Vibrant Calgary forum through my eyes

by Mark Zaugg 20. September 2010 23:38


I don't feel rich.  I've been a lot worse off than I am right now.  Granted I'm also in pretty tough straights for at least the next year.  But I'm not poor. 

It's a funny question, because this month is tighter than most.  Car insurance came up this month and that's a nasty hit.  Particularly for how little I drive my car these days.  Oh, and I still have that broken front sprocket on my bike I have to fix.  And curling dues are, well, due.  And the kid's have their extracurricular stuff they want to do.  But I'm not actually poor. 

I know the stress of being unemployed for a year and not seeing a way out.  I know the lock depression can put on a person.  I've flirted with poor, but I don't think I've ever really been there. 

So I'm off to a forum to talk about poverty - why? - because I shot my mouth off and said who I liked best and the guy I chose says, "Come on out and join us at the forum."  The guy I'm backing is going to have to deal with poverty in a very direct and literal manner.  He better have a plan and some good answers.

So, the event.  Attendees were, in order from house right to house left, Craig Burrows, Bob Hawkesworth, Barb Higgins, Wayne Stewart, Naheed Nenshi, Joe Connelly, Gary Johnson, Ric McIver, Jon Lord and Bonnie Devine.

What did they say?  Go search twitter for the term #vidyyc and read from the bottom up.  I didn't get everything the candidates said, but I tried to at least express their ideas.  Any mistakes or distortions of their ideas is purely on my behalf.  Don't read it as gospel.

Instead, at the end I got the question, "Well, what did you think?"

I had to think about it for a while.  On a couple of levels.  Am I partisan now?  I'm not going to stop thinking or listening, and I'm not giving up my opinions.  I'm screwed if people expect me to fully understand the issues - there's a good reason I'm not running.  On the other hand, I am not running for mayor - I expect those who are to have a handle on the topic.

It's easy to rip everyone to shreds.  It's harder to acknowledge the positive.  It's nigh impossible to be fair and balanced.  I am not, this is my opinion based from my observations and my personal bias.  You have to form your own opinion, this one belongs to me.

There were highlights and low-lights to me, for sure.

I have to say, I liked Joe Connelly talking about integrating a community into a neighbourhood.  It's a great feel-good story and we need more integration in Calgary.  Then Ric McIver comes in with a "me too" story.  It felt funny.

Jon Lord reminded me of all the things I like about Jon Lord - talk about the people, put the people first, build resilient communities.  Build communities with kids in mind and the rest of the community develops around that.  That jarred me and reminded me from the twibate of "moving to the suburb for the kids, then move back in when they're gone."  I feel like he's talking about Calgary 25 years ago.

All three spoke about improving the economy - a rising tide lifts all boats.  It's a little too trickle-down for my taste at a forum on poverty.  Purely my bias speaking.  Poverty was here in the boom, it's here in the bust.  Even with full employment, we have to defend against McJobs that leave you further behind.  If it failed to resonate, perhaps it's just not their crowd.

It should have been a perfect crowd for Bob Hawkesworth.  To me, he missed the mark talking tunnel.  Wayne Stewart called him on it, it kept coming up.  Making the point that there's a trade off with building the tunnel is okay.  Saying you'll apply it towards poverty, fine.  It differentiates him quite well.  But to lead the crowd into shouting out "tunnel" back at you was a little much.  Scratch that, it's a lot much to me.  If $500 million is going to eliminate poverty forever in this city, we have ALL of our values messed up.  Not that I believe killing the tunnel is going to give us $500 million to spend on the poor.  What I did like about Hawkesworth is that at this forum he most certainly didn't leave his good points behind in his bag.  He talked about the BRT from downtown to the airport and got out it could be done by 2012 and for much less.

It was my first chance to hear Bonnie Devine and Gary Johnson.  Their passion goes to eleven, sure, but you're going to need a lot more than passion.  As a side note, I got to spend a lot of time chatting with Gary after the debate.  He's not going to come up and work the crowd, you have to go make the effort.  He spoke to me about helping people find their pride in themselves.  I understand that well.  Mayoral, probably not, but a very interesting guy.  I'll make more effort to speak with Bonnie some time.

Ha, before I talk about Craig Burrows I first better mention he gave me a shot about showing up in purple instead of dark blue.  Tonight showed one of the schisms I have with Burrows.  He spoke about sports and arts and libraries and transit, and there are great ideas in the mix.  But working on poverty doesn't start with sports arenas.  That's another tier or two down the road.

Wayne Stewart was everything I expected.  He's consistent to his song book and it was a real pleasure for me to shake his hand.  My gut says it's not going to happen, my heart says prove me wrong.  Go prove me wrong, Wayne.

Barb Higgins was a joy to hear.  Well, she debated, at least, and it was really nice to hear her thoughts.  She sounded less a mouthpiece and a bit more of her passion came through in person.  I would not call her performance mayoral tonight, she's got a lot more in her to give.  I know this is an issue she's worked on and cares about, I want her to not win the debate by being barely good enough but by wiping the floor with everyone else.  This was her debate to shine.  I'm critical because I want her to improve.  I'm not voting for her, but thousands are going to and they deserve a top performer.

So (full disclosure, I endorse Naheed Nenshi) I get to my candidate of choice.  You know, I think (full disclosure...) he has the best policies laid out for livable neighbourhoods.  He's described the best roadmaps going forward.  I think he really does have better ideas.  He used his time poorly and he sounded like a professor trying to finish his last thought as his students were packing up for their next class.  His ideas are there, his passion is there, he didn't boil down to soundbites all that well.

I don't want a soundbite mayor, I want a mayor with great ideas.  Are you okay with that?

The take home message to me is that poverty in this city is much, much bigger than a mayor.  We cannot solve poverty by doing X, no matter what value we substitute as X.  We can, however, stop aggravating the effects of poverty.  We can make Calgary less car-dependent.  We can stop blocking secondary suites and find more affordable housing.  We can make safer, more integrated communities.  We can have better schools and educational opportunities.  We can waste less as we build more and better communities that are not all suburbia.  And Ric McIver pointed out, there are people who we will need to help with their addictions first.

