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 ‘Top 5’ city standard of living in the world – 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.