Time out for family and relatives

I’ll be away from my desk for much of October. The recent, untimely death of my wife has made me keenly aware of the precariousness of life, and brought a renewed focus to my long-standing conviction that, although a productive, socially useful career is very important, family and friends are equally important.

So I’m going to take a break from my blog and spend some serious time with relatives, and, in the process, strengthen my connection to my own origins. I still have important stories to tell — including a review of a critical chapter in Kenya’s history that has been largely shrouded in darkness. It’s all in Land and Class in Kenya, but I’m dogged by the feeling that there’s so much in the book that, at least for some readers, the most important point has been lost.

I’ll get to that if I still have breath left after spending some time with relatives.

Winnipeg City Councillor Janice Lukes is right about Bridgwater Forest, but that’s not the half of it

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, smart, hard-working Winnipeg City Councillor Janice Lukes

estimated there are over 200 shrubbery beds in the Bridgwater neighbourhoods that the city isn’t maintaining. Grass mowing of open fields has also suffered…

It’s not just an issue restricted to the Bridgwater area, she said… “It’s happening in Amber Trails, in Sage Creek. If we don’t change the way we’re doing things, we’re going to have a much bigger problems than the bushes in Waverley West.”

But then Ms. Lukes misses the mark:

This issue is not part of the “who pays for growth” debate, she said… “People are paying for this and I don’t know where the money has gone.”

The problem is that Winnipeg taxpayers aren’t paying for growth. Successive city councils agree to proposals for new subdivisions without properly considering the real costs. For a fuller account of the problems Winnipeg faces, and a discussion of solutions, click here and here.

Time out: To mourn, to remember, to be with family

I’m taking time off from my regular posts to mourn the untimely death of my wife of 31 years, and my best friend, Lorraine Leo de Jong. Lorraine was smart, funny, articulate, and had a scholarly understanding of anthropology, history, and much else. For a dyed-in-the-wool academic like me, she was a wonderful companion: A source of ideas, a sounding-board, and an honest critic. We spent many happy hours ranting at each other, sharing ideas, and arguing.

When we were married,… Continue reading

The fortress theory of urban design: How have the neighbourhoods we live in changed?

I’m registered as a follower of Policing, Politics and Public Policy, a blog by Menno Zacharias, a former Winnipeg police official. Over the years, I’ve read quite a few of his posts and found his commentary to be intelligent, sensible and progressive. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of his former police colleagues consider him a dangerous radical. His views about policing make a lot of sense to me, but when he recently turned his attention to urban design , my former fellow traveller in blogging morphed into an advocate of the worst in city planning.

He advocates an approach to the achievement of safe neighbourhoods that he calls Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Over the decades, this monicker has acquired so many conflicting meanings that it really means nothing unless the meaning is spelled out. I call Menno’s version the fortress theory of urban design, but don’t ask me, because he explains his theory very clearly. He says we can make urban neighbourhoods safe by:

Continue reading

“Growth isn’t paying for growth…” At last the Mayor’s office (sort of) faces facts

In his year-end interview with the CBC, Mayor Brian Bowman offered a belated acknowledgement on behalf of the Mayor’s office that the city is building too much infrastructure, and providing too many city services, that returns too little revenue to cover costs. (Click here, and skip down to the section entitled “Big bad budget.”)

Asked how the city could address that problem, the Mayor retreated into vague generalities about “sustainable, smart” development and “stakeholders from multiple levels of government…” In reality, making development pay for development boils down to two issues — issues much more clearly identifiable than Mayor Bowman’s generalities. The first is development charges, and the second is phasing development so that existing empty spaces are filled up before new areas are opened to development. I dealt with the second issue in a post a year ago last August. I’ll look briefly at development charges in this post. Continue reading

A Kenyan official gets a humiliating taste of colonialism, on the eve of African majority rule

The bloody civil war in Kikuyu country dimmed Britain’s appetite for colonial rule, but did nothing to resolve the problem of what was to become of the Europeans Britain had invited to settle in Kenya. Initially, Britain put members of the settler community in charge of figuring out a way to compensate their fellow settlers for the inevitable approach of African majority rule by appointing them to the Land Development and Settlement Board (LDSB), the body designated to oversee land transfer.

This self-dealing approach to the settlement of serious property rights issues failed, for reasons that are detailed in Chapter 4 of Land and Class in Kenya. Edward Muceru Ayub, a Kenyan friend of mine, was there to witness their downfall. Muceru, a graduate of graduate of Alliance High School, and one of the first two Africans to be employed on the LDSB’s staff, recalled later that his first few months on the job were very difficult. His European colleagues regularly exposed him to the all-too-familiar humiliations of colonialism. Continue reading

Time out for surgery

My excellent physician, Dr. Colin Burnell is going to instal a new hip joint in my creaky old body tomorrow. During recovery, my posts and Passing Scene entries will be sporadic at best.

Wish me luck, and wish Dr. Burnell a steady hand.