by Mark Zaugg 15. October 2010 02:12

It's a word that gets thrown around a lot.  I'm not sure the meaning is fully comprehended.  It's a concept I've tried very hard to understand over the past 10 years, and I'm certain I will spend the rest of my life trying to grasp it fully and to teach what I know to my children. 

Given all that I am, I want to be known for the cornerstones from which I've tried to build my life.  I consider it important that I am thought of as trustworthy, as truthful, as fair (whatever THAT may mean) and as respectful.  Respectful was the last cornerstone I put in place, it should have come much, much sooner in my life. 

I think a lot about respect and what it truly means.  I try to judge how I treat others against some impossible, internal standard of respect.  It is a term I honestly think about on a daily basis and comprises a large part of my moral compass.

It pains me to see the word respect thrown around.

Respect is an economy, but it's a strange economy.  You cannot collect respect, you can only pay respect to others.  You can build respect, you can grow respect, you can use respect and thereby destroy respect.  You can earn respect, but you cannot demand respect - not if you want true respect.

Today, my concept of respect was both horribly maligned and brilliantly upheld.

The first I want to spend as little time as possible discussing.  This morning, Barb Higgins most certainly was in a hostile interview.  Hostile does not necessarily mean disrespectful - although I feel that in this case it actually was both.  Ms. Higgins must be able to cope with both blunt and pointed questions and must be able to ask them on her own accord.  She needs to master both the grace to answer an unreasonable question and the ability to show indignity without becoming defensive or aggressive.  Contemptible questions are not worthy of a response and responding in such a way would be fine in my view.

Instead her response was polarizing and divisive.  Many people supportive of Ms. Higgins only saw the interview as unacceptable.  Those unfavourable to Ms. Higgins picked up on the off-camera "melt down."  I would like to think that I was not a supporter of Ms. Higgins, but considered her a viable choice for mayor.

If she perceived contempt in the crowd, I have no issue if she ignores it all and walks out.  Taking out her anger was inappropriate, undignified and as un-mayoral as I can imagine.

You cannot demand that politics be respectful.  Respect must be earned - in part by answering the tough questions and doing so in an appropriate manner.  I am saddened that I have lost a great deal of respect towards Ms. Higgins today.  At this moment, I no longer feel she is an appropriate choice for mayor.

Let me jump to the good parts, because I feel there are a whole lot more people who have built my respect.  This is not an endorsement of any of the people listed below - some of which you can not vote for.  These are people for whom my opinion has been enhanced to a significantly higher level and some of the reasons why.  These are but the smallest fraction of what is good about people in Calgary.

I had no idea Wayne Stewart was going to endorse Naheed Nenshi today.  It changes nothing in my mind.  I am completely forthright to say I feel that Mr. Stewart exemplifies what I value most from my personal cornerstones.  The offer is sincere, Mr. Stewart, I wish to rally to your banner and support you in whatever projects you take on.  On a complete tangent, one of the people I highly respect in Calgary worked with Mr. Stewart's campaign.  I would have reconsidered my support on that knowledge alone.

I have said before that I have grown to appreciate Paul Hughes, both as a candidate and as a person.  He is more than welcome to challenge me on my thinking and faulty reasoning.  He has built my trust and I willingly look to his opinion when I am lacking insight.

For a guy I kept trying to write off, I was impressed after speaking with Craig Burrows.  He earned my respect by speaking with me, by listening with what I said, by disagreeing with some issues I mentioned which were truly out of focus, and by speaking to the heart of how to work with a fractured council.  We do not agree entirely, but by amiably disagreeing with each other I feel I can respect and work with him because I haven't been written off as wrong.

Gary Johnson certainly earned my respect by being approachable and interested and representing an entirely different face of what a mayoral candidate could be.  It is that approachability that leads me to believe he could, in fact, be a great mayor who could reach average Calgarians.

For his tireless efforts to reply and engage on twitter, Jon Lord earned a lot of respect from me.  Again, he's willing to argue a position without making me feel written off.  And Jon will come at you with hard data, so I better be ready if I expect to hold my own.  I'm a nobody out here with a nobody opinion, but Mr. Lord thinks I'm worth engaging.  That builds respect with me.  I'm still going to crack a #jonlord1st joke any chance I get, but I certainly hope none of them come off as disrespectful.

Nargis Dossa earned both my respect and my vote by being responsive and willing to grow and learn while campaigning.  Again, we don't completely agree.  Agree and respect are completely different issues.

There are candidates outside my ward who have genuinely earned my respect.  Agree or disagree, it's not that you'll get my vote, it's more that they have helped shape my thoughts and opinion.  The standout example is Trina Hurdman for helping me choose my trustee candidate.

Each and every person I met on Team Nenshi were awesome people.  Every last one, not a single exception.  How awesome is that?  Every candidate deserves an amazing team like that.  I hope they have them.

My mind flits to twitter and some exceptional people I've met through #yycvote.  Sure, there are trolls unworthy of mention, but there are people with well considered opinions different from my own.  I value them all, particularly as it gives me opportunity to hone my own thoughts.  I'm wrong about half the time, it is wonderful to match wits and forge ideas against people with genuine big brains and actual informed opinion.

Lots of respect to the people of who informed me of what was happening, what was upcoming, and helped keep me aware of who was out there.  Massive respect to the media guys I've followed.  They've helped me immeasurably along the way.

I simply cannot talk about earned respect without specific mention to DJ Kelly.  You're the one that challenged me to be more involved that just mere voting.  I feel that I've accomplished some good and I thank you for the push.

