kurtismccartney's blog

Working with the WHC

Seems as though something must be going right. I say this because in less than a week a storm of celebrations, tests, and interrogations came down upon me. Despite being tired, frozen, and hurt from a couple accidental slips I managed to pull myself together. With some help from my EC Sara, I was able to get involved with another good organization.

I will be helping the Welland Heritage Council through their CAP program. This involves helping to improve technological literacy and improving work skills with technology. The part that puts it over the top is that for once while doing some good I will be paid. Yes, I am a sucker for non-profit organizations and feel-good causes, and now my paid work can overlap (for a little while).

There is a lot to be excited about, and while I would like to share more there isn't much else to this story. Aside from the fact that I could probably "do lunch" with Alie (http://aliebalan.com) on certain days. I like it downtown.

Upgrade Your Home

There are some very good reasons to look at changing things in your house or business, above all else is saving money. So I'm going to recap the recommendations for 2010 that I've made to people and businesses.

  • Change your lights
    CFLs, LEDs, and Electroluminescence are alternative options now, but in the next couple years they will be the only safe choices as Canada begins limiting the sale of incandescent bulbs. No more superstition, and no more waste.
  • Get an Antenna
    Some people rally behind 'cut the cable' but I think we need to open our minds to using both the television and the radio in the household with a local antenna. The savings surpass the initial investment almost immediately depending on hw much equipment you need to get a clear signal.
  • Recycle That Old Furnace
    Ok, this has more to do with getting rid of inefficiency than promoting recycling. Old furnaces with inefficient heaters, filters, and blowers can cost up to 10 times more than a modern energy efficient system. Reducing the amount of heat lost through the chimney from 45% to 2-5%
  • Manage Air Humidity and Quality
    The right humidity keeps you home at the right temperature without having to run you HVAC system non-stop. Although you will also notice that allergens and smells will linger just as long as the heat does, which is why it is important to cycle the air through a filter of your choice - electronic, HEPA, UV, carbon filter. A breath of fresh air for everyone.
  • Insulate for Heat and Sound
    It is obvious in Niagara that insulation is your best defense against cold winters and humid summers, but many homeowners leave large gaps inside the house because it is perceived to be only about the inside and outside. Good insulation between rooms inside can help control temperature and as a luxury noises.
    Soundproofing is becoming more common as people use multiple televisions, computers and other loud devices. Any family from the early 20th century would have loved the synthetic materials that we use for sound dampening when more than 8 people lived in a single family dwelling.
  • Schedule your Wi-Fi
    Your router runs all day and all night, but most new routers allow you to shut off the wifi transceiver for a couple of hours each night according to your use pattern. This will reduce unwanted radiation and save a little bit more electricity.
  • Use a "Smart Power Bar"
    If your TV is off a smart power bar will then cut the power to the appliances you select to also turn off. This completely turns off DVD players, video game systems, and anything else on that smart circuit - no 'vampire power'.
  • Bank Electricity
    Look at your cell phone, now look at your lamp. The difference - one is ready to be charged at the affordable 'off-rate' when your home gets the smart meter. Laptops, Radios, and other devices in your home can bank energy so that you can do one of two things. Avoid inflated smart meter rates, or trickle charge from a photovoltaic (solar) system.
    There are legal and illegal ways to bank electricity, so check all applicable laws and regulations before you do something silly like setup an array of 25 large lead batteries in your basement.

I'm sure there are many other ways to save, but these are my recommendations for 2010. If you have a chance to think about how you consume energy or telecommunications services then think of these before plunking down big money on that bus pass or gym membership.

How to Cut Funding and Look Like the Good Guy

This method has been used in Ontario on multiple occasions without major political backlash. It is a way to increase shift funding from one source to another.

