Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting to Home ...

As I have travelled across BC, Alberta and occasionally into the US over the last few years, I have noticed  a marked increase in the population of people who are, for want of a more inclusive term -"homeless".This category is broad and includes the under housed, hard to house, housing poor, whatever term you choose to use, the dilemma reamains the same, These people do not have reliable, safe or affordable accomodation. The absence of this key element to human development and self actualization has far reaching effects on society as a whole and does not just effect the immediate individual and their family. There is a cost to society in terms of our healthcare, social services, judicial and policing costs for every person that finds themselves in this unenviable place. In Canada, the number is just over 50K per year. It is hard to imagine that it costs 50K a year to be homeless in Canada and that is only the financial cost. It is further believed by many to be a low estimate, depending upon the urban vs rural debate.  It is easy to look the other way and assume that the plight of the poor is entirely of their own doing. It is also not intellectually honest to believe that luck, chance and misfortune cannot effect us all at some point in our lives. A recession is not selective about its victims. I am certainly not saying that as individuals we are not responsible for our choices and decisions, we most certainly are.What I am saying is that it is not in the best interests of society at large to have a "one and done" mentality towards people who have made the wrong choices or fallen upon hard times. The simple truth is that regardless of your ideology or political bent, the problem of homelessness is a community problem.The degree to which we tolerate this problem is a direct reflection of the type of society we have become.

This is a topic I have struggled to understand from a theoretical perspective for many years. Admittedly ,I have never been homeless or ever came close. I can also say (very thankfully) that I have never missed a meal in my lifetime that wasn't by design. I can't even imagine how it would feel to come to grips with the thought of not being able to provide for my family. In truth, I have been blessed with a supportive family, much opportunity,a decent work ethic and the ability to accomplish most of what I set out to do. Not everyone has this kind of start in life nor do they get the opportunities I have been blessed with. Absolutely, hard work is required to take full advantage of those opportunities, but consider this for a moment- The pull up your bootstraps argument ,does not work for a man who has no shoes. Sometimes all people need to get back on track or even find a track is for someone to care enough to point them in the right direction. Not a hand out, but instead a hand up, with a view towards independence. I should qualify that last remark by acknowledging that there are those among us who simply are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves and they are truly deserving of our help. If this is so, then is it really a big leap to say that those who can help themselves and have lost their way, also deserve a hand up? Some help to get back on track? I believe that it is this next step of helping people toward independent living that will make the difference. I also believe that if they had the answers about how to accomplish that objective, they would likely not be in the predicament they are in. Granted, their may be many impediments to gaining that indepenence but as with all great comeback stories, the journey begins with the first step. They must be shown how... this is where you and I come in.

We can make a difference as individuals. You can volunteer at our local cold weather shelter this winter. You can serve a meal at the food bank and get to know some of the nameless people we pass by each day. You can listen to their stories and realize that, there but for God's grace, go all of us. I am not talking about creating a bloated bureacracy that fosters even more dependence, but rather a citizen led model of helping our fellow man towards once again becoming producing members of society. Notice the solution requires effort not just on the part of the benefactor but also the beneficiary. I will be helping out by supporting an initiative that has recently begun in Greater Trail ,called the Getting to Home program. It is operated by the Greater Trail Community Skills Centre and Career Development Services. So far in 2012, this program has helped to house 21 adults and 9 dependent children in our area. The primary goal of this program is to help find safe and affordable housing for those in need. I am encouraging individuals and local enterprises to support this worthwhile initiative with your resources and by encouraging others to do the same. For more information about the program you can contact the Greater Trail Community Skills Centre at 250.368.3713

KWJ

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 - We Will Never Forget...

This is a commercial tribute to the victims of 9/11 by Anheiser Busch Co containing no words. It aired live only once during the 2002 Super Bowl. It left an impression on me then and I was reminded of it today while listening to ESPN. It's hard to believe that over a decade has already passed.




We will never forget...

KWJ

Monday, September 10, 2012

QE3 - It's not a cruise ship ...

