News and whatnot from the last two weeks
A lot happened in the last couple of weeks. How much? THIS much *stretches out arms*. Here’s a recap of a few bits of it.
The Taxi Licence Bylaw Is Fixed No Wait It’s Not
At their June 30 meeting, city council passed a motion to change the way seasonal taxi licences are distributed.
Currently, the licences — which are released in the winter months when cab demand is at its highest — are divvied-up between the city’s cab companies based on their share of the market. And while the licences only cost the cab companies a nominal fee to purchase from the city, they are then issued to taxi owners who lease the licences to drivers at greatly inflated costs.
How inflated? SO inflated. Some drivers are paying $2,000 a month to lease a seasonal taxi licence.
At those prices, drivers were finding it difficult to earn much more than minimum wage in the taxi industry.
The June 30 motion sought to make the system more fair by stipulating that seasonal licences couldn’t be leased for more than the original cost of obtaining them from the city, and that they would be distributed into the taxi industry via a lottery that anyone with an interest in the industry could enter.
When the motion passed, the taxi drivers supporting the motion were elated. Their celebration was short-lived unfortunately, as at an Aug. 10 Executive Committee meeting, the cab companies came out to argue that the motion had been brought forward without consulting them and the lottery system would seriously damage their business.
So Executive Committee referred the matter back to the administration for further study with a report expected back in early summer of next year.
And Regina’s cabbies will have to suffer through at least one more lean winter of subsistence earnings. /Paul Dechene
Conexus: A Credit To The College Ave. Campus?
The University of Regina’s plan to renew the College Avenue Campus came a big step closer to fruition and all it cost the City of Regina was the donation of a $4 million parcel of land in Wascana Park — one the city wasn’t really using anyway.
At their Aug. 29 meeting, council agreed to donate the land, with Mayor Michael Fougere lauding the university’s plan to partner with Conexus Credit Union saying, “The stars have aligned” and that there may not be another opportunity to save the aging historic buildings that make up the campus.
The project wasn’t without controversy, however, as Conexus’ contribution involves the construction of their head offices on the site within the park. Councillor Shawn Fraser, the only council member to vote against the land grant, pointed out that construction of an office building outside of downtown while the office vacancy rate in the city is above six per cent (it’s currently around 15 per cent) is a violation of the Office Policy section of the Official Community Plan.
Fraser worried that supporting Conexus’ planned office tower in the park would set a dangerous precedent. Backing up his concern, he noted that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which operates out of a building in Wascana Park, is currently considering a partnership with Brandt which would see their facilities expanded.
Mayor Fougere countered that while the development might violate the letter of the policy it doesn’t violate the spirit. Conexus’ proposed tower will sit right on the edge of the downtown zone (which ends across the street from the university campus on the north side of College Ave) and, it’s also on the edge of Wascana and thus, says Fougere, doesn’t intrude on the park.
In the end, the wave of enthusiasm for the College Avenue campus renewal proved irresistible and, according to university president Vianne Timmons, now that they have the city land, the project will get underway as soon as possible.
Expect to see demolition work to commence on the parts of the campus deemed unsalvageable (i.e., the gallery and conservatory buildings) to begin imminently. /Paul Dechene
Friendly Muslims 1, Horrible NIMBYs 0
You’d think, with everything awful going on in the world, if a minority group comes forward wanting to set up a prayer hall in some corner of our city, the surrounding community would come out to say, “Awesome! Sounds great! Welcome!”
The Islamic Association of Saskatchewan showed up to council’s Aug. 29 meeting with a proposal to put a prayer hall in a moribund little strip mall in Regina’s southeast. It’ll sit next to a confectionary and a hair salon, and only operate during designated prayer times. The congregation will number 20 people and the space won’t function as a full mosque.
And no, THERE WON’T BE A LOUDSPEAKER OUTSIDE THE BUILDING BROADCASTING CALLS TO PRAYER.
(Considering how many times I’ve been asked about that, I’m beginning to think people learned everything they know about Islam from Delta Force.)
And despite the IAS making every effort to accommodate concerns over their proposal, a delegation from the surrounding community came to council to present a petition of 96 names opposed to the prayer hall. Their concerns included all the NIMBY standards: parking! traffic! noise! garbage! But their written submission also included a novel worry: as “Muslims” use Mosque Finder Apps to find prayer times, their sleepy little neighbourhood could be inundated by prayer-starved people from anywhere in the city.
Council was not swayed by the community’s arguments and unanimously passed the prayer hall. /Paul Dechene
“I Dunno, Maybe We Should Sell SaskTel, If, Like, We Could Get A Lot Of Money For It, What Do You Guys Think?”
On Aug. 23, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall again spitballed the idea of selling SaskTel, despite repeated promises that the Crown would never be sold—including promises made during this year’s election campaign. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay. /Stephen Whitworth