Sunday, April 27, 2008

Must Read Analysis by Macleans magazine on Israel

Why Israel can't survive

Sixty years on, the country is facing a choice of two futures: it can be Jewish or democratic -but not both

MICHAEL PETROU | April 23, 2008 |

Thanks to my good friend Bill who pointed out this very rich and detailed analysis on the future of Israel.

It is lengthy, but an important and exellent read.

Recently, I have been muttering about public places and public spaces and how we have so few of them here.

This spore must be in the air.

This morning, the Province reports that a possible new waterfront development near the Seabus terminal has been revealed. The display is currently at the Downtown Public Library.

The Best Letter Ever on THE CAMBIE LINE

Our regular Cambie Line Kamakaze, Susan, has forwarded a colleague's most elequent letter to the Preem. It's a doozy. Read it, think about it and follow suit...write one your own true self to these heartless crooks:

April 23rd, 2008

Premier Gordon Campbell
Legislative Buildings,
Victoria, BC

Dear Premier Campbell,

As a Cambie resident, I have both experienced and witnessed the pain all
along Cambie Street as a result of Canada Line construction. I have spent
most of my life fighting against injustice in other parts of the world, but
I never thought I would witness so much injustice on my own doorstep in

I have watched for two and a half years as businesses have died a slow and
painful death. Our corner store at Cambie and Marine stopped selling
newspapers within months of construction commencing. Then they stopped
selling milk because it was going sour before it was purchased. Then they
stopped restocking their shelves because they couldn’t earn enough to cover
their lease. For the last three weeks or so, they’ve stopped opening at
all. The owners are an immigrant family that was trying to make a go of it
in Canada. While one family member worked long hours alone in the store,
two other family members took on extra work elsewhere to try to keep the
store afloat.

The corner store is next to an insurance company that after two years of
sending out notices offering to come to their customers because it was so
impossible for their customers to get to them, has now moved.

Next to them was a Sushi restaurant owned by another immigrant family. They
made the ill-fated decision to open a new business on Cambie just before the
decision to proceed with the RAV Line was announced. They were just getting
established when the road was torn up in front of them and all access routes
were blocked. They struggled for months before going bankrupt.

The story is the same up and down Cambie.

These are not just businesses – they are livelihoods and lives. The stress
and pain that has been caused by the cut and cover construction has affected
not just businesses or business owners, it has hurt entire families – some
of whom may never recover. At least one business owner who was under
financial stress had a heart attack and died – and another has publicly
admitted to contemplating suicide.

I simply cannot believe the callousness of your government in turning its
back on these small business owners and their families. I personally feel
great shame at the way in which they’ve been discarded by your government.

I’ve heard all the arguments about businesses coming and going and short
term pain for long-term gain, but none of this applies to the Cambie
corridor. What has happened along Cambie is beyond devastating. There is
no long-term gain for the many businesses that have lost everything and
disappeared, or for those on the verge of losing everything.

I’ve also heard you and your ministers insist that the Canada Line is not
your project, that you are just one of the funders. I’m sorry but the facts
show otherwise. There would be no Canada Line if you had not interceded and
forced city councillors to vote and revote the issue. As a funder of the
project, your government bears responsibility for it. It simply defies
logic to argue otherwise – government responsibility goes with the money.

I note that while various levels of government have admitted that serious
mistakes were made along Cambie, they only do so to reassure other
communities that the Cambie mistakes will not be repeated.

It’s well past time your government admitted that grievous errors were made
in the handling of the Canada Line construction, and you set about trying to
remedy the financial damage and consequent stress by fully compensating
small businesses and others for their losses. You might also consider
providing a letter of responsibility that these business can use to try to
restore their credit ratings and their relationships with their suppliers
and other businesses with whom they have dealings.

There should also be a commitment from your government that if future
projects cannot be undertaken without serious damage to businesses and
residents, then compensation must be built into the budget. If that makes
the project too expensive, then the project should be altered or shelved.

Premier Campbell, all the flower baskets and banners in the world cannot
heal the terminal wounds down the Cambie corridor. Businesses are
continuing to die a slow and painful death with each and every passing day,
while families are being torn apart by extreme stress. This situation must
be remedied immediately. This is a crisis.

I look forward to your prompt and compassionate response.

Sincere regards,
Jillian Skeet
cc. media
all MLAs , MP's, TransLink Board,
Vancouver Mayor and Council , citizens

Role Model

Some friends in West Vancouver are setting an example that ought to be followed by citizens in every municipality. Think in particular, Richmond, Nanaimo and Vancouver, just for starters.

They are carefully monitoring the way their council is spending tax dollars. Needless to say, the revelations are shocking.

What follows below (without the graphs referred to) is their latest from the wealthiest postcal code in the nation:

DWV "municipal muffin munificence" continues apace. In 2007, from one supplier alone, District tax-payers paid $127.67 per working day to purchase muffins and such for our employees, up from $122.30 the previous year. It could be more if other catering outfits are billing the District less than the $25,000. per year threshold and thereby staying below the FIA radar. I doubt these "freebie"goodies are being consumed by the unionized clerical staff and outside workers.
Ah, to be a senior bureaucrat at DWV municipal hall. It's "Fat City" and not simply because of the free muffins! According to the District's "schedules of remuneration" for the years 2002 to 2007, eleven senior managers have received increases in remuneration totalling, on average, 39% over the past five years, or 7.8% per year. These eleven management positions were chosen because they involve the same individuals in the same positions over the subject time period.
The spreadsheet accompanying the graph provides a glimpse into what our senior municipal employees are being paid. My understanding is that these figures are exclusive of the senior employee benefit package, now apparently close to 35%, not to mention auto allowances and the like.
As for the overall picture, in 2007, the District had 134 employees on its payroll who each received in excess of $75,000. in remuneration. The figures for each of 2006 and 2007 are exclusive of WVPD employees. ITAC has requested the number of police department employees who received in excess of the threshold amount in each of the past two years, together with the aggregate cost to the public purse of such individuals. This information will be shared with you upon receipt.
To put things in perspective, in 2000, the DWV had only 41 individuals on its payroll, including police, who received in excess of $75,000. in remuneration, for a total cost of just over $3.8 million. By 2005, these numbers, including police, had ballooned to 139 employees at a total cost of $12.8 million. In a mere seven years, this is a 339% increase in the number of employees receiving over the $75,000. threshold and a 337% increase in the total cost of such employees to the tax-payers.
In 2007, exclusive of WVPD members, the District had 134 such employees, at a total cost to the tax-payers of $11.5 million. Further, it appears that, in 2007, the top 13% of DWV income-earners took home fully 29% of the total remuneration paid to District employees. This is up from the previous year during which the top 15% of income-earners took home 25% of the total remuneration. A disturbing trend-line.
Clearly, the District's fiscal incontinence needs to be addressed. Given that 80% of the District's operating costs are evidently employee remuneration and benefits, and given the percentage of this cost represented by senior managers and supervisory personnel, it seems obvious where one ought to look first for cost-savings. A leaner management team ought not only to have no negative impact upon the provision of municipal services, it will in all likelihood improve the quality of such services by empowering non-management employees to make more decisions and be more flexible.
Interestingly, last autumn, after a few weeks on the job, VanCity's new CEO, a woman who had previously been a highly successful BC Deputy Minister of Finance, reduced 28 management positions in her company to nine. This is the sort of action that so urgently needs to be taken at DWV municipal hall.