And of course I wish to end by talking about Naheed Nenshi.  Mr. Nenshi earned my trust long ago from his coverage of city hall.  He grew that respect by having clear policy and listing a plan to achieve his goals.  He has gained my respect by differentiating between asking tough questions and respecting the individual candidate.  He has never twisted or maligned another candidate's position, but has most certainly asked clarifying questions.

Virtually the only conversation we have had since the campaign started was very brief after the Vibrant Calgary forum.  He spoke of some of his ideas that might not be popular but are probably the right answers for Calgary.  He turned to me and asked something to the effect of, "So, do you regret coming on board now?"

Nope, not in the least.  I hope Naheed is reading this a few days after the election when he has had time to breathe and think to himself, "I'm glad Mark was on board to help."

I may not be the world's smartest guy, but I think.  I may not be the world's most observant guy, but I have my eyes open.  I may not be the world's most tactful guy, but occasionally I put forward a half-hearted effort.  I may not be the world's funniest guy, but I better drop that thought right away.  And I may not have the definitive answer on what constitutes respect, but I know I think a whole lot more of a whole bunch of people than I did before the start of this election, and I'm damned proud of them all.

That is respect in politics.  Even rough and tumble politics where we attack each other's positions pretty hard, but retain respect for the individuals.


Probably won't be saying much here until after the election.  Best of luck to all the candidates still in the race.

Top 10 things I don't get about Calgary's municipal election

by Mark Zaugg 13. October 2010 19:35

10.  How a candidate could come into this election sitting on a warchest of donations gathered under different rules. 

9.  How aldermen who created the election sign law couldn't abide by it.  Alternatively, how candidates who hope to become aldermen don't seem to understand it. 

8.  How you could put yourself up as a "fringe" candidate in order to express a differing point of view and not show up at the forums to express yourself.  Alternatively, how you could put yourself up as a "mainstream" candidate and not espouse your opinion at every forum possible. 

7.  How "American-style" election means mean-spirited mud slinging.  C'mon, that's a bit of an over-generalization - isn't it? 

6.  How poorly traditionally "right" winged candidates have fared in a traditionally "right" city.  It's no secret that I was won over by Craig Burrows actual numbers and plan ahead.  I felt there was much more room for small-c conservative discussion in a field of 15 candidates. 

5.  How I could have no idea who Wayne Stewart was before this election.  He's a very impressive guy and I am very proud to have shaken his hand - even if he scowled at the button I was wearing.   

4.  How we obsessed with chickens, bridges, tunnels and racetracks through this election.  Alternatively, how we obsessed over them at city council the past three years. 

3.  How losing a vote as solid as mine was not a horrific wake up call to my initial candidate of choice.  Perhaps he just wasn't listening? 

2.  How you can sleepwalk through the campaign with a lack of clear policy, then throw it all together in a couple weeks while riding it out on name recognition.  Alternatively, how you could let your campaign take on such a different face than the face for which you are publicly known. 

1.  How anyone can listen to Naheed Nenshi in person and not feel that they have had a very friendly conversation with a person who wants the very best for the city that he loves.

Welcome to Ward Why Bother Trying?

by Mark Zaugg 7. October 2010 09:37

Tuesday night I went to Civic Camp's Aldermanic Forum for Ward 10.  Now, I had a board meeting ahead of time, so I knew I was going to be about an hour late and I wasn't happy about it because I really wanted to hear what was said. 

I arrived to people milling about.  I was worried I just missed everything and the candidates were chatting with the people who had come out to attend.  I just had long enough to sit down and start a search for #Ward10 on twitter as the groups started to break up a little.  After a minute or two the moderator called the candidates back to the front to recommence.

First impression, there weren't a lot of people there.  Maybe 45, and I'd say six to ten of them were in blue and yellow shirts and therefore partisan.  Second impression, it was a significantly older crowd.  My third impression was that there wasn't very much energy in the room at all. 

Regular readers will know that I'm stunned I have regular readers at all.  I think even Mom had given up on me.  But they'll also know that I saw Andre Chabot's email address in an ad placed in the community newsletter.  So I wrote a letter to explain that I loved the Twibates and offered to help him to participate.  About an hour later I dug up an email address for Nargis Dossa as well, so I sent her more or less the same email.  When I sent out the email, I did not know of the other two candidates running, but I left the offer open to any candidate who wanted my help.

The result was telling.  Ms. Dossa was already on Twitter, but responded to my email and welcomed my help to get her message out.  I went on a very neutral posture and explained it was all in the effort to get her answers posted and to have Ward 10 represented in the Twibate.  Mr. Chabot has yet to respond.

I've been working hard to make my decision early.  I'm going to support the person I consider a best fit to represent me and I'm going to back it by showing my support.  It's pretty hard to make an informed decision when you're not even going to talk to me.  It was really important for me to hear the candidates at the debate.

Organization of the debate itself was great.  The work those Civic Camp people do is amazing, we'd be much worse off without them.  I am impressed with the thought they've put into having interesting rounds and a format that lets all the candidates be heard, particularly for races in which we have huge numbers of "unknown" candidates.

What we saw in Ward 10 is the incumbent and two of the three challengers.  One of which ran against the incumbent in the last election and was handily defeated, the other two are very hard to get any information about.  They have virtually no web presence at all and neither have stopped by my door.  You'd think that showing up for a well organized forum would be a priority, but Robert Kennish did not even show up.

Despite the work of creating an exciting, informative debate the forum itself was not exciting or informative - not in the way intended.  That falls directly on the candidates themselves.  There is a dull, disinforming campaign out here.  Few signs other than Chabot's billboards, pretty tough to get information at all without really working to make contact with the candidates.  I wonder if there's been any reaching out at all in the other direction.

