For a lot of people in Calgary, Access Calgary provides the most important service to them: mobility.
The program allows those who are mobility-challenged to be connected with their community, attend appointments, participate in programming, and be contributing members of their community.
In the Fall of 2012, that was taken away.
I was first involved in the Access Calgary service area restriction in late 2012 when a resident of Calgary Ward 1 reached out to me regarding his adult son. In the Fall of 2012 he received a letter indicating that Access Calgary would no longer service his home address due to it being greater than a one kilometer drive from the nearest transit stop (his address was 1.8KM away). Eventually, an agreement was made that his son would pay $20 per-trip per-direction. Given his son is severely autistic, he attends daily programing to help keep him socially active and connected.
On an AISH income of $1,600 per month, income is clearly fixed. After the first month of Access Calgary service under the new contract, the bill came to over $1,200. That left $400 dollars for all other living expenses.
The one kilometer Access Calgary service restriction needs to be removed. I am asking members of Calgary City Council to introduce a Notice of Motion to have this policy rescinded. If action is not taken, I will introduce the Notice of Motion myself after the October 21, 2013 Civic Election.
Given what I expect is a small amount of savings to the City of Calgary and Calgary Transit, and the enormous hardship the one kilometer policy causes to those dependent on the service, this policy is inappropriate and does not serve Calgarians better, especially the most vulnerable.
Booting the CHBA (Canadian Home Builder’s Association – Calgary Chapter) from advisory bodies and task forces was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
This unilateral action has put at risk much more than the relationship between the development industry and the City of Calgary, which I might add is already shaky. It sends the message that to disagree with the Mayor is to risk removal from participation in key initiatives and be sent to the penalty box.
How can any participant or representative organization participating in a City initiative or task force speak honestly to its members after the removal of the CHBA?
The removal of the CHBA has damaged the credibility of engagement. It makes the outcomes of the various task forces underway illegitimate. The Transforming Planning and Cut Red Tape initiatives are primary opportunities to build better efficiency and improve service. After the removal of the CHBA, the outcomes of these initiatives will lack credibility. The outcomes will be illegitimate. How can you “transform” planning and “cut red tape” without a key stakeholder at the table? How can you validate acceptance and understand impacts without a key stakeholder at the table? You can’t. Just look to recent discussions around the Calgary Regional Partnership. Without key communities participating, the Calgary Metropolitan Plan just won’t happen. And so is the case with the CHBA and the City of Calgary.
Oh yes, other members of industry can be appointed; however, when the CHBA is tasked by its members to represent them and their interests, it is the most effective means of engaging a wider industry.
In my opinion the CHBA and Mr. Ungar have nothing to apologize for. Mr. Ungar has a responsibility to his members to communicate with CHBA members on issues that affect them and the monthly CHBA lunches would be that opportunity. Further, with the CHBA (formerly) participating on several key initiatives and task forces, the expectation ought to be that all participants are honest about their thoughts and opinions. The expectation should not be that to speak your mind gets you punted.
One last point I’d make is that it is doubtful that the Office of the Mayor has the unilateral authority to remove the CHBA. The Mayor does have various task forces that are run through the Mayor’s office, and he certainly would have the authority to appoint (or un-appoint) members to those initiatives; however, task forces, committees, and advisory bodies reporting to Calgary City Council are subordinate to Council’s authority, not the Mayor’s.
The development industry is an integral part of how the City of Calgary has and will grow. You may or may not feel that suburbs are bad or that density needs to increase significantly in established neighbourhoods; but, the fact is that no matter what you believe, the development industry is needed to make it happen. No matter what you think the Calgary of tomorrow looks like, it won’t happen without the development industry at the table.
The CHBA should be at the table participating in these important initiatives. I would urge the Mayor to reconsider this action before the credibility of key initiatives is further ruined.
In January 2006, the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) began to establish a framework for what would eventually become the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (CMP). To build the framework, the Calgary Regional Partnership initiated an extensive consultation and began to formalize a governance structure for its activities and purpose.
Despite membership in the CRP being voluntary, at that time each of the key stakeholders in the Calgary Region (and some beyond) participated. The 17 members pursued a regional plan which would determine the implementation of key principles. Those principles eventually became: Protecting the natural environment & watershed, fostering the region’s economic vitality, accommodating growth, integrating efficient regional infrastructure systems, and a supportive regional governance approach.