We need an exceptional roadmap.  We need exceptional fortitude to stick to the roadmap.  We do need a strong economy with good jobs.  We have barely tapped into what Calgary as a place and a people have to offer.

My choice for Mayor

by Mark Zaugg 19. September 2010 22:35

I'm done!  I've made my decision.  I believe I took a fair look at most of the candidates and chose on the basis of what matters most to me.  I'm willing to choose a candidate I don't agree with who I think can be effective.  I'm willing to choose a candidate I dislike but I feel has a great vision.  This year I'm fortunate that I can choose a candidate I like and agree with.

Don't you just hate it when someone leads you down a garden path instead of saying the one thing you wanted to hear from the outset?  Makes you want to scroll right to the bottom so you can close the window and get back to what you really wanted to be doing today.  I'm going to try to avoid tangents and plough straight ahead.

Two months ago I thought the clear choice was Ric McIver.  He was the person who knew what was happening inside City Council.  The guy who had planned for a good long while about how to get things moving again.  The same guy who had a deep understanding of what financial problems we were facing and had the ideas and the fearlessness to act on them.

Instead I discovered my first choice wasn't listening to my concerns. He's great when our issues match up, but where they diverge I don't get any sense that he'll tolerate good ideas that come from outside his camp.  He certainly does not have a stellar record to his credit - although no one from the previous city council has much to brag about.  I like the people, but collectively they did a terrible job.  The mayor cannot do the work of city council without support from other Alderman and he won't get that support without actively listening - unless he gets a block of like minded aldermen who are willing to ram their view through council.  I won't accept another split council.  Calgary deserves better.

I have extreme concerns that someone who cultivates such a firm image as a fiscal hawk has not acted that way when tough choices have come up.  Are you going to stick to your guns or are you going to pre-approve the police budget?  Are you supporting the airport tunnel for real or are you going to get bogged down in council again until it's far too late?  How about that stupid $3 park-and-ride fee that emptied the LRT parking lots?  Does that mean he's locked on the money, honey, and missing the bigger picture?

I feel that Mr. McIver has been lined up for a showdown against Dave Bronconnier for so long that he's lost touch with what he opposes.  In his obsession to do things different from Bronconnier, he's just going to become a different flavour of Bronconnier with a different alignment of priorities.

Ric McIver convinced me that Ric McIver was the wrong choice.  I was counted with his supporters, now my job is to point out where I see inconsistencies in his story and to ensure that his feet are held to the fire.

That will take me to my next disappointment.  I think I was very clear with what I expected from Barb Higgins.  She got more leeway than anyone else bar Wayne Stewart.  In return, I wanted solid ideas to her platform.

Most of my delay has been waiting for ideas of substance from the Higgins camp.  I've been putting off my selection and hoping for something I can dig my teeth into.  If she's going to knock off Mr. McIver I want it done for the right reasons.  I'm not alone, the biggest criticism I've heard of the Higgins camp is a complete lack of detail.

I was most looking forward to hearing from Ric McIver and Barb Higgins from the Twibate.  Sure, it's not going to reach the majority of Calgarians and will not be the most important debate they participate with in this city.  But they are on Twitter and presumably know their way around social media.  The outright snub surprised me.

Ms. Higgins most certainly promised to answer the questions at a later date.  To the best of my knowledge, I'm still waiting.  That speaks volumes about both her ability to set priorities and to follow through on her promises.

I don't particularly mind that Ms. Higgins and I walk in different circles.  We're not going to sit down over a cup of coffee any time soon.  But I think I've proven over the past month that I am more than willing to go out of my way to meet with candidates and take them into serious consideration.  I have actively sought out their opinions.  I've observed a severe lack of commitment from Ms. Higgins to lay out any details even after they've been promised.

I want Barb Higgins the journalist to sit down across the desk from Barb Higgins the politician and conduct a serious interview.  The journalistic version should not be satisfied with what she has seen from the political campaign so far.  The journalistic Ms. Higgins should not be satisfied to see the mayor's seat occupied solely because of a feel good attitude and a strategic vote against the favourite.  Barb Higgins, the journalist, is not asking the questions of Barb Higgins, the politician, that need to be answered.

Barb Higgins could become our next mayor.  She will not, and should not, without a substantial platform beneath her.

Ms. Higgin's strength is also her weakness.  She has, to me, become nothing more than a talking head.  I invited Ms. Higgins into my home for her to explain what was happening in the city.  I cannot invite her into my mayor's office unless she can explain how to run the city, regardless of how much I like her on a personal level.

Lastly, being a talking head opens very fair questions of who's putting up text on the teleprompter.  Perhaps Ms. Higgins has been "overmanaged" as a candidate and kept too risk-adverse.  Avoid rocking the boat at all costs.  But it looks like an unwillingness to be open - and more openness is the very trait I demand from our next City Council.

She has lots of time to repair all of these deficiencies.  She does not have time remaining to recapture my vote.

Enough negative.  There were some extremely positive things I've already drawn from this election round.

So much of what was told to me regarding Wayne Stewart proved out to be encouragingly true.  I found him to be a man of insight and well-focused passion.  He's a man I want involved in our city.  I'm not willing to follow him down the path of Public Private Partnerships but I do want to see where he goes from here.

Anyone writing off Paul Hughes as "the Chicken Guy" missed a revelation.  Yeah, he has a big focus on urban chickens and local food advocacy.  If you've seen anything on my jelly-making adventures over the past few weeks you'll understand that resonates with me.

Paul proved himself richly multidimensional.  He has a grasp on the interpersonal blocks that have caused city council to underperform.  He has  a considerably stronger understanding of ideas that have worked in other cities than I have, and I respect the viewpoint he brought to the table.  In a Higgins / McIver race, Hughes gets my vote.  Ms. Higgins needs more than an endorsement from Hughes, she needs an infusion of his energy, his sensibility and his candour.

My very honourable mention surprises myself.  So many times I wanted to write off Craig Burrows and he kept coming back with good ideas and real policy.  I do not like all of Mr. Burrow's proposals.  Enmax came up again and my beef with dredging up lost battles came to the fore.  On further inspection, his proposal to trade one part of Enmax in exchange for investment in our city's social infrastructure doesn't seem extraordinarily unrealistic.

After talking with the kids, I'm not sure their biggest problem is a lack of infrastructure.  But I appreciate the argument.

