Thursday, 26 June 2008
A big congratulations to the Student Community Action folk at Bristol University!! They have collected nearly 5 tonnes of unwanted goods from students which will be going on to charities across the city. Their Big Give project has been a real success and not only will the stuff be reused by those that need it, but it also stops it littering our streets - a real win-win. So when you get angry with a student house for fly-tipping on the pavement near you, it's important to remember that there are probably another two student houses which have done the right thing.
If you are unlucky enough to live near a house where stuff has been dumped on the pavement outside when the students have left, the city's two universities are funding special collections services. You just need to call the usual Council Customer Services number (922 3838) or e-mail email@example.com and say that you have seen student waste which needs collecting. They should remove it within a day or two.
Monday, 23 June 2008
Someone once said that you should judge a society by how it cares for its most vulnerable people - on that basis, I think that Bristol is doing quite well, although everyone agrees that there is plenty of room for improvement. One of biggest constraints is the number of foster parents for teenagers; even though they get paid, the Council find it very difficult to find volunteers. These young people then end up in children's homes and eventually into supported housing schemes, which isn't necessarily the most supportive environment.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
The big issue seems to be whether Labour will lose their deposit. They just aren't on the radar and activists are like hen's teeth. I found one of their leaflets this morning and they are just delivering national stuff - no attempt to compete at all. Labour are leaking activists all over the place at the moment and it's really going to hit them when the election comes.In particular, I was struck by the absence of any Labour posters on the council estate near Henley which we were working in. There isn't much social housing in the constituency, but I did think we'd find some evidence of Labour support in these patches. We delivered to 1,200 houses and found only Lib Dem and Tory posters in window in roughly equal numbers.
Monday, 16 June 2008
There should be a new lamppost sign on Whiteladies Road, plus hopefully a larger one on the entrance to the station car park area. We are also trying to get something put up in the Clifton Down shopping centre to let shoppers know that they can bring their plastic back next time they visit.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
As you can see from the video clip below, Councillor Holland derided the public forum, describing it as a 'pantomime' and less 'serious' than the paper she was about to introduce. As there was nothing else out of the ordinary in the public forum (except a protest about caretakers jobs being at risk), one can only presume that she was referring to the school protest.
I believe that the public forum section of council meetings is a vital opportunity for real people to come and express their grievances about the city and the Council. Some times it may be uncomfortable for politicians and sometimes they might be wrong. But this doesn't undermine the essential right to be heard and to contribute. In this instance, it was 50 or so schoolchildren who had turned up to try to save their school. Two of them gave a joint speech - they were brilliant! It was really brave to speak into a microphone in a room full of councillors and other adults. But they were clear and confident... much better than some of the city's politicians!
A couple of meetings ago, we were confronted with Labour councillors heckling another member of the public trying make a presentation about their local area. They give us the rhetoric about listening to local people, but it appears that this only holds when they are old enough to vote and when Labour doesn't mind what they're saying.
Friday, 13 June 2008
This isn't a principled stand. This isn't martyrdom for our civil liberties. This is blatant and unsavoury Tory posturing. This is an attempt to grab headlines. This is pathetic and I hope that Labour follow the Lib Dems and refuse to play his silly and opportunistic game. Let him fight it out with UKIP and the bloke from The Sun...!
The Tories have flip-flopped so often over the terror legislation that to see them now trying to paint themselves as the guardians of our rights is frankly risible. And don't ever forgot that they happily voted for the Iraq War, so they are both culpable for increasing the terror risk in this country and for trampling the human rights of Iraqi civilians.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
There is simply no need to keep someone locked up for six weeks without telling them what they are accused of. Think of it happening to you or one of your friends or family. Imagine the despair and the fear. Imagine losing six weeks of your life on just a suspicion. Remember that our security services frequently make mistakes - look at the shooting of an innocent man at Stockwell tube station. The press has covered a number of terror convictions in recent weeks, but we don't hear about the many individuals released without charge because the suspicions were unfounded or just plain wrong.
