I love Calgary and I love the communities of Ward 8 – my home for my entire life, and where my wife and I are raising our three children. I have chosen to dedicate myself to public service, and since 2007 I’ve had the honour of representing this great inner city ward.
Last year, the Calgary Centre by-election presented the opportunity for someone new to represent this area of Calgary at the federal level. I briefly considered this potential opportunity, but decided that I want to remain committed to my role representing you on City Council. It’s the level of government that touches our daily lives most, and I know that together we can continue making Ward 8 and Calgary a great place to live.
Density and the “Sprawl Subsidy”
When a new home is built in Ward 8, the builder covers the entire cost for the required new infrastructure. This same standard must be applied across the city.
In 2011, Council approved a new development levy agreement for new suburban communities in Calgary. This new agreement more than doubled the levy that developers had to pay to build the necessary infrastructure to support growth including fire halls, roads, recreation centers, libraries and utilities such as water treatment plants. In the previous agreements, approved in 2000 and 2005, no water and sewer infrastructure was covered by this levy, which resulted in significant amounts of debt that all Calgarians now have to pay for through taxes and utility bills.
The 2011 agreement included water and sewer infrastructure and increased the levy from about $7500 per home to over $15,000 per home and it now sits at over $17,000. It is estimated the levy would have to increase another $4800 to fully cover the cost to support new community growth. The 2011 agreement didn’t close the gap completely, but was a substantial increase at the time and a reasonable step toward eliminating the subsidy.
This coming term the City will be establishing a new 5-year levy agreement. As your City Councillor I will support eliminating this subsidy altogether so that residents in the established communities in Ward 8 do not have to subsidise suburban sprawl.
Revitalising our Communities
Your Councillor has to be able to stand up and deliver for Ward 8. As a two term Councillor I’ve been proud to support many important projects contributing to the revitalisation of our downtown and inner city, including:
- The 1st Street SW underpass improvement
- Development of the 4th Street SE underpass
- 8th Street SW Revitalisation Plan
- Central Memorial Park Rejuvenation
- 13th Avenue Greenway
- West LRT
- King Edward School Arts Incubator project
- New cycling infrastructure including the new 7th street SW cycle track
- New parks including Barb Scott Park in Beltline, Poetic Park in Downtown West, and Oliver Quarry Park in Shaganappi
Ward 8 has many of Calgary’s most vibrant and attractive communities, but infrastructure is aging and is in need of renewal. One of my biggest priorities for the next four years, if re-elected, will be to establish a Revitalizing our Communities or ROC program. The ROC program would have a dedicated fund, and the City would work in partnership with residents through the Inspiring Strong Neighbourhoods framework to identify and complete necessary improvements to parks, playgrounds, sidewalks, roadways and other facilities. Community by community we can comprehensively renew infrastructure, revitalise, and improve our quality of life.
Transparency, Ethics and Campaign Finances
In a recent study of our voting records, it was proven that I am the most transparent, and least likely member of Council to support going behind-closed doors to discuss City Council matters.
I have pledged to be as open and transparent as possible, and during the past term, I sat on the Legislative Governance Committee which crafted new Guidelines for Ethics and Conduct which I supported and signed. I have also publicly released my office expenses, and whom I’m meeting with.
As Council candidate I have publicly disclosed my donors. I’m proud that I have a broad array of contributors including residents and businesses, with donations big and small. As your Councillor, I have a record of being pragmatic and voting on issues based on merit as well as what I’ve heard is important to my constituents.
Crime and Safety
As Councillor I have a strong record of leading efforts to improve safety and reduce crime. We now have more police officers on the streets than ever before, including successful “beat programs” that have Police officers walking through our streets allowing for greater public interaction. Parks such as Central Memorial Park and Olympic Plaza have moved from being open-air drug markets and places to be feared when I came into office in 2007, to safe and vibrant public spaces. We must continue to do more. I believe strongly that vibrant places are safe places. When more people are around, it increases eyes-on-the-street and reduces the opportunity for crime to occur.
