The response from Calgarians who participated in Action Plan engagement provided a diverse collection of feedback to consider. While the input gathered covers a wide-array of opinions and ideas, several key themes emerged throughout all engagement streams and revealed some consistent priorities across participation.
Transit. Public transit emerged as a key priority regardless of the engagement stream, participants, or method of collecting input. Reasons submitted for the importance included: improved efficiency in the city’s transportation system, a more affordable commuting option for work, and as an important asset for increasing accessibility to services and amenities across the city’s vast geography.
Affordable Housing. Affordable housing was mentioned nearly as often as public transit in every input stream provided in Action Plan engagement. Businesses and Civic Partners both cited a lack of affordable housing as a barrier to attracting employees, and in particular, general labour. Social Agencies and Civic Partners mentioned the lack of affordable housing as a contributing factor to social isolation and increased pressure for subsidized access to services. Citizens cited affordable housing as a particular challenge and a leading contributor to a negative quality of life in Calgary.
- Vehicle. It is clear that a well-managed road network is an important priority for Calgarians. Notably however, in the online engagement, this priority showed distinct variation by geographical distance from downtown.
- Pedestrian networks. This showed up as a priority for Calgarians to access local amenities with improved pedestrian networks. For those areas located closer to the core, pedestrian networks were also valued as a commuting choice.
- Bikeways. This topic made a strong appearance in the citizen engagement results, less so in the Representative engagement streams. Like pedestrian networks, areas closest to the core tended to prioritize cycling infrastructure as a mode of transportation more so than in outlying areas.
Other Community/ Urban Planning:
- Public safety. Safety was identified as important across all input streams. Comments and submissions indicate a desire to maintain current priorities and service levels.
- Local amenities. Participants across all streams stressed the need for local parks, local cultural festivals and local access to recreation opportunities as a priority. In the case of business groups and Civic Partners there was direct correlation between these contributing factors to quality of life and the ability to attract talent to the City. Social agencies and citizens identified how these amenities had a positive impact on social isolation, affordability and quality of life in their communities.
- Urban Sprawl. Across all input streams, citizens indicated a desire for less sprawl and integrated approach to planning, and to ensure a choice of housing and business facilities. Those groups familiar with The City’s long-term planning documents by name encouraged continuation with implementing the Municipal Development Plan, Calgary Transportation Plan and promotion of the long-term vision of Calgary.
- Collaboration. Businesses, social agencies and Civic Partners all discussed the strong collaborative spirit in Calgary, and the importance of strong organization-to-organization relationships and partnerships. There was some caution that seeking efficiencies through collaboration required being clear about efficiency versus effectiveness. Through all streams of engagement it was noted that experiences interacting with The City highlighted a need for more collaboration between City Departments and Business Units.
- Cut Red Tape. Businesses, social agencies, Civic Partners and citizens all mentioned regulatory (permitting, licensing, and planning) burdens as frustrating and cost-increasing factors to many aspects of their activities.
- Spending efficiencies. Citizen and stakeholder comments across input streams resonated with the concept of spending efficiencies. While specific examples of efficiencies were not well defined, there was an expressed desire to see better communication of specific examples of efficiency within The City.
- Maintain services. This was a common theme in all input streams. Comments about tax and service levels strongly suggest a preference to maintain service levels, even if tax rates increase.
- Demonstrate value. Dialogue during qualitative research sessions, and open-ended comments received through inclusive engagement, that expressed preference for maintaining services were quickly qualified with a mention to demonstrate value and to educate citizens on where tax dollars are spent. Citizens mentioned making this information easily available on The City’s website, or by calling 3-1-1; and to ensure the information was easy to understand. Business groups suggested developing a monthly (or regular) report card to show performance measurements of City budget and activities/services targets.
- Lower taxes/ lower tax rate increases. While not showing as a top priority, comments about the desire to lower taxes or tax rate increases were made in each input stream. Context given to these comments expressed recognition that Calgary’s strong economy did not affect everyone evenly and that property taxes could become burdensome to those with lower or fixed incomes.