Mr. Burrow's answer to my Twibate question was the exact answer I wanted to hear.  "It's about the issue not ideology or personalities.  I will work with anyone because Calgarians chose 15 people to represent #yyctb"  I don't care about left or right, I care about an effective council and useful policies.

I'm not one on the law and order side of the ledger.  But not that many years back, there were several murders near where I worked, just off downtown.  I don't like seeing swarms of cops roaming the streets downtown.  But we are the furthest thing I can imagine from a police state and even I have to admit I'd rather see a couple cops walking around the corner than having ten cop cars roping off a murder scene.  The difference is that we have to assert that the cops are down there to serve us and sitting in a van yelling at a bicyclist like a damned fool is inappropriate.  We, the citizens, have to be in control of the police attitudes.  That control needs to be exerted through the police commission.  But as for getting beat cops out there, Mr. Burrows, you were correct and I want to acknowledge a good idea.

He has a lot of good ideas with transportation and the LRT.  I like his idea of the smart card - it may need a little tweaking, but I love the idea of loading exactly the amount needed for transit fare and admission to the wave pool and telling the kids to go have fun with their friends.

So no one should be surprised at this point where this ends.  The best candidate is the person who knows what has been happening inside City Council.  He has planned for a good long while about how to get things moving again.  It's the same guy who has a deep understanding of what financial problems we are facing and has the ideas and the fearlessness to act on them.

Naheed Nenshi has a platform of good ideas, some large, some small and most of them significant.  I don't agree with him completely, but I'm hard pressed to think of a point I'd argue over.  He sports fresh and innovative ideas that are tangible and arguable.  He proposes solutions for my biggest concerns and puts forward realistic plans to make it happen.  Some of it's not going to be easy to accomplish, but many of the reasons behind that was the ridiculously futile vapour lock of today's city council.  He's not part of the current problems, and I think he has the acumen to shape a productive council moving forward.  I certainly hope so.

Calgary today is very different from Calgary 10, 20 or 30 years ago.  We're not a city of cowboy hats and Cadillacs any longer.  Mr. Nenshi represents a change I want to see.

He has a donor's list that needs to be disclosed.  I expect him to follow through with that.  I will not tolerate the mayor locking himself in his office and shutting out the world.  I cannot see that ever occurring.  It would be great to spend an hour or so and put the chicken debate to bed.

So I'm just one guy out here with a blog.  Why should anyone care where my vote goes?  Other than myself.

My biggest concern for Mr. Nenshi remains the same:  Will he ignite traditional voters outside of social media?  I believe my shot was, "He'll need every twitterer he can get to overcome 2/3 apathy."  I'm afraid where my logic leads me, be gentle on me.  I may grow to regret the next sentence, but I'd rather regret the next month than to regret the next three years for not trying.

.@Nenshi @chimaincalgary We've got an election to win.  I'm onside.  To whom do I report tomorrow evening?

Calgary's Aldermanic Twibate - an invitation for Ward 10 candidates

by Mark Zaugg 18. September 2010 14:55

Alderman Chabot,

 I have been particularly interested and active in this year's municipal election.  It is particularly important to me because of an open mayor's seat and because there are a number of important issues facing city council that I care about deeply.  I moved to Albert Park about a year ago and I'm very pleased to live in Ward 10.

 I am a very active member on Twitter (you can find me at, and I have been blogging extensively about my opinions at my personal website

 I found the mayoral twitter debate (or "Twibate") to be extraordinarily helpful to make my selection for mayor.  The aldermanic twibate for even numbered wards will be happening on September 23rd at 7:00 pm.  I am particularly interested in your participation and I would very much like to see your answers.

 You can find further information about the twibate at

 To the best of my knowledge, you do not currently have an account on twitter.  Would you accept my help setting up an account and teaching you the basics to facilitate your participation?  Alternatively, would you be willing to answer the questions posted during the debate and subsequently post them for us?

 The question and offer stands for Nargis Dossa as well as any other candidates who come forward.

 I am uninvolved in the organization of the twibate and have no knowledge or control over the questions that will be asked.  The strength of the twibate is that all participants may ask questions - the choice is yours whether to answer them or not.  The question I will be asking to all candidates is, "What is your understanding of Open Data and what is your position on making more information publically available?"

 I will be attending the Ward 10 Aldermanic Forum on October 5th at Marlborough Park Community Hall and plan to see you then.  I also look forward to connecting with all Ward 10 candidates between now and the election.

 Thank you for running and best of luck,

  - Mark Zaugg


And slightly modified for Nargis Dossa:

Ms. Nargis Dossa,

I have been particularly interested and active in this year's municipal election.  It is particularly important to me because of an open mayor's seat and because there are a number of important issues facing city council that I care about deeply.  I moved to Albert Park about a year ago and I'm very pleased to live in Ward 10.

I am a very active member on Twitter (you can find me at, and I have been blogging extensively about my opinions at my personal website

I found the mayoral twitter debate (or "Twibate") to be extraordinarily helpful to make my selection for mayor.  The aldermanic twibate for even numbered wards will be happening on September 23rd at 7:00 pm.  I am particularly interested in your participation and I would very much like to see your answers.

You can find further information about the twibate at

I am following you on Twitter, although you have not seemed very politically active explaining your platform there.  Could I be helpful in offering you advice or teaching you tools to manage the traffic during the twibate in order to facilitate your participation?  Alternatively, would you be willing to post your answers to the questions posed during the debate?

I have made this same offer to Andre Chabot and it stands for any other candidates who come forward for Ward 10.

I am uninvolved in the organization of the twibate and have no knowledge or control over the questions that will be asked.  The strength of the twibate is that all participants may ask questions - the choice is yours whether to answer them or not.  The question I will be asking to all candidates is, "What is your understanding of Open Data and what is your position on making more information publically available?"

I will be attending the Ward 10 Aldermanic Forum on October 5th at Marlborough Park Community Hall and plan to see you then.  I also look forward to connecting with all Ward 10 candidates between now and the election.

Thank you for running and best of luck,

 - Mark Zaugg

Alderman, Alderwoman, Alderbroad

by Mark Zaugg 17. September 2010 14:25

Can I bang one out in an hour?  I'm going to try....

