Category Archives: Editorial

DFA may not be there for some

With the recent flooding disaster in Grand Forks many are getting what they think is the worst possible news: Their Insurance won’t cover them for flood.

It could get worse for them because they might not qualify for Disaster Financial Assistance either.

As explained in this CBC article it turns out that if you were offered Flood Insurance and you declined then you do not qualify for DFA. In the article the spokesperson for the industry says the cost amounts to about a cup of coffee a day. We will look into that but from the small canvas of business owners that actually have that insurance it’s clear that the deductibles are far more costly than a cup of coffee a day. They are all in the 5 figures ranging from $25,000 on up

This is from an insurance change in the ‘recent past’. At one point no overland Flood Insurance was offered in Canada so almost everyone was DFA qualified. But a few years ago the industry began offering it and that pushed people into a bind.

We will be looking into this further to determine the particulars of this. Specifically are Insurance Brokers obligated to tell you that if you turn down the Flood Insurance they offer and you do suffer a flood, such as we have, you will not get DFA and likely lose everything?

Did the Insurance Industry look upon this as a profit centre knowing that their insurance and deductible would be extremely expensive but pretty much mandatory for people like us in Grand Forks where a large part of the town is in a flood plain?

Stay tuned as we find out more.

If you would like to know about how this kind of problem has evolved south of is in the USA please watch the PBS Frontline documentary The Business of Disaster. It may be about the USA but it’s an eye opening education on floods, insurance and governments.

Volunteer Bagging Machine Shows No Signs Of Getting Bagged

Today I visited the Arena site of sand bagging operations once again.

What an operation it has become.

Back when i first visited Gabe and his volunteer bagging effort it was pretty much a manual operation. Piles of sand had been delivered. Bundles of burlap bags as well. Shovels were available to any who showed up. A couple of guys were there that first time.

Bags were filled and loaded into the beds of pickup trucks – manually.

But there was a hint of the path it would take as the situation evolved. They’d gone on the web and found videos of how to be more efficient at filling bags. And the concept they went with was a simple one: a flat wooden frame made out of 2x4s and (I think) plywood. Stuck into that are 4 8 or 10 inch wide plastic plumbing tubes all cut to about 30 inches or so. (these are my guesstimates from memory at the end of a long, tiring day so bear with me – you’ll see them in the video)

When you have the wood frame down the tubes extend upwards with open ends at the top. Bags are slipped onto each tube much like a sock onto a foot. The jig is flipped over so the flat frame is facing the sky.

There are 4 holes. People plunge their shovels into the sand pile and move the sand to the open holes until the tubes are filled. Then the frame is lifted up, and off, leaving behind 4 half filled bags.

The unfilled half is for handling and folding over to close. A completely full bag would not have much of a lip to seal with and it would wear the volunteers out quicker because of the extra weight.

With more than one person filling the task is quickly done. And it’s on the to next batch. And the next.

I did over an hour of this kind of bagging up at the airport when I shot my ‘volunteer opportunities‘ time lapse a few days back. That was then and now it’s grown.

I’ve not been out to the airport much lately. And not to the Nursery Fire Hall at all. But the operation at the arena has become something faster and mechanized a bit.

As you watch the video what you will see is volunteers still fitting and filling the bags manually, most of the time. But there are little machines tooling around as well. Like little front end loaders or tractors with a front shovel scoop. And that fills the tubes with sand with a little manual attention to spreading. Oh yeah, and fork lifts. And pallets.

Now the way it works is after the bags are filled they go onto pallets. This is better because the volunteers don’t have to lift the heavy bags any height – just tote them over to the pallet and drop them in the next available location.

Once the pallet is filled to the desired capacity a fork lift comes over and lifts it and either deposits it into a waiting truck or puts it aside until a truck shows up. The turn around time for a pickup truck doing it this way is reduced from 5 or more minutes to a minute or less.

When I did the stint at the airport there were two sand piles and trucks backed up in petal formation around them as volunteers bagged and loaded. Depending on conditions and numbers the trucks could be there a while. With this newer arrangement the only waiting they do is in line and that’s nowhere near as long.

Watch the video. Watch it again. You’ll see people doing manual labour. Then pausing. Then doing more labour. Then pausing. There’s quite a few people there so people can take a shift or two to recover and the operation isn’t slowed.

That’s so much better. Because the workflow gifts them with a rest it paces them and they don’t spend themselves nearly as fast. Get overly exhausted and potentially suffer heat stroke.

They’re volunteers. They not being burned out unless they push themselves.

