Moving On…

Category: Community

An Open Letter to Steve Polhill

Dear Mr. Steve Polhill

I would like to express my regrets for the way I behaved on November 22, 2012. During a disagreement of opinions I retaliated with a personal attack, for this I apologize unreservedly.

A rich community relies on the expression of diverse opinions. While opposing viewpoints should be presented and encouraged, insults should not.

I will aim to act more appropriately in the future and I hope that we can put this matter behind us.

 

Sincerely,

Jason Fredin

130 Kent Street, London, Ontario [FOR SALE]

Built in 1863 and an example of the Georgian Revival style, you could own this piece of history, for the low sum of $599,900!

130 Kent Street

Even after checking my couch cushions, I fell a few hundred-thousand dollars short of that price.

130 Kent Street was also identified by the 2007 edition of Buildings on the Brink by Heritage London Foundation.

The building was home to two prominent Londoners. It was first occupied by George Mackenzie Gunn, the owner of G.M. Gunn & Son, a local insurance company. Gunn was on City Council, a director of several loan societies and contributed to the formation of First Saint Andrew’s Church. A later owner was Talbot Macbeth, the son of George Macbeth who was part heir of Colonel Talbot’s estate. During the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s the building was Maria Reilly Ltd clothing store.

Hopefully the property will be bought by an individual that respects the heritage value of the building as it is designated as a priority 1 by the city. I’m not sure of any provincial designation yet, but I have inquired.

This property would possibly make for a good office renovation being downtown and possibly a lawyers office due to it’s proximity to the courthouse.

Currently it is home to the Western University chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha.

For more information:

http://www.realtor.ca/propertyDetails.aspx?propertyId=11970888&PidKey=1543442217

Shine the Light on Woman Abuse – Union Gas

I know you probably expected a photograph, it’s coming. I just thought this display of support also required a bit of animation.

Shine the Light on Woman Abuse – City Hall

Grabbed a few shots of London’s city hall last night. It is lit up purple for LAWC’s Shine the Light on Woman Abuse campaign for the month of November.

My post on Twitter was mangled by yfrog’s photo compression so I thought I would post a higher quality version here. Click on the picture for an even bigger version.

Small Version

Click to Enlarge

P.S. If you are a photo-enthusiast and want some good shots of the lights, make sure you understand your camera’s exposure compensation settings to turn your exposure down to get the best shots. It is very easy to lose detail when shooting these lights.

Council’s New Cameras

Finally for the first time I feel actually qualified to talk about an issue facing council, the underexposure on the live stream when our mayor was on camera.

Before we talk about the small problem I want to say how terrific it is to have a live stream (and archive) of council’s meeting available. I also want to than Greg Fowler for leading the way, doing it independently which showed that it was possible and that there was a demand for it.

I had noticed the exposure issue before Greg pointed it out but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t just being overly picky about camera settings.

The system is new and I’m not quite sure what capabilities the system the city is using has for adjusting exposure are, but I hope it gets straightened out soon.

For those of you a little more on the geek side…

The camera system council is using looks to be pretty advanced. Camera position and zoom are controlled by which council microphone is active. You can catch the camera moves as one speaker turns their mic off and another turns their’s on.

All this without the need for camera operators.

This is where the problem also lies. Without an operator (I assume and I may be completely wrong) focus and exposure have to be automatic.

The darkness is a result of the large white painted surface behind whoever sits in the mayor’s chair. This also is the case to a lesser extent with where Paul Hubert was sitting last night, all of them with those pesky white walls, Polhill and Usher looked great.

What caused that?

In an extremely simplified version the camera’s auto exposure looks at the scene and tries to make a guess at how bright to make everything, cameras have a pre-set neutral value, it has no idea what it is looking at though. Scenes that are predominately filled with light or dark colours cause problems.

Have you ever taken a picture outside in the winter of a snowy landscape and wondered why the snow looks grey or dark? It’s because the camera is attempting to reach an overall average grey. The old standard was what photographers call 18% grey.

So in our case the white wall behind Fontana causes underexposure (dark), the neutral wood wall behind Usher causes a proper exposure, while if a wall was painted black behind one of the speakers it would cause an over-exposure (bright). As a further example, I took frames from different positions into PhotoShop and blurred them to average their brightness and desaturated them to remove colour and you will notice they all turned out the same.

