Candidate for Ward 11
My experience in strategic business planning and leadership would be an asset to City Hall and Ward 11. As a resident of Oakridge, I am running for Ward 11 Councillor because I believe Calgary needs fresh ideas and a strong plan to move forward. I have had a lot of great opportunities come my way in the time I've lived here and I think serving on council is a great way to give back to the community. I have a strong work ethic, learn quickly and can focus on the big picture plan while getting the day to day things done. I value the experiences and ideas others bring to a team. Problem solving is exciting!
I have an extensive background working for multiple industries which gives me a diverse knowledge and understanding of the city and its challenges. As a senior leader in communications and community engagement, I have worked in commercial real estate, banking, the residential home building industry, hospitality as well as non-profit organizations. I have experience leading teams, business continuity planning, budgeting and project management. I have a demonstrated track record of building strong relationships, navigating change and delivering results on time and on budget.
My experience working with the residential home building industry has provided a unique perspective on how the City can cut red tape on inner city development, and also how to grow the city at a sustainable level. It is given me an appreciation for community engagement, and what we do well in Calgary, and what we could improve on. My roles in a number of not-for profits as well as in the hospitality industry have taught me how to do a lot with limited time and budget while delivering effective results and services. I have also owned a small consulting company for the last 10 years, helping local small businesses tell their stories. All these roles have given me strong insight into how things work - which makes me unique compared to my competitors.
I know Calgary's economic health is at the top of everyone's minds right now. I understand many are facing financial challenges and in some cases, job loss. Having personally experienced similar challenges (including lay-offs) over the last few years, I can empathize with the lack of certainty in the job market and confidence in our economy right now. This will be a focus for me when elected.
Question 1: What work experience do you have that’s relevant to the role of a Councillor and how do you feel the skills and perspective you have gained will help you in your role as a Councillor?
I have over 20+ years of business and leadership experience in small and medium sized companies and not-for-profits. I have worked in a number of industries including commercial real estate, banking, the Calgary Public Library, development and hospitality. I know what these industries and organizations need to succeed and the experiences they have had interfacing with the city. My background is communications and engagement which will really help me build relationships and restore our residents’ trust through sharing of information. I understand how to bring people with different ideas and viewpoints together to come up with solutions that move goals ahead.
Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting your ward are, and how would you approach being their local representative?
Aging infrastructure, safety and the economy. Each of these requires a different plan, but the common thread will be speaking with residents and getting to know each community well. We need to have proactive plans and identify timelines/budget requirements to meet certain targets. We need a focused plan to improve accountability and restore confidence in the City. I will represent everyone in the Ward equally - I am running for residents and businesses, not for myself or any other group. I will listen and work through conners and solutions presented by residents.
Question 3: What do you think is the role of a municipal government? Do you think the City does too many things, not enough, or just the right amount?
I think the City needs to provide basic services that allow people to move around and complete their day to day tasks - road repair, snow clearing, accessibility etc. I think the City also needs to protect our most vulnerable. The City also needs to make sure that our communities are kept in good repair including parks and other amenities. I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not the city does too much, not enough etc. are we doing the best job of the things we are doing? Are we prioritizing and giving Calgarians what they need. Are we setting future Calgary up for success? If you aren’t doing things well, you need to determine how to change that, or if they should not be a top focus. It’s about finding balance as the City and needs change.
Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?
I think the tax system is not designed to be sustainable in periods of economic instability, which the last few years have shown us. So I believe the system itself needs to be addressed. I also am concerned the City may have a money management issue which could impact budgets and taxes if it is not addressed. We need to also be able to demonstrate to residents that there is good value for tax dollars.
Question 5: Over the next four years, should the City spend less in absolute terms, increase spending but by less than the rate of inflation and population growth, increase by the rate of inflation and population growth, or increase faster than the rate of inflation and population growth?
I think we need to prioritize what we are spending money on, and also determine if we are doing certain tasks in the best possible way, at the right cost and time. Some departments are where they need to be while perhaps others may be still in the midst of making changes. I would like to see operating costs stay steady while we sort out the revenue and money management side of things. The city has gone through some challenging times and we need to make sure we are balancing the needs of Calgarians with the realities of our economy.
