Archive for July, 2012

Gerry Klein: Pure Class

God knows where this city might be if it weren’t for the consistently benevolent presence of Gerry Klein these past few decades. The Conscience of Saskatoon, that’s what he is. An elightened man of the people, Klein has been our omniprescent observer, our potent protector, indeed our noble knight. He is the finger on which the pulse of issues of importance to people in Saskatoon, er, pumps. Pure class, all the way.

Yep, thank goodness for Gerry “The Finger” Klein. If not for him, StarPhoenix readers would never have known that Saskatoon ranks 18th — EIGHTEENTH!!! — of 20 in the coveted Canada’s Creative Cities Index by the one and only Richard Florida. And this is a big deal (read: A BIG DEAL) because, well, if Richard Florida says that we don’t rank high on his list, man, you just don’t know how bad you got it.

Here’s Richard Florida’s rationale on his completely objective and scientifically rigorous algorithm for his index which shows why Saskatoon is an uncreative racist shithole corner of hell:

The rankings for the Canadian Creativity Index, developed by my Martin Prosperity Institute research team, are based on my “3Ts of economic development.” The first T is technology, or the ability to create new ideas and inventions and high tech companies, which we measure as a combination of innovation and high-tech companies. The second T is talent, or the skilled, ambitious and talented people who generate new ideas and create new companies. We measure it by the share of the workforce in the Creative Class. The third T is tolerance, the non-judgmental environment that attracts open-minded and new-thinking kinds of people. We measure it as the share of foreign-born people and gays and lesbians in a community, plus its level of integration.

Noticeably absent in his “economic development” criteria is, well, anything to do with the local economy. It’s too bad, because Florida could have included the fact that Saskatoon was recently ranked as one of Canada’s strongest economies. Or that the place is booming: housing starts have been at record highs and office vacancies are at record lows. Florida might have been interested to know that the city has become a regional mining centre, with the multinational mining giants setting up shop in town. At the very least, it may have been helpful for Florida to know that, last year, Statistics Canada reported that Saskatoon was “the fastest-growing and youngest area” in the nation.

Therefore, you might be thinking that Richard Florida’s coveted “index” is as accurate as my latest lottery picks. And you would be right.

But of course, that doesn’t fit Gerry The Finger’s narrative, which is that the mayor is a terrible, terrible man and has to go.

In his latest column, The Finger lays the blame for Saskatoon’s pathetic showing on Florida’s pathetic index solely on our mayor:

But it’s on tolerance that Saskatoon really fails.

Someone at the U of S who works extensively in recruiting told me that openly gay candidates often tell him that they can’t see themselves living in Saskatoon. That shouldn’t be a surprise.

At Saskatoon’s recent Pride parade, although six city councillors proudly participated wearing City Council Pride T-shirts, there were conspicuous absences, among them Saskatoon’s ubiquitous mayor who has never participated in the parade.

And when a councillor asked last year for a city banner and some civic administration to be present at the event, an email went out that said this would be an improper use of the banner and the administration didn’t want to be seen as endorsing an event. That’s unfortunate.

As Florida points out, tolerance of minorities, women and particularly gays and transgendered people is a measurement of a city’s openness and ability to attract and keep a creative class. This class, he points out, is essential if a city is to adjust to a postindustrial economy.

Did you catch that? Gays say they aren’t welcome here, and the mayor refuses to participate in the local pride parade. Do you see the connection? The Finger didn’t write “Now, I’m not saying the mayor is an intolerant bigoted homophobe …” but he might as well have.

Now, I’m not saying the Finger is a partisan hack who tries to pin the blame on all of Saskatoon’s supposed shortcomings on the mayor in an attempt to change the leadership at city hall … well, actually I am. This guy one of the most undeservedly egotistical blowhards remaining at our newspaper of record. His authority stems from his longevity at the StarPhoenix, which these days means that no one in the corporate communications world would ever hire him. He clings to his delusion that by reading a couple of trendy books and keeping up with the latest fads in urban development, he positions himself among Saskatoon’s bien pensants and cultural elites. He’s pure class, with an emphasis on the last three letters. He’s got a burr in his saddle with the mayor’s name on it, and it is seriously affecting his journalism at least as of late. And so I tend not to take too much stock in what The Finger advocates in pretty much everyone of his columns.

