Ideas that Just Don't Make Sense No More

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.