I miss Ward 4.  It looks so much more interesting than Ward 10. 

Last night Jane Morgan opined, "Alderman, Alderwoman, Alderwhatever. New short blog post."  My joke in return was, "Alderbroad? Naw... Been done.  Heh."

Alderbroad was, if you're unaware, Sue Higgins.  Oh, how I love Sue Higgins.  Equally fueled by dislike and annoyance.  She spent a lot of time working on the city finances and, to me, sets the standard for what an alderman should be.  Rick Bell thought of her when the audit fiasco started warming up, too.  There she is, right at the bottom, being feisty and sensible. 

1986 was the first election I voted.  I was dismayed when Ms. Higgins came to Dad's door campaigning.  I was amazed to discover I kinda liked about half of what she said, disliked half of what she said, and when I found myself standing at a voting booth she got my X.  Sue strikes me as the kind of person who will argue me down until the end of the day, and in the morning remember every single point I made.  I respect that.

She also strikes me as the kind of person who would be slightly annoyed that I would call her "Ms. Higgins" and not "Sue".  She called herself the Alderbroad and composed herself with the spice and attitude to bear the title proudly.  And I love her for it.

Like Ms. Morgan, I don't really care what we call our representatives in City Hall.  It is acceptable to me to continue using the term, "Alderman."  Should someone wish to use the term "Alderwoman", that's fine by me.  If I ever decided to run for city council and by stunning miracle got elected, I'd probably favour the term Alderwoman for myself - just to rock the boat a little.  "Alderperson" is fine, but cumbersome.  "Councilor" is acceptable to me too, if perhaps a little bland.

Given my opinion of our current city council, I personally prefer the term "Idiot Savant."  The title should not be one to exault our representatives above ourselves.  I feel it needs to be one to remind them who they are meant to be serving.  "Representative" is, to me, the most appropriate term for every elected official.  It should be spoken with just a tinge of scorn.

Given how little I care about the issue, my singular concern is the cost of changing nameplates and stationary and those day to day costs of picking a new term.  And, heaven forfend, what should happen in the next 100 years when "Councilor" is considered highly offensive towards another segment of society.  English is a mutable language, we can't protect against everything right now.

So..  Why?  Why is it so important to some people?  What makes "Councilor" an inherently better term than "Alderman"?  Do we even need consistency throughout city council?  Should one prefer to call himself an "Alderman", do we have to deny it because someone else prefers "Councilor"?

I'll admit, I may have a blind spot towards the issue.  My concern is for council to act decisively, make a decision, and then get back to governance.  If we decide to change it, then fine, let's get on with it and when we replace name plates and stationary we'll update the title.  If we decide to stick with Alderwoman/Alderman, let's accept it and not forever argue on the fringes.  I appreciate it may stick in your craw, but we all have to live with some things that annoy us.  Perpetual arguments in this city have just been getting in the way of solving actual problems.

Too much and too many

by Mark Zaugg 17. September 2010 00:11

Earlier today I was bouncing in and out of twitter and I only half-way caught a conversation about how many mayoral candidates was too many. 

In my mind, I'd like to say it was before Jason Markusoff reported that Greg Berdette was pulling out of the race.  Truth to tell, that could have been what set off the whole conversation. 

Calgary does not need seventeen mayoral candidates.  Sixteen of them are going to fail.  With all due respect, many of them aren't going to come anywhere close.  Granted, this election won't be the same as the last one, but it's a very fair question to ask why some of the long shots even bother jumping into the race. 

Some pompous ass once said, "Everyone else will have to give me a reason to care.  I'm not closed off to someone with a good idea, but I'm taking it seriously, they have to reach me."  No one has come even close for me.  So let's cut them all out now, right? 

No.  Every candidate has a fair chance of throwing their hat in the ring.  It's fundamental to our electoral system.  It also doesn't take me very long to say, "You must be this serious (as I hold my finger at eye level) to get my attention."  My rationale for cutting out candidates can be brutal, simplistic and unfair as I apply different standards to different people.  But I don't believe any decision I've made has been unreasoned or without justification.  I'm going to pick the person I think can best do the job of representing me and I'm going to be as quick and decisive as I can be to make my choice. 

I welcome each and every person who wishes to try to rally support for their mayoral run.  Especially those who I would never vote for.  Each of them has a viewpoint they feel is worth discussion.  Every single one of those viewpoints deserves to be said out loud.  Some can and should be discounted quickly, but above all elections are the time for airing ideas and opinions.

The other side of that coin is to understand that there is a time when the best way to uphold your viewpoint is to support a like minded candidate's bid and not split the vote.  I don't envy anyone when they have to make that choice.  My hat is off to Mr. Berdette.  I look forward to what his future will hold.

There are qualified and capable people in the race for mayor that are not front runners.  There are people who have good ideas that aren't going to be able to implement them.  No one will win universal support.  The best candidate will hear the dissenting opinions and prioritize the very best ideas to act upon, regardless of where the idea originated.

I'm very, very close to a final decision

by Mark Zaugg 16. September 2010 09:28

Between the week of sleeplessness and mind-boggling problems, it's been a most strange few days. 

Two things have been really helpful this week.  The first was Calgary's mayoral debate via Twitter - our Twibate, using the hashtag #yycTB.  Several of our mayoral candidates that are active in social media were involved, while several others were noticeably absent.  The other was the Calgary Eyeopener's second mayoral debate.

I have to admit, I chuckled to myself when a few people out there felt overwhelmed with the amount of response #yycTB generated.  Awww, 't'weren't nothin'.  If you don't know me well, I've been involved with #meteorwatch for the past couple of years.  Specifically focusing on the Perseid meteor shower in August, it's become quite literally a global event and there's a couple hundred of us that band together and support our illustrious leader, @VirtualAstro, in bringing the excitement and beauty of a meteor shower to average people.  I focus on answering questions for people who have never seen a meteor before.  I can regularly be answering one question while two others line up vying for my attention. 

Our twibate was much more sedate in comparison.   I can understand the feeling of being overwhelmed a little, but I was very much in my element. 