  1. Introduce a New Tax or Fee on the Public
    Ok, the budget is already tight. Now the public or some special interest group is asking for something. Sometimes they want change, or they want something not to be changed at great cost. Figure out how to get a little bit more funding - nothing big, pennies on everyday purchases or a 'sin tax' on a luxury commodity. Now there may be backlash from anti-tax groups, but it's clear that since this is even an option that those groups only matter to you during elections.
  2. Pass the Buck, Before They Do
    Before things get out of control blame inefficiencies in partner organizations, this is why you were involved in that 'public-private partnership', or institution, or crown corporation in the first place. They will respond and the next steps will guide you.
  3. 'Cut' Their Operational Funding
    By failing to increase operational funding at lease at the rate of inflation shortchanges the institutions and crown corporations that rely on some support either as a public service or to deal with changes enacted in the public interest.
  4. Freeze Cost Increases by the Providers
    In Ontario this happened with Tuition as well as Electricity rates. Undoing the progress made by creative and productive groups doesn't cost your government directly, but it could cost jobs. In Universities this includes professors and in the energy industry it includes failing businesses that don't know it's coming.
    It's good to be in on it because by avoiding to commit to projects or hiring on extra staff means that yu can save money to either survive the freeze or be a close partner with the government n the next big project.
  5. Deliver Grants or Build a Major Project with Saved Funding
    Inevitably the institutions will experience shortfalls or meet a need to change, grow, or rebuild. Rather than showing a cold shoulder this is an opportunity to show up with a big slice of money for capital projects. If you are lucky the new building/tool will carry your name as a politician. Even if you aren't too lucky there will be a photo-op that gets your face and party put into the history of that institution.
    Taking the money they deserve and giving it to them at the crisis point. The expression of need should not include protests. By example these grants are for partnerships, encouraging either a non-partisan stance or one in line with your party.

After this plan is in play you cannot stop, this will have to be repeated and you may even lower that new tax or fee just as it gets tied to funding any project not in political favour (like healthcare or roads, as lobby dollars are still lower).

I don't like this trick. It was used on my school board when I was young, my University when I was that age, and the electricity bills at the homes of my family members (rate changes and taxes don't have a long term effect on solar panels).

The controvery - The Ontario Liberal Party will use this tactic to open one of the most amazing solar generating stations. One that is not under private control, but also not feeding back into public funding. Don't accept the HST, question freezes on rates - because it will hurt the Ontario owned companies, and most of all don't let them name the station the "McGuinty Generating Station". Although it will probably get a native-Canadian name, to mull over how the provincial government treats the native communities.

The Recession

The Recession, an inevitable reaction to human ingenuity moving faster than human capacity.

  • The industrial age brought down monarchies, and changed how we interact economically.
  • Global war in the early 20th century accelerated our productivity even further as people were willing to sacrifice to produce the most.
  • The mass introduction of women into the workforce followed by the re-integration of soldiers into the economy spiked demand - and deflated it in the 1950s.
  • The 1970s marked both the start of automation and globalization, which knocked the bottom and the top off of major manufacturing economies - killing both artisan and shared monopoly businesses.

Now, as we see globalization bring prosperity to the nations that the American businesses took advantage of there is a debate about how Canada fits into this equation. There are important points in Canadian history that highlight how deep our next wave in the recession will be.

  • Canada's Resource Economy
    Mining and refining, our resource based industries make good money exporting our national resources - which is usually good. It's not good if we rely on it, it takes away our ability to bargain and say to international companies that if they don't pay a fair price then we will sell our resources domestically. It's hard to do that when our steel mills are closing and we lack products completely made in Canada.
    Much like a third world country we are forced to participate with these international partners without a domestic alternative.
  • Treaties with the USA
    Changing from the auto pact to NAFTA may have delayed the slow demise of existing manufacturing jobs while crushing the opportunity to create newer and stable jobs.
    In fact there are a boatload of other small treaties and agreements that limit the competitive edge of Canadian businesses. The trouble is when the Americans do not respect or enforce these treaties in their borders. American cotton farmers are complicit in ignoring an international treaty to which the only country to stage an effective protest was the Brazil. Now the American taxpayers are subsidizing the Brazilians too as part of their band-aid solution.
    If they can't respect our treaties then I sure hope workers in Canadian auto parts plants can keep their jobs if the American government chooses to subsidize the competition.
  • New Technology in Canada
    Name the RIM phone manufactured in Canada. Yea, even the companies in Canada that we are proud of only create a couple hundred well paid jobs while the remainder of the work is either in overseas manufacturing or international sales (because most of these companies make more money in a month outside the country than the whole year in Canada).
    We cannot expect innovation to be free, or to be paid for by people in other countries indefinitely. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and we need something Canadian for Canadians otherwise it will probably not be made in Canada.

