Great Communities Across Ward 11
The team has spent time in every neighborhood this election. While there are similarities (wow do we Ward 11’ers love our dogs) each neighborhood also has its own opportunities and challenges. Here are a few quick observations from each neighborhood or community association area
I love the initiatives you continue to take bringing the community together. For a geographically large community, there is widespread pride. Indoor bouncy castles for the win!
How can we make Bonaventure drive nicer and walkable for the many apartments and condos who can get to and from the commercial buildings and retail along macleod. Let’s improve this street.
The smallest community with the biggest heart. I’m in awe of all the projects you’ve tackled as a community. I love all your dogs (so many dogs in Fairview).
I know you’d like a dedicated community building. Let’s work together to make that happen.
You know you have my heart. I love how fresh faces have taken the lead building community continuing to engage the youth and children. Their love of community means they’re up to the good kind of trouble and the community feels safer for it.
Let’s have bold conversations about the old YMCA site, the playground on Haddon Road, and how we upgrade Heritage LRT station.
My favourite toboggan hill is in Southwood but can we please get you a better playground? Also, so in awe of the work you’ve done on your community garden and the connections this has built for the neighbourhood.
I’ve heard many issues with speed along Sacramento drive, let’s look to make this street safer.
What a wonderful mix of people calling their community home. We had so many friendly conversations from people from a range of demographics. Families, seniors, young couples, renters, owners, it’s all there in Windsor Park.
Let’s get a proper sidewalk on 4th street once and for all.
What a gem, maybe I shouldn’t tell everyone in Ward 11 how amazing you are. I’ve witnessed the community activation over the campaign and I can tell you, the leaders you have are special people.
I know you’ve been bumped around the last few elections, which makes continuity on issues challenging. I will advocate for you to have that continuity. I’ve seen the need for better snow clearing as well as sidewalk upgrades.
Well hello friendly new neighbours and welcome to Ward 11. Honestly, some of the chattiest people I’ve met, and in a good way.
Let’s get the green line going and make sure you’ve got the pathways to get there. I’ve also heard interest in a splash park or perhaps an inclusive/accessible playground.
I just might have to host a toboggan party here! Thank you to all of you who opened your doors and shared your love of Douglasglen and the sense of community you share and your love for your shared greenspaces.
I know that winter use of your pathways is a big priority as well as playground upgrades.
Welcome to Ward 11! I know you question how you fit into the mix and I can say that as your community infrastructure ages, you will need an advocate for life-cycle maintenance. You must be a busy crew because I’m not sure when you’re all home, open your doors for me please!
Your community association has been one of the quietest and I would like to get to know them better and find out how I can support them more to build a sense of community year round.
Hello little SW gem that is close to all the major roads with lots of housing choice. Also, the playground near the community association is fantastic (at least according to my kids).
I know the ring road has resulted in an increase in road noise which is a concern for many. I would like to advocate for a sound wall from Anderson to Southland.
A hidden forest in the middle of the neighbourhood? There is so much potential for this space with so many residents close by.
The dog park is popular and we need to sort out traffic and parking control. Let's strategize.
There are a large number of younger families in the neighborhood looking for ways to engage and connect with their community. I’ve seen many parents step up to lead community led programs and now green space revitalization.
I would like to be able to support your neighborhood efforts including pathway wayfinding and playground upgrades. Go Oakridge!
I’m grouping you together because what I experienced everywhere was a real understanding of the issues and the opportunities we face as a city, from taxes to tackling homelessness.
There was a shared call for safer crossings across 90th Avenue and the intersection at Glenmore landing as the roads and pedestrian-pies are rough for seniors who live nearby.
I think you win for most lawn signs per capita. I love the engagement and comfort you feel expressing your opinions to your neighbours. To me this signals a safe community where people feel welcome and respected.
There are many other community groups who could benefit from your fundraising experiences and it would be great to have you lead these conversations and support other neighbourhoods in their revitalization efforts. And yes, let’s keep the school open.
The neighbourhood with the best community driven art projects. From the fence along 75 Ave to the Catwalk art, I love it all.
Let’s talk about your off leash dog area and how we use the school site at 75th and 5th for the best benefit for the neighbourhood.
Thank you for taking the time to reach out to candidates to ask our positions. Community engagement is critical.
More people want to know about your chalkboard wall, how can we create a ‘how-to’ manual for other neighbourhoods?
I love the layout of your neighbourhood with a great central space. And yet never once did I see anyone there. How can we activate this space and create a hub for community?
The boundary/bank that faces Chinook has seen better days. How can we improve this slope?
You have one of the most active and engaged community associations in the ward for sure. And despite a large arterial road cutting the community in half, at events I always met great representation from both sides.
Upcoming plans for Glenmore Athletic Park are going to need extensive community involvement. Let’s finally get a pathway connecting the pedestrian bridge over Glenmore to the top of Sandy beach (so around the golf course, down 19th, & 50th)
I know no one knows where we live. I appreciate how outdoorsy everyone is, walking dogs, meeting at the playgrounds, and walking through the parks and pathways.
I’m keen to have conversations with ATCO on the empty lots and how we can bring more amenities closer to our houses.
Cougars, bears, deer… should we all just set up tents and camp in North Glenmore? But truly, you can sense the appreciation for nature around the whole neighborhood. Also, highest number of lime green doors I’ve ever seen.
Let’s sure we work together to get a multi-use path along the length of 37th and also support neighbourhood integration of the Taza development.
Nestled in a corner, you’ve got a great selection of nearby amenities, both public and private (golf courses, library, malls). For some reason the trees feel larger here.
I've seen a few of your playgrounds to know it's time we talk about improving them.
My Leadership Style
Throughout this campaign I’ve been working with the wonderful Stephanie Pollock who has been an amazing support and leadership coach throughout this campaign. Her role has been to help me dig into my values and honour those throughout. Her ask to me has always been:
What do you want to be true at the end this?
I have spent years working on my leadership skills, this isn’t a thing that ever stops in my mind. From non-fiction books to workshops, I am all about making room to evolve and adopt new ways of showing up, and releasing those that aren’t serving me or the people I’m working with.
So, what do I want to be true about the campaign:
Stand Out Campaign Moments
My Leadership Strengths
I’m not afraid to try something novel, and if anything, I like to be the person who generates conversations to try and brainstorm new ways of doing. I’ve had more ideas than time to execute throughout this campaign.
Calgary is facing complex challenges. This isn’t the time for austerity. We need leaders who want to understand the systems and encourage others to think of relevant, forward thinking systems that will help future proof our city. I am willing to champion a degree of risk in trying new solutions. I encourage us to learn from other cities and adapt successful strategies to a Calgary context. I will also encourage us to step up and design processes which others will want to emulate.
I believe that the best work comes from people who feel supported and valued. If we are going to talk about attracting top talent to Calgary, that must include those who support running our city. Empowering local businesses is also critical. We do this by reducing barriers to operations and offering them room to innovate as well.