A debate is only as illuminating as it's questions, and I give a big thanks to Kirk Schmidt for a great job pulling together what for me was an extraordinarily useful debate.  All of my main issues less one were touched upon - and unlike a televised debate I got to actually ask that question:

Question for candidates:  Specifically how do you deal with a fractious city council should another ideological split occur? #yycTB

Craig Burrows responded:
It's about the issue not ideology or personalities.  I will work with anyone because Calgarians chose 15 people to represent #yyctb

Robert McBean has a great question:
why do you think campaigns are focussed on "big ideas" and "world class" when most issues i see are about very basic governance? #yyctb

Paul Hughes replied:
Big Ideas capture imagination & r sexier than the trenches of democracy & civic management #YYCTB #YYCVOTE

I'll invite any candidates to continue to add to their response in the comments below.

Jon Lord took a lot of heat over sprawl in this city. Richly deserved in areas, but in subsequent conversation with him the next morning I came to the conclusion that he's not void of positive ideas, I just don't agree with his assessment of our sprawling situation.

@jonlordcalgary Calgary is not a very bike-friendly city. I want to see improved alternative transportation as a key goal. #yycTB #yycvote
@Zarquil I initiated Teleworking concepts they are moving ahead (slowly). One great way to get cars off the street, so bikes can roam.
@Zarquil I once helped a young van-pooling entrepreneur with start-up.Calgary Transit went to wall to stop him,protecting monopoly.Thoughts?
@Zarquil a "slower" city with "closer"communities and less traffic would
help with that. The coming economy might just do it anyway #yycTB

The twibate was a very good and useful event and directly shaped my opinion of the mayoral race.  Partly because it was just a regular mayoral debate with some well considered questions, and very much because it was a mayoral debate where we could directly ask the questions that matter to us.  And unlike a typical mayoral debate, if we don't get a satisfying answer, we can ask follow up questions and grill until we feel we have a handle on a candidate's position (or we're never going to get one).

Barb Higgins, Bob Hawkesworth, Ric McIver, Wayne Stewart and all the other non-participating candidates made an error to not participate with the Twibate for that very reason.  The free-for-all question format does mean that a candidate may be swamped with questions and specifically targeted.  On the other hand, there's not very much time after the main questions have been asked to actually answer the questions that come in.  Should you be Jon Lord and spend the time answering the next morning, all the more kudos to you.  Should you wish to ignore most of the extracurricular questions, you can still answer the ones you wish that put you in the best light.

The twibate, more than any other event to date, more than web pages, more than shaking hands at a festival, has clarified my thoughts on the mayoral race.  I came in with questions, I came out with answers - some of them were answers I was not expecting, but answers nonetheless.

I'm running short of time, so I'll just throw out brief thoughts on CBC's mayoral debate.  It was much more listenable, with the decorum I hoped for.  Not to say it was bland.

This is a topic I know less about, and besides the hideous optics that city hall keeps trying to put in front of our eyes, I'm supremely curious what the candidates have to say.  I haven't felt a strong engagement with either Ms. Higgins or Mr. Stewart (okay, I haven't felt ANY engagement whatsoever with Ms. Higgins) so for them I was evaluating my feelings towards them as candidates.

For me, it is more of a time to observe both what the candidates were saying and how I was feeling about it. 

I'm going to hold back my thoughts until after this weekend.  I want to take a little time to chat with my kids about "boring politics" and I want to ensure I can explain my reasoning and rationale clearly.  This is something I've taken seriously, it's a rare opportunity in Calgary, and I want to get it right.

CBC Eyeopener Mayoral candidate debate #1: Calgary's airport tunnel

by Mark Zaugg 8. September 2010 20:00

No surprise, I was looking forward to this morning's debate on CBC Radio.  You can find it here if you missed it. 

The airport tunnel is a big deal to me on a number of levels.  I presently live straight south of the airport just off Barlow Trail.  That's the very same Barlow Trail that's going to get shut down for a new runway.  The very same Barlow Trail that I have used to go to the airport since I as a young child.  The exact Barlow Trail that I preferentially use when taking friends and family to the airport.  This affects me directly, I'm certainly in this game. 

When the airport tunnel first came up, I wasn't entirely certain how the layout was going to change access.  I found this map on the City of Calgary website (pdf warning), which was reposted today by Naheed Nenshi.  It clarified my mind about where the link was to run and why a shorter access should remain a priority. 

Funnelling traffic to the airport onto Deerfoot isn't a bad idea on the face of it.  Deerfoot is a major highway and is much more capable of holding traffic than the surrounding roads.  However, traffic jams are plentiful on an already congested road - one that can be clogged for literally hours on a stormy winter evening.  We absolutely need secondary and tertiary routes to give us maximal access to the airport. 

The proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route to run directly to the airport is a fine idea in it's own sake - I'll encourage any sort of improved transit option in the city.  However it is not going to be the solution.  Please imagine bringing a rolling suitcase of stuff with you onto the back of a bendy bus.  Now think of it during rush hour.  I'll take my own car, thanks.  Not to say in any respect that we should shy away from better bus (or ideally LRT) access to the airport.  It certainly has a role with getting people back and forth from the airport.  But alone they are not enough, particularly should the city continue to grow on the edges - and there is no reason to expect otherwise.

Lastly I remain convinced that not only is the tunnel a worthy secondary access point from the east, but I firmly believe we need to act on this now while we have the ability.  Building the tunnel after the fact would be expensive and very difficult with planes landing exactly on those steel plates they lay over roads when they dig up the road works.  (Ha ha.)  Now is the time, it's time to find a way to make it happen.

My mind has been set on this issue.  I've decided I cannot support Alderman Hawkesworth in part because of this specific issue.  I've decided that I do no support Alderman McIver for other issues, but I am going to side with him and Mr. Nenshi.  There was little I was going to get from this debate.

Instead, for me, it became a matter of interaction and how three prospective mayors interacted and comported themselves.  It wasn't great with the interruptions and talking over each other.

Mr. Nenshi came out of the blocks as I expected, firm with facts and ideas about how to get about building the tunnel.  He laid out criticism, particularly of the current council that lumped us back in.  I expected him to perform precisely as he had, to be honest, but I've been following his ideas closely for a while.

