Filed under: Alberta, Arts, Calgary, Politics, Technology
On this exact day (January 3) of last year I wanted to take a look back at the previous year as viewed through the eyes of my blog. At the time I said 2009 “was a good year for me personally and I think this blog shows some of the highlights that come to my mind when I reminisce about the last year of the decade.” As good as 2009 was for me, I feel safe in saying that 2010 surpassed it in almost every way. From the election, to starting a new column for Metro, to finishing up a good run with Lunchbox Theatre, to the birth of my daughter (not to mention the whole pregnancy) I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was probably the best year of my life – if I can declare such a thing.
So I decided to do what I did a year ago and instead of selecting my favourite posts of 2010, why not not just let readers “select” the top posts of 2010 by highlighting the most popular posts on this blog during the year, and then give some background as to where the post came from?
Last year I included the top 15 posts. This year I thought I’d shorten up the list on an even… 13. So without further ado, the most popular djkelly.ca Blog posts of 2010:
13. What CivicCamp is doing for the 2010 Calgary Municipal Election
May 18, 2010
In this blog post I revealed CivicCamp’s plans – and it turns out mine – for the 2010 municipal election. I think it was the night before that the “Governance Cabin” met at Eau Claire Market to finalize the plan. I actually posted details on the CivicCamp blog and then wrote this post to give more info into the rationale for the plan and to give my own personal opinion (which I didn’t think was appropriate on the CivicCamp site). Shortly after this I actually stepped away from the Cabin while I considered running for alderman — a rule the members came up with the ensure CivicCamp stayed non-partisan and that eventually affected Paul Hughes, our new mayor Naheed Nenshi, and volunteer extraordinaire Cheri Macaulay, all cabin members who stepped away to work on campaigns instead. After I decided not to run I returned to help execute some of the plans laid out in this post.
I actually meant to write this post months earlier, but I eventually did it in mid-June. My hope was it would help the City determine what data sets people might be looking for. The eventual catalogue release however only included mapping data. So while numbers 1 and 5 were included in public catalogue, we’re still waiting for numbers 2, 3, 4 and 6 to make the mapping data actually useful. Until then, don’t expect the catalogue to be all that heavily used. (Number 7 isn’t really “open data” but my hope is our new mayor may actually try to make it happen. It’s not something administration can do unilaterally.)
11. What most needs doing?
August 3, 2010
It took me a long time to make my decision not to run for alderman. It was hard because so many people had signed up to help run a campaign. In the end I had to ask myself “what most needs doing?” and I outline my answer in this post. At the time I said, “I believe I don’t need to be on council to help improve Calgary in a meaningful way,” and “meaningful public engagement may be something [alderman] want to do, but it rarely is something they have time to do at the level I believe we need.” My goals were to “raise the level of discourse around the election” and “[have] people who believe in the kind of public engagement I believe in helping create more people who want to, and know how to, become engaged.” I think I help achieve this so successfully in 2010 that the day after the election I remember breaking down in tears because I was so proud of Calgarians and the role I was able to play. (It could have been the lack of sleep however.)
10. How open data came to be in Calgary
March 22, 2010
This post sat unfinished on my work computer desktop for months. When it first passed committee I decided to write up all the steps that were taken to make the open data policy a reality. On the occasion of it finally passing council I finished the post and put it up as documentation of the process – mainly so I wouldn’t forget, but so that others could see how easy (or hard) it is to get a policy from scratch approved.
9. Calgary, meet your new council
October 19, 2010
It was a pleasant surprise to see a post election blog post make it on to this list. Although it was only written the day after the election. While everyone else was focussed on who won and how they did it, I thought I’d take the opportunity to be the first to ponder how this new group might work together. Some of the predictions are coming true already, others might still – or not – time will tell.