I want to lead through building relationships based on trust. Honesty, listening, and a pay-it-forward mentality will help our communities and our city move forward.
Leading with a people first mentality means we are focused on impacts to real lives, not the balance on a spreadsheet when we make our decisions. Calgarians come from numerous backgrounds offering different perspectives, obstacles, and opportunities. We must serve the diverse needs of our citizens be it age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, income, or other demographic factors. We must look to serve our most vulnerable with care and attention. We must look to see who has been excluded from the decision making process and work to fold in more layers of guidance and leadership into our processes.
Areas for Growth
Leadership isn't static. It needs to evolve and grow. It’s a practice that requires reading, listening, and opening my mind to learning from others.
Not asking for help
I know my slogan is #co11aborate. And I mean it. I love bringing people together. Where I can do better is delegating tasks to other people so that I can focus on what I’m best at (bringing people together). Perhaps it’s FOMO, or slight perfectionism, or not wanting to inconvenience others. I am working on this.
I’m also too good at saying yes. I want to be helpful, I want to see things succeed. I need to make sure I don't over-committ.
You’re probably wondering how this could be true, especially if you know me in person. What I mean is that I’m not always great at selling my accomplishments. It’s been the hardest part of the campaign, walking up to strangers and basically bragging about why they should vote for me. Even though I know I’m qualified to do this job, I’m not great at saying that out loud, often.
One thing Steph encouraged me to do was brag (politely) a little more about my accomplishments. So here’s where I let you know a few facts about me, and how I show up as a leader.
Leadership is a skill you cultivate. I hope that being willing to work on mine you’re willing to vote for someone who will always be striving to do better, learn more, and model an open mindset.
PS. Have a favourite leadership book or podcast you'd like to share with me?
On PACs (Political Action Committees)
It’s true. I’ve been endorsed by two PACs (political action committees). Calgary’s Future and Look Forward.
In understand that under the current election finance system I benefit from their endorsement through paid advertisements.
The Sprawl has all the info on who’s who, I encourage you to stop here, read their post, and then come back to finish. https://www.sprawlalberta.com/third-party-advertisers-pacs-calgary-edmonton-municipal-election
Why I engaged with PACs questionnaires.
Across this city people have special interests, their jobs, the environment, sport. As candidates we’ve received countless (no really, I’ve lost count) surveys from BILD, to Bike Calgary, to the Weaselhead Preservation Society, to not-really-a-pac-but-acting-like-one Common Sense Calgary. Fluoride, smoking cessation, arts, climate, women in politics. I’ve shared my answers to these on my own site.
My stance, if volunteers or organizations are going to take the time to ask questions, I’m going to take the time to answer. That is the role of the councillor, to respond to people and groups. I’ve seen many of these surveys go unanswered by other candidates.
Here are my responses to the Calgary's Future survey.
PACs are no different. They sent out surveys, they requested interviews, and I was honest in my positions, values, and beliefs. My platform and vision were set before we engaged. I didn’t bend my answers knowing their slant. I didn’t want an endorsement based on a false sense of my vision for Calgary. I have spent the last 10 years of my career building high trust relationships. I’m not about to throw that away.
If I could do it all over again, would I engage? I don’t know to be honest. At this point it’s caused more headache than gain from what I can tell. I’m having to defend my integrity when up until a month ago, it spoke for itself. So I’m laying it out here, again.
Where I Stand on Endorsements
No matter how much money any third party advertiser/political action committee spends endorsing me as a candidate, my go forward actions will not be any different than without an endorsement. My values cannot be bought.
*If* I vote to give unions a raise, that’s because I believe in paying people a living wage that matches inflation. In my own small company I paid my employees well about a living wage. I have never taken a job that paid me less than a living wage.
*If* I vote to preserve jobs, that’s because Calgarians are asking for service levels that require staffing. Transit, emergency services, waste collection. It’s convenient to talk down about public service workers, a job so many in the private sector wouldn’t dream of doing because they know there is limited earning potential.
Advocating for change
I would love to see PACs disappear from the political process. I will continue to advocate for financial reform in our electoral process. Specifically around PACs I would like to see:
Economic Prosperity (part two)
When we talk about economic development in Calgary, especially using the City budget, I believe we need to be thoughtful about which industries can and should be bolstered to provide to most impact. Right now I believe those sectors are tech (and tech adjacent), arts (including film), and the non-profit/social sector. There is also the case for the trades and the building industry as we take on large city building projects and improve our built form in our existing neighbourhoods. Economic growth and development must be a balance between resourcing and support for small to medium sized businesses while also attracting (and retaining) medium to large scale businesses, especially those who are looking to scale.
Where it is important for the City to be involved is supporting arms length organizations which focus on programming and resources specific to their sector. There are a few industries that are ripe for development and Calgary needs to continue to be a supporting player.
I strongly believe a new fieldhouse is key to Calgary’s opportunities around life sciences, medical, and sport technology. Our elevation and seasonal changes make studying athletes and related technology ideal. We have already seen the likes of Garmin relocate to nearby Cochrane. Continuing to have world class facilities to study physiology, anatomy, and sports performance will help Calgary companies be leaders in their field.
In the arts, Calgary Arts Development continues to improve their offerings. Spaces, grants, and mentorship programs are all critical to the development of artists across disciplines from performing arts to visual arts.
While economic recovery is a city wide issue I want to ensure you that Ward 11 residents are top of mind for me. How we get people to and from their work, what kind of opportunities exist in neighbourhoods after work hours, and opportunities for participation in economic activities close to home (shopping, food, festivals) is top of mind for me. We need economic prosperity at the neighbourhood level as much as we do for the overall city.
Ward 11 in the City of Calgary is one small corner of Treaty 7 land. As immediate neighbours of the Tsuut'ina nation we recognize all of Ward 11 resides on the traditional territories of the Tsuut'ina, the Blackfoot confederacy, the Ĩyãħé Nakoda nation. As neighbours we are stewards to the prosperous and just future for all Indigenous Canadians including the Metis, Inuit, displaced, and urban Indigenous who live across Calgary and in Treaty 7 territory.
When I was in Jr. High, students were bussed in from the Tsuuti’ina nation. From this we were exposed to hoop dancers, Indigenous artists, round dances, and bannock. What we were really part of was a system of racism and oppression. Bridging the gap wasn’t easy. You were told by older students that the ‘indians’ were lazy, poor students, and you had to watch your back because they would fight with you for no reason. I struggled. I watched them struggle. At the time I didn’t have the skills to build a bridge between our communities.
There has been a call for a dedicated Indigenous gathering place in Calgary. It is time to honour the commitment and move forward on finding a location in Calgary.
I am in favour of supporting Indigenous led justice and harm reduction. We must acknowledge the distrust in colonial systems like health care and law enforcement. This must be accomplished through budget allocations.