Reminder* it is not about Canada. We are in it together. The problem is exacerbated when people in Canada have their livelihoods depending on if people want something badly enough that they will go into debt for it. We all know debt, either as a lender or a borrower and it is not the enemy. I can't say if a fluid market or a rigid economy will make our lives better. What we do know is that when we are thousands of miles away from the person or people that could change it all that it is impossible to ask for change, or a chance. What we can do is spend our way out of the recession. It only works when you buy locally made products from locally owned businesses - try to do that without going into debt.

That is the recession in a nutshell.

Mass Cancellations of Cable and Satellite Television Service and the Economic Fallout

I'm glad to read in The Consumerist today that people in the United States are giving up on cable in favour of local or international sources of media through a combination of traditional broadcasting and Internet access. It was both a great way to save money and focus on local issues. Look at it this way - a majority was willing to subsscribe to cable/satellie television but it didn't work the same way with radio - in my house the radio is one of the best and fastest ways to get reliable local information outside of the Internet. No subscription system is for everyone - there are people I know that have opted out of having a telephone - this includes not having a cell phone. There is a catch though.

The Economics of the Telecommunications Exodus
In recent years advertisers have spent more while stations have been able to focus on a set of niche markets. Women, Teens, Geeks, Sports Fans, all were given specialized stations that exist outside of the federal education and information mandates imposed on broadcast networks. Without subscribers these stations have no reach - revenues drop then programming takes the hit. This means the actors, editors, and producers.

The creative economy has to adapt - but the number of broadcast sub-channels are still too small to make up the difference. It was noted that the only two services that need instant broadcast service are news and sports programs. So well financed and professsional content has migrated to the internet - where advertising is caught in a loop with new advertisers in competition with traditional advertisers. Sounds good but...

The advertisers can only dish out so much money and it is split between connectivity/transmission and production. Where before we each paid into a wire service the majority leaves. This can have a negative effect on internet services, which is where traditional broadcasters gain because new stations and ad revenue can be added without having to increase the power consumption dramatically. The internet isn't going away though, so those costs will either have to be absorbed by consolidation (Broadcaster is the ISP) or through a technological advance.

The technological advance we need is here - affordable and consistent electricity to power Internet data centres. Niagara Falls helps people like me, living in Niagara - everyone else better hope that solar-photovoltaics are considered by their telecommunications provider to keep energy costs down before the squeeze. Unfortunately your provider is probably not interested in innovation or cost cutting because the profits are good and another larger company will buy them out anyway. If it's a company that supports net neutraility - congrats. If it's a company that has a blind focus on profit and actively pushes against consumer friendly laws - hold on to your ankles or cancel now.

Yes, Cancel Now
Ok, even though I let you know there is a down side to leaaving these companies behind we will be fine without them. In fact it's a self propagating system - nobody would buy a phone if they were the ONLY one with one. Nobody wants to be the first to not know what Snooki is doing on Desparado housewives - but it really doesn't matter. Television is not defective over the antenna. The radio will let you know that the price of oil went up - and tell you exactly how much. If it is really important in your community then the people will be talking about it-maybe even going door to door with a petition.

In Canada we are lucky to get the Daily Show with Jon Stewart over the air. But I stopped watching for a couple years when I discovered that the real news was cycling along the waterfront. Talking to people in my community about International problems made me realize that it is only when we submit ourselves to those problems that they exist.

"Cut the cord", "Ditch the Dish", Contribute to PBS, enjoy the CBC or BBC, and reclaim the approx 4.5 hours you spend each evening watching television.

Working at Night

The need to be in two places at once, is the first reason to improve your time management and planning. The second reason is to improve productivity, and that is part of the reason why working at night has become normal around here.

In Welland the buses have cut runs out of town, television and other modern media constantly hum in public venues. The working folks are out in force when the sun is down. Early trips to Toronto or Hamilton. Late night shifts in tight cubicles. I've heard some people call Welland a vampire town - but I think they also have seen too much television.