Exposure example

My first thought was exposure compensation, almost every camera has the ability to tell the camera not to use the default neutral value, but something brighter or darker. In this case it might fail though if there is not an adjustable level for each speaker location. Setting the compensation properly for Fontana and brightening the scene would cause the image to be over-exposed when the camera pans to Usher.

My second thought was manual exposure, something typically reserved for more advanced cameras where you remove the variable exposure system from the equation. All the speakers are similarly lit from the lights inside the room so their exposure values would be roughly the same. Problem being if there is any outside light chambers, or a light burns out, this would change the setting needed.

So what are we left with?

Either we paint all the walls in council chambers 18% grey, hope that the system has more advanced metering modes or features the ability to adjust exposure compensation individually for each position.

Westminster Ponds ESA Update

Tonight I attended the Westminster Ponds Environmentally Significant Area Community Update held by the City of London, at the Western Ontario Fish and Game Protective Association on October 24, 2012.

Community announcement poster

The meeting had a great turnout of around 50 individuals, especially considering its limited geographical scope.

The meeting got down to business quickly and was packed with information. I’ll try to keep things brief.

Where does the city put pathways?

First off was the presentation about the planning the city has done around formalizing a process to decide where and what kind of maintained pathways can be placed within an environmentally significant area (ESA). The PDF is available on the city’s website.

City of London planning trails in ESA's [PDF]

Pathways are important within an ESA to direct or funnel traffic into less harmful routes and discourage the formation of several smaller “unofficial” paths.

The document is long, but a great reference.

What is the city doing to maintain the Westminster Ponds / Pond Mills ESA?

Next up was Jason with a presentation about the city’s current efforts such as:

Combating the Emerald Ash Borer.

  • most of us have heard about this problem already
  • workers identified 200 viable trees, prioritizing the ones near trails
  • using insecticide currently on 54 trees

Combating Japanese Knotweed

  • invasive species
  • 3 identified patches
  • chokes out all other plants
  • performing tests to best combat (treat with herbicide, or cut then treat with herbicide)
  • purple loosestrife has been returning possibly due to dry summer

Designation of a Heritage Tree

Updated Kiosks

  • new maps on kiosks at trailheads

Trail Closures

  • unofficial trails closed
  • some shortcuts still being used by commuters
  • laying brush across trail to discourage traffic

Raft Removal

  • some individuals thought they were Huckleberry Finn and built a raft
  • city workers dismantled and removed it

Graffiti

  • constant problem
  • workers are vigilant to remove quickly

Hazard Trees

  • dead and dying trees must be removed for safety
  • sprayed orange and numbered to mark

Did you say heritage buildings?

Well, actually no, but they are looking into a cultural heritage landscape designation for the old veterans lands, which includes buildings. Built for soldiers returning from war, it was ahead of it’s time allowing patients to look out the window to a beautiful natural area. beautiful surroundings are just now being proven to improve healing.

the city has hired the same consultant for the old London Psychiatric Grounds.

Will be presented to LACH on November 14 @ 5:30PM with public input to follow. BE THERE!

One attendee asked about the condition of the buildings and a representative of the hospital was there to answer that all the buildings have new roofs and are structurally sound. Three of four remaining buildings are currently in use by environmental groups, but the fourth (the big one) requires at least one million dollars of infrastructure to be useable.

Who the heck is the Westminster Working Group?

A better question is “why doesn’t every community have one of these?” You can get more information about them on Facebook on the Westminster Is page. They are a regularly meeting community group focused on urban planning, public safety, active transportation and accessibility, availability of food and physical activity. I’,, be looking to see if something similar exists in the Whit Oaks area, where I live.

The group has already brought a proposal to city council in hopes to get a walkway placed through the ESA to establish a route from Parliament Crescent to Commissioners Road.

The city has teamed up with them on this as well as proposing a branch run from Parliament Crescent to Silverdale Crescent. This is a safety concern due to the large amount of people who use it as a shortcut already.  The major issue is that a CNR track runs between the two. These must also pass though CNR approval, as well as engineering a safe elevated (bridge), or level crossing for pedestrians.

For funding, it was pointed out that existing budgets take care of the ESA assessments for the projects, the city has set aside money for the rail crossing, but additional money would need to be applied for, after all planning is done to build the actual paths.

Is that all?

Nope, but that’s the gist of what went on.

Feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter (@jasonfredin) or hit up my contact form and I will tell you what I know, or remember, or point you in the direction of who might be able to answer your question.

A Second Chance?

I was reading the minutes and agendas on the City of London website tonight and noticed that not one, but TWO of the appointees to the Community Safety & Crime Prevention Advisory Committee have resigned.

I wish K. Mueller and B. Urquhart the best of luck in their future ventures.

This leaves two vacancies, which I have inquired about. I am not getting my hopes up, as I was not selected when the committee was formed only months ago (and I wrote about it then), but there is a small glimmer of hope.

I have already emailed the staff contact asking if I need to resubmit an application. The spots appear to be filled by the members of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee.

Fingers crossed.

Still Breaking the Law

Congratulations to the folks who successfully lobbied to allow youth under the age of 14 to be allowed to ride on the sidewalk. I understand there is also a move to include seniors in this exemption.

Changing the province’s mind on the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), however may be a bit more difficult.

While people of all ages are still riding on the sidewalk, I still see many youth breaking the law frequently, at every road they cross. According to the HTA cyclists are expected to dismout their bike and walk across streets.

Riding in pedestrian crossover prohibited – HTA 140(6)

(6)  No person shall ride a bicycle across a roadway within a pedestrian crossover. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 140 (6).

Riding in crosswalks prohibited – HTA 144(29)

(29)  No person shall ride a bicycle across a roadway within or along a crosswalk at an intersection or at a location other than an intersection which location is controlled by a traffic control signal system. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (29).

While within the law to ride on the sidewalk, an officer could still ticket riders at every intersection they cross, to the tune of $85.

 

Changing Cycling Laws

I’m happy to see cycling getting a lot of attention in the #LdnOnt tag on Twitter lately. (Yes, I’m still paying attention.)

While everyone seems to have the best intentions, nobody seems to agree on where bicycles belong. To be completely honest this is an argument that in my own house, we agree to disagree.

I fully understand the people who say they are too afraid of crazy drivers, and will ride on the sidewalk regardless of the law. Cycling can be scary, big metal objects piloted by people you don’t know or don’t trust hurling past you at speeds sometimes nearing 90km/h.

For those who want to ride their bikes on the sidewalk I have two concerns. One is pedestrian safety and the other is your own safety.

If we opened the sidewalks to some cyclists, what would the law look like?

Age

I completely agree that my son should not be forced to ride on the road. He still has training wheels on his bike and takes 10 minutes to reach the end of our crescent.

Ok, so should there be an age exemption to the law? Sure, although I have seen a number of young kids that can really fly on their bikes.

Speed

Maybe a speed limit for the side-walk? That wouldn’t hurt, but what speed do you set it at? A person wanting to qualify to run the Boston Marathon has to average 14km/h. Most pedestrians would be terrified to have a bike pass them at 15km/h, a speed fairly attainable by most cyclists.

Do we want to write a law that would make criminals out of high level recreational running?

Diameter

One speculation I have heard was to making wheel diameter the focus. I ride on 27.5″ wheels, they are big and made for speed, 26″ is standard on mountain bikes, so under 26″ should be fine for sidewalks?

One problem, 20″ tires are used on BMX bikes and frequently ridden by adults. So under 20″ can be on the sidewalk? That puts my son (the 6-year-old) in the riding on the road only category.

I also have to dismiss a law based on wheel size simply because it is irrelevant to actual cyclist top speed or abilities.

 

All of this may be a moot point as I don’t see any of the current laws being enforced, or if you are in favour of the “anything goes” approach to who can use a sidewalk.

I do want your feedback, just not on this site. Email me jason@jasonfredin.com, or let me know what you think on Twitter @jasonfredin.

Maybe in my next post we’ll discuss why I am against in-boulevard bike paths (IBBPs) and some other new road designs intended to help cyclists.

 

It’s Official

It came in the mail today, not that it was a surprise.

City of London Rejection Letter

At least it lets me move on.

It does make me think about where I will be participating in our community. It may not even be with municipal affairs. I have already offered to help with building a gazebo for WOTCH.

It does remind me of a story I heard once. It was said that a university professor told his class that their first assignment was to submit something to a publisher, just to get rejected. The students were all to hand in their rejection letters as their assignment. As writers they needed to learn that there would be many more rejections in their careers than acceptances.

The best part… it didn’t kill me. I guess rejection isn’t so bad.