My choice for Mayor

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 23 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.

[email protected] @chimaincalgary We’ve got an election to win.  I’m onside.  To whom do I report tomorrow evening?