As the US presidential election draws nearer and the drums of war beat louder in the middle east, a faint echo can be heard coming from the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, warning the world of the possibility that QE3 could be on the horizon. No, It's not a cruise ship. Instead read; money printing ,excessive borrowing and more sovereign debt for the next generation. This should not surpirse us however, as the first two rounds of QE bought the very thing they were employed to - time. Temporary restoration of market strength and a measure of equilibrium was achieved in both cases, however short lived it may have been. The problem with this strategy is that can ONLY ever buy temporary relief, that is until the tough choices finally get made. Which is what we are seeing in Greece,Italy, Spain and Portugal. Eventually the piper, or in this case "The Banker" must be paid. Austerity - is the buzz word currently being used to describe the plight of many first world nations that will begin to pay more and get less... for a very long time to come. The simple fact is, that you cannot borrow your way out of debt and eventually a day of reckoning does come and the impacts are severe on the populus. Currencies are devalued, bond/credit ratings suffer, borrowing costs jump,the cost of goods rises at many times the rate of real wage increases and the net effect is - the people who shoulder the burden of the debt are financially bludgeoned. If it happens south of the border, make no mistake, we will feel the effects of it in Canada.

The unique part about the notion above is that the subject country this is happening to has been the economic engine of the world for the last 60+ years. The United States has been the largest economy on the planet for as long as I can remember. Capitalism's cradle of evolution, if you will. To illustrate, according to The World Bank in 2010, the state of California had the 8th largest economy in the world. More cars are sold annually in California than in all of Canada, but I digress. My point for saying all of this is that currently we are in uncharted waters wiith respect to the global economy.Nobody knows for sure what another four years of "The One" will do for the US economy and the world for that matter. Four years of "Rom-enomics" is a bet that only about 46% of voting Americans are ready to make if they had to vote today. One thing that is certain in my mind is that changing horses in  November is by no means a guarantee of success. Regardless of one's political stripe, it is fair to say that America is in a very tough economic state that will require even tougher measures to turn it around,regardless of which candidate is elected. Currently, neither political party is really prepared to make the real tough decisions at this point and deal with the unfunded liabilities associated with entitlement programs. As a result, the can will be kicked down the road another four years and we will likely see QE3 after the fall election.

What I would rather see this November ,is a box on the Presidential ballot that says:

( X ) Tough Unpopular Decisions

You may be asking yourself how does this all relate to Canada, BC and my own life in the Kootenays? Well, simply put - you will have a similar choice to make in May of 2013.

KWJ

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Trouble With Progress...

If the title of this entry seems counter intuitive that is because it was meant to be. In theory "progress" implies forward motion and advancement. In practice however,it seldom happens this way. More typically progress is accompanied by setbacks. This should come as no surprise to those of us who have  lived long enough to experience the cyclical nature of Canada's economy and life in general for that matter. As I enter my 44th year and look back over my own life the pattern has been not surprisingly, quite similar. In general, people make forward progress for most of their lives, experience setbacks, learn from them and then we move on. We should also not be surprised when we experience the same thing in our local economy.

The simple and unfortunate truth is, some businesses don't survive economic downturns. Some thrive however, under the same conditions. New enterprises open to meet the changing needs and wants of an increasingly savvy and discriminating consumer class. Did you know that in the last few months five new businesses have opened up in Trail and several more are scheduled to open before Christmas ?There are in fact some true rays of light within our business community, yet somehow the setbacks have taken center stage in our recent past. This practice of focusing on the negative happenings locally is a morbid curiosity we cannot afford to continue. Our focus must be on where we are going and the plans for moving forward,not on what didn't work or why another town has X and we don't. I was reminded recently by a friend of an often used sports analogy that is quite applicable to our current scenario, "We have to play our own game" .We can't let the other teams mess with our offense by keeping us on defense. Be assured that a protective strategy exists, but spouting it from the steps of City Hall would render it useless.

You should be aware that over the next few months, the City of Trail will begin the first stages of construction towards the fulfillment of the MMM Downtown Revitalization Plan. Contrary to some misleading headlines and media reports, the plan is moving forward on schedule with the single exception of a shifted date for paving Victoria Ave. This change will result in a significant cost savings for Trail tax payers. Your City will begin to look different. Embrace the changes and encourage others to do the same. Invite your friends and family from out of town to come and visit. If you are a local business owner, consider improving your storefront and premises to take advantage of the potential tax exemptions on increased assessments from those improvements. A regulatory change is coming soon that will allow for this in 2013. Exciting things are happening in your city and our local economy is poised for expansion. With the major projects underway at Teck, a new 5 year collective agreement for their workforce and the Waneta Dam expansion fueling growth, conditions have not been better in a long time to open a business in Trail. Don't let national decisions made in Toronto about chain stores and baseless claims about onerous licensing fees fool you into believing that success is not possible in our marketplace. Our business tax rates are among the lowest in the province and they are certainly the lowest in our region. We currently have economic fundamentals that most other regions in BC dream about.