8. 18 to 34 Year Olds, Social Media and the Calgary Election
August 17, 2010
This is probably the most frustrating piece I wrote this year. Often I find myself writing things in the hope that once I do, and expose the rationale behind something, the issue will be put to bed and not brought up again. I wrote this piece in response to political pundits (specifically political scientists who had no idea what they were talking about) about the myth of social media being only about young people and thus it wouldn’t have any impact on the election. Balderdash I cried! And even after I wrote it I had to scream the same thing over and over and over. Those poli sci profs sure like their narratives. Even when they have no basis in reality. And even when they’ve been proven wrong by an election. Then all they do is twist things around a little to show how they were right all along. Cheeky buggers. Duane Bratt still owes me that beer he promised on Global Television on election night.
7. Nuit Blanche Calgary update
June 16, 2010
This post might be artificially inflated on this list because it was emailed out to everyone who signed up at http://bit.ly/nuitblanchecalgary indicating they were interested. So it got about 100 extra visitors because of that. The post is a long overdue update on where things are at in the planning for a Nuit Blanche in Calgary. Something I’m long over due to do again… I’m excited at how the plans are shaping up. As I was then too.
6. Fun with Maps: Top 3 Calgary mayoral candidate vote share
October 28, 2010
David Johns deserves all the credit for this post. He made three great maps of how the three leading mayoral candidates did on election day. A post that obviously got lots of interest. Visual is better.
5. Comparing Budget 2010 to Budget 2009
February 9, 2010
In a year of municipal posts it’s nice to see a provincial one make it on to the list — let alone be written! This is a short post where I outline a nice easy way to compare the 2009 and 2010 ministry plans using Acrobat. It’s nice when the Alberta Government makes it this easy.
4. Loving or hating Calgary’s new bridge is not as easy as it sounds
July 29, 2009
In an odd twist this “oldie” was actually written in 2009. As a matter of fact, it was the 11th most popular post on my blog that year. Obviously in an election year as contentious as this one was it should be surprising that a post about a contentious issue would make it on this list, but I am surprised it is so high. I guess there are more people curious about why they are supposed to be so mad about that darn bridge than I thought.
3. If you want me to run for Alderman…
June 25, 2010
This post was probably the only one I’ve ever written that I passed by other people before putting up. It also received about twice as many unique visitors as #4. It’s probably the most important post I’ve ever written as I contemplated running for alderman. And people paid attention too: the post had the longest visit time of any I’ve written on this blog. The premise of the post was simple, I’ll do it if you are willing to help me win. Politics shouldn’t be about ego. I didn’t see why someone would announce they are running and then try to find people to help. That seems entirely backwards to me. In the end almost 100 people signed up to help me run a campaign, but I decided against it. See #11 on this list for why.
2. Calgary Municipal Election: 2010 will be a year of new faces
March 21, 2010
The top two posts on this list got more unique visits than anything else I’ve ever written. They both received about four times as many visitors as #3 on this list. (Which itself had twice as many as #4, so that’s saying something.) I’m not sure why this post got so many visits but it probably has something to do with how early in the year I wrote it. I don’t recommend making predictions seven months in advance, but this time it looks like it paid off and I was right: we did see “more turnover in one go round than many of us can remember,” with six new faces on council.
1. Who’s running for Calgary City Council in 2010?
April 3, 2010
Yes people were curious about who was running for council. From April until July I kept this blog post updated with the names of who had declared they were running for council. (Once CalgaryDemocracy.ca was up and running I decided to retire the post. It had served its purpose.) The post proved so popular that I eventually had to pin it to the main menu of my website. And even after I stopped updating it – and said I was stopping updating it – I still had people sending me tips and trying to get the list updated. If that didn’t prove Calgarians cared about the election I don’t know what would. (Aside from the voter turnout on the day of. Which also proved that.) It is the most popular post in my blog’s history.
If you read my blog often you know two things about me 1) I believe we need more openness and transparency in government, 2) I’m a big fan of the transformative power of the arts.
Today I want to announce a project that I’m working on that draws on both of these.
Last year I had the good fortune of pitching the idea of Open Data to a couple aldermen who liked idea so much they presented it as a notice of motion, which eventually passed Council and will be piloted this summer and fall. (If you’re interested, details are here.) Much of the feedback I received about this project from aldermen revolved around the fact they didn’t remember the last time an idea from a regular citizen came forward like this and they wished it would happen more often. Buoyed by that successful experience I decided I would try to get one more notice of motion passed before council breaks for the summer.
