Frogman

I got a good day gig. I got a good day gig. Every day when I leave work I come here, or wherever town I might be in, and I join up with the boys.

My day gig is, well, it’s pretty gruesome actually. It’s pretty horrible.

I’m a frogman. I’m a skin diver. I’m an underwater dude for the cops. I investigate, I investigate. I go down and I find people who actually had the patience to let their cars fill with water to the roof before they decided to open the door for pressure reasons.

And I always see them blue and bloated with the window about halfway down, hand clenching the handle, wife riding shotgun, couple of kids in the back. And it just… I see this every day, and it weren’t no thing, it weren’t no thing, and then I come here, and I paddle the stage around for a while, in our little pond, and it weren’t no thing, you understand? I can see them floating in their cars.

“Honey, the ferry takes way too long. Let’s drive across the ice, it’ll be much faster.”

I’m telling her to wait, to be patient, there’s a little spot next to the roof where we can breathe. She’s screaming. The little kids in the back, well they got their carseats, they’re buckled in.

I took a couple of shots of Chivas Regal. I put on my mask. I put in my regulator, and I jumped off.

I see it, it’s a red Toyota.

I talk to the ship through a transmitter.

“I see it, it’s a red Toyota. It’s on the bottom, it seems to be covered with weeds and things, stones. I think it fell through the ice, yeah, it fell through the ice. Headlights are still on, headlights are still on. I can see some exhaust. They didn’t let the water fill up to the roof, they’ve actually got an airtight red Honda, they’re sitting in there with about an hour’s worth of air having a game of crib between man and wife and the kids.”

So I open the door and flood them out and they float to the top like pieces of popcorn. We get them on ship.

“We thought we nearly lost you Mr. Kennedy, we thought we nearly lost you, we were so concerened, we thought we nearly lost you sir!”

I took another shot of Chivas Regal. I took another shot of Chivas Regal.

I think I’m going to quit that job. I’m gonna quit that job. I’m gonna quit that job.

From New Orleans Is Sinking, Chicago 1991

A Brewery District follow-up

I want to do a little bit of a follow-up to my previous post about building heights in the Brewery District. I posted that because I kept getting annoyed at Sapperton residents saying things like “Wesgroup mislead us” and “it was eight storeys all along.”

I did a little more digging, and found the McBride-Sapperton Residents Association minutes from January 22, 2014. In this meeting, two employees of Wesgroup presented an update on the Brewery District development site, which includes this:

There will be a total of 4 tall structures with a maximum of 30 storeys, minimum 12 storeys being built.

Read that again. “…minimum 12 storeys being built.”

So in January 2014 the MSRA knew full well that the first residential tower was to be at least 12 storeys high. This meshes with the photos and statements I highlighted in the previous post.

So what really pisses me off is when MSRA acting president Ross Eichendorf says this:

“I’m sure the residents in the area will be glad to see three [fewer] storeys, but it’s sure not the eight they had been representing up until recently.”

“Until recently”? If by five years ago you mean “recently” then yes, Wesgroup has been saying that the first building will be eight storeys “recently”.

But no, you can’t say that you didn’t know that the first building was going to be at least 12 storeys when the information sessions in February 2010 showed models of at least 12 storeys. Or when a story in the New West News Leader in September 2010 said that “the building is still in the design development stage, but said it will likely be over 12 storeys high.” Or when Wesgroup staff came to your meeting in January 2014 to tell you that the residential buildings will be at least 12 storeys high.

“Eight [storeys] they had been representing”? Bullshit.

“It’s a bait-and-switch!”

Letter to Council, May 10, 2007:

…the proposed bylaw change will enable the developer to go as high as 30 storeys in sub-district 4, 18 storeys in sub-district 3

Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 7145, 2007, Section 581.3, adopted July 14, 2008:

The maximum height and site coverage of all buildings and structures in each sub-district shall not exceed the height and site coverage set out below.

Sub-Districts 3(a), 3(b) and 3(c) (High Density Residential and Retail): 180 ft. / 45%

Found at Royal Columbian Hospital, February 2010:

(The first residential tower to be built is the left-most in the second picture, which looks to be 12 or 13 storeys high)

New West News Leader, September 16, 2010:

The second quarter of 2011 will see Wesgroup begin to market the first residential tower on the old Labatt Brewery grounds. Nonni said the building is still in the design development stage, but said it will likely be over 12 storeys high.

