Lethbridge skateboarders face prejudice and stereotypes

I sent a condensed version of the following letter to the editor of the Lethbridge Herald. They published it today, but did not include it on their website.

I have been following for the last two years with interest the process the Lethbridge Skateboard Association has had to endure in order to get a new skatepark. The organization, of which I am not a member, had seen at the beginning difficulties and frustration trying to work with the city. After city administration finally realized the feasibility, practicality, and necessity of a new skatepark in the city, the process became more collaborative.

Public perception, unsurprisingly, is still based on ignorance and opposition to the skatepark remains high. One need only read through the submissions to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board regarding the development permit to see how uninformed and ignorant citizens of the city are regarding the skatepark specifically and skateboarders generally.

Racism and poor grammar aside, the letters are filled with inaccuracies, stereotypes, and assumptions.

First of all, the closest author lives 700 metres away from the park. This is roughly the equivalent of 7 football field lengths. As a resident of London Road, I live approximately 700 metres from Park Place, and most people would think it unreasonable for me to complain about how Park Place affects me when it is 6 blocks away from my house.

Second, to imply that skateboarders are vandals and criminals is completely unfair and grossly irresponsible. The current president of the Lethbridge Skateboard Association is a respected structural engineer, a churchgoer, a husband, and the father of a young family. The members of the Lethbridge Skateboard Association were forced to raise two-thirds of the funding required to build the skatepark. These adults and young people have worked hard holding bottle drives, art auctions, and partnering with local businesses to host fundraising events. Through their own determination, hard work, and cooperation, they have managed to raise over $250,000 on their own. This is not what criminals do.

Third, the skatepark will not debauch the beauty of Henderson Park. The existing trees at the proposed location will remain, and while some of the grass will disappear, developer will plant greenery to make up for it. In addition, those opposing the skatepark because they assume it will be ugly have obviously never seen any prominent, new skateparks and lack an understanding of architecture and built environment.

Fourth, arguing about lack of parking is moot. Skateboards are a mode of transportation; skateboarders don’t need to park their skateboards when they arrive. Same goes for the argument that it will affect traffic congestion. In addition, the proposed location, despite argument from one of the letters, is serviced well by transit, with the 21, 23, and 24 routes stopping no more than a block away, and the 20 is only 2 blocks away.

These letters are from people who live too far away from the proposed location to be affected by a skatepark and who exhibit a complete lack of respect for the youth in this city. For shame.

I love the urbanity of Lethbridge

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had several discussions with others about whether Lethbridge is urban.

Actually, discussion might be pushing it since most of the conversation was me pointing out logically (using actual definitions) on how Lethbridge qualifies as urban and most responses opposing my point based on subjective opinions on what qualifies as urban. Or more specifically, why Lethbridge is rural.

Let’s get a few things straight.

Statistics Canada, the federal government agency responsible for compiling data on Canada’s population, resources, economy, society, and culture, defines urban as the following:

An urban area has a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre, based on the current census population count. . . .

Urban population includes all population living in the urban cores, secondary urban cores and urban fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations(CAs) . . .

According to Statistics Canada’s federal census last year, Lethbridge’s population was 83,517 and its size was 122.36 square kilometres, putting it population density at 682.6 persons per square kilometre.

Lethbridge’s annual municipal census is always large because it includes postsecondary students whose parents don’t live in Lethbridge, which the federal census doesn’t include. Last year’s municipal census came in at 87,882, putting population density at 718.2 persons per square kilometre.

Furthermore, for several decades, Lethbridge has qualified as a census agglomeration, which a smaller version of a census metropolitan area. Statistics Canada defines census agglomeration as the following:

CA must have an urban core population of at least 10,000. To be included in the . . . CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban area, as measured by commuting flows derived from census place of work data

To graduate to a census metropolitan area, the CA needs to have a population of over 100,000 people and at least 50,000 of them must live in the urban core. In the 2011 census, the Lethbridge Census Agglomeration population finally surpassed 100,000, and as I pointed out earlier, more than 50,000 people live in Lethbridge. Lethbridge now qualifies as a CMA based on StatCan’s definition, but it will be awhile before the change is officially made.