Question 6: During the introduction of City Charters a few years ago there was a lot of debate about new taxation powers for the big cities. Would you support the City being given any additional taxation powers by the Province? If so, what taxation powers should the City have?
No. I don’t think the City should have additional taxation powers. I think we need to reform the current system as a start, by working with the province. I think we need to make sure money is being managed properly before changing revenue streams. I am not sure that the City’s books are accurate and we need to have a clear picture of how the accounting is being done.
Question 7: The City often claims that they’ve found savings in various budgets, but instead of actually cutting spending, they just put the savings into a reserve account and then spend that money on other things. If there’s money left over at the end of a financial year, do you think that money should be saved up by the City to spend in future years? Or should it be returned automatically to taxpayers the following year through some kind of rebate?
I believe maybe it needs to be a hybrid model - if there is additional money over a certain threshold perhaps it is save. I think to properly answer this I would need to see the full picture of the city’s finances, to understand reserve funds, levy funds and other accounts that have, and be able to trace the flow and volume of funds moving around behind the scenes. I think that should be more transparent as well.
Question 8: Everyone says they support affordable housing, but what does that term mean for you? Do you think the City should be subsidizing housing for lower-income residents? Or focused on keeping the cost of all housing from getting out of control? Or perhaps some combination of the two? If so, how?
There will always be a need for affordable housing for low income and at risk Calgarians. But it’s also important we have a healthy housing “ecosystem” with choice at all price points. This keeps the market’s affordability and gives people more of a choice of housing type/budget for different stages of life and different needs. We also need to make sure we have a strong economy and programs that aid in sustainable poverty reduction to reduce the need for affordable housing. I think private public partnerships for subsidized housing is also be a good thing to look at in the future, where it i easier to have income scaled housing and mixed market options
Question 9: The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is currently debating their Growth Plan for the Calgary region. What do you think about the plan? Do you think we should be limiting development in certain parts of the region? If so, are you worried about how that will affect housing affordability?
We need smart growth and good, thoughtful development across the region. This protects the environment (water is a concern in some areas), housing affordability and creates livable communities (or updates existing ones in positive ways). The market will drive demand as well. We absolutely need to manage supply with affordability in mind.
Question 10: There’s been a lot of debate about the City’s new “Guidebook for Great Communities”. What do you think about the Guidebook? What do you think should be the split between greenfield and established community growth for new housing? Should the City have a specific target? Should this be determined by market demand?
The City does have a target but I don’t feel the current policies and practices support achieving that target. I think we need to stop looking at outer vs inner development and start looking at how we grow the city as a whole - that does that look like, what do communities need and what are the obstacles to that (policy wise). And market demands do play a large role on that as well. The Guidebook in its earliest iterations had good intentions. We have over 250+ Planning policies that cause confusion for residents, planners and builders. The Guidebook would have addressed some of that. It absolutely had its flaws and took an terrible turn at the end. So we still have the same conflicting policies and no additional clarity or predictability for businesses and residents. We need thoughtful, balanced growth that serves the needs of Calgarians across the City.
Question 11: When the City voted to approve four projects - the Event Centre, the BMO Centre expansion, the Arts Commons transformation, and the Foothills Fieldhouse - they did so against the advice of the City’s own CFO, who said the City could only afford one of them. Do you think that was the right move? Why? If, as the City continues through the process with each of these projects, it becomes obvious that the City’s CFO was correct, and Calgarians can only afford one of these projects, which would you choose?
I think we need to be able to do things well, with purpose and focus. Having not seen the business cases, project plans, data or forecasts it’s hard to say if that means we should do 1 or 4. Generally though most would agree organizations can generally only take on 1-3 large initiatives in a time period. If I had to choose, my prioritization would be BMO expansion, Arts Commons, the event centre and then the field house.
Question 12: Do you support the construction of the Green Line LRT as currently envisioned by the City, would you prefer changes be made to the plan (and if so, what changes), or would you prefer to cancel the project entirely? If, as a Councillor, you find out that - despite all the previous assurances - there has in fact been another cost overrun on the Green Line, what would you do?
I support the Greenline and it’s current route/plan. I would like to understand the costs if we change the trains being used to “match” the other lines and what impacts those changes would be to the project now and over time. In general I believe we need to manage projects like this more closely and with greater accountability from a timeline and budget perspective. Historically the City has not managed capital projects as well as they could and that needs to change.
