Archive for the ‘Political Stuff’ Category

Healthy Candidates: all parties support smaller schools

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Smaller schools was a big part of my school board trustee campaign last year. There are MANY reasons to support smaller schools but one of the major ones is that smaller schools are closer to home and, therefore, encourage students to walk rather than drive or take a bus.

That was so last year. This year, Ontario voters find themselves in the throes of another election campaign – this time to elect their Members of Provincial Parliament. As I’ve promised before, I’m not going to get into my personal partisan here.

What I do want to share with you, however, is a campaign within the campaign being run by the Heart & Stroke Foundation. The campaign, called ‘Healthy Candidates’ encourages all provincial election candidates to endorse a set of policy recommendations. Among the policy recommendations is the following:

Healthy Communities: greater support and funding for community planning that encourages mixed land use, greater density to enhance active transportation that is safe, secure and financially viable. A specific concern that was expressed was the construction of mega-schools even at the elementary level that require busing.

via Healthy Candidates.

Now, I will admit that this does not say “build smaller schools” but the idea is clearly there that larger schools with larger boundaries are necessarily pre-disposed to relying on busing to get kids to school. You may recall that we are dealing with this ourselves here in south-east Galt.

I applaud the Heart & Stroke Foundation for making the connection between walking vs. busing and its impact on childhood obesity. I also hope that the candidates from all parties who have endorsed the campaign will also support efforts to create smaller schools across Ontario.

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

I have been pretty quiet about the passing of Jack Layton. I hesitated to acknowledge his death publicly because I disagreed with him, and his NDP colleagues, on so many things it seemed disingenuous to suddenly gush about him simply because he had died. Then I saw this photo.

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

Taken by Jackman Chiu yesterday, the image captures a fleeting moment in Canadian political history that I doubt will ever be repeated. Indeed, the chalk remembrances created in Nathan Phillips Square were washed clean just hours later by a powerful storm.

Jack Layton was the most remarkable politician this country has seen in decades. Remarkable not for his ideas or policies or electoral successes but for his ability to say “Follow me” and elicit a response like this. I can think of only one other politician who so deftly seduced Canadians with equal amounts of charm and tenacity. It will be interesting to see now if their sons can follow their fathers into the hearts of Canadians.

Another New School Update

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The first two posts about this issue are here: here and here.

A very quick update to report that two WRDSB Trustees got in touch with on Friday and asked me on Friday to form a delegation to the Board to see if we can restore some common sense to the boundaries. If your family attends Chalmers and you would rather walk to Stewart Avenue than bus to Myers Road, please get in touch!

During one of those conversations, I was told that there is another group of parents who are upset about being bused to Stewart Avenue when they could be walking to Myers Road! Someone seriously dropped the ball on this accommodation review!

Update: The Cambridge Times published a guest column that I submitted last week:–boundaries-needs-to-be-revisited

Update on the New School Controversy

Friday, March 4th, 2011

If you haven’t read my first post on the new school controversy, you can find it here:

Earlier this week we attended a public meeting that we hoped would shed some light on the new school boundary situation. I honestly hoped that in talking to the school board planners that some previously unknown bit of info would surface that would make it all logical.

Didn’t happen that way. In fact, when I pointed out my concerns, the response I got from the planner was “you’re right, it’s not ideal.” Wow. Unfortunately, despite that acknowledgment of the non-sensical boundaries, there was a definite “nothing we can do” attitude. No invitation for alternative solutions or offers to be accommodating to certain neighbourhoods.

I’ve always felt that one should never complain about a problem without being willing to proffer a solution. I do not claim to be a “planner” or to take into account all of the intricacies of urban planning but here is how I would approach the situation…

Below is a map of southeast Galt with Stewart Ave school and the new school marked. I’ve overlaid a 1km radius on each school – which I think is a reasonable distance to expect kids to walk.

click for larger version

You can see that most of the kids in southeast Galt fall into one or the other of these 1km walking zones. There are, of course, those which fall out of the radius, and those within the radius but whose actual walk is too far. These children could easily be picked up by the buses bringing the rural kids into town from North Dumfries township.

Can it really be that easy? I doubt it. If it were that easy, the school board would have just done this in the first place. There must be, however, some middle ground – some way to ensure that kids aren’t being bused to one school when they could be walking to another.

if you’re interested in seeing the current boundaries compared to the board’s proposed ones, I’ve uploaded them here:

The Cambridge Branding Bruhaha

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Proposed New Logo for Cambridge

On Monday, Cambridge City Council approved new branding for the city. The new logo, wordmark and tagline (shown at right) were almost three years in the making and came at a cost of $25,000.

Update: I forgot to include a link to the report to Council that supported the new branding: Cambridge Branding Report

The reaction on Twitter and Facebook was generally negative – and one local graphic designer took it upon himself to whip up a much improved version in a matter of minutes (shown below).

To say I was disappointed with the new branding is an understatement – I hate it. My list of reasons for disliking the branding so much grows by the hour, but here’s the note I sent to city council Tuesday night.