Clearly, regional planning across Alberta plays a significant role in efficiently connecting communities across the Province. With the micro focus of planning being within municipalities, the CMP focuses on a macro planning perspective. It focuses on regional communities as being organs of a larger system with shared resources, shared constraints, and a common fate based on that decisions each community makes.
As the framework progressed and the plan began to take shape, several of the key members to the Calgary Regional Partnership began to grow concerned. The concerns continued to grow and on September 23, 2009 crippled the Calgary Regional Partnership.
I like the Calgary Herald and think that the journalists there do a good job. I don’t really know the process for selecting titles for articles, but the article printed today titled “Failed council candidates gear up for another run at city hall” caught my attention.
Losing an election is not a failure in my opinion. People who run are certainly not “failed candidates”. People who run and the teams that support them give up a lot of time and energy to do that. As a candidate in the previous Calgary municipal election, I learned a lot about myself, my community, and how an election works. I had great discussions with people in Ward 1 while out door knocking, I had difficult discussions as well, I had a door or two shut after I introduced myself, I door knocked in the rain, I door knocked in the snow, I caught a sun burn, I responded to many emails, phone calls, and one fax. It was all valuable.
I could and would never describe having not won the election as making me or my team a “failure”. My team and I received too much value from the experience to warrant the label of “failures”.
I had a good discussion with Jason Markusoff about a few topics on Friday for the article I mentioned above, but something struck me after our conversation. I realized that it’s possible the media only sees the “big issues” in a municipal election. I can’t blame them. I suppose the traffic in Rocky Ridge, the safety concerns around the school in Tuscany, the retaining wall in one community, the annual flooding of a street in another, or the unpaved roads in Bowness aren’t that interesting to readers.
But they’re important to Ward 1 communities and issues like these are important all over Calgary. These types of issues are the local issues that people care about because they experience them every single day.
So with what may (or may not) be a fairly “drowsy election campaign” due to an occupied mayoral seat, I’d say this is a good opportunity for the media to take a step down and come visit the everyday issues that people talk about on the doors. Oh yes, the big issues will be there and generally do come up on the door, but most of the conversation when speaking to a resident isn’t about those issues.
It’s about the local issues that affect them every day.
Those issues may not be news worthy, but they’re important and every candidate should have the responsibility to know their local issues above all else.
Tonight I attended an open house put on by the Varsity Community Association regarding an application to redesignate existing lands from C-N2 (Commercial Neighbourhood) to a Direct Control District (DC) with use as a multi-residential. (See the subject site below)
The current site allows for small scale commercial and encourages mixed use development; however, due to the proximity of the site with a major intersection mixed use would be difficult and not well suited due to vehicular access.
Attainable Homes and the City of Calgary Planning crew were present. While Attainable Homes presented a three story structure with approximately 26 living units and laneway access for vehicles to the underground parkade, land use redesignations do not address the building’s form. That comes at the Development Permit stage.
The application has not gone to Calgary City Council yet as it is being reviewed by Administration. Will likely go to Council within the next two months.
Hope this information is helpful to anyone living in Varsity!
Now this Chris Harper Christmas Story is pretty bad.
It all started with my childhood obsession over trains. Since many members of my family worked on the railroads, trains were something I thought about constantly (until I met one in real life and cried because it was so loud).
I was pretty young. Around the age where I could recognize letters, but not really recognize them together to know they said “CHRIS”. Never mind if someone wrote “CHRISTOPHER”.
This particular year, little Chris Harper had asked for a train set. Feed my obsessions Santa! Give me a train set please!!
So as usual, I come racing down the stairs to the living room early in the morning before my parents or sister were awake. After the chimney incident (see yesterday’s blog post), Santa decided it might be better to deliver presents starting with the last letters of the alphabet and so the living room was just choking with presents!
I just KNEW my train set was in there, somewhere. But which one? Which present in this mountain of wrapping paper was my train set?
I tried reading. Really, I did. Instead I started shaking the presents. No, no help at all.
And here’s where my compulsive obsession with trains kicked in. I certainly couldn’t recognize my own name, but I could definitely recognize a train set…. If I opened the presents and found it!
I went through the mountain of presents like a dog digging for a bone, littering wrapping paper everywhere as I searched for my train set. One by one I ripped open the presents. Barbie dolls, meh. Oh a book, meh. Ninja Turtles, keep!
Finally, only one single present remained wrapped. I picked it up and looked at it. I slowly open the wrapping paper and there in front of me was a train set!
