Weeknote 8 2021

For all you nerds out there: each section of my weeknote has anchor tags for your link sharing needs. I have a lot of smaller sections this week: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

§1 Windsor’s lack of ambition suggests a state of decadence

My colleague Ross Douthat — you may know him — he’s argued that we live in a decadent age. And decadence here is this pathology that comes from a mixture of affluence — so things are pretty good for a lot of people — and lack of purpose, a lack of grand ideological goals and ambitions. And when you put those together in a society, you stagnate. You’re not driving in any particular direction, and there’s a lot of force behind the status quo that shuts down anybody who wants to really change things. I’ve been thinking about this politically quite a bit. We are still running, here in this country, on the fumes of political ideas from the 18th century.

Ezra Klein, “A Radical Proposal for True Democracy“, New York Times, February 23 2021

§2 Speaking of the status quo…

The Mayor’s “0% Overall Property Tax Levy Increase” budget was largely accepted as is at the February 22nd City Council Meeting. City Councillors could have pushed back on this budget but opted not to and in doing so, lost control of $5 million future dollars to the Mayor’s office and much of their future leverage and ability to shape The City of Windsor’s economic strategy. As mentioned last week, before the meeting one councillor made the case for the community investments we could have made from just a 1% tax increase. So let’s not forget that there was an alternative on the table, and the mushy middle of Windsor city council chose not to take it.

For more post-budget review, Sarah Mushtaq has written about the budget in The Windsor Star and also shared her insights on Wednesday’s Rose City Politics podcast.

If this city council doesn’t find a global pandemic, a climate emergency, one of the largest civil rights movements in the world, and an opioid crisis as sufficient reason to increase our social services and infrastructure to better protect the most vulnerable members* of our community, then I’m not sure what it’s going to take.

It is almost as if our existing political structure exists only to maintain the status quo at all costs.

* not the golfers of Roseland

§3 Don’t tell Toronto

I’m on TikTok and it pleases me that TikTok’s algo knows me well enough to serve me Toronto content. That’s how I found out about the Don’t Tell Toronto recruitment campaign from London, Ontario.

The Don’t Tell Toronto site is from the London Economic Development Corporation who has a website that is about 100x better than the Windsor Economic Development Corporation’s.

§4 GC Notify

The Windsor Essex Health Unit has started Targeted Vaccination Clinic Pre-Registration for those 80+ in our community. A colleague of mine noticed from the URL of the sign up form, that the sign up site is being hosted by The University of Windsor. I’m not sure how that arrangement was made, but I’m glad my workplace was able to help out this way.

Of course, the Province should have known that a vaccination registration website would be an eventual necessity that they could have been preparing for over the last twelve months. The province’s registration website is supposed to go live March 15th. This is the same week of the mass roll-out of vaccines begins which is why some health units are creating pre-registration sites.

It didn’t have to be this way. Imagine that there was a government agency that could develop modern agile websites and applications with civic values such as privacy and government policies around language, built in. Then those apps could be used by a variety of different levels of government.

And, we already have that. Its the Canadian Digital Service.

The CDS just released in beta its own text notification system called GC Notify. Its a system that I believe our public health unit could use for free to notify residents of important updates over text.

Since introducing the GC Notify tool in 2019, we’ve helped government departments send over 8.8 million notifications. After developing a first version of the service and improving the ways it meets people’s needs, we’d like to announce that GC Notify has officially moved from the Alpha to Beta phase, meaning its more stable, reliable and secure than ever before. 

We’re grateful to the government teams that adopted and tested GC Notify to help us improve the service in our journey towards Beta. With their help, we’ve supported departments like Health Canada in sending COVID-19 related updates to Canadians, and Service Canada in sending email confirmations to improve people’s experiences with Canada.ca. Most recently, we had the honour of working with the Government of Nova Scotia, helping their team send text updates to Nova Scotians about their appointment statuses to manage physical distancing during COVID-19. 

Our hope is that the added features and improvements that come with Beta will encourage more teams, at the provincial and federal levels of government, to join Health Canada, Service Canada, and the Government of Nova Scotia, in incorporating GC Notify into their services.