I want Calgary to have a Poet Laureate.
The City of Calgary Poet Laureate would be an artist officially appointed by City Council, for a two-year term, to compose and present poems for official City of Calgary events, to help raise awareness of local issues, and to raise awareness of the local arts community to citizens and the City of Calgary.
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal all have a Poet Laureate. But this isn’t just about wanting what bigger cities have. Edmonton, Victoria, Halifax and St. John’s have one too. Heck, so does Sackville, NB, Brantford, ON, Owen Sound, ON, Sudbury, ON, Cobourg, ON, and even Cobalt, ON (which I’ve never even heard of before). The provinces of Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island have an official Poet Laureate; so too does the Yukon Territory, as well as the federal Parliament. (Click here to see who the current poets are.)
Responsibilities for the Poet Laureate within these cities include being an advocate, champion or ambassador for poetry and the literary arts in the community, with the intent of the position being to raise the profile/status/public awareness of poetry, writers and literary arts. They are asked to produce new works that reflect the life of the city, either per year or per term, and are invited to attend a variety of civic functions, both informal and formal.
What does this have to do with openness and transparency in government however you may ask? As we well know, the biggest key to unlocking the door of institutional secrecy – whether intended or not – is to have someone who isn’t afraid to speak up looking around. Officially endorsed Poets Laureate have trained eyes to unveil what is hidden often from plain sight. And they can tell you more about the place you live in than you ever thought possible.
Case in point, the very first moment Canadians commonly shared together at the recent Winter Olympics was courtesy of a poet. The beat poetry of Shane Koyczan’s “We Are More” at the opening ceremony was a communal moment when all Canadians reflected together on what it means to be a citizen of this great country. It primed the nationalist pump – so to speak – leading to an even greater sense of pride when Alexandre Bilodeau and Jon Montgomery won their gold medals. “We Are More” became the underpinning theme to all effort from Canadians at the Olympics. Whether they be the athletes trying to show we can win gold on our own soil for the first time, or the volunteers proudly showing off their city and country in a manner all Canadians would be honoured by.
(Heck even our greatest beer commercial of all time is nothing more than a passionate delivery of a poem telling us what the writer – and Molson – think it means to be “Canadian”.)
As much as I might wish that open data was the beginning and end point for a truly open government it is not and cannot be. I know there is a role to be played by artists and that is why I work in the arts. They can do things no data set will ever be able to do.
And I think the time is now.
The City has tried to get a Poet Laureate before but they haven’t been able to get it done because of one major stumbling block: money and administration. I decided – in true citizenry-style and spurred by seeing it is possible for one person to make a difference – I would try to solve both of those problems and propose to them a Poet Laureate program that wouldn’t cost them, or taxpayers, anything.
Below is the proposal I put together. So far The Calgary Foundation are on board for $15,000 from the Small Grant program. Calgary Arts Development has also committed approximately $15,000 of in kind support to administer and promote the program. Both groups have committed to three years of support. (Click here to read a PDF letter of support from TCF and here for one from CADA.)
What I am looking to do now is to get five corporate donors to agree to donate $1,000 per year for 3 years. I feel strongly it should be five partners and not just one, to show the strong commitment of Calgary’s business community to the arts in Calgary. There are already a couple potential groups who have said yes, but the details are being finalized so I can’t tell you anything about them yet. However there is still plenty of room to get involved!
Of course individual donors are welcome too! If you’d like to donate to the program just drop me an email at email@example.com.
I believe it is time we stop waiting for our elected officials to do everything for us, so I’m happy to go out and organize everything for them to rubber stamp. I’ve mentioned this project to a few different people and received nothing but positive reactions. Even the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation has offered their support and I think that is absolutely amazing. (Click here to read CTF’s PDF letter of support.)
I think this is a simple and very affordable way to place the arts on the agenda of the City in a BIG way and to open the City of Calgary up a little bit more. But I need your help to make it a reality.
