your man. 

If you want a Mayor that isn't afraid to tackle the big problems head on, look no further.
Let's Do This. 2020.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

STC Cuts - How Does It Impact Saskatchewan Families?

Hello Saskatchewan! 

I'm not used to typing that, as I have been focused on Regina and area for so long now, that I'm both surprised and honoured to have been entrusted by so many great Saskatchewan residents to be a voice for their honest concerns, now province-wide.

What the local media won't talk about, for one reason or another, or will spin in one way to cater to their governing overlords, I promise that you can come to my page for the no-nonsense, unequivocal true story. Whether it be good or bad for the governing party, elected officials or anyone in between. I have garnered much respect with the position I have taken, and (and I know this sounds insane and overly boastful) the fear of many elected politicians at different levels of government.

With that said, I was approached by an anonymous source yesterday with a personal story that I thought deserved sharing widely. That person granted me authority to use their first name, but I'm not even going to do that, because I don't want there to be any opportunity of retribution of this family, as frankly, they've had to endure enough as it is. With that said, I present to you, a story from the family of a current STC employee:

Believe me. I feel a lot of the pain of STC shutting down. 

My partner of 17 years, and the father of my children, has been working there for 11 years now. There's so much more that's going on internally (at STC), than just trying to save the business. They still have a 7 month contract with Greyhound, which they will continue to fulfill, even after May 31st(, the date the Saskatchewan Party chose to shutter STC). Higher up employees, including my partner, will be asked if they would like to stay or leave. 

They are then faced with one of two options:

Option A: They choose to leave. Then, we are faced with the very real comment of “Well, we offered you a job beyond the 31st, and your refusing, so we don't have to pay your severance. Oh, and we’ll make sure that Service Canada is aware of that as well, so that you will have difficulties getting EI, if at all.

Option B: Stay with STC (in the interim), and take a pay cut. Of course, this option allows you to receive your severance, but not until after the end of the extension. Therefore, for the next 7 months, he can't look for a new full time job, and he can't go back to school. 

It's utter shit what's going on...oh and there are only 2 busses that come in to our location, at 6am and 10am. We still don't know 100% of what's going on with the Greyhound contract, but it will require a few employees to stay behind to work. Oh and not to mention that they are also fighting for an additional 6 weeks severance due to labour laws.

I ASKED THIS PERSON IF THEY APPROACHED LOCAL MEDIA ABOUT THIS STORY, AND THIS WAS THEIR RESPONSE:

I did and CJME botched my stories.   It was very embarrassing, and they refused to delete it. He's not allowed to talk about anyone outside of STC. His name can't be mentioned or he could be terminated. I've cleared already that family are allowed to speak out, but not sure what I'm allowed and not allowed to say. 

He is a big part of our main income. I work but it's not full time. My job hours are hit and miss. He was already talking about going back to school, but can't set anything up yet. Everyone was left in the dark. I keep trying to correct stories that people post, but nothing seems to be done about it. Like the day before the budget came out: They shut down the bus service to allow for management to meet with staff and let them know. This was never done. They got some papers 2 days later, which included points that by that time we already knew. I could give you copies of those. It was very unprofessional. Management hid for 2 days, and then handed out some papers with no answers.

There are also a lot of non-supporters that think shutting down STC will somehow save $85 Million per year – which is simply untrue. And what many people also don't understand is that bus going to Saskatoon with “only 5-6 people on it”, that its trailers are packed full of freight, and the bus underneath is also packed full. While ridership may be down, the freight most certainly is not. The story isn’t being told truthfully, and I think that's what's really upsetting the people that work there. Because they know more than any of us do.

It's just a really shitty deal for the Regina employees, due to the Greyhound contract, because they know they will be out of a job and can't start looking and they don't know who's staying or who's going. Because of that, they don’t know how many hours they'll work if they choose to stay, or even how much they'll get paid. So the future right now is very grim. He's upset I can tell, but being a man, he doesn't like to talk about his feelings LOL. So I can't really talk much about it with him. I talk to a few other employees that I'm close friends with, so I can try and help him manage.

Ya I told you pretty much what I told CJME. They said “my husband” – even though we are not married, and that is why I use the term “partner”. They reported that he was the sole income provider, which I also didn't say. You just can't trust anyone anymore; they even put in his wrong age. But I gave up and let it be. I just gave them a statement the next day of "how we felt" and I mean what can you say, we're losing a big chunk of income. I know we will be ok. I'm just mostly worried about our vehicle payments, which we have 3 years left out of 7, so we are doing pretty damn good, I guess.

