Macdonald: An Update from City Hall
What's Been Happening Recently in City Council:
Common Sense Calgary is pleased to offer the following commentary relative to recent activity in Calgary City Council. Please share this with your friends and encourage them to join our website, sign our petition, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.
Let's start by congratulating Stephanie Kusie, the former Executive Director of Common Sense Calgary, as she recently won the Conservative nomination for Midnapore Calgary.
The Highland Park community engagement re-development appears to have resulted in some wasteful spending, disenchanted volunteers and community frustration. Although we'd like to think the community engagement process that the City employs is effective, common sense tells us that it is not always successful. Public and stakeholder community engagement costs taxpayers a significant amount of money on a yearly basis. Have you ever noticed on any given day throughout the City, the many display boards and trailers on boulevards, promoting public engagement sessions about community-related issues? Behind each of these community engagements are City employees including writers, designers, videographers and communications experts and on the front side attending each event, are contractors, illustrators, subject matter experts and highly paid staff from many City departments. Highland Park was an example of this.
Please visit this link to Richard White's recent blog related to Highland Park as it explains their community engagement process.
What are the average annual costs involved for community engagement? How do you think the City's community engagement process could be improved?
Canada Infrastructure Bank:
Mayor Nenshi is lobbying for the Canada Infrastructure Bank to be built in Calgary. Common Sense Calgary wonders why citizens would want government to have more of a mandate to run for-profit enterprises particularly financial institutions that are susceptible to federal partisan influence? Government should not be running for-profit businesses, as this just opens doors to more government jobs and bigger government. We know what happens when government tries to run business. Do you support this bank and its potential move to Calgary?
Calgary's Empty Downtown: Is an Economic Summit the Answer?
It will often take years for a business to change locations, and over the years, we have seen many businesses in Calgary doing just that... transitioning to a home-based operation or possibly completely moving their operation to industrial areas like Foothills Industrial and Quarry Park. We've asked whether the City has made it too expensive to do business in the downtown core? We've wondered whether the City has made it too unfriendly for business downtown to thrive because of the higher property taxes, the stiffest parking costs in North America, and an ever-challenging commute that makes it inconvenient for workers to get around? Have businesses been leaving the core because of decisions by Council to chase any option for available funding? The decision to lessen the higher costs of operating in the downtown core could be called good business sense or simply, common sense.
But recently the discussion of holding an Economic Summit has been raised to help solve this problem. Some Councillors have even suggested that the downtown core will not bounce back without their help and without this kind of involvement. Well, we ask, is this really the solution or should Council perhaps just "look in the mirror?" What do you think?
Does it make common sense for Calgary to chase the 2026 Winter Olympics? Anyone who was around in 1988 remembers the great wave of civic pride that took over the City during that time. Well, that feeling seems to have morphed into a warm nostalgia, almost three decades later. The legacy of sports facilities from those games has made Calgary a world winter sports capitol but a bid committee has been struck, with controversy over 11 secret salaries being paid for newly hired Olympic bid staff.
In considering a potential bid, many questions will be raised. Most of those questions are financial. Expressed in 2015 dollars, the 1988 Olympics cost $1.1 billion dollars to conduct. There is no doubt that these costs today would be substantially higher.
Can Calgary, can Alberta, can Canada afford these games? Who pays? Are they practical, given the demands of the International Olympic Committee and the economic climate we are currently facing? We will keep an eye on this issue and will offer a balanced dialogue on the bid process as it moves forward. Your thoughts?
Do Calgarians know enough about the proposed City Charters for Edmonton and Calgary? Do they understand what the actual financial consequences will be? Are the elected officials explaining it in something other than bureaucratese and are they stating reasons that average persons can understand? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, that is not surprising and you are not alone. Transparency and reality are elusive when it comes to City Charters.
Consultations have been going on for years between the Province and the City yet no information about the financial implications of the Charters will be coming out until this spring when phase three is released. Besides a few poorly attended public and stakeholder engagement sessions held in Calgary in October 2016, the public has been left in the dark. Mayor Nenshi did not even mention the Charters in his New Year's address. Didn’t Mayor Nenshi say there were no new taxing powers in the Charters? Perhaps in the spring when we find out, "no new taxing powers in the Charters" may actually be disguised in a different form, one that will bring in new tax revenue through the back door instead of the front door as property taxes. Why is such an important City issue left as a last minute discussion point, one that is almost too late for adequate interpretation and well-informed decision making before the upcoming municipal election? Does this make common sense to you?
Common Sense Calgary has posted a petition on our website at www.commonsensecalgary.com and www.seecharterthinktax.ca and we are encouraging Calgarians to sign this petition asking that a citywide referendum be held on any new taxation powers given to the City through the City Charters.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could get more information out of City Hall?
Wouldn't it be great if Calgary had an organization dedicated solely to issues happening in municipal government?
That's what we do!!
Please consider sponsoring a campaign, hosting a forum or donating to help with our programming? As a not-profit, we need your help to continue. Please donate today at www.commonsensecalgary.com