Click here to read the proposal. And please let me know if you’re able to help.
And if you don’t believe in the potential of a Poet Laureate, I invite you to scroll back up and watch Shane Koyczan’s “We Are More”. That is what a Poet Laureate could do for us.
PS – I won’t be sitting on the selection committee, so I thought I could share with you an example of who I think would make a great Poet Laureate for Calgary. Most might suggest Sherri-D Wilson, who would be great for sure, but I’m more partial to Dragon Fli Empire, who was first introduced to me by Sarah Blue. Rap battle with Edmoton’s Poet Laureate Roland Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon) anyone? Here is DFE’s ode to our hometown “CGY”.
I should have posted a Nuit Blanche update months ago, but there had been so much movement over that time things never felt settled enough that it made sense to post an update. With recent events however now seemed to be the best time to let everyone know what’s going on.
Here’s the whole story:
On December 9, 2009 I saw a tweet from a friend in Toronto saying Scotiabank Nuit Blanche was now accepting applications for the 2010 festival. I retweeted saying something like “why don’t we have this in #yyc?”. My tweet was then retweeted and echoed by about 10 Calgarians. I thought to myself, what does 10 retweets really mean? What sort of support does that translate to? And so I put together a Google Docs form asking people to provide their details if they “might be interested in helping plan or attending a Nuit Blanche in Calgary.”
In two days 150 people had signed up.
Suddenly I was faced with a reality: that’s a pretty good critical mass, but what’s the next step to make a Nuit Blanche in Calgary a reality?
I thought about it and realized with my contacts in the arts I could at the very least get the right people in the room to talk about it. And with 200 people (where the list ended at after about five days) we knew there were people who wanted it in our City.
So that week in December I met with two people from Calgary Arts Development and pitched them the idea. And then I met with five people from the Calgary Downtown Association. And then a few others I know in corporate community investment, and even Michael Green from the High Performance Rodeo. Everyone said the same thing: it’s a great idea and we should make it happen.
Obviously I couldn’t do it on my own – not to mention I didn’t have any interest in organizing a festival – but buoyed by the 200 names on the list I felt I should at least see it through. As luck would have it toward the end of my meeting with CADA, Karen Ball mentioned that I should talk to a friend of hers. He had mentioned to her before that he thought Calgary should have a Nuit Blanche, but – I’m paraphrasing her words – he didn’t know the kind of people needed to make it happen. But she thought he and I would counter balance each other because I knew the people and he knew Nuit Blanche. He knew it so well in fact, because he had curated a zone at the Toronto Nuit Blanche for two years.
Email introductions were exchanged and a few days later I was sitting in the Auburn Saloon with a pint of Grasshopper in my hand across from Wayne Baerwaldt – a complete stranger. We chatted a little bit about our backgrounds: me in arts marketing, him the curator and director of the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design, before quickly getting to the point of our meeting. I must have talked for 10 or 15 minutes straight, laying out everything I knew about making Nuit Blanche in Calgary a reality, everything I learned from the half dozen or so meetings I had the week previous. When I was finally out of breath, Wayne asked one or two simple questions, which, if I remember correctly, I answered surprisingly succinctly, and then he said “okay, let’s do it.” I was taken aback by how easy it was to get him on board, but I did nothing more than put my hand out to shake his. I had a partner.
And a partner who is knowledgeable too. A month or so after that we had a tour of Stephen Avenue with Janet Jessiman, the manager of Stephen Ave from CDA, Karen Ball from CADA, David Down, senior architect with the City of Calgary, and Paula Dozois, a prof from MRU and a friend of Wayne’s. Following our hour and a half tour, it was decided that Stephen Ave was the place and the festival should probably run from City Hall to Bankers’ Hall with two major installations per block. Ideas for big brought in installations were exchanged, as were ideas for smaller projects undertaken by local artists. (That’s not to say some of the big installations won’t be done by local groups however.)
