Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sustainable Transport Session

Well, its 4:30 and I just finished the Sustainable Transportation workshop that started at 9:00 this morning. It was so great that I decided to pass on the Chamber of Commerce lunch and the State of the County address at noon. My thinking is that other council member probably made it to that and I was the only one at the workshop.

Anyhow the whole day was great and I'm really looking forward to passing on some of my notes...

But, first I have another meeting - from 4:30 to probably 9:00 I'm in a session with the Arctic Winter Games management committee. It's a long day but luckily all the people are great (and I'm not the only one with this long day - Kirsten Maher, the city's Community Recreation Coordinator, was also at the workshop and is here at the AWG meeting.)

Sustainable Transportation Workshop

I'm doing a little mobile blogging this morning. I'll be spending most of the day at the GP Inn taking in a workshop on Sustainable Transportation.

The City is hosting the workshop but from the agenda I can see that much of the content is coming from the Sustainable Alberta Association. I've never heard of Sustainable Alberta before so it's nice that the day kicks off with "An Intro To Sustainable Alberta" at about 9:00.

Other items on the agenda include; Innovative Design and Best Practices for Complete Streets, A Walkabout Exercise, Local ST (Sustainable Transport) Initiatives, a Presentation from City of Whitehorse and a spot labeled "activity".

It looks like a full day.

One simple change I think would aid in promoting more walking (which is sustainable transport at its most basic level) is to increase the minimum width of sidewalks in the city. Many otherwise good sidewalks almost discourage walking because they aren't wide enough for a couple to walk side by side. Wonder if that will come up today?

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 28, 2008

10 Digit Dialling

Ok, this is definitely not City of GP business but I saw it mentioned the other day and it caught me by surprise so you'll have to excuse me this one time. Now, maybe I'm the only person in the world that didn't know this was happening but it doesn't seem to me like there has been a whole lot of advertising or public service announcements.

As of September 8th, 2008 - you have to dial all ten digits of a phone number to make a call. That means even local calls (to the Golden Star to order take out for example) have to be dialled with the '780' area code first and then the rest of the number like you'd normally dial.

Making a Grande Prairie to Grande Prairie call? - add '780' .... how 'bout GP to Sexsmith? - add '780' and the same again for someone calling from Peace River to Peace River - add '780'

From the Telecommunications Alliance website:

"With the growing popularity of new communications services, the demand for new numbers will soon exceed the supply. The solution: two new area codes will be introduced - 778 in BC and 587 in Alberta. These new codes will enable the creation of millions of telephone numbers. The new codes will be assigned to new numbers only; existing numbers will remain unchanged.

The new area codes will coexist with the current codes, and will cover the same geographic area. New area codes can only be introduced once 10-digit local dialing has been implemented. The same telephone number can then exist in each of the area codes."

All the information Northern Alberta residents need to know can be found here.

There will be a grace period starting June 23rd where you will be reminded to add the area code if you forgot to dial it. Then on the 8th it's official, no call goes through with out it.

Ok, now think about this: how many speed-dial numbers do you have set up in your cell phone or on your office phone .... are they all programmed with '780' at the start? If you're like me chances are most don't and (like me) you need to spend a little time doing some updates.

While you're at it mention this to someone else to save them a little aggravation when the time comes. ... I'm off to reprogram my Blackberry.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Peace Residents Trained as Climate Project Presenters

Some cool news popped up in my in box yesterday; two Peace Country residents have been trained as presenters to give Al Gore's climate change slideshow. Read the news release below for all the details. I think it's pretty cool that we now have this kind of resource locally. .... I can't wait to hear what my friend GPConservativewill have to say about this, I'm sure he's going to love it. ; )

Any how, congratulations Walter and Dana!

April 14, 2008

The Climate Project and Al Gore train two local Peace Region residents to be Presenters for the Climate Project

Grande Prairie and Peace River residents Walter Andreeff and Dana Laliberte recently completed The Climate Project training program led by Nobel Laureate Al Gore to spread the message about the challenges and solutions to the climate crisis.

