The 2020 HRM municipal election is underway. Polls are open and votes are being cast online and by phone right now. As I write this, the turnout in District 5 is 4,443 (56% of 2016’s overall turnout). The e-vote is open until 7:00 pm Wednesday. All you need to e-vote is your voter PIN. Go to halifax.isivote.com to vote. It only takes a few clicks.
PINs were mailed to everyone on the voters list. In the event that you didn’t receive a PIN, you can still be added to the voters list and be given one to e-vote. Call the Election Office at 902-490-VOTE (8683) and staff will straighten it out for you.
If you would rather vote in person, advanced polls will be available today, Saturday October 10 and Tuesday October 13 (noon – 8:00 pm). The last chance to vote will be in-person on Election Day, October 17 (8:00 am – 7:00 pm). Your polling station is printed on your voter card, but you can also look it up online here.
There have been a few opportunities to compare and contrast Mitch MacIntyre and me including the Halifax Examiner and the Coast. On Wednesday, Mitch and I participated in a candidate’s forum at Grace United (it just wouldn’t be an election in Dartmouth without the Grace debate!) COVID-19 meant everything had to run a little bit differently and instead of a live audience the forum was streamed online. If you missed the live stream, Grace has posted the event to their facebook and youtube channels. Check it out below
Did I mention you can vote now? Go vote! halifax.isivote.com
If you’ve been to Downtown Halifax or Downtown Dartmouth lately you’ve probably noticed that the parking meters have vanished and new pay machines have appeared. HRM’s parking modernization project is about to go live. On Tuesday October 13, the pay machines will be operational and payment will once again be required to park Downtown.
The pay machines work based on license plate so there is no requirement to pay and return to the car with a ticket. You enter your license plate, pay, and then carry on. No need to take a paper slip back to put in your dash. Alternatively you can pay with the HotSpot app and skip stopping at a machine altogether. Check out the video from HRM below demonstrating the new pay machines.
Along with the parking pay machines, a trial project is coming to Alderney Drive. Alderney Drive was built for a different era. It’s a wide four lane, suburban style parkway, that doesn’t even have sidewalks on large portions of it. It was built for cars and it doesn’t fit its Downtown setting. Alderney’s width and speeds make it a hostile place for pedestrians. The awful streetscape from some of the modern buildings along it such as Queen Square and Alderney Gate doesn’t help.
From a traffic perspective, Alderney is very overbuilt. It has two lanes in each direction, but it connects to single lane roads on either end. At some point in the future, HRM will take a detailed look at Alderney to see how it could be reconfigured to better fit the needs of today rather than the thinking of the 1970s-1980s. That could mean reclaiming space for pedestrians or maybe bus priority lanes (Alderney is identified for transit priority in HRM’s Rapid Transit Plan). What the future might bring is very much an unknown right now.
A deeper dive into Alderney Drive is a ways off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything with it right now. HRM is going to pilot a different sort of approach to Alderney by allowing parking on street outside of rush hour. The idea is that parked cars will provide traffic calming, create a buffer with the sidewalk, and provide local businesses with additional parking. HRM isn’t expecting this to cause traffic issues since Alderney is overbuilt and past lane closures to allow construction haven’t caused any major issues. If it doesn’t work, it’s easy to change back since it’s really just a few signs and a parking pay machine.
I want to emphasize that parking on Alderney Drive is very much an interim use of the space. Over the longer-term, the excess space is much more likely to be put to use for transit priority or streetscaping. Allowing parking is a good way to try out something different in the here and now at no significant cost. So don’t get too comfortable parking on Alderney Drive!
New Tactical Road Projects:
Changes are coming to two intersections in Dartmouth that have been generating complaints: Ochterloney Street/Victoria Road, and Crichton Avenue/Oakdale Crescent.
The intersection of Ochterloney and Victoria is one that I have received many complaints about, both from pedestrians and motorists. The big challenge is that mature trees and parked cars make visibility challenging on the First Baptist Church side of the intersection. In response to complaints, I have discussed the spot several times with staff. Ochterloney is due for a major paving project in the near future, but is still likely 2-3 years off. Rather than wait to address the issue when the paving project comes up, HRM will be deploying bollards and portable curbs to create a bump out. The idea is that the bump out will provide more space for motorists to creep forward to see oncoming traffic before making the dash across Ochterloney. It will also reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians and should slow traffic somewhat by reducing lane widths.
Crichton/Oakdale is another intersection that has come across my inbox a few times. The challenge there is also that it’s hard to see oncoming traffic. With no sidewalk on Oakdale, it can be a challenging spot for pedestrians. Crichton and Oakdale are both extremely wide at this spot, giving HRM lots of space to work with. The temporary solution is to install curb extensions on the intersection. Like Ochterloney/Victoria, this will provide space for motorists to creep forward to better see oncoming traffic. It will also reduce the distance that pedestrians need to cross and make them more visible.
The tender for the temporary project at both intersections has been awarded to Dexter Construction and will be installed soon.
