108 – Election Day

Four years ago, my vote in the municipal election would have come down to equal parts name recognition, what the polls said, and a quick read of the top issues for each candidate.

Then the O-Train plan for cancelled, costing us $100 million in settlements and expenses. Then there was a bus strike, in which I often walked to school for 40 minutes in often sub -25C conditions. Then an idea for a random tunnel came down and was hailed as a billion times better than the first plan to extend the current train to the Airport, which is all of 5 minutes away anyway! Oh yeah, and our mayor was out fighting criminal charges.

So I followed this one a little more closely. In 4 years time, the Web has changed dramatically. Candidates are tweeting and answering questions directly, are putting debates on YouTube, aggregating every article that mentions their name… It’s become so much easier to see where everyone stands, and to hear others’ opinions, and agree or disagree with them. I honestly don’t know how people did it before!

I think my most important vote is for city councillor. I never heard anything from my current councillor during the bus strike, and certainly not a whole lot came from him in the seemingly endless battles at city hall over important issues like transit, taxes, Landsdowne, etc. The key qualities I looked for was open communication, leadership potential, ability to work with others, and transit opinion.

The best thing I did was start a dialogue with every candidate through YouTube (view here). And right away, I got responses. The most unusual thing was that not everyone responded. And I’m not talking the little guys, but one particular candidate with huge signs everywhere! I’d like to thank everyone who took time to get their message out to me. Means a lot!

After this experiment and reading through websites, I’ve decided to vote for James O’Grady. His leadership in my backyard lends well to what I’d like to see in the ward as a whole. He has really solid ideas on how to improve the area and supports LRT and wants to see it now. He also has a firm grasp on how to make municipal work exciting and active through empowerment and not hogging the spotlight. While he isn’t overly active over Twitter, he took the time to discuss his vision over the phone with me when clearly there were a number of other phone calls coming in in the background, without hurrying or trying to get me to go away.

In terms of mayor, I was on the fence the whole campaign season. Jim Watson knows what he’s doing and seems to have the ability to make things happen. Clive Doucet, however, has a romantic whimsy about what Ottawa should be. And I like it. He’s interested in having a transit system that works and expands its userbase to become even more useful to everyone as a whole. He’s a champion of the O-Train and the U-Pass (while I never got in on that, it’s a fantastic idea), and to quote my January 2009 self,

In other news, I’m really starting to like Clive Doucet. He’s a city councillor for the Capital ward, central Ottawa. He speaks his mind, and usually his mind is on the people whom he represents. He thinks the 15ish million saved from the bus strike so far, and what they’ll continue to save, should be funnelled back into making OC Transpo free for as long as possible once service resumes. This is probably the most brilliant thing the city can do to gain as many riders as possible.

I owe him one for at least trying to end the bus strike, while nearly everyone else at the time treated it as business-as-usual. Thank you, Clive! He’s the first politician that I started following on Twitter, seems that he would continue that if he becomes mayor, and this huge online push in the last week or two really shows his and his volunteers’ passion, when everyone else (especially the incumbent) showed signs of fatigue and dare I say disinterest. I don’t want anyone who could care less whether he or she leads my city. I want progress. Clive will get my vote when the polls open Monday Morning.

I wish James and Clive the best of luck, as well as everyone else! And everyone, please take your signs down in a quick and orderly fashion Tuesday morning!

070 – Harold, Kumar, and Barack, all at once!

I finally returned a movie to ZIP.ca, I think it was The Manchurian Candidate. I’ve had three titles for a long time now (it, along with Tron and The Prestige) and no desire to watch them… so I had to cut my losses somewhere and return one. ZIP, probably thrilled that I’m still alive, promptly sent me Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Harold and Kumar 2 was an enjoyable, but not-as-much-as-its-predecessor comedy. As Harold and Kumar hopped from one improbable disaster to another, I couldn’t decide exactly what kind of movie it was, and I think that imbalance kept the movie from being better than it should have been. It around a lot from smart comedy, to slapstick comedy, to fart jokes, to a hilarious-yet-touching poem about the square root of three. I haven’t seen White Castle in ages, though I’m pretty sure it’s a better movie. Though Neil Patrick Harris with unicorns AND rainbows? That deserves some mention.

I still don’t know what I think of John Cho as Sulu in the new Star Trek movie. He does make a great Harold, but Sulu? I’ll have to wait until May 8 to find out, but I still think James Kyson Lee (Ando of Heroes fame) would have been my #1 choice. But isn’t he cute as a 90s pre-emo?

