Urban Compass Calgary
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Change can't come soon enough to Calgary City Council
Conservative hold-outs holding city back from progressive change
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Calgary’s city council needs new blood in 2017. Lots of it.
Between council’s fluoridation folly (let’s not revisit our past mistake!) and bungling of secondary suites (plead each case before us!), the need for change was on clear display last week.
We need a council fit for a modern, complex city of 1.2 million. Instead, we have one that forces seniors and others to beg council in person, sometimes in tears, if they want to build legal secondary suites in their homes.
Too many on council give the negative minority in our city more clout than they deserve.
We need councilors who have a vision beyond the malcontent who calls city hall to gripe about the possibility of renters next door or those damn people on bicycles.
While Mayor Naheed Nenshi and some councillors possess a vision for the city as a whole, others just don’t get it.
And when they stand in the way—on everything from secondary suite reform to the downtown cycle track pilot, which barely got approved—they say they’re just listening to Calgarians.
But one has to ask: Which Calgarians are they listening to?
The obstruction on secondary suites appears to stem from an unfortunate mix of incompetence, fear (what if the cranks get mad at US?!) and pettiness.
Well, congrats councillors—you’ve successfully blocked one of Nenshi’s main policy reforms, which he campaigned on in 2010 and has been unable to pass since.
Your obstinacy literally makes elderly women cry, but hoo boy, you’ve sure showed the mayor.
This perverse success, however, is not Calgary’s success. It’s an embarrassment.
A few weeks ago I wrote in this space about High River remaking its downtown to be walkable in the aftermath of the 2013 flood.
In researching that story, it struck me that town council there—in High River, a town of fewer than 15,000 people—seems more progressive than Calgary’s council.
They’ve got naysayers there, too, but they’re not letting them set the agenda.
“What we absolutely have to stop doing politically is pandering to the negative minority,” Mayor Craig Snodgrass told me. “They will always be there. I don’t care what you do, they’re going to be there and they love to get loud and they’re really good at it.”
“You’ve got to look at what’s best for the community.”
Maybe Calgary’s city council should do a daytrip to High River for Leadership 101.
The next election is still a year away. In the past, we’ve tended to re-elect incumbents, not shaking things up too much.
But it’s also worth recalling that John Mar, former Ward 8 councilor, got beat in 2013 after recusing himself from a key vote on secondary suites.
Evan Woolley went after Mar for it, campaigning on a pro-suite platform, and won.
Councillors should brace themselves for similar reckonings on October 17, 2017.