In the time I was there, Karl Schackwidt often answered with, "Well that's a hard act to follow" or "I really agree" or had few comments to add at all.  I have an opinion, I have ideas, I have thoughts into how to improve Calgary.  Why are you running for alderman if you can't articulate yours?

Nargis Dossa ticks me off when she talks about young drivers having lots of money because they can afford to drive cars.  In a vehicle centric city, it's miserably hard to get by without a car and it's the cause of a lot of the financial pressure on young adults.  I feel she's got a better feel for the front line issues facing immigrants and youth, and not such a great feel on the financial side of the equation or the greater picture of Calgary.

Andre Chabot's lead question when I got there was essentially, "How will you work with communities in your ward?"  His answer was, "I will continue to attend community meetings, so long as I am able."  He'll send an aide when he's double booked.


Look, I've only been here for a year and the most common criticism I've heard of Mr. Chabot is that he's disinterested and never shows up for anything.  I'm not prepared to argue one way or the other, but it seems to be a prevailing attitude.  That is absolutely horrifying to have in an elected official, he needs to be working relentlessly to quash that image.

And then he continues over the long hours involved in being an Alderman and the problems with communities holding meetings on the same nights.  All right, Mr. Chabot, if you think being an alderman takes a lot of work, let me inform you of a couple of things:

 - Yeah, it's long hours and plenty of thankless work where you cannot please everyone and some people are going to be really pissed off with you for no good reason.
 - If you're going to whinge about the workload, how about I just try to relieve you of that burden now?

I'm unfavourable towards Mr. Chabot simply based on his stance on Open Data.  I think he took an uninformed and entirely futile stance on an issue that would directly benefit this part of Calgary significantly.  We need data out here, we need to be able to demonstrate that we're lagging behind with sports and recreation facilities and libraries in the one part of town which could benefit the most from them.  It's not a vote killer for me, though.

He made a point that the downtown library can support two more floors and that could help get us through a while longer without needing an entirely new building right away.  That's really positive and something worth considering.

But this crap of not returning emails, remaining blissfully ignorant of social media and the actual conversations that are happening beyond your domain and unwillingness to connect with the rest of the citizens you represent?  Screw it.  You're done in my mind.

So it looks like I get to put some more effort into the defeat Andre Chabot campaign.  For all the wrong reasons, and I hate myself for it.  And when the election is over and Mr. Chabot has unfailingly been re-elected once again (after all, this is Calgary and not the Twilight Zone) he can call me up and I'll work with him to try to get him in touch with the people he needs to be serving on an entirely new level to him.  Not that I expect him to ever read this or reply to me.

Until then:  Nargis Dossa for Ward 10.  She answers her email.

Show Me the Plan Ahead

by Mark Zaugg 5. October 2010 02:02

There's something about talking policy that lies underneath the surface of election talk. 

You may have the singular best ideas out there, but if you cannot get people to row for you and draw your oars you will be dead in the water.  In modern sound-bite politics you can be entirely void of ideas and just toss the sound of change in the wind and sail on to victory.  I'm sure there's a hundred metaphors out there that aren't nautical and thereby more appropriate to a prairie town. 

Ultimately, the 2010 edition of Calgary city council is going to have some problems to deal with over the subsequent three years.  A few of the issues are going to need an immediate and firm response.  Examples are the budgetary shortfall which has to be dealt with immediately after they are elected.  Other examples will include snow plowing which we could be facing in as little as a week or as late as three months from now compliments of Calgary's fickle climate.

Mid length issues are going to include problems like dealing with library hours, secondary suites, transit and parking issues.  The exact issues we've been struggling with for years that continue to remain problems specific to this city.

Then we have the long term issues that never seem to be seriously dealt with productively.  I'm talking about the Downtown Plan - wait, the Go Plan - hold it, the Plan It plan.  This includes city arenas, LRT development, even Enmax.

We know precisely what we have to do.  The incoming council is going to have to consolidate around the next mayor and promptly come up with a plan to deal with the budget.  They are not given a choice on this matter, cities aren't allowed to run deficits.  Their hands are tied, they have to clean up the mess that was left to them from the prior, substandard council.  Our next mayor is going to have to snap into action and get 14 alderman (at least four of which will be entirely new) to work together to resolve some very contentious issues.  There isn't any given "right answer", and if anyone tries to pass one off as the silver platter, one size fits all solution it will be a telling indication that we will suffer an ideologue council once again.

My first point is that I believe the next mayor needs to have an articulated, clear plan laid out ahead of time so that we, the citizens, can choose the vision we most wish to see from our city.  Take yourself back three years:  Had someone run on the idea that we needed to impose a $3.00 fee at every C-Train station and BRT Park and Ride lot, would you have voted for them?  Should we have not had the opportunity to debate what effect that would have had on ridership?  Clearly our present council didn't have that debate.  What about now when some of the very same people who brought us that fee are now saying it ought to be abolished?  This is a conversation that we really need to be having about all of these issues - right now, during the election.  At a time when we, the electorate, can shape the conversation to what we desire.  We may not get our way, but our voices ought to be heard. 

Alderman need to be hyper-aware of their areas.  They're expected to be in touch to understand what affects their area of the city and their constituents.  They need to have a grasp that they are part of a bigger city and must plug into city wide solutions as required.  They need to be able to show they are in touch with their areas and understand the greater issues of Calgary.

The mayor is the person who must set the tone and vision of the city at large.  It is a role that has to work directly with the alderman to set right the localized issues, balance the city wide problems and do it all within a budget and service level requirements that we collectively find acceptable.

