Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book 5 of 2010

AS I was travelling at the beginning of the week I wanted light "fluffy" reading.  So when I saw this I decided to take a chance on it.  And good thing too since the seatback TVs on my flights home were down for system upgrades.

It is a piece of fluff.  But it raises some interesting questions (amidst the gunfights and the hunting for people and the killing) about what it would mean to triple our lifespan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Housing...

This story broke yesterday.  In order to avoid a housing bubble and people getting mortgages they can not afford (especially should interest rates go up) the rules have changed.  Interestingly they did not raise the minimum down payment from 5% to 10% (on new purchases--they did for a 2nd mortgage) or decrease the maximum term from 35 years.  ISTM that both of those would be better tools to help ensure people don't over-extend themselves.  OTOH, I like the rules around people buying investment properties -- that will help keep prices more reasonable (well that ship has sailed, keep them from getting less reasonable).

I also note that there are some strange comments being made on the story (hardly unusual I know).  SOme don't seem to understand what the rule changes are.  SOme seem convinced that this is only to help the rich and the banks.  ANd some are operating under some strange assumption that home ownership is a right and so anything that may make it more difficult to purchase a home infringes on that right.  Home ownership or property ownership is NOT a right.  Nor should it be.  Adequate housing is a basic right (one which is notable for being denied to many) but not ownership.

AS I was listening to the story in the car I reflected on the reality that is clergy housing.  In the past most clergy lived in a manse/rectory owned by the church.  In the UCCan, however, this is no longer true.  Now many live in housing they rent or own and are paid a housing allowance.  In some ways this is a gift -- if one is in a position to purchase a house.   But the standards are that the allowance is to cover the fair rental value of a manse-equivalent in the community (and the only defining standards of manse are that is includes heavy appliances and window coverings -- while the general assumption is 3-bedroom bungalow this is never actually stated ).  Of course this means that if your mortgage payment is less than fair rental value you are covered, with money for taxes too.  But for those of us with no equity to start off, a housing allowance versus manse can mean that a place is not open for us -- we simply can't afford to live here.

OTOH, manses come with their own issues at times.  I have heard too many stories about places which think of the manse as "the church's house" and so forget that it is someone's residence.  THere are stories of trustees or property folks from the church letting themselves into the house unannounced.  One person I know came back from a week away to find that not only had a church group held a meeting in her kitchen, they had left the dirty coffee cups behind.  At the same time, there is the potential that the clergy family can do damage to the house and not be held to account.

In my opinion, there is a solution to this.  Start treating manses as something more like rental properties.  When a new person comes to live there change the locks and have strict control over who has a key (the family and one person from the church [property chair]).  In the current reality of church life there is often an interim period where the manse is vacant and keys get made for a variety of people to check on the house -- a requirement for insurance purposes.  I know when I arrived here this was done because "we don't know who all has keys" was how the Chair put it.

At the same time it seems there would be value in having the clergy person put down a damage deposit, and be made to take responsibility for unwarranted wear and tear, not to mention some expectation that when the clergyperson moves on he/she will take responsibility to do or pay for a thourough cleaning -- again, just as in a rental situation.  This would require that the church set the deposit money aside to not be touched so it can be refunded should there not be unwarranted wear and tear on the house.

Some will say that the damage deposit idea is unworkable.  But the change the locks idea most certainly is.  and I think that with some innovative thinking the deposit would too.  Maybe the Presbytery would have to be the holder of the money....??

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book 4 of 2010

The Archbishop in Andalusia by Andrew Greeley.

A mystery novel featuring the bumbling goodhearted Blackie Ryan.  First time a read a novel with Blackie as the protagonist he was a Priest.  Now we meet him as co-adjutor archbishop of Chicago (with rights of succession no less!)

I love the way Greeley builds his characters and how he weaves theology into the story.  If I could be half the pastor, theologian and philosopher of John Blackwood Ryan I would be very happy (I''ll pass on the murder mysteries though).

Monday, February 08, 2010

An Open LEtter to Town Council

Last Friday I was standing in line to replace my SHAW modem. As person after person was told to just go home and toss out their old modem I started to wonder if that was the best solution.

In our increasingly electronic culture there is an increase in the amount of “special waste” that really should be diverted from our landfill. One example is flourescent bulbs, which are already collected by Public Works staff here in town. But there are 2 other categories I wonder about.

The first is alkaline batteries. These often include mercury and other toxic substances and should go into a special waste handling stream. But what do we do with them here? Is there a special place for collection of dead batteries? We have 2 bags of them we have saved up to avoid putting them in the landfill.

The other is e-waste. This is the one I was wondering about last Friday. Computers, monitors, TV's, cellphones etc. – these are a source of heavy metals in our landfills. Many places across the country are setting up e-waste collection sites. And not only in large centers. Last winter I was in a town smaller than this town and shown their e-waste collection site.

What can we do with our batteries and our e-waste? It is inappropriate to simply toss them in the landfill and let their toxins seep into the ground. Is there a plan now for dealing with them? Is there a plan in development? Could we maybe partner with other communities to make dealing with these special wastes more economical? We have a duty to care for the wondrous part of the province in which we live, I just want to help make sure we do the best and most we can.