Monday May 30, 2016
This especially pretty mallard duck lost her nest to marauding foxes or raccoons a week or so ago. She has since begun a nest somewhere just across my lawn to under some trees bordering the property. Every morning I have seen the Mister and Missus walking across the lawn to the pond after she has laid her egg. I did not see her today (Sunday) so she may have decided to sit already. This week is devoted to the fowl.
[T]he same metrics of success which Svaty called out in his commencement address were left essentially unexamined by Norman: rather, he simply stipulates that successful cities are growing cities, growing cities are those which imitate that which characterizes or that which is provided by the global cities at the top of the urban hierarchy, so therefore a study of urban areas which is limited in size needs to center itself upon those cities which have been able to globalize themselves on a local level. Should we contemplate the possibility that the experiences of such regional urban communities might give us a different way of talking about localism and globalism? Nah. Let's just look at everything Colorado Springs, CO, and Salem, OR have done right, and everything Wichita Falls, TX, and Duluth, MN, have done wrong.
This is no surprise to any of us who live in any of the latter category of cities, because it's hard to go a month without hearing of some new city commission or local service organization which is sending a group of people to study how Salt Lake City, UT, or Ann Arbor, MI, have done so well. We are constantly already doing the kind of comparisons which Norman built his book around (which makes it odd that in the end he concludes that "it is likely better to spend energy on dealing with local issues than on attempts to make a small place into something similar to a larger place that is viewed as more successful"--p. 139; perhaps Norman's next book could make that its thesis, because it certainly wasn't the implied message of this book). It's a consequence of living in a place larger than rural or micropolitan areas like Brookville, and reflects tendencies known to statisticians and social scientists the world over: once one enters into or achieves an environment which is suggestive of certain extensive possibilities, such possibilities become expected--and their absence becomes a source of embarrassment or derision. ("How can Wichita possibly be considered a serious city? We don't even have a Spaghetti Factory.") What I call mittelpolitan places are, as Norman corrected notes, not-insignificant population draws within their particular regions; the greater the mass of a place, the greater the likelihood it will become a regional subsidiary anchor for the service-oriented economy of the United States--education, banking, medical care, insurance, real estate, etc.--thus going through in miniature the same declines in manufacturing and relative increases in the "cosmopolitan" trappings of the global cities of the world (pp. 103, 112, 131). But such observations only entrench exactly the patterns of agglomeration which leave small and mid-sized cities ever more unable to compete, whether in terms economic development or retaining population: the kids who grow up in such places will only receive, again and again, the same implied message: the real action, the real opportunities, the real tests of success are to found in bigger places (and if they aren't to be found there, they'll be found in places bigger yet). No, if you're open to the possibility that the towns and cities of America which obviously benefit from--as well as struggle with, as we all do--the consequences of globalization might nonetheless have something to contribute as themselves, and not as places which, because of the historical accident which placed them in Montana or Kansas or Arkansas or Maine, can only ever aspire to imitate the global cities of the world, you need to think in different terms.
James Fallows, one of country's great (if not especially imaginative) journalists and essayists, sometimes seems to want to reach for such terms, but he can't quite find them either, perhaps because the presumptions of bigness are just too deep in his work history and outlook. For the past three years Fallows and his wife Deborah have been flying across the United States, visiting cities, looking into the hundreds of different ways, in his view, "a process of revival and reinvention" in underway. What they've written about is often inspiring; their observations about regional concentrations of talent, blue-collar resistance, city libraries, racial and civic assimilation, local arts movements, and more all give hope to those wanting to extricate our thinking about city life away from the global bias. Yet Fallows can't help (like David Brooks, with whom he shares more than a few similarities) but mourn hasn't yet responded to the transformations of globalization in a holistic, top-down way; he wishes President Bush had used the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the way Eisenhower used the "ten-terrifying 'Sputnik shock' of the late 1950s" to give us a moral equivalent of war moment, and push for "real national improvement." Fallows's "Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed" are entertaining, worth pondering, and probably often correct, but the fact that "big plans" and "research universities" are part of his perspective just goes to show that he, too, assumes that the best regional cities are those which can right-size the bigness associated with success, rather, perhaps, than those which can rethink success entirely.
Toronto resident Vicki Trueman swears by cannabis oil to treat her chronic migraines and insomnia, as do some of her friends who suffer from seizures and depression.
Though she and her pals have doctors’ prescriptions to access the medicine legally, Trueman said she has no problem with people buying it for recreational use, particularly on the cusp of legalization in Canada.
And, echoing the overwhelming sentiment at the Lift Cannabis Expo Saturday, she said it’s “ridiculous” that Toronto police raided 43 pot dispensaries last Thursday, just two days before Canada’s biggest cannabis convention welcomed thousands of industry people from around the world.
“It makes me very angry. They’re trying to frighten and intimidate people who have run these businesses for years,” said Trueman, who cruised the booths at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Saturday afternoon.
Ilya Strashun, who manned the Cannascribe booth to promote the company’s longtime medical marijuana prescription service, agreed the arrests and charges were unnecessary, given the federal Liberal government has pledged to make it legal as early as next spring.
CBC News, meanwhile, shares the reaction of a store owner, originally from British Columbia, taken aback by the raids.
Aamra Hallelujah thought it was a good time to open a marijuana dispensary in Toronto — that is until five officers busted open the door of her shop and placed her and one of her employees under arrest.
Hallelujah's storefront dispensary, Up Cafe, was among 43 such locations raided by Toronto Police on Thursday, when 90 people were arrested and slapped with a total of 186 charges. The raids also saw 269 kilograms of dried marijuana and a large quantity of cookies and other marijuana edibles seized.