Question 13: What do you think is the best approach to attract businesses to Calgary? Direct incentives to specific businesses, paid for by slightly higher taxes, or lower tax rates for all businesses?
I think it's a complex issue that has multiple solutions that need to be linked together for success. Tax incentives mean nothing if the City is difficult to deal with from a regulatory perspective. We need you be an environment where businesses want to move to, or growth in. We need to simplify some of the processes involved in doing business here in the city. Amenities are also important to attract and retain people in the city. We also need to be an economically strong city that is nimble and can adapt to market changes. I don’t think incentivizing new businesses is the way to go as it penalizes businesses already here, and can create an unfair advantage to those already invested in the city. Companies already thriving here are our best ambassadors and it is always easier to retain than it is to recruit - so we need to respect our current business base and leverage that for growth.
Question 14: Should the City be in the business of operating golf courses, or should they privatize or sell them off? How about garbage collection or other services?
I think the city should offer a variety of recreational services. I think the same sort of model we see with newer rec centres where the YMCA manages them is something we should look at for Golf Courses, We need to keep recreation affordable, but also sustainable for the city. That’s where private public partnerships can really make sense. Some services have not improved from a cost or quality perspective though when being contravened out so I think we need to really have a strong business case that factors in more than just baseline costs to make sure it is the right deal for Calgarians.
Question 15: Should we defund the police? If yes, what exactly does defunding the police mean to you? If not, what should the City do to address both historical and ongoing injustices?
When you have an emergency, you want the right people to show up to help. I think everyone, including the Police, recognizes that the scope of their work has shifted as mental health and addiction issues continue to rise. We want our communities to be safe, and we want to make sure our officers are equipped to handle situations they are put in as effectively as possible. I think the City needs to continue to work with the police to allocate resources to a different stream of police work that deals with social crisis. Perhaps longer term we could look at the police department having hybrid social worker/police patrol teams or officers with certification in social work and law enforcement. I think the police, like many areas of public service, need to continue to address systemic racism. We are only going to be able to keep calgary safe by working together to find the right balance. We need the police, and we also need services to support social crisis.
Question 16: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?
I think it depends on the role but overall, vaccination does protect our healthcare system and population. Sometimes we need to do things for the greater good and to protect those around us.
Question 17: Council recently dropped residential speed limits to 40km/h, do you agree with that decision, and what do you think about the proposal by some to go further and drop it to 30km/h in the future?
I don’t think it should be dropped further. I think safety and speeding concerns need to be addresses more effectively in a localized manner (currently they are not depending on where you live). Road safety has many factors beyond speed including road design, traffic patterns and volume, connection points, pedestrian access, proximity to schools and more. In some cases speed limits do help, in others they don’t. I think empowering the communities to be a part of the solution that works best for each area is key. We know our neighbourhoods best.
Question 18: For years there has been an ongoing debate about the City’s public art spending. Some say that the problem is the selection process for what art is commissioned, while others are opposed to any use of public funds for art. What do you think?
There have been significant changes made to the program which many Calgarians are not aware of, including selection process. I would like to see how those roll out before making further changes. The majority of the public art program is not the large pieces people speak of most. Much of the public art program are small localized projects like murals and utility boxes etc. In general I think public art adds to our communities, and we need to find the best way of doing it in a cost effective and local way.
Question 19: Serving as a Councillor you are responsible to both your local constituents and every Calgarian. How would you deal with a situation where you feel that the best interests of your local constituents in your ward conflict with what you feel is the best interests of the City as a whole?
I think it comes down to forming relationships in the community so that people feel like they are part of the process. If I think something needs to be done that benefits the city as a whole, it is my job to get buy in from my residents. Most people are reasonable and open to change if they are given the right information, and feel like they can trust the process. As a councillor, i need to make that happen. If it is good for the City, I need to show my constituents how it will also benefit them, or at least does no harm.
Question 20: While the concept of a secret ballot is essential, many of our supporters have told us that they’d like to know the political alignment of their candidates. So, if - and only if - you feel comfortable saying so, who are you voting for for Mayor and why, and if you are affiliated with any provincial or federal political parties, which ones and why?
I remain undecided on mayor at this time but will vote on the role. I am not affiliated with any political parties at any level.