Let's make Calgary even better!

Post Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The following article was cross-posted from www.nenshi.ca (Mayor Nenshi's re-election campaign website) once the 2013 election was over.

In 2010, I ran on a platform that consisted of 12 Better Ideas and I am pleased to say that, with the support of City Council, we have either completed or made significant progress on the vast majority of them.

Read our progress report

There is, however, much more work to be done to make Calgary an even better place to live.

Even Better Growth

We need great neighbourhoods - new suburbs with a choice of housing and amenities and thriving established neighbourhoods with thoughtful redevelopment and renewed infrastructure.

New suburban neighbourhoods
New suburban neighbourhoods must be great places to live – places where there is a diversity in the types of housing, where it is easy to get your kids to school or visit the corner store without getting in your car and where transit is a viable option for your daily commute. This means that we must continue to improve the way new suburbs are built.

We must also be smarter about how and where we build new neighbourhoods. In the past, new neighbourhoods were approved without ensuring that the City could afford the infrastructure (eg. transit, recreation centres, fire stations, etc.) required to make that neighbourhood a great place to live. Implementation of the City’s proposed Growth Management Framework, which establishes transparent criteria for determining when and where the next new suburbs will be built, is critical to making sure that growth occurs in a cost effective manner. This also means ensuring that development levies cover the true cost of growth (visit EndtheSubsidy.ca for details). Growth Management will ultimately reduce everyone's tax burden and result in better places to live.

Established neighbourhoods
Rejuvenating established neighbourhoods, which have existing amenities and infrastructure, is critical for our long-term environmental and financial sustainability. We can attract families and improve affordability by thoughtfully intensifying neighbourhoods with a diversity of housing types and developing hubs of activity near transit. In particular, we need to facilitate the development of more townhouse-style housing in strategic locations in a form that is sensitive to the existing community, but is more affordable than detached or semi-detached infills.

We must also develop new ways to improve ageing infrastructure in older neighbourhoods. Building upon successful pilot projects like Inspiring Strong Neighbourhoods and Supporting Partnerships for Urban Reinvestment (SPUR), we should develop a permanent neighbourhood improvement program where residents are involved in identifying improvements to parks, playgrounds, roads and sidewalks.

Our Downtown is the economic and cultural heart of our city - but it could be so much better. We must continue to work with industry to ensure that development meets the high standards set by the Bow and Eighth Avenue Place projects. We must also continue to invest in public spaces, particularly pedestrian infrastructure, so that Downtown and the adjacent Beltline neighbourhood, are not only a great places to work, but great places to live.

Even Better Transportation

We need to make it easier to move around the city, regardless of what mode you choose: car, transit, bike or foot.

As our city grows, we must keep traffic moving by targeting key congestion points, investing in better technology (like better light synchronization) that maximizes the capacity of the road network, implementing cost-effective strategies (such as the no-left-turn at Lake Fraser Gate during rush hour), and renewing our efforts to keep Calgary moving, particularly for people living and working in South Calgary.

The RouteAhead plan envisions a transit system that not only serves downtown commuters, but also provides a network of high frequency rapid transit routes that will allow people to easily move around the entire city. A key part of this rapid transit network is the 40km Green Line of the LRT (the Southeast and North Central legs), which will start out as a dedicated bus transitway. We don’t have the money (approximately $5 billion) to build it now, but we must secure a long term funding deal with our Provincial and Federal partners that will allow us to move forward quickly.

Better cycling infrastructure is beneficial to everyone - cycle tracks and bike lanes make cycling a safer and more attractive choice for Calgarians, but they also improve safety for motorists and pedestrians. I will ensure that cycle tracks and bike lanes are implemented in an effective and thoughtful manner to keep everyone safe and moving.

Walking is a fundamental part of our transportation system. After all, we are all pedestrians for at least part of every journey. We have a new focus on high use areas like our Downtown, Beltline, and in busy hubs outside the core. We need to get on with the work of improving the pedestrian environment in these high priority areas throughout Calgary.