Things were getting real and it was time to become real. In order to apply for funding we needed to become an official not-for-profit society and we needed five directors to do that. Wayne approached Paula, and we also added Rita Mckeough and Diana Sherlock, both instructors from ACAD. We had our first meeting at Paula’s house on April 24 and the paperwork was filed by lawyer Tyler Shandro (who was one of the original ‘re-tweeters’), arriving in Edmonton on May 11.
Last week it became official as the Certificate of Incorporation from the Alberta government landed in my inbox.
We are moving forward with a target of September 2011 for the first Nuit Blanche Calgary.
Grants are about to be applied for, but in our first VERY rough budget we estimate it will take $300,000 in cash to make the kind of splash we think a first year needs to have. Potential sponsors will be approached soon. The plan is being developed. Identifying our needs at the same time as applying for funding.
Wayne has already had meetings with Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto about ways that we might be able to work together, and he’s just returned from Berlin where he spoke with organizers of their Nuit Blanche.
We’re serious about making this happen – even if I’ll need to take a step back soon lest I be suddenly “organizing a festival” like I said back in December that didn’t want to do. But we’ll need your help soon to make it all a reality!
So if you haven’t done so already please fill out this form: http://bit.ly/nuitblanchecalgary. It’s still the original form that started it all.
And please share the link with your friends!
The case of the missing question mark, or How it’s important to remember no one on Council is ‘evil’
We all make mistakes. They happen. But we need to be man enough to admit them when we do.
One of the things that I value most about having a blog that is followed by as many people as this one is the number of comments or emails or tweets that I get about it telling me how the writer agrees with me, or how they disagree but see my point. It’s important to have both sides of this equation to maintain perspective, balance and a foot firmly planted in reality. (Never believe your own hype.) I try my best to break down the hyperbole – and sometimes hypocrisy – that often comes with our political landscape. To do this all one really has to do is take a step back, peel back the layers, and rationally examine the situation step-by-step. Almost always you will find Occam’s razor holds true.
Last week I wrote a blog post called ‘Council playing politics with the Pumphouse’. I received a lot of positive feedback about the post – more than usual – and so thought I must have hit the nail on the head. It was a few days later that I got an email from a friend who noticed my post was unusually pointed and didn’t have the same sort of level-headedness I usually try to apply to an issue. It was the lone dissenter. None-the-less I decided to take him up on his suggestion to go back to the Administration report and re-read it. Mistake number one: I didn’t read it to begin with. I inferred – albeit mostly correctly – from other people heavily involved what was in it. The nuances of the report however do paint a slightly different picture of what probably happened in the Committee meeting.
The most important thing I saw in the report is that despite my understanding that the Province pulling their funding not being the impetuous for the Pumphouse returning to Council for another $2 million, the largest paragraph in the entire report focused on this aspect. Upon reading that I can only think to myself, no wonder a couple of the aldermen had a lot of questions about this. If it’s given a great amount of weight in the report, it’s fair to think it’s going to get a great amount of attention during questioning.
The second thing that I noticed was that the report was anything but clear. You can probably sense my confusion in my original blog post about whether this ask was another $2 million or just the top up to the total $4 million that was previously approved. I can only imagine the aldermen were stuggling with the same issue. The report does not make this clear. Here is the very first sentence of the report:
Under CPS2006-45, 2006 September 18, Council approved the facility expansion project, in principle, based on the evaluation completed by the Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA) on behalf of The City of the Calgary, subject to the conditions outlined in Attachment 4 and to submit a Request for Expenditure for the Pumphouse capital project to the Infrastructure Coordinating Committee totalling $2 million, to determine project and financing priority, in accordance with the approved 2007-08 Multi-Year Capital Budget process and since the Pumphouse Theatre is a heritage building, direct Administration to investigate other potential sources of funding.
Note that’s not the first paragraph; that’s the first SENTENCE.
Even in areas where the Pumphouse project has a clear advantage, the report doesn’t do a great job of outlining things. For example, every Administration report comes with a triple bottom line assessment. In this report the “Social” assessment is only twelve words: “The project will increase artistic incubator and rehearsal space capacity in Calgary.” That’s it? The Pumphouse is a catalyst for an entire industry’s basic training; every theatre artist has worked there as they started out! The Pumphouse has a waiting list for users twice as big as they have capacity to house. And the social impact of this vital cultural icon is summed up in twelve words? Again, no wonder the questioning skipped over this line of inquiry all together.
