Second in a continuing series of posts about the shell game that is government in Nova Scotia
The Traffic Authority - Off To See The Wizard
I got it in my head that I’d go to see the Traffic Authority. Finding out the man’s name and where he worked was a real challenge in the days before the internet. It’s not much easier now. In the end I was never able to get a meeting with him. I got a letter. It said that studies had been done and the standard that applied to section blah blah blah was not met and blah blah blah… and he would not meet or consider traffic calming just because people on our street, who I had gotten all riled up, imaged something bad might happen to their children. From his perspective everything was as it should be.
Time is always on the side of the bureaucrat. They can sit back, not respond, wait. The citizen can't commit full time. They have shit to do. Eventually, the bureaucrat knows, they will wither and fade. Most of the bureaucrat's problems are solved simply by doing nothing.
Now, call it my luck or maybe my magnetic attraction to trouble but I started to see the Traffic Authority everywhere. There was the scam of special event parking and ticketing. There was the taking away of parking spaces downtown. There was the changing of traffic lights. There was the move to 'crossing on button only' where pedestrians wait no matter what the conditions outside. There was the random making streets one-way or the other. Then there was the widening of Chebucto Road, and the foreshadowed widening of Bayers Road to come. And of course there was the Winter Parking Ban.
The Winter Parking Ban
Maybe nothing illustrates the siloes of government, the bureaucratic empires with their petty kings wielding power over people and other parts of government, better than the Winter Parking Ban. Not the ban itself, which at times is reasonable, but the processes, rules, fines and punishments, and relationship with the people and what we want to achieve. It took a near uprising of citizens by the thousands and years of work by municipal councilors to find the tools and courage to stand up to the Traffic Authority on the issue of winter parking. Even today the rancorous and imperfect system gives notice that everything that happens is at the pleasure of the Traffic Authority. Power, the wielding of power and control, for those who are attracted to positions of petty power, is much more important than money, being liked, or doing the right thing.
That was all 20 years ago. There is still no traffic calming on Allan Street. Though it’s a great street, we eventually moved, wanting, like anyone would, to live in a space where the children could at least walk out the front door without risking their lives.
The traffic authority, like so many siloes of big box government, needs to be reformed. But who is going to do it? Empowered to work by the province, paid by the municipality, interacting with community councils, working to attract federal road money, surrounded by the UARB and dozens of agencies, boards and commissions. It's almost impenetrable. The bureaucratic elites who run it are unnamed, unfirable, unaccountable. What do we do?
Let's Amalgamate Nova Scotia
It is time to start eliminating layers of government. Let's take away the cards. Let's turn over the shells. Not citizen representatives - we need more of them - just not careerists... we need to get more people offering for short terms of public service that enrich their lives and communities. And certainly not front line workers. We need more people to do the real work that needs to be done. 100 school administrators count for nothing if the playground is covered in garbage and the paint is failing on the school and the teachers are not at their best.
There is only one taxpayer. Why are there 3, 4, 5, layers of governments and near-government boxes in our tiny Nova Scotia? Why are there so many departments at so many levels? If the "city" is literally half the population of the province why isn't it simply governed along with the rest of the province. Why don't we work all together as a whole so that waste, duplication and unhealthy competition is eliminated? That was the rationale for how we got amalgamated. Why don't we 'amalgamate' the whole province?
Next up... Rock, Paper, Scissors: Gravel pits, bureaucracy and how to win at Three Card Monte.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.