Saturday, 1 August 2015

No Comment!!!

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
                                                                                   Oscar Wilde


COLUMN: When do we start calling this the apocalypse?
Will Johnson, Nelson Star (Star), 5 July 2015
Inside we watched as skeletal tree-detritus was hurled from the sky and cringed as the windows tinkled and banged with the sound of flying debris.


Nelson publishes payments to businesses, organizations and staff.
Bill Metcalfe, Star, 28 July 2015
From the list of individual earners:
10 cops: over-to-way-over 100.000 bucks - expenses n/a.
4 Hydro linemen: way over 100.000 - expenses of 1 close to 4000.
1 Hydro electrician: over 100.000 - expenses over 2000.
1 fireman: over 100.000 - close to his chief's - over 1500 in expenses.

1 Comment

I could go on. Comments (and the lack thereof) in the Star - reactively inane mostly/usually - are an indicator of uber-progressive Nelson's general mindset.

The same Nelson with a voter-turnout - in the last federal election - below the average of the BC Southern Interior.

This heat is just too darn hot! To! Think!


Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hall St: It is what it is - but what is it?

While we are getting weekly updates about (this) work in progress from local news-media - images look much the same to the uninitiated: lots of construction of curbs/curves taking disconnected shape. Presumably - it will all coalesce eventually.

The current reality of crossing Vernon/Hall for pedestrians is that you can't. Ever-changing detours getting longer every day. This is understandable - in the grand scheme of things - but where does it all lead? What is the grand scheme of things?

As in: what will Stores to Shores look like when all is said and done?

Definitive design-images of all phases made public would make the current obstacle-course more acceptable to pedestrians, drivers - possibly even businesses whose income has been impacted for some time. Like: It'll be worth it! The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

But the MMM Group (M&Ms) from Kelowna - in charge of botoxing Hall - has never produced applicable definitive images of any of these south-of-Baker-to-the-wharf phases. They - in the early days - only showed us a few vague concept-renderings, photos of arbitrary non-local situations and a "master" plan with a one-dimensional line-up of tiny boxes in pretty colors.

If there are definitive design-renderings for creative changes of Hall: the public hasn't seen them. There still were no comprehensive clear images for the 300-block of Hall at the beginning of May.

Curiously - the City has a (not officially or otherwise announced) design review committee for this(?) project, predictably consisting of a member of the Cultural Development Committee (CDC), the Cultural Development Officer, Nelson's Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Chief Planner - surprisingly supported by MMM. This according to the CAO, upon my enquiry to the City's Administrative Office, June 29, which also hadn't known. In total this committee is short on exceptional creativity and experience for designs like this. And not all consistently know who is doing what. Thus it is rather perplexing that the M&Ms supposedly play a supporting role. Only.

The 300-block of Hall - by location: Chinatown - would be ideal for giving Nelson what it clearly needs: a colorful focal point, a destination for tourists even - fun and educational - by expanding the Chinatown theme begun with the historio-cultural commemorative rock at Vernon/Hall.

Appropriate treatment of this block is crucial: only its west-side spatially allows for significant change - on all of Hall below Vernon! Which from Lake to Lakefront simply can't accommodate major modifications. If any at all - aside from a sidewalk-upgrade. Neither can the relatively small area immediately west of the Prestige Inn: the airport runway and parking on both sides won't have them.

In answer to my question - right after financial approval of the project by Council - one of the M&Ms told me that they had done no research into the rock's significance to Nelson.

A concept proposed from the outside - via the City's Manager of Development Services - to whoever makes design-decisions: 3 colorful gazebos in traditional Chinese style - 1 sheltering the rock, 2 with seating, all lit in color and connected with typical Chinese flora - was rejected. In favor of exactly what exactly - there are rumors - has not been made public. This concept was presented just before the beginning of May, when no other clearly defined design for the block had been locked-in.

Initially the Hall-project was all about consciously connecting Baker and the lake, making Hall attractive and restful for tourists and locals alike. Keyword: walkable. The project was promoted as having great significance in term's of the City's development - its future.There was an infra-structure component to it - but the big one was its people-aspect well above-ground. In an informal introduction the public was invited to familiarize itself, make suggestions, approve/disapprove. It came in large numbers and approved vague concepts in principle - as did Council later.

And we haven't seen/heard anything since - other than Hall dug-up for rather prosaic infra-structural purposes and traffic-flow adjustments.

Council now needs to become involved in at least active observer-mode. I mean: thinking future - funds approved for what exactly?
The City Councillor serving as liaison between Council and the CDC must - as a matter of course - be informed of any significant design-decisions out there - before they are locked-in! - and report them to Council. As the M&Ms must be invited for progress-reports and steps to be taken - other than those infra-structural. Then Council informs us walkables - basic P.R.