It was a terrifying ordeal, Hallelujah said, especially because she now faces criminal charges for what she says is the first time.
"I've never even had a parking ticket," she told CBC News.
Hallelujah, who already has a dispensary in British Columbia, opened her Toronto location in March, not long after Justin Trudeau announced he was ready to move on legalizing the sale of marijuana. But as Canadians await the specifics of that legislation, Hallelujah said she was blindsided by the raids in this city.
Toronto isn’t a hub of innovation. The venture capital community is famous for its stinginess, and we’re regressive when it comes to any disruptive technology. Fintech companies, for example, are having a hard time breaking in to Toronto, while their peers thrive in London and New York. There’s a reason we need to look to America to give us an imagined idea of our entrepreneurial spirit. That’s why we invent phrases like “Silicon Valley North,” so we can feel like we’re moving the right direction.
The problem is uniquely Canadian: we move too slow. In the modern economy, workers like cab drivers, who ideally work an eight-hour shift five days per week and take home enough money to make a solid living, will soon disappear. Canadian cities are at a crossroads where they can accept companies like Uber, the most divisive organization in the sharing economy today, or they can try their damnedest to ignore what consumers in their cities want, like Mississauga did.
But even the City of Mississauga has failed in this regard when it reversed its ban on Uber this week. It’s a sign of changing times: Canadian cities must accept the new norm that Uber brings, or face the consequence of irate citizens.
Mississauga councillors’ move to order Uber to cease operations in the city was done for ostensibly sound reasons. “I doubt the City of Mississauga is gonna sit down with someone who’s not willing to follow the rules at all,” said Mississauga Councillor George Carlson, who voted to ban Uber in April.
Uber, however, has been involved in the regulatory frameworks that have been established by Toronto, Edmonton, and Ottawa. While the company has pushed for its best interests—that is, to exist without regulation in cities like Mississauga—it is still playing by the rules.
Following years of scandal and a preliminary probe by Ontario’s ombudsman, Brampton city hall will be subjected to the first ever “systemic” investigation of a municipality by the province.
It will be a sweeping probe of the city’s administration, focusing on procurements, land deals and real estate transactions — the first of its kind since the province gave the ombudsman’s office broad powers to scrutinize municipalities, as of this past January.
But the probe will not involve a controversial $500-million downtown development deal that sparked the whole examination of procurement practices in the city, because that matter is before the courts in a $28.5-million lawsuit filed against the city.
Ombudsman Paul Dubé said Wednesday that, “During our review of information we obtained from informal inquiries, we determined that the issue of non-competitive procurements could potentially have systemic implications on the city.”
Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who led a council push for the investigation, said it is badly needed: “My goal here is not to be in a witch hunt.”
Between 1920 and 1968, only 28 women went through the architecture program at the University of Toronto. The first women architects in Canada, among them Toronto’s Esther Marjorie Hill, were more likely to take up careers in historic preservation, public service, or home renovation, and less likely to receive large, private commissions. Prior to the Second World War, only five women had registered as architects in the province of Ontario. One of them was Alexandra Biriukova.
Biriukova was born in Russia in 1895. She came by her talents honestly: Her father, Dimitri Birukoff, was the chief civil engineer on the first trans-Siberian railway for the pre-revolutionary czarist government. As a child, she travelled east on the railway with her family as it inched closer to Vladivostok. Before they were exiled, as anti-Bolsheviks, Alexandra received a degree from the School of Architecture in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) in 1914. Her family fled to Italy, where she completed graduate work at the Royal Superior School of Architecture in Rome. Alexandra arrived at Montreal with her sister, Yulia, in 1929. They had located another sister in Dalton (now Kawartha Lakes), and were soon living there.
Yulia, an internationally known painter, moved to Toronto the following year; her arrival was acclaimed by the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail, which were so proud to have a European artist call a city like Toronto her home. She quickly found work and her portraits were exhibited at local social clubs, where she was heralded as the guest of honour at tea parties.
When Alexandra Biriukova first arrived in Canada, she held no notion other than to practice architecture, as a professional. She wasted little time establishing her own business and building a network of the city’s leading artists and architects, in part because of her sister’s connections. Both women became close with members of the Group of Seven; Yulia’s first address in Toronto was 25 Severn, the Studio Building commissioned by Lawren Harris in 1913. The Biriukova sisters no doubt appealed to Harris’s interest in European modernism and transcendentalist philosophy.
Fahim Ahmad enters the room wearing his prison whites, glasses perched midway down his nose. He just left the kitchen, where he was making grilled cheese sandwiches for the lunch service.
Ahmad no longer looks like the 21-year-old who made headlines a decade ago as one of the leaders of the Toronto 18 terror plot. He’s bulkier, lost all his hair. He shows me his photo ID, taken during his first years spent at Quebec’s Special Handling Unit, which has the reputation as Canada’s toughest prison. “See, I had hair there. After the SHU, no hair.”
During his 2010 trial, the Crown described Ahmad as a “time bomb waiting to go off,” ranting about storming Parliament, taking politicians hostage and attacking nuclear stations. But he was also called a “fantasist,” whose big mouth was his only weapon of mass destruction.
Ahmad surprised with a guilty plea in May 2010 — nearly four years after his arrest and midway through his trial. Convicted of three terrorism charges, he was given a 16-year sentence and two-for-one credit for time spent in custody. At his sentencing hearing, the judge said he believed Ahmad had a good chance at rehabilitation.
But Ahmad has never participated in programs for inmates convicted of terrorism offences — because there are none.
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