In the 2006 census (2011 figures haven’t been released for these data), Lethbridge had a workforce of 50,425 persons. The 2005–2006 business investment profile published by Economic Development Lethbridge indicated that when you consider all the people who commute to Lethbridge from within a 100 kilometre radius, that number actually increases to 86,000, suggesting over 36,000 people commute to Lethbridge from outlying communities.

Interestingly enough, Statistics Canada felt the term “urban” was too subjective, so they replaced it with the term “population centre” last year. Population centres are classified as small (pop. 1,000 to 29,999), medium (pop. 30,000 to 99,999), and large (pop. over 100,000). With the urban statistics released last year, Lethbridge qualifies as a large population centre.

Given all that, why are people still so insistent that Lethbridge is some sort of hick town, and not a urban city with a diverse economy, a vibrant arts and entertainment scene, an impressive built environment, and a university and college?

I love working at the Soup Kitchen

The nice thing about Victoria Day falling on the third Monday of the month is that is also the day our church is assigned to volunteer at the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen. I enjoy working there.

I wish I could do it more often, but, of course, I have to work most of the time. That being said, over the last few years, I have been able to volunteer there for once or twice a year. I usually take our two oldest children along with me.

I think it’s important they are able to do meaningful things for those who are less fortunate than we are. I think it’s important they spend time doing something that helps others and for which they don’t get paid.

Usually when I go, I help out with the dishes. I would really like to serve, so I can talk with the patrons (even if just in passing). Today was no different. I was in charge of rinsing the dirty dishes. Maybe next time, I can help serve.

Why I am voting Cheryl Meheden for mayor of Lethbridge

There’s only a week left until the municipal election here in Lethbridge, so this morning I figured it was high time I buckled down and finally choose someone to publicly support for mayor.

I knew right off the bat that it wouldn’t be Rajko Dodic. He has accused me of being partisan, and has done nothing to engage me as a voter, certainly not like Kay Adeniyi, James Frey, and Cheryl Meheden have. In addition, Dodic has shown in the forums that his solution to dealing with criticism and conflict is to either deny any issue exists or tear down the person criticizing. Besides, despite his claim to have experience, Dodic has never been mayor.

I don’t think Dennis Carrier or Adeniyi are solid candidates. Both of them fall apart at the forums and don’t have concrete solutions when asked difficult questions. Adeniyi has some great ideas, but he lacks real experience. That being said, he can be a solid candidate in the future if he works on getting more involved in the community and doing more thorough research on the issues.

Frankly, when it comes down to it, I have struggled between Frey and Meheden. This isn’t surprising really, since I originally had been helping them on their campaigns.

So, why did I end up choosing Meheden over Frey?

Last Tuesday, at the all-candidate forum at the Lethbridge Shelter and Resource Centre, when mayoral candidates were asked why they feel they are qualified for the job, Meheden said she was a PhD candidate in leadership. Because we have been quasi-following the Thomas Jefferson Education philosophy in homeschooling our children, this comment really caught my attention.

I decided to email her to get her to elaborate on this brief statement. Here’s what I learned from her response.

Meheden chose Walden University because of its focus on social responsibility. Such a focus encourages its graduates to ensure they contribute positively to society rather than simply going into the world to make lots of money. Her PhD has required her to extensively research leadership models and practices from a wide array of situations, understand their theoretical base, and apply them in her life.

A new mayor needs to be more than someone who can tell everyone how wonderful Lethbridge is. A new mayor needs to be more than someone who can rein in any dissenters in council. A new mayor needs to be a leader.

Meheden knows how to lead and has a lot of experience being a leader.