In future projects - similar to this in size and importance - needing City-Hall funding: Council may want to insist on documented phased clarity in intent; periodic definitively documented reports - in words/images - announcing start/finish of phases in the process; and an approved list of those involved in the project. All - logically - coordinated/guided by Development Services.

It could be said: at this point Council has no legal authority for further involvement in the project. But then - neither has an ad hoc design review committee creating itself to possibly do much more than just review
Individual curiosity and personal interest expressed by Councillors would be a start. With the Councillors' Column in the Star an ideal forum. More constructive too than my first 6 months, Nelson is busy, and I'm so hot, etc.

If the project (at its great financial cost!) really is to be the milestone it aims to be: Stores to Shores can't be left to an unaccountable, self-propelling committee with no collective creative history of its own. To them and support only of this full service construction project management group - the M&Ms: possibly quite efficient in infra-structure projects but seemingly less sensitive to, concerned with creative components.

Even though - unbeknownst to us - there actually may be totally wonderful creative goings-on: any walkable - attentively looking at the Hall-project-as-is - probably comes-up with questions/concerns similar to those presented here. The public is fenced-out and detoured by and sometimes stuck in it. With it? Only.

(Wading into curbs/curves for an observation - be still poor heart: at Baker/Hall (Lordco) a storm-drain is located at the extreme outside of a bulb-out (instead of 2 in the 2 corners, at the "root" of the bulb). This may mean: if water actually does run around the bulb-out towards the drain - it will rush by/onto the crosswalk via its very shallow ramp - possibly from 2 directions. And pedestrians may have to wade through this.
In the Lordco/Baker root-corner of the bulb-out - traditional slush with traditionally nowhere to go - certainly will turn into slush-lakes in this corner and outward from there. Then freeze!
An inspector I spoke with said: high-paid engineers presumably dealt with all this - it obviously would be too late for any changes now. Any problems later - he said - would then have to be handled by City Maintenance.) 

Back to the creative part: Who's in charge of actually designing cosmetic changes for Stores to Shores? And getting paid for it.

If this pseudo-official design committee only reviews - and the M&Ms only support: who is what - and what is what?


Friday, 17 July 2015

Oh, Air Canada!

This is not about the airlines' habitual financial rape of those who fly with way-over-the-top ticket-prices - particularly now that fuel-costs are very low. And ticket-prices not adjusted downward accordingly. (But - bet on it! - promptly to be adjusted upward when fuel-prices rise again, even if those prices then are just raised to levels prior to the current dip. When current ticket-prices were locked-in.)

An uncontested win-win for colluding airlines!

It also is not about the recent bizarre additional charge for passengers' bags: with no reasonable reason given by carriers. How could there possibly be - historically one would check bags or carry-on whatever when reasonable. Part of the deal. No charge.


It's about this:

I pay 25 dollars to Air Canada in Castlegar - never my airline of choice, but that's another story - for one bag.
Plus tax added-on to these 25 bucks!
The arbitrary charge of 25 dollars is bad enough - motivation for it simply and solely coming from corporate greed and because-we-can: I am getting absolutely nothing in return. So these 25 bucks are pure profit! And while this cash-grab rightly should be taxed: tax on it - insult to injury - is forced on me as well. Not built-in but brazenly in addition to!

Meaning: airlines are paying no taxes on this surely tremendous new source of profit! While this is morally reprehensible - you can't take morals to the bank!


Now - we are used to being taxed on just about any product/service, but - to my knowledge - never before have we had to pay for and been taxed on nothing - literally. Much something for nothing!

While introduction of this scheme was in the news for just a bit - interestingly not with the tax-angle! - Harper's regulatory agencies obviously sanctioned it!

The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment.
                                                                             Simon Jenkins

Acceptance of this corporate used-and-abused charge has quickly got to the point where - another profit-scheme! - clothing-manufacturers now are coming-up with jackets in which passengers can carry-on their stuff - to avoid being charged for it.

Instead of flyers being vocal about/against this bag-charge and directly paying the airlines' taxes on this scam!
But no! Nothing!


So talk to your MLA already!

And vote!

A few days later - when checking-in with Air China in Vancouver - I still am 2 pounds over their limit for carry-ons. With the airline's rep suggesting I do some quick redistributing of stuff from the bag in question to my smaller back-pack. To avoid being charged. I do and am approved. 
With a smile! Free of charge!


Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Face of Downtown? Really? (2. of 2)

This follows post
No news is bad news. Probably. (1. of 2)
immediately below.

The co-op is one of Nelson's biggest, oldest, and most important institutions. It has thousands of members. And now that it's embarking on Nelson Commons, a massive project that will change the face of downtown, its profile has never been higher.
                                                EDITORIAL: A conundrum over the co-op
                                                                     Nelson Star, May 15, 2015

These 3 sentences alone beg the question: so why has the Star made no effort to actually engage with these thousands of (so-called owner-)membersinstead of passively (and conveniently) determining their (dis)interest by the number of comments (not) posted to this editorial and its single article on recent changes at the Co-op? And leaving it (them!) at that.
Commenting - incidentally - only possible for Facebook subscribers!

That said - on to the actual point of this post: ...Nelson Commons, a massive project that will change the face of downtown... This mantra frequently heard and never substantiated!

Massive Reality
The project is only massive in relation to other construction downtown: none! - and the marketing-hype created from necessity by the Co-op Board once it realized that Co-oppers weren't snapping-up these condos and commercial spaces as eagerly as expected. Another story! 
Not now that it's embarking: nonsense! - everybody has known of this in the making for several years - with hype building over time! While not buying a condo - many eventually bought into this massive hype as of actual importance to Nelson.
As did the Star!

So when all is said and done and said again again in so/too many words - what will this face-change actually look like?


We will have one supermarket in place of another in the same location. Nothing new in that. Except that this one will have less parking and several floors of condos above it - with the building as a whole totally unremarkable aesthetically. Not really there there beyond physical bulk.
An exceptional design does not automatically mean too costly. It comes from an exceptional vision of the client and exceptional creativity of the architect. Totally missing here: along this organic food-chain.

And as neither condos nor commercial spaces are anywhere near sold-out (possibly won't be) - traffic generated by the building - aside from that of the supermarket - will be unremarkable as well. Also - as there may be vacant investment-properties/vacation-rentals - why would the overall negligible number actually living there spend their time cruising Baker without a purpose? Or even do their weekly grocery-runs downstairs? After all - even Co-op employees shop at Save-On and Safeway.

A larger store does not automatically mean more customers. At first there will be curious non-believers, but soon customer-traffic will be back to the current normal. A small change: what is sometimes crammed now will be less so with more space for everybody to swing and leave their shopping-carts. In miles of aisles of organic taco-chips.

Because of the previous supermarket in that location: downtown traffic-patterns won't be totally new.

About the much-touted green space in the south-west corner of the parking-lot. During summer too hot for getting comfy. During winter: not large to begin with - it will be covered by huge piles of dirty snow. As that corner was during Extra days. Because after a snow-fall the lot needs to be cleared quickly so that parking-flow won't be impeded. For the Co-op even more critical: a smaller lot! 

And that's it wakey-wakey! Really - what else could there be as a change of downtown's face?

Talk by the previous City Council of density this and mixed-use that as the new way to go was never more than just another feel-good attempt to make Nelson appear like one of the big boys. 
These concepts reasonably apply in developments of larger urban centers - but nobody comes to Nelson to live in a dense cluster downtown, with nowhere safe for their children to play yet. As for mixed-use: most stores downtown have had an office or apartment(s) above since Nelson's Day 1.

Massive Fantasy
For a moment - in the heady days just after the purchase of this property - there was a possibility that a project there actually could change the face of downtown: Deirdrie Lang talking about this becoming the cultural center of Nelson, even the wider area. With a new Co-op store part of it.
Not only of great economic significance to Nelson but also as a tourist-magnet.

As an example - this blog earlier brought-up the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain: its initially seemingly incongruous construction turning a nondescript city into a cultural, cosmopolitan hub at great immediate economic benefit. And they keep on coming!

Stepping into the new library (in Halifax NS) is like stepping into the future: bright, modern and exciting with Escher-like stairs criss-crossing the interior and floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides, two cafes, couches and study nooks, a maker-space, recording-studio, amphitheatre, multi-media spaces, kids' play-areas, a sun-filled baby-room, multi-purpose rooms, all made of glass and light, and aside from borrowing books, you can borrow games - board and computer - and play either of them right there. All it lacked was showers.
The city anticipated 900.000 visits in the first year, and they have had more than a million in the first 3 months, plus usership of all other smaller, older libraries in town has sky-rocketed, as people remember what gifts libraries are. The library is an exceptional, public, democratic space and worthy addition to the commons.
                                      COLUMN: Toronto and Halifax provide inspiration
                                                                      Nelson Star, Jun 10, 2015
                                                                      Anna Purcell (City Councillor)


A similar vision for the Extra location - on a smaller scale but exceptional nonetheless - would have put Nelson on the map big-time. Funding could have come in part from the outside - co-operatively.