Progress is not perfect. Nor is it achieved without consistent effort and the tenacity required to overcome setbacks. While there are no guarantees of success in any new venture, what I can say for certain (to borrow another sports analogy-from Wayne Gretzky) , is that "We will miss 100% of the shots we don't take."

KWJ

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic Excellence Eh...

As millions of Canadians did, I spent the afternoon today watching the Canadian women's soccer team put on a display of soccer excellence that kept us on the edge of our seats for 120 + minutes. My daughter and me watched with pride as Christine Sinclair opened,answered and then pulled ahead again to stretch the dominant force that is the US women's team. Only to be equalized by a tying goal that will be argued over for the next four years. After a decade of losses and heartbreaking ties, the Canadian team took the Americans to the limit and held them there until the final seconds of extra,extra time. We were into injury time with a shootout only moments away when the US  striker Alex Morgan dashed the hopes of an entire country with a perfectly timed header. The monumental sense of the moment was palpable,as was the gut wrenching and almost unbelievable ending. For over two hours,Team Canada. Showed the world that not only were they ready to compete,they were physically and mentally ready to win and challenge  Japan for gold. Instead, they will play France now for bronze, which I will also watch with renewed hope of a podium spot and an old score to settle there also.

 In my opinion, Team Canada and captain Christine Sinclair provided us with an Olympic memory in this game that will elevate women's soccer not just in North America,but around the world for some time to come. They can all walk away from this game knowing that for 120 minutes, they were the best team in the world because they were beating the best team in the world. Questionable officiating aside, and regardless of the outcome in the bronze medal game, this match was the highlight of the 2012 Olympics for me.

Sinclair tweeted before the match, " Olympics,semifinal, Canada vs. US -Old Trafford. Nothing else has to be said"

Agreed.

KWJ


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Complexity ...

It doesn't take a genius to realize that the fast paced world we live in has evolved to a  place where the average person finds "keeping up" to be a challenge. Keeping up with texts, emails, FB messages,status updates, tweets and of course...real life interaction with spouses, kids, coworkers and friends.News is reported by the minute on a 24 hr cycle and  there seems to be a societal expectation that we "must" keep pace with this whirling dervish we now call social media. It is as much a time suck as it is a useful tool and you must decide which one it will be for you. Having said all that, the thing that stands out for me the most about social media and the "real time" society we have created is the increasing level of complexity that is the result of this progress. Complexity that exceeds the boundaries of this post to be true. Just know that when you touch one shiny object hanging above your cyber-crib...it moves several more that are connected to the first and so goes the process of communicating and functioning in this brave new world. What some call a new found freedom, others would characterize as digital slavery. Alas, it is always our choice.

Complexity has crept in to our everyday lives almost in a stealthy way. Think back ten years ago and try to recall life without Face book, Twitter, texting and reality shows...well maybe fifteen years back for reality shows...but I relish the thought of a future without scripted spontaneity. What did you do with your time back in the days of the Techno-Luddites? Well, you likely watched more television (old school screen time) and according to my completely unscientific straw poll, the average person read more books and spent more time connecting with the world around them in real life. Now the need to update (minute by minute), connect,link and friend (as a verb) dominates our calendars.These trends have created multiple new dimensions through which human beings now communicate and the thing they all have in common is that they require effort to maintain.Time must be spent to ensure correctness, appropriateness, and timeliness of the messages we use. Then there is the threat of the dreaded hanging "is". It beckons us to bite the digital apple and succumb to a moment of self aggrandizement that can only be described as the modern sin of e-vanity.If we are honest with ourselves we must confess that much of what we push out in to the cyber-universe is shameless self promotion or contrarily, mundane information that neither informs nor interests our target audience. Yet, we still post when we probably should be exercising or reading a book.

It turns out that we have adapted and evolved to accept our new normal. With a price of course but  our society is now built around this new model of ever increasing communication that adds multiple layers of meaning, and of course the resulting complexity I mentioned earlier. It is driven by soft connections and linkages that don't mean as much to us as the time we give away to attain them. In a symbolic but rather meaningless gesture, I once gave away a bag of chips to celebrate my 200 th Face book friend, and somehow I felt obligated to mark the occasion. Odd really, but I guess being unconventional and novel fits with the new normal that is now our reality. The thing that makes this new way of being so challenging is that our 24 hr clock remained the same and I don't see that changing anytime soon. The peace I have made with the hydra is that I have resolved to manage it and not the other way around. Blackberry free days happen more often and I recently took a trip where I left the electronic leash in the car at the airport. Three days un-tethered from the Blackberry was something I had not done in years and I experienced peace, focus, intentionality and a drastically reduced sense of urgency - in Las Vegas!. If ditching the device can make a difference there,it can make a difference anywhere. It reminded me a little bit of, well...1985.