Render from Bluetree Homes website, January 2013:

(Again, the left-most residential tower, this time 14 storeys high)

New West News Leader, December 4, 2014:

The McBride-Sapperton Residents Association (MSRA) is upset the developer wants to build three 18-storey residential towers and a 30-storey tower along Brunette Avenue as part of its Brewery District development. They have accused Wesgroup of pulling a bait-and-switch from their original proposal of buildings that were much smaller in height.

New West News Leader, January 7, 2015:

“I’m sure the residents in the area will be glad to see three [fewer] storeys, but it’s sure not the eight they had been representing up until recently.”

Huh.

Regarding Translink’s ‘Fare Not Paid’ Button

On January 6, 2015, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation put out a press release stating

TransLink bus drivers pressed a special button in their coaches to record a “fare not paid” more than 2.76 million times in 2013…

2.76 million times! That’s a lot of button presses and a huge amount of fare evasion! Like Jordan Bateman, the CTF’s BC Director, said:

These bus drivers should be checked for carpal tunnel syndrome from having to repeatedly push that fare evasion button. TransLink executives have turned a blind eye to millions of fare cheats, causing unnecessary financial grief for honest riders and taxpayers.

Indeed! TransLink executives really don’t give a shit about fare cheats. They have no fucks to give about fare cheats. They put up giant signs saying “FARE CHEATS WELCOME HERE” on every bus.

Well, no, they didn’t. That’s hyperbolic. And so are the statements from Jordan Bateman and the CTF.

With no context, 2.76 million presses of the “fare not paid” button sounds like a lot, and it is. But each one of those button presses isn’t someone refusing to pay their fare. If you read the actual document you’ll find this:

A “fare not paid” entry can represent one of a range of fare-related discrepancies. An issue can include: a partial payment of fare; overpayment of a fare into a bus fare box, which cannot dispense change; failure of a passenger to AddFare when travelling across zones; or fare evasion. It is not the intent of this tool to document revenue loss.

So those 2.76 million button presses were not 2.76 million instances of fare evasion. Some of them were because someone paid, but not enough. Some of them were because someone paid too much!

Strangely, the CTF press release makes no mention of that, instead labelling every one of these button presses as caused by “fare cheats” and “freeloaders”.

With no context, 2.76 million presses of the “fare not paid” button sounds like a lot, and it is. But how many people boarded buses in 2013? If it’s five million, then TransLink’s got a huge problem. If it’s 50 million, then TransLink still has a problem with a potential “fare loss” of about 5.5%.

TransLink didn’t have 5 million bus boardings in 2013. It didn’t have 50 million. It didn’t even have 100 million. In 2013, TransLink had 228 million bus boardings (from Page 9 of their 2013 Bus Service Performance Review). Is 2.76 million out of 228 million still a huge problem? It’s 1.2% of bus riders. One point two percent.

That’s what happens when you take raw numbers out of context. You can take those numbers and have them fit your narrative. In Jordan Bateman’s narrative, TransLink is horribly wasteful and not deserving of any tax dollars. Finding “fare cheats” and “freeloaders” is easy to do when you just yell TWO POINT SEVEN SIX MILLION FARES NOT PAID without giving any context whatsoever. Unfortunately, reality tends to illuminate these context-free statements, showing that Jordan Bateman and the CTF are being intellectually dishonest on this issue.

canspice.org’s 2014 Year In Review

2014 was a pretty slow one on the good old blog, with only 22 posts written. Heck, the first one in 2014 didn’t come until September 17th!

Nonetheless, I did actually get some people actually visiting the site, with 7663 pageviews in total over 2014. That’s actually up over 2013 by 2.69%, astonishingly.

The most popular 2014 post, by pageviews, was my flowchart on how to get elected in New Westminster in 2014. Second was Jonathan X. Cote’s answers to my questions, and third was the actual questions.

I’m hoping to boost all of these numbers in 2015 with more frequent posting. See, by writing my first post on January 2 I’ve already doing better than last year!