Problems now with selling condos/commercial spaces are the direct result of the Board's ego-driven simplistic assumption: if we build it - they will come. "They" being glutenfree, treehugging Co-oppers. The decision away from exceptional leap into creativity to pedestrian money-making scheme had to be a fumble! As in a strictly commercial real-estate development by a Board of dilettanti during dodgy economic times.
And with that: there goes the possible heart of Nelson; there goes cultural significance; there goes the tourist-destination.

This is not to say that we can't/won't have a place like it in the future! Nelson needs it: one big splash instead of many droplets!


Once finished - Nelson Commons for a while will be viewed as our missed opportunity. With focus then back on the store: still referred to as The Co-op. A supermarket. Faceless.

Typography: Thomas Quinn  

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

No news is bad news. Probably. (1. of 2)

The air is heavy: warmish fine but persistent drizzle and layer over layer of loosely woven rags of mountain mist. Occasionally a glimpse of bamboo plumes, gracefully bowing and turning in a trance-dance. And absolute silence.
Drizzle washes rows of tea-bushes leaf-by-leaf, followed by mist gently wiping-wiping.

Around Xia Min Yuan, behind Jiu Hua Shan - Mountain of Nine Glories - one of the four holy Buddhist mountains in China.
Clean air, clean water, clean soil and this mist create tea of most delicate aroma. Drinking the mountain. Prized and pricey - supply is limited.
Not coming from the China of Western ignorance.

We have an old computer, and - while I can't email - I may sometimes coax Yahoo and the Nelson Star out of it. My sometimes fix. Regrettably not The Nelson Daily.
Everything Nelson appears smaller, less than - through the looking-glass.

Nelson Star 

I became a journalist because I didn't want to rely on newspapers for information.
                                     Christopher Hitchens

Since I left at the beginning of May - the only real stir seems to have been the Co-op's tempest in a teabag. (You ever wonder what's in one of those?) And the Star pulling back from reporting this tempest's three parallel realities in-depth and their development over time.
Yesterday the Star - today a Black hole.

For all the agonizing over this issue by the Board and the Star - whether it will upset Co-op membership or be swiftly forgotten remains to be seen.

While the Board agonizes and the Star agonizes - together and separately - the sizeable membership is not invited to agonize with them: patronized as in they're nothing to agonize over.
In the weirdly contortionist EDITORIAL: A conundrum over the co-op, May 15.

Unless more on this conundrum was published in later paper-editions: the EDITORIAL and Will Johnson's Shake up at the Kootenay Co-op, also May 15 - introduce/conclude the Star's agonizing. End of!
Even though the issue - whatever it may be - surely is Nelson's most gossip-spawning in ages. With the Star's reluctance feeding it.

... agreeably scandalized without being upset.
                                                                 David Lodge
                                                                         Nice Work

On a level of actual concern: if facing such painful conundrum - one would have expected the Star - a community newspaper - to actually go community for its Co-op-owner-member-readers. But no! Co-op talking heads yes - owner-members no! 


The Co-op Board
The more heavily addicted decision-makers have become to condomania - the more owner-members have been taken for granted - ignored, really! Except as possible condo-buyers. Little of relevance has been explained over time. (At the end of the you-and-us-together come-on: it's all marketing, dressed-up sales-pitches.) Owner-members have not been consulted on any condoing-phase, except once - marginally - when more of their money was needed.

And even now President Steinman - in full authoritarian feather - is disinclined to connect with the great unwashed (owner-members).

Those of the remaining to be seen - tired of being played and enough already and if not now - when? - conceivably could band together and boycott the store on a Wed. or Fri. - that way boycott the Star as well!
Something really real to agonize over for Board and Star: together!

For too long has the Co-op been run by an aloof inbred clique of competing egos.

Intense focus on Nelson Commons has relegated the Co-op proper to stand-by status as P.R. tool.
This creating restlessness at the store, manifesting in - last August - the financial manager leaving after just one year in the job. (Financially managing both: store  and condo-construction?). To be followed by the grocery- and deli-managers' exit soon after.
And now the bizarre Lang shuffle: did she determine her own salary, and where is that coming from? Seeing this is a for her created salaried position - and someone has already filled her old one.

Clearly - for ages - in-house co-opping hasn't been what it's cracked-up to be to the outside. Infusion of more co-op-cultish blood into the Board may make Steinman feel safer within but possibly deepen alienation without. When he says: the Board is stronger than he's ever seen it - this is a very familiar ringtone.

