Honk for William Horn

I’m going to jump the gun a bit here. I’ve sent questions to all of Red Deer’s mayoral candidates, still waiting on any sort of acknowledgement that they were actually received from any of them. Instead of waiting for days without any answers to go through, let’s take a look at one of their platforms a bit closer.

Today’s entry takes a look at mayoral candidate William Horn. Of the five candidates for mayor, Mr. Horn is the only one without a website (aside from Facebook), and without any clearly identified platform. There is one, but it’s buried in a Facebook post that doesn’t even initially say it’s there. In case you want to read it, it’s in the post about his bio. There are duplicate posts of that.

Like some other candidates, Mr. Horn does have a Twitter account that’s gone sadly unused. Much like candidate David Helm’s approach, Mr. Horn seems to be relying on his information being accessible through his Facebook page. As demonstrated on the previous entry regarding Mr. Helm, this was demonstrated to be an inefficient means to provide open access to information. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re essentially cut off from any online information from Mr. Horn’s campaign. There’s not even a link shown on any of his sign’s I’ve seen.

Unlike any other other candidates (so far), Mr. Horn openly advocates (in a July 12 posting) that Red Deer citizens read a local blog that recently published a story about a city resident upset about square dance jamboree attendees parking their RVs in a parking lot five blocks from his house and calling them potential pedophiles, and another that tried to link city art to devil worship.

On his Facebook page Mr. Horn has listed an impressive background, including virtually every volunteer experience, work experience and entrepreneurial experience he’s had in his lifetime. Curiously, he makes a very clear distinction between Blue Collar versus White Collar experience. This becomes even stranger when he proudly displays his white collar experience, yet in a September 11 post, emphasizes that what citizens want is blue collar understanding. This becomes even more muddled when you consider, in an August 21 Red Deer Advocate article, he claimed that city council should be made up of people holding degrees; typically the environ of white collar workers. I realize that saying council should be a white collar environment is a generalization, but as Mr. Horn has made such a visible distinction, it’s no stretch to assume he feels blue collar and white collar education and experience should be segregated based on what kind of understanding or information is being disseminated.

This division becomes clear when Mr. Horn openly asks, “where are the Business Degrees? Accounting Designations? Management Degrees? VOTE for diversity of qualifications & a great rounding of multi-disciplined educations. Vote for Grad Degrees, & business experience to be your Council.” This statement heavily favours white collar education and experience in a city with a huge blue collar work force. I know, as I’m sure anyone reading does, many people with trade tickets whose input and experience would benefit a city council. Where’s the emphasis on the inclusion of that type of education or experience for council members? Shouldn’t the goal ultimately be to run the city in a way that appeals to, and is understood, by anyone regardless of education or background?

I also wonder why it sounds like Mr. Horn thinks white collar and blue collar workers are incapable of understanding each other’s needs. I’m pretty sure if you get the right mix of people who are able to discuss the needs of the city, and are able to build a dialogue about them, everyone will end up with a much broader base of understanding. This would be hugely beneficial to council and the city, much more so than making such a strong separation between the two.

Dealing with one of the more controversial items for any candidate (the bike lane project), Mr. Horn makes the assertion that bike lanes, “Are designed to restrict roadways, lessen vehicle trips, and promote Bus Use by increasing population density thusly saving infrastructure investment.”  Never in the history of any discussion or class I’ve taken or paper I’ve read about urban development, sustainability or planning, have bike lanes been assumed to be designed to accomplish that. The statement clearly comes across that bike lanes, by design¸ are a purposeful attempt to interfere with vehicle traffic. His example of methods used in Europe are, I think, misguided. Essentially, he’s advocating for widening sidewalks (albeit along main arteries only) to provide a pedestrian/cyclist path. The impracticality of this in Red Deer is all too obvious when you consider that there are main arteries running through downtown where there would be no room for this. I question whether Mr. Horn has given any thought to how bike lanes are used in London, or Vancouver if you want a Canadian example. Both function on roadways, neither required widening of sidewalks. Nor did they cause the population to become any more dense. Typically, bike lanes are put in in areas where that density already exists and the population needs to travel shorter distances to work, the store, their friends place, etc. I’m not entirely clear why promoting public transit and saving on infrastructure costs would come across as a negative consequence of that. Maybe that’s just the way I’m reading it.

The next statement in that paragraph is, “How many of you want to sell your pickup & quad move downtown & ride the Transit? Blue Collar? Mmm, NO!”  Aside from an almost outright dismissal of public transportation, this statement makes the assumption that every blue collar worker in Red Deer has their own vehicle. I’ve no doubt that most do, but the blanket assumption that all blue collar workers have a truck and a quad is essentially a smack in the face of service workers who don’t have their own vehicle or fancy toy, and who do rely on public transit. That’s true of any urban center, no matter how big or small they are.

