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  • Candidate Brent Schaffrick

    This thread is to ask questions of Candidate Brent Schaffrick – Councillor Ward 11.

    All members are asked to allow the Candidate to post first in his or her thread. This is to allow the Candidate ample opportunity to introduce their background, platform, and any other information they may feel is pertinent to this discussion.

    All decorum expected of members in the C2E Ask Forums will be expected here. An addendum is that posters may ask as many questions as they wish, but they are also politely asked to follow any instructions on posting or reply timelines that the Candidate expresses.

    Thank you to all for participating in the 2010 Connect2Edmonton Election Forum!
    Ow

  • #2
    Long Post to Start

    This is the mostly full text of the speech I would have liked to give at the forum tonight:


    My name is Brent Schaffrick, and I decided to run for City Councilor because I am upset with the way our current Municipal Government is dealing with many of the major issues facing Edmonton today.


    Specifically, I dislike the minimization of the democratic process with the fate of the Municipal Airport; I am upset with the City's selling off public utilities in exchange for short term profits, at the long term expense of our city, and on a similar line, I am also upset with the use of private third party police services to “enforce law and increase safety.”



    First, I disagree with the current City Council's decision to not hold a plebiscite on the fate of the Municipal Airport. I believe that one of the major goals of all democratic governments should be to maximize the amount of public participation.

    I am a believer in True Democracy. I believe in the “Wisdom of the Crowd” and I have read many case studies demonstrating that group wisdom is far superior to any single expert or group of experts. For a good history of the subject, look up writer James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds). For a modern example, consider the game show “Who wants to be a millionaire?” In that game show, contestants are asked a question and given four choices as to the possible answer. They are also given “lifelines”. They can call an expert, ask the crowd, or have two of the 4 choices removed. Over time, the experts have been right 65%, but the crowd, comprised of ordinary people that have nothing better to do on an afternoon than sit in a studio audience, that crowd has been right 91% of the time!

    What seems to happen is this: The people that don't know the answer evenly split themselves between the wrong answers, canceling out their votes, and the few that know the right answer are enough to sway the crowd vote to be the correct one! Now I do not say that groups of people are better at everything, certainly situations that call for creativity, organizing or planning, are certainly better done by individual experts (imagine a committee trying to write music or a movie script!); but the wisdom of the crowd has been demonstrated to be superior to an expert or group of experts at making choice based decisions.

    There are four conditions that must be held in order for the crowd to come up with the optimal solution. The crowd must be diverse, independent, decentralized, and aggregation must be possible. That is, the more diversity, the more uniquely different perspectives, the more likely the correct answer will be presented. However, independence between members of the crowd is necessary, or the crowd is likely to move from the optimal solution to a non-optimal compromise solution. Also, if the crowd is getting all their information from one centralized source, instead of being able to specialize and draw on their own local expertise, the answer is less likely to be the best choice. Finally, there must be a way to aggregate, or sort the crowds answers.



    Now I would like to look at the recent history of the Municipal in view of the wisdom of the crowd. I am aware there have already been two plebiscites on the Airport Issue already, one in 1992 and a second in 1995. Here is my take on how they went:



    In the early nineties, our economy hit a slump, and as a result, air traffic, which most people see as a luxury, decreased. Rather than point to the economy at large as a cause, the International Airport Authority blamed their losses on competition from the Municipal Airport, and asked the city to force all major passenger traffic to use the International. They city held a plebiscite, and the Citizens of Edmonton voted against moving air traffic away from the Municipal Airport, which was still turning a profit. This was proper use of the democratic process and a good example of the wisdom of the crowd.

    As the economic slump continued, the International Airport Authority continued to lose more money, and lobbied City Council to reopen the movement of passenger traffic issue. City Council agreed, and a second plebiscite was held, and this one was in favor of moving traffic to the International. However, I recall reading that during this plebiscite the International Authority's marketing campaign outspent the Municipal's marketing by a ratio of 3:1. In my opinion, the final result of this plebiscite simply demonstrated that the people of Edmonton can be swayed by mass media, and this result demonstrates to me that the wisdom of the crowd can be diverted from the right answer with mass media manipulation. Remember that the crowd needs diversity, independence, decentralization and aggregation, and a media blitz campaign can remove almost all of the diversity, independence and decentralization of the individuals thought processes.