Do you feel comfortable looking at a 60 million dollar shortfall without knowing how we intend to solve it?  I'm not talking line by line budgeting, I'm referring to the budgetary processes we will abide by in the future.  I'm thinking of auditing processes that will completely disallow future council's being unaware of cost overruns.  I think I've made the case that I'm not a financial wizard here.  I cannot hear talk of every contract over the past three years going over budget to wonder what is going on at city hall where we are supposed to have people who do understand these principles.

We deserve to have complete, fleshed out plans from our candidates.  They're the people who are supposed to always be thinking about this.  I'm sorry, but if I read your plan and it sounds like something I could have written, I don't think it's substantial enough for you to lead me.  I'm not saying that my ideas aren't good, I'm saying that I don't have a firm enough grasp to be mayor.  I expect each and every candidate to step up and explain their ideas to me because they are running and one of them is getting the job.  Do I not say it every time?  Do better.  We deserve the very best from our mayor.

If my first point was that our mayor needed to have a plan, my second point is that they have to have the ability to act on their goals.  Clearly council is 15 diverse people, representing many different areas of Calgary with competing problems and desires.  They have to work together constructively and they are not going to have a lot of time until they start digging into a budget nightmare.  There is absolutely no room in the next city council for the bickering, tag teaming and indecisiveness we saw in the previous council.

Once I came to the realization that a dysfunctional city council was my single biggest election issue, everything else fell into place for me.  All of the big problems we're facing now are due to a fractured council.  Indecisiveness led to the tunnel. Being asleep at the wheel led to our deficit.  Infighting led to hours of wasted time arguing over shutting down half of Memorial Drive on one Sunday of the year.  We didn't elect fifteen morons three years ago.  How could we possibly have ended up with such a poor council and how can we imagine having a decent result after the next election without sweeping out the whole lot of them?  It's Calgary, we don't normally kick out our Aldermen, we can expect to see a whole lot of them back.  Something has to change, we deserve better.

The third point I have regarding policy is that of consistency.  Life is filled with compromises, we have to set our priorities and negotiate and compromise in order to achieve them.  But that plan itself needs to be consistent within itself.

Consistency means the goals in the platform cannot conflict with themselves.  They have to fit within budgetary restrictions.  They must coalesce into a greater plan that works towards a focused direction.  This has been seriously lacking in Calgary.

When we set an objective to have fewer people driving downtown on a daily basis, we need a complete plan involving transit, parking and road planning.  We can't fix one problem while creating two more.  I'm extremely critical of short sighted planning that implements a $3.00 Park and Ride fee that had a severe impact upon transit ridership.  That wasn't thought through, that wasn't best for our city.

My final point about the mayor's policy is that it needs to be - what are the right words here?  Original?  Honest?  True to one's self?

I have two concerns about leadership making decisions about policy.  The first is rejecting great ideas because they didn't come up with it - the "Not Invented Here" syndrome.  The other guy thought up something brilliant, but I have to differentiate myself from him so I have to oppose it.  If this doesn't scream our previous city council, you probably didn't follow the 8-7 split votes very often.  A good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from.  Good policy stands for itself, no matter who brought it up.  Now, it's quite possible that the good idea is not consistent with your overall plan and you may need to make compromises to retain your consistency.  However a great idea will stand on it's own and be self-evident.

The inability to listen to others in council means other good ideas which are beneficial for the city at large are not being heard.  The inability to work with others in council means that even if the good ideas are put on the table, they are not acted upon decisively or effectively.  Fractious, schismed councils are filled with candidates not listening and are creating problems we don't need to have.  The mayor must listen and work with council at large.

Conversely, if the mayor does not have original ideas, his or her plan cannot carry council through contingencies that arise or adapt as conditions change.  Our council cannot have a bunch of great ideas today for the election and then coast for the next three years.  This is where the candidate has to be intelligent, creative and inventive.  This is often what we obliquely refer to as "experience" - or lack of experience - when we're reviewing our candidates before the election.  You can borrow some good ideas and act upon them even if they were generated elsewhere - but sooner or later you have to drive your own agenda.  If our mayor can not continue to plan over the next three years, we have to question just who is putting the plan in place.


Although I make no allusion to be unbiased I think this can be applied impartially to all the candidates.  This is the biased portion of the blog right here.  Only two candidates came close to passing my personal judgment.  Your job is to make up your own mind.

Look at each candidate's platform.  Consider what impediments he or she may have in implementing their platform - including working with a divided council.  Think if their platform works against itself or works against major goals set by the city.  Then ask if each candidate has the ability to cope with the problems that are going to come up through the next three years of day to day life in Calgary.

I'm not going to be an echo chamber singing sweet praises of the guy I like.  McIver has some great ideas and plenty of experience on council, but has shown that he is fractious and has a poor track record of accomplishment.  Higgins has started fleshing out details and is extremely charismatic and hard working for this city, but I'm concerned with her ability to lay out long term policy.  Burrows has released exceptional policy ideas and has all the advantages of McIver without the baggage of the prior city council.  But Nenshi's Better Ideas keep showing up on other candidate's platforms because his policy remains supreme.

In the writing of this, I'm even more convinced that my guy is the right guy for Calgary.  Why is Naheed Nenshi willing to debate at each and every forum?  He has well thought policy.  At each debate he shows that he really believes in his ideas, that his ideas retain internal consistency and they are his own and he can adapt on the fly as circumstances change.


Something's been bothering me the past couple of days while I've been hacking up a lung while sweating on the couch skimming through Twitter. 

If policy and Better Ideas are good enough for Nenshi, why isn't it good enough for all of us supporters?  Let's keep it to adult conversations.  Follow the leader and talk policy.  He's going to win this election on the strength of Better Ideas, not through better tasting troll food.