Something else that has impressed me about Meheden is her commitment to volunteerism. At the mayoral forum Friday night, she answered a question about her experience to lead the city by mentioning the thousands of hours of community service she has put into Lethbridge. When she has been asked as a mayoral candidate to attend an event by its organizers, she claimed she always asks what she can do to help out at the event. Many aldermanic and mayoral candidates are only concerned about politicking at public events, and seeing someone who would rather volunteer than hobnob really impressed me.

She has even opened her home to shelter young girls in need as part of a programme through the YWCA. She not only attends SACPA events, she has a SACPA membership. She not only comes out to London Road Neighbourhood events, she has an LRNA membership. She is someone who walks the talk.

I was talking with someone at church yesterday about the mayoral race, and she said she had decided on Carrier for mayor because he has business experience. As I thought about this yesterday, I realized Meheden also brings business experience to the table. In fact, she brings quite the variety of experience to the table. She ran her own business and saw it double its revenues every year for five years. She has taught at university, and chaired the School of Business at the Lethbridge College. She has served on the board of Economic Development Lethbridge for several years.

I have known Meheden for several years, and the thing I like the most about her campaign is that she is still the same. She is authentic. I have never felt like she is pandering to garner my vote. She has been just as approachable for me during this election as she ever was. As well, she is humble, easily admits when she is wrong. With Meheden, what you see is what you get.

So, in short, I am voting for Cheryl Meheden because she is a true leader, a committed volunteer, an experienced businessperson and educator, and an authentic person. And it doesn’t hurt that she takes the bus to work.

Lethbridge still isn’t ready for cyclists

If there is one thing I hate about cycling in Lethbridge, it’s the drivers.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the drivers by far seem very polite and accommodating to a cyclist like me, who rides on the road with traffic rather than on pathways or sidewalks. They don’t seem to speed past me in frustration, they patiently wait behind me at stop lights, and so on.

But every once in awhile, people show up who don’t like to or know how to share the road with cyclists.

Consider this week:

  • Two occasions when I am stopped at a stop sign at a 2-way stop intersection motor vehicles travelling in the direction perpendicular direction to me and stop, waving me through. They have no stop signs, so they are stopping illegally. I am not anywhere near the crosswalk, and am located exactly where a motor vehicle would be if it were in my place.
  • I was stopped at another 2-way stop waiting to turn left. At the stop sign across the street from me, five motor vehicles are waiting for perpendicular traffic to clear so they can each, in turn, travel through the intersection. As a vehicle myself turning left, I do not have the right of way. The driver of a motor vehicle parked behind me leans out his window and yells, “Why don’t you walk your bike across the intersection?” I wonder if I were driving my van and waiting to turn left, would he yell, “Why don’t you walk your van across?”
  • I was third in line at a red light. When the light turned green, I advanced with the two motor vehicles in front of me, and clearly signalled I was turning left. The vehicle behind me passed me on my left as he was turning left, too.
  • I am at a red light in the left-hand lane. A motor vehicle pulls up beside me in the right-hand lane. On the traffic light post in front of us are clearly marked signs that indicate my lane is a through lane and the right lane is a turn-only lane. I advance with the green light, and the vehicle in the other lane tries passing me on my right.

I think it will be a while before cyclists is viewed in this city as legitimate users of the road.

That’s it. I quit.

Something I have prided myself on over the last few years has been my non-partisan involvement in politics. I don”t adhere to a specific political party in provincial or federal politics, and I don’t put all my eggs in one municipal basket. Per se.

Well, I ruined that. Sort of.

This year, against my best judgement, I involved myself with campaigns for two different candidates at different times leading up to this year’s municipal election.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed helping them out and being a part of the process, and I believe I made positive contributions to both campaigns.

All that being said, I realized recently that working on specific campaigns means I cannot criticize freely. While I did my best to ensure all candidate were being held accountable, I felt while on these campaigns, I was trying to live two lives. In addition, any criticism I voiced to other candidates could be construed as being official statements from the candidates I was helping.