I also said to them about the older employees that are in their fifties, who can't quite retire yet, and asked what are they supposed to do? I would say that they make up about half the total employees there. Most of them have been working there for 25+ years, and that's all they know. They are just not going to be able to find another job that pays them as well. And learning something new at that age isn't easy for some.

I trust you I have been following you for some time. I believe you respect people's privacy when it's asked. And do nothing but the truth so that's good by me!






Tuesday, 21 March 2017

"MOSAIC 2.0" EXPLODES OVER BUDGET WITH ZERO PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY

Hello Regina!!

Yes, you read the headline right. Remember that shiny, new stadium that we were all promised would come in "on time and on budget"? Well, thankfully, it does appear to be on time. However, as far as the on budget goes...well, as it turns out, anyone can easily follow through on that promise - when your granted the ability to remove key items out of that originally committed-to and promised-in-an-election budget

And, yes, believe it or not, that is exactly what is happening as we speak. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/stadium-maintenance-agreement-1.4028488

Regina City Council is set to discuss the authorization of an additional $9 MILLION of YOUR tax dollars for the Food and Beverage services at Mosaic 2.0. That is over and above the promised "all-in" price of $278.2 MILLION, and also over and above a further $12 MILLION of YOUR tax dollars that were previously authorized for this portion of the project - it is yet unclear as to who authorized the initial $12 Million.

If you're as upset about this as I am, SHOW UP AT CITY HALL on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 5:30PM

This is your money. You deserve respect. You deserve answers. You deserve accountability. 

Just some of the questions that I have for the City of Regina:
  • Who authorized the decision to remove the Food and Beverage services from the $278.2 Million price tag in 2014? 
  • Why have non-profit groups been lead on a leash in hopes that they might be lucky enough to continue their fundraising efforts in the new stadium, when it is clear that they are the last group that is truly being thought of here?
  • Why was the current Food and Beverage managing organization not given the contract for the new stadium, while the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) were gifted it?
  • Who authorized the initial, additional $12 Million for the first part of this Food and Beverage operation?
  • Was this the reason that the former man-in-charge, Brent Sjoberg, was terminated? If so, why was it not discussed publicly? What kind of non-disclosure agreement was he forced to sign, and how much did it cost taxpayers when he signed that agreement?
  • Why should taxpayers be okay with further funneling a single dime of their tax dollars into this project, when they are told time and time again that the City is tight for money come budget time, which somehow justifies the need to increase our property taxes and utility rates?
These are just some of the questions that we deserve answers to. Will we get them? Well, that's up to you. 

You need to DEMAND answers from City Hall. 

Contact your City Councillor, the Mayor or Service Regina and ask these questions, or your very own. Show up at City Hall on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 5:30PM - remember, you don't have to speak, just being there shows that this is important to you.

Below, you will find my unedited, as-submitted delegation for next Monday. Chances are it will be severely edited by the City Clerk's office, as they typically don't like confrontational tones in these speeches. But, I'm still going to submit it and hope for the best! It is my sincere hope that they understand this is an emotional issue and we have a right to be mad.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the elephant in the room – no, the City – the projected $21 MILLION cost overrun for the Food and Beverage service at the new stadium, which I like to refer to as “Mosaic 2.0”.

Within this report, there are some concerning statements which I am hoping can be clarified for the residents of Regina, who entrusted our elected officials with the biggest infrastructure project in Regina’s history – even if it wasn’t really an essential item. Roads, sidewalks and water mains would have been better served by this kind of money, but that’s neither here nor there anymore, since the new Stadium is slated to open this summer.

What is most concerning to me is this statement from the report: “In 2014, the Food & Beverage (F&B) project was removed from the scope of the $278.2 million stadium construction project.” I’m really, really curious here as to who made that call? Who decided to effectively add an open-ended cost at that time (which we now know is AT LEAST $21 MILLION) on a project that was continually promised over and over again, to come in “on time and on budget”. Was this something that went through City Council, or was it negotiated by the former Chief Operating Officer, who was entrusted with such negotiations at the bequest of the Regina City Council through their vote to delegate that authority? Based on the report before you this evening (See Appendix A), it appears as though this was actually a decision put forward by the bidders – even though they ought to have known that they were required to come in on-time and on-budget, as had been publicly suggested. If they didn’t think the $278.2 MILLION would cover that cost, they (or better yet, the entrusted individual representative of the City of Regina) should have come right out to the public and said it at that time – and not wait a few years until we are at the point of no return and it’s either done or the stadium isn’t complete.