Even Better Community

Our city needs to be attractive, safe, vibrant, with opportunities for all.

Comprehensive action among all orders of government is urgently needed to increase housing affordability in Calgary. We must provide incentives for construction of rental and entry-level housing, update City policies to allow more forms of housing, legalize secondary suites across the city and reduce the red tape in the planning process.

Calgarians are fortunate to have amazing parks and recreational facilities. However, we need to improve how sporting and community organizations and the City collaborate on maintaining and building infrastructure to meet the increased demand for recreational amenities. I will continue to find innovative solutions to maintain and build recreation infrastructure, such as the Community Investment Fund, which is refurbishing aging parks, developing the four new regional recreation centres and three libraries, including the new Central Library.

Arts and culture
Our arts and cultural scene is incredible: vibrant, exciting, and of incredible quality. But, we cannot rest on our laurels - we must continue investment in the arts and cultural infrastructure, such as the new central library, to keep this city a great place to live.

Crime and safety
Calgary enjoys the lowest crime rate in decades due to smart policing and strategic investments in youth intervention programs. We must ensure that the Province continues to fund these programs. We must also continue to support our other emergency services, such as the fire department and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

Poverty reduction
Our new Poverty Reduction Strategy provides an ambitious roadmap for government, the non-profit sector and community to work together to improve the lives of our most vulnerable residents. This community-led strategy not only calls for better coordination of existing resources to increase the effectiveness of established programs, but rethinking how services are delivered so that they are accessible where they are most needed. We must ensure that the strategy is implemented in an effective and timely manner.

Even Better Government

We need a municipal government that is citizen-focused and facilitates the success of citizens...but government can't do it alone.

Becoming a citizen-focused organization
During the flood we witnessed the very best of what local government can be. Bureaucratic silos disappeared, people worked together, and everyone simply did whatever what was needed to get the job done for citizens. Through the City's Cultural Transformation Initiative we need to carry forward the organizational culture that served us well during the emergency to the everyday.

Responsible spending and improving services for citizens
In the 2012 – 2014 budget, I successfully lead an initiative to cut $108 million from the operating budget, $45 million of which was identified by finding more efficient ways to deliver services. I will bring the same discipline to the next four-year budget process and continue to push for cost effective delivery of services to keep our property taxes among the lowest in Canada. We also need to embed the principles from the Cut Red Tape program into the normal business practices across all departments in the City and continue with our new Zero Based Review process.

Transforming the planning system
The Transforming Planning initiative is a partnership between industry, community organizations and the City to significantly improve the City’s planning and development system. Successful implementation of this initiative is critical to building better neighbourhoods and reducing the time and cost involved in obtaining approvals for projects.

City Charter and new fiscal framework for Calgary
Obtaining a City Charter for Calgary (and Edmonton) and establishing a new fiscal framework that will provide the City with stable, long-term funding is absolutely necessary to our city’s future success. This is not about new taxes, but getting a rebate on the taxes we already pay to the Provincial and Federal governments. The Charter will stop the jurisdictional buck-passing and get each level of government to focus on the services it can deliver most effectively. Also, we must continue to push the Province to allow Calgary to implement more effective campaign finance rules.

Calgarians are the best experts about their communities. We must improve how we invite citizens into decision-making processes, including simplifying communications, providing opportunities for thoughtful engagement and using technology to its fullest advantage.

Creating an even better Calgary is not just a task for the government. You, as a citizen have a key role in making our city a better place to live. I encourage you to do your 3 Things for Calgary - use your time, your talents, and your resources to improve your community.

Although the June flood was devastating, we have emerged as a stronger community. Thousands of Calgarians, many for the first time, discovered the value and joy of volunteering and helping fellow citizens. I was incredibly inspired and I know many Calgarians fell in love with their city even more. Act on this inspiration and serve your community - if we all do, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.

- Naheed K. Nenshi