THE BLOG

One on One with Ward 11 Candidate James Maxim

10/16/2013 10:27 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

1. Name one specific capital project that you think Calgary needs now.

Maxim wants to see the LRT system completed in its entirety. He wants to take advantage of low interest rates, and work with the provincial and federal government to get it going. It would encompass both the north-central and the south-east legs, and also an LRT extension to the Mount Royal University.

"If you build it, they will come," says Maxim.

For him, expanding the LRT now would take traffic off Deerfoot Trail, and increased mobility would translate into affordability. In essence, he wants to get Calgary moving.

"What do we want to do? Bring people to the city and have them stay at the airport?" asks Maxim.

2. What's your viewpoint on the status of taxation in Calgary?

The first thing that Maxim talks about is seniors.

"I see stress in their lives," Maxim says when he's going door to door campaigning.

Seniors have their investments, but they can't afford the double digit property tax increases that the city is claiming he says. We're also at around 80% of our debt load, Maxim tells me, and that's got him shaking his head.

So what's his plan? Well Maxim's got several.

He wants a notice of motion for the city to switch to a 2 year budget cycle. He wants to see real zero-based budgeting so that Calgarians really know what those expenses are. He's also in favour of opening up the city contracts and he's fine with not always having to take the lowest bid, because that's not always the best.

He points to an example when there were bridge problems during the construction of Airport Trail. At one point, the project didn't have enough concrete to cover the rebar on one of the bridges.

"We can't afford doing things like that," Maxim says.

He points to another example where the city currently doesn't have extra sewage trunk capacity to let any further developments up in the north-west part of the city.

"Someone's going to be accountable for this," says a visibly frustrated Maxim.

Maxim proposes to have a separate business unit that would audit contracts and make it accountable to city council only to avoid examples listed above.

With regard to the flood, Maxim wants a completely separate budget from the operating budget. He wants to find the best contract for flood repairs based on the actual cost of the flood damage and what the city is assessing in flood damage.

3. So how do you fund the specific capital project you think Calgary needs right now?

"You've got a prime minister at one end, the premier at the other," Maxim points out.

With that kind of political strength situated in Ward 11, Maxim doesn't think it's difficult at all to get funding. Just labeling something difficult is not an option for him.

Beyond the province and the feds, he believes we need creative ways of doing things.

"We could look at other options, maybe a P3 or private developer," says Maxim.

He believes that higher user fees or transit fees would be justifiable given the cost of the project.

"Council is doing something to move people," adds Maxim.

4. Do you think Calgary is boring after 6pm?

"We have our uniqueness," Maxim comments.

For Maxim, he doesn't think the city is boring at all. The growing ethnic culture adds many dimensions to the city. He also says that we already have the population base to make for a very lively city, and we've got some very creative people here.

He believes that the people who say the city is boring are boring.

"Our problem is 'what are we going to do tonight,'" states Maxim, referring to the number of events and activities that he has going on in his life every night.

Farmer's markets are an example of something that Maxim believes adds vibrancy to Calgary.

"If you have it, they will come," repeats Maxim.

5. Times are tough, Calgary's doing terrible, and we're seeing a massive budget deficit. Do you

a. Raise taxes to cover the shortfall, and would you add additional taxes?

b. Cut spending? If you do, which department(s) would you cut?

"You gotta see the books," Maxim tells me.

He tells me he's able to digest the information, but he couldn't answer the question directly.

"I don't have all the answers," Maxim says.

On cutting taxes though, Maxim's quite upfront.

"I don't think we can cut taxes to be very honest." He also doesn't think we can cut services either, but both options during rough times in the city could be on the table once he learns the budget.

6. What was one specific example of something the city did right?

Food trucks was Maxim's answer, and he thought the general public has been very receptive to this idea.

When pressed whether or not the cutting red tape initiative was something the city did right (as that's how the food trucks came about), Maxim says it's a good first step for cutting red tape and thinks we could do better.

7. How will you work with fellow councilors and the mayor given the tone of this election?

Maxim points to his experience in the oil and gas industry. He's worked with Aboriginals and companies in land claims, and that's an example of something he's bringing to the table.

"I want to bring people together," says Maxim.

He tells me that one of things he always says is, "every day is a great day for politics."

For James, communication is important and he's going into council with an open mind.

8. Are the arts important?

"Very much so," Maxim replies.

Maxim believes arts is an economic benefit, and points to the Stampede as an example of very successful arts.

"Festivals [also] have an economic element to it and it keeps people happy," says Maxim.

Maxim did also mention that he's a moose fan.

"If I had the money to buy it, I would," says Maxim, referring to anything moose-related.

9. If the arts are important, why isn't it on your platform?

At the time of the interview, Maxim stated he would post his responses to the Artsvote survey once he was done with it.

10. What's your opinion on the colour of the city?

"Things are changing," Maxim says. "People have pride in their communities."

Maxim says at one point, we had buildings that were pretty bland, but now he says things have changed. For example, he points out that there are busloads of tourists that come by Rideau Road (where he lives) to experience and visit that neighborhood.

He also wants legislation to be like a Rubik's cube, where you can manipulate it and make it work accordingly. He wants to allow for creativity in buildings as long as it follows the regulatory integrity of the bylaws, and it's safe and affordable.

"Could we have done more? Yeah, we probably could," concludes Maxim.