Halifax citizen survey – my main gripes


I entered this on the overall sentiment page of the survey:

0) First of all: This is only a list of the unhappy-making things I see happening. There are also many good things, like the Central Library, that I am not listing here, because frustration currently prevails for me. That you are doing this survey in the first place is great. So don’t get defensive now, please. You are all good people, staff, councilors, mayor. You asked for a piece of my mind, so here we go: 🙂

1) Crosswalk and bike lane maintenance is extremely poor: Cheap options were chose (painted lines), without putting real infrastructure in place (bike lanes and bike paths should be safely separated and protected, pedestrian safety requires traffic calming measures, not just paint on the road).

And then the painted lines wear off! And are note renewed. For example, most of the crosswalks in Fairview are bare recognizable (zebra lines almost completely gone).

2) Don’t get me started on commuter rail from Bedford to downtown: Talked about at least since Peter Kelly’s time, progress is like molasses. Turn that trailway corridor that surrounds the peninsula into a high-speed connector for commuters! Be it with a bus lane in there, rail-based or whatever, but get something going.

3) “Solar City” with loans at 4% interest is a nice idea, but still much too cost-prohibitive. Why don’t you start by setting good examples and put solar on all municipal buildings? Eat your own dogfood, as they say. I want to put solar panels on my house but my wife is afraid of the costs and the debt. So maybe offer tax rebates instead of loans at almost commercial rate.

4) Give community gardens municipal space on long-term basis. Common Roots getting kicked out for a hospital parking lot is disgraceful. Offer them a pro-bono lease for the big former school property on Quinpool, please. If you want to improve quality of life, community gardens are gold. Groom those treasures!

5) Stop giving exemptions from your own regulations and plans to “developers” (aka real estate capitalists). No more “29 or 25” storey haggling. Create democratically and community approved rules and then STICK TO THEM. I am not against density, but it can be done in moderate and fair ways. If those inventors don’t think they can make enough profit unless they fill the peninsula with towering ugliness, then send them packing. We don’t need a Vancouver-like situation with empty and/or overpriced housing that normal locals cannot afford anymore!

6) Protect the Commons for everyone, primarily as the green lungs and heart of the downtown. Playground, public sports, gardens, community, peace.

7) Make the city and its outskirts truly walkable. Please, no more sub-divisions without sidewalks. No more huge parking lots where pedestrians have to play the old Frogger game from the 80s, hoping not to get killed. And don’t add insult to injury by installing pedestrian surveillance cameras at crosswalks. Traffic calming is the key. Wide straight roads invite 60k/h driving or even faster. Put in protected bike lanes, bumpers at spots where drivers are known to go too fast. One more pedestrian killed in HRM and I will consider suing the city for negligence. But don’t worry, I don’t have the money and time for the lawyer. 🙂

8) Last but not least: Birch Cove Wilderness Park is overdue. Meanwhile you are allowing an immense expansion of Bayers Lake, clear-cutting and blasting into what many hoped to become a buffer zone for the protected wilderness. I am one of the Friends of BCBM and I am not sure if I can believe that this council is ever going to pull off the park. It is like one step forward, two steps back.

Gathering Fairview

A process is underway to prepare a larger Fairview community meeting in September. A planning group is forming and had a first meeting last night.

This is the draft mission statement (purpose) so far:

“To create a space where residents can find points of connectedness to work on issues that matter and find collective voice in representing the views of the community. See our strength. Generate a culture of leadership.”

We will probably meet several more times in June, July, August. Interested members of the community are still welcome to join the planning process.

We will use the Google group we-in-fairview to communicate between meetings.

Creative Outdoor Play in Fairview

About the project

The project will offer a creative outdoor play time for children from 3 – 6 years old every Saturday afternoon. We will use various parks, fields and/or wooded areas in Fairview.

The idea is that parents will come with their children, we meet at a certain spot in that area, the parents will maybe bring or use provided camping chairs, etc, to hang out and have a social time, while members of the project team engage with the children in activities.

Activities will include a range of outdoor games, simple science experiments and projects with natural materials. The project leader is the father of two boys, age 3 and 6, and will prepare most of the activities with his children during the week. The other parents can join the activities as they wish.

Some examples of possible activities:

  • Treasure hunt (with map)
  • Parachute games
  • Various variations tag and circle games
  • Soft disc frisbee
  • DIY outdoor bowling
  • Build a simple lean-to shelter in the woods
  • Form letters and numbers with our bodies, take pictures to create an alphabet
  • Make “egg tempera” paint (stone dust, egg yolk) to paint rocks, twigs or cardboard
  • Build a milk carton bird house with glue and collected twigs
  • Inspect trees, moss and other found items with magnifiying glasses
  • Build castles and the like using sand, rocks, branches, etc
  • Make and try out tin can stilts

Taking pictures of the results and during the activities will be an important part of of the project to illustrate what we did, create tangible memories for the people involved and be able to present the project within the community.

Why is this project relevant?

Outdoor activities available for families with children 3 – 6 years old are often organized sports classes, larger events where most things cost money or self-organized outings to playgrounds, trails, etc.

Low-income families in Fairview often cannot afford to register their children for such classes or drive their children to them.

Traditional “play dates” usually involve a small number of children invited to people’s homes. This is not an option when we want to create community and include a larger number of children.

By using a public but safe space, the project will literally act “in the open” and be inclusive. The project team represents a multi-cultural mix of families which will further add to the inclusiveness of the project.

What difference will it make in the Fairview area?

The project will build community, foster outdoor play, bring families together, enable multicultural exchange and learning in an informal setting.

It will explore creativity and play at low material costs and in ways that encourage DIY, use of natural materials, improvisation and active participation of children of different ages.

Time line and responsibilities

The project will start in June. It will take place every Saturday afternoon from 3 – 5 pm.

Each week the project leader (and other team members as necessary) will prepare the activities for the next weekend. The topics and planned activities do not require a specific sequence, so we will be pretty flexible what to put on the agenda each week.

Throughout the summer we will gather every week, as weather permits. When the project leader is not available (on vacation, sick, etc) other team members will take care of the sessions.

How long we carry on with the project will depend on the temperatures in the fall. September should still be fine.

At some point in October we will probably have to end this years activities, unless there are enough families who will participate in puddle jumping and other rainy weather fun.

The project leader and his sons will be mainly responsible for preparing the activities for each week. Other team members will mainly make sure that the parents are having a good time.