Manholes for Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is one of the unlikely markets that is forcing municipalities to rethink how they manage their infrastructure…

Several hours a day, five days a week, [Francis McConnell] stakes out junkyards. Pretending to read a newspaper, Mr. McConnell sits near the entrances and writes down descriptions of passing pickup trucks and shirtless men pushing shopping carts. His mission is to figure out who is stealing the city’s manhole covers and its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past year, up from an annual average of about 100.

Source: With a Surge in Iron and Steel Prices, Thieves Are Stealing Metal Manhole Covers – NYTimes.com

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Philadelphia has quite the problem, causing liability issues, as well as the cost of replacing the manholes. To combat this, the City is installing chains to secure the lids…

But so far, only 300 of the city’s more than 70,000 manhole and inlet covers have been locked.

Cities across the country are working with the police, junkyard dealers and industry associations to improve the chances of catching thieves, but while the price of metals keeps increasing – so will the problem. I haven’t noticed a problem around here, anyone got stories?

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BC Community Infrastructure Grants

Maybe the Province read my article on the crumbling infrastructure around this province?

$272 Million Invested in Smaller British Columbia Communities: Applications Open for Building Canada’s Communities Component

For the first time, smaller British Columbia communities with populations of less than 100,000 can now access more funding for cleaner water, better waste management and flood mitigation thanks to a $272 million investment by the federal and provincial governments through the Building Canada Plan.

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BC Cities Spending Spree

There is always more than one way to interpret a report…

The vast majority of B.C. municipalities spent too much money between 2000 and 2006 – engaging in out-of-control spending that put upward pressure on property taxes, according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business report.

The report said overall municipal spending in B.C. increased by 36 per cent during the six-year period – 1.8 times more than the 20-per-cent increase that occurred with population and inflation growth. Only six of 65 B.C. communities in the report kept their spending below the 20-per-cent level between 2000 and 2006 – Port Alberni, Prince Rupert, Castlegar, Qualicum Beach, Terrace and Powell River.

Report says B.C. cities spend too much

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I read this as saying that many communities are not getting the required funds from higher levels of government to complete necessary works such as infrastructure upgrades. If this is the case, the spending is hardly out-of-control, it would just be that the realization of aging infrastructure has come home and the municipalities are the one’s who take the brunt of the load.

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Urban Farming in the News

A couple of generations ago, having Chickens was a key part of your family’s health and food security. However, in recent generations, many cities have enacted bylaws to prevent chickens or other farm animals from being raised in an Urban or Suburban area.

This article from today’s Toronto Star….

Toronto bylaws forbid keeping poultry, for health reasons. On the other hand, pigeons raised for sport are allowed, provided they rest, roost or perch only on their owner’s property.

Oddly, by raising a few chickens in the city, Alice is in step with a do-it-yourself food movement that is thriving in cities like New York, Portland, Chicago and Seattle. It’s legal to keep chickens in those cities and dozens more in the United States.

TheStar.com | GTA | Poultry in motion: Chickens adopting urban lifestyle

The gentrification that leads to banning farm animals is finally being reversed in many cities, we’re waiting for it to happen even in Rural Canadian Cities. For all the talk of a 100 mile diet, not much is being done to promote local food security from a provincial stand point, (see the BC meat regulations). At a local level – for those who want to try Urban Farming, if it’s not permitted by your City’s bylaws, try petitioning council to remove or amend the bylaw to allow chickens and miniature goats as a starting point.

Check out this video from the Wall Street Journal – there’s also an article to go with it here.

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Foreclosure

The past two months have seen an increase in the number of media references I’ve seen relating to the housing bubble and resulting foreclosures down in the states. In Canada we seem to feel a little immune from the major effects of this situation, but economically, whether we like it or not, we are tied to the States for much of our national well being.

What is of interest to me is how much media coverage this is getting, compared to say the idea of sustainability or climate change. Given the long term nature of climate change, and the fact that an ex-presidential candidate even made a movie about it, wouldn’t you think that Americans might have an interest in it? Certainly the media has covered it, but looking at the following graphs of search and news trends from Google Trends provides an interesting picture of the relative search-worthiness of the terms.

Looking at Trends

Comparing the following two graphs, note that the News Reference Volume, (measured on the bottom graph) shows the term "climate change" was much more active in the news than "foreclosure". However, the main differences are seen in what people in America have been searching for, compared with the whole world. The first graph shows the trend of all searches across the world for the relevant terms. The second show the trend for America. What this clearly shows is that "foreclosure" was almost exclusively an American search term in 2007, while Americans searched for the term "climate change" approximately four times less frequently. Read more after the jump…

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Painting Crosswalks

I can understand the frustration of this resident, but painting your own crosswalks is taking it a bit far…

Man Jailed For Creating Crosswalk, Vows More – Indiana News Story – WRTV Indianapolis

Whitney Stump didn’t like watching drivers ignore the stop signs at the intersection outside his home, so he asked the city to paint crosswalks there.
When the city said no, he made one himself. And the city wasn’t appreciative.

Similar to the story about the bike lanes being painted from June of last year…

TheStar.com | News | Bike activists going guerrilla

Seconds later, a cardboard bike stencil is thrown on the road and the first of seven cans of hot pink paint is emptied on a stretch of Bloor St. W. “Putting in a bike lane?” asks a teenage girl cycling by.

Sometimes guerilla action is required to gain the attention of officials, but be prepared to spend some time if you are caught!

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Fire Hydrant Color Coding

When cities age, so does their infrastructure.
And water mains are often the worst offenders, with massive losses going undetected day to day as cities scramble to keep up with the maintenance, construction and upgrading of their networks.
Ontario is following the practice of many US cities in color coding their fire hydrants to display the available fire flows at that location, something that Fire Chiefs see as only a temporary measure.
Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

According to fire chiefs and watermain engineers across Ontario, aging underground water pipes could hamper firefighting efforts and put lives at risk.

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