And I want to be objective.

As a result, today I announce publicly that I am not on any campaigns in this year’s municipal elections in Lethbridge. Any criticism or political commentary is made by me and me alone. It does not represent anyone else’s views.

Now, let the games begin.

10 ways to keep cool without air conditioning

If there’s one thing I have learned living in a semi-arid climate for 12 years without air conditioning, it’s a few tricks to keeping cool in the hot sun.

Granted, our 30+ degree weather in Southern Alberta is a pittance compared to true desert temperatures like Nevada and Arizona (or the Sahara for that matter). That being said, these tricks should still work in places like that, too.

Now, all the following assumes you don’t have an adobe house, which of course would be perfect for helping you keep cool.

  1. Keep the windows and doors closed during the day. This keeps all cool air in and the hot air out.
  2. Keep your blinds closed during the day.
  3. Dress in as little as possible.
  4. Keep air moving with fans. Circulating air will ensure you cool off when you sweat, which is the entire purpose of your sweating.
  5. Do not use the oven. Use a BBQ, George Foreman Grill, or something other than your oven.
  6. Eat cool foods (like pasta salads, garden salads, etc).
  7. Eat foods with high water content: watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, etc.
  8. Eat frozen food (frozen fruit works great)
  9. Eat homemade popsicles.
  10. At night, keep your windows open. Even better, have one fan blowing air outside and one fan pulling air inside.

I have used all these techniques; they are tried, tested and true.

If you have other ideas, post them in the comments.

Winter in Lethbridge

One of the great things about living in Lethbridge is the variable weather. A common saying in Southern Alberta is, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. While that may be hyperbolic, it does aptly illustrate our very volatile weather pattern.

What this means is that we get a variety of weather; it never stays the same too long. We don’t get a lot of rain, our summers aren’t too hot, and our winters aren’t too cold.

While we do get cold weather in winter, it doesn’t last more than a week or two before we get a reprieve.

That being said, I love winter in Lethbridge. I love the hoarfrost; I love sledding in the Sugar Bowl; I love walking through the river valley on my way to work. Winter here makes for some unique photos.

Here are a few I took:

Sunrise

Bench

Leaves

Red Dawn

Hoarfrost

Commute

You can see more of my winter shots here.

Lethbridge reaches 85,000

Tower

This April, the City of Lethbridge conducted it’s annual census. Yesterday, they published the results.

Here is a summary:

The new population as of April was 85,492. At 30,489, the Westside now has the most people of the three areas.

Growth for the city over 2008 was 1.8%. The Westside growth rate was the highest at 2.75%.

Widening 6 Av S in Lethbridge

173/365 - Traffic at dusk

This week, I received the most current issue of the London Road Neighbourhood Association newsletter. On the front page was a short article reporting on a recent meeting where members discussed the hypothetical widening of 6 Avenue South.

The City is studying the feasibility of building a third bridge between the Westside and Southside. A part of the study, they are considering to different locations, as well as what would happen if no bridge is built. One of the scenarios that has popped up in the case that no bridge is built is the widening of 6 Av S.

This roadway is an extension of Whoop-Up Drive, the city’s heaviest used freeway. It consists of two lanes in both directions, light-controlled intersections every block until Stafford Drive, left-hand turning lanes at each of those intersections, and a parking lane on the south side of the street.

Naturally, nearby residents are concerned that a widening of the roadway would have several negative effects, especially endangerment of pedestrians and closer proximity to front yards.

A solution exists that can provide a six-lane roadway without actually making the roadway any wider.

1. Eliminate left-hand turning.
2. Eliminate on-street parking.

While this does address safety issue, it means drivers will have to change their driving habits. Those travelling east who need to turn north will have to do so at Scenic Drive or Stafford. Those travelling west who want to turn south will have to do so at Stafford Drive. They could do it at Scenic, but it would be pretty convoluted. Likewise, parking will have to be done off the back lanes.