    Now City Council has moved to completely close the Municipal Airport, and has done so without a direct say by the Citizens of Edmonton. I believe that a plebiscite should be held, and furthermore, to minimize the influence of special interests, and to enable the proper use of the wisdom of the crowd, any entity that is not a voting citizen that chooses to lobby for either side should have to register with the City, and the total dollars spent by non-citizen entities should be capped at a fair amount. Additionally, no individual voting citizen should be allowed to spend more than $5000 campaigning for either side. Following this approach would allow Edmonton's Citizens the chance to hear both sides of the arguments, and then make the wisest decision of what to do, without allowing vested interests with deep pockets an undue amount of influence.



    Secondly, I wish to stop the privatization of Utilities such as Epcor, as I do not see how this will benefit Edmontonians in the long run; and I can readily imagine how placing a private corporation in charge of the local water, power, and sewer monopoly will result in massively increased services charges to everyone that lives in our city. If I am chosen to represent the citizens of Ward 11, I will vote against every change that brings privatization to a non-competitive public utility.



    Finally, I am also upset with the use of private third party police services to “enforce law and increase safety.” The current City Council has stated that photo-radar and red light Cameras, as delivered by third party corporations, is a cost-effective manner of increasing road safety. I feel this system is a “cash cow” and that this is the first step down a long, costly road that has led many American cities to financial ruin.


    Now, why do I believe this is bad? The goal of every corporation is to maximize profit. One of the best ways to increase profit is to increase the scope of your corporation’s business activities. To that end, as a manager or CEO, you should be spending part of your corporations revenue to lobby the government to increase your companies areas of responsibility; and even though your corporate revenue will increase, you need to point out to the government that giving your corporation more latitude will increase their general revenues as well. As as example of how things can go wrong, currently in California, the government is trying to add the following “distracting activities” to their photo-radar legislation:
    Using a cell-phone, hands-free or not; Using a personal electronic device; Adjusting the radio; Smoking; Eating; Drinking; Interacting with children, animals, or passengers; Performing personal grooming; Reading or writing

    If this bill becomes law, there will be nine additional arbitrary excuses to ticket and extort money from motorists, and the corporations that benefit from the third party policing services they provide will have an even larger revenue base to lobby the government for more changes in their favor.


    As a counter example, a report from the Texas Transportation Institute is the result of a three year study of 181 intersections using police reports in three Texas cities, that showed the best way to increase intersection safety was to increase the length of yellow lights by one second. This small change decreased accidents by 40 percent and violations by 53 percent. Of course, this also means that corporate revenues from red light cameras in those districts dropped by over 50% as well. Here in Edmonton, in order to increase safety of our traffic intersections, I believe we should be increasing yellow light times by 2 seconds; unlike Texas, we have a thing called “black ice” that dramatically influences stopping distances for six to seven months of the year.


    As a general rule, I believe that the people of Edmonton should be taxed transparently, fairly, and justly. Any type of “hidden” or secondary taxes such as the revenues from third party police services simply increase the amount of distrust and disillusionment that citizens have of their governments.


    I graduated with Distinction with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta. I believe this is an excellent educational background to understand the proper role of corporations in our society, and I believe that we as a people are following the poor American example of allowing corporations to gain an unhealthy amount of influence and control over the political processes in our society. If I am chosen to represent the citizens of Ward 11, I will use the knowledge I have learned in University and life to try and make our city a better place to live in the long term, by limiting undue corporate influence.


    The question most often asked of new political candidates is this: “You sound trustworthy now, but if we elect you to represent us, how do we know that you will not be influenced by money to betray our best interests?”


    I spent twelve years in the Canadian Forces Primary Naval Reserves, doing a combination of part time and full time service to pay my way through University. The culture of the Canadian Navy is one that includes the regular consumption of alcohol. When I arrived on board my first ship, HMCS Terra Nova, I spent several weeks watching and talking to the other crewmen. I found that many of the long term sailors, some with up to twenty years of service, chose to spend their entire monthly wage on booze, and had no real assets to show for all their time in service. Not everyone on the ship followed this path, but enough did to give me pause to consider.