One other area that surprises me is the “Risks” section which says, “Pumphouse will be required to submit its project business plan… for Administration’s full due diligence review…” If I were an alderman the first question I’d have is: what are we waiting for? Why is the business plan not included as an attachment now? With a statement like this, I can certainly see how the committee would not want to approve anything until they had seen the business plan.
As a matter of fact the entire project description and funding breakdown is only one page long. When it is juxtaposed against the previous page saying Administration (not even Council, at that) will see a business plan later, this page looks woefully short for $2 million. There simply is not as much detail as there could have been – which opens the door for more questions. For example, it lists “Government of Canada” as a contributor. Aldermen had every right to be wary of how strong the fed’s commitment might be if the Province pulled out so easily. It’s the lack of detail here that is the issue. I’m told the Province pulled out easily because it was a one off commitment from a department. The GoC commitment isn’t going anywhere, because that money is being allocated through a granting program. One is a well-defined funding system, the other carries as much weight as a handshake from an MLA.
If the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, I should never have bought into the hype that Council is playing politics with this proposal. At the very least the title of my last post should have had a question mark on the end: “Council playing politics with the Pumphouse?”
So the question is what does this change in the content of my first post? The answer is ‘not much’. Everything I said still holds water, I just have a much better understanding as to why the recommendations “got a rough ride”.
I still hope as many supporters of the Pumphouse expansion project come out to the Council Meeting on Monday. The only difference is they do not need to be their to show their defiance at the evils of aldermen who are out of touch with the basics of their job, instead they should simply be there to illustrate how important the Pumphouse is to them.
Hopefully the crowd won’t make the same mistake I did.
And hopefully Administration, the Pumphouse Theatres, and Calgary Arts Development have been hard at work getting all the questions asked at committee answered so Council has all the information they need to approve the $2 million on Monday.
It’s not very often my biggest areas of interest – local government and local arts and culture – intersect, but this is one of those times.
The Pumphouse Theatre is an amazing story that I invite you to read up on. It is one of those stories about saving Calgary’s heritage while at the same time making the city an even better place to live. The Pumphouse is owned by the City of Calgary and runs at capacity. There is a waiting list like you would not believe for community and professional theatre groups to gobble up even a week of free time in either of the Pumphouses two theatres. In short, it’s exactly what one would hope a performing arts space to be.
Because they have been at capacity for several years and the demand is so extraordinarily huge the decision was made a couple years back to expand the facility once again. The Pumphouse went through Calgary Arts Development’s Arts Spaces Initiative, was approved for funding, and placed high on the list of locations to receive financial support from the City of Calgary. Calgary City Council even awarded the project $2 million in 2008. Last week the final $2 million dollars required to make the expansion a reality went to the Community and Protective Services Standing Policy Committee of city council and, in the words of Pumphouse Theatre Executive Director Scott McTavish, “got a rough ride”.
Basically what happened – and remember I wasn’t in attendance and I’m hearing this third hand from aldermen and interested parties that were there – is political grandstanding. It’s an election year and no alderman wants to be seen as “wasteful”. Cutting the arts is an easy way to take a stand because it is often not seen as a necessity.
The problem is this is not some pet project or some “would be cool to have” third party proposal. The Pumphouse Theatres are OWNED by the City of Calgary. To not approve funding to the facility that has been recommended by all the powers that be in the City of Calgary is nothing short of being an absentee landlord. The project has been identified as achievable by Administration (after a stringent multi-year approval process they are recommending the expansion go ahead) and necessary (again, the building has a waiting list long enough it could operate two facilities and still be full).
So if a project is both acheivable AND nessecary why not fund it? They are looking for $2 million. Just a couple months ago, Cantos was approved for $25 million for a building that is in it’s very early stages of design. That is a new construction and that conversation took 10 minutes and ended with applause from council. $2 million for the Pumphouse however took an hour and forty-five minutes and was not approved.