In a sense, I thought that Ald. Hawkeworth would have had the easiest time holding the contrary position.  I expected him to come out swinging his BRT proposal and specifying that good transit could significantly ease the commute of people on their way to work at the third largest employer in the city (if that stat is correct).  Instead I heard him point to an independent, third party report that the cost was $500M many times.  I'm scratching my head trying to figure out where the seven access points to the airport are.  They all appear to funnel to Airport Trail and that north section of Barlow.  His seven points of access seem really overblown and out of place.

Ald. McIver focused on future growth of the airport and the rising cost of building the tunnel later.  He rocketed off some wicked shots about single-sourced bids that strongly resonated with me.  His last minute of going after the province both sounded good to me because it needed to be said, but hollow because he was so much a part of this drawn out, poorly planned and hopelessly executed process of city council.

There's little doubt that it was a fun and lively political debate - which is great for people who love fun and lively political debates.  Probably more heat than light, however, and although there are many people who like that I prefer illumination.  It set my feelings stronger than ever.

My concern remains that Mr. Nenshi has great ideas and expresses himself well within the realm of social media, but may not necessarily ignite with traditional voters.  He's the only one of the three today I'm considering supporting, so I fully know I'll be strongly biased towards him.  I felt that he drove the conversation today, at the cost of not letting Jim Brown moderate.  That may not be a negative if the conversation was truly driven forward, but I don't feel it was today.  Perhaps that could be my perspective since my mind has been made on the airport tunnel issue.

Ald. Hawkesworth has some great points to raise regarding transit to the airport, and left them all in his bag.  I read Don Braid's column this morning after I heard the debate and wondered why Ald. Hawkesworth stuck to the financial songbook.  I've always tried to teach my kids, don't tell me what you don't want, tell me what you do want.  Give me ideas, don't just shoot down everything else.  It struck me that he was fixated upon the $500M price tag and stopped looking for options at that point.

Ald. McIver reconfirmed this view I have of him as hyper-partisan now.  Pick apart Ald. Hawkesworth's budgeting ("You only get to spend every dollar once, Bob.  I've been trying to explain that for nine years.") and his support for the Peace Bridge.  But Ald. McIver was part of that bad decision making over the past three years too, and is every bit as open to criticism of his own record.  I just do not see him being a conciliatory mayor, I see more fights within council and more of the "my way or the runway" attitude from him for the next three years.

Looking a little beyond, I've noticed Barb Higgins is up and running and I've been slowly working my way through her site, and I'm told Wayne Stewart has policy up now too although I haven't looked at his at all yet.

I'm perfectly fine with Ms. Higgins saying, "I don't think we have enough knowledge here to make a decision one way or the other yet."  I'm not sure I'm okay with a whingey "We can only do it if we get money from the province and the feds.."  I haven't made up my mind how I perceive her position yet.  I'm non-plussed so far, but I'm in the middle of figuring it out.

One thing for sure, I am hugely looking forward to next week when Ms. Higgins, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Hehr get onto monitoring spending by city administration.  I don't have my mind made up for either the issue or the candidates.

Hear my mighty opinion and tremble

by Mark Zaugg 27. August 2010 20:34

So I'm established now. 

I have an opinion and a blog and I am willing to wield my power to bend others to my will.  I'm of the young, beautiful 18-35 year old people drawing the envy of hundreds with my wit and invincible powers of deduction.  I shalt smite mine enemies with my sword of twitter and mine facebookian shield! 

Or I made an observation a week ago that one person's words didn't match his actions and I don't feel comfortable with his thinking.  But I said it.  Out loud.  

I'll run with the population of Calgary being roughly 1.1 million people.  I've had a readership this week of approximately 1000 people.  I'm sure many of you have come back at least once.  That's a humbling number. 

Social media is not going to put the winning candidate over the top in this election.  Not one person has posted a message that promised me their vote on the strength of what I've written.  There have been no "draft Mark Zaugg" campaigns with picketers lining my route to work every morning.  So, at least you're all sane. 

Twitter and Facebook are ways of getting word out, of interacting, of organizing, of informing.  We will gestate our ideas in our blogs and in our discussions and weed out bad ideas and discuss our goals and aspirations.  At least for the 2010 civic election in Calgary, it is our crucible and not the battleground.

Why are some candidates using autodialers?  Because they still work - to a degree.  They'll annoy the bejeebers out of me, but I'm not the person being targetted.  There's a lot more people not using social media than there are active bloggers sharing an opinion.  Whoever wins this election is going to have to reach as many people as possible and get out the vote - just like every other election.

My opinion is worth precisely one vote.  No more, no less.  But how priceless would it be to hear someone at a forum ask the question, "Can you be a conciliatory mayor?"  I crystallized my views here in my blog, and after I expressed them I found many others feeling the same way.  That clarified my thoughts of what I which attributes I insist upon from my mayor, and the cycle repeats itself.  It is in the conversation that the value of social media is obtained.

@Zarquil Problem is, very few people are discuss muni election to that level and will vote for whoever gives them virtual pork or bj.
@Zarquil thats just the cynic in me talking, but I like to call it the realist. City will remain broken until either a revolution or exodus

He is totally correct.  Our levels of engagement are terrible in Calgary, but social media can (and I'll predict will) be that very revolution.  I loved this article by Darren Krause in the Metro today about Chris Harper's pledge to get 50% turnout in 2013.  To increase turnout, our voters will have to become engaged and active and social media must play a major role in that initiative.  It's the best way to send a message of support very quickly and with minimal effort.  "@harperonside That's a brilliant idea.  Giv'er!"  He knows where I stand and I don't have to worry about my phone being busy when he speed dials me for my opinion.

Social media will not achieve revolution until the majority of people in Calgary understand twitter is for quick thoughts and sharing links, facebook is for organizing and energizing, and blogs are for reasoning and hammering clear one's thoughts.  But those of us on the inside have the charge and responsibility for sharing those ideas.  We are constantly evolving how we communicate and share information.

Let me bring this around to my final point as I wrap up this week of blogging.  About a year ago I moved from Ward 4 to Ward 10.  Ward 4 looks like a very exciting and interesting race with Bob Hawkesworth moving on.  I'm not voting up there, but I still have a curious eye on the race.  I'm almost as interested in the aldermanic race as I am in the mayoral race.  There are interesting people with informative opinions and I'm forming my thoughts on people I can't even vote for.