Chooo chooo! Little Chris Harper set the train set up right away, clearing all the excess wrapping paper from the floor of the living room to make space. Round and round the train set went, making its little hum.
I had just named the engine Thomas when my sister Kim came downstairs. I hadn’t seen her come into the living room, but her very loud scream and shriek caught my attention pretty fast. She screamed and screamed until my parents came running downstairs.
To them, the whole scene looked like a Christmas crime. Little Chris Harper playing with a train set in the middle of a Christmas present cull. I figured I could suggest we re-stuff the chimney from the year before with the wrapping paper, but off came the paddle from the rack and I got another Christmas spanking.
I learned to read my name very soon after.
I thought rather than do a blog post on any number of civic issues over the holidays, I might share with you over the next few days a couple of funny Christmas stories from when I was a little kiddo. Here’s the first one.
I like to call it the Itchy Chimney story.
I was pretty young, around three or four years of age. Christmas was always a magical time of year for this young Chris Harper. My sister Kim and I would rarely be able to sleep the night through and this particular Christmas was no exception. I awoke around 5AM Christmas morning and came blasting down the stairs to see what Santa had left behind!
To my disappointment, there were no presents (not one!) around the tree in the living room. Not being aware that Thunder Bay started with a “T” and was therefore one of the last places Santa visited on Christmas Eve, I set out to determine why Santa hadn’t come by yet. I eventually came to my answer.
We had a fireplace in the living room, which used to work back in the old days but had be stuffed and closed as it was no longer needed. How could Santa get down the chimney when it was plugged??
So little Chris Harper carefully moved the decorative screen from fireplace and pulled out the fake logs. Looking up, a sense of relief came over me as I found that the chimney was only plugged with pink insulation. Easily removed!
I began ripping out insulation as high as I could reach and throwing it out of the fireplace into the living room. I soon realized I couldn’t reach very high. So ate one of Santa’s cookies and began to head towards the stairs so I could go back to bed. At which point my mother came downstairs.
Needless to say, the itching from the insulation was more painful than my spanking! Though, I was gratified that Santa did eventually deliver the presents.
I’ve advocated for better campaign finance regulations for municipalities since before the 2010 Calgary municipal election. I had great hopes that the amendments proposed to the Local Authorities Elections Act this week would bring forward massive improvements to municipal campaign finance regulations in Alberta.
Unfortunately, I still do have great hopes.
Bill 7: Election Accountability Amendment Act makes many amendments to various election laws in Alberta. Much of the media focus has been on the Provincial side of things; however, tucked away in the back the Act is a section dedicated to the Local Authorities Election Act. This act governs the election and campaigns of municipal politicians and candidates.
Overall, the Act makes some improvements; however, largely misses the mark. It is possible that this was intentional. With the negotiation of the City Charters on-going, it would be preferable to give municipalities like Calgary and Edmonton the power to establish their own campaign bylaws with the Local Authorities Elections Act being the bare minimum. If this is the intention, then it would make sense why the proposed amendments were not substantive on the municipal side.
Assuming that is not the case, the Act falls short on some key areas while make improvements in others.
Here are some of the major things missing:
- Mandatory pre-election disclosure of campaign donors. This will continue to be voluntary.
- Spending limits for campaigns based on number of constituents. We will continue to see big spending on campaigns.
- Discounts provided from vendors would be considered a contribution in-kind.
- Restriction on accepting campaign donations only in the year before Election Day.
"With the negotiations of the City Charters on-going, it would be preferable to give municipalities... the power to establish their own campaign bylaws"
There is also one very big thing which continues to be missing from the Act. The Act requires candidates to retain a record of their campaign finances for a two-year period after the election. The trouble here is that the Act gives no authority to the Province or the municipality to require a candidate to provide those documents if requested. So a candidate is required to keep the records, but not required to provide them if requested for scrutiny or part of an investigation.
Here are some of the good things found in Bill 7:
- Four year terms (I think) are a good thing. It gives new Council members a better chance to ride up the learning curve and start accomplishing their commitments. Right now, that is difficult due to budget cycles.
- Candidates must register to accept donations. This is a good thing and may be laying the foundation for future additions to the Act around campaign finances. For example, it could be the preamble to preventing the practice of a candidate running, raising funds, and then not filing nomination papers retaining the raised funds themselves.
- Registered candidates must have a campaign bank account and the signatories must be registered with the Chief Returning Officer.
