Friday, September 27, 2013

Peace, Consciousness, Community Weekend in St. John's

Check out this call out for an event happening this weekend, September 28-29.


We are human:  we all feel, we all have real beating hearts, we all need nourishment, we all need care, we all matter.  On what grounds do any of us dare to presume who is “worthy” and who is not?  And once we've recognized each others' intrinsic value, how can we continue to support an economic system that thrives on exploitation and inequality?  And how can we not question a political system that calls itself 'democracy' and yet is so entwined with such inhumane economics?
We know our lives are fundamentally interconnected with other humans and with the natural world that generously serves as our life support system.  How can we not see the insanity in continuing to harm each other and our planet?
The few have constructed many systems, structures & institutions, and now we, the many, are awakening to collectively reclaim them and re-imagine them in the spirit of basic human decency.
We are a beautiful multitude, with wide-ranging concerns, united in our compassion, our creativity, our commitment, and our spirit of cooperation.
This movement, this moment, is a call to conscience.  WE KNOW BETTER, so how can we not DO better?  With what excuses can we continue with such unfairness?
We speak from the heart and we celebrate our collective courage, imagination, and power!  We are truly all in this together. 

In that spirit, all are invited to participate this weekend:


Peace, Consciousness, Community Weekend in St. John's

Using our personal & collective wisdom (empathy + reason ;) to explore & enact truly new possibilities for 'Life on Earth' ~ from local to global levels! 

Saturday Sept 28 & Sunday Sept 29
10am-ish to 8pm-ish each day
War Memorial / Harbourside Park green spaces

A relaxed space for human-to-human conversations about things that matter.

A place for citizens to engage ideas, to use our IMAGINATIONS, to meet others who care, to get meaningful actions on-the-go, & so much more.... 

Kids & youth very, very welcome!

(If you want, bring along: blankets to sit on, paper or white boards to write on, sidewalk chalk, musical instruments... you get the idea ;)

The time is NOW!  Everything is a-changing... Look forward to seeing you there. Please spread the word far & wide!

- 30 -

Contact: Krista Koch, (look for me at the event ~tall, blonde, smiling! ;)

Monday, September 16, 2013

St. John's City Council candidates openness to electoral reform

One of the questions on the Independent survey of municipal candidates concerned electoral reform.  Candidates seemed fairly open to the idea - at least more open than I anticipated. I have tried to classify their answers into those supportive,  those open to the idea, and those who are happy with the status quo.

Question: The City of Toronto is planning to move to a ranked ballot system for municipal elections. This system reduces the problem of vote splitting in races with more than two candidates. Would you support a similar reform in St. John’s? Would you support some other kind of reform? 


Sherwin Flight: I would support some kind of reform, although exactly what that would be I am unsure of at this point. I believe this would require significant public consultations before determining the best approach to take.

Sandy Hickman: Toronto has a full ward system. This makes sense in ward and I would fully support for St. John’s. however, at large is a different situation and I like the current system. You can vote for four people or as few as you want. I like that flexibility. But I have always been open to new ideas. I thought the vote by mail was great idea when it came along but now feel we are behind the times in not having online voting (again this is held up by the government).

Lorne Loder: I would support electoral reform efforts, such as moving to a ranked ballot system, which would result in a council that better represents the residents. The first past the post system has been proven to produce a democratic deficit.

Fred Winsor: I believe we should explore other voting options.

Walter Harding: I actually would support that system. I feel a change is as good as a rest and this might entice otherwise apathetic voters to once again join the democratic process. I am saddened to see almost half of the ballots go in the trash during a municipal election as it costs hundreds of thousands of tax payers dollars to put off an election and I have worked hard over the past year to try and get 60 percent of voters to actually vote. An informed voter has my complete respect.

Scott Fitzgerald: I would support this type of reform. I would also support term limits. In my opinion, once a councillor serves two terms in one position they should have to run for something else. For example, after two terms as a ward councillor you could run at-large or for Deputy Mayor or Mayor. This would encourage new people to get involved in the political process.

Jennifer McCreath: I am always looking for ways to improve democracy. I would be open to looking at any possible electoral reform, that would promote and increase voters turnout and produce election results that best reflect what the electorate wants.

Open to the idea

Sheilagh O’Leary: Electoral reform, in all its many and varied forms, is a great interest of mine. Keeping in mind that one person’s “vote splitting” is another person’s “freedom to choose,” I would certainly be open to exploring this, and other, methods of reform to ensure clear majorities in all our electoral races.

Tom Badcock: While studying at university I had some very heated debates on this subject and I trust you will explain to your readers what a ‘ranked’ system is. Our system has flaws but it’s our system. Unfortunately, in a multi party system or in the case where there are many people running for the same position, the majority of voters do not select their party or their councillor. In Israel for example they have a party list system. This is a great example of democracy at its best but it leads to many more elections than we have in our fixed term system. I truly don’t know if the ranked system is the way to go.

Dave Lane: I’m always open to exploring options to improve our democratic system.

Deanne Stapleton: I would like to see the outcome of a ranked ballot system before I would support this reform.

Lionel West: I am in no rush to change the current voting process. I would consider viable options and discuss with citizens. Internet voting may be an option and one that is currently under consideration by the city. I would like to hear what citizens have to say about “term-limit councillors” and full-time councillors. If full-time councillors are employed, it may mean the number of councillors could be reduced.

Cecil Whitten: I am not familiar with the ranked ballot system, I look forward to learning about it. I would support the implementation of electronic voting.

Derek Winsor: I would like to look at a fair system of election that allows all taxpayers to consider themselves for election and not be based on who can put up the most signs and print the most flyers. I would like to see one area in each ward where signs can be posted from all the candidates. Once candidates declare their intention to run, there should be a section on the City of St. John’s website that posts links to candidate’s websites. I think that it would be worth looking at other options of voting procedures.

Lou Puddister: I believe in researching best practices from other jurisdictions, studying their merits, and implementing those best suited to our needs. I will take the time to review the proposed ranked ballot system and will post a response to this question on my campaign website.

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am not sure that this is needed here. I would have to fully examine this issue before taking a position on it.

Happy with status quo

Paul Sears: A. As a former member of St John’s Electoral Reform Committee I believe there will always be room for improvement in the electoral protocol and process. Having that said I would support having a review every 2 years to review the system and ensure we are maintaining the best approach for our city and citizens. B. No at present, I am content with our current system.

Bernard Davis: If our current system is working why would we change it?

Bruce Tilley: I feel that the current ballot system of mailing is fair but I would rather the old system (that of the Provincial and Federal system).

Andrew Harvey: I am never against looking at other options, but the current system seems to be sufficient at present. One piece of electoral reform I would like to see is a change in the provincial legislation to allow online voting.

Ron Ellsworth: I have never heard a complaint regarding the current system in place in St. John’s. If residents are satisfied with the electoral system we are using then there is no reason to change it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mapping urban sprawl

Population density and urban sprawl are big issues in this month's municipal election, talked up by the St. John's Board of Trade in particular. Here are a couple of maps that put the issue in perspective.

The first chart shows population density in the St. John's area by census tract (from the 2011 census). The darker the colour, the more dense the population (click on the image to see the legend).

Population Density - residents per square km

Next we see the percent change of population between 2006 and 2011. Dark red means the population is growing quickly. The palest colour is where the population is shrinking. 

Percent change in population between 2006 and 2011

With the exception of Georgetown and Bannerman Park, the population actually shrank in central St. John's. The big growth is happening in the suburbs and in the satellite communities of Torbay, Paradise, and CBS.  People are spreading out.