Safety, however, is much more than just boots-on-the-street. It is a philosophical shift in recognising crime prevention is at least as important as law enforcement. That’s why as Chairman of Community Services and Protective Services, I supported the increase in funding to Family Community Support Services to cover the Provincial Government funding shortfall, allowing for greater crime prevention and community support.
I sat as Member of the Steering Committee on the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. We are now almost half way into the Ten Year Plan. We have made great strides and I supported projects such as the 224 unit Mustard Seed affordable housing project which is nearing completion, to provide opportunities for people to transition from the street to a stable housing situation with the appropriate supports. I will also work to support the new Poverty Reduction Strategy so that people don’t end up homeless in the first place and can prosper in our city.
Transportation is always top of mind for Calgarians. We now have RouteAhead which is a new 30 year plan for transit in Calgary and as part of that we have successfully implemented the first fully separated cycle-track on 7th street SW, right here in Ward 8. We need to work with the Provincial and Federal Governments on a long term funding deal that will allow us to implement the RouteAhead Plan. I will also continue to support thoughtful implementation of a connected network of cycling infrastructure as part of our Cycling Strategy.
Another key focus must be to identify funding and implement pedestrian improvements. For instance, 8th Street SW from 17th Avenue to the Bow River is one of our busiest pedestrian streets, but it is in need of enhancement. A plan is being developed and we must move forward with this and other improvements in Ward 8, where many people get around by foot. Our road network can also be optimised to move traffic more efficiently. To keep you moving we can use emerging technologies in traffic management to take fuller advantage of the capacity of our roadways.
Recycling and Waste Reduction
Improving recycling and reducing waste is an important city goal. The city has committed to diverting 80 per cent of its waste away from landfills by 2020. It’s a goal that we should aspire to.
To achieve this, we will need to incorporate recycling for multifamily units, and implement an organic recycling program. I recognize the pressing need for multifamily recycling in Ward 8 and will do everything in my power to move this ahead. I will also take into account the unique nature of multi-family living as we develop a solution for recyclables and organics.
Currently the City is developing a cost-of-service strategy for the multi-family sector, which will be presented to Council no later than February 2014 with recommendations for implementation in 2015/2016. The Green Cart pilot project continues to grow, enabling residents in those communities to reduce their organic waste by 40%.
To support a Calgary-wide green cart program, the City is planning a large scale composting facility on the Shephard Landfill site. The design will be finalized in 2015 with an anticipated opening in 2017. I fully support this initiative.
Being More Citizen Centric
Being more citizen-centric means keeping Calgarians top-of-mind with everything we do at the City. The 311 app, for example, has been a runaway success because it is fundamentally about making it easier and simpler for citizens to interact with the City. Being more citizen-centric also means reducing burdensome regulation to make it easier to do business with the City. This shift requires leadership from Council, and I will continue to push this important transformation within the City.
The way the City came together to deal with the June flood, is an example of how thetraditional barriers and silos of City Hall come down to allow things to be accomplished in record time. We need to ensure those barriers to productivity don’t reemerge.
In June, we experienced the worst natural disaster in our city’s history. In Mayor Nenshi’s absence, together with Deputy Mayor Pootmans, and acting in my role as the Chairman of the Emergency Management Committee, I cosigned the Emergency Order that galvanised the City to action during the flood. Once the wheels were firmly in motion, I helped to create the group that became “Mission Possible” and organise over six thousand local volunteers, based at the Mission Safeway and Shoppers Drug Mart to clean and restore over nine hundred flood affected homes.
From this central location I helped to coordinate food distribution, access to cleaning supplies and necessary personal protective equipment, as well as help direct Calgary Transit, ENMAX ,Waste and Recycling, Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Service and many other city Departments to restore our City to some kind of normality as quickly as possible.