One thing I was really looking forward to was the showdown this year. Even before the election was on I was asked, "What do you think about Chabot running against Nenshi?"
Not to spoil the punchline, but Nenshi has absolutely met my expectations and I have absolutely not a single hesitation endorsing him again. I have a good view of Councillor Chabot. I absolutely dislike everyone else in the race.
I'm a guy out here that chose Mayor Nenshi in 2010 after some hard soul searching. I'm just another slob that should have no meaning with him whatsoever, but Mayor Nenshi actually knows who I am and cares that I accomplish something positive in my neighbourhood. He is one of six current members of city council that has spoken with me directly on Twitter. Frankly, I could do with never hearing at all from a couple of them. I very much appreciate that communication and willingness to be open and transparent.
For those who aren't aware, I was part of my Community Association for about five years, culminating with a year as CA president. This came, in part, at Mayor Nenshi's challenge to do three things for Calgary. That meant working directly with Councillor Chabot and that brought quite a few nice surprises with it for me. My relationship with Councillor Chabot started with him ignoring my offer to get him on Twitter, and help him feel comfortable enough to answer the Tweet Debate held in 2010. He continued to unimpress me at the Ward 10 debate that year. But after knowing him, I can say Councillor Chabot works hard, he is very earnest in his efforts, he is a true fiscal conservative and he is unquestionably very knowledgeable about Calgary and my neighbourhood in particular. He has definitely earned my respect and I view him favourably. But there are two points where Mayor Nenshi stands out more.
I strongly believe in Mayor Nenshi's views about secondary suites in Calgary. Councillor Chabot has opposed them from the start and has at best proposed vastly inferior options. In fact, years back I originally lived in an illegal secondary suite in this very ward - long since repaired and made legal, but I'm still grateful I don't have to live there any longer. I argue long and hard that our current system is not working, is not safe, and it magnifies the problems by dumping all the secondary suites into fewer neighbourhoods. The push for affordable housing is very much what causes the over-the-top problems that we see over here in my area.
I believe secondary suites need to be allowed city wide, and not be restricted to specific areas. I'm believe a secondary suite registry is a good idea, but inspections should be required. Registering is not enough - I don't think a registry alone will be enough to ensure homes meet building code and safety code standards. That's going to cost more. Maybe not as much as it costs us now to waste time in City Council meetings as a homeowner pleads for the right to rent out their basement. I really do believe our current system is unbelievably stupid and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
As I discussed last week, my primary concern is the working relationship in City Council. Mayor Nenshi has had his hands full with what appears to me to be a divisive council with childish infighting. (Right now I'm specifically thinking of the "knife-in-the-back" gesture, but there are plenty of terrible examples.) It hasn't looked good to me and I expect much better from my representatives overall. I've seen Mr. Chabot directly in high conflict situations, and I do not have confidence in his ability to bridge differences and actually resolve conflict. Hey, our entire Community Association was a high conflict situation, worse than City Council -- I hope! Mayor Nenshi was the one to offer advice and encourage me to try my best. I thank him for his effort. I felt somewhat abandoned by my Councillor.
I cannot imagine a better communicator than Mayor Nenshi during a crisis. He needs that skill daily. Could you imagine the zoo City Council would be without strong, respectful leadership? Respectful matters in that phrase. Voting down the other side time and time again is just tyranny of the majority and is a sign of poor judgement lacking any thought from council. We need those viewpoints represented and heard, we need to have all the options on the table! Nenshi's my guy to do that.
My shock has been seeing the swell for Bill Smith. I have serious doubts on that swell and very serious questions about his skill, ability and leadership.
Mr. Smith doesn't have a City Council record to stand on. His stance on secondary suites is shocking vague for something discussed in Calgary for literally decades. In fact, his stance on everything is vague. The Green Line needs a rethink? We've been working on this project for a while now, and yes I would like more, but I want to see it happen. Mayor Nenshi and Councillor Chabot have both put significant time and effort into making the Green Line a success and I trust either one of them over someone taking pot shots at a very high budget line item. His take on affordable housing entirely skips secondary suites and focuses on the private sector. The private sector sometimes performs terribly, please see the above note of living in an illegal, dangerous secondary suite. Let me copy his section on "Biking" directly from his website:
Biking is one of those issues that is important to some, and not important to others.
We need to balance bike traffic with road traffic. A lot has already been invested to make Calgary bike-friendly. We can’t just rip it up.
But, I only support bike paths where it makes sense. Safety and community must always come first. Any new paths must also be built at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
First, this is critically important to some of us who are afraid to cycle and be killed on the streets. This is also critically important to drivers who don't want to kill cyclists they can't see and can't predict. The separation between cars and bikes makes it better for all of us.
Secondly, "We need to balance bike traffic with road traffic" is terribly disingenuous. There has been little to no accommodation of bicycle traffic in the past. Bicycles have been shunted to out-of-the-way side roads or the MUP along the river we are told is for enjoyment and not commuting. We need to twin all major routes of the MUPs and make safe routes for bicycles that go where cyclists need to commute. Those are Cycle Tracks in the downtown area.
This is where bike paths make sense! And the cycle tracks are cheaper to build than equivalent roadways and much cheaper to maintain. Don't give me crap about reasonable cost to taxpayers. I'm a taxpayer too!
As for my primary concern of City Council getting along well enough to function, Mr. Smith may add a cheery section of political dialogue and fair treatment, but his and his team's behaviour has belied that. Sketchy polls being released is not respectful political dialogue, you are throwing up your elbows trying to make yourself the conversation. Mr. Smith's presidency of the Progressive Conservative party during one of it's least transparent and least productive periods does not give me confidence. My dealings with that government are some of the most frustrating, agonizing processes I've been through ever, without any hint of exaggeration.
Mr. Smith is throwing out FUD -- that stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It's relatively easier to whip up FUD over what we have instead of putting forward real ideas of your own. There is nothing in his record or on his policy statement that says he has the smallest interest in what's important to me, in the services I require, or in a true ability to actively listen to the full diversity of Calgarians instead of his own circle of influence.
I'm open to a conversation, I'm willing to have Mr. Smith turn my opinion around as Councillor Chabot has. But there's a lot deeper hole that you're starting in.
I won't end on a negative note, but I feel this past council performed poorly. The counterbalance to that has been a city administration, city staff, and some truly incredible city employees that have shone. As a citizen, I have received better, more relevant, generally helpful services over the past seven years than I ever had before.
3-1-1 remains fantastic.
The people who worked with our CA with me were genuinely top notch.
I especially have praise for Councillor's Chabot's office staff who are second to none and bent over backwards to make this part of the city a better place.
We are on the right track. We need to stay there.