Case in point is his anecdotal “evidence” that an HR person he knows says that gays say they wouldn’t be comfortable living here. Leaving aside the third-hand conjecture, assuming that these individuals don’t live here already, doesn’t that say more about their intolerance in prejudging Saskatoon than anything else? (But of course, gays can’t be bigoted, right? That must be our fault.) This bilge is specious enough on its own without linking it to an event the mayor probably doesn’t give a rat’s ass about.

Furthermore, the flaw in The Finger’s argument is that if the mayor is somehow responsible for the intolerance in this city, he must be responsible for all that’s good about the city too. I mean, if the mayor is that influential, he’s got to have his stamp all over this place. Racism? Mayor’s fault. Best economy in Canada? Ditto.

But if that’s The Finger’s perogative, then so be it. After all, the Toronto Star conducted the exactly the same campaign to lampoon Rob Ford and alienate him from the voters. That really paid off, didn’t it.

Keep up the good work, The Finger.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kathy for the link

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Letter to the Editor

My recent submission to the letters page met with some selective editing. Yes, the submitted piece was too long, but the editors always find a way to cut the most relevant parts. Here’s the original with an emphasis on the  lines of import edited out:

July must be a slow news time at the StarPhoenix. How else can you explain that, in successive editions, readers were treated to two prominent articles and one opinion column dedicated toward how some city councillors are demanding to make the mayor’s itinerary public?

In the initial report of this riveting exposé, Coun. Pat Lorje complains that she’s been missing out on some events in her ward to which she was not invited. Ostensibly, she wants to make sure that groups don’t feel snubbed by her absence. However, in the followup piece, some of Lorje’s pals on council appeared to be changing this tune. Couns. Loewen, Paulsen, and Iwanchuck now insist that it’s not only about the coordination of public events, but also accountability and transparency.

This titillating investigative trifecta was topped off with Gerry Klein opining that the current animosity on city council is largely to blame on the lack of leadership by the mayor. Given that disputes involve, by definition, two or more parties, Klein bizarrely and conveniently ignored the lack of leadership displayed by the mayor’s ideological counterparts on council who, in the months before a civic election, are focused on how no one is inviting them to public events.

The mayor was elected to represent Saskatoon, both in the city and abroad. He seems to attend every event in town, and even his detractors would admit that he is one of the hardest working politicians in the country.  While his position affords him greater opportunity to be invited to these events, his consistent effort in maintaining his schedule and promoting local causes is the reason he keeps get invited back time and time again.

That these councillors aren’t being invited to the same events in their own wards speaks less about the mayor’s intransigence and more about how much their constituents value their local representation. If these councillors want to preen, pander and campaign at public events, they ought to consider trying to make themselves seem like they are capable of more than just taking cheap pot-shots at the mayor.

Rob Huck
Saskatoon, SK

To re-iterate, the mayor has earned his invitations to public events through dedication and hard work, and the councillors are whining that they aren’t afforded the same treatment even though they haven’t earned it. And the paper is trying to smear the mayor as a result.

It should be noted that I’m not blaming StarPhoenix reporter Dave Hutton for attacking the mayor. His mention of the “Richmond Hill city council” in the first story was obviously influenced by Gerry Klein who, in his column, talked about his conversations with a Richmond Hill councillor.

First, where is Richmond Hill? Second, who cares what they are doing in Richmond Hill? Third, Klein is welcome to endorse a rival mayoral candidate in the upcoming election, but at least he should have the decency (or professionalism) to keep his influence out of the news pages when Hutton reports a uncontroversial controversy.

Am I making too big of deal of this? Or is the paper making too big of deal of this? Let me know in the comments section.

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