No-one seemed to want 42 days except the Labour party. Security services and the legal system have not seemed particularly keen. I am a member of Liberty and have fully backed their campaign to reduce the detention limit and to oppose 42 days at all costs. The Lib Dems have fought it all the way too - joined this time by our fairweather allies, the Tories, who keep flip-flopping on the issue. I am proud that my MP (Stephen Williams) voted against last night.
The Labour Government still also has many questions to answer about its complicity in various
aspects of the War Against Terror (TM), including the use of torture and evidence gained under torture. I am reading Craig Murray's book at the moment about the failure of Jack Straw and his chums to address gross human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, ostensibly because they were allowing the US to use their airbases.
It reminds me of all the reasons I stopped supporting Labour in 2001 and joined the Liberal Democrats. Brown's government, like Blair's before it, is controlling, centrist, authoritarian, invasive and has scant respect for human rights and civil liberties here or abroad.
"Magna Carta... did she die in vain?"
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
The basic idea is that pretty much all buildings can reduce their energy needs by building in features like solar paneling, heat transfer pumps, biomass boilers and so forth. Many councils are already requiring 10-20% of energy needs to be met in this way. The innovation I am proposing is that where the developer can prove that they can't do this for scientific reasons, they can pay an amount of money which the Council will hold in order to fund renewable energy projects elsewhere in the city. This would give Bristol one of the strongest Merton Rules in the country.
I have been trying to get this adopted since autumn 2007, but through a combination of events and filibustering, it hasn't yet been decided upon. In previous meetings, the Conservatives have attempted to water it down and I expect that they will try this again tonight. I hope they don't as the policy would be a big step forward in cutting the city's carbon footprint over the next generation.
You can see my speech to Full Council on the Merton Rule in the clip below. The reason for the amusement at the beginning is that the motion has fallen off the agenda due to lack of time on five occasions and this time we were finally going to make it!
I have been pressing for a greater commitment to sustainability in the new building. There are already some good features built in (e.g. biomass boiler, natural ventilation) and the plans are provisionally rated as Very Good on the BREEAM scale. However, there is great scope on the site for other technologies like rainwater harvesting, solar paneling and green roofing. In particular, as a south-facing site, there should be good opportunities to capture meaningful amounts of solar energy to reduce the school's running costs. I am pushing for an Excellent rating.
There are also a number of community concerns to iron out with the plans, especially about use of buildings and access for pupils. I have been promised that there will be a second round of consultation with local residents before the plans are submitted, addressing the concerns aired in the first stage a couple of months ago.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
I annoyed a lot of my friends at the last US election when playing that thought-game of "if I was American, who would I vote for?". Somewhat predictably, most of my friends said John Kerry, but I stuck out for Ralph Nader, whose politics are probably the closest to mine among Americans. But this year I'm back with the Democrats!!
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
I am already getting a nice steady stream of responses back about whether people think there is a real problem and what measures (e.g. speed humps, road closures, better signage) might be used to combat them. I don't have any fixed view at the moment, but it's obviously useful to get thoughts first hand from the people who live on those streets before I investigate what options might be available.
I would welcome any thoughts that readers might have...
Monday, 2 June 2008
I'm doing my bit by making a statement on Thursday to the Sustainable Development & Transport Scrutiny Commission, calling on the Council to institute either kerbside collection or local drop-off points for low energy light bulbs (including fluorescent tubes). I have calculated that around 1kg of toxic mercury is going into landfill each year from Bristol alone at the moment, yet this can be safely captured from dead bulbs and recycled.
At the moment, you can only recycle low energy bulbs at the St Philips and Avonmouth Household Recycling Centres, but I'm not going to make a special trip. I'm saving mine up until I have to go for another reason.
My position on this issue has always been that I am glad that radical options are now being considered to address Bristol's transport problems after decades of neglect. However, it should have been obvious at a very early stage that you couldn't have buses, cyclists and pedestrians using the Path at the same time.
This is why the Lib Dems voted to axe the plans altogether and protect the Path back in April. Sadly, Labour and their Conservative allies voted together to keep the door open. I just hope now that the door has now been bolted shut for good.