Things specifically I want to accomplish in Ward 11 are:
Reconciliation is an ongoing process. I am committed to unlearning my biases I’ve been taught. I'm committed to learning about ways in which we can support Indigenous teaching and leadership into our systems, services, and solutions.
My Experience is my Why
My Experience is my WHY
I am often asked at the doors, what’s your background? Or what’s your experience?
This isn’t the place for my life story, but let me tell you about some defining volunteer, professional, and personal experiences. The culmination of these have developed a skillset that is suited to be an excellent councillor: adept communication, team work, leadership, innovative thinking, and amazing at building relationships.
I was raised predominantly by a single mother who was a nurse. She was also an active volunteer. I am an active volunteer for multiple non-profit organizations.
Why this matters:
I believe community stewardship and volunteerism is a learnt behaviour. Freely giving of our time is a gesture of kindness that not everyone embraces. I saw early on that her involvement enriched our experience in our school and sports community, and this made me want to be involved in giving back to my children’s communities as they’ve grown as well. No matter her schedule, she made time, and still does to this day. I want to model this behaviour not only for my own daughters, but for other people as well.
There are many volunteer driven organizations across our city who partner with the City. I understand the important role volunteers and volunteer driven organizations play in the shaping of our city. These are voices and actions which need to be championed. I know, as a volunteer, that the support we receive from others is paramount to our success. I am committed to working with community groups to improve their relationships and reduce the barriers with the City and within their neighborhoods.
Through our playground rebuild, I knew the value of having a central hub, ie. placemaking, as a key component of a community. Bringing this knowledge to the role of councillor means I understand and value the role community association buildings, playgrounds, as well as parks and green spaces play in creating strong connected communities. This is important as neighbourhood spaces need resources and funding to continue to provide programming and events for the community, and I can be a strong advocate and resource for these improvements.
As board member and President of the Haysboro Community Association I was able to lead an organizational shift. I supported new initiatives for events and programs and while supporting existing programming. I stewarded through a rebranding of the organization, moved membership fees to a more financially inclusive structure, and supported the growth of our message to new audiences through the adoption of social media. This increased community participation at events, in programs, and supported a sense of well-being and safety in the neighbourhood. I was also the lead in the large exterior renovation of the building as well as other interior renovations.
I am uniquely positioned to support Community Associations through my intimate knowledge of their opportunities and challenges. Many are facing a need for extensive upgrades to their buildings and are exploring ways to partner with the city to upgrade parks and green spaces.
Why this matters:
Committees are composed of representatives from various stakeholder groups including city planners and staff, developers and builders (private industry), business improvement associations, other community representatives, students, and other civic groups. The shaping of policy and plans is a collaborative effort of a spectrum of interests and objectives that need conversation and context.
Being on committees for the past five years means I have a solid understanding of how policy is developed to come to council, how working with others needs time together which is thoughtful and nuanced, and how compromise is key to a successful outcome. Policy work and good outcomes are dependent on the process of cooperation, this is an environment I thrive in and do my best work in.
Organization leader in the tech sector and board member of the Calgary Regional Innovation Network.
Why this matters:
Multiple studies show that economies that operate in a high trust environment grow faster and have better deal flow. As Community Manager for Rainforest Alberta my role was to connect entrepreneurs, employees, and startups to talent, education, and funding. The community also held an expectation that you gave as much as you got, and you gave first. The result, a foundation of entrepreneurs, support organizations, and education institutions contributing to a rapidly growing tech sector in Calgary.
In the role I mentored entrepreneurs with knowledge from my own business experience, reviewed resumes of those seeking employment, designed course work for post-secondary students, and hosted multiple events to create connections between the various people and groups in the sector.
As an elected member to the Board of Fellows for the Calgary Innovation Coalition, we support the tech sector through funding allocation to member organizations who are supporting entrepreneurial growth in the tech sector. To sit on the board, fellows have to be nominated and elected by their peers from over 30 organizations. I have proven that I have the trust and support of leaders in Calgary to support the growth of the sector.
Small business owner selling goods across Alberta, BC, and Ontario.
Why this matters:
As a small business owner, based out of my house, I grew my novel business to pay employees a living wage, cultivated wholesale accounts across the country, and won awards for my work. The experience also led me to partnerships with other small businesses in Calgary where we raised the exposure of local companies.
Shopping local is important to me and cultivating the growth of neighbourhood businesses is an important part of a successful city. I also know the challenges small businesses face in permitting and accessing commercial space for production and sales. With a strong network of small businesses I believe we can modernize permit applications, sales opportunities, and local procurement of goods to improve the local economy and support small businesses in our City.
Community development is integral to who I am. I want to encourage volunteers, non-profit groups, businesses, administrators, city staff, to be bold in their thoughts and actions. I want to champion ingenuity. The most impactful action I can take as a councillor will be empowering others to build a city that serves others and builds our collective capacity to be resilient and thriving against economic ups and downs, climate change, and health and social crises. Connecting with others is my passion and the greatest strength I can bring to this role.
Local Economic Innovation
Calgary continues to be an attractive place to do business yet we have to ensure our competitive advantages can continue to support the needs of an evolving economy. Calgary has strengths across sectors. Many of these have been operating under the shadow of Oil and Gas and have also had to weather the ups and downs of the global oil market.
There is lots of talk about diversifying the economy. This is true, but what this really means is that many industries which are affected by ups and downs, like retail and food (restaurants), have a better base of stability to rely upon for consistency. Retail and restaurant can also be part of our diversification strategy when done alongside the growth of other sectors.
The success of recreation, art, and food based businesses is contingent on the economic health of our city overall. Calgary continues to see growth in our tech based businesses and the City can continue to support growth in this area through key investments. There has been lots of talk around transforming vacant downtown office towers to residential but I’m wondering if we’re missing the mark on the transformation. Perhaps we need to look at the cultural structure of technology companies - should we instead be transforming existing office towers into layouts that support the open floor plan culture of technology based companies? By opening spaces up (ie taking down walls), towers can support a co-work model vision, creating spaces for actual co-work companies, or for small businesses to partner on spaces to lease in a shared environment.
This kind of transformation can benefit more than tech companies. Marketers, realtors, artists, consultants - these are all people who may seek an office space outside of their homes. Downtown needs to be filled with all kinds of companies. When we create collision opportunities, people get creative and innovative, they build relationships, and businesses flourish. I have spent the better part of a decade being part of and creating these opportunities, and I want to bring this thinking to our City. I will stress, this model should and can exist outside of downtown as well.
The need to attract outside companies who bring external talent and work cultures to Calgary is important alongside local growth. This helps us grow our mindset and brings senior talent in new sectors to mentor junior talent. Often companies experiencing growth are looking for a home base for their company which matches their value model. Much of that attraction is the environment, both literally as in our parks and green spaces, but as well the lifestyle opportunities, low cost of living, great recreation, and other factors which make cities livable - education, healthcare, travel. This is why I will always keep sight on what the next generation of workers is looking for in a city, transit, bike lanes, parks. I will explore external attraction and arts and tech in the next blog post, and where the City can play a key role in their growth and development.
