Monthly Archives: August 2014

Town Hall Meeting About ElectroMagnetic Fields

This is the verbatim recording of a public town hall meeting held Aug 25, 2014 in Grand Forks.
A local concerned resident brought in a speaker from out of town to speak on the topic of the dangers of Electro-Magnetic Fields.

The meeting happened in the evening at the Seniors’ Centre in City Park. Around 70 people attended. Most appeared to agree with the presenter on the dangers of EMF and RF. Most appeared to be the same people who have showed up to show their displeasure with city council in the past few months on the topic of residential water meters.

The main presenter was Ross Andersen of Unplugged Health Solutions. He bills himself as an ‘Environmental Health Consultant’ who provides ‘EMF Detection and Protection’ and ‘Licensed Electrical Services’. He also does ‘Safe Interior Decorating’. He originally started out as a Chiropractor and Naturopath. He was not a Medical Doctor then and he is not one now. But he can tell you all about the medical dangers of EMFs and do it with an emotionally charged presentation – he was choking up and near tears from the very first anecdote. And then he can provide services and products to help you deal with the thing (he’s made) you’re afraid of.

In my opinion (that’s me Les Johnson) he is selling fear. He is profiting from those who are ill informed, gullible and afraid of something they do not understand and who do not trust the normal authorities and experts to tell them the truth.

But then again, I do not put myself in that demographic. I feel I have a good understanding of science and have experience working with electronics and biomedical technology. I’m not scared by it. While I may not trust the political part of the government to act truthfully at all times I generally trust the science and those who work in those areas. It was fairly clear the audience does not.

With all that said I’m willing to say that if new information and research point out that I’m wrong then I’ll gladly admit that – and still argue for what is testable and provable and not fantasy. I dare say that most of those in the audience may never be sure what is real and what is not – they don’t appear to trust the real experts or authorities to tell them truth. Instead they believe (and trust) the Jenny McCarthy’s and Ross Andersen’s of the world. So be it.

Near the beginning of his presentation he asks the media for ‘unbiased equal presentation of everything we do’. You might be looking at the words on this page and wondering about the ‘bias’ part. While I might be biased against him and what he says: I am, as I answer him in the video,  reproducing his spiel verbatim. Nothing is left out. The ‘equal presentation’ part I am satisfying by recording and making available this event and the other anti-water-meter event, the People’s Review Commission. I bring City Council to you through the web and cable TV. This has become a political question with one side that does not have their own website or media department. So I feel that by making videos available from both sides I fulfill the fairness of presentation. But I will not go so far as to even imply an endorsement of what I see as wrong, fantasy, paranoia or fear mongering.

We advise you to please read the disclaimer below:
The Information and Opinions expressed herein belong to those who express them.

Please DO NOT think that endorses or promotes this material – WE DO NOT.
We DO NOT share the opinions expressed herein.

Some of what you will see appears to be medical information and advice.
The person giving this IS NOT a Medical Doctor.
He is a Chiropractor and a Naturopath.
He makes claims and uses anecdotes to support them.
He claims to use electronic equipment of his own devising but gives no information on his background in building and developing medical devices.
He does sell a service. And he does sell products.

We only show it here for the purpose of exposing to the larger community some of what those in the anti-water-meter camp are being told and shown.

As always, Buyer Beware!

NOTE: Normally we would provide links to websites associated with the content because we think that’s something that should be there. To make it easier for you to follow up on the material.

Well, this time you will not find any links. Lately we’ve been exhorting people to do their own research and not rely on fear mongers and their websites. So this time you will have to make the effort to find Ross Andersen’s website. It shouldn’t be hard to do. We just don’t want to make it easy for you to go there and get ‘sold’.

Grand Forks and District Fall Fair 2014

Well the Fall Fair has come and gone once again.

This was a good thing – it almost didn’t happen. In fact due to initial low volunteer response it wouldn’t have happened but the River Valley Community Church congregation stepped up and thanks to them the decision was to go ahead with it again this year. So Thank You to Jason and Kelly McIver, The volunteers of the Fall Fair, the Fall Fair Society and especially the volunteers from the River Valley Community Church.

You can see the videos we produced for it and about it below followed by some commentary. This is a playlist with 6 videos in it …

Each year it appears to shrink a little more and catch a few more gripes. This has been happening each year in the decade I’ve been here.

This year it was in the 3rd weekend of August this year which left some wondering if it should still be called a Fall Fair …

The number visitors on Saturday night was not as large as many would like. Why?

Some said it was because the Fly-In was on the same weekend and had sucked some of the potential visitors away for a free movie under the stars.

Some wondered if the weather had something to do with it? (It had rained every day but Saturday and maybe some felt it would be a rainy evening – who knows)

Some griped about promotion, or the lack of it. They put up posters here in Grand Forks and Greenwood and, I’d assume, in Christina Lake and parts further as well.