KWJ

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canada Day...

Never one to miss a reflective moment, I couldn’t resist the opportunity this morning to consider what it means to be a Canadian on our nation’s 145th birthday. As I stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a gigantic Hudson’s Bay striped bath towel (no joke), that I received for Father’s Day, I was reminded of the importance of our nation’s symbols. The iconic Hudson Bay stripe pattern is as much a part of Canada’s history as the globally recognized image of the Canadian “Mountie” atop his trusty steed.  Granted both of these symbols are now controlled by foreign entities, Disney & Onex Corp., but this does not negate the fact that what we are really known for is the characteristics that our many symbols represent. Consider the industrious beaver, lumber jacks and hockey players. We are known for being hardworking, resilient and friendly. These images collectively tell an unwritten story about a country that many would argue is the greatest in the world. At the risk of sounding too modest (Canadian), I would have to say we are certainly among the greatest nations of our modern time. The UN consistently ranks Canada in the top ten of developed countries for our high standard of living. http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/. That is nothing to apologize for.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remembered how I used to inquire of my parents about why as Canadians we didn’t wave our flags like the American’s did on TV. My mother would answer with some sensible explanation about how our neighbors to the south were just more “patriotic” than we were as a country but not necessarily more proud. I never really understood patriotism in its proper context until I was old enough to know the difference between patriotism and jingoism. Still, I was at times jealous of our American neighbors with their fireworks, bunting and streamers celebrating every 4th of July like it would be the last one. During the Cold War that notion was not too farfetched for some and also a useful political device in crafting public opinion at the same time. I also remember the instructors of my youth telling me that as Canadians, one of our most distinguished characteristics was that, “We’re not like Americans”. This also bothered me and didn’t seem like a true identity. I wanted our nation to be known for who we were, not for who we weren't. Unlike the famous Canadian Marshall McLuhan, who said “Canada is the only country that knows how to live without an identity”, I believe we have solved that puzzle and agree instead with one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Sir Winston Churchill, who said, ” Canada, is the linchpin of the English speaking world.” I believe that statement to be even truer now than ever before.

Now decades later, we are waving our flags more and apologizing less … for being - if you will pardon the irony, “All that we can be”. This too is a good thing in my estimation. Canada plays a much more active role in international affairs and we are no longer described only in the context of our relationship to the U.S.A.   Some may argue that we have moved closer towards the images and ideals of our American cousins. I would argue that we just figured out how to be unapologetically Canadian, now that we are all grown up. National confidence is not jingoism. It’s a pre-requisite for greatness. This grand experiment we call Canada is now almost a century and a half old. With the last thirty years entirely under our own steam , in my opinion, we are now more than ever... all about who and what we are … and not at all defined by who or what we are not.  I’m proud of that and I hope you are too.

Happy Canada Day

KWJ

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Extreme Weather & Events ...

The month of June has been extraordinary in terms of extreme weather patterns across the country and tragically so here in the Kootenays, as well as the rest of B.C. With record rain falls in the West and searing heat in the East, extreme is the appropriate description indeed. Whether you believe in global warming, climate change, global cooling or whatever the current politically correct description of these events happens to be, there is certainly no denying that extreme weather events are having an impact on our modern society.
The recent flooding events across BC, particularly in the lower mainland and in places like Sicamous, demonstrates the devastating impact that a one in a hundred year weather event can have on a community’s infrastructure and its population. Families are displaced, property is lost and one’s sense of personal security is shaken. Children, the elderly and the infirm are especially impacted and can be overcome with feelings of powerlessness. The devastation which comes upon a community so quickly is often not fully dealt with for many months and in some cases years afterwards.
We as a community have certainly been impacted by the recent storms and flooding here in Trail. Property damage has been significant in some areas of town. East Trail, Sunningdale and West Trail have all experienced damages as a result of this past weekend’s storms. The City Works department worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to mitigate the damages and plan for any further complications that may arise if the expected weather pattern does not change. The Regional Fire Service of Kootenay Boundary assisted our public works crews on Saturday and their efforts are greatly appreciated.  I can assure the public that much work is taking place behind the scenes to repair and prepare for further events of this nature. While planning and preparedness does take place at a municipal level, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the public should also be preparing for unplanned weather events and emergencies of this type also. A good rule of thumb is to have a minimum of 72 hours worth of food, water, medication and personal affects stored in mobile containers. Living in the rugged terrain of the Kootenays, we all face a common foe in Mother Nature. Flooding, wildfires and snowstorms are just a few of the risks we contend with as the seasons turn each year. Being prepared for unforeseen events isn’t just a smart thing to do; it’s the right thing to do. Being self sufficient in an emergency situation allows first responders and emergency workers to assist others who are less prepared or able to cope with their sudden circumstances.
In closing I would like to remind residents to avoid areas where high water levels have impacted the stability of embankments, creeks and other waterways. Where unavoidable, take great caution in navigating these dangerous areas and please report any unstable conditions you may observe to the Public Works Department at 250.364.1262
Sincerely,
Kevin Jolly
Councillor
City of Trail