Transportation is a hot topic with priorities and focus varying from neighborhood to neighbourhood.
I am a multi-modal user. I drive, walk, bike, and take transit. This informs my perspective and I feel it brings a balance to the conversation that may not exist in other candidates.
The coles notes version of this blog post is that I support investment into Calgary Transit and the City’s 5A Network “Always Available for All Ages & Abilities”. A city which supports non auto-oriented networks ensures Calgary residents can navigate their neighborhoods safely and cost-effectively year round.
WALKING AND CYCLING
The 5A network recognizes that Calgarians are actively needing and choosing different modes of transportation to navigate our city. This includes separated cycle tracks along with sidewalk and pathway improvements.
What does improving the 5A network look like in Ward 11 neighborhoods?
Ward 11 has three transit stations, two BRT lines, and countless other bus routes. The Green Line will also be on the east edge of the ward with two stations. We have the opportunity to lead transit ridership in the city. To do this, our service must be responsive to ridership.
I haven’t forgotten about you auto-users. I want to assure you that investment into transit and bike lanes does not directly compete with investment in roads. We need roads for emergency services, transit, and to support ride-sharing, for-hire rides, and
I have experienced and know that snow clearing after major events needs to evolve to better support entry and exit from neighborhoods.
There are routes which are frequented by accidents (Crowchild south before Glenmore anyone?) which need traffic pattern reviews.
As a result of sprawl, road volume has increased and so traffic noise is affecting neighbourhoods more. Sound walls need to be life-cycled to improve quality of life for adjacent residents.
Calgary will always have a mix of transportation options. As demographics and priorities shift amongst residents, the City needs to adjust our deliverables to meet the needs of users. I believe all systems can complement each other, not compete. With a shift in mindset towards giving people viable options to travel for school, work, or leisure, we build a city which is inclusive and equitable.
Recently the Calgary Climate Hub surveyed Calgarians across the city on their sentiments about climate change and the need to act in Calgary. The full data set is available here.
A few highlights:
So, how can Calgary become a leader and what issues do we need to address immediately to help move us forward to ensure we have resilient measures against the effects of climate change? We start by listening to the experts, both on staff with the City and those who are leaders in their field and in communities. I will continue to learn about what Calgary can do, here are a few of my priority areas, in short form. Please feel free to follow up for a more in depth conversation.
Forward-thinking cities attract the best companies and the best talent. For Calgary to prosper we cannot ignore how our climate action must be part of our economic recovery. I also know I’ve likely got 40-50 years left on this planet and I want to be able to enjoy our city with clean air and fresh water for all of those years.
At the same time I was actively volunteering as President of the Haysboro Community Association and was on multiple working groups with the City of Calgary around growth and change in established neighbourhoods. I sat on those committees not because I was pro-density but because I am pro-community. Being pro-community meant advocating for plain language, clarity on definitions and descriptions, and supporting a vision which focused on community amenities, parks, green spaces, and expectations alongside growth and change.
I also wrote an op-ed for Live Wire a while back. I acknowledge that currently detached dwellings are outpacing condo sales and that covid has caused a shift in how and where we want to live. I would take this moment to advocate for denser housing with three or four bedrooms. This can include apartments, condos, and row-housing.
One thing I heard from candidates over and over this election cycle is the jargon of the ‘single-family’ neighbourhood. Ward 11 has 27 communities. Three of those have exclusively detached dwellings (Bel Aire, Mayfair, and Meadowlark Park). City wide those three communities are also an anomaly. Neighbourhoods aren’t defined by housing type. Communities have a boundary in which 89% of Ward 11 communities include a spectrum of housing. When we talk about ‘single-family (detached) neighbourhoods’ in exclusion of attached housing we do ourselves a disservice. That language is exclusionary and belittling of neighbours who for whatever reason live in housing that is not single detached.
Below are four photos of Palliser, showing a variety of housing type within a two block radius. Some existing Ward 11 neighbourhoods have done a good job mixing uses, like Palliser, Windsor Park, and Kingsland. These are good examples to model and use as a starting point for neighbourhoods to understand that multiple housing types can co-exist in the same neighbourhood and the sense of community isn't negatively affected.
I have met a great number of good people in the past ten years doing incredible work building community in Ward 11 and across Calgary. This spirit and energy is what we need more of. Good neighbours are not defined by their stage of life, income, or living situation. There are active and engaged people in all types of housing. I have yet to hear on the doors that housing type is the number one thing people love about their neighbourhood. I hear parks, schools, and people.
Calgary cannot continue to grow exclusively on the edges of our city. It is not an affordable or sustainable version of a city. The most fiscally responsible and best use of our tax dollars is to place more people near the infrastructure that already exists - transit, recreation, schools, emergency services, parks.
I want to work with communities through their growth and development. I want to have honest conversations about which areas of neighborhoods are most likely to absorb a change in zoning and housing type due to factors such as proximity to transit, parks, as well as market value. The city has actively worked to provide a framework for this conversation (Guide to Local Area Planning) and has committed to working with communities through the Local Area Plan process.
The Guide also has direction for transit oriented development, light industrial, and commercial planning. Ward 11 has all of these in our communities and we can take advantage of best practices to support a revitalization of our city to benefit the build out of Ward 11 as part of the overall growth goals for Calgary. There are empty and dead sites in Ward 11 which should be prioritized for development. Development will come in time as we continue to grow in population adding new residents to the city and as we see economic recovery or stabilization.
I want to support communities in providing affordable and appropriate housing for all stages of life. I want seniors to be able to age in place which may mean their neighbourhood, not their house, so they have a familiarity of services. I want children to be able to walk to neighborhood schools because the population can support operations.
Ward 11 has a choice. We can work with the process of change to shape our communities thoughtfully in a way which benefits residents, asking for delivery of amenities, services, and programs which foster community. Or we can resist and lose out on the opportunity to build relationships with local businesses and new neighbours. We will lose out to communities willing to accept the change. I don’t want this for Ward 11. I want our schools to be full, our playgrounds to be replaced, our sidewalks and intersections to be repaired. I want to protect a high level of service for our parks, snow clearing, transit service, and emergency services.
About Me, a little bit more...
Raised in Calgary, I choose to stay here and raise my family here as well. Part of that has been driven by continued opportunities to work and volunteer in the city, part of it is driven by proximity to family and friends, and much of it is that Calgary affords me a lifestyle I appreciate. From the proximity to the mountains to our beautiful parks and friendly spirit, Calgary fits.