Honestly, I really don’t care how this story is spun by the City of Regina, because, at the end of the day, taxpayers are now paying $21 MILLION more for this stadium, which is entirely contrary to what many of you had run on in the 2012 Civic Election – remember that one, where it’s been claimed to have been the referendum on the stadium?

In the report, there are claims that this is exactly what the stadium reserve fund was designed for, to which I would argue that the very nature of a ‘reserve’ is for unexpected costs, and not ones that were originally included within the $278M price tag, and especially not one that is considered crucial to the stadium’s operation. Let me be clear, this isn’t a situation where it was decided half way through construction that we should maybe add a few more washrooms, or an escalator or two – this is an essential part of the project that was known to be required for the stadium’s successful operation. What you have effectively done here is tied our hands, where we have no choice but to say “well, if it’s essential to the operation, then of course, DO IT!!”

It is my sincere hope that the entire $21 MILLION (plus a hefty interest) will be fully recouped within a reasonable timeframe. Of course, no one knows if this is going to be a reality, because as per the report, this is apparently still being negotiated. Oddly, though, Evraz Place must have thought this was a slam dunk, since they already put the call out for quotations on at least part of this very agenda item before you this evening. Interestingly enough, that RFQ closed today (See Appendix B). I should add that – since this appears to be simply a financing transaction, why is REAL not funding that transaction? It’s no secret they can easily afford to, if push came to shove, given that they have approximately $60 MILLION in deferred revenues (See Appendix C), and seem to be in a good enough financial position where they could, at the very least, fund this portion of the project entirely themselves through self-financing.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is up to you this evening. It is obviously not a matter of whether it will get done, it is a matter of who will finance the food and beverage operation and construction. I would suggest that you vote against this motion and force REAL to finance at least the $9 MILLION being asked of you tonight.

Finally, there is something that, to my knowledge, is still up in the air at the stadium, which is the way this Food and Beverage operation will be run. For years, there have been some amazing local non-profits that have been granted a fundraising opportunity within the current stadium food and beverage services. Unfortunately though, as of the most recent media reports, it sounds as though this is still up in the air. I can’t help but wonder – why? How is this fair to our community in any way? How is this ensuring this is viewed as a “community asset” when we don’t even know if those most benefited by this service are going to be afforded the same opportunity they had in the current stadium?

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.




Thursday, 23 February 2017

Regina Recycling - Just How Well Are We Doing?

Hello Regina!!

Coming up on Monday at City Council will be an update on the Waste Plan Regina, or more specifically the "annual" update that was postponed from 2015, and then again in 2016 due to the election. What you will find in this report is something that many of us already know - Reginans are awesome at recycling and the City of Regina is only accepting a fraction of what they could be because it "doesn't make enough money". This became brutally evident over Christmas when the whole "should we recycle wrapping paper" debate came to head.

Below is my delegation for your consideration. I encourage you all to read and share, and provide your feedback. I also encourage you to read the full Waste Plan Regina (2009) report, and corresponding 2016 update, so you can get a better sense of how far we've really come in seven years. Spoiler alert: We haven't really come that far.

Regina City Council Delegation – Monday, February 27, 2017
RE: Waste Plan Regina 2015/16 Update

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the item that is recommended to be removed from the outstanding list, that being the 2015/16 Update for the Waste Plan Regina.

I’ve spoken on this issue previously, and I’ve also monitored a lot of the online discussions that occur around this topic – specifically when questionable actions of the City take place. Like, for example, the recent revelation at Christmas time that the City of Regina would not accept certain types of Christmas Wrapping Paper. What transpired during that short time frame was the revelation that the Regina Residential Recycling Program is more about profits than it is the environment. This became quite obvious when the comment was made by Emterra that while it could recycle regular wrapping paper, it is lower quality and would not bring in as much money for the company or the city, which gets a share of the profit (See Appendix A). This was then contradicted by the City (See Appendix B) suggesting that these materials simply were simply “not recyclable” – which is concerning as it demonstrates a clear effort by the City of Regina to sway citizens opinions from the truth, which was graciously explained by Emterra. The fact of the matter is, these items are recyclable, it’s just that Emterra, and in turn the City of Regina, wouldn’t realize a reasonable profit – or possibly even experience a loss – by recycling the material. This is further supported by the fact that many of the items that we currently reject are actually recycled by many other cities (See Appendix C), and is included in the list of industry accepted recyclable materials in material the world over.

