Candidate for Ward 11
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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 worked in the Oil & Gas industry for 12 years on various projects. This valuable experience led to opportunities within Calgary's complex commercial construction industry. I currently work as a Project Manager in Calgary, where I manage multi-million dollar construction projects from bid to completion. I understand that dollars are limited and know how to work within a budget. My focus will be on delivering the core services citizens expect; policing, fire services, clean water, road and utility maintenance, snow removal, efficient public transit etc. and getting the best value for Calgarian’s hard earned dollars.
Question 2: What do you think are the biggest issues affecting your ward are, and how would you approach being their local representative?
Guidebook: If elected I will eliminate the proposed blanket densification of single-family neighborhoods as proposed by the Planning Department. Yes, we need to satisfy the goals of the Municipal Development Plan including having 50 % of Calgary’s growth occurring in established neighbourhoods, but we don’t need to disrupt the character of our great single-family communities. They are the backbone of this great city. We need to direct density to major transportation corridors like Macleod Trail, LRT sites, and to vacant or underutilized commercial sites. Policing: We need to maintain a safe community. The Calgary Police Service does a wonderful job protecting us and I will ensure that they have the resources to continue their important work. I am totally against defunding the Police as has been suggested by many so-called progressives. Prudent spending: The South BRT is an excellent example of a project that was totally unnecessary and costs Calgarians millions each year in operating costs. We need pragmatic spending. We need to respect the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers and deliver core services efficiently and not pursue projects based on misguided ideology. Transparency at City Hall: Politicians are elected to represent their constituents but for far too long, our current council has made many of these decisions behind closed doors. If elected, I will work to end in camera meetings and bring back the transparency Calgarians deserve. We also need much clearer reporting to determine how many people are in each department, what they cost, and what they are doing to add value.
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?
The City is currently doing too many things; especially when it comes to making investment in this city difficult. We need to trim down the processes at City Hall so that we are saying to business: “How can we help you succeed by investing here?” We need to eliminate the gauntlet of red tape that has been developed over the last decade. We need to get our mojo back. As mentioned previously, my focus will be on delivering the core services citizens expect; policing, fire services, clean water, road and utility maintenance, snow removal, efficient public transit etc. and getting the best value for Calgarians hard earned dollars.
Question 4: Do you think property taxes are too high, too low, or just about right?
We have seen 100% taxes increase over the last 10 years. While some of that was due to the decline of the oil industry which led to a 30% vacancy of downtown office buildings, this past Council did not react to the decline by cutting city expenditures, which is what a business would do. Council needs to provide governance to the City Manager and have him or her manage the City like a business, delivering core services for the least amount of money. So yes, property taxes are too high.
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?
The City must cut unnecessary expenses immediately by just delivering just core services Calgarians expect. And efficiently. We need to take a serious look at salaries and pensions and make sure that they are in line with the private sector. Once that is done, we can make annual increases for population growth and inflation.
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?
The current taxation system is adequate. And the City offsets some expenditures through fees like licensing and transit fares. If elected, I would not seek to introduce any additional forms of taxation. We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
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?
We need more transparency and accountability. Are budgets being padded so that there is always money left over for pet projects? I hope not. We need realistic budgets, and we need to stay within them. If there is money left over, it should be returned to taxpayers.
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?
Having an adequate supply of housing is probably the best way to keep housing costs to a minimum. The City can facilitate supply by directing growth in established area to major corridors, LRT stations and undeveloped or under developed commercial sites. In the greenfield areas, Calgary needs to make sure there is an adequate supply in all four quadrant. And most of all, Calgary needs to reduce red tape so that delivery time is reduced and therefore holding costs for developers and builders are reduced. This could attract builders that are less capitalized and provide more competition which will help to keep prices low. Affordable housing for those with less income can be achieved by placing it along major corridors and LRT stations. This would eliminate the need to provide parking which will reduce the cost. There will always be a need to house those that are dependent on government services, but we need to make market housing as affordable as possible so that people aren’t dependent on government.
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?
The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board was created to prevent commercial tax base leakage from the City of Calgary. Rather than stifle competition, Calgary needs to compete fairly with other municipalities so that the region as a whole can be the best possible place to do business. An open, free and competitive market will position the region to attract jobs and grow the region. A rising tide floats all boats.
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 Guidebook should be shelved immediately. If elected I will eliminate the proposed blanket densification of single-family neighborhoods as proposed by the Planning Department. Yes, we need to satisfy the densification goal of the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) which states that 50 % of Calgary’s growth needs to occur in established neighbourhoods, but we don’t need to disrupt the character of our great single-family communities. They are the backbone of this great city. We need to direct density to major transportation corridors like Macleod Trail, LRT sites, and to vacant or underutilized commercial sites. We need to do a full cost analysis on what densification in the established areas really means. Who pays for utility upgrades? What are the cheapest sites to build on? How does this compare to the city revenue and costs in greenfield development? A detailed study could help to inform a revision to the MDP.
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?
All four projects are needed by the City but not at the same time. Let’s live within our means. If we stopped spending money on ideology driven projects like the South BRT, perhaps we could afford some of these projects sooner. If I only had one project to approve, it would be the Event Centre. Calgary needs to keep the Flames here and attract concerts and other events as part of revitalizing the core of the city.
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 do support the construction of the Green Line, but not at this time. My preference would be to spend the money on a connection to the Calgary International Airport, as part of a revitalization of the downtown. If it turns out that there is another cost overrun, I would immediately ask Council to have the City Manager seriously look at the project leadership and see what changes might be needed.
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?
The best approach to attract businesses to Calgary is to have a vibrant downtown, low taxes and minimal red tape. Without a vibrant downtown, we may not be able to stop the hemorrhaging of young talent out of the city and province. These young people are needed for the next generation of Calgary entrepreneurs and corporate employees. Low taxes and minimal red tape mostly helps small to medium size businesses which are needed to help diversify our economy./p>
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?
The city should not sell its golf courses. The fear is that we could lose these important green spaces forever. In the short to medium term, the city should turn the operation of the courses to the private sector which can operate them at a lower cost. In the long term, if running a golf course is not viable, the City should consider turning these spaces into regional parks. I support contracting out garbage collection and other city services as long as there is money to be saved and the quality of service is kept high.
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?
We should definitely not defund the Calgary Police Service. Community safety is paramount. Special training would help reduce ongoing injustices. We should also consider a special team within the Service to deal with incidents related to mental health and drug related issues.
Question 16: Do you support the City’s mandatory vaccination policy for City employees?
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?
The time and money spent on reducing the speed limit was a total waste. The lions share of drivers never did exceed 40 km/hr in a residential area. In any event, how can it be fully enforced. Could the proposal to reduce the speed limit to 30 km/hr be a further attack on the automobile by the planning ideologues? I think so.
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?
All great cities have public art. Calgary needs it too; it makes for an interesting city. It’s the selection process that has been the problem. The Blue Ring off of Deerfoot and the pile of rocks and steel on the TransCanada are not art. The classic white head in front of the Bow is art; it attracts people. A reasonable amount of public funds for art is good for society.
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?
If elected, it was my constituents that sent me to Council. I will always have their interests first.
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 am voting for Jeromy Farkas. He was adored by the majority of the Ward 11 constituents because he listened to people. He is fiscally conservative, like me, and he is pragmatic and supports business, like me. I am a conservative supporter at both the provincial and federal level. And proud of it.