Policy? Policy. Policy!

by Mark Zaugg 30. September 2010 14:32

Interesting exchange with Joe Connelly this afternoon. 

He posted:

enough with the policy, lets start to let calgarians decide what their policy should be. priorities too Time to take back your city

My first thought is, "Direct the conversation away from your weak suit."  Have no policy, then don't talk about it.  But upon reflection the conversation is more nuanced.

My reply:

.@joeformayor More policy. NOW! Stop pretending to listen during the elections and then ignore us in office. #yycvote

My point to this is three fold.  First, that is my priority and I want Mr. Connelly to understand it.  Unquestionably, ever since I seriously became engaged in this year's municipal elections, I have decided that the number one problem that has to be fixed is that City Council must become a cohesive, informed and effective body that spends much less time bickering amongst themselves and much more time making good decisions.  That is my single most important issue - without an effective city council, we're subject to another three years of mediocrity and indecision.

The continued 8-7 split votes mean that fully one half of the city is not being heard ever.  Our representatives have not been representing us all, they've only been representing a small subset of their constituents.  Their job is to represent us all - even the people they disagree with.  Tyranny of the majority happens, sure, but it has to be tempered with an understanding that we have to protect the minority and that sometimes what is best for the city at large is not best for our immediate constituents.

The second point is when we have been telling council what our policy should be, we haven't really be heard.  Case in point: snow clearing.

The third point I see is that without putting policy on the table, we don't have metrics we need in order to evaluate our candidates.  We don't know what they intend to accomplish, we can't tell after the fact how successful they were accomplishing what they set out to do.  Not having voting records readily available makes it even more difficult.  Transparency in governance is important.  The last city council fails in my eyes.

Now here's what's strange to me.  When I went to Vibrant Calgary's mayoral forum, one of the things that Mr. Connelly really impressed me with was when he spoke about integrating some immigrants into his communities.  It was the right thing to do, and now he's seeing teachers and doctors and all sorts of successful citizens who have developed from that community.  I don't know all the details here.  I wish I had, it's a great success story. 

Mr. Connelly doesn't need to hear from me that it's a good idea.  (It is, I'll say it to him now, and if some current residents oppose it, it's great for Calgary as a whole.)

Policy, to me, doesn't just mean that we're going to widen 14th Street by eight feet and we're going to put bike racks on the outside of sixteen C-Trains as a trial.  It also includes the ideas about where we need to collectively aim.

Mr. Connelly has policy, even if it breaks down as listening better to individual Calgarians.  I must admit, I'm puzzled.  He served on council with Ric McIver, if he thinks he can do a better job than McIver then I would like to know why.  I don't understand whether their differences are philosophical, or differences in policy, or a long standing grudge or if Connelly feels he has some better ideas about -- something.  It has been a conundrum I have never managed to resolve.

I really do like Joe, I think individually he's done a good job for Ward 6.  But I don't know the day to day happenings over there and never connected with him on a mayoral level.  I know tidbits of stories that really do impress me, but I got lost in vagueness when I wanted to learn more.

Let me repeat, I criticize because the people voting for him deserve a top performer.  People voting based on name recognition alone deserve more meat on the bones.  I'm pretty sure Connelly has some great ideas, but they just never reached me.

I've been asked several times for specifics on my opinion on the tunnel, transportation and transit, the bridge, the auditor and a bunch of other policy that helped make up my mind.  Perhaps I need to elaborate.

And if I feel I need to elaborate, shouldn't the candidates?

Aww, do we have to vote for school board trustees, too?

by Mark Zaugg 28. September 2010 23:24

So very much to talk about today.  The day has taken some lovely twists and turns. 

First off, I don't want to talk about what I most want to talk about.  It's stupid, it doesn't matter, I dearly want to chip in my $0.02, but my two cents on a two bit question isn't worth diddly squat.  And if you don't immediately know what I'm talking about, great, you didn't miss a damned thing!

Second, I'm very, very proud to say I can be found here.  Does it matter that I'm listed as $5 - $100 or do you specifically need to know that I threw in $20?  Personally, I'm fine with all candidates lumping donors into those ranges, but if you need to know the exact number, I'll say it outright.  Yeah, I'll feel even $20 right now, but I feel that my guy is the right guy for right now.  I'm convinced, I've bought in, I'm dedicated.  We've got to pitch in and work to make this happen.

The big news for me is that I went to the Ward 5 & 10 Public School Trustee Forum tonight held at a school I didn't know existed (Clarence Samson School) in a neighbourhood of Calgary I've never visited before.

So let's start with the basics.  Who the hell is the trustee now and why should I even care?  My kids don't go to a school out there, does it even matter?  Besides, only parents and employees go to those things anyways...

Let me take a deep breath right now. 

First let me talk about why I care.  I have two kids, I'm essentially uninvolved with their school life until there's a problem.  I'm not happy about it at all.  I am their father, I care deeply about their well-being and their future and their ability to learn and live and grow and be good citizens in Calgary.  It's a start.  I know that I need to push at the school constantly in order to get any little trickle of information out of them.  I know that if I push too hard, I get branded "over-aggressive", an "arsehole" or "impossible to get along with."  It's very frustrating.

My ex-wife is a teacher and is a lot more in-tune with the ins and outs of education in Calgary.  I'm not worried about my kids academically, they're more than fine.  But I worry about them learning to do the things I don't do well; the more social aspects, working with people you don't like, compromising on your world-view in order to listen to other people's opinions.  (My ghod...  I'm Ric McIver!  ;-) ) 

Let me plant that seed now and I'll get back to the point later.