So, what first needs to happen is turning our attention away from the potential profit of a fully-recyclable item. Once we do that, then we can realistically expect to see our diversion rates increase. After all, the City of Regina realizes such a minimal return from Emterra for profit-sharing (Average $150,000 [approx. 2.5%] – see Appendix D), it’s almost meaningless to look to refuse certain items because of their profitability. I can guarantee when you go to residents and tell them they can recycle any material included in a generally accepted recycling list – not just the items that turn a tidy profit – you will realize a significant jump in your diversion rates. Not just because it’s going to make things a lot less confusing for residents, but also because you are actually diverting a lot of material that is currently going to the landfill now, simply because it’s been determined it doesn’t make enough money. The environment needs to be the #1 driver here – period.

It’s been suggested that it’s actually Emterra who is the one deciding what material gets recycled, but I’ve since found that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s right there in black and white in the legally binding contract with Emterra that they “shall receive all collected materials regardless of the level of contaminants” (See #36 in Appendix E). Further, that “it will be the operator’s responsibility, at it’s sole cost, risk and expense to dispose of all contaminants.” This confirms that Emterra must accept and process every single item that residents put in the blue bins, regardless of whether or not it can be recycled, let alone it’s profitability. With regards to what Emterra must contractually process, it is clearly stated that they “must accept and process any and all of the designated materials received.” (See #43 in Appendix F) As you will see in Appendix G, there is no differentiation of certain types of materials that the City of Regina has since designated as “non-recyclable” (or “non-profitable”).

What I’m saying here is essentially, the City has the ability to enforce this contract, and Emterra is legally bound to accept and process all materials that the City tells its residents to include in their Blue Bins. What residents deserve an answer to is this: Will the City step up to the plate and encourage residents to include any and all recyclable material (according to standard practice in many other jurisdictions, and as accepted by industry standards) in their Blue Bins, regardless of profitability? If not, can they please explain why? It should not be residents’ concern as to whether or not it costs Emterra more money to process certain materials, as that is something that Emterra ought to – and most likely did – take into consideration when negotiating the contract in the first place.
What you really need to come to terms with is that, until the City makes meaningful changes to our curbside recycling program (by increasing what is accepted), it’s going to be that much more difficult to increase that rate by any meaningful amount. Instead of coming back to residents in 2020 and saying “sorry, we tried”, why not proactively do something now to meaningfully increase that diversion rate?

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (Subject to inclusion based on time and questions by Council):

The City of Regina continues to realize significant surpluses at the Regina Landfill of $15 Million or more. The actual cost of processing our recycling – aside from the collection of it which is a subject for another day – is only $1.5 Million (See Appendix H). Why are we not funding this program entirely from the continued surplus at the Regina Landfill, as the two would seem to be intrinsically linked.

Also, the City of Regina now realizes additional revenue of approximately $775,000 from the Multi-Material Stewardship Western (MMSW) program, which is over and above what was originally considered in 2013 when introducing the curbside recycling program. The MMSW program is specifically intended to cover “up to 75% of the net costs for a municipality to operate a recycling program for waster paper and packaging.” Why, then, are residents not realizing a reduction in their recycling fees as a result of this new funding source, which is expected to last for the foreseeable future? Also, considering the goal of the MMSW program, it would directly contradict the intention of the program if we are not actually using that money to offset the operating costs of our recycling program, which is evident in Appendix I where it speaks to exactly what this money will be used for (taken directly from this 2015/16 Waste Plan Regina Update). For the City to use this money for further public outreach is effectively a slap in the face to that industry.

An added cost savings that can be realized down the road is implementing offset biweekly collection, so that we aren’t doubling down on the environmental footprint that is caused by the dual collection system as it exists today. (Loraas is contracted out to collect recycling biweekly and in-house staff collect garbage weekly) This would not only improve our environmental impact (which is consistent with the public feedback in Appendix J – also taken directly from this 2015/16 Update), but it would result in significant cost savings, furthering the call for eliminating the separate fee for curbside recycling.

