Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mixed Messages

There's two ways of viewing government, regardless of whether you're looking at Federal, Provincial or Municipal versions of it:
1. It's a circus platform of elections, terms, and people scrambling to climb the political ladder of success.
2. It's a framework to support the societal needs of it's citizens.

I look at governments through the latter of these two lenses.  The needs of western society generally remains the same, regardless of whether you're looking at the 1970s, now, or in 2200 AD.  They are:
* Health
* Security
* Wealth
* Happiness

Breaking things down, government becomes a big machine with individual departments servicing the various needs of it's people.  When you look at it this way, it doesn't actually matter who the Prime Minister is, or who the Mayor is, or who the President is.  They come and go, but the underlying services remain in place.  (Disclaimer: I'm a Canadian Permanent Residence, but a British Citizen - so I still vote in the UK, not Canada).

You'd think by now that, especially at the municipal level, we'd have clear communication down pat.  Apparently, this is not so.

In Toronto, we have a system during the summer to communicate heat alerts to the public.  These are:
* Heat Alert
* Extreme Heat Alert

What happens is when we have what our grandparents would have called "a hot day" is the Heat Alert is issued.  The media goes into a frenzy telling the public that today the city has declared a heat alert, and then absolutely bugger-all happens.  Zip. Nada.  No extension to swimming pools, no places with air conditioning is opened to the public, etc.  Back in government, things are being evaluated with community partners, but that's not really a public thing - so the media continues to whip up the news about the alert whilst nothing observable has actually happened.

So what is the point of telling the public there's a heat alert?  In short, there is no point - other than to give news fodder to the media.

When an Extreme Heat Alert is issued, this is the point when stuff actually happens.  People can now get relief from a variety of sources, like pools, libraries, cooling centres, etc, which are opened up to help people from the oppressive effects of a really hot day.

This is the only time the public needs to know there is an alert.  A standard hot day that generates no relief to the public is just another hot day.  However, when there's a really hot day that forces the government to do something in reaction, well, that's when we should see a Heat Alert. 

For those inclined to read the City plan on heat alerts, you can find it here at the City website.

Today, I noted something else:  Most sane people are fully aware that giving animals at Christmas time is a generally accepted "bad idea".  We've all heard the "A pet is for life, not just for Christmas".  We've all heard from the animal shelters that get overwhelmed in the new year by rejected gift puppies and kittens.  The media regularly puts out articles to discourage this practice, too.

And so it's with this backdrop of a message that the City of Toronto put out this:

Seriously? What is the intended message here?

The city should try to NOT encourage people to grab a pet in the run-up to Christmas, but do any adoption drives in the new year when the other idiots that didn't get the message start returning unwanted gifts.

Whilst the elected officials come and go with their messages of "change" and "society", the people that remain should work out what the real message is…