I've called a few communities home over the years, with my elementary school days in Deer Ridge, and later my mom, brother, and myself found ourselves settled in Haysboro. I did the inner city-living along with some condo dwelling throughout university and early full-time gigs in neighbourhoods like Sunalta, Kensington, and Glamorgan. Eventually I found myself back in Ward 11 in the neighbourhood of Haysboro with my young family. Through life changes, I’ve found myself in Garrison Green (also in Ward 11), exploring a new community and meeting new neighbours.
Growing up we were raised by my mom, with my dad living in Edmonton. He was around but it was her example we saw day in and day out. She was always volunteering at school, for our team sports, and was the ringleader for spirit days at her work. As a nurse she has shaped my vision of commitment to care, she still works casually to support the system during covid although she is technically retired. This is her reminder - get vaccinated!
I read more than watch tv. I like my two cups of coffee every morning. I really like shoes (but the comfy cool casual sneaker kind). I’m a horrible singer. My favourite food is potatoes (in pretty much any form), and I would eat vanilla ice cream for dessert every day.
Next week I will tell you more about my experience through volunteering and work, and how that has given me the foundation to be an excellent councillor for ward 11.
Investing in Ward 11
Ward 11 as a whole is amenity rich. Pathways, recreation centres and pools, athletic facilities and arenas, libraries, and transit. Ward 11 also has great access to major roads and shopping centres. We have a hospital and a good number of schools
Like much of the city built between the 60s and 90s, Ward 11 communities are experiencing a shift in their makeup. As councillor, my goal is to support neighbourhoods through shifts in neighbourhood populations, development changes, business cycles, and our civic infrastructure requirements.
Calgary has large opportunities and challenges in our next 20-30 years. Revitalizing the downtown core, bringing needed economic diversification, and working towards climate mitigation measures. I want to ensure that while we tackle these issues we continue to focus as well on the need of protecting community infrastructure and devising ways to bring more investment back into established neighbourhoods.
I've written previous blog posts about making Calgary a city that supports neighbourhoods across seasons, ages, and explores how we can encourage small businesses in our parks.
I want Ward 11 to be full of neighbourhoods where families see a future. This means playgrounds and green spaces to play, neighbourhood schools remaining open, and recreation programming which supports a sense of community. I also want communities to be multi-generational and accessible, meaning neighbourhoods need to be designed for seniors to age in place and those with physical impairments can navigate our communities. At both ends of the age spectrum and for those with disabilities, neighbourhood design looks similar - curb cuts at road crossings, well marked crosswalks, snow clearing at transit stations and bus stops, clean transit stations, and well lit roads and sidewalks to name a few. A spectrum of civic services hosted in buildings kept in good repair is critical to serving residents.
We can support neighbourhoods in the following ways:
A few major upgrades I would like to champion:
Within neighborhoods the following upgrades need to be prioritized:
Ward 11 needs an advocate at city hall. I am invested in bringing improvements to our neighbourhoods.
I will look into hosting office hours at community associations so travel to downtown isn’t required.
I understand that travelling to and from the core, by transit, bike, or car, isn’t feasible for some due to time, funds, or lifestyle constraints. My goal is to partner with community associations and other organizations to hold office hours in neighbourhoods.
I will build a family friendly office - toys, colouring, or maybe your teen has something they want to talk about, my office door is open to all ages.
I’ve been that parent. The one whose child care falls through but still wants to attend an important meeting. I also believe children benefit from watching their parents participate in city building. I grew up watching my mom volunteer and I have no doubt this spirit has been passed on. My own children are curious about my work, volunteerism, and my campaign. My office will need to be a space for them as much as for yours. Baby wipes, extra diapers, we will have it.
I will explore hosting town halls and finding a format that allows more people to connect, be it in person or online. This could include different days and times of the week to ensure we aren’t excluding voices by always hosting on the same day and time.
Many people have expressed both appreciation and frustration in previous town hall formats and availability. I would like town halls to be places where neighbours connect, subject matter experts join the conversation, and where we walk away inspired to tackle the challenges together.
I will leverage my social channels and newsletters to share about:
These are items I have been doing throughout the campaign, and they shouldn’t stop. I believe we benefit from participating in events and activities throughout our city, but best in our neighbourhoods.
I will support community associations and nonprofits with information about grants, connect leaders to each other for learning and sharing opportunities, and share about opportunities offered by other supporting organizations.
The councillor’s office is one of the main points of contact for community associations and other nonprofit organizations into the work happening with administration. It is vital to have a strong channel of communication and excellent working relationships. There are many other agencies and organizations which support nonprofits and community associations. Ensuring there is also knowledge sharing and good relationships is key to building neighbourhoods with a strong sense of community which in turn promotes safety, activity, and overall sense of well being.
I will participate in community events to the best of my ability and schedule.
I enjoy being out in the community. I like to have fun! I’m also not too shy to lend a helping hand, even the gritty stuff like hauling out tables and chairs. The best part of this campaign is getting to know people who feel the same way. Just like I will share out notices about events, I will also make sure to share the call out for volunteers.
I will work with my fellow councillors, city employees, and citizens in a collaborative, caring, and considerate manner.
There are many ways to be part of a respectful workspace. Coming to meetings prepared and having read the notes. Working through the appropriate channels to bring forward motions. Ensuring the voices of marginalized and underrepresented groups feel safe to voice their concerns. I will also listen to learn and understand and do my research where needed.
I will be honest and present facts to support my positions. I won’t conflate two items as being related when they aren’t.
I believe in an approach which both examines the data and the story. I believe in building trust and that comes from being honest and open with my thoughts and feelings as well.
I will advocate for investment into established neighborhoods across the city, not just for Ward 11, this includes transit, recreation, parks, and other civic infrastructure.
I want Calgarians to see our existing neighborhoods as great places to live no matter their stage of life. I want us to grow our population in a sustainable way and this means attracting residents to live in our established neighborhoods. This requires amenities which are safe, convenient, and able to support the needs of the community.
I will champion policies which require leading with courage, this includes truth and reconciliation, anti-racism work, climate resiliency, accessibility, and poverty reduction.
These issues are the most divisive. They are also the most critical. Calgary needs to be a city that works for everyone. I want Calgary to be a leader in this work and I will champion experts to guide us through this work.
I will take time off to spend with my family and friends.
I acknowledge that this job is important but I won’t sacrifice my relationship with those who have been my biggest supporters. The role cannot be a detriment to my health, mentally or physically. You need a councillor who can come to the table ready to work because I’ve recharged and reconnected with the other things in my life which are full of joy and laughter.
Platform Introduction for Ward 11
What I will not do is offer promises that I can’t fulfill. I want to offer more than catch phrases or empty platitudes that don't offer a how or why. If I haven’t been clear, please ask for clarification.
I also understand that I don’t have all the answers, nor am I a subject matter expert in all city departments. As a councillor, I would be part of a leadership team that works alongside talented city employees who have a much better understanding and specialization in many departments. I also respect there is ongoing work on strategies, policy, and finances that need to be respected and carried forward.
