rough notes

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – The Coast's 2008 Halifax Wishlist

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The Coast has done it again. Just when you thought it was safe to say “urban activism” or “civic renewal” in Halifax, the local “alternative weekly” has gone out and published a news piece that gives all left-leaning urbanites – hell, all urbanites – a bad name. Their 2008 Wishlist for Halifax, Nova Scotia (published on Jan 3/2008), while renewing calls for a new downtown library or investment in the Commons, is otherwise full to the brim of unfeasible ideas or plans simply not well thought out.

Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh on this list. It is a wishlist, of course. Wishes and dreams, though, tell a whole lot about a person, or newspaper. But even this denizen of HRM, who is as “activistic” as the best of them, is choking on the last of the holiday eggnog in the midst of reading the paper’s suggestions for a better Hali. Observe the full list here, and my comments below.

1. Grand Parade Skating

Who are the knobs arguing for this quaint instance of civic pride? Oh yes, it must be The Coast, once again picking a topic, and killing it, and our senses to death. Why on earth does Halifax need a skating rink on the Grade Parade (ever so close to that hallowed bastion of Nova Scotian culture, The Liquor Dome)? Oh, obviously because The Coast has decided it must be a good idea. Building an ice rink at Grand Parade is not a good idea – it is a bad idea. Aside from the fact that there is a large cenotaph in the centre of the square, the sheer cost of maintaining the rink makes it an awful plan. Eliminating the parking spaces was a great idea, and nearly all of downtown is happy to see the gas guzzlers gone, but the expenses of running a rink, at “$150,000 . . . plus set-up costs each year” (as quoted in their own pages) could be used for so many other, better, projects. Rather than laying down ice, the city could maybe take that $150,000 that Kyle Shaw and Co. thinks it has lying around, and use it to add staff to shovel away the ice on our sidewalks. Either that, or perhaps invest a little more cash into homeless shelters, especially for the poor soul at Spring Garden and Brunswick. – Ugly.

2. Year-Round Public Gardens

The Coast thinks that the Public Gardens should be open year-round. I do, too. A year-round public gardens would be great . . . in balmy Victoria. Halifax’s public gardens is closed in the winter because it is the winter – everything is either covered in snow, or is dead. Again, The Coast simply suggests that HRM should spend a little more cash to make it a winter wonderland. Where on earth does the weekly think HRM is getting its funds? Even this little paper should be well aware that The Province does not like to dispense funds, even in election years, and that no landowner likes to see her property taxes raised. Perhaps The Coast’s writers could instead take a stroll through Point Pleasant Park, a far more beautiful setting in any season. And if HRM should find a budget surplus in Parks and Rec this year, then maybe let them give it to the poor folks living on Chebucto Road who are about to see their land appropriated for an unnecessary road widening. Its all about priorities, Coast. Practice what you preach on this one. – Ugly.

3. New Library

Ah, a little respite, a small lapse of reason begins to set in. The Coast wishes for a new library downtown, as does most of peninsular Halifax. This is a great idea, which needs a large grass-roots campaign to ensure that Council hears, loud and clear, the voice of the people. This is the item that The Coast should be championing. Not bloody ice rinks or winter gardens. Why waste $150,000 on a slushy doughnut-shaped ice rink when up to a third of Halifax’s citizens are under-serviced in community- and literacy-building initiatives such as this? – Good.

4. Fix The Damn Payphones

Alright, Coastals do make a point that too many pay phones cannot properly do what they are supposed to do: take our quarters to make our calls. But come on now, can the city actually do something about this? Is it really part of Aliant‘s priorities? Why is the paper wasting its agates on schlock such as this? Seriously, guys, how can this be a priority to you? How about increased funding to a homeless shelter, as I mentioned before? Or perhaps, at the very least, an initiative to create a rotating soup kitchen in urban church halls? Here I am, wondering how it is that the people in our community who need the most help will actually get it, and this paper, which is supposed to be in touch with the community, is trying to figure out how to call a cab after catching the latest “indy” flick at the “indy-themed”, corporate-owned theatre. Oh wait, The Coast is neither alternative nor indy, but is actually a corporate entity itself, concerned as much about expansion and demographics as the rest of them. – Ugly.

5. Youth Programmes and Facilities

I can’t agree more with The Coastals on this one – if the city invests in infrastructure for youth, then perhaps there will be less youth crime. Good one, Coast. You need more straight-up suggestions such as this. – Good.