I’m also hoping to boost engagement by turning on comments here. I didn’t like Disqus that much, and that was the default commenting system available to me. Recently I’ve discovered Muut and have enabled it here. This is the first post that uses it, so please do let me know if it’s any good!

As always, I can be reached on the Twitter at @CanSpice for shorter and quicker discourse.

Have a great 2015, everybody!

The Conflict Over Coquitlam

In the 2014 December 13 Vancouver Sun, columnist Pete McMartin wrote this correction:

My apologies to Mayor Greg Moore for incorrectly identifying him in Friday’s column as mayor of Coquitlam. He is not. He is mayor of Port Coquitlam, which I am assured are two completely different communities. Mayor Moore informed me by email, however, that he will be invading Coquitlam and should be incorporating it into Port Coquitlam by spring.

Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation.

WOAH WOAH WOAH

“…he will be invading Coquitlam”?

Slow down there, chief. Invading Coquitlam is New Westminster’s game. Don’t forget what Jonathan Cote had to say:

I have long believed that New Westminster would benefit from an expanded land base. The twinning of the Bailey Bridge should help facilitate the Royal City’s long desire to have an IKEA.

Now, in the spirit of the season it’s not nice to be greedy and claim every part of Coquitlam for either Port Coquitlam or New Westminster. After all, Coquitlam is pretty big:

Look at all that space to share! It would be crazy to think that either New Westminster or Port Coquitlam could adequatly take over every part of Coquitlam, particularly all that land in the north. That’s why our cities need to work together to carve up Coquitlam like a Christmas turkey.

And why not get Port Moody in on the action too? They could use an expanded landbase too, right?

New Westminster’s targets are already clear:

Uptown, Maillardville, Downtown, Sapperton, Moody Park, Queensbourough, Burquitlam, Brow of the Hill, Fraser Mills, Victory Heights, Queens Park, Glenbrooke, Connaught Heights, West End, Quayside.)

I’ve bolded the neighbourhoods of Coquitlam that are to become New Westminster. I think Mr. Cote would agree that that’s enough for The Royal City, especially since that means we still get our IKEA.

Colony Farm Regional Park shouldn’t be split between two cities, so it’ll come completely within Port Coquitlam’s new boundaries.

And I think Port Coquitlam deserves a curling club. All proper cities in Canada have curling clubs, and both New Westminster and Port Moody already have one. Conveniently, Coquitlam has one based out of the Poirier Community Centre, so we’ll give that to Port Coquitlam.

And we’ll just bump up Port Moody’s borders a bit so they’re not so snug around the western end of Burrard Inlet.

That said, here are the new boundaries:

I think we can get this done by spring, don’t you?

The Amalgamation Hipsters of New Westminster

In the 2014 December 13 Vancouver Sun, columnist Pete McMartin wrote this correction:

My apologies to Mayor Greg Moore for incorrectly identifying him in Friday’s column as mayor of Coquitlam. He is not. He is mayor of Port Coquitlam, which I am assured are two completely different communities. Mayor Moore informed me by email, however, that he will be invading Coquitlam and should be incorporating it into Port Coquitlam by spring.

Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation.

WOAH WOAH WOAH

“Finally, a Metro politician in favour of amalgamation?” Clearly Mr. McMartin has not heard about New Westminster mayor Jonathan “The People’s Champion” Cote, who showed his war-mongering side in November:

I have long believed that New Westminster would benefit from an expanded land base. The twinning of the Bailey Bridge should help facilitate the Royal City’s long desire to have an IKEA.

And what about Michael “Big E” Ewen’s comments about Richmond:

The New Westminster School Board has been in talks for months and once we get this silly election out of the way we will be announcing that we have annexed all of Richmond.

And don’t forget about what Mark “Tiny” Gifford had to say:

You think we’re stopping at Hamilton? We’re Queensborough and the Royal City, and as such, deem territories to the Knight Street Bridge to be rightfully ours.

Even candidates that didn’t get voted in are pro-amalgamation, like Jeremy “The Juggernaut” Perry:

…I am pro-annexation. We won’t need to add “New Westminster is better” to the curriculum, as that will be clearly known by all students attending this high school, as New Westminster will have expanded and annexed part of Richmond; clearly showing our superiority.