Another major campaign focus is snow removal. This is common to many candidates. Unlike other candidates, Mr. Horn is the only one to suggest snow dumping capacity versus distance travelled be examined as a factor. However, the solution proposed is to use Excel and AutoCAD to fix snow removal problems. I use Excel on a near daily basis. It’s good for making list, calculating percentages, tracking costs. Could it provide a comparison of dumping capacity versus distance? Yes, easily. Would that actually solve anything? Probably not. If the city has a finite amount of snow dumping space, it makes no difference what hauling distances are. If more dumping space is needed, the city would either have to pay for it, or increase hauling to it. In either case, there are little net savings. AutoCAD would provide just as much savings, after you spend the money to buy the program. CAD is for modeling static objects, not to provide pattern analysis in order to determine efficiencies. You’d have no problem developing a 2D overlay of snow removal routes with it, but you’d be sorely lacking in anything that would provide an analysis of the most efficient way to complete it. Excel is a good tool for dumping numbers and coming up with cost comparison. AutoCad is good for modelling an object or layout of static lines in a finished product.  Neither are good for planning efficiencies based on shifting weather, unanticipated snowfall, equipment failure, expanding neighbourhoods, traffic flow, or different levels of snowpack in different areas of the city.

In terms of potholes, Mr. Horn insists that the, “Current practice of grinding off an inch or two of existing road & re-paving doesn’t agree with Global Warming”. The solution that Mr. Horn has proposed is to remove more material, and lay thicker pavement. How does this agree with global warming more? Objectively, taking less material off and laying a thinner layer would require less operating time for machinery, and creating fewer atmospheric pollutants than using more material and operating machinery for longer periods of time. I’m at a bit of a loss here as to how fixing potholes doesn’t agree with Global Warming as it almost seems like it was a random comparison, so if anyone has any insight into this, please let me know.

Mr. Horn’s approach to improving public transit is to create ring road routes and crossing routes on Gaetz Ave and Ross Street. In terms of the crossing route, you’ll see little in terms of speed or efficiency if the busses are still subject to regular traffic. Bus only lanes could always be established, but see how far the suggestion of eliminating a vehicle lane for that purpose would go here. How far down Gaetz/Ross will these proposed routes go? At certain points, you’d need these to connect to other routes. Would this be done by diverting already existing routes, or with new routes? As for the ring road routes, there is no ring road system around Red Deer. Is this advocating for building one? Even if one were built, it would still contend with the river at two points, requiring new bridges, and a ring road system would force users to the edge of the city before having to worry about transferring back into it to reach their destination. You could always designate roads inside the city as a ring road route, but then you’d have to consider the impact on traffic, as well as which roads and how far along them the route would be used. In either case, the costs to plan and implement either suggestion outweigh the benefits of simply improving current routes and capacity.

Mr. Horn also asserts that if created, a ward system would prevent the best educated and qualified councillor form taking the lead on city issues. Council is made up of nine individuals. Regardless of whether it’s an at-large or ward system, responsibility for city issues falls on the nine councillors. Any of them can take the lead on an issue. Implementing a ward system wouldn’t affect this. They must still participate in committees, respond to citizen complaints and inquiries, and work together to run the city. The concern here should be whether or not a ward system attracts the best qualified individuals to run as ward representatives.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that after all this, Mr. Horn claims the city must be run as a business. He does, after all, hold an MBA. It’s curious how he’s missed including capital spending as part of the total budget then. He then goes on to claim that good examples the city can learn from are the Chinese and German economies. In terms of the German economic example, let’s not forget that Germany’s relatively stable economic standing the in the EU came from a series of far reaching austerity measures, stimulus plans, and export orders from outside of Europe.  This is not the same as running the country like a business. This is like running a government that realizes the bottom line isn’t the only thing it can focus on to run properly. The Chinese economic example makes no sense when you consider China is the world’s largest exporter, second largest importer, and largest manufacturing based economy on the planet. The closest municipal example of this in Alberta would be Fort McMurray, so I’ve no idea how this would apply to Red Deer. The other problem is that this is solely based on regions of China designated as Special Economic Zones. Were one to take the entire country into account, Mr. Horn would essentially be advocating a completely internalized economy for Red Deer, with absolutely no ties to any other city, government or business. Let’s also not forget the cost of manufacturing, and business in general, in China is far lower than in North America. You could easily save the city money if you paid its workers pennies on the dollar. There’s no ‘get up and go’ in either case. There is fiscal caution and investment in one case, and nearly completely centralized, non-free market, government control in the other.

And with that, I’m off to review my hockey pool drafts.

3 Thoughts.

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