Some of us wonder if this is part of a larger ongoing problem with society in general. When the Fall Fair first happened the world was a very different place. No Internet, Cable TV, Radio. A lot more agriculture going on locally. The fair was one of those things where the community at large could come together and have a shared experience and show off their wares and creations. Things like this are community building exercises.

Nowadays if you want to put on something that draws people you have be crafty and lucky because your competition has millions of dollars and lots of talent. From Facebook to YouTube. Netflix, Hulu, Crackle – all places to watch professionally made movies and television online. Or ‘old-fashioned’ Cable TV with hundreds of channels and TV On-Demand. And then there are those who pursue gaming online … to some out there a fall fair might seem kind of boring and amateurish in comparison to all these other choices.

This is a symptom of a larger set of changes to how we define community and communication. A lot of things like the Fall Fair rely on volunteers. Volunteer time and effort. The more closely a person feels part of a community the more likely they will be to consider helping out by giving of their time and skills. Conversely, the less connected one feels to their local geographic space the less they will feel the community they are part of resides where they happen to live. More and more people spend larger amounts of time online in social networking and gaming communities. They not only do they spend more time there but they invest more of themselves in it. One result is increasingly their social needs get satisfied online as well.

Think of it this way: The Fall Fair used to be one of their best friends but the the Web came along and now they have a new best friend.

That goes for many of the volunteer organizations around here as well. Volunteers might be drying up because their sense of community is changing.

Council Meetings Aug 18

The City Council meetings on the 18th were well attended, mostly by the anti-water meter people. There were so many people for the Committee Of The Whole meeting that the Fire Regulations were enforced. That meant the halls had to be clear of crowds.

Another room in the basement was cleared and made available for people to listen in via speakerphone. The rest of the people moved outside. You can see this below.

Committee Of The Whole was the last time to talk to council, officially, for the anti-water meter crowd’s current effort. Did it do any good? Well, no. The vote by the end of the night was to move forward with the meter program. But along the way they did get to say their piece. As people finished making their voices heard some left the room to make way for others waiting to have their turn. Why? Because there were so many people the Occupancy Fire Regulations  required that the crowd thin out and occupy external spaces. One of those was a separate room across the the hall where a few people tried to listen in on a speaker phone. I hear that was not the best connection but it was what could be brought into use at the time.

It didn’t take long before the questioning on this topic brought the meeting to recess. The mayor felt he had lost control when one of those in the gallery would not stop.

Of course water meters are not the only things on council’s agenda.

The first thing they did was a presentation to the two Brazilian summer students that have been helping out. And right after Felipe and Maitê received that they had to clear their things out of the small office they’d been using. This was to make space for the extra people in the gallery.

Next up they received a presentation from a local group seeking support for a Demonstration Garden proposal. You can heat about it in the meeting video. Apologies for the main camera powering down for a moment but you can also hear more about it from the group themselves in the video below.

The next topic was a presentation, sung in part, by Cavan Gates. He was there to tell them about the  BC Rural Network. Listen in for more on that.

Then came Karin Bagn representing the People’s Review Commission. While the general message was the same, we want you to stop this and pay attention to us, she brought another possible avenue of attack to the public’s attention. The Ombudsperson.

And back after the short recess

And the final part

The evening session. Some of the highlights (aside from passing the water meter bylaw) include:

  • the Deer will be tagged to find out more about the town herd.
  • The public will be asked their opinion on if they are ok with a cull being used to control the Deer population numbers.
  • Did you know that Habitat For Humanity will be using the old Forestry building for its Restore?



What If The Public Paid Attention All The Time


I see a lot of people in this water meter argument worried about what-ifs.

  • WHAT IF they privatize the water system?
  • WHAT IF they look at utilities as profit centres instead of revenue neutral parts of government?
  • WHAT IF they get into P3 projects with industry?

Those are some examples – I’m sure you can think of more.

My problem with this is that these are just What-Ifs, not Will-Happens.

You worry that some future council might make choices that lead to these outcomes and it scares you. I understand that.

It’s not the way it is now so why do you think it is the way it will be in the future? Why?

Here is the thing – some council has to make those decisions or they won’t happen. You worry that some future council may make those decisions, as they’ve made this one. That someday you may wake up and find out that the world under your feet has changed in some way you do not like. Or is about to. And nobody asked you about it.

And that may happen if you all behave the way you all always behave. I’m not talking about the way you are behaving NOW but the way you, as a group, behave the rest of the time.

What behavior am I talking about? The willful ignoring of what council is up to, what they are planning to do. Unless something like the current kerfuffle happens You pretty much ALL stay away and IGNORE City Council. You DO NOT come to council meetings. You barely show up at public information sessions where they are telling you what their plans are and asking for feedback.

