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Duck Bylaw proposed and more Halifax council notes

Where are all the city hall reporters? Public hearings on HRM by Design, again. Smith, Younger and Hum to run for Liberals, Bousquet called a commie and yeah a duck bylaw is proposed.

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Media desert

Still reeling from its recent layoffs, the Chronicle-Herald has yet to assign full-time reporters to City Hall, courts or school board beats. In the interim, reporters are evidently just sent out the door more or less randomly.

Every week at council meetings I run into a different reporter, each with no institutional memory or background knowledge of what’s happening before them. Some of the reporters don’t even know the councillors’ names.

Tuesday, $87 million in stimulus money got dumped on council’s lap unexpectedly. There were no reporters from the CBC, Metro or any of the radio or TV stations present---just me and a bewildered Herald reporter. I do the best I can, but this dearth of reporting cannot be good for the city.

HRM By Design

Halifax council has reserved three days for the public hearing on bylaw changes related to HRM By Design, the downtown planning initiative. The hearings start Tuesday and will run through Wednesday and next Thursday, if needed.

I’m pretty cynical about HRM By Design---I don’t believe we’ll see any changes at all downtown because of it. The folks at Heritage Trust, however, have stronger feelings about HRM By Design---they say it threatens much of what makes Halifax, well, Halifax. lt’s worth seeing what they have to say, at htns.ca, and as the hearing proceeds I’ll give a blow-by-blow at thecoast.ca and via The Coast’s new Twitter feed.

Smith, Younger, Hum

Three Halifax councillors---Jim Smith, Andrew Younger and Debbie Hum---are announced candidates in the all-but-certain upcoming provincial elections. Smith and Younger are running for the Liberals, Hum for the PCs. Fow what it’s worth, I give Smith zero chance of unseating Trevor Zinck, Hum a dark horse chance of besting Diana Whalen and Younger even odds of replacing Joan Massey.

But lost in the election hoopla is a question of basic governance: While they’re running intense campaigns for provincial office, how the hell are Smith, Younger and Hum going to represent their municipal constituency through the time-demanding and difficult politicking involved in May’s city budget debates?

Class warfare

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councillor Sue Uteck called me a “Communist,” evidently referring to my comments in this space last week supporting an assessment-based tax system.

That’s some American right-wing nuttery spilling over the border: People who support traditional tax systems, in use since before Canada was a nation, are conducting class warfare; hence, in Uteck’s eyes I’m a Communist. But people who want to throw out the good work of two centuries’ worth of patriots and statesmen and instead institute a regressive tax that shifts the burden away from the property rich and onto the middle class are the new “fair.” Go figure.

Duck bylaw

Nope. I’m not kidding.

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