"Walter and Dana are outstanding examples of the millions of Canadians who have been energized by the call to action on the climate crisis," said Gore. "We are so pleased that they have made a serious commitment to this challenge by participating in The Climate Project - Canada's training session in Montreal."

As two of 275 Canadians trainees, Walter and Dana will be spending the next year making presentations in and around the Peace Region discussing how individuals in their homes, businesses and communities can take the actions necessary to reduce their environmental impacts and urge others to action.

Walter and Dana were part of a select group of individuals chosen to receive this important training on April 4-6 in Montreal. Presenters took part in an intensive learning session about issues surrounding climate change. These sessions were led by Mr. Gore, Dr. David Suzuki and Dr. Andrew Weaver, who was science advisor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In addition, each presenter received technical training to become experienced communicators of the latest version of Gore's slideshow, which became the basis of his best-selling book and Academy Award-winning documentary film, "An Inconvenient Truth."

The inaugural training session of The Climate Project was held in Nashville, Tennessee on September, 2006. Since then, 2250 people from all spectrums of society have attended 13 training sessions in 6 countries on four continents.

Trainee Bio's:

Walter Andreeff is the Economic Development Advisor for a large multinational oil and gas company developing a natural gas project in northern B.C. Mr. Andreeff received his Bachelor of Science in Applied and Environmental Geology degree program in 2001 at the University of Calgary as well as completing a minor degree program in Earth science.

Dana Laliberte is a teacher who works as the Supervisor of Instruction for Holy Family Catholic Schools in Peace River. She has lived in the Peace Country her entire life, leaving twice to attend the University of Alberta where she obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Education and a Masters Degree in Education Administration. She has done extensive volunteer work in her community over the years and is currently a member of the Peace River Environmental Society. She wants her children and grandchildren to know she worked to make a difference.

To book a Climate Change presentation in your area, people are requested to sign up HERE

For Further Information Contact:

Walter Andreeff, Grande Prairie
(780) 518-4960

Dana Laliberte, Peace River
(780) 624-5788

50th Anniversary Photo Contest

Here's another chance for you to win a $100 gift certificate good at any down town business - all you have to do is identify this location and what stands on the site (at the centre of the picture) today. The contest is part of the City's 50th Anniversary celebrations and is meant to encourage people to think about how our community has changed over the years.

This month's pictures comes courtesy of the Daily Herald Tribune archives. Darrell Winwood helped me dig back through all the photos to find this one from 1983:

The photo will also be published on the City of Grande Prairie page in the April 18th paper with information on how to submit your entry. Or, if you like, you can email me with your entry and I'll forward it along but make sure you include:

• Your Name
• Your Daytime Phone Number
• A Description of Where in the City the picture is from
• A Description of what stands at that site now

The winner will be chosen from a random draw from all the correct answers submitted before the deadline, so hurry!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Council Time - Nov 16 to Dec 15, 2007

Here's the second in my posts answering the question: How much time does being an alderman take?

You can find all of these post under the label "Council Time" or by clicking here.

I mentioned in the first post that it's tough to measure everything so again, please take this only as a rough estimate of things that I have physically attended at. Some things may have taken slightly less or slightly more time. Also, I'm not including; time spent reading agendas, travelling to and from meetings or answering resident's phone calls or emails. Those add up too but again they are really tough to measure.

Through this month you can see how the budget discussions took a huge chunk of time right at the start of this term. This won't happen every year because we run a 3 year budget here in Grande Prairie. Next time we look at budget it will be much shorter because it will essentially be a review where we address olny the things that may have changed from our plan set in the first year.