“Finally”, indeed! New Westminster politicians are like amalgamation hipsters: planning it before Mr. McMartin thought it was cool.

On the Great New Westminster Envelope Scandal of 2014

Back story: New Westminster had an election. During the election campaign, three candidates (mayoral candidate James Crosty, and council candidates Gavin Palmer and Scott McIntosh) sent this to New Westminster residents:

2014

 

When it was delivered, some people on Twitter called it “deceptive” and “misleading”. See, the crown used on this envelope is actually the trademarked logo of the City of New Westminster:

CNW_logo

…which lead some people to think that the three candidates were misleading people into thinking the city sent out this mail.

Outgoing council member Betty McIntosh had this to say:

If you lived in the city of #NewWest longer you would know that is the same envelope the labour slate used in 2011

Here’s what the 2011 envelope looks like:

2011

I’m not sure what definition of same she’s using, but those don’t look the same to me.

Sameness aside, it turns out that the City of New Westminster doesn’t like it when other people use their trademarked logo, and they’re currently looking into their legal options. I have to wonder if Mr. Crosty is going to be documenting that news story.

That’s not the biggest news to come out of this saga. The Royal City Record reached out to Mr. Crosty to comment, and “Crosty… told The Record [he] had no comment about the use of the crown.”

No comment! From James Crosty! That’s the biggest news to hit New Westminster all year!

When is a stop sign not a stop sign?

Trick question: it always is. But unfortunately, some people in New Westminster seem to believe that it magically ceases to be a stop sign under some circumstances.

The intersection of Sixth Avenue and First Street has a pedestrian-controlled flashing green light on Sixth, and stop signs on First. If you need pictures, here you go:

When a pedestrian wants to cross Sixth Avenue, they press the button, wait for the light to turn red and the walk signal to appear, and then they can cross the street.

When this happens, the stop sign stays a stop sign. But it turns out that this subtle point is lost on some drivers, as they see the red lights on Sixth Avenue and assume they have a green light.

This is best seen in this See Click Fix report, where a number of people have reported that drivers are failing to stop at the stop sign, in some cases nearly hitting pedestrians. This is particularly dangerous as Herbert Spencer School is on that corner, and that intersection is on the Safe Walking Route map for children to get to and from school.

First, this is primarily an education issue, although I don’t know how you can drill it into people’s heads that a stop sign is always a stop sign.

Secondly, it could easily be an enforcement issue. Park a traffic cop there, start handing out tickets, and people will eventually get the point. I don’t see this happening on a consistent basis to drive any sort of change in behaviour. Luckily New Westminster’s incoming mayor made enforcement part of his platform:

Target regular and consistent traffic enforcement to discourage drivers from cutting through local neighbourhoods.

Is there anything the city could do to make the stop sign more visible? The sign isn’t blocked by tree branches, and it’s right at the corner. Big STOP painted on the street, maybe? Extra markings on the road would be cheap and visible. Red flashing light on top of the stop sign? That would improve visibility of the stop sign, but those are typically used in locations where the stop sign is unexpected or where it often gets foggy. Neither apply to this situation.

One relatively expensive solution is to raise the grade of the crosswalks across First Street. Instead of bringing the sidewalk down to the road, bring the road up to the level of the sidewalk. This is already used on First Street at Fifth Avenue, with a clearly-marked crosswalk and speed hump. Make the crosswalks at Sixth Avenue more visible by raising them into speed humps and painting the crosswalk area in the faux brick pattern.

What I don’t know is if this is actually allowed on BC’s streets. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other controlled intersections where this is done — but please, let me know and I’ll update this post.

I’ve gone through the minutes for New Westminster’s ACTBiPed and Neighbourhood Traffic Advisory Committees and couldn’t find any mention of this intersection, so from Council’s point-of-view, I don’t think it’s on their radar. The city has already said no to speed humps on First Street between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue, but that was on account of not enough traffic and not because of safety issues.

So where do we go from here? Judging from the Terms of Reference for the ACTBiPed Committee, this could be considered to fall under Focus #3: “Enhancement of safety, security and accessibility of the transportation system for all users” and under Focus #9: “Identification and reduction of potential conflicts between transportation system user group.” This looks like an ideal issue for that committee.

Now, who do I know who might be on that committee in the new year?