- Candidates not complying with financial disclosure requirements are ineligible to run for the eight years (two terms) following. Currently, a report would be received by Council and then… nothing.
There are a few other changes, but these are what I consider to be the major ones. As I mentioned, hopefully City Charters will give the power for Calgary and Edmonton to establish their own campaign finance bylaws with the Local Authorities Election Act being the bare minimum.
(sorry for spelling errors. On the go no time to proof read right now)
I’m very reluctant to support a “penny tax” or the introduction of any new “tax” or “fee”. So no, I do not support taxing and fee’ing Calgarians more. That said, the current way municipalities are funded has some challenges too. As we (very) recently seen, the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) and like programs are not predictable as they depend upon the fiscal situation of the Provincial government. Right now, the provincial fiscal situation is tight, to state the obvious. This makes planning and executing on long-term capital investments in infrastructure very difficult, frustrating, and inconsistent. Let’s also not forget the cost to operate that infrastructure once it is built.
So here’s where my head is at on the issue: the Provincial and Federal governments already take money out of the Calgary economy. Some does come back to the City through grants and the like. Taxation is a process that has a cost. When money is taken and returned, it is diluted by the cost of administering the “taking” and administering the “giving” (let’s not forget the “applying” either). That provides no value to the end local benefactors and is simply local tax money that is burnt on the collection and distribution of taxes. No value to Calgarians or anyone at all. Zip. Zero.
The most efficient process is no process. So rather than tax and/or fee Calgarians more, I think we should be having the very frank discussion about how much money the Provincial and Federal governments take out of Calgary and similar cities. Instead of taking and giving, leave more of the money here for the City of Calgary and Calgarians. For example, instead of increasing the gasoline tax Calgarians see at the pump, be more efficient with it by leaving a greater amount of it here in Calgary allowing us to reduce our dependency on grants and property tax.
This reduces what in my opinion is a significant killer of value: the process of collecting and distributing local taxes by the Provincial and Federal governments. As is often said, there is only one tax payer. I don't think the City's revenue problem should be solved by creating an expense problem for Calgarians.
Now, how that money is spent is a completely different issue, but these are my thoughts on the introduction of new taxes and fees.
Running in the 2010 municipal election for Calgary Ward 1 was a really exciting experience where I was privileged to have earned the votes of over 7,300 of our community members. Our focus on door knocking resulted in me connecting with nearly 20,000 homes in Calgary Ward 1 and I continue to enjoy all of the conversations I have in person and on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
With Election Day not being until October 21, 2013, you may think we’re certainly starting early. There is a good reason for that.
I want to connect directly with as many of the residents in Ward 1 as possible through door knocking, community events, emails, phone calls, social media, or bumping into me on the street. Each time we talk (or type) I want you to know that I’m listening and that what you say and feel is important to me, even if we may not always agree.
“Community you can feel” is an important statement and one that I put a lot of thought into. Through my years of community service in Calgary and what I learned through the 2010 municipal election, it is clear to me that we all want community we can feel good about, even if it’s different for each of us. For some, it is having recreation opportunities nearby. For others, it is having access to a reliable public transit service.
Key to having a community you can feel good about is having services that support your community, and this is where I feel I can have the greatest impact as a member of Calgary City Council.
My professional career has been dedicated to helping organizations and leading Canadian businesses provide better services by better using what they already have. Through experience, I know where the pitfalls are and understand the commitment it takes to create resilient services that aren’t resource hogs.
In the 2010 municipal election this was a key commitment I made to you. Since then, I’ve continued to advocate for this kind of thinking on Calgary City Council. When we focus on making services only as complicated as they need to be, the City of Calgary can provide better services to communities without burdening communities with additional taxes and fees.
When we better use what we already have, we free resources that will enable us to invest in evolving community priorities without the unnecessary cost burdens placed upon the tax and fee payers every year. When we invest in community priorities, we build community we can feel good about.
Please feel free to contact me or the campaign team directly any time. I always do my own tweets, Facebook, and blog posts. I will also personally respond to your emails as quickly as possible, answering your questions directly.
Please join me in building community you can feel good about. I’m very fortunate to have the support of so many of our community members already and look forward to embracing new ideas as we move towards October 21, 2013 and beyond.
I’m really excited to be able to say that starting today, I will be working hard with my campaign team and many of our community leaders as a candidate for Ward 1 Councillor in the Calgary 2013 municipal election.