When I heard that the city had undertaken a “re-branding” exercise I was nervous but hopeful. Mostly I was excited for something fresh and new that would capture the vibrancy of the Cambridge that I love.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw the article about the new logo in the Record yesterday. I am not a graphic designer nor an “identity expert” but I am a marketing and PR professional who understands the power of branding. Please allow me to offer my two cents on the matter.

  • when I posted the image to Twitter, the first two responses I got were: “it’s a napkin ring!” and “it’s a mullet!” — not a strong start
  • the image conveys nothing about Cambridge except that we have some water and a strange half-circle bridge (which we don’t)
  • The bridge resembles nothing in Cambridge and due to its shape would be impossible to cross. Not a good message there.
  • The water just about the only thing I like about this logo
  • The tagline: I get the double meaning, but there’s a significant third meaning. It could be interpreted to mean: “Cambridge: It’s so-so here.” In other words, “all right” is often used to mean something less than great. Again, not a good message.

Contrast this to the image I’ve attached which was done in about twenty minutes (working from the proposed logo) by a Cambridge graphic artist (who understands the city).

  • this bridge is instantly recognizable as “from Cambridge” though not “exactly” the Main Street bridge
  • this bridge also conveys a feeling of forward motion – even “leapfrogging”
  • the ribbon-like treatment of the bridge is lighter and seems to float on the page (the proposed logo seems much more like a paperweight)
  • the two streams of water could be seen to represent the two major rivers (Grand and Speed)

I could go on…

While I support new branding for the city, I cannot support this logo.

I’ve heard back from a few councillors who have expressed second thoughts about approving the logo – they also indicated they much preferred the logo I sent them and that they would be forwarding it on to city staff. I’m not so naive to think that the City will simply walk away from their $25,000 logo, but at least they’re taking a second look at it.

A few more thoughts on the logo that have occurred to me since I wrote to council:

  • the “little old bridge” feeling has a small hamlet feel to it the betrays Cambridge’s desire to be a “player”
  • I just can’t stop seeing a dog with its tongue hanging out on a hot day
  • the report keeps talking about “two rivers” yet the logo clearly only has one
  • I don’t understand the emphasized R in Cambridge – it throws the whole word off-balance
  • if you have to BOLD a word in your tagline to make sure it’s read correctly, you have the wrong tagline

Update 2: here are two stories that have appeared in the Record:

A New School in the Neighbourhood

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Having kids changes your life. Duh. Just a few years ago, the building of a new school (and all of the bureaucratic wrangling that goes with that) was a mildly interesting civic event to someone like me who has an interest in local politics. Now, as our second child prepares for kindergarten in the fall (just as our oldest is leaving) the prospect of a new school in the neighbourhood has ramifications that will profoundly impact our family’s daily life.

My wife sits on the ‘School Council‘ at our kids’ school. The new school planned for southeast Galt (the part of Cambridge that I live in) and the boundary implication were mentioned at a recent meeting. This isn’t news but I hadn’t thought about it for a while and I was curious how the existing school boundaries would be affected.

A quick Google search brought me to the Waterloo Region District School Board’s Accommodation Review for southeast Galt elementary schools. There is a LOT of information here, and I will admit that I have not read it all. I did, however, spend a little time poring over the maps provided in Appendices C&D. (I love maps)

Appendix C: JK-6 boundaries:

click image for full-size

Appendix D: 7-8 boundaries:

click image for full-size

There are a couple of weird things I noticed:

  • our kids will go to the new school for 7-8 even though Stewart Ave is closer. This is even more problematic for us since we’ll have kids going in two directions (Chalmers and Glenview to the west and ‘NewSchool’ to the east even though Stewart Ave is situated between Chalmers and Glenview.
  • kids who live on Dudhope (a block away from Stewart Ave) will now be bussed the 1.9 kilometres to ‘New School’?
  • Based on my reading of the busing rules (here), it would seem that our kids will be bussed to ‘NewSchool’ (1.85 kms) when they could easily walk to Stewart Ave. (1.1 km). It’s ridiculous to bus kids within city limits when there’s a school within walking distance!

I realize that these are pretty complex things to figure out (especially with the Jr/Sr split) but I will maintain my position from my trustee campaign last fall that if we had smaller schools in more neighbourhoods we could probably eliminate all intra-city busing.

If you live in southeast Galt – or even if you don’t – what do you think of the plan for the new school? Leave a comment below…

What Happened In Buffalo Yesterday?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

A lot of Canadians spent the day today saying to themselves (and anyone else): What happened in Buffalo yesterday? How could things go so wrong? What are we going to do about it?

Well, here’s just a sampling of what happened in Buffalo yesterday:

How could things go so wrong and what are we going to do about it?

Is Gordon Brown as brilliant as he seems?

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I’m watching a very recent TEDtalk (that will appear in a future TEDtuesday) where Chris Anderson interviews British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about global ethics and global citizenship.

All I can say is WOW. If this guy is serious and isn’t just blowing TEDsmoke, he’s an outright revolutionary…

Is this the real Gordon Brown? Is he as much a revolutionary world leader as this interview suggests?