Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2013 :-)

Right, I'm going to have a bit of a break from 'the blog/facebook/twitter' over the next couple of weeks ... normal service will be resumed around Monday 7th January ;-)

I am in Edinburgh over the next week, but hoping to re-acquaint myself with the family!

My work e-mails are being read by staff, so if you need to get in touch urgently then that's the best way to do so. I am also available on the mobile if its a real emergency ...

... but from 28th December through to 2nd January I'm up North and likely to have absolutely no signal I'm afraid, so the work e-mail address really will be the best bet:

Hope everyone has a Happy Christmas and very Best Wishes for 2013 :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Hillside" by Lara Greene

13-years a Councillor and today was my first-ever, sculpture-unveiling experience :-)

Was very pleased to be asked, as Council Leader, to unveil Lara Greene's new sculpture at the 'Happy Valley' shopping parade on behalf of Craiglockhart Community Council.

Here are Lara and I, next to the sculpture: "Hillside".

I'd highly recommend a visit to see the sculpture close-up ... its galvanised steel with brass plates, which contain background information --- and a Wilfred Owen poem, "Spring Offensive", on the plates you can see in the picture here.

And that's Owen on top of the Hillside, above my head!

Information on Wilfred Own - and his connection with Craiglockhart, here - and the text of "Spring Offensive", here.

I really like this piece of public art - it'll get loads of local folk talking about it, and hopefully its meaning: great :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Magical Meadows

There was something really, rather magical about The Meadows as I cycled to work this morning ...

... couldn't resist pulling over and taking a picture: you can click on it for a larger/clearer image.

I'll try and keep this view in mind, as I now sit through a day-long series of meetings ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hobbit-mania ;-)

Actually managed to find a few 'family-hours' yesterday and took Junior to see the new Hobbit film ...

... close friends will know, I am a bit of a Tolkien-fan: but even so, and trying to put my bias aside, I simply can't understand some of the negative reviews the film has had?

We all thought it was simply fantastic, and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to highly recommend it ;-)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cycling boost for Edinburgh with new dedicated bike route?

The Council officially opened the "Quality" Bike Corridor, which runs from the King's Buildings Campus in South Edinburgh to George IV Bridge in the city centre, in the middle of last month ... details in the News Release here.

I caused a bit of a twitter-storm, when in response to some fairly robust criticism of the new route, I tweeted that I thought it was "at least a step in the right direction" :-(

Needless to say, I was challenged to cycle the route and find out for myself the error of my assertions!

So - at the end of last week I did just that and, in the company of a few of my on-line critics, cycled the route from Kings Buildings to the City Chambers.

Now - I'm probably about to start another twitter-storm, but I may as well be frank with my assessment of what I found on the ground ... so to speak!

Three problems did stand out:

  •  the 'chipped' surfacing on most of the route just isn't as clear/visible (particularly for drivers, never mind cyclists) as the more regularly-used red-paint for cycle-lanes in Edinburgh ... was especially evident (or not) as I cycled the route in relatively poor light around 8.30am on Friday.
  • a large section of the route is within a 20mph zone, but the signage is not as clear as it could be, and most car traffic (the morning I cycled anyhow) was clearly travelling a lot faster. Better signage could help - as a driver (as well as a cyclist), I'd respond positively to that - but more enforcement is clearly also needed.
  • some detail is pretty disappointing ... broken lane, when it need not be; some poor demarcation-lines, when they need not be; and some kerbs and other small infrastructure could be much better.

Overall though, I reckon the big mistake we made as a Council (and that's ultimately my responsibility) was to 'over-claim' just what's been implemented along this corridor: its a cycle-lane, and I can see now why my twitter comments led to such a storm of response.

So - thanks to my critics for cycling with me.

I'll pursue the points above - to see if they can be improved on ... and I've already reflected carefully on just how these developments are publicly promoted.

As ever, I'd welcome any further (constructive!) feedback?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, here in the real world ...

I suspect, like many, I've been thinking about Newtown in the States ...

... I'm reminded of Roy Orbison's words from his 1989 song "In The Real World" - you can hear the song here; lyrics as follow:


"In The Real World"

In dreams we do so many things
We set aside the rules we know
And fly above the world so high
In great and shining rings

If only we could always live in dreams
If only we could make of life
What, in dreams, it seems

But in the real world
We must say real goodbyes
No matter if the love will live
It will never die

In the real world
There are things that we can't change
And endings come to us
In ways that we can't rearrange

I love you, and you love me
But sometimes we must let it be
In the real world
In the real world

When we were dreaming heart to heart
I wish that we had stayed right there
For when the dreamers do awake
The dreams do disappear

If only we could always live in dreams
If only we could make of life
What, in dreams, it seems

In the real world
There are things that we can't change
And endings come to us
In ways that we can't rearrange

I love you, and you love me
But sometimes we must let it be
In the real world
In the real world


Friday, December 14, 2012

Council debate on Castlebrae Community High School

The Council Meeting was somewhat dominated by the debate on Castlebrae High School - and rightly so; its an important, ongoing topic which will come back to Full Council on Thursday 14th March 2013 for further decision.

I spent a few more minutes than normal in seconding my SNP Colleague, Councillor David Key, who moved an Amendment on behalf of the Labour/SNP Coalition.

This was all in response to a Green Motion, which the Lord Provost accepted was an emergency issue.

My full speech can be found here ...