Nope, you forget they exist and, by implication, tacitly go along with whatever they are working on. Implicitly give your approval to what their plans might be by not bothering to pay attention and participate in the closest part of our democratic government to you. Until somebody points out something that they are doing that you might not like and then it’s “Whoa! Hold on there. Don’t do that!”

The current controversy over the Residential Water Meter Program is a perfect example.

In large part it is a reaction to the very late in the game recognition that something is happening that you do not like. But it has been 15 years coming … and they’ve openly been talking about water meters for the last two years. But only in the last few months has it become an issue you are interested in. And, from your reaction, you are only interested in stopping it.

Where were you when they started along this road? Why didn’t you say something way back then? I know why: You were not interested enough to pay attention. Whatever your individual ‘reasons’ might be it comes down to that for the group of You.

I can say that with some authority because I’m at every meeting and I see how many show up. I know how many of you watch it on the web later on and I have an idea how many watch it on cable TV. (not many)

The What-If Future

No council can pass a bylaw that prohibits a future council from entertaining any of the WHAT-IFs at the start of this document. That’s the nature of government and not the fault of any one council person or council regime.

And IF you keep ignoring them then it is entirely possible that one day you will get a council that goes in a direction that freaks you out. Likely even. Because you will have allowed that to happen.

A lot of those WHAT-Ifs (at the top) happen because cities need the money. They’re either greedy, had a population shrink without a debt load decrease OR their spending has got them into a debt situation and that means they have to raise funds from somewhere to pay those debts. Too much spending and/or too much debt makes a city money-hungry.

New Broom Sweeps Clean

When a government gets into a cycle of ‘new broom sweeps clean’ (political monkeying with the way things are done) the one guarantee is that it costs money.

One council institutes a program and the next one dismantles it and replaces it with something else. Money was spent in the original project, the dismantling, and the replacing. Our money one way or the other.

How many times can a city do that with a multi-million dollar infrastructure before a debt load piles up that has to be paid by extraordinary measures somehow?

The way our system works is: IF that debt is in the water system then the water bills must go up.

IF the city spends $1.x Million in Gas Tax money to get the meters installed then they are not raising taxes OR water bills to do that because the money is already there and available. But let’s say, for instance, that the city ends up in legal quagmire and the new council reverses the decision of this one AFTER the program has started.

Legal quagmire means court injunctions, law suits, etc. … which mean legal expenses. The payment for those will either come from the water utility or general revenue accounts so either water bills or general taxes will increase to cover those costs.

A contract with the company selling and installing the meters will have a cancellation penalty and it will not, in all likelihood, be small. More cost means higher bills.

Replacing them with an uninstall OR a non-RF meter will mean more costs. More things making bills rise.

The new council is perfectly entitled to do all of that if they choose to, it’s their right. I’m not saying they would be wrong to do it, You might be scared enough by the claims of danger to want to see them do that and who am I to say that’s wrong? I’m only pointing out that it comes with a price tag.

BUT that kind of behavior is one way how cities get into the position of having to raise extra funds. Do enough of it and you find yourself in the ranks of those who entertain thoughts of P3 partnerships or excessive billing.

There is a plan. It’s long term Asset Management. It’s a reasoned approach to wisely manage our infrastructure needs and costs ($38M over 10 years) that keeps us from spending too much and getting deep in debt but gets things done in a timely and orderly way. Or at least that’s what our paid professionals have tried to assist councils in formulating and following.

Last election time I heard from potential candidates how they didn’t like what they saw and if they got elected they would tear up what was there and work something better out. The problem was they hadn’t paid attention and didn’t know what the plan was except they didn’t like one part so the whole thing had to go.

This election I hear rumblings that, while they aren’t exactly the same, leave me feeling like the same sort of ‘new broom’ attitude is being pushed.

My advice is to find out if a candidate can do more than wield a broom. Figure out if they can understand the multitude of issues and not just get rid of things they can’t understand that make them afraid. OR that are easier to scare voters with. Can they chew on more than one issue at a time? Council agendas have many items and run to hundreds of pages …

That way there will be some chance that after they’re elected they might not just try to throw an expensive monkey wrench into the works just to make them and their friends feel good about something. And they might make wise decisions and not change their minds every time voices get loud and insistent just because they are loud and insistent.

Remember: The unpleasant What-Ifs are only possibilities, not inevitabilities. Their likelihood increases with bad choices. While that might come from a council out of touch with the public it might also be the result of a public out of touch with council.

So after you’ve cast your vote … don’t walk away for the next 4 years and expect them to do everything you want and nothing you don’t want. Pay attention, keep in touch, participate … What-If you all did that? What kind of city would we have then?

I think a more engaged voting population is also a more informed one that is less likely to be victim to the kind of rumour and scare mongering you get when they don’t know who is doing what and why.