While residents are being lead to believe that our diversion rate is steadily increasing, the statistics in your own report suggest otherwise, going from 16% in 2009 when the Waste Plan Regina report was released, to only 20% in 2016 (See Appendix K), or a 4% increase in seven years. Obviously, there are a few ways to impact that rate, including reducing our waste and increasing that which we recycle, but at the end of the day, the numbers are pretty consistent over the three years in this update, with the total tonnage of recycling actually decreasing over the years included in this report. It should be noted that in the 2009 Waste Plan Regina, there is no suggestion that anything beyond 40% could be attained without additional improvements (See Appendix M), so is the lofty goal of 65% by 2020 truly realistic, or are we just setting ourselves up for yet more failure?


 Interestingly, our garbage has reduced over this time by over 6,000 tonnes, without any corresponding increases in recycling or other programs, pointing to the fact that people are possibly consuming less? As well, considering that only 14% of what residents toss in the garbage bins ought to have been thrown in the blue bins (See Appendix L – again taken directly from this 2015/16 Update), it is not the fault of residents not knowing what to and what not to recycle – which goes against the idea that more public education is necessary. Contrary to what is planned, it is obvious that further public education is NOT required nor is it the solution – spending money on this kind of campaign is both wasteful and meaningless as it is clear that residents do fully understand and support a properly run recycling program.





Wednesday, 18 January 2017

City of Regina Shuts Down Land Development Talks

Hello Regina!!

I know it's been a while since I've posted on here, but it's certainly not because I haven't been active. Just check out my Facebook page and you'll know what I mean. Please go and 'like' the page if you haven't already, as you will find a lot more of my up to date postings on there.

There was an issue that came up today that I felt needed to be shared on this website. Another blatant disregard for public transparency, and honestly, I couldn't tell you why. Oh...wait. Yes, I could. But...for now, I'll let you do some digging and see if you can come to the obvious conclusion that I have, and hint at in this media release below.

Have a great January everyone!!

MEDIA ADVISORY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 19, 2017

CITY HALL SHUTS DOWN TRANSPARENCY ON LAND DEVELOPMENT TALK

Regina – At a meeting held at Regina City Hall on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, the Regina Executive Committee voted against allowing a full and open, transparent public discussion on the possibility of a Municipal Land Development Corporation (MLDC). In a rare 6-4 vote, a recommendation by Ward 8 City Councillor Mike O’Donnell was rejected, which would have simply allowed the information report to be considered once again at City Council on Monday, January 30, 2017. This would have been an opportunity for further meaningful discussion in a public format, as a larger number of Regina residents are aware of, and participate in, these regular City Council meetings.

After a two year delay, the City Administration drastically changed their recommendation from supporting a MLDC to advising against one, suggesting that land development can be accomplished within the current Administrative framework. As per the documentation from September 10, 2014, the Executive Committee at the time asked for City Administration to further review their recommendation to support the creation of a MLDC. Included in this request was for Administration to provide a further report outlining a model to govern City-owned lands and to provide recommendations on whether a separate corporation is required to govern. In the report brought before Executive Committee on January 18, 2017, there was minimal detail included as to why the City Administration took such a drastic change in their recommendation, other than a vague reference to how “conditions have changed” since it was last talked about in September 2014.

Chad Novak, with the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, addressed the Executive Committee on the subject. “It is clear that there is a bias within certain council members that they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.” Novak references the significant campaign donations provided to a number of former and current City Council members that could be perceived as having influenced their decision to deny the development of a MLDC, which could negatively impact long-standing developers within the City due to increased competition. “I hoped to see a really detailed report come back – especially after two long years – and all the Administration provided was nothing more than vague commentary to support a position that some council members obviously feel very strongly about.”

At this point, there is no indication that the subject will be brought up again in the future, but those that support the creation of a MLDC didn’t seem confident after the commentary at the meeting. The topic of a MLDC has not been brought forward to the voting public in either a public consultation process or a regular City Council meeting. This is a direct contradiction to the assertion of providing open and transparent processes by the City of Regina.


For more information, contact:

Chad Novak – Spokesperson
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group
Regina, Saskatchewan
Email: chadnovak2012@gmail.com
Website: chad4regina.com  

Phone:   (306) 596-7685