Over two years ago, Calgarians chose a new mayor and city council. We have been hard at work since then, and thought this would be a good time to share with you how we are doing and what work remains to be done.
So, how are we doing? Some changes were quick: removing the $3 park-and-ride fee, starting a pilot project on food trucks as an example of cutting red tape, halving the sprawl subsidy that was encouraging unsustainable growth, improving the system of snow removal. Some more systemic changes will take more time, but we have laid a strong groundwork that will make Calgary an even better place to live in the future. This document, A Better Calgary in Progress (view/download PDF), shares some of the changes we've made in the past two years based on Council's Fiscal Plan for Calgary.
Here are some of the highlights:
Ensuring every Calgarian lives in a safe community and has the opportunity to succeed
Crime rates are the lowest in a generation, and Calgarians report that they feel that our city is safe. To ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to participate fully in their communities, we also launched the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative. I'm excited about the big ideas coming forth on how we can use existing community resources to help those most in need.
Investing in great communities and a vibrant urban fabric
I'm proud of the first investments from the new Community Investment Fund. We've been able to support parks, libraries, recreation and fire halls and equipment using these newly available funds. Soon, we will also see a new Central Library and four new recreation centres in parts of the city that are sorely lacking.
Moving people and goods throughout the city efficiently and sustainably
We have embarked on a major strategic, operational and customer service plan for Calgary Transit known as RouteAhead, and have dedicated major funds to reduce congestion on the existing LRT system and improve transit service to southeast Calgary. Major road projects like the airport trail tunnel remain on time and on budget, and the enhanced level of snow clearing has received rave reviews.
We are also making a modest, but important, investment in commuter cycling infrastructure. Improving safety and convenience for cyclists reduces congestion on our roads and on transit. Not only does it give people who would otherwise be in a car or on a train another transportation option, it also improves efficiency and safety for everyone by separating bike, vehicle, and pedestrian traffic.
City council continues to invest in public transit to make it a great transportation option for all Calgarians. This includes the addition of thousands of new hours of transit service (including the new West LRT), and, in the latest budget adjustments, increased access to transit for some 28,000 low-income Calgarians, including low-income senior citizens.
Making Calgary the best place in Canada for a business to start and flourish
The Cut Red Tape initiative is already yielding results, saving businesses who deal with The City many hours and thousands of dollars. Council also agreed to consolidate the business tax with the non-residential property tax, eliminating our stand-alone business tax and putting us on par with other Canadian cities.
Becoming a more effective and disciplined organization
We are undertaking a number of initiatives under the title of Transforming Government to create a culture of constant, relentless, citizen-focused improvements at The City. This includes the introduction of zero-based budget and operational reviews throughout the organization. We are also launching a major review of our city planning processes to streamline the system and make it easier to build great things.
Changing the rules of the game to ensure better financial capacity
As a city of well over a million people, we cannot rely on the whims of other levels of government to fund our capital needs. We require transparent, predictable funding for the long term. In transit alone, we will need up to $8 billion over the next 30 years to fund new capital projects, including new bus rapid transit and LRT lines. Planning for a project of this scope is challenging when we have no idea what funds will be available to finance its construction.That's why we have signed a memorandum of understanding and are continuing conversations with the provincial government about getting a city charter for Calgary.
We will continue to work on all of these issues in the final year of our term. Three major examples of ongoing work include:
With RouteAhead, we are creating (for the first time), an integrated 30-year capital, operational, and customer service plan that will make transit better for all riders in the city.
Through imagineCALGARY and Plan It, Calgarians have told Council they want a more sustainable and vibrant city with more walkable communities where anyone can live. We have also heard that our planning system is too slow, too complex, and isn't producing the city we all want. The Transforming Planning initiative is focused on building a planning system that is effective, efficient, and that will deliver on the vision set out in imagineCALGARY.
While this sounds dry, it is probably the most important thing your Council is working on. Getting this right will ensure that our city can continue to grow and be prosperous, free of bickering and buck passing between governments.
I'm proud of what your Council has accomplished, but much work remains. Long-term projects require vision and focus. We must be diligent in our stewardship.
The opportunity to be Mayor of Calgary is humbling. While I may have a few more grey hairs, I wake up every morning thrilled at this chance to make a difference and serve all the citizens of this city. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.
Mayor Naheed K. Nenshi
This blog was originally published here.