I've been plugging away at a couple of projects, with little luck. The election was a bust, but the message is out there. The Feedline is quietly and slowly becoming simplified. OPIRG is still having trouble with their host - bad enough to cripple their MySQL database. The local Linux experiment is in need of a widespread hardware upgrade - or a new distro that eliminates the problems that bad flash and java applets have created. The TSHC, a local conservation and sports group is feeling pressure to update itself which has created blowback from some of its members. Personally, finances are getting tighter, as cost cutting measures have hit the wall (after which, daily functions will be effected). The loop between charity and business continues as I offer assistance in small portions to multiple groups.

The solution - innovate. I've taken my assistance into the night to slow down requests and work on a plan. The last time I was ready to share this plan the world seemed brighter and there was some wiggle room. Now it has to be on target - this means developing the Feedline Montly automation, restoring OPIRG's web presence by cleansing the DB and getting the new modules installed. Liberating the linux group, after three years of support it's make it or break it time. The THSC will have to wait, patience is the best medicine. Financially I'm still screwed, then again Maslow didn't make money the foundation for life - cash donations are accepted. Aridaria will be a business, whereas personally I am charitable to those that treat me with respect.

That's life - in between eating, sleeping, cleaning, monitoring my health, and constant study

Congratulations to the new Councillors and Mayor of Welland

Welland's early election results were posted and it looks as though I've been beat by Mike Petrachenko (1300+ Votes) and Rocky Letourneau (1100+ votes). They are both great older guys and by the time the next election comes around I may be too. I hope to work through them to keep the train rolling.

Welland voted for Barry Sharpe (5000+) in a tight race alongside David Alexander (4500+). Greg D'Amico and Leo Van Vliet put in a considerable effort, and only the voters know why these experienced salesmen didn't win. Phil Bradley and John Watt were there - and presented some lessons that may be important to future candidates but since neither of them plan to move to or continue living in Welland.

Many lulz were had. Welland will not change considerably, many politicians have been re-elected or changed portfolios. Goulbourne is gone and his failed campaign means that he can now work with the rest of us in the private economy to make the city better. Forster and Marshall will continue in the Regional government.

I'll write more later after speaking with friends about the outcome.

Welland Municipal Election - Mayor Race

I've been keeping a keen eye on the Mayoral race in the Welland Municipal Election and this quick comparison is based on the information I've been able to gather from the candidates.

Barry Sharpe

Mayor Barry Sharpe Barry Sharpe shows that he knows what to do based on local experience. His time in academia has focused his plan, and a vote for him is likely to become a mandate for his projects regardless of public opposition. It's a gutsy approach, and I can support that kind of focus.

According to Mr.Sharpe his major infrastructure project is the Sewer Separation Project, something that will keep Welland Treatment Facilities from dumping sewage into the local waterways. My plan differs in that we need an overflow container, which will cost less in the long run and will eliminate the contamination from salt and debris that an unfiltered storm sewer would cause.

Barry Sharpe is older than other candidates, and I've heard no concerns about his health. His supporters sport similar grey hair and speak about his policies as though they are already a part of the fabric of the city. His office is across the street from City Hall two doors down from the closed "Jamtoke Hemp and Leather" store. His website is accessible at http://barrysharpe.com

Strengths: Knowledgeable, Practical, Speedy, Strong Message
Weaknesses: Poor Youth Appeal, Needs you to get off his lawn

David Alexander

Mayor David Alexander Environmentalist, Advocate, and former councilor is trying to be mayor. I acknowledge that he is different from the rest of the group. His good guy demeanor doesn't interfere with his tough attitude toward problems. I support some of his initiatives.

Access to affordable housing, and the elimination of Child Poverty were mentioned during the session at the Rose City Kids Theater. He knows about commitments that previous mayors have made and seems like he will continue those projects.

He mentioned his support for the sewer separation projects and is receptive to consultants in this way. Though there may be information available to him that isn't communicated very well to the public about how holding up road improvements and dumping uncleaned water from the storm sewer is a good idea.