In Ward 10 I have Andre Chabot and Nargis Dossa.  Andre Chabot: Incumbent.  Nothing more than that.  Nargis Dossa: Blog (it's empty) a Facebook page I can't see (I don't use Facebook) and a Twitter account (16 tweets?)  How come I'm more interested in Ward 4 than Ward 10?  There is absolutely no engagement whatsoever for me in Ward 10 at all.  I know that Jane Morgan is serious about running and I can argue for or against her at will.

So to make my decision, I have to figure out how to actually track down Chabot and learn what his platform is.  Thanks for making it easy.  At least I have his voting record - oh wait, we don't have that publicly available.  We have a lot to improve.

Social media makes the race accessible.  It energizes the candidate and his or her team.  It engages citizens who are interested.  It creates discussion and hones ideas and will improve the platform for candidates who are interacting.  It has become part of campaigning.  It is door to door interaction - only faster.  It will not decide the election this round, but it will certainly have an influence from now forward.


My parting shot to wrap up this week is to give my thoughts on DJ Kelly's column.  Over the summer I've seen Kent Hehr and Naheed Nenshi several times each.  I've run into Paul Hughes twice and Jon Lord once.  I wish I would have run into Barb Higgins, I would enjoy having a conversation with her.  Meeting Joe Connelly and Craig Burrows would have helped me out considerably.  And there is the infamous non-meeting with Ric McIver which completely changed my opinion of him.

I need to meet Andre Chabot and / or Nargis Dossa and sooner would be better than later.  As I see it, Ward 10 is wide open to a savvy candidate willing to engage the citizens.  DJ is soooo right.  Social media's the best media they're going to have soon, and neither of them seem to be good at it.

Experience vs. the Fresh Blood

by Mark Zaugg 27. August 2010 00:22

This is the one time that we the citizens have input into how the city is run.  Experience says about two thirds of us will vacate the opportunity. 

We will have new aldermen in Ward 4, Ward 6, Ward 9 and Ward 12.  That's going to be a lot of new people going into city council even if no standing aldermen get defeated. 

In 2007 there were four new aldermen: Pincott took an open ward, Mar defeated King, Stevenson defeated Larocque and Connelly defeated Burrows.  That's over 50 percent turnover in just two elections.  I may be wrong here, but that strikes me as a very high turnover rate for Calgary. 

There's always the question of how well a diverse group of people will work together once elected to city council.  I'm not enamoured with the results from 2007.  The mayor of 2010 will have to do an exceptional job leading city council.

Typically that means we want a mayor with experience.  In this city, we prefer mayors with experience as our mayor.  Ross Alger was the last mayor I can remember who was actually defeated in an election as opposed to not running again.  An open mayor's seat is an interesting time in this city.

I'm unconvinced that serving time on a mediocrely performing council marks the sort of experience I want to see in a mayor.  Ric McIver, Bob Hawkesworth and Joe Connelly were part of a suboptimal council.

I've expressed my decision on Ric McIver.  He said, “I … didn’t want to be part of unnecessarily disrespecting Calgarians by making it hard for them to have mobility."  However he disrespected Calgarians trying to improve everyone's mobility through improved alternative transportation in this city.  I can only see further antagonism in a future council led by Mr. McIver.

Bob Hawkesworth and I are on opposite sides of too many issues.  He's an incredibly hard worker and extraordinarily knowledgeable - I've rode the bus with him many times in the morning and have seen him read reams of pages in the time it took me to put together the thought of my first cup of coffee.  But I disagree with him on the airport tunnel and the Peace Bridge.  I do not see him as a unifying force as mayor.

Joe Connelly is the wallflower on the starboard side of the ship.  Perhaps that's a bit harsh because I know little about Ward 6.  But I'm not sure I feel I've engaged at all yet.  I feel bombarded with buzzwords when I go to his webpage.  That gives me a sleepy feeling instead of leaving me energized.  I haven't written him off, but I haven't been particularly praising, have I?

That leaves me looking outside the current aldermen.

Barb Higgins said she was putting out policy in September and then gives the Platform Framework that I could have written.  I'm underwhelmed, but she gets a bit of a free ride until I see real policy.  I hope she's spent every waking hour of the day putting a heavy hitter together.  Her name recognition will take her a long way, but she'll need to keep council busy if she plans on accomplishing a lot before the honeymoon period runs out.  My biggest hope for Ms. Higgins is that perhaps she'll keep the streak alive:  I'm her biggest fan if she can be mayor for a bit and jump straight to our next premier.  

Naheed Nenshi is the darling of social media for good reason.  He came off the blocks early, he's put out ideas we can actually discuss and has proven communicative and engaging and involved.  I keep seeing him at events and one of these days, if I can get over my shyness, I'm actually going to walk up to him and shake his hand.  He's taken some chipping - he hasn't been "marked on his record" yet, true, and todays hit, "I'll disclose my donors once we're officially running" shot.  In my opinion, he has the single best handle on the issues facing this city, including a better understanding than many current aldermen.  Can he herd city hall into implementing his ideas?  My biggest concern is actually whether he will ignite traditional voters outside of social media.  He'll need every twitterer he can get to overcome 66% apathy.  Do I hear auto-dialers in the future? (No, please, it's just a joke!)

I really like Kent Hehr.  He's intelligent, he's interesting, he's certainly inspiring, he's owed a better party around him provincially.  I'm not sure how I feel about MLA's taking a stab at the Mayor's seat - I'm not fond of it, but I'm not sure it's an outright blocker for me.  I do like him at the Legislature.  I wonder if his connections will improve or worsen the city's relationship with the province.

Craig Burrows is the inside outsider.  I'll give him credit for having the experience of being an alderman with even more credit for having the good taste of not being a member for the past three years.  Ghod help us should he decide he needs a course on mediation to keep council moving forward.  I do like reading his webpage and I'm hopeful to see more engagement soon.  He'll have to move fast or be swallowed.

Jon Lord also has substantial political experience without the stigma of being in the last council. He's closest of anyone to matching my political philosophy.  The "Learn the Issues" part of his web page is not to be missed.  But is he anywhere close to me on policy and is he capable of melding city council together?  So far I'm not entirely convinced.  One thing  I entirely appreciate about the guy, he eats a good pie.