... and, as you'll hear, I promised to put all the documentation into the public domain - thus the list of links that follows (they are all chronologically referenced in my speech):
  1. the July 2012 letter to the Scottish Government
  2. the July 2012 'Schools for the Future' submission to the Scottish Government (see pages 31-34)
  3. the September 2012 letter from the Scottish Government/COSLA
  4. the October 2012 response, from the Council, to the above letter
  5. the 25th November 2012 list of projects from the Scottish Government
  6. the 29th November 2012 PowerPoint presentation to the Finance Committee
  7. the 5th December 2012 Scottish Government news release following the Autumn Statement
If you're interested, probably best to listen to the speech to make sense of these various documents and their context.

I sincerely hope the open publication of all this purely factual information helps the debate over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Full Council Meeting tomorrow

As mentioned earlier, its Full Council Meeting tomorrow ... the very last of 2012!

The individual reports can all be accessed via here and here.

And - of course - all the proceedings will be webcast live from 10am, link available here: go on, you know you want to ;-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hutchison Community Centre Christmas Party

Managed an hour at the Hutchison Community Centre Christmas Party this afternoon ... good turnout for such a freezing cold day.

And guess who won the hamper in the raffle - yes, despite my repeated requests to return it so it could be drawn again; I was told I 'had' to take it!

So, I very reluctantly did :-)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Weekend escape

Managed to escape Auld Reekie for a couple of days over the weekend ... for some pre-Christmas rest-and-recuperation ;-)

Didn't go far mind you - just along the A899 to Houston House at Uphall ... but it feels much more remote from Edinburgh than it really is!

Anyhow, now rested and ready for a very busy week ahead: including Full Council on Thursday (as mentioned earlier) and a host of other meetings and visits.

Friday, December 07, 2012

December Leader's Report

December's Full Council Meeting papers now out - they can all be accessed via here and here ...
... and Decembers Leader's Report is reproduced below:

December 2012

Heartfelt apology
You may have seen coverage in the media around historic practices at Mortonhall Crematorium. I wish to add my heartfelt apology to all those families affected. You can read our public statement on our website.
Since May 2011 Mortonhall Crematorium has offered families the ashes of their babies. The previous practice of not offering ashes and burying them in the Garden of Remembrance has only just come to light following discussions with the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS). A full investigation is taking place into the historic practices at the crematorium which will establish the facts of this tragic situation. We will continue to work with Sands to help those families who have been affected.
If you or anyone you know have been affected by this and wish to talk with Mortonhall staff about it, please contact our dedicated phone line on 0131 200 2383 or fill in the online form on the Council's website.


First public petition heard

As promised in May this year, the Capital Coalition established a public Petitions Committee where Edinburgh citizens can call for action. The first one was held this month and heard a petition calling for improved public transport in Kirkliston and South Queensferry. You can watch this online. Although this petition received 785 signatures, you only need 500 to get heard or 20 if you are a business.

I think it is fair to say that th
e petitioners were happy with both the discussion and the decision to call for a detailed report on all the issues (including population projections) to the Transport and Environment Committee in March 2013, where decisions will be made on how transport can be improved in the area.

I would encourage you to consider using this new way to get things done.


Budget consultation

I’ve highlighted already that we plan to improve the way we manage the finances of the Council. By publishing the Council's draft budget in advance for the first time you can have your say in the online survey. I hope you agree that this shows our commitment to openness and a real willingness to listen to your views.
Setting this budget is going to be a real challenge - we have less money to spend, but there is more demand for some of our most vital services. It helps us to know what you think about our various options and ideas. You can also send us your comments and suggestions by e-mailing us or following the conversation on Twitter using #edinbudget.


Moving in the right direction - trams update

Testing of the tram system between Gogar Depot and Edinburgh Airport (section B) began on Monday 26 November. This test phase will run until March 2013, at which point section B of the route will be handed over to the Council by the contractor.

Princes Street has now reopened to buses, taxis and bicycles between North Bridge and South St David Street, helping to reduce city centre congestion during the busy festive period. Bus stops that were removed during the construction work are due to be reinstated in the coming weeks.
You can now see tram tracks, overhead lines and other visible progress across the city. This demonstrates the results of a tighter management regime.


Brand new public library opened

I was delighted to see the opening of the new East Neighbourhood Office and Craigmillar Library to the public at the end of November which ties in nicely to our Capital Coalition Pledge to continue to develop the diversity of services provided by our libraries. The new library will be managed by the Council’s award winning library service that recently, due to demand from local authorities across the UK, organised a seminar on how they manage, develop and deliver library services in Edinburgh.


Be prepared for severe weather

Although last winter was quite mild, winter 2010/2011 saw some of the worst weather Edinburgh has experienced in almost 50 years. You can be prepared for whatever winter brings us by having your heating system checked, stocking up on salt from your local DIY shop, getting a good strong snow shovel, having some food stocks, talking to family and friends about childcare, reviewing your travel plans and getting your car a winter health check.
The information on service disruption, gritting routes and school closures during severe weather has been greatly improved and you can now check the location of your nearest salt bin and gritting routes on an interactive map.


Be in the picture

This is one of the best times of year in Edinburgh when you can really enjoy the whole winter experience, our Christmas programme as well as our fantastic Edinburgh’s Hogmanay events. Have fun, be safe and have a very merry Christmas.
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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Birthday pizza-party, Dancing, Bridges & Allotment

Junior is 15-years old on Monday - can't believe it ... so this weekend has been a full-on set of Birthday celebrations :-)

Started with a 'pizza-party' yesterday, from which the flat has just about survived ...

... followed by another superb Dani Harmer performance during Strictly Come Dancing - how can she possibly lose?

Then today a family-visit to South Queensferry, with some truly stunning views of the famous Bridges ...

... followed by a brief, ice-breaking sojourn to the Allotment.

Rail Bridge pictured to the left here and Allotment-frost depicted below.

Back to some semblance of normality tomorrow. Boo :-(