Also you'll see the AUMA conference took a couple of days. That was down in Edmonton this year and if you'd like to see the posts I made from the conference they are here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Library Update - April 7th 2008

Grande Prairie: Fifty Years in the Making
A speaker series celebrating the City’s finest moments.
Join us for refreshments as you discover and celebrate with us why Grande Prairie is “the greatest place to be!” Longtime members of the community will speak on sports, theatre, business and politics:

Thursday, April 10 - Sports is something that Grande Prairie is well known for. Reminisce with Perky McCullough as she explores some of the memorable events we’ve hosted and discover how Grande Prairie became a sporting community. 7:00 pm in the Spencer Room.

Thursday, April 24 - Sukumar Nayar has been a large part of the theatre community for many years. Join us as he shares his stories of the arts in Grande Prairie and the road to the vibrant theatre community we enjoy today. 7:00 pm in the Spencer Room.

The Children’s Department is offering a new program ‘Rhymes and Books for Babies’ for parents and babies 0-12 months to share books and develop early literacy experiences. (Tuesdays, April 8 to April 29, 11:00-11:30 a.m.)

The Children’s Library, in partnership with the Prairie Art Gallery offered two cartooning workshops during spring break. The programs were so successful we will consider daily programming for elementary school children during spring break next year.

April is Environment month. The Children’s Library has a display of books on environmental subjects. We are running an environmentally friendly contest ‘One Little Thing’ for the week of April 19 to April 27. Visit the Children's Library with your suggestion of one thing that each of us can do to have a positive effect on the environment.

To celebrate National Wildlife Week, on April 10th beekeeper Dave Benoit will be visiting the library. This has been arranged by Blaine Burke, the Public Information Education Outreach Officer for the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Development. This is a new partnership which has great potential in attracting more patrons to the library.

The Clem and Muriel Collins Writing Contest closed on March 31. 131 children and adults entered the contest. Once again The Rabbit Hole has donated time to design the anthology.

Scotiabank will be donating the proceeds of their annual Spring Fling fundraiser to the Montrose Cultural Centre. It will be held May 2 at Rock City from 6:30 to 10:30. It will be a casual evening with door prizes, raffles, silent auction, refreshments and entertainment. Tickets are $40 and are available at the library and art gallery.

Council Time - Oct 15 to Nov 15, 2007

One of the questions that I get asked about city council pretty frequently is: "How much time does it take to serve on council?"

It's a tough question to answer because it depends on how much the individual council member chooses to put in. You can attend information sessions or conferences to learn about new ideas that you can bring back to the council table or you can choose not to. You can attend at community events, either as the official council rep who brings greetings or just to talk to different groups of people to see what is happening with different sectors of the community .... or you can choose not to.

One thing you can't choose to ignore is reading. There is a lot of reading; background information and agendas are a part of practically every city meeting but this is still difficult to capture. For example "Did I spend a couple hours reading those agendas for the up coming week or was it only 15 minutes this time around?"

Well, with all these variations it's tough to accurately measure the amount of time it takes to serve on council ... but I'm not going to let that stop me from trying! I'm going to start regularly posting the amount of time I've spent on council business in the past month. I'll do a posting somewhere after the 16th of each month detailing what I went to and approximately how long it took, in minutes.

Now, as I've said it's tough to measure everything so please; take this only as a rough estimate of things that I have physically attended at. Some things may have taken slightly less or slightly more time. Also, I'm not including; time spent reading agendas, travelling to and from meetings or answering resident's phone calls or emails. Those add up too but again they are really tough to measure. So, if you think I might be overstating how much time something took please keep these "unmeasureables" in mind.

Obviously I have some catching up to do from the start of this term so I'll do a couple of these posts this week until I'm up to date. So, with out further ado, here's an accounting of how much time being on council takes...

March 15th to November 15th, 2007

So there you go, council took just under 56 hours in the first month after the election.

You'll be able to find posts like this under the label "Council Time"

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Big News Day

If you were listening to the radio this morning, depending on the station, you would have heard that the City;

• Had approved drilling for oil in Muskoseepi Park, and would mail out royalty cheques to residents

• Was requiring residents to sweep the street in front of their homes

• Would be catching residents who still had Christmas lights up and fining them $250

Of course it's April 1st and everything has to be take with a grain of salt and a healthy helping of suspicion.

