My comments to City Council on the future of Calgary

By DJ Kelly June 25, 2009

For those that follow my Twitter feed and my blog you know I have have had an entirely split focus for the past couple of days. My blog has dealt exclusively with the Doug Elniski issue while on Twitter I have posted dozens of tweets over the same time regarding the City of Calgary’s PlanIT public consultation process going on at City Hall.

PlanIT is an extremely important document laying out the ‘plan’ for how Calgary will grow over the next 60 years. As a result public input has been sought for quite sometime and ‘for’ and ‘against’ side are now providing their thoughts in person to Council. The ‘pros’ concluded last night after two days of presentations (about 110 people signed up to speak) and the ‘cons’ began immediately following (about 60 people signed up to speak).

Last night – at number 97 – I provided my thoughts. Below are my comments to council:

Thank you for allowing me to the opportunity to speak. My name is DJ Kelly, I am an administrator in the not-for-profit sector and president of the Winston Heights/Mountview CA.

I’m happy to answer questions from the point of view of our CA but today I’m simply talking as an engaged citizen.

I wanted to begin, if I may, by thanking Council and Administration for showing vision in creating this document. I’m confident we can all agree, that no business or organization can possibly be effectively run without a big picture strategic plan.

I’m reminded once again of one columnist’s comment from sometime in the late 90s that Calgary is “the city that planning forgot”. With the approval of PlanIT no longer will we be able to be the butt of these kinds of jokes. PlanIT finally provides Calgary with the strategic growth plan columnists and citizens alike have requested oh so frequently.

I’m hopefully the cries of “those fools down at City Hall have no idea what they’re doing” will be, if not eliminated, at least lessened because of this document.
The benefit of speaking toward the end of the “for” or “pro-PlanIT” list is I don’t need to get into the reasons why you should or should not support PlanIT. Instead I can marvel at some of the fantastic comments made by previous speakers.

The main one that comes to mind is Derek the Urban Studies student from UofC. I think he brought forward a perspective that many have not thought of when discussing PlanIT and it bears repeating: our generation will not live the same kind of life our parents and grandparents did. Just as they did not live the same kind of life as those a generation before them. There are no pioneers or gunfighters in our midst any longer.

None of us in this room are psychics. We cannot predict the future and should not purport to. Even the City’s own marketing for the PlanIT response process makes light of this fact. I cannot say what the city will need in 60 years, and despite the protests of others that I’m sure are coming, they cannot either.

Look at what we planned on 60 years ago. Those are the very things we are now struggling with and that people smarter than us have shown to be unsustainable. Even the poor bulging city budget shows that at the very least we need to think differently.

This is why the “spirit” of PlanIT is far more important than anything else. So long as we can agree with the points and goals laid out in the first few pages we are heading in the right direction.

The one thing we can say for sure is that PlanIT will change and grow over time. It will have to be a living document. There will be variations as we move forward. We do not need to approve the perfect plan this week. However I think PlanIT lays an excellent the groundwork for the future and I’m proud to live in a city with this kind of vision.

Another thing I think is important to note is that every speaker who has lamented the non-inclusion of the airport tunnel has self classified themselves as “in favour” of PlanIT. I’m encouraged that despite their disappointment, they still have the foresight to see what PlanIT can do for the city.

I am interested to hear the comments of those not in favour of PlanIT. From what I have heard through the press it sounds like the majority are from one single industry, whereas those who have spoken in favour appear to represent a large swath of industries. Having PlanIT receive such wide-spread support leaves me further encouraged.

Personally I’m more concerned with the City’s track record of follow through on ambitious plans. My thoughts on that can be found in tomorrow’s post for Alberta Venture’s Think Alberta,

I won’t get into them today other than to say I encourage City Council to have the courage of our convictions, approve this big picture plan, and get on with the process of building the better city I know this council wants.

Questions followed from Ald McIver about my statements around implementation. I answered that, yes, indeed I do see this as the major concern facing council moving forward and regardless of what planning document we approve it will continue to be the major issue and Council and Administration has serious work ahead of them. More background on that is in my Alberta Venture Think! Alberta post that will be available at 1pm today. (I’ll cross post here following that.) Part II goes up on Friday.

Ald Chabot congratulated me on my timing for showing up shortly before my presentation time. I thanked the internet and the Council webcast. He followed up with another question but to be honest I don’t remember what it was. I remember it being akward and me not really understanding what he was asking. It felt adveseraly (is that even a word?) and I certainly didn’t mean for it to. Sorry if it came across that way!

  • alpalmer

    "adversarial" I think is the word :)I wish I had more time to follow the developments!

  • alpalmer

    "adversarial" I think is the word 🙂

    I wish I had more time to follow the developments!