The problem here is that the City owns the building and has NEVER, in 38 years, put a single dollar into it. And now that they are asking for $2 million to make up for the Province reneaging on a $5 million commitment, they are balking. $2 million over 38 years sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
And here’s the kicker: the $2 million isn’t even from the property tax base. It’s going to cost the City zero dollars to give the Pumphouse $2 million. The money is coming from the Province through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative. One of the hoops you have to jump through for funding from that project is that not only does the City need to approve your project, bus so does the province. Which they have already done in this case. All of this means that if Council does not give the $2 million to the Pumphouse then guess what happens? The City has to give the money back to the Province!
That’s right. In the process of looking like they are being tough on wasteful spending, City Council is… losing $2 million and leaving another $2 million in limbo. Sigh.
The Pumphouse Theatre board and staff are more than a little confused by all this. (After all they are facility operators and not used to the often non-sensical world of politics.) So they have sent out a call to everyone affected by this recent committee decision to help them bring some common sense to Council. Below is their message.
As you may or may not know our upcoming expansion project Pumphouse 2012 received a rough ride from Community and Protective Services this past Wednesday April 8, 2010. We are working with our partners at Calgary Arts Development and City of Calgary Administration in an effort to save Pumphouse 2012 from cancellation when it comes up for reconsideration at the April 26, 2010 council meeting.
We urgently need your support and the support of your volunteers and patrons in a two-stage lobby effort. Stage 1 will involve a letter, phone, fax and e-mail campaign to select members of council including the aldermen who we want to reconsider their position on the issue: Alderman Joe Connelly, Alderman Rick McIver, Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart, Alderman Andre Chabot, and Alderman Jim Stevenson. We also need to sway the Aldermen who have an unknown position including: Alderman Dale Hodges, Alderman Gord Lowe, Alderman Ray Jones, and Alderman Linda Fox-Mellway.
The Pumphouse is working on a draft letter of support, which we will make available to you ASAP along with contact information for you to forward to your constituents.
Stage 2 will involve a public presence at the council meeting. Our goal is to fill the council chambers with 200-300 people on April 26, 2010 at 9:30 am.
For those of you with productions remaining in the month of April we request that you include a pre-show chat preceding each of your presentations to solicit your patrons for support for the continued health and vibrancy of not only The Pumphouse, but also the diverse theatrical community in general who benefit from the existence of The Pumphouse Theatre.
Some points to include in your message are the following:
1. The city of Calgary owns the building. If there is weak support from the owner the federal government and other donors are less likely to give.
2. The building is aging; some parts are 38 years old and some 100 years old. This project is not only about an expansion to help foster the theatre community, but also about maintaining the existing building to ensure that the Pumphouse will remain an affordable venue for both community theatre and emerging professional companies.
3. If the project fails to go ahead there is a risk that the Pumphouse will cease to remain affordable due to increases in fees to cover maintenance costs. We will cease to be accessible in the event of any infrastructure failure because The Pumphouse will be forced to close its doors until such time as the city chooses to effect repairs.
4. If the city decides to support the project, all of The Pumphouse children’s theatre programs would be in house and there would be no need to rent additional facilities. We would also be able to expand programs and capacity so more children would benefit from our affordable programming.
5. If the city supports the project the expansion translates into jobs. The Pumphouse will hire more staff to assist the growing client base and children’s programming
An important question to ask is: why did the Pumphouse get a “rough ride” from Council? From what I hear one of the big sticking points with several questioners at the committee meeting was that after the Province reneged on their portion of the funding, Council did not want to commit to the project until they knew the Feds were committed. On the surface this looks like a good idea, but I have to ask: how in the world will the Feds commit to a project when the owner (the City) won’t do it first? Why not, simply add a caveat to the funding: you can have this $2 million only if the Feds come on board too. Wouldn’t that solve the issue? (I’m asking this question seriously. If it would not solve the issue, please let me know why so we can come up with a better solution. But as it stands now, this sure seems like a no brainer answer.)