Moving On…

Could Someone (smarter than me) Check my Math? [Updated]

I am attempting to understand the calculations that are behind our municipal tax rate in an effort to understand the city’s budget process.

Listed below are actual numbers I have gathered from a couple locations.

The home value is my house in White Oaks as assessed by MPAC.

The calculation for 2012 property taxes is from the city’s website. [1]

The 2013 property tax calculation uses a 0% increase, but reduces the municipal share of the tax by 2.48%, the phased in assessment growth.[2]

Could someone please review these numbers and correct any errors I have made in calculation or assumption.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 8.16.48 AM

By my calculations under a proposed tax freeze I will actually be paying $17.99 less next year.

 

 

Update (February 12,2013):

Apparently none of this math matters, and I kind of understand why.

From an email I recived from the city’s finance department this morning “Jason, you cannot calculate exact tax rates simply from the City budget.”

It was explained in the email that there is much more that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to the rate we pay for taxes.

While the city discusses how much we should spend as a whole, the percentages are only a rough projection of the final cost to taxpayers.

Other factors like the education amount which will be lower for 2013 at  0.212% (a number I can’t find online publicly anywhere) and the ratios which set the multi-unit, industrial and commercial rates are still up for discussion/finalization after the budget process is complete. All these factors can alter the final rate we pay for property taxes.

That’s really too bad because I was hoping to build something similar to the calculator Ottawa provides its citizens at http://app06.ottawa.ca/cgi-bin/tax/tax.pl?lang=en, with the ability to enter your own property information and see how the change in budget decisions reflected in your final bill, as opposed to this ‘average homeowner’ we hear about in all media reports.

I think this calculator could be a good tool to further discussion during budget debates.

This is a setback, but I’m not throwing in the towel on this project, not yet.

 

[1] http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Taxes/Residential/default.htm
[2] Martin Hayward’s report to the Corporate Services Committee January 22, 2013. Schedule C. http://sire.london.ca/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=432&doctype=agenda&itemid=17257

Newtown, Connecticut

My heart is broken after hearing of the events that took place yesterday.

This hits close to home as I heard the news while my six-year-old was still at school, and I know how happy of a place those classrooms usually are.

It is also particularly disturbing that knowing what happened there, couldn’t be stopped, at least without a crystal ball.

America has a problem.

Many rushed to say gun control is needed. While I agree this is needed, it is just one part of the solution. Many will soon point out that these guns were stolen from his mother. His mother would have been able to legally obtain these firearms, even in Canada.

Even in a small non-violent community the school had security measures for these types of threats.

“Somehow, he got past a security door to a place where children should have been safe from harm.” NP

The media has conflicting reports on of the Principal allowed him in after recognizing him, or if he broke a window to gain entry.

Just this fall our son’s school implemented similar procedures where all doors are locked and access is through the front door only with an intercom after the start of school. While shocked to hear about at the time now it doesn’t seem excessive at all.

So does Canada have a problem too?

I don’t think so. I attribute it to better mental health care and less prevalence of gun culture, but these two items barely scratch the surface of the changes needed to avoid more tragic occurrences.

There are no easy defences for senseless actions, but that’s no excuse to do nothing.

510 Southdale Road East

Proposed for construction is two buildings, one two-story commercial building and one single-story medical clinic building.

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This would require the demolition of the buildings on all three properties at 510, 518 & 526 Southdale Road East.

the plan has been proposed by Dr. Afzal Mohammed the pediatrician who currently operates out of one of the existing buildings.

Check out the illustrations of the proposed building on the city’s website. http://sire.london.ca/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=412&doctype=agenda&itemid=16145

*Disclosure* My son has been seen by Dr. Mohammed as a patient.


Destined to be an Independent

The more I think about the (assumed) upcoming provincial election the more difficulty I have finding a political party that makes me want to vote for it.

All parties have smart people behind the scenes, developing good ideas, policy, and sound bites.

But all parties also have either histories, ideologies, or representatives that I just can’t bring myself to vote for.

So where does that leave me? Currently I consider myself an independent.

Do I see that changing? I really don’t know.

I know that every group has to put their best foot forward with their own spin on matters, but when researched that spin makes them sound like they don’t understand the issue, or don’t want you to (or think you can) understand the issue.

Be very wary of people promising simple solutions to complex problems. They may be selling snake oil.

More Questions Than Answers

I’m now at the point that the whole Joe Fontana “scandal” is starting to wear on me.

In a vacuum of information from the Mayor himself, rumours and speculation run wild. I completely understand that in light of the serous charges he is faced with, he needs to follow his attorney’s guidance, he needs to protect himself from making matters worse. At least at his press conference he clearly said “I am not guilty”. Four words which would have knocked the wind out of this scandal at its beginning.

In an interview with AM980, Gord Cudmore said (or at least strongly implied) they have an ace up their sleeve. For Joe’s sake, the “Fontana 8”, and the city as a whole, I hope he’s right.

Although he may not be able to disclose what his evidence is, even privately. What worries me most is with this smoking gun to prove his innocence, the Mayor has failed to rally some of his supporters…

…or is that what we are seeing with Denise Brown’s flip-flop decision today at council’s finance committee.

If the Mayor has definitive evidence that he would be found innocent, he should be speaking to his base privately declaring his innocence with our without being able to provide proof. Assuring councillors they wont be left with egg on their face for backing him.

Councillors who have moved for Joe to step aside while he either repairs his good name, or sees it permanently destroyed, are doing so with the backing (or demands) of their constituents. I see no problem with this, they are doing as the constituents they were elected to represent have overwhelmingly endorsed.

Councillors who oppose this motion appear to have gone “all in” in favour of Fontana and his way of conducting business.

Our entire council will be putting their chips on the table during the next council meeting.

Losing even one of his supporters may indicate trouble.

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.