The other tie I have with the education system in Calgary is with my curling team.  If I don't sing their praises enough, I should.  Two of them are now principals, one of them works in CBE's IT.  Everything about those guys says class.  They took a guy who hadn't curled for ten years, made me feel at home, and brought me along.  I'm not sure I'm a great curler, but I must be getting better because our entire team has improved.

Those guys are the window I have to the system since I don't have a regular parental window to the school system.  They're the ones that are affected directly.  I want the best for my kids, but I want the best for those guys too.

So now let's talk about just how ignorant I really am.

1.  Years ago, the provincial government decided that there was a rural / urban imbalance and the rural schools suffered a lack of revenues.  So they consolidated all the education taxes and then have doled it out.  Rural schools don't seem to complain - not that I hear, anyways.  City schools are nothing but problems of underfunding and overspending.

2.  The current chair of the board is Pat Cochrane.  She's obviously a really nice, intelligent person because she followed me first on Twitter.  Yes, that's exactly how to get my vote, be an aggressive follower on twitter.  Just don't wear a bikini and tell me how to increase my followers - I might not think you're real.

3.  One of Ms. Cochrane's opponents did a press release on the new administration building and it was all the rage of discussion today.

4.  One last tidbit, in the past the board has been a storm of disunity and almost non-functional in ideological splits.

There.  That's it.  The sum of my knowledge.  And if my point about Ms. Cochrane didn't come out trite, I didn't state my case well enough.

I grew up in those rural schools.  Some I fit into, others not so much.  I moved to Calgary in Grade 10 and finished high school at Henry Wise Wood.  It was really different from J. C. Charyk Hanna High.  Totally better, for me.  I go into my kid's schools and I see a completely different experience than I ever had growing up.  Still I see some of the cracks: Schools in disrepair, really old computers, text books that have seen better days, hell, text books in the first place.    We can't do better?  In Alberta?  We weren't fixing stuff in the boom, we're not fixing it in the bust, are we just riding on our oil laurels here?

What in the hell was I thinking in the past?  Why wasn't I more involved and informed about this?  What in words significantly stronger than "hell" was I thinking when I said, "I don't care about the school board?"  This is a major hit in my pocketbook, it has a major effect upon my children, it is supremely important.  Why don't we pay attention to this each and every day instead of when things get screwed up?

We seriously need to scream at the provincial government until they reverse this stupid idea of consolidating tax collection through their mitts.  At least loosen it up a little to give more control locally.  I'm okay with making sure the rural areas are funded adequately, but how many times did Pamela King talk about having different budgets that funds were coming from?  How many strings do those people have?  Government + strings = __________.  And your homework is to fill in the blank.

What I saw tonight was five impassioned people talking about making education better.  Five different approaches with common threads running between them.  Financial issues got a whole lot of play.  Talk about not having enough resources, talk about squandering resources on wrong areas, talk about "opulent buildings" while kids in schools suffer.  Talk about the provincial government holding back funding because they see so much waste locally.

Talk about how teachers have been treated, talk about losing teachers, talk about overworking teachers, talk of burning out teachers in classes of 40.  One teacher who was laid off in the last round asked a question - well, more that she made a comment and then solicited comments.  She said teachers were taught to put student learning first ahead of everything else.  She had a class of 38 kids, 23 of them were ESL and 5 of them were special needs, and she taught them in a windowless closet.

C'mon, tell me this is a joke, right?

ESL really struck me.  I should have taken a picture of the gym and the flags up there.  There is no other way to put this: I'm damned proud of this city when we can walk into a school and see that kind of diversity.  Did I mention my kid is learning Mandarin?  That's awesome cool.  Especially when he's going to be able to use it when he's playing with friends, or dating a girl he likes, or flying to Beijing for business.  This is real, it's happening right here, I never got any kind of opportunity like that in Hickville, Albertee.

Now, let me ask the question:  Is the province truly holding back funding because they see waste from the CBE, or is the province completely out of touch with the reality of education in Calgary, or a little of both?  What right does the province have in underfunding us in the first place?  How can I possibly get a clear picture without a whole lot of transparency from the province and the CBE?  Who's helping out for us here?

Ms. King mentioned several times feeling huge frustration with not hearing from the public.  I'm feeling huge frustration not hearing from the school.  I didn't know where to start.  It took almost the entire last year to learn of a web page called "Desire2Learn" so I could get access to some of the day to day things happening in my kid's classes.  I have to visit more often, but at least it's something I can do.
And there, dear reader, is the crux of the argument and the point that I had buried with a promise to return.

Be it resolved that the first order of business of the Calgary Board of Education is to find a way to communicate openly with all Calgarians.  The CBE is big business, as stakeholders we need a way to be better informed.  I don't even know where to start, I certainly don't know the questions to ask, I'm not sure I understand what Trustees actually do.

Be it also resolved that all Calgarians will engage with the CBE and start giving a damn.  Ms. King's complaint of not hearing feedback is our responsibility, not hers.  Once every three years is not okay.  Why wasn't that room packed to the rafters?  Literally, to the rafters?  This should be much more important to each and every Calgarian, not just a few dozen people with dull axes.  If we don't, we're going to get a board full of wingnuts pushing their own agendas - and we'll deserve it, but our kids won't.

So after all that, I went to a Trustee forum hoping to decide who to vote for and I came away feeling a great liking and affinity to five very impassioned people.  Every single one said something I liked and something I thought was kinda dumb.  I know it's hard to like the incumbent from the school board, but I know it's a damned tough spot to be shoved.  Every last person up there cared and was trying from their own perspective.  I'm more confused than ever, and this is going to take much more research.

But I damned well better think about this, because it's an urgently important position.  This "being involved" thing is a lot of work.  But after listening to what I heard tonight - how can you possibly consider this minor and not get involved?

