Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise, City Approves Cycle Tracks

To the surprise of no one Calgary City Council has approved downtown cycle tracks, albeit in a slim 8-7 vote. So let's examine some of what happened and some of the outcomes from that debate and vote.

First and let's be fair, the Mayor and I do not see eye-to-eye on a number of issues. In this matter 'His Purpleness' acted like the school yard bully. Showing up at meetings on Committees where he usually doesn't sit, interrupting the agenda to push his position and using his messenger, the Ward 8 Councillor to run errands for him. All the while playing to his urban hipster crowd led by Chris Turner and others. Wooley fits nicely into that space having worked for Chris Turner and the Green Party in the previous Calgary Centre by-election. Where the Mayor voted was of no surprise to this scribe.

Next, let's look at the 'Inner-City Four; Farrell (Ward 7), Wooley (Ward 8), Carra (Ward 9) and Pincott (Ward 11). No surprises here, they look to 'His Purpleness' for their marching orders and away they go, representing the views of their constituents, not likely.

Then we have the fiscal conservative Councillors; Sutherland (Ward 1), Magliocca (Ward  2), Stevenson (Ward 3), Chu (Ward 4). Jones (Ward 5). Colley-Urguhart (Ward 13) and Demong (Ward 14). City Administration did not make a strong enough case for this group to vote in favour. A number of issues came into play but mostly Administration could not adequately answer questions around the cost. These folks represented the views of their voting public who did not support the expense and the plan for separated cycle tracks in the downtown core.

The foregoing was easy to explain, now let's look at the supposed anomalies.

Keating (Ward 12); Not really a surprise 'His Purpleness' brought him in line with the promised public transportation plan for the SE. This will be enough for Keating to support the Mayor on most projects for the foreseeable future. His support has no other explanation since voters in Ward 12 do not appear to support the decision to spend tax dollars on separated cycle tracks in the downtown. Their concern is getting to work, parking when they get there and having a Councillor vote prudently on any City expenditure. That did not happen with this vote. If Ward 12 voters feel differently than I expressed please let me know.

Pootmans (Ward 6); Lest we not be surprised by his support for 'His Purpleness', Pootmans tries to show himself to be a fiscal conservative, the representation people in Ward 6 expect and believed they voted for, but the reality is Pootmans could very easily become a member of the 'Inner-City Four' when it comes to his voting record. He was one of the Councilors who dabbled with a ban on shark fin soup prior to the last election. A move that wasted tax dollars, pitted Council against Chinatown and was very much outside of any municipal jurisdiction. The attempted shark fin soup ban was led by Pincott and Farrell, blindly supported by Carra and Pootmans. Wooley was not at Council at the time. Again, if Ward 6 voters feel differently than I suggest please let me know.

Chabot (Ward 10); This is the only so-called surprise and the vote needed to get the cycle track programme in place. Chabot has been the Councillor most informed and ready for Council Meetings. He has always displayed himself to be a fiscal conservative. What happened?

Chabot has aspirations for the Mayor's chair once 'His Purpleness' rides off into the sunset to Harvard or the U of T to tell us how to be better urban citizens.

In this case, I believe Chabot made a significant political misstep. He appears to have abandoned his fiscal conservative principles in favour of an attempt to garner support from the urban hipster crowd. He must have been torn since his apparent change of heart seems to have come at Transportation Committee prior to yesterday's Council vote. In fact, for several months his staff have been posting on Facebook mentions that they will enjoy the cycle tracks well in advance of Chabot's vote.

Bottom line, this flip/flop may come back to haunt Chabot in the next election, time will tell.

Last evening I was bombarded by the Bike Calgary crowd for having had the audacity to help Chinatown in their opposition to the 1st Street SE cycle track. That's partly why I'm writing this today. They suggested we were conspiracy theorists and nay-sayers. I want to go on the record to say that the folks in Chinatown passionately love their space and this battle was not taken on without serious and thoughtful consideration for the impact on all Calgarians. Do not disregard Chinatown in the future when decisions like the cycle track and its impacts are discussed. This is a particular warning to the Councillor supposedly responsible for Chinatown.

The next steps are not so clear.

We are waiting for accurate costs for the cycle track network. We also want to see the criteria for measuring success or failure during the one-year trial.

I wonder what Bike Calgary thinks that criteria should be.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nenshi Fiddles While Calgary Burns

I'm in Playa del Carmen, watching what's going on in Calgary from the tragedy of the useless killings of the University students to the death of the young man test driving a motorcycle.

The murders will play out in the media and cause untold misery to all of the families involved and for that, having lost my 7 year old grandson last March, I am so terribly sorry.

The death of the young man on the motorcycle raises a number of questions in my mind, currently somewhat fuzzy from tequila and cerveza.

I have to write this, asking for comment and response because I am concerned we are going to suffer more of these incidents.


Because Council has said they will not spend the necessary funds to clean the enormous amount of gravel deposited on our streets by City crews during the winter months. All reports list a cause of the unfortunate accident as the amount of gravel on the streets where he was driving.

Here is where this is going;

The Inner-City Four, Councillors Farrell, Wooley, Carra and Pincott appear to live in a world that the vast majority of Calgarians do not. Nor do we want these folks spending our tax dollars creating this imaginary world. Albeit, they do these things at the behest of "His Purpleness", the Mayor.

Last year they wasted our time and money trying to ban shark fin soup, a ridiculous move entirely outside of their jurisdiction and in opposition to the existing laws of Canada. Nonetheless, our tax dollars were spent on this useless endeavor.

Now we have the the 'Cycle Tracks', unwanted by a large majority of Calgarians, but again being forced through Council yet again against our wills. Depending on who talks within Council or City Administration, the 'Cycle Tracks' will cost $9 million, $15 million or $22 million, not including maintenance, cleaning, snow removal, etc...

It doesn't take much thought to suggest we should use these tax dollars for the safety of the public rather than building 'Cycle Tracks' that a majority, including large numbers of people who ride bikes to work every day, do not want.

Do we need more accidents and possible deaths because of the unsafe condition of the existing streets to prove the lunacy of the 'Cycle Track' expenditure?

We know 'His Purpleness' has a problem convincing us the expenditure is a good one when he needs to show up at the Transportation Committee to try to sell the project on a trial basis.

Hell, even Stantec, the Consultant hired to sell us the 'Cycle Tracks' has written a report for the City of Vancouver saying the 'Cycle Track' project there was a failure. I have a copy of both reports for those that want to read them.

We can only trust that the majority of Council will realize we do not want our money wasted this way. Take it and clean our streets, make them safe for bike traffic as they stand, get rid of the gravel!

Calgarians are watching this vote, watching those that want to be Mayor one day, watching those who will vote to waste our tax dollars on the wishes of 'His Purpleness' and the 'Inner-City Four'.

We all get to vote again!