    In general, I choose to dedicate myself to any undertaking I do with all my body, mind, and soul. I feel this is an excellent way to reach the top in whatever activity I do. That said, I felt my normal approach would not go well with the consumption of alcohol, and I therefore made the decision not to consume at all. I can tell you right now that I had many occasions where others attempted to use peer pressure to influence me to change my mind. In all my years of service, I never faltered, and even today, I still choose not to drink.


    I see nothing wrong with the responsible consumption of alcohol, and I have read studies done in France showing that the daily consumption of a glass or two of wine can have significant long term health benefits. That said, there is still no proof that the French method is better than not drinking at all, and therefore, I still choose to stand by the decision I made long ago.


    To be a politician that is able to resist Corporate lobbying efforts takes a lot of willpower. I believe I have the will necessary to walk this path.


    In concluding, I want to thank you again for taking the time to consider me as a nominee for the position of City Councillor for Ward 11. My desire is to represent you, as a citizen of Edmonton, and my vote on City Council will always be for the greater long term welfare of our Ward and our City; and I will always choose to use the wisdom of the crowd and the democratic process ahead of the opinions of both experts and those with vested interests. I believe I have the qualifications necessary to make a positive difference in the choices our city is faced with in the future, and I look forward to the opportunities in City Council sessions to promote transparency and justice in our society over short term corporate profits.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have more information on some of the issues on my website, and I have a few more things that I want to discuss on my website, especially since I was pretty vocal at tonight's forum. I will try to add the section on crime tomorrow, and I will post that addition when I do.

      Comment


      • #4
        Brent,

        I note your website states that all major civic issues should, eventually, be decided directly, via the internet, by Edmontonians. Perhaps you would be kind enough to detail what qualifies as a major issue (e.g. Is the yearly budget a major issue? Would Edmontonians get to vote up and down on the thousands of individual items making up the budget?)?

        Do you think direct democracy, as you propose it, is just as susceptible to manipulation, if not more so, than you believe representative democracy to be?

        Comment


        • #5
          I have not read "The Wisdom of the Crowds" but using a crowd created source, Wikipedia, I find that there are several instances where Wisdom of the Crowd will failure, like:

          Emotionality Emotional factors, such as a feeling of belonging, can lead to peer pressure, herd instinct, and in extreme cases collective hysteria.

          An issue like the City Centre Airport with Envision Edmonton trying to play up the emotional aspects such as medivac or 'those greedy rich developers' sounds like it could end in failure for the Wisdom of the Crowd. How do you think you're going to stop groups from raising these issues? With what capacity can you tell groups such as Envision Edmonton that they cannot say, speak to the media instead of council, on this issue?

          I would like to think the reason we elect council members is to make rational decisions based on the information presented to them that includes both short and long term consequences with nonfactual opinions taken out of the equation. The "crowd" in Edmonton isn't paid to listen to all sides of the argument and is often dependent on media sources for information and if you listen/read/watch one day and not the other, you may ever only get one side of the argument and then people tend to form their opinion based on those they trust (including the media) and all of a sudden you lose you're "Diversity of opinion" and "Independence" from The Wisdom of the Crowds.

          In fact, in politics, with the "major issues" City Council will face, I'd say that trying to utilize "The Wisdom of the Crowds" will result in short-sighted, emotional responses that would not necessarily be based on any real facts.

          With regards to your comment "Now City Council has moved to completely close the Municipal Airport, and has done so without a direct say by the Citizens of Edmonton. "

          I think you think that there were no public debates and there wasn't an external consultant hired to get the public even more involved.

          So my question is, do you really think 'Wisdom of the Crowd' is a smart approach for the fate of the City of Edmonton?

          Comment


          • #6
            I too would like to know your definition of major issues that citizens of Edmonton would vote on.

            On another note, what is your stance on the LRT to millwoods and LRT around the city?
            LRT is our future, time to push forward.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mick View Post
              Brent,

              I note your website states that all major civic issues should, eventually, be decided directly, via the internet, by Edmontonians. Perhaps you would be kind enough to detail what qualifies as a major issue (e.g. Is the yearly budget a major issue? Would Edmontonians get to vote up and down on the thousands of individual items making up the budget?)?

              Do you think direct democracy, as you propose it, is just as susceptible to manipulation, if not more so, than you believe representative democracy to be?

