With no incumbent running to fill Ward 3’s council seat, the candidates vying for the job spent much of their time last night criticizing infrastructure spending in their community and city council transparency rather than one another.
The election forum was held at the Vivo recreation centre. All of the ward’s council, school trustee candidates and mayoral candidates were in attendance, with the exception of Andre Chabot.
Each council candidate started the forum speaking about the lack of infrastructure for the growing community. Concerns around school transportation, building upgrades and the anticipated Green Line LRT were raised.
Jyoti Gondek said a new high school in the Northern Hills area was needed because the kids are currently being bused into three surrounding communities.
“What’s the impact on their health when they’re waking up an hour earlier than they should be?” she said. “We need to look at the unintended consequences.”
Meanwhile, Jun Lin said the current infrastructure in the ward, including buildings such as the Vivo recreational centre, are being ignored by current city council.
We need to look at the unintended consequences.” – Jyoti Gondek
“The [facility] simply cannot handle the big population we have right now — the same size as Red Deer,” he said. “I want to see the fiscal conservative in city hall…while also ensuring Ward 3 gets its fair share.”
In addition, all of the candidates had something to say about the Green Line LRT. Phase one of the proposed plan is only being built from 16th Ave. N to 126th Ave. S.E., leaving out the city’s currently unreached most northern and southern communities.
Lin said the Ward 3 communities should be the project’s first phase. The northernmost point of the ward, he said, has higher transit ridership and a shorter track distance to downtown than the southern route.
In addition, he added building new bridges between 16th and 64th Avenues is very costly and could result in funding issues that could delay the line from reaching Ward 3.
However, Lin also wants to ensure transportation in the city is “more meaningful to all Calgarians,” stating he will fight not only for the northern portion of the LRT route, but for the southern section as well.
During an interview after the forum, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it is true phase one of the LRT would be built between 16th and 64th Ave. But this first phase provides a foundation for future planned expansion.
He said the northern and southern segments will begin once that initial area is finished.
“In reality, if everything goes well, and pending funding, you would still open the green line in this neighbourhood on schedule,” he said. “It’s just you would open the rest of it first instead of opening all at once.”
Transparency was another hot topic with the candidates stating ways they would create better communication between city hall and the citizens of Calgary.
“They’re getting really comfortable with not being transparent.” – Ian McAnerin
Ian McAnerin said there are legitimate reasons for a council to be in-camera, such as contractual negotiations and talks about city employers. But, to him, the time spent in-camera and the lengthy discussions were unsettling.
“They’re getting really comfortable with not being transparent,” said McAnerin about current city councillors. “They’re getting really comfortable with just having secret meetings. And that’s a real problem.”
Connie Hamilton agreed, stating the councillors do not spend enough time in council chambers and discussions such as the yearly budget should be done openly so citizens have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
In addition, Gondek expressed her dismay about information she had heard about city policies and bylaws that restrict what can be disclosed to the public. She said if what she hears is true “we need to get in there and change those bylaws and policies” adding the rules clearly aren’t working.
“The more council goes behind closed doors, the more suspicious we get,” said Gondek. “The more nervous we get about how our money is being spent and that’s got to stop.”
Editor: Amy Simpson | firstname.lastname@example.org