My hope is that in the lead up to election day, you will find yourself here, learning more about our city, where you can make a difference, and how I can support your efforts. My hope is that you will see I am considerate, curious, and caring. I am also deeply committed to Calgary, including the complex and nuanced nature of running a City. I won’t oversimplify the issues or the solutions.
Throughout the campaign we're working on three guiding principles - be part of community and amplify community voices, embrace innovation trying new ways to reach citizens (hello TikTok), and look to find commonalities and moments of celebration as the starting point for conversation. The platform details will be no different, all drawing from one or more of these three aspects. There will be a strong focus on neighbourhood amenities, climate resilience, inclusion and action for poverty, racism, and disabilities, and embracing innovation both in ways of thinking and in technology. Platform blog posts will include links to relevant City of Calgary pages and articles as supplementary information.
These blog posts are just part of the conversations leading up to election day. I have spoken to many topics through Conversations Among Candidates and Online meet and greets (both found on YouTube), as well as weekly 15 minute lives on Facebook and Instagram. 15 Minute Fridays on Facebook and Instagram continue to be part of the discussion along with commentary on topics through regular posts on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you in advance for your interest in Calgary, for being engaged, and for bringing your voice to the conversation.
Learning from Vacation
"Coming home from vacation with a few insights that seem to be universal truths re: tourism that Calgary could leverage:
None of this has to be done in big ways by big organizations. Rather, the collective of independent organizations working together to tell our unique story, supported by the City, as enablers of our opportunities to inspire and educate."
Specifically, here's what I loved that I think Calgary could do:
Victoria had local vendors around the harbour on Saturday, a farmer's market a few blocks off the main street, and a small food centred area at one of the harbours. Calgary could do this more frequently at Eau Claire, Stephen Avenue, East Village, and North Glenmore Park.
We need to emphasize or provide more water rentals and tours. Canoes, kayaks, floating. Moving on the water is a great way to explore our city. Why is the SS Moyer the only boat to give tours on the reservoir? And because we have less water, more bike rentals too, especially at parks not along the river, North Glenmore, South Glenmore, Carburn Park, Fish Creek, Bowness, Nose Hill, the list goes on. And let's not forget the winter with skate rentals, toboggans, snowshoes, cross country skis.
I believe a big part of Calgary's success is going to be innovating on what exists here to create new opportunities. It is likely we are going to need to review bylaws and policies which prevent some of these practices from happening. I know Calgary can support local businesses in providing both local and tourist opportunities, I'm ready to be that leadership who will ask the questions to get us towards solutions.
In 2018 a man walked into the Beakerhead office on 4th street close to Safeworks. He was clearly in distress needing to use. I watched my co-workers freeze and one picked up the phone to call the police. We were two blocks away from the Chumir. I stood up and introduced myself, asked his name, and offered to walk him down to the site. My friend and co-worker joined me as we walked and made small talk about the weather.
The province is set to close Safeworks, the Safe Consumption Site at the Sheldon Chumir with plans to reallocate to 'partner organizations' (likely shelters) according to this recent article. I worry about the strain on social agencies to provide increased care and service for vulnerable populations. I see the continued stigma and assumptions made about users.
Access to a site assumes you are proximal or have means to use transportation to arrive. It also assumes the site will feel safe, welcoming, and inclusive. We have users of all genders, ethnicities, and span socio-economic statuses who need a site. Have these factors been considered when choosing new locations?
First - locations should have been chosen in partnership with the City of Calgary. I am not certain this is the case.
Second - by moving the consumption sites to shelter or social agency sites, we are stigmatizing who uses and casting a broad assumption that all users are homeless or living in the shelter system. We know this isn't the case.
I will say that I support having locations within social service agencies IF there are other sites as well and IF those sites are staffed (funded) by the province and the expectation of staffing does not suddenly become part of the agency's operating budget without funding from the Province.
Third - the recognition that need for sites does not exist solely in the beltline or downtown core; drug use is not a geographic phenomenon.
The need for MORE sites exists. We see this in the number of users at the Chumir site, and in the spillover for the users who are unable to access the site. I have spoken with communities and Calgary Police who see users at sites such as transit stations - because they are monitored with cameras and help buttons.
There isn't one answer to solving the challenges associated with drug use. I believe we need a comprehensive approach that is supported by the Province and the City which support both users and communities. We need funding for mental health care, housing, safe consumption sites, addictions treatment, and funding for social service agencies as early interveners. We need training for our first responders, bylaw and transit officers, and community leaders to be part of the solution in communities.
Mostly we need to talk about users as people - humans with complex emotions, needs, and histories. We need to see that we are all part of the problem when we stigmatize users but can also be part of the solution when we see users as humans who are for their own reasons, in a position where drug use is part of their life. Is this easy, not always. I believe we need to keep talking about it, openly and candidly. I am committed to these conversations to support all Calgarians regardless of the situation they find themselves in.
I've put out three simple surveys in the last few weeks to ask you about how you're interacting with their city. From teen girls, to kids, to adults. I am curious about what is good, and what can be improved in your eyes.
Most importantly, the overall sense I got from reading your answers, was that being in community was important to you including the amazing connections you have to your neighbours.
You focused on the elements you interact with most in active modes. No one flagged roads as the thing they want to keep, or a specific built form of houses. To me, this signals, what we value in our neighbourhoods, what I feel is so key to humanity, places to be around others and build relationships.
Kids identified that the number one thing that makes them feel safe in their community is knowing their neighbours. When we have streets, sidewalks, and parks that help us know each other, we support even our youngest residents in their participation in community. Their fears: coyotes (totally valid).
Teen girls had this to say about their interactions in their neighbourhoods...
What does this all this mean as I ask to be your representative at city hall? It means that I recognize the amenities of neighbourhoods which you value, and I value them too. I want to ensure we continue to support the amenities which foster relationships (like community halls and rec centres), the local economy (supporting residential adjacent businesses), and active living (ensuring quality pathways and park spaces).
Earlier this year, I made a birthday wish list for Calgary for my 40th. There is lots of overlap between the keep/add lists.
It's not to late to give your answers. Here are the links to the original blogs/surveys:
The Kids Point of View (best for kids in elementary)
Girls in the City
Changing Communities - What do you want to see?
Here's hoping I will see you out on the pathways!
Kids in the City
We know kids have a much different point of view of moving around their neighbourhoods than adults do.
Often when we think about city planning, programming, and design, we have conversations exclusively among adults for spaces that affect children. As a parent myself with children in this age bracket, I know they have strong opinions and a sense of what makes their neighbourhoods great. That's right - they have two neighbourhoods as their dad and myself live in different communities. They interact differently based on proximity to parks and greenspaces, have different routes to these areas, and the amenities differ.
My ask - if you have a K-6 child in your house, have them complete one or both of these activities.
