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No One Complained (Hear no evil)

In Ottawa we were having a bit of a brew ha ha (maybe even a hullabaloo) about OCTranspo (the bus system) and their latest set of optimizations to their routes (back in 2011). Mayor Jim Watson (who I hear looks a lot like me) has said he really has only received about 100 complaints, which seems remarkably low (given everybody I know who takes the bus has complained about it to me). I think the Mayor may have poked the bear on this one, and he may receive a few more complaints thanks to his comments.

I have noticed that no Bank CEO has stood up and made proactive statements like:

Yes, I am being very facetious about this, but making the general statement,”… because I have not heard much complaining the system must be just fine…” is really a red flag in front of a bull. The banks public relations gurus carefully train their public faces to not talk about things like bank fees directly, because they know that folks hate them, and pretty much nothing a CEO says can put the fees into a better light (aside from saying, we are abolishing our fee structure, in favor of a no-fee structure).

The hear no evil concept doesn’t work well for a lot of things (financially):

  • I haven’t received a credit card bill lately, so it must mean I don’t owe any money. I really think that is a dangerous game to play.
  • My wife and I don’t talk about money issues, which must mean she is happy with how things are working. Really?
  • I’m saving a lot of money by not replacing my roof and it doesn’t seem to be causing my house any problems.

Just because you don’t hear about trouble, doesn’t mean it’s not happening, maybe it’s just being very, very quiet.

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Living Without Water

It is important to remember the rule of 3: you can last 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food, but no, it is not that dramatic in my part of Ottawa, we are simply banned from watering our lawns, or gardens (or filling pools). A major water main that feeds our area broke, and the fear is that if everyone watered (i.e. wasted) water outside the way they normally do we would either:

  • Cause a pressure drop which would then cause us to have to boil our water, for a good period of time until pressure is returned and the water is safe again.
  • The water pressure drops during a sudden crisis demand time like fighting fires or such.

This ban has caused a great deal of consternation for lots of folks who have great pride in their gardens and how their house appears  (I don’t really care), and there have been countless irate letters to the local papers complaining and whining. Still others have complained that our property taxes should be lowered because of this huge inconvenience.

Sprinkler

Big No No! Don’t Sprikle!

Let me be clear, this is no problem for me, I don’t wash my car, and we got a water barrel (which we will get a rebate for buying (from the City)) so we are fine (and with all the rain, the grass looks fine too). The folks who normally water their lawns every day, will most likely have much lower water bills (this summer), and the folks who have pools are actually getting free refills from a fleet of Water Tanker trucks that patrol our streets (I am not kidding there seems to be one on every corner). So these poor folks will have brown grass, but more cash in their pockets (I’d take that every time).

Unquenchable Thirsts

Boy that really sounds dramatic doesn’t it?

This ban will evidently be lifted very soon (mid-July) due to the City of Ottawa paying bonuses to the contractors fixing the water main, and allowing them to pay overtime on the contract as well. There have been Police crews near the construction sites ensuring no one is speeding in the areas and everyone is obeying all the correct vehicular laws in construction areas (more likely a bigger expense for the City as well).

Wonder if this period of rationing will cause folks to change their water usage patterns? My guess is, not really, since a lot of folks already have built in water sprinklers and such, and others simply think that wasting water is their right, hope they enjoy their water bills in the future. I’ll continue to let the grass deal with lack of water (by going dormant), and water the gardens from the rain barrel (actually my wife will do this, I am not that interested in gardening either).

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Garbage and Green Bins in Ottawa

The City of Ottawa during it’s latest budget deliberations came up with yet another way to stop the rate increase from being astronomical to only being big, by proposing that Garbage Collection for the city (which is currently done weekly), be moved to a bi-weekly pick up, thus saving money only having to pick up every other week (I believe they also considered twice a month garbage pick up, but decided against that). Currently Ottawa has a Green Bin program for kitchen waste and such as well as a recycle bin program for paper, metals plastics etc.,.

The Green Bin program “success” seems to be behind the reasoning to move forward with curtailing garbage pick up. Evidently it is much cheaper to pick up Green bins than it is to pick up the garbage (not sure of the numbers, I am sure someone can quote this for me), so thus if we move the green bin pick up to being weekly and cut the garbage pick up we will save everyone $28 a year on their Property Taxes (at least I think that is what the estimates were).

Colour me very skeptical on these alleged savings (the numbers don’t add up in my head), but let us assume that this is not a big shell game switcheroo and we will end up paying the same at the end of it all.

The first folks to voice concern were parents with infants and lots of disposable diapers, you can’t expect that waste to wait two weeks in 90 degree heat over the summer do you? Evidently the City is thinking of doing something about this, although it is not clear what (no soiled disposable diapers will not go in the green bins), there might be a special pick up or drop off program.

Let’s wander through some of the other interesting consequences of this decision (needless to say I will be hitting the downside, feel free to comment about all the good things, if you wish):

  • Will there will be lots of more in the Green Bins can for the new pick up system deal with? Will there be much heavier bins

    RESP, RDSP, RRSP

    A Green Bin

    every week? That remains to be seen, also with all this extra bulk to lift, can the current contractor deal with the extra load? Guess someone has thought of that (I hope). This is where I think the economics will show that in fact it costs about the same.

  • Can the Green Bin system deal with a lot more “illegal” things appearing in the bins? It is human nature to assume folks will be accidentally (or possibly with purpose) putting things that should not be in the Green Bins out with the weekly pick up. This adds more responsibilities on the Bin Pick up crew and at the back end where the waste must be sorted. Sorry folks, this is going to happen whether you like it or not, let’s hope not too much, but more waste, means more mistakes.
  • If the by-law folks enforce the rules well enough and make sure no contraband trash appears in the Green Bin, will we see “arbitrary dumping” of trash into ditches? Maybe. Will folks start bringing trash to work and have them deal with it? Maybe. Will folks be dumping garbage at commercial sites (e.g. restaurant garbage bins, mall bins, etc.,)? Maybe. Especially if they start limiting the amount of garbage you can put out, this will happen.

Will this change really save money? I think it will make folks much more cognizant of the Green Bin program and it will get a lot more of the Kitchen scraps that may be going to the landfill because folks are too lazy to use their Green bins, but will it really save money for the City of Ottawa?  As I said, I am very skeptical, I really don’t see where the “savings” will come from.

What is happening in other Canadian Cities? Please comment and tell us your Trashy story.

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Financial Research

There are so many places around where you can research your personal financial questions, there really is no excuse not to be “in the know” or at least opinionated about finances in this day and age.

Where do I do my research?

  • Money Blogs, there are new ones coming up every day. I read them, and I form opinions on what is being written. There are a bunch in my right hand column go read what they have to say, and think about it.
  • Newspaper(s) if you receive one at home, read it, there is always interesting things to make you go, “Hmmm….”
  • The Library, the Ottawa Public Library is an amazing place, and you can reserve books on-line, so you don’t even have to go to the Library to browse, just go on-line and away you go!
  • Talk to friends, no, I am not saying look for hot stock tips or such things, but just talk about topics that interest you and see if they have any insights about budgeting, or buying cars, or other things. This is how my wife and I end up finding “contacts” that can get us good deals on things too.

You notice none of this costs that much (ok the newspaper costs some money, but many of them you can read on-line). I don’t buy finance books, unless I have taken them out of the library first and thought, “This is a book I want to keep and reference a lot”.

Remember the more sources you have the more likely you are to be better informed. Learn folks, life is a learning voyage!

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