The Ontario government sole-sourced a contract to Deloitte Consulting to support its COVID-19 vaccination program. Shortly after that February 11th news story, there was an announcement that Deloitte’s Windsor operations were acquired by MNP.

§5 Amherstburg Snow Removal of Sidewalks

Instead of constantly begging for citizens to become snow angels, would it not be a better use of time and energy to have the City of Windsor to follow Amherstburg’s lead and buy and make use of sidewalk snow removal machines? Even if we used it strategically, would it not greatly improve the quality of life for our neighbours who need clear sidewalks?

§6 WindsorDNA Fireside Chats

Matt Wachna and Sarah Cipkar have been hosting WindsorDNA (The Windsor Downtown Neighbourhood Alliance) Fireside Chats on Facebook. While three of their latest chats are available on YouTube, their most recent fireside chat with Leonardo Manuel, the Project Manager for this region’s Community Safety and Well-being Plan (CSWB) is still just available on Facebook. They bring a welcome perspective on the good work people are doing to make our city better.

§7 The Electric Line

I noted with interest that Hydro One is in the process of planning for a new high-voltage power line that will connect a transmission station just outside Chatham with one being built just outside of Comber.

https://smartcdn.prod.postmedia.digital/windsorstar/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/route_2a_map_260049511-w-e1614298579599.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=1128&type=webp

I am paying particular interest to all things Hydro because I’m hoping to do a social distanced Jane’s Walk this May dedicated to telling a story about our electric grid through maps. Organized locally by Sarah Morris, Jane’s Walks are one of my favourite events because they allow anyone who cares about their community to show others what they hold as worth caring for. You should think about doing one and let Sarah know your plan.

§8 A Mutual Aid Plan in Essex

When Texas went without power, I became curious about our own region’s emergency plans. I went digging and was delighted to find out that the Essex County Mutual Aid Plan exists.

There are plenty of folks, like myself, who are looking at the mess around us, imagining the mess to come, and are looking to alternatives to our current political stagnation. Many are looking towards learning from Mutualism and Mutual Aid.

From Reading Mutualism: A contemplation after Medium Design from Keller Easterling, author of Medium Design:

As the book attempts to expose the myth of solutions, it learns from James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Scott argues that “imperialist” high modernist planning schemes around the world—from those of Le Corbusier to Vladimir Lenin—failed in part because they did not incorporate mêtis, the practical flexible systems of knowledge that stand in contrast to “formal deductive, epistemic” knowledge. Scott endorses “mutualism” as expressed by anarchist writers like Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Errico Malatesta, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon [1]. Kropotkin’s essay of 1902 and book of 1914, both titled Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, studied forms of cooperation and reciprocity among communities of humans and animals—from tribes, clans, guilds and unions to elephant societies and swarming bees or butterflies. 

Maybe Medium Design should have taken the opportunity to imagine an alternative history in which the temperament of Mutual Aid was more influential than the organizations and temperaments of political moves on both sides of the political spectrum—movements often squaring off in a competitive binary of enemies and innocents that is doomed to reproduce the worst and most violent defaults of the modern Enlightenment mind. (Try gently suggesting this possibility to any ultra-orthodox political thinker. Their response will help to make the point.)

§9 Why the City of Windsor should adopt Service Design

The March 8 2021 City Council Agenda is out and it clocks in at a mere 285 pages.

As someone who has organized events in the past, I was particularly interested in Item 7.3, the answer to this council question:

The following Council Question was asked at the February 25, 2019 meeting of City Council: “CQ4-2019: Asks that administration consider options to streamline the process to help with street closures looking at all options including efficiencies that can lead to lowering administrative time and costs while still allowing timely processing of applications. Please consider fees in the schedule as well as barricade rentals and Fire Department fees.”

The process for a street closure currently takes four weeks.

The answer to this question highlights how many necessary administrative hurdles across many administrative departments a single request from a resident has to pass through in order for an approval to be made.

It suggests to me that the City of Windsor would do well to formally adopt a Service Design process so that all services the city provides can be improved.