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Downtown Revitalization ...

2010 was a challenging year economically in the Kootenays. Many were concerned at the vacant commercial spaces that were appearing with too much regularity and a general state of economic malaise that seemed to be gripping our local economy. Nearly two years after the global economic meltdown of 2008, the tiny metropolis of Trail was finally feeling the effects of this unprecedented event.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the downtown core. Something had to change.
In response to community concern and a recognition that something had to be done, on August 20th 2010, the City of Trail hosted a gathering of local businesses and downtown stakeholders at the Best Western Columbia River Hotel to discuss the state of our downtown core. During this facilitated session those in attendance quickly realized that we were facing many of the same issues that had impacted the city over several decades and some new ones too: Aging infrastructure, an undiversified economy, stagnant population figures, a retiring workforce and a completely new dimension of competition in the retail sector with the advent of online shopping. It was clear to all present that if we were going to change the state of the downtown and revitalize our economy, a new approach would be required. This realization led to the development of the Downtown Opportunities and Action Committee (DOAC) in late 2010, with planning beginning in earnest during the first quarter of 2011.
The DOAC is a select committee of council that operates under the legislative authority of the City. It was created with twenty local members from various industries and professions along with four subcommittees that focused on the following areas; Development, Planning, Social Concerns and Marketing Initiatives. At our second meeting it was clear that to be effective, the group must not only have committed volunteers, but also a leadership team who was willing to drive the initiative even if interest levels flagged. This was not a short term initiative and it would require sustained effort and commitment to reach our goal. An agreement was reached with the group that Lisa Milne and I would serve as Co-Chairs for Phase One until our Revitalization Plan was in hand and we would review the structure at that time. I am happy to report that the much talked about and anticipated MMM Plan is now in hand.
After much deliberation, discussion and consultation with community, on May 8th MMM Consulting delivered their final presentation of the Trail Downtown Revitalization Action Plan to City Council and the DOAC. The plan was unanimously endorsed by the DOAC on May 15 and Council has now passed the Trail Downtown Plan as our guiding strategy as we move forward with the revitalization of Trail’s Downtown.   It is now available for all to view on the city’s website at www.cityoftrail.ca/downtownplan2012 . A condensed power point presentation is also available on the City’s website that provides a high level summary of the plan and its scope. This includes a document called a Comprehensive Action Matrix which provides an actionable step by step, prioritized strategy to build on our strengths and create new opportunities to make Trail a more desirable, fun and engaging place to live, work, stay, shop  and play. Council will be deliberating in the very near term on which projects will be undertaken first with the DOAC’s recommendations now in hand.        
With my new role as a recently elected City Councillor, I felt it prudent that the Chair role of the DOAC be occupied by downtown business person/people and not a political leader. The members of the DOAC agreed that while it is a committee of council, the leadership of the group should come from the private sector. We are very fortunate to have Lisa Milne of the Royal Theatre continuing on as Co-Chair with Richard Daoust from Century 21 also committing to the role for phase two, implementation of the plan.  I will remain on the DOAC as one of Council’s representatives and look forward to continuing to work with the group in the execution of the plan as we enter the summer of 2012. Along with the change in Leadership the committee will undergo a shift in committee structure to suit the new phase of implementation we are entering which is focused on the two primary areas of strategy and action. Watch the Trail Daily Times for upcoming announcements on Downtown Initiatives as they unfold.
I am very impressed with the plan that MMM Consulting has delivered and I hope you will be also. Please check it out at www.cityoftrail.ca/downtownplan2012 . If you don’t have access to the internet, a paper copy can be obtained by contacting City Hall at 250.364.1262. 
Your feedback is appreciated at downtown@trail.ca

Kevin Jolly
Councillor
City of Trail



This item originally published in the Trail Daily Times - Community Comment
June 6, 2012