Arena Spectator Limits:
We have been so fortunate when it comes to COVID-19 here in our Atlantic Bubble. With little COVID in our community, we have been able to resume some parts of normal life over the last couple of months. One point of friction for many parents has been the ban on spectators in arenas. I get it. I miss being able to attend Circus School with my oldest.
HRM has been working with Provincial Sports Organizations, Public Health, and facility managers and, as of October 1, the municipality is allowing one spectator per participant. Masks must be worn, physical distances maintained, no food or drink, and no lingering either before of after scheduled times. When arena facilities were first reopened a few did initially allow spectators, but behavior and security issues changed that. As Dr. Strang has said, being a spectator is a privilege. Please follow the rules to ensure that spectator access can continue. If the rules are routinely ignored, HRM will have to revisit the spectator policy at all or specific arenas. Public health is the number one priority here. As the situation in Moncton is demonstrating, it doesn’t take much for COVID to flare up.
Fall Recreation Programs:
With the reopening of community centres, fall recreation programming is returning. Registration opened Thursday, October 8. Programs will begin October 19 and run for eight weeks. You can view programs and register online here. Registration is also available by phone 902-490-6666, or in person at HRM community centres (in Dartmouth that would be the Findlay Community Centre). Due to limitations on space created by COVID-19 health requirements, not everything that would normally be offered is available. It’s unfortunately the times we’re living in.
Floating Yellow Heart Tender:
HRM has released a tender request for the Floating Yellow Heart pilot at Little Albro Lake. You may recall that Floating Yellow Heart is an invasive plant that first showed up in Little Albro Lake in the 2000s. Since then, it has completely taken over Little Albro Lake. Yellow Heart has all sorts of negative implications: it crowds out native species, reduces oxygen levels, and forms such a thick mass that it makes recreational swimming and boating very difficult. It has pretty flowers, but is otherwise nothing but bad news. We’re fortunate that Little Albro drains directly to the harbour, which has so far prevented the Floating Yellow Heart from spreading to other lakes. Its seeds are designed to be spread by wildlife though, meaning that there are no guarantees it will stay contained in Little Albro Lake forever.
Addressing the Floating Yellow Heart issue has been something I have been championing at Council and Council recently approved a pilot project to cover a section of Little Albro with benthic mats. Benthic mats are basically a landscape fabric designed for underwater use. The hope is the mats will suffocate the Floating Yellow Heart underneath them. This week, HRM released the tender for the mat installation (this isn’t something we have the expertise to do in-house). If the municipality gets a successful response from the private sector, the mat pilot project will go ahead in May 2021.
Do you like locally grown produce? Want to support school meal programs? Well the two come packaged together in Nourish. Nourish boxes up local produce from farmers across Nova Scotia for sale. The proceeds go to support school meal programs. Canada is the only G-7 country without a national meal program for school kids. Nourish is an essential program that attempts to fill that gap. Without it, many at risk kids may not get a meal.
Nourish boxes are usually sold by kids and distributed from schools, but due to COVID-19, the usual delivery approach just isn’t going to work. Nourish has had to quickly move online. If you’re able, buy a box. You can order online or sign up to volunteer on Nourish’s website here. Various pickup locations, including Alderney.
Urban Design Awards:
HRM is calling for submissions for the municipality’s Urban Design Awards. The Design Awards were created to celebrate urban design excellence in HRM, including new development, heritage protection, architecture, civic projects, community initiatives, and student projects. Nominations are being accepted in the following categories:
- Urban design plans
- Urban architecture
- Civic design projects
- Urban elements
- Community connections and initiatives
- Heritage restoration
- Heritage adaptive re-use
- Student projects
Due to COVID, this year’s award ceremony will be virtual. Nominations are due by December 31. For more information, visit HRM’s website here.
Gloria Fisher Award
The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission has handed out this year’s Gloria Fisher Business Person of the Year Award. The winner is Samantha Dixon Slawter of Styles by SD. Samantha has been in business for 35 years and has dedicated her life to training salon owners how to properly care for Black hair, and to educating the wider community about the cultural significance of Black hair and beauty in Nova Scotia. Congratulations Samantha!
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council, September 1 and 10
Enabling secondary suites throughout HRM, approved new development on Mic Mac Boulevard, Cancer Survivors Garden art, public art policy, and Canoe 22 funding. Read about it here.
Given our current COVID shutdown, there are a lot fewer events to report.
HalifACT TED Talk
October 10, 7:00 pm
Council approved HRM’s ambitious Climate Change Plan, HalifACT 2050 just a few months ago. This weekend, the municipality is joining forces with TED Talks. TED is launching a Global Climate Countdown to raise awareness and spur action on climate change, and they are calling on cities and organizations to be local hosts for this launch. HRM is joining in with videos from the mayor, a Mi’kmaq elder, a youth, climate strikers, a dance troupe, HRM’s Energy and Environment manager Shannon Miedema, and the popular local band Neon Dreams. The TED event will weave in new, never-before-seen climate focused TED talks by famous people such as Chris Hemsworth (Thor), a renowned comedian, the Pope and more. Visit the event’s facebook listing for more info here. You can read HalifACT online here.