Next I’d like to talk about Gabe Warriner.

Watch the video again. If you don’t know who he is look for the skinny guy with the orange reflective vest who isn’t doing a lot of bagging. I’ve seen him bag, he does it. But what he does that no one else is doing, and appears to be doing it pretty well, is he runs the show. Without being bossy. Watch him and see how he stops in one pace for a while, talks to some one, maybe points or gestures and then moves on to somewhere else and someone else.

Some times he’s on his phone because he has to call somebody or somebody has called him. Other times he’s putting out requests and updates on social media (facebook) or responding to responses from people on facebook.

Other times he’s talking to people who have come to him. I did a small live stream update today from the arena. my intent was to just corner him for a few minutes in the shade of a tree and get him to talk to me and the facebook community. ‘cuz we have to keep you all updated and interested so you’ll think about coming out and helping – you know how that goes. Anyway . . . I get the cell phone ready and connected to the Whats up in Grand Forks BC group on Facebook and start the stream going and . . . along comes the Regional District Director Roly Russell and our Member of Parliament Richard Cannings.

I’m not so much of a journalistic papaprazzo that I feel I should but in so I wait. They talk for quite while as I wait. Then one of Gabe’s crew needs his attention or a phone rings – can’t remember which. So I wait. And Wait. And have a hint of what network newscasters have to do when a situation is unfolding and they have to fill the airwaves with something. So I natter to the audience. Okay natter isn’t the correct word – I try to point things out. I try to exhort them to think about doing what they are looking at – helping their community.

And I wait. And eventually he’s got time. And we do the interview. And then he’s off to the next thing that needs tending to because that’s his job now. In this small army of volunteers he’s like a Colonel. Generals sit back and think strategic. Colonels are more operational and that’s how I’m seeing Gabe.

He’s a boon to the community.

All those people working themselves into a stupor they’ll have to sleep off later are credits to their community and the human race.

And just in case you think that it’s all done and they don;t need the help: think again, more water is on its way. Every sunny day melts more snow and by Wednesday we’ll be up to our knees downtown once again. Or possibly worse. So we need the help.

Here’s the video:



Who remembers the Mayors words better during Jan 15 COTW?

Who remembers the Mayor’s words better during Jan 15 COTW – me or him?

During the Jan 16, 2018 Committee Of The Whole meeting I, Les Johnson, stood and made comments to council during discussion of the fate of Whispers Of Hope.

I was speaking in regard to the alterations which turned into building code violations that were found by the Fire Chief and Building Inspector last October. I suggested that council had rented the space to a non-profit run by volunteers and then essentially turned their backs on them for years. Without ‘keeping in touch’ via regular contact so that any deficiencies or alterations needing addressing could be solved correctly. And I added that this was essentially the way the voters treat council: the elect them to office and then ignore them for 4 years or until they do something objectionable. If that happens then the call is to ‘throw the bums out’. And then I said to the mayor ‘just like you said in a certain public meeting back before you were Mayor.’

The Mayor said he didn’t think he had said that . . . turns out he is correct and my memory is off. But not by much – judge for yourself.

My ‘recollection’ – his ‘rebuttal’ is a minute later at about 1:46

And this is what he actually said back in 2014:

So Mr. Mayor, I, Les Johnson, apologize for ‘putting words in your mouth’.
But I do think that the interpretation of my memory of your words hits closer to what you actually said than your memory of your words did.


A Historical Perspective

c;lick for larger picture

The other day I was listening to a Politician on the radio speak about a developing situation and what could be done to turn it around and fix it for the future. At one point he almost casually said “The regs say you have to use 6 of this but maybe we could reduce that to 3 – we’d have to look into it an consider all the factors but it’s something we’re looking at.”

In this day and age of big political winds of change trying to blow away both regulatory requirements and the documentation backing them in Washington I wonder just what will be left for review and reflection down the road as future decisions are made about ‘pesky regulatory requirements that hamper the ability of industry to function and prosper’.

That may be what is desired by industrialists and those they can buy but from a historical perspective, at least, it makes it difficult to trace the development and evolution of society and culture.

Back when Digital Cameras began to take off and replace Film someone opined that future archivists and historians looking back will see a dead zone beginning with the rise of the Digital Camera because most of the pictures taken with them never get printed so there’s no physical artifact to store away somewhere the way film photos have a film at least.

To some degree this is correct – how many people migrate their growing collection of digital media from drive to drive as time goes on? And those photos that were on that lost or damaged drive and only there – gone forever most likely.