              Yes, I believe the budget is a major issue. I also believe the citizens of Edmonton should have the opportunity to point out what they feel are poor choices made by their representatives. I would like to be able to post an ongoing summary of the decisions I help make in City Council, along with voting box that allows our citizens to choose from “I agree with this decision, I disagree with this decision, I would have done a third alternative.”


              As a general rule, I feel the citizens of Edmonton are, for the most part, satisfied with the current level of services provided by the City, in exchange for the level of taxation they pay. Of course, everyone would like lower taxes, but when I have discussed the issue with residents, so far everyone agrees they do not want service cuts; however they do not want any additional services (and the taxes needed to allow those services) unless they are consulted beforehand and specifically agree that the new service should be added.


              For your second question, no, I feel individual humans are far more susceptible to influence peddling than large groups are. From watching American Politics where pretty much all of their politicians are “lobbied” to support whatever policy of the group that has the most money, I have seen even well intentioned people fall to greed. It is far harder to “lobby” large groups, and the larger the group, the more difficult it is.


              I agree the MSM (main stream media) manipulation of news reporting is a issue. I have also seen how the Government can use the MSM to spread lies and misinformation through society (Weapons on Mass Destruction anyone?). However, individuals are just as likely to be misled as groups. If I could, I would limit the maximum size of news “reporting” organizations, in order to ensure there were enough different news organizations to give the population all of the different viewpoints on a particular issue.


              Luckily for me, it seems the general population feels the same way I do, and the MSM has slowly been losing followers, as internet news bloggers gain followers. I hope this trend continues, and the independence and diversity of opinion the internet makes possible is fully realized.

              Comment


              • #8
                23 Sept, 5-8pm, come talk to me in person!

                I will have a table set up at the Millwoods Rec Center Farmer's Market this evening from 5pm to 8pm. (Millwoods Rec Center/Percy Page Parking Lot). I will have a table set up, and copies of my current issues stance paper there (most of it was posted above).

                I would like take this opportunity to extend an invitation to the C2E readers to come by, say hi, and discuss policy with me

                Comment


                • #9
                  Brent,

                  Thanks for the response but I note that you didn't define "major issues", which in your mind demand direct democracy; could you please do so?

                  In addition, can you plead list those services that qualify as core services?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Crime

                    My view on crime is up on my website. Here is a repost:

                    Get Tough on Repeat Offenders

                    My view on crime is not politically correct, nor can we implement the following at a Municipal level. This is how I feel, and I have no qualms about making my point of view known to politicians at the provincial and federal levels.

                    I believe the is an old saying crime is caused by criminals. In Canada, 15 percent of offenders are committing 50 to 60 percent of the crime: (http://justice.alberta.ca/programs_s...Safe_v3_sm.pdf page 21).

                    I believe that the best way to deal with people that commit crimes over and over is to lock them up.

                    In California, the tough three strikes you're out law dropped crime by an amazing 32.7% during the first 5 years the law was put in place, while the rest of the Country had an average crime rate drop over the same period of only 13%. Here is a link to the FBI report:

                    http://www.threestrikes.org/fbi_crimerates_pg1.html

                    I believe that Canadians on the whole are kinder and more compassionate than our American neighbors, but we still need to do something to cut back on the amount of repeat offenders. I propose a 4 strikes you're out version of the law. If you get convicted of committing a indictable offence (an indictable offence serious enough to grant you right to trial by jury) on 4 separate occasions, you go to jail for 20 years minimum, with no chance of parole. This will allow us to lock up habitual criminals, and free up police resources to respond to other problems in a more timely manner.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No one identified themselves as coming from C2E this evening at the Farmer's Market

                      Talked to lots of other community people though, and had some interesting discussions. I will try to post again tomorrow evening.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        ^Two hours notice is a little slim.

