Mayor Nenshi's message to Council: May 29, 2017

Post Date: Monday, May 29, 2017
The following is an email from Mayor Nenshi to his fellow members of Council in advance of the a Regular Meeting of City Council. 

Due to a scheduling error on my part and required travel, I will not be able to attend the Council meeting on May 29, 2017. This is the first regular or combined meeting of Council that I have missed in nearly seven years of being Mayor. It’s a relatively small meeting with few divisive issues, and Deputy Mayor Woolley will be great, but for what it’s worth, here are my comments on some of the items on the agenda for that day. 

1. Consent Agenda. There is a relatively large consent agenda, which refers to items that were previously passed at committee. I concur with the committee recommendations in most cases, with the following exception:

  • 6.8 Downtown Parking Strategy Policy Revisions. I continue to disagree with the thrust of the new Downtown Parking Policy, which I feel does not increase supply of parking nor manage congestion well. I am also concerned that taking the construction of new parking facilities out of the hand of the Calgary Parking Authority and into private hands restricts the City’s ability to manage evening, weekend, and short-stay parking which reducing future revenue. Nonetheless, Council adopted these changes, and the amendments being proposed today are needed to implement them. I am pleased that some of the money from the Parking Reduction Fee could go to improving parking in the core, and I stress that CPA must be entrepreneurial and bid competitively for the right to operate privately-constructed parking facilities.

2. Temporary signs bylaw. I think this is by and large a very good piece of work, modernizing and updating an outdated policy. I have one question of clarification, and one small amendment that I hope a member of Council will propose.

My reading is that metal stakes will now be permitted on public property, just not metal guide wires. This is a good change. The small stakes for temporary signs are both safer and less damaging to the turf than wooden stakes. Can Administration confirm this interpretation?

I disagree with the proposed timelines for election signage for municipal elections. Since we have fixed-date elections and the official campaign period is very short, I think restricting signs to only after nominations have closed is not quite enough time. It’s a very minor issue, but I have suggested an amendment that I hope a Member of Council will propose after First Reading but prior to Second Reading, as follows:

AMEND section 8 of the Amending bylaw to read:
  • (c) for a municipal election or School Board election, the period beginning August 15 and ending after the close of polls. 
  • Add a new (d), as follows: 
  • (d) for a municipal or school board by-election, the period beginning two weeks before the close of nominations and ending after the close of polls. 

3. Final report of the Council Compensation Review Committee. While I have a few minor quibbles with this report (why didn’t they include Montreal? Why don’t they use the correctly grossed-up figures for Edmonton in their tables? Why didn’t they add the regional pay for Mississauga, which is a big part of their work and is more than $50,000 for mayors and councillors, significantly changing the averages? Why are there a couple of small errors in the description of Calgary policies in the consultant report?), this is just me finding issues with consultant reports, as I generally do. I generally agree with their recommendations, with one exception:

I’m fine with the reduction of the Mayor’s pay. I’ve actually been saying for some years that I thought a previous committee had pegged the Mayor’s salary too high; their rationale was that all salaries in Calgary are higher than in other cities – indeed the median family income in Calgary even in this economic downturn is $20K more than the national average. However, I also believe in the principle of respecting the volunteer citizen committee’s recommendations, and that politicians should not set their own salaries, whether too high or too low. Therefore, I have been privately donating 10% of my base salary to charity, over and above my regular charitable contributions and tithing. While I find the rationale for this reduction a bit arbitrary (it’s not based on the benchmark, which shows councillors at the same level but on an assertion of the "correct” differential between councillors and the Mayor), it achieves its objective of resetting the salary level, an objective I share.

I am not, however, in favour of Council approving or rejecting the recommendation each year. I continue to believe that politicians should not set their own salaries except in exceptional conditions. Currently, Council has the power to adopt a different salary if it feels the need to do so, and this should not change. However, asking Council to approve the salary every year politicizes the process and undermines the principle of tying Council salaries to the average wage change in the province. I encourage my council colleagues to vote against recommendation number 3.

I was myself unaware of the transition allowance until recently, and I don’t disagree with the desire to remove it here. The language in the report is a bit vague though: would existing members of Council who are re-elected this fall get their transition allowance now in a lump sum? I would prefer that if it had to be paid out, that it be paid out when the Councillor leaves office. I also think that those who leave before the end of a term, except in unavoidable medical circumstances, should forfeit the allowance. However, I do think that if Council removes the allowance, it should clarify certain policies around continuation of benefits, recognition and managing the transition.

Therefore, I would propose a Motion Arising, if any Member of Council would care to move it:

  • MOTION ARISING: To direct Administration to clarify and revise procedures, as needed, in relation to Council members who leave office after an election, including but not restricted to: continuation of health and dental benefits during a transition, outplacement assistance, assistance in physical moves, and continuing recognition of service, particularly for long-serving members of Council. These procedures do not need to return to Council unless in the view of the City Manager, they would result in undue cost to the City. 

4. Tax cancellation for Calgary Housing Company properties. This is a broader issue around the City Charter and the existing COPTER regulations, but from a common-sense perspective it seems odd for the city to be taxing itself in this way. I support a cancellation this year with the development of a longer-term solution.

Beyond that, the meeting materials look pretty straightforward. I know everything will go well – don’t haze the sub too much!