This problem gives me pause for concern every now and then because this problem intersects with my life in a number of ways:
– I generate a lot of photos and videos – more than the average person by far.
– I’m involved in a number of history related efforts in the area I live in, most recently as President of the Boundary Historical Society but I also volunteer and work with the Boundary Museum and the Community Archives.
– currently I’m working with other members of the society in producing our 17th Report – a collection of pieces on the people, places and things that keep the history of the area ‘alive’,
– Every week I reproduce the two weekly newspapers from 106 years ago.
– And finally I am the semi-official reporter and recorder of city council meetings in my town.

And I put them all up on YouTube – thank you to Google for making that possible.

It is while wearing the hat of this last item that I write this opinion piece.

I’m not a politician. Not currently a member of any political party though I was in a youth wing of one of the popular parties in my youth. (then I grew up)

I do remember sitting in front of the TV as a child watching Sunday weekend roundup in Washington shows – can’t say why but they just held my attention. Might have been the oratory and passion, might have been the ideals. And as an adult I’ve found myself in a similar position due to a role I’ve had for the past 11 years; that of broadcaster of city council meetings.

I’m not a member of council or staff – more of their most loyal viewer in a sense. I’ve been at every council meeting since 2006 with only 2 or 3 exceptions.
And since 2011 a lot of those meetings have been recorded on the web.

Now here’s the historical thing about city council: there are official minutes, there are my recordings and there are news media recordings and reporting.

The official minutes do not record the minute details of discussion of things – generally it is a glossing at best with the essential details the only things recorded with fidelity and precision.

What the motion said and how the vote went at the minimum. Because of that brevity you have to look to the media for more detail about what took place.

The newspaper and radio reporters may bring their own audio recorders but they only share parts of what they get and usually a report on it – not the verbatim content. For that you have to go to my recordings.

Both the commercial entities and myself are ephemeral entities – we could ‘go away’ at any time and take all our files away with us. And that would mean the community, and any future historical researchers, would be the losers. It’s not the ending we would want and likely there would be a transfer of material if desired before dissolution. But events can transpire that foil our plans . . . so the archivists would be left with records kept by city hall.

This year City Council debated two changes to the way they do things that I’ve spoken against. (I can do that in the Committee Of The Whole meetings where the public can take part in the discussion and in the question period of the regular meetings).

The first had to do with a Code of Conduct. Essentially putting limits on how passionate or heated a discussion can get. Not germane to this article.

The second has to do with the Minutes and how they are recorded. Specifically the change is the remove the identification of who Moved and who Seconded a motion. So that the Motion and the voting results would be recorded but not those two items, Who.

There were several reasons cited in the proposal and they tend to sound reasonable . . . but from a Historian’s point of view it’s a lessening of the data preserved for the future.

Let’s say I’m trying to compile a history of the life of a prominent person who lived here and made contributions to the community over the years. During the time they spent on council I’d know what was before council, a distillation of the talking points and how the vote went.

Instead I see an example of how to say what happened in 250 words or less. The spirit and words and actions are mostly stripped away. The passion is baked out of it leaving the product of a body bereft of the attribution of who began and supported the topic to begin with.

Considering the rancorous history of this council in particular the contrast between life history before and after with the part in council might be stark. We show how X was passionate about all these things and their creation and execution but there’s this period where X is part of an entity that prefers to be seen as a neutral body with no individual parts. So almost nothing X said or did gets much mention in the official record. Except where X voted and some salient spoken points are noted. All the rest is dross. Not even fit to toss ‘cuz we didn’t deign to record it in the first place.

One of the points made in the proposal is it works against Grand Standing. Because we don’t want that in local politics . . .

Let’s address that, Grand Standing.

What is it? Why it is MAKING YOURSELF MORE NOTICEABLE THAN THE REST by standing out from the rest in some way. Taking an opposing stance and making a show out of it. Making a bold proposal and giving a big sales pitch to get it on the table (in the way that best ensures others will look like ogres if they speak against it).

It’s Politics. It gets in the way of getting things done. But it’s Politics. They are Politicians. At least some of them are . . . others are there because they really want to serve their community without the politics being a blockage. But it’s a Political arena, isn’t it?

Personally I think it gets in the way – but that’s me. At least we don’t have partisan politics in our city hall – yet. But I digress . . .

Without this information history becomes a little less clear to those who come later.
And understanding becomes harder.

  • Les Johnson (And this one is signed just to make a point about who said what, okay)

UPDATE:at the October 30th meeting council decided against adopting this change. So you will still be able to see who moved and who seconded motions in council.