The other thing I know is that I have to check D2L tonight.  And call my kid's school tomorrow and set up an appointment with their new principal.

Woe betide the weary Calgarian

by Mark Zaugg 26. September 2010 14:00

I spotted Michael Platt's column this morning thanks to Twitter. 

I argue with his premise.  This is the most exciting election I've been involved with in my entire life.  I'm much more in tune and energized about this election than any other.  I'm volunteering and active and sharing my opinions because this time, I think it matters more than ever. 

No, Mr. Platt, it didn't have to be this way.

What we did have in Calgary, leading up to the election race, was anger; anger over waste and arrogance at city hall, where lavish spending and political pay raises went unabated in the face of a crushing recession.

Anger, like nothing else, can turn apathy into a vicious stroke of the pencil: An X to mark your disgust.

Perhaps he's right, but I'll argue that premise, too. 

If you've been paying any kind of attention to municipal politics over the past three years (Mr. Burrows claims four - he saw it at the end of the previous council to this one) you'll understand that our city council has been rife with anger.  Mad, unfocused, unconstrained anger vented weekly.  Anger that has built with every 8-7 vote, anger that has spawned with entrenched opinions and that voting tally on the wall where the same aldermen link arms to play a political game of British Bulldog.

What has three years of anger got us from city council?  We have a shiny red bauble bridge a few hundred of meters from two other pedestrian bridges.  We have a last ditch decision to make over a ditch - even though the Calgary Airport Authority had been jumping up and down waving it's hands yelling, "We're building the new runway like it or not, have you decided about the tunnel yet?"  We're looking at potentially double-digit tax hikes and we still can't plow streets in this city.  Worse - we can't even hire someone to do it for us!

Does this sound like I'm less than angry?  Do you think I'm not typing with fury over the ineptitude of what City Council's anger has wrought?  I was enraged, I am enraged, I will continue to be enraged with the terrible service 15 good people have provided.  The work of City Council was swallowed up and lost to us due to their anger.

Has nothing good come out of the past three years?  We have the west leg of the LRT going up - I think that's a positive.  We have more arenas being built.  We've dealt with some of the infrastructure problems.  Is it enough?  Hell no, and I'm pissed off about it.

Anger is not going to fix this city.  Anger in council caused this mess.  Anger at the polls will only put 15 different ideologues into council who do not represent us.  Anger is not the answer.

There is an answer, a better answer.  The answer is policy and getting back to the fact that we have had a broken city council and we need to change philosophy and processes to get it back on track.  The answer is not screaming in rage at each other across an aisle but by understanding that we have to talk about priorities and what is best for our city at large.

The broken answer is listing who you can work with in council.  The better answer is listing the priorities of what you want to accomplish.

The broken answer is giving vague and non-committing answers to not cause offense to anyone.  The better answer is -- wait for this -- the same answer!  List your priorities and let's talk about the vision from here.

Again, I criticize because Calgarians deserve a top performer from their candidates. They deserve to make their choices not out of anger, but for the right reasons.

We do have a champion.  Naheed Nenshi has led by elevating the conversation.  He is a candidate who is trying to put debate on a level higher than anger, he's talking policy and he has put substantial ideas out for debate.

If you're standing with me in the Nenshi camp, remember that we don't have to resort to anger.  We've got policy to argue in the very best sense of the word.  When someone talks claptrap about Nenshi being anti-business I go to Better Idea #3.  Worried about transparency at City Hall?  Go visit Better Idea #8.  Tired of an endless argument over secondary suites, Better Idea #1.

Our candidate has done the hard work.  Now your job is discussing why they're good ideas and if we can think of better ways to improve them.

I'm not going to argue some other guy has been bought by developers.  I want to know how that other guy plans to make it easier for developers to redevelop inner city areas, to become more creative and vibrant in their plans, and to act more responsible about the land we're living on.  When do we stop blocking inner city roads and start focusing on safe traffic flow instead?

Talk about your guy's ideas.  Each and every idea has merit, everyone else in the city needs to know about them and that our guy supports them.  No matter who your guy is.

Anger doesn't cut it.  Come talk with me about good ideas worth supporting.

Door knocking. It's not just for politicians anymore.

by Mark Zaugg 23. September 2010 22:13

So I went up to Naheedquarters tonight figuring I'd be delivering signs or something like I did last night. 

There's going to be a big push to get signs out Saturday.  I've got my kids and Bow Valley Music Club so I'm just not going to be able to swing it this weekend.  Fair enough, I was planning to spend my evening tonight doing something for Team Nenshi and since I was there... 

So Stephen asks, "Wanna go door knocking?" 

I clearly heard myself say, "No, absolutely not.  It's positively not for me, and nothing I'd ever want to subject myself to.  I prefer my life as an anti-social troll and pretty much would be happy if all of humanity was swallowed by a black hole in the next three minutes to avoid doing something equivalent to that." 

Apparently it came out of my mouth as, "Sure, I'd love to."

I had precisely three thoughts:

  1. I won't be in my neighbourhood
  2. I thought of a person I know who said she'd vote for the first interested candidate to actually show up at her door, and
  3. I thought that I better stop off at home for a couple minutes and brush my teeth first. 

Okay, so I have a long street of houses to hit, that's fine.  I go to the first one - they're moving before the election.  I go to the second one.  He's undecided, we chat.  I feel really uncomfortable and the opposite of "knows what I'm talking about" and.. err..  "smooth."  And out it comes from him, "I want someone new that inspires people."

Well, as a matter of fact, this is the first time I've been involved in a political campaign.  I've always voted, but I've never participated at this level.  And the conversation started to flow.