Wayne Stewart showed up on my twitter feed one week and asked me to help make Calgary great.  Okay, it's a pet peeve of mine - if we're making Calgary great, what is it now?  I like his earnestness and for someone I don't know at all, I've heard some awfully nice compliments from people I trust.  He also gets a free ride until I get hard policy in September.

Paul Hughes needs to show me he's more than a single issue candidate and can handle a full city council of competing interests without simply being a competing interest.  He's engaging, he's approachable, he's come across completely open and honest and well meaning to me.  The sort of person I want in as a voice; will he show me he can lead the parade?

Everyone else will have to give me a reason to care.  I'm not closed off to someone with a good idea, but I'm taking it seriously, they have to reach me.

That's eight of fourteen candidates I'm taking a serious look at.  Not restricted to left or right.  Some with a lot left to prove (Higgins, Stewart), some that I'm uncertain about policy or leadership - although I'll be thrilled to change my mind (Hehr, Connelly, Hughes, Burrows) and those that I'm satisfied with and I'm watching closely for policy statements (Nenshi, Lord).

If I'm breaking it down to catch phrases, the first thing I'm looking for is leadership skills to get city council back on track.  We need a more cohesive, cooperative and open city council immediately and I'm not looking for fluffy puff phrases, I want to know how the mayor plans to do it.  Next I care about being capable of managing the city finances - including realizing the tunnel needs to be roughed in now to avoid trying to build it later.  After that, I'm looking for someone who realizes that every day I ride my bike means one car less on the road.  Alternative transportation makes everyone's commute easier.  We need more infrastructure to support that.

Those are my Big Three issues.  Four if you consider council's openness an issue to itself.  My opinion is malleable and my vote available to whomever convinces me.  I intend to declare my vote (before the end of September?) this year and I'll demonstrably support the candidate I choose.  This is an important election, and I choose to be very active this time around.

Ideas that Just Don't Make Sense No More

by Mark Zaugg 25. August 2010 23:44

And so it was spoken, "It is as it always has been, and thusly shalt it forever be." 

I don't think city council has worked together soundly over the past three years and by that measure they collectively have not met their potential.  There have simply been too many drawn out arguments (eg closing half of Memorial Drive), too many 8-7 split votes with predictable line ups, too many poor decisions (eg Peace Bridge), too little planning (not building the Airport tunnel), too little foresight (surprise funding for the airport tunnel), too little responsiveness (street clearing) and too little discussion and cooperation (all of the above) for my taste. 

I generally like the mix of aldermen, even if I have varied opinion on the people themselves.  I think there are some stand out individuals, and there are individuals I would drop like a hammer off Eighth Avenue Place. The aldermen have to take their share of responsibility for the boneheaded decisions that were made, but it's the mayor that has to shepherd them and ensure council stays focused. 

Without stewardship, council has taken far too long to make poor decisions.  Someone has to keep focus, someone has to guide discussion, someone has to spot the difference between the forest and the trees. 

I'm not talking about a namby pamby council sitting around singing Kumbaya.  I want fierce arguments over contentious issues.  I also want them reach the best conclusion at the end.  Not every issue needs to become a drawn out battle and a mayoral election issue. 

Our most ridiculous black-and-white decision on record right now is urban chickens.  It should take about an hour spread over a couple of meetings to close the book on it and get back to the business of running the city. 

Why does the law exist in the first place?  Has anyone on city council lived in a rural setting?  I grew up in small town Alberta.  We literally had a dairy across the back alley from our house.  Some days it smelled like a barn.  The whole town smelled like a barn.  Yeah, it was a really small town. 

Livestock laws are there for when city and country meet.  Maybe they were applicable in Calgary 20 years before I was born, but there isn't much relevance for most of us anymore.  We have dogs and cats and snakes and lizards and pot bellied pigs and all kinds of pets now.  A chicken isn't way out there.  We have bylaws when the dog barks too much, the same bylaws hold if a rooster crows constantly. 

Granted, you'd better have one hell of a big yard if you're going to keep a cow in the city, and you'll need a huge scoop sack for the off-leash areas.  Wait, a cow in Cowtown is simply inappropriate. You can not provide adequate care for large animals.  But a chicken with an suitable coop and adequate cleanup?  Set the parameters and let responsible owners raise their birds.

The best answer for Calgary today is not the same answer from 60 years ago, nor is it the same answer from Rosemary, Alberta.  We need a decisive council that won't get locked into futile debate.

It should be an easy fix.  If he'll earn my vote, Paul Hughes will next have to demonstrate how he'll keep city council on track in his second hour as mayor.

Another black and white issue coming soon is clearing snow from residential roads.  The city won't do it, fine, but some guy on a hilly street has a plough on his truck and wants to make it safer for himself and his neighbours.  But he can't plough, no sir.  He might scratch the paint markings or something.  We say no without even asking if the guy ploughs roads professionally.

If there are people out there equipped and capable of clearing their own street (and I don't think there are many), I cannot believe we can't find a way to PERMIT them to help.  We aren't talking large scale changes, we're talking citizens taking care of their own areas during cold spells when the city has no interest.  If the city is bound and determined to not plough residential streets under any circumstances then stop making it an impossibility and find alternative solutions that work.

Generate ideas and try them.  Discuss it constructively, work effectively and get city council making better decisions.  Circumstances in this city demand creative solutions, not just rehashing what worked in the past and avoiding what failed for a reason so obscure no one remembers.

Stop trying to legislate every edge case that comes up.  The laws you put into place today need to be applicable or redressed down the road.  Put in sunset clauses when we're solving a one-off problem between neighbours.  Understand intuitively that laws regarding window coverings may have unintended consequences and be prepared to change your mind and back off.

Perhaps my beef is with Mayor Bronconnier who allowed this past city council to faction.  The last election was only three years ago and issues were different than they are today.  We cannot lock in to the same thinking from a council at loggerheads.  This election is about how we're going to get council out of this morass, not about how we got placed into it.

I have very high expectations for my next mayor, but I don't think I'm unrealistic.  I'm starting to think my lofty dreams only seem big because I have such low expectations from good people at city council.


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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