6. Common Sense

Playing on the pun, and the violence going down in The Halifax Commons this past year, the Coastals have again pointed out something in the city that must be rectified, fast. This is the sort of wishlist item that should become several complete articles. – Good.

7. Airport Bus

The Coast is correct – HRM badly needs bus service to its airport, for passengers as well as for staff. But as opposed to complaining once more about how it is that the city moves so slowly on creating new routes, it should perhaps take issue with federal and provincial governments that are willing to pay only lip service to public transit. HRM’s Metro Transit, as slow and awkward as it may be, nonetheless covers an incredibly large part of HRM, providing transit services to most of its citizens on a shoestring budget. The city may have dropped the ball on bike lanes and parking lots, but it shows a willingness and effort to keep the bus system as effective as possible on the nickels and dimes handed down from Province House. – Bad.

8.Bring Shannon Park To Life

Alright, we all want to see Shannon Park brought back to life, and definitely not as a massive white elephant for the Commonwealth Games (thank god that plug was pulled early). But does The Coast really believe that with the snap of the fingers, or a ringing of the bell, that the DND lands will be turned over to the Municipality and to Millbrook First Nation? Dammit Coast, there is a reason why these lands have sat vacant and left to rot for so many years now, and its not HRM’s bureaucracy that is completely at fault. The Coast, again, needs to turn its righteous anger in the right direction – this time toward DND and Ottawa. There is still a lot of red tape to cut at the federal level before our city can even think about how we will clean up their mess. Again coast, get your act together. – Bad.

9. Sidewalks in the BLIP

Has anyone else in Halifax noticed that only The Coast calls Bayers Lake the “BLIP”, and that it hasn’t caught on? Stop it with your catchy acronyms, Coast. Cut to the chase and start arguing for proper sidewalks and better urban design. More steak, less sizzle. – A Qualified Good. A “Good Minus”, if you will.

10. Boozer Bus.

All the issues at The Dome and Pizza Corner in 2007 shows why this might be a good idea. Good call, Coast. Now, continue to argue this as act to increase the safety of the homeowners of the south end, as opposed to the students drunk out of their gourd, and you may even convince Council to go forward with such a motion. – Good.

11. Winterize FRED.

Winterize “FRED”? Winterize “Free Rides Everywhere Downtown“, the free summer bus service for tourists? Winterize the free service for a season that is not summer, when there are no tourists? Ridiculous, Coast. Again, get your priorities straight. This city has much bigger problems than your freezing ass and whiny voice when trying to catch a lift up Duke Street in February. Get some mittens. Christ. – Bad.

12. Go Times

Thank you, Coast, for telling transit something right for once. Their Go Times revolution has been a real stinker. This is a real issue, not your “too cold to be a hipster, get me my free bus” argument in No. 11. – Good.

13. Better Library Hours

Again, here is a novel idea that is not well presented. We all want better library hours, but The Coast fails to understand that libraries are hardly profit-driven concerns. Maybe if the paper is willing to give up on its winter garden or ice rink though, the city could find some more dough for better hours. The problem here are not hours, but library funding. Rather than complaining about the fact that the library is not open on Monday – something I can do myself, without the help of the paper – The Coast should instead be writing a full article on the state of library funding in Halifax. Yet another dropped ball for the weekly. – Bad. Not the Idea. The Idea is Good. But The Coast is bad. Bad as in The Coast employs non-thinking monkeys.

14. Public Washrooms on Barrington St.

As most European cities, and the CBC‘s Nick Purdon, have proved, public washrooms make for a happy public. Let this case rest on a good note. (But I am suspicious that The Coast listened to the same “urban life” radio programme as I did this fall.) – Good.

So what is the final tally then? Of all The Coast’s 14 wishes for Halifax in 2008, only 7 are good. 4 others are bad, and 3 are downright ugly. This paper is going to have to get serious with its opinions and arguments if we’re to treat it seriously again.

You are commodified.
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Written by mitchellirons

January 4, 2008 at 9:05 am

Posted in ecrits

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One Response

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  1. Hey, thanks for the vote on the central library. Obviously, I’m biased [disclosure: I work for Halifax Public], but I also think central library is a very good idea.

    I agree with most of your other “goods,” “bads” and uglys too.

    I think a bedford ferry service during rush hour might not be a bad inclusion either (and maybe as part of the Boozer bus system. Though I’d be hoping there’d be some good planning there.

    Ryan Deschamps

    February 29, 2008 at 5:14 pm

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