Look, I don't give a rat's ass who anyone else votes for.  I just want everyone to make an informed vote.  There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I feel Naheed Nenshi has the very best platform.  He's had his Better Ideas posted for weeks, and it's something we can constructively talk about.  But that doesn't mean you have to feel the same way.

I'll be the first to stand up and say some of the other candidates have great ideas.  I'll be the first to stand up and say other candidates have appealing traits and characteristics.  No one matches the ideas, the work ethic, the interest, the approachability or the integrity I get from Mr. Nenshi.  It isn't even close.

Now, if you can stand with me and tell me why you support another candidate, I will be exceptionally happy and support you fully in your choice.  The only answers I consider unacceptable are, "She (or he) is the only one I know" or "She (or he) is the only one who can win."  You know what, I've got some better ideas on the back of this here flier and maybe you oughtta be reading them if you're feeding me that line.  Of course, I'm much more polite in person.  I'm also much taller and better looking than I appear here.

So the take home story of this tonight is an ugly one.  I can whinge and shout bravado and blab all I want on my blog here.  It's not going to make a hill of beans.  I can also try to engage fellow citizens and encourage them to vote and get involved and that makes a real difference.  If you're just on social media and you think it's enough, it's time to get outside of your comfort zone right now, because we are going to need every twitterer we can get.

Door knocking is tough - at least for me - and it's a lot more time consuming than I ever imagined.  Just about every door I knocked upon was a conversation tonight.  I barely got anywhere - nothing like the map I picked up from Naheedquarters.  But I spent a lot of time sharing ideas and meeting some really nice people.  Easily two thirds tonight told me they were voting for certain.  I don't care how they vote, if they all show up at the polls we will have made a difference.

CBC Eyeopener Mayoral candidate debate #3: How to bring Council Together

by Mark Zaugg 23. September 2010 09:57

You guys know I can normally go months between writing entries, right? 

This was well and truly the most important debate the Eyeopener has done for me yet.  This is my single most important election issue.  Period. 

A broken city council is the root of so many of the problems we're seeing in this election.  This is the big one right here! 

If we had a working city council, they wouldn't have dallied to make a decision one way or the other about the airport tunnel.  Do it, or don't do it, but now we're scrambling trying to see if we even can get it done at all. 

If we had a working city council, we wouldn't have had poor decisions made regarding the bridge.  It would have been in the press months ago, single sourcing would have been publicly vetted long ago, location would have been argued long ago and agreed upon or shot down. 

If we had a working city council, we would have had fifteen people telling us what they were seeing in the budget long ago and seeing the issues coming up.  We wouldn't have half the council walking in a daze while the other half is pointing fingers saying, "I told you so."  Wake up, you're all responsible. 

If we had a working city council, we would not have 8-7 votes over and over again.  (Thank you, Jim Brown, for making that point so clearly!)  They have to work together and make compromises.  That doesn't mean back room deals, it means talk about your ideas, find where you can give a little on your priorities to make something else happen somewhere else.  It most certainly means you don't turn off your brain and vote with your buddies or keep score on who voted for your idea.

This is my single most important issue, and of the three, Craig Burrows owns my vote on this idea alone.  It is about the issue and not about the people.  It is what's best for Calgary.  If you're just voting for mayor based on name recognition, you need to look at some of the other candidates and their ideas.  Mr. Burrows has this nailed.  He'll be a thousand times more effective because he understands how to focus on the issue and make council work together.

Joe Connelly is, quite sadly, part of today's council and part of the problem.  You can hear it in his language.  "..I think you started with some great stuff about the pedestrian bridge, Memorial Drive and the tax hike, and I railed against all three of them."

Railing against issues is the exact problem!
  Crowd-source this, Joe, stop railing against issues and start looking to get things done.  Bow River Flow turned out to be something good once it was given a chance.  Come down and meet me next year and let me explain it to you.  Until then, stop squishing ideas and start cooperating with council.  You'll never get anything accomplished unless you collaborate and start collaborating with the people you didn't choose.

Jon Lord brought up another point for me:  A working city council will never, ever have to find waste to trim.  A working city council will not create waste in the first place because they'll be thinking about this and listening to people who bring them ideas.  A working city council is responsive and forward thinking. 

This is big.  If your candidate doesn't have this question answered, you need to find another candidate.  It is that simple and that important.


Went out today to deliver signs for my candidate of choice tonight.  This is the first time I've been this involved.  I made sure I'll be on the donor's list (I'll be at wee end of the bottom..  Do what you can.)  It's a good feeling to be working with some great people.  I sure hope everyone in the campaign feels this way.

Twibates and Promises Kept

by Mark Zaugg 22. September 2010 00:00

Aldermanic Twibate tonight, and I'm so excited! 

I was in and out, and mostly did not attend, due to a very important prior commitment I made.  But I kept my eyes on it as much as possible. 

From my whistle tour evaluation, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.  I'd like to have seen more participants, of course, but I have a really good feeling for the candidates at large.  These Twibates are really, really positive for me - you can get your views in front of many hyper-involved people in a short period of time.  I'm proof - we will engage and be active.

Will it win you the election?  Nope.  But it will help to get you noticed.  And any way to initiate rapid contact in an election is a good thing (tm).


The first full day of the official campaign and all my thoughts today go to two promises.

Naheed Nenshi promised to disclose his donors.  He has, and with that I announce I will not be renouncing him the day after he earned my endorsement.  :-)

The other promise kept was Barb Higgins released her answers to the Twibate.  A week late and a little vague, but she did fulfill her promise and I give her full credit for that.

Still, it re-confirms that I've made the right choice in candidates.  This is how Nenshi shows integrity, and I feel at home here.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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