Obama was fantastic on Leno last night. I think if all politicians had the sincerity and down-to-earth realness that he presented, then politics would be better off. We would be better off. Just hearing his take on presidential life and living in the white house was truly interesting. The poor guy wasn’t allowed to walk 750 yards. But that quip about the Special Olympics, well I expect it to be headlines when I walk pass the newspaper machines.

Also, I don’t get why so many people are complaining that he should be “at work dealing with the important issues, not gallivanting on talk shows.” He was on for half an hour, and I doubt Leno was his only stop out West. Plus, haven’t people heard of multi-tasking? I know women are better at it then men, but still. i should be doing homework right now, or getting ready for work. Besides, how much vacation time did Bush take while in office? It’s not like things were less busy back then.

049 – Day One

200811_19_07 - Sidewalk

200811_19_05 - Snow Dome

200811_15_01 - The Inside

I’ve decided that I would like to blog everyday. It’s not the first time I’ve said that I’ll do that, but now I have a reason. Ottawa is currently in a public transportation work stoppage. In other words, the buses are on strike. OC Transpo is on strike. If you’re keeping score, we’re two weeks away from Christmas and dead in the middle of exam season.

My mom has never been able to drive, so the bus has been my primary means to move about the city for school, work, shopping, socialising, entertainment, and on occasion, sleep. This strike is going to make it extremely difficult for me to make it to work, even though I don’t live all that far from where I need to get five days a week. It’s not within walking distance, but it doesn’t take all that long in a vehicle. If this work strike lasts nearly as long as the last one did – 24 days in 1996 – then I’ll be walking to school, which is a decent 40-minute walk, at best when bike paths are used. I don’t think those get ploughed in the winter. And even worse, I know there are others who are far more inconvenced, to use a euphamism, that I.

Yesterday, the union head of OC Transpo drivers, AndrĂ© Cornellier, made a few appearances in the media. CTV here, here, and on the radio here. I understand the bus driver’s position and that they have been without a contract for a long time now, but Cornellier’s demeanour and utter lack of respect (or the show thereof) for the public certainly didn’t get me to sympathize. I doubt that he garnered any support from us public types.

That isn’t to say that the city isn’t to blame, either. It’s only more recently that I’ve started to develop an understanding of municipal politics. And it’s in that time that I’ve learned that Ottawa’s city-level politics is ridiculous. Mostly, I’m disappointed and borderline frustrated that there has been near zero progress on improving rapid transit and light rail in the city since the O-Train launched six or seven years ago. Every week, some new figure proposes a new plan that will save time and money compared to the current plan, which nobody seems to want to get behind. And the plan that was in place a few years back was grounded, even though we still had to pay for the breached conracts that were in place. Isn’t it better to pay for something rather than pay for nothing? It’s not like the expanded O-Train line wouldn’t have been beneficial; it would have been much more useful than what it is now. It’s being in love (or, at least being married to) the status quo that really annoys me, and our councillors aren’t willing to flirt with change, let alone make it their misteress (or mister…. whatever the male equivalent is. Cabana boy?).

This, of course, brings me back to the transit strike. I don’t see either side offering a comprimise anytime soon. The union is too obsessed with getting more sick days and a flexable scheduling system (which has its own flaws… ask anyone who has ever not had a bus come), and the city is too busy trying to get the public on its side by saying, “we’re offering them tons of money in these ‘hard economic times’.” The drivers and the public seem to be stuck inbetween.

One thing that I found surprising is that the union (or whoever it was) isn’t allowing for more school buses to be on the road. The schoolboard hatched a plan to get more buses to pick up some fo the students that use OC Transpo to get to school – but if they do that, then they “cannot guarantee [that] school [areas] won’t be picketed.” Kids should be in school. They need to be in school. It’s ridiculous that they would rather use kids by disrupting schools and keeping the kids from being on time than being coopoerative on such a simple level. I’m sure parents appreciate the extra headache in the morning.

Day one isn’t a problem. Despite the big snowstorm that we just had, finding rides to and fro isn’t too hard for a day or two – at least for me. At least for now. My friend’s father drove me to work where I am now, blogging. One thing has changed significantly between the last strike 12 years ago and now: the Internet. With people being so connected, especially here in Ottawa, it’s so much easier to find rides. There are easily a dozen websites and Facebook groups offering to connect people for carpools and rideshare initiatives. The safety and reliability of such proposals have yet to be tested in such dire situations, but it would be amazing if through these efforts, people managed to find their once stranger neighbours who work or commute in the same direction or to the same areas and formed new friendships – or at least new carpooling buddies. That’s what community should be about. Frankly, that’s what Ottawa should be about. As much as I’d love to see bus ridership increase (I would love to not have the service on my three routes reduced), I would also love to see the Transit people, as well as the City people, realise that they in fact do need us as much as we need them.