Archive for December, 2007

happiest Canadian cities

December 28, 2007

There was an interesting little article in the Globe & Mail today comparing the happiness of people in different Canadian cities and internationally. People of St. John NB not only ranked first in Canada but among the most happy in the world.

“Quebec City placed second on the survey while Charlottetown was third. Moncton, N.B., and Kitchener, Ont., tied for fourth while St. John’s, N.L., was sixth. Rounding out the Top 10, in order, were Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax.”

I have been hearing a lot lately about studies of what they call “subjective well-being” — happiness.

For example… “Countries where average per capita income is between $20,000 and $35,000 have satisfaction rates only a few percentage points above a whole range of countries where income is below $10,000″

What is clear is that it doesn’t have anything to do with the scenery or house you live in, the car you drive or how much money you make. It’s about relationships. It’s about people and how they treat each other.

How we treat each other are choices we make throughout the day, everyday. No matter how big the space we sleep in, no matter how beautiful or ugly the landscape around us, we can choose sufficiency over entitlement and we can value relationships over money. It’s about looking for the positive even if it’s just hope, caring about the people around you even if you don’t know them, and finding satisfaction in what you’ve got even if it’s just life.

In everything we do everyday, we have choice in how we measure our satisfaction with what we’ve got and in how we treat the people around us.

So, what are you doing to make your city a happy place?

integrity and trust

December 18, 2007

During the Vidal project debates it was suggested that, unless I complied with the demands of some citizens, they could not trust I would uphold City bylaws. They seemed to imply that this was a test. Notwithstanding that the impact of the variance on neighbours was demonstrated to be negligible at most, they wanted me to deny the application simply because they asked me to. Well, I can’t do that. I see no integrity in that.

It was said that I am elected to represent the people and that I must do what I’m told by the people (specifically, the people who attend public hearings). But what if I don’t agree with some of the people? How could a councillor be trusted to make decisions of integrity if they simply did what they were told to do?

What would happen if a huge number of people told me to vote a certain way, but one person had an insight that caused me to believe that a different decision would be the better decision? Should I vote against my conscience? Should I intentionally vote in favour of what I believe is not a good decision because that is the direction of a majority of people?

I don’t believe windsock decisions are appropriate for most questions City Council must answer. I believe councillors should read the material provided, look for pertinent information, listen to the thoughts and ideas of citizens, share perspectives in Chambers… then think for themselves and vote as they truly believe in their hearts and minds is in the best interest of White Rock citizens.

I don’t dispute that there are times when the choices have equal consequence, when it is very appropriate to follow the direction of the majority of people who share their thoughts. But it is my opinion that those are relatively rare occurrences.

For citizens to hold trust in Council’s decisions, councillors should balance rational thought and emotional reaction, provide logical facts and heartfelt sentiment in their reasons, describe how that specific decision fits into their vision for the community, and demonstrate personal integrity and accountability by making and explaining their own decisions.

They should not simply parrot what they think the majority of people want them to say. That’s not leadership. That’s not integrity. That’s not accountability.

WALK21 report

December 10, 2007

I finally finished polishing my WALK21 conference notes. My report describes the many benefits of walking and walkable communities — from health promotion to economic development to environmental protection. It is a summary of research, principles and best practices for policy development, public engagement processes, public space design and measuring results.

Click on this link to view the pdf of my report.
Slower internet connection? View this low resolution version instead.

Raw notes from each workshop and presentation are still posted under the “notes from walk21” category of this website. Under “notes“, I’ve posted interesting quotes I found while cross-referencing.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to talk with you about what I learned at this outstanding, very informative and inspiring conference.

outbreak of civilty needed

December 7, 2007

The solution to traffic problems in neighborhoods is not more speed bumps. The solution is an outbreak of civility that slows our rampant individualism. And that is a cultural challenge, not a physical design challenge.

– David Engwicht, author of Mental Speedbumps: The Smarter Way to Tame Traffic. Quoted by Aaron Naparstek on the Streetsblog website.

walking is faster

December 5, 2007

The typical American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for petrol, tolls, insurance, taxes and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it … The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour.

– Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, quoted by Paul J. Tranter and Murray May in The hidden benefits of walking: is speed stealing our time and money?

Richard Louv video

December 1, 2007

Richard Louv lecture on Thursday, November 8 2007, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, for the Eagle Creek Park Foundation.