1. A short survey designed with kids in mind.
2. Save and print the following images (designed for standard paper). Take a photo and share on social (tag me @kourtbranagan) or email me the photo at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do we know about Calgarians - but more specifically, what do we know about how Calgarians vote?
Calgary collects both its own data about citizens and uses the federal census to provide community profiles.
In the fall of 2020 I embarked on a project with the Tech Skills Initiative program from Bow Valley College. I have supported the program through the last two years in my role with Rainforest Alberta. In the fall I had the opportunity to design an industry project for the students which used multiple data sets around election data and community demographics to support candidates in the upcoming election. That project has come to life through the website Calgary Election Candidates, with the help of friend and political enthusiast Sarah Elder-Chamanara of Madame Premier.
Working on this project I have become passionate about two changes I would like to see going forward for Calgary. The first is data around voter demographics. The second is the language we use to identify individuals.
A bit of a background. I started learning more about diversity and inclusion, the language used, and the tools of measurement in the last few years. Specifically, I worked on another project when I was with Rainforest Alberta around attendance at events (real live ones if you remember those) and the diversity of persons attending.
In working on those projects, in reviewing the community demographics posted by the City of Calgary, I noticed a trend. The terminology used to capture identities is outdated.
When I dug into the issue, I was alerted that the terminology used in the City of Calgary documents is language which is consistent with the Government of Canada. Yikes! With Census 2021 launching in a few days, I hope the terminology has shifted, in particular for Indigenous Canadians and populations who do not identify themselves as White.
The current terms are Aboriginal (losing favour as the preferred term) and Visible Minority. Visible Minority could be replaced with terms such as Racialized Populations, Ethnicity, or other non-dominant coded language. Even if Census Canada doesn’t change their language, I would like to see the City of Calgary update demographic reporting with appropriate, sensitive, and modern terminology regardless of Stats Canada use. It is appropriate to then use notations to describe terminology and links when necessary for contextual information.
Further to understanding our population, what we lack knowledge about is our voter demographics. It is important to note that not all Calgarians over 18 are eligible to vote. (Another topic for another day.)
Calgary has no data on the demographics of voter turnout, not even notes on a gender split. This is problematic because how can we (Elections Calgary/The City of Calgary) appropriately target messaging about an election if we don’t know which voter groups are missing? This could be age, income, gender, or ethnicity. It could be home owner vs renter. We have data on voter turnout by area - but knowing if it’s low (or high) is not necessarily well understood.
At this point you might be wondering, why am I so passionate about demographics? Its not the demographics per se - but the data, or the lack of data, which interests me. Data is one part of the story but it paints a picture for us to start asking questions towards exploring solutions.
How do we improve democratic participation if we don’t understand who is and isn’t participating?
In the case of voters - I do think we need to be talking openly about who feels equipped to cast a vote. What means allow them access to information to make a decision? Which means allow them the ability to show up on election day? Do we need to (re)think where we have mobile polling stations? Do we need to (re)think where we place regular voting stations? Do we need to have better translation services?
I believe there needs to be a commitment to capturing voter demographics. This will likely not be realized for 2021 but it is certainly an initiative I would push for in future elections if elected.
Spring Bingo Cards!
Get outside - enjoy the weather! Have a little competitive fun with your family.
40th Birthday Wishlist for Calgary
Inspired by a friend, I made a birthday wish list for Calgary. May as well mark turning 40 with all I can!
This list is aspirational and (mostly) actionable. I wanted to dig in to how we interact with our neighbourhoods and our city. They are small things that add up to moments of joy and participation. I focused on items that were, as much as possible, about inclusivity, providing equity, and designing an environment which is sustainable, vibrant, and fun. We need more fun!!!
So here are my 40 birthday wishes for Calgary:
1 - That the majority of people buy a community association memberships
2 - That community associations ensure cost isn’t a barrier & have pricing options for residents (including free!)
3 - More little free pantries
4 - More community fridges
5 - More garbage cans at Edworthy off-leash dog park (not in 11 but we love it there)
6 - Allow paddle boarding on the reservoir
7 - More crosswalks, less pedestrian detours
8 - More naturalization along roadways & less grass to cut
9 - More perennial plantings that attract pollinators (less annuals)
10 - Explore the return of a block parent/block watch program (remember those days?!)
11 - Wider sidewalks in older neighborhoods
12 - More curb cuts at pedestrian crossings
13- More alley way garage door art
14 - More backyard suites & laneway housing
15 - Yes to hens in backyards
16 - Wider MUPs especially in busy areas where you can see people are frequenting the grassy area to the sides
17 - Dedicated walk/roll pathways in busy areas (South Glenmore needs more seperation)
18 - More pump tracks
19 - Clearing gravel from pathways sooner in the spring
20 - More pop up loose parts play in fields and at playgrounds
21 - More outdoor music including live and broadcast (could we even hang wind chimes?)
22 - More outdoor drama and theatre
23 - More painted garbage cans & utility boxes
24 - More public indoor gardens
25 - More public washrooms
26 - More engagement with students (especially high school)
27 - More community gardens
28 - More lit up buildings (like the Calgary tower & Telus sky)
29 - More murals, especially along LRT lines
30 - More public observation decks & rooftop patios
31 - Available sports equipment at fields for kids (adults too) to get outside and play (soccer balls, outdoor badminton, basketballs, hockey sticks)
32 - Less chain link fencing
33 - If we have to have chain link - then more fence art!
34- More protected mobility lanes
35 - More painted roads and crosswalks as traffic calming
36 - More outdoor markets
37 - More goats (rent-a-goat???)
38 - Better use of golf courses in the winter
39 - More festivals
40 - More women on council
Making Room for Girls
There is no doubt that being a mother of three girls informs my view of our city. As they grow up, I explore the city through their lens. Walking to and riding the bus, spending time with friends, and opportunities to spend time in our city, outside, moving their bodies for both physical and mental health.
As the winter has passed and we've negotiated Covid restrictions, I've especially seen our two oldest girls struggle to find suitable outdoor space. Our middle is quickly outgrowing playgrounds in favour of climbing trees to challenge her abilities. Our oldest can find few spaces to be with friends that cater to the teen experience they crave (whatever it is, I am still trying to figure it out too TBH).
I look at how our city has invested in outdoor public recreation and I see a gap on where young women aren't going. It's not intentional, but it happens by unintentional design in not considering how different groups view spaces for their physical and psychological safety.
These spaces tend to attract young men and boys. To be clear: all men are not the problem here, but the perception of belonging gets skewed when a certain type of consistent traits appear over and over. It is the same for racialized groups entering homogenous white person filled spaces. It is not that men and boys exclude women and girls who do show up - but is it a place women and girls feel comfortable showing up to in the first place? Do they see themselves as part of that community; do they see users as their peers; is there room for them to experience failure in a psychologically safe environment?