I remember waaaay back when we still had just the one government liquor store. There was a story that a delivery had been botched and a couple of pallets of beer had been slightly damaged. Only some of the bottles were cracked but still none of cases could be sold - so they were being given away free, to the first people to claim them. Not being old enough at the time to drink beer I'm not sure how much of a rush there was on the liquor store - I can only imagine.

This year, I was an accomplice in the last one in list above, with Q99. They called yesterday and said they'd be doing the story (joke) and asked if I could provide a quote to go along with it. Being a good sport and enjoying a joke as much as the next guy I had no problem helping out and providing a sound bite. I also asked them to add a bit about garden gnomes being next on the list of things that you might get fined for so there would be a pretty strong clue that it was a joke.

Of course there were funny reactions and while quite a few people saw through the farce but not everyone got it. In fact I got this email already this morning before Q99 gave up the joke on-air at 10am:

"Perhaps you didn't realize that your voice added a certain authority to the Q99 message this morning. When I called the raidio station and asked if this was an April fools joke I was of course told no.

So yes, my Alderman sure did get me on this one. I am unable to reach my teenager at home to stop her from physicaly ripping my lights down, we don't actualy have a ladder so she has been instructed to yank them off, gutters be damned. I am hoping I can make it home quick enough during my 1/2 hour lunch to stop her so I can have a good laugh as well."

Well first off, obviously, I apologize to the sender of the email (which I did as soon as I got the note). I'm sorry if my voice made the story more believable and I'm sorry for any problems or inconveniences it might have caused her, or anyone like her.

This makes me realize though that this illustrates a need to explain how the city works and how something like this couldn't just happen out of the blue one day with no notice. The city of GP doesn't work like that, things can't just happen without public notice. Our whole system is set up to ensure that the items that council considers and word of any changes to laws is in full public view, with lots of opportunity for the media to report on it. The whole point is so people can hear about it and then have a chance to speak up if they think it's not right.

Let's use this Christmas light thing as an example. If this were to happen here's the steps that it would have to go through:

First, it would go to the Protective Services committee where 4 members of city council would review the idea. This meeting is open to the public and the media have a table set aside especially for them so they can attend and report on what is being discussed. The committee would have to vote to send this on to Council for approval. These meetings are on a Monday morning at 9:30 so it's true, they can be tough for working people to get to.

Usually the media report items from that meeting later that day, or the maybe next day.

A full week later the issue would go to a full council meeting. The media is there again but more importantly these meetings are also open to the public. Anyone can come and talk to city council about any issue. These meetings are at 7:30pm every second Monday so it's much easier for people who work days to attend.

(If you can't be there in person you can send a letter or email to council to let us know what you think. All of our individual contact information, including email addresses and phone numbers is here but to make things easy you can send an email to "council@cityofgp.com" and it goes to all the Aldermen and the Mayor automatically.)

If council chose to pass the change to the bylaw that night the media would probably report it again the next day. From there it would be an official bylaw. Then it would join all the rest of the approved bylaws which are freely available to the public. Check it out, you can view or download them here.

Even after it has become official there is often a notice period before it takes effect. (Think of the Jan 1st start date for the new No-Smoking rules: after the change was made there were a couple of months before the new rules actually took effect. Time for everyone to get up to speed.) The new red light cameras are also an example of that; when the cameras go into service the first few tickets will actually be notices essentially saying "you might not have known, but there are now red light cameras in GP. You got caught running through a red light. This is your warning not to do it again."

So there is lots of public notice for decisions that council makes and there is lots of opportunity for informed residents to have their say about the issues. Ultimately our goal is to get people to comply with the by-laws, not to punish them with a fine with out giving them a chance to understand what is required.

.... Oh, and by the way if you are looking for really BIG news check out this scoop from GPconservative.


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