He has supporters from outside of Welland that want to see a steel framing facility built in Welland. This has been a source of controversy due to the fact that the builders imply that if he is not elected they will renege on the plan. This is reportedly because of red-tape issues in city hall - which is the problem. Rather than solving those problems it appears as though he has isolated a business in the problem and used them to make this a political issue. He reasserted that his only goal is the active creation of new jobs in a mass e-mail message between other politicians that I received.

His supporters are a diverse crowd, and are more forgiving of his outspoken nature. In the Mayors office his success would be marked by how well he can act as a bridge between entities inside and outside of the community. His office is in the Mews Plaza. His website can be seen at http://davidalexander.ca

Strengths: Seeks Involvement, Cautious, Family Oriented, Soft Spoken
Weaknesses: Overlapping Interests*, Band-Aid Solutions, Took My Sign, Needs Longer Hair

Greg D'Amico

Mayor Greg D'Amico His business experience could translate into innovative ways to save money. Voting for D'Amico would put the city into a business friendly environment, and he will likely follow public opinion if it is popular.

His campaign is focused on personality and what he could do for the city, this leaves room for input. It does not communicate his infrastructure goals. His administration may be able to accomplish what the city needs if the right councilors are elected.

He claimed to have saved 13 jobs at 'Welland Printing' by putting its debts into a holding company and bankrupting it to clear the debts. This seems to be a common business practice according to academics that I have discussed this with - I just have trouble with the ethical and tax issues surrounding this kind of action.

His sales skills could be important if the Made in Welland campaign continues. A well funded campaign and ambitious supporters are a good sign for Greg D'Amico. His office is closer to Ward 5 and next to Cheers, Healthy Choices Cafe, and the Castle Quest Office on East Main Street. His website is http://www.gregdamico.ca

Strengths: Well Financed, Salesman, Family Man, Strong Supporters, Downtown Supporter
Weaknesses: "Technical Non-Resident", Overlapping Interests*, Needs Sunglasses

Leo Van Vliet

Mayor Leo Van Vliet I had a hard time getting a hold of him early in the campaign and didn't know much about his ideals until the first round table discussion put on by the Chamber of Commerce. I am not confident that his political views match the interests of young voters. He has a wealth of experience and would be a great advisor to the next mayor.

Mr.Van Vliet indicated that he supports the idea of reducing the size of council. Reducing the size of council is something that concerns me because representation is something to take pride in - and he could support halving the pay to councilors rather than halving the number of councilors. He also shows signs of resentment toward the regional government, a difficult position for a potential representative in that level of governance.

I haven't seen Leo Van Vliet Supporters. Each time I went to his office it was closed and no hours of operation were posted. This has been corrected and he now has hours according to his supporters that have e-mail addresses. He is the only candidate I've had to cross a bridge to try and meet. His office is in a complex on the corner of Prince Charles Drive and Fitch Street.

Strengths: GO Train Supporter, Tough on Taxes, Saw Prosperous Welland
Weaknesses: Regional Teamwork, Needs more Rick Astley

John Watt

Mayor John Watt Tough on crime, supports the arts, stomps on chains. John Watt has been a long-running contender for the office and has locked on to the issues that matter most. The Issues that matter most to him. I feel bad for him and everyone who lived in Welland when organized crime was at its worst. My generation has seen these guys go broke or leave town because the money isn't there.

His message is clear, but it doesn't address public infrastructure in a way that resonates. For a musician he could be more supportive of our new venues, and could see that restricted access is making them useless to a new generation of artists. I could not find his office but his website is http://johnwatt.ca

Strengths: Vocal, Combative, Determined, Stage Presence
Weaknesses: Anti-Cultural, Legal Issues, Rule Breaker, Needs a TV Show

Overlapping Interests: As an Existing Business Owner/Member of Other Organizations they should have a plan to distance themselves to avoid a conflict of interest. To support new businesses or adopt a plan for the entire city they cannot responsibly carry these special interests into office.

Please note that this page is commentary, intended for critical analysis. The issues discussed on this page do not constitute an endorsement by or for the candidates or policies mentioned. All images are linked to and come from the campaigns and media outlets covering the 2010 Municipal Election in Welland and belong to their respective owners. Thank you.


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