                        Regarding your earlier statement indicating that you believe the annual budget to be sufficiently major to call for a public vote, what percentage of voters would you expect at a minimum to validate the budget? How would voting work - would you apply a single binary question to the budget? What would happen if voter turnout did not meet your validating minimum?
                        "A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines." - Frank Lloyd Wright

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          ^ For that matter, what if Edmontonians couldn't ever agree on a budget? Would our city just come to a halt until the next election?
                          Strathcona City Separatist

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Brent Schaffrick View Post
                            ...
                            First, I disagree with the current City Council's decision to not hold a plebiscite on the fate of the Municipal Airport. I believe that one of the major goals of all democratic governments should be to maximize the amount of public participation.
                            ...
                            There are four conditions that must be held in order for the crowd to come up with the optimal solution. The crowd must be diverse, independent, decentralized, and aggregation must be possible. That is, the more diversity, the more uniquely different perspectives, the more likely the correct answer will be presented. However, independence between members of the crowd is necessary, or the crowd is likely to move from the optimal solution to a non-optimal compromise solution. Also, if the crowd is getting all their information from one centralized source, instead of being able to specialize and draw on their own local expertise, the answer is less likely to be the best choice. Finally, there must be a way to aggregate, or sort the crowds answers.
                            ...
                            even if one were to agree with your premise regarding the wisdom of crowds, the four conditions you note would not have been with a plebiscite even if the legal requirements for a petition calling for one had been met.

                            you are presuming that those that might vote are in fact more diverse than the representative they have democratically elected to council to represent them whiloe looking at our actual council members, it might be easier to make the case that they are a more diverse group in their representation than voters as a whole.

                            you are presuming that councillors either individually or as a group are not as independent as voters either individually or as a group.

                            you are presuming that after all of the public hearings and support and years of actually researching and reading all of the information and reports availabe to them that our council members were less reliant on single source information than those that signed plebiscites in the midst of a $500,000 advertising and promotion campaign from a vested party.

                            you are ignoring the fact that council voting is aggregated instantly and electronically.

                            finally, you fail to define the numbers required to constitute a crowd. based on the old saw that "two is company, three is a crowd", 13 council members could comfortable be considered a crowd. so even by your own theory - if it is credible - our crowd of councillors already arrived at the correct and wise decision not once but twice and for hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars less than the cost of a plebiscite.

                            so to comply with the forum requirement to pose questions, would you agree that 13 is a crowd? or would you agree with the legal requirements of a crowd as being that number defined by the municipal government act and to which those 13 were legally obligated to respect? and if it is some amorphous number in between, how would we ever be able to govern without being second guessed to a stand still by some number of people that might be considered a crowd - or might not?
                            Last edited by kcantor; 24-09-2010, 07:01 PM.
                            "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Channing View Post
                              I have not read "The Wisdom of the Crowds" but using a crowd created source, Wikipedia, I find that there are several instances where Wisdom of the Crowd will failure, like:

                              Emotionality Emotional factors, such as a feeling of belonging, can lead to peer pressure, herd instinct, and in extreme cases collective hysteria.

                              An issue like the City Centre Airport with Envision Edmonton trying to play up the emotional aspects such as medivac or 'those greedy rich developers' sounds like it could end in failure for the Wisdom of the Crowd. How do you think you're going to stop groups from raising these issues? With what capacity can you tell groups such as Envision Edmonton that they cannot say, speak to the media instead of council, on this issue?
                              City council has been able to pass bylaws limiting the amount of money each candidate for council may spend on his/her own behalf during election periods. I see no reason these bylaws cannot be extended to include plebiscites.

                              Originally posted by Channing View Post
                              I would like to think the reason we elect council members is to make rational decisions based on the information presented to them that includes both short and long term consequences with nonfactual opinions taken out of the equation. The "crowd" in Edmonton isn't paid to listen to all sides of the argument and is often dependent on media sources for information and if you listen/read/watch one day and not the other, you may ever only get one side of the argument and then people tend to form their opinion based on those they trust (including the media) and all of a sudden you lose you're "Diversity of opinion" and "Independence" from The Wisdom of the Crowds.

                              In fact, in politics, with the "major issues" City Council will face, I'd say that trying to utilize "The Wisdom of the Crowds" will result in short-sighted, emotional responses that would not necessarily be based on any real facts.

                              With regards to your comment "Now City Council has moved to completely close the Municipal Airport, and has done so without a direct say by the Citizens of Edmonton. "

                              I think you think that there were no public debates and there wasn't an external consultant hired to get the public even more involved.

                              So my question is, do you really think 'Wisdom of the Crowd' is a smart approach for the fate of the City of Edmonton?
                              All I am getting from reading this is that you do not approve of my desire to consult the residents of Ward 11. So, yes, I believe that as a group, the residents of Ward 11 have more combined brainpower than I do as an individual.

                              Comment

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