Welcome to Ward Why Bother Trying?

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.