I look at the rinks in our community. The large rink has been the one with the hockey nets. And yes, it attracts both genders, but more so the boys. My girls are not comfortable skating on the large rink in the midst of a pickup hockey game. So we are relegated to the smaller 15'x25' rink - about 1/4 the size of the large rink (honestly probably less). It's virtually impossible for the pre-teen to stretch her legs and get more than a few pushes in, I dislike it too.
Its not about abolishing hockey rinks or removing nets, but asking ourselves - should both rinks not be the same size to provide equal opportunity to skate within our neighbourhoods?
I don't have all the answers to providing safer and more equitable spaces for young women in our city. But I do have ideas and I am willing to ask the questions - of city planners, of parents, of girls themselves, and also the boys who need other recreational opportunities too. Here are just a few ideas I have:
But I want to hear from you, your children, especially your teen and tween girls. Use this survey to send me your ideas and dreams.
Our downtown is beleaguered, and this strains our capacity as a city economically and socially. I say this with a heavy heart while acknowledging the reality of the situation. We know what’s to blame: a combination of factors which no one could have predicted coinciding. We can focus on pointing fingers at what has gone wrong, or we can look forward to the work ahead with determination, boldness, and an unwavering commitment to learn from our mistakes
To date, there is strategy work led by the City underway to rethink components of downtown including Chinatown, The Green Line, East Village, Eau Claire, the Arts & Entertainment District, and Stephen Avenue. These are components of a broader overall downtown strategy. Our go forward adoption needs to be innovative, flexible, and have room to adapt as new demands from commercial and residential tenants, along with the needs of Calgarians and tourists, shift. Covid has taught us the future is unpredictable and when unprepared, devastating.
Covid has also taught us that we are resilient and capable of change. We can re-learn and re-think not only how we behave but how we want to interact with our city. Being forced to experience our city has made many people hyper-aware of both our challenges and opportunities.
We know that attraction is two-sided. Calgary needs to flirt with all they’ve got: flaunt our assets and showcase our willingness to create partnerships. With the City leading investment into the downtown core, we should have the confidence and belief to know the market will rise to meet us. With vacancy rates nearing 30% the market needs to know Calgarians are invested in their downtown space. The market, both commercial and residential, needs a home which offers tenants vibrancy, safety, livability, and predictability.
Revitalizing our downtown core will be as much about nurturing relationships among businesses, citizens and residents, and government as it will be about tackling climate objectives, homelessness, and economic prosperity. No single economy will be the future of Calgary. Having a downtown which supports vibrancy in arts and culinary ventures, fosters innovative companies, supports student learning, and bolsters our tourism industry must all be a priority while supporting existing industries from oil and gas to banking.
There are many proposals on the table for rethinking our vacancy rates. Converting buildings to housing is one of them. I am cautious about this approach because of two things: (1) The revenue the city retains from residential property tax is significantly lower than commercial property tax thus potentially creating further economic challenges. (2) The amenities to support additional density need to be part of the support system: grocery stores, pet stores, doctors, pharmacies, child care centers, schools, recreation, parks, playgrounds,
Part of the intention of a dense core is to encourage a walkable and bikeable neighborhood. At present, our downtown core is poorly equipped to support residents in this way. I am not saying conversion shouldn’t be part of a bold strategy. Striking the balance between what comes first, residents or commercial, is going to take commitment.
Another opportunity is for existing commercial spaces to rethink their leasing options. Size of space, term of lease, cost of lease, parking options, just to name a few. How can we (ie City of Calgary) incentivize property owners to innovate their leasing models to encourage new businesses to be part of downtown? Can we explore mechanisms for tax breaks to those properties which can attract new tenants? Can we waive or reduce fees for building and development permits? We will need to explore financial implications to the city if we choose to waive fees or give tax breaks in both short term budget cycles and long term planning.
I ask, knowing these are just surface level questions, which require all parties coming to the table willing to compromise, create, explore through trial and error, and willing to be open to change. It’s going to take consensus building through businesses, city departments, fellow council members, and citizens at large.
Ward 11 has a broad range of neighbourhoods. From the still being built Quarry Park, or recently new Garrison Green, to established communities seeing transformation in housing types through zoning changes and, and those communities on the cusp of changes mostly centred around current commercial locations. This variance means amenities like playgrounds and transit stations are at different life cycle stages, some infrastructure is still to be built, and there are also utility considerations surrounding re-development.
This week, the Guidebook for Great Communities goes before the Planning and Urban Development (PUD) committee to be voted on to refer to council for a vote for adoption (March 2021). The Guidebook is a high level planning document which lays the groundwork for re-imagining the functions and form of our neighbourhoods.
I've been fortunate to be part of the working group to shape the Guidebook. I came to be on the group through my work as a community advocate in Haysboro on the planning committee and as president of the community association. To the group I brought the perspective of community members and advocated strongly for the use of language that was common - ie. not planner speak. I also know that there is much concern over how the guidebook can affect communities and specifically individual properties around zoning. This FAQ page answers many issues including the fact that the guidebook does not make a blanket zoning change in neighbourhoods.
I endorse the guidebook. In part because yes, I was on the working group, have been a part of multiple planning exercises for Haysboro and Ward 11, but also I see the the opportunity the guidebook affords us in thinking about some of the larger challenges established neighbourhoods face around aging infrastructure and amenities. The guidebook lays the framework for tools being created in the Established Areas working groups (which I'm also a part of) - this is the conversation on how dollars are invested into neighbourhoods when development happens. The guidebook also is the basis for a Local Area Plan - in which multiple communities actively work together to imagine the future. The guidebook by very nature set the stage for participatory planning, this is its greatest success.
Yes, it is an ambitious piece of policy that encourages densification. It also encourages local commercial integration into neighbourhoods so businesses can thrive. It demonstrates how commercial and residential can operate in tandem to create a vibrant sense of community. It makes space for thinking about the neighbourhood as a whole rather than individual lots - this leads to thinking about how green spaces, parks, libraries, schools, transit, and recreation amenities continue to stay viable and operational through a well populated residential strategy. This is as much about the future economy as it is about the future of how we can live sustainably in our neighbourhoods, flexing through housing types as our needs change throughout the years.
Currently, most Ward 11 communities are below peak population. Densification gets us our best return on investment for services - fire, police, snow clearing, transit, utility upgrades and delivery. I want neighbourhoods where schools aren't at risk of closure. I want residents to be able to operate a thriving local business in their community - restaurants, flower shops, massage studios. I want to be able to walk to get milk or a coffee. I want playgrounds to be upgraded not through fundraising but because there is a tax base which provides the City with the funds needed to take on upkeep.
I want you to know that I'm aware of the concerns many have. I am invested in supporting communities through planning. I believe that new residential units bring people coming to your community - neighbours, friends, volunteers, students, local business owners. People are what make communities, not buildings. Providing choice, space, and opportunity for many is what I support.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.