The best part of an election campaign happens at your door when I can listen to your suggestions and concerns. As well as your specific City service or policy issues, I learn about your interests and values which guide me at budget planning time to determine how our taxes should be allocated to different business units – from parks and roads to social services. Your input is also an important guide for me in making decisions about unanticipated opportunities and issues.
In 2013, my team and I knocked on over 30,000 doors in the Ward and I will try to meet as many of you again this year – socially distancing of course!
As a pragmatist, I believe many decisions, particularly about local matters, benefit from determining a practical result, supported by data driven evidence. For example, for much of our infrastructure, we simply need to have the repairs and maintenance performed as efficiently as possible.
As a moderate, I have rarely seen the advantage of ideologically driven solutions, be they from the left or right end of the spectrum. The solution is often in the middle with positive elements drawn from both camps.
It would be appropriate to consider our commitments to the key priorities – do we need more or less of the currently provided services, or different new services? To start with the big budget items, from my experience community safety has often been ranked as the top concern in Ward 6. Your specific areas of concern include opportunistic crimes (car prowling and break and enters), to drugs (consumption and illegal distribution), to pedestrian safety and graffiti.
The top two City expense items are for Police (~$500 million) and Fire (~$300 million) services. Other significant expenses include transit, roads, parks, and water which are included in the total annual City expenses of ~$3.8 billion.
Are there current municipal services which should be considered for a different level of City investment?
For example, will transit ridership return to pre-pandemic levels? How do we budget for reduced passenger volumes while acknowledging that commuters and students will still require transit service? Will new technologies for providing ride service be a part of the solution? Early pilot projects are promising!
Another significant discussion will be how the City should address the $18 billion erosion of our downtown building tax base and determine the fairest balance of residential to non-residential tax burden.
Cooperation with the Government of Alberta will likely be required to enable Provincial assessment regulation amendments to accommodate flexibility in creating new non-residential sub-classes. I encourage everyone to review the City Annual Reports at Calgary.ca (enter 'Annual Reports') to gain insights into the challenges and possible solutions. An important budget and policy consideration will be how we balance the need to support our world ranking city standard of living. I strongly support maintaining our quality of life – with a very limited interest for property tax increases.
There is another dimension to featuring our high quality of life, beyond the daily appreciation we have for enjoying a great place to live and work.
Calgary competes with perhaps as many as 1,000 jurisdictions in the world for talent and investment. Our enviable quality of life is a powerful competitive advantage in business attraction.
It's about people, everybody - all of us.
An important element in providing an inclusive, resilient, accessible, diverse and sustainable City will be to foster economic growth and jobs.
These aspirational goals are interdependent drivers that are also important for our economy to be successful and reach its full potential. Furthermore, I know from firsthand economic development experience that the high quality economic opportunities we seek from investors that attract talent and resources are also increasingly drawn to cities that share these values.
My past community leadership and support of organizations such as the Calgary Immigrant Aid Society (now Immigrant services), the Canadian Centre for Adult Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CC4MS) and currently work with the Famous 5 Foundation demonstrates that I am dedicated to creating opportunities to thrive for all of us.
During the 2013 election we heard your thoughts about fluoride. I estimate that about two thirds of those we met were in favour of fluoride, based on the science.
Prior to the outset of this latest fluoridation campaign, I worked with the Calgary Medical Health Officer, Calgarians for Kids’ Health, the Alberta Dental Association and College, and the Cumming School of Medicine at University of Calgary to fight for restoring additional fluoride in our water.
The science confirming the safety of fluoride is clear.
With the removal of fluoride, our disadvantaged children are suffering from rotting teeth and horrible health consequences, some of which may endure their entire lifetimes. Seniors are also experiencing more decay than ever before. These are not only human tragedies but a significant and needless drain on the resources of families and our health care system.
To date (early summer) you have told us that the following issues should be addressed:
Creating the conditions for robust economic growth and new jobs
Maintaining public safety as a top priority
Ensuring vulnerable Calgarians have access to services
Finding City efficiencies with tools including use of internal audits and financial controls
Enhancing community life by improving traffic flow with infrastructure investments