Thursday, November 4, 2010

an open letter to the City of Edmonton

Provincial Court of Alberta

Law Courts

1A Sir Winston Churchill Square

Edmonton, AB T5J 0R2

01 November 2010

To whom it may concern,

Included is payment for a ticket I received in the city of Edmonton on October 4th, 2010 for 'failing to cross roadway within a crosswalk'. I accept guilt for this infraction, and as a result, am not contesting the violation. I would, however, like to make a brief comment about the 'policing' strategy that resulted in this situation.

I was given this ticket by peace officer Eric Diaz when I crossed an empty street from the downtown public library to the public square. Officer Diaz was not the only officer in the square that day. At one point, I observed five peace officers in the square giving tickets to everyone who crossed from the public library to the public square. I am aware of the fact that 'J-Walking' is a charge that was created under the auspices of pedestrian security, but these tickets (mine included) were handed out predominantly to people who had crossed the road in a manner that was completely safe, while the section of roadway in question was completely free of moving vehicles. However, my complaint is not with the by-law itself, but with the manner in which it was enforced. As we know, by-laws cannot be enforced upon everyone who violates them, but must be enforced selectively, and it is with this selection process that I believe your Peace Officers are acting in a misguided manner. I believe the group of people that was targeted in this scenario indicates a flawed approach not only to policing, but to urban development in general.

Aside from the fact that ticketing pedestrians seems a curious method of fundraising for a city that has undergone protracted periods of economic boom, mass-targeting people who are travelling from the library to the public square is a curious enforcement strategy that punishes the type of people that modern cities should desire, rather than push away. Further, users of these types of spaces, broadly speaking, tend to be from lower income brackets than street-crossers in other parts of the city. Targeting people with lower incomes is a maddening tactic of law enforcement. Most importantly, however, as cities transform in the 21st century, policing tactics that punish the type of people who would travel from one public space to another - for getting in the way of cars - promises to put your city on the wrong track to the future.

I am a musician and storyteller who travels Canada constantly, spending a fair amount of time in many different Canadian towns and cities. In time, your city would have received significantly more than 57 dollars in direct and indirect revenue from my time spent in Edmonton. However, I find the policing strategy behind this violation so wrong-headed, that this is the last 57 dollars I will spend within city limits. I tell the story of this municipal policing strategy regularly, and my audience members (including those in all parts of Alberta) find it equally curious and appalling.

To be clear, I am not reacting to or angry about my own personal financial loss, but instead, attempting to draw attention to the flaws in the overall policing strategy that I saw being applied for many hours on October 4th, and that I am told is applied fairly often.


David Newberry

CC: Edmonton city council.

now watch some fish and bird!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to cause trouble in the City of Champions

Along my most recent trail, I was given a warm welcome to the city of Edmonton by a man dressed up like a Mountie who called himself a 'Peace Officer'. We all know, in our heart of hearts, that J-Walking is a crime, but none the less, it came as a shock when I was criminally fined for trying to cross an empty street between the downtown library and the public square. It seems that despite years of protracted economic boom, the city of Edmonton is still in need of a little bit of old fashioned, street-level fundraising. Sure enough, the peace-force had stationed five of the city's finest in the public square, and they were picking off pedestrians by the pack-load. And while I do love Edmonton, it seems to me that a municipality bent on punishing the kind of folks who want to walk from the library to the public square is really scraping the bottom of the mayo jar to make one last sandwich. We've all seen them: The twenty-something men wandering around the club after last call - having given up on finding a mate for the evening - seeking out half-drunk abandoned rum and cokes to get him through to morning. Well, Edmonton, I will see you at the party.

Mind you, if the law has nothing better to do with their time then ticket book-learning, public-space-using, car-free nerds who want to rest their weary bones in the city's most social square, then somebody must be doing something right.

Here's a great song by my pal Rodney Decroo.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn...

Howard Zinn died.
They're different folks, but its like when Vonnegut died, and you look around and think 'who is left'? Who replaces Howard Zinn? I don't think its Michael Moore, I don't think its Naomi Klein...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The thing about the placebo effect, is that you need to believe...

I just watched a film about Jack Kerouac hanging out in Big Sur. I always get a mixed feeling from Jack Kerouac. Like Favourite Game era Leonard Cohen, who changes direction so often he's shallow and infuriating, but does it with such a whole-hearted and convincing ferocity that he becomes heroic and reassuring. Its the kind of hopeful hopelessness that makes me go 'round

The thing that struck me most was Tom Waits saying that reading J.K. makes him sad, because he knows if the same kid were to be raised up now, they'd just put him on the ritalin and he'd be 'fine'. "Here, Jack, we'll take you to A.A. and you'll be fine. You'll never write another line again but you'll be fine... just fine." Terrifying. Heartfelt. Reassuring.

The first half of the movie made you want to spend the rest of your life with your own personal Neil Cassidy, drinking sweet red wine from jugs on American west-coast beaches. The rest made you terrified that of the mug of sweet-wine in your own left hand might undo you like it undid him.

One of the talking heads in the film described Kerouac (and life, perhaps) as a man who was trying to ride a motorcycle as fast as he could, but he had 'this big catholic parachute' out the back. Isn't it.

Carolyn Mark, on a record that isn't out yet, will say something like:

Everybody is back stage on their laptop drinking smoothies,

Its all about behaving, and it sure in like the movies.

I think somehow this all ties together.

To the beach...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Embrace the many coloured beast...

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....