No matter who and what and why:  none of the current - finally almost on the sidewalk! - go for each other's jugular will help clear the already bi-focal vision of this condo-fantasy.

And - while it doth protest too much - neither will the Star, chasing the Co-op's advertising dollar (not that this particular dollar has anywhere else to go!) - wagering: if we don't print it - it may all be swiftly forgotten. As in: yesterday's news is today's fish-wrap.


My last China days - in Beijing again, a place of great cosmopolitan buzz. By choice: no computering. No interest.

But now back in Nelson - Agony Aunt is catching-up over a nice cuppa!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Inclination: Nelson

good enough  
simply is not
good enough


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Nelson Commons Cash-Dash

The name Nelson Commons is pretentious twaddle. A condo-box with a supermarket, insufficient parking and nowhere for children living there to play safely in any direction hardly fits the image of an old-world Common (no s!).
Park this!

That said one must agree with Councillor Morrison on her resistance to the City expected to continue giving way more to Nelson Commons (NC) than it receives in return. And Councillor Dailly's support - as member of the Housing Committee yet!

For detailed info on NC - again! and now what! and they can't be serious! - go to:
Reg. Council Meeting - 7 Apr, 2015
Development Variance Permit Application - 708 Vernon St.
Nelson Commons

The first time the 3 now-called (un)affordable residential units were mentioned was:Van City Credit Union long ago stipulating that its financial participation in NC was partly contingent on making 3 units available as then-called social housing. They are not a manifestation of the Coop's social consciousness! Predictably - and over time - NC has turned these 3 must-or-else units into an emblem of its own tree-hugging wonderfulness - while in reality, now blatantly - attempting to use them as an additional money-maker. 
From social housing to market-value real-estate - in addition expecting this to be subsidized by the local tax-payer. Plus having the City totally administer these units on tax-dollars as well! In perpetuity! Laughing all the way to the bank!
Be still, poor heart!

It's high time to differentiate between the Coop and NC - the latter a separate entity except for whatever their financial cross-pollination may be - few know - and the new Coop-store to be rented from NC.
This originated and run not by but for the Coop as a basic for-profit real-estate development by Russell Precious - its very well-paid and very development-savvy project-managing brain.
And when Councillor Dailly says - in his own words - that surely we can rely on the Coop's credit being solid because - after all - it is THE Coop: we need to take a deep breath and consider what role its existing store plays already as lynchpin in financing NC. I mean: what else is there as collateral for the complex financial multiparty backing?

The City must begin to - at long last - deal with NC as a single entity, strictly just another development-project - which unfortunately it had not done until the above Council Meeting. Particularly now that Nelson Landing is on the table as well!

Councillor Cherbo has a point when he wonders whatever happened to the varianced green bike-racks all over NC. Which now attempts to claw back parking-spaces one-here one-there - after receiving the previous Council's approval to scale back the then appropriate 190 spaces to an astonishingly low 100. This variance worked-out for NC by Dave Wahn - Nelson's previous Manager of Planning and Approval - long before even officially applied for by NC wink-wink. The (public) rationale behind this drastic cut comes from Precious - after the variance is approved: The full 190 spaces would have required a second underground parking-level at an additional 1 mill - making the whole project unfeasible.
Not very bloody likely - seeing that this whole NC-thing is the only plan they've ever had for paying-off significant debt, incurred by the Coop buying the Extra property and then what!

The variance - if/when implemented - meaning far-reaching impact on local driving- and parking-patterns. What with Wahn - to make up for the loss - deciding to simply make those spaces we do have smaller to gain more! Rationalizing this Alice-in Wonderland move with: people will just have to buy smaller cars! All this for NC!
Oddly-or-not - since this retooling of parking on City Hall paper - nobody has talked about implementing it. No matter and inescapable fact: there will not be enough parking at NC thus in its vicinity. The pebble in the pond!

Bottom-line: NC's posture of entitlement in this way unbalanced relationship - based off-point on the Coop's local sacred-cow status - was locked-in enthusiastically by City Hall's previous incarnation. There are more examples!

While one may empathize with this Council's unenviable position of being up against NC's shrewd money-grabs: many locals - including so-called Coop-owners/members - feel manipulated into - directly/indirectly - facilitating schemes for paying-off a property way too large and way too expensive for a basic larger store.

Ultimately - what could have been the Community Master Plan's heart of Nelson - will be an unremarkable Villa Kelowna with a new! improved! supermarket downstairs.
For years and years to come!

Pierre et Gilles