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Title: New Schools in Ward 3

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COCShortDescription: We need a public high school. Sounds like an obvious statement.

COCDescription: We need a public high school. Sounds like an obvious statement. What is encouraging is that we have agreement between Calgary Board of Education trustees, the Northern Hills Community Association (through its advocacy efforts), our MLA and me that we must work together to make this happen. We’re all approaching it from different angles – capital, prioritization processes, operating funds, land use. Ultimately, we need to ensure that our kids are staying in their own community to attend school. Length of commute and leaving the house too early in the morning both have a negative impact on our kids’ ability to learn. We need to stop isolating the physical school site as an issue that is separate from our kids’ wellbeing: they are tied together.

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Back | December 22, 2017

We need a public high school. Sounds like an obvious statement. What is encouraging is that we have agreement between Calgary Board of Education trustees, the Northern Hills Community Association (through its advocacy efforts), our MLA and me that we must work together to make this happen. We’re all approaching it from different angles – capital, prioritization processes, operating funds, land use. Ultimately, we need to ensure that our kids are staying in their own community to attend school. Length of commute and leaving the house too early in the morning both have a negative impact on our kids’ ability to learn. We need to stop isolating the physical school site as an issue that is separate from our kids’ wellbeing: they are tied together.

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Back | December 22, 2017

Unless our provincial and federal partners indicate agreement to share the cost of a BidCo, there is no means for Calgary to move further in the process on its own. Attending the games in PyeongChang is a condition of the bid process, but Calgary cannot proceed to this point unless our partners are in. There is a clear opportunity for Council to “take an off ramp” (stop the process) if we do not have partners. There is more information on the City's potential bid exploration here.

Categories: Community; Community Building; Cost of growth; Development and Projects

Back | March 09, 2018

As a city councillor, the wellbeing of Calgarians is a priority for me. When I hear about a resident who is actively doing her part to care for herself and her family in the face of an illness, it’s devastating to learn that our municipal policies are interfering with her path to wellness. Although the intentions of our Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw are positive, the unintended consequences in one particular case deserve special attention. Let me explain briefly.

One of my fellow residents in Ward 3 has three hens as emotional support animals to help her deal with issues of depression and anxiety that had previously left her shattered. This woman has boldly come forward to tell her story as it became apparent that a municipal bylaw may force her to part with these hens. Ms. Pike has been open and transparent about her emotional support hens, actively seeking information from all sources about how she can keep them at her home without disrupting the lives of her neighbours. Unfortunately, a neighbour complained to the City of Calgary and bylaw officers had to be deployed to Ms. Pike’s home. Because she is technically in violation of the municipal bylaw dealing with livestock, we now have a situation where she risks losing her emotional support animals.

Two things are important in this narrative. First, had the neighbour taken the time to speak with Ms. Pike directly and questioned her about the hens, it’s my feeling that s/he would not have filed a complaint. Understanding the context of these animals is critical in this situation. However, we have become a society that is more comfortable calling 311 than knocking on a neighbour’s door to have a conversation. I’m comforted to see that her community has rallied to support Ms. Pike now that she has made her story public, and I hope that this will draw much-needed attention to becoming more community-minded and being a compassionate neighbour.

Second, I am proud to work for an organization that sees the human side of situations. Since this issue came to my attention a couple of weeks ago, the Ward 3 team has been working with Ms. Pike and City Administration to see what can be done. Because we recognize the significance of these animals and this form of treatment on Ms. Pike’s wellbeing, it is our perspective that the provincial government is the key to a reasonable solution. Alberta Health Services and the medical profession recognize that this form of therapy allows Ms. Pike to address her illness in a productive manner; she has documents of support from her doctor and health officials. Therefore, the province needs to provide the City of Calgary with a mechanism that allows our bylaws to accommodate her hens.

Next steps for me will include further conversations with my colleagues, and bringing a Notice of Motion forward in the new year that enables Administration to recommend the best course of action in dealing with situations where non-traditional animals can be treated as pets rather than livestock. We are seeing more diversity in the ways we deal with illness, as well as what we consider to be a pet. Our bylaws need to keep up with the pace of change, with support and guidance from our provincial counterparts who have jurisdiction over healthcare matters. The focus here should be the wellbeing of people like Ms. Pike, and building flexibility into policies that are silent on contemporary urban issues like this one.​

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Back | December 22, 2017

Building Safer Communities Block Watch​ is an incredible group of volunteers who have revived the concept of neighbour-based community safety. So much so, they have been asked to assist other communities in established and new areas of the city (as well as outlying areas) to do the same. You need to check out this group and see how you can be involved to promote more neighbourly interaction and organic safety practices in our community.

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Back | November 29, 2017

Budget

Councillor Gondek spoke up in budget deliberations to request that service reductions to transit service be reconsidered. Ward 3 will be hit with extra wait times on several routes, and for those residents working night shifts or multiple jobs, the added stress is not needed. The increased wait times would also have an impact on students who may need late busses to get to university.

In tandem with support for additional funds to support the Calgary Police Service, Council needs to be aware of cutting prevention programs for at-risk populations, like youth and seniors. Desperation from economic downturns can lead to many issues that are best addressed early.

Olympic Bid

The rationale for Councillor Gondek’s continued support for exploring the Olympic bid last week was based on work already being done from previous Council direction. The City has already spent $3.5m on bid exploration. The additional $1.5m that was approved with that project is being used to gain commitment from the Federal and Provincial governments on their share for the bid book. The added $1m approved is for starting up a BidCo if the other funding is confirmed. If Council does not receive confirmation from other orders of government, Councillor Gondek will advocate ending the pursuit. If there is a commitment, Calgary has already put in our share of the BidCo funds through the leg work that has been done.

DP2017-1864

Representatives of the Northern Hills Community Association did some great work with the developer who is putting up a building in the vacant space between Superstore and Urban Barn. This land has always been planned for development, but the issue was elimination of the pathway from Coventry into the informal "high street" that runs from that spot down to Northpointe Centre (theatre, Boston Pizza, etc). The community will be getting a paved, lit and landscaped pathway from the alley access in Coventry, down towards the south side of that mall.

Secondary Suites

Councillor Gondek is working with members of Council to de-politicize the secondary suite process. Citizens don't need a Council that can be swayed by voter sentiment or emotional presentations to be making decisions on a land use item. Approvals should rest with Administration, based on clear guidelines and regulations. Council has so much more work to do and must stop wasting time on secondary suites.

Categories: Accountability; Budget; Community; Development and Projects; Transit

Back | December 22, 2017

There has been some misinformation circulating over what has happened in the Midfield Park situation. View Midfield Park history and current state.​ The City is holding Calgary Housing Company homes for any remaining residents who need them, and there is an extension of the services required to help assist the very few remaining residents with their transition to a new home.

In the three years since formally learning that the community would be closed on September 30, 2017, almost all residents used the transition assistance provided (both monetary and advisory). Even those who chose to take legal action against the City have been treated with compassion and are able to stay in their present homes until February 2018. City Administration has initiated many steps to provide Midfield residents with thoughtful transition options, and they are also reflecting on how things could have been managed differently. Frankly, Council could have provided different direction years ago.

Opportunities to change some decisions of the past lie outside the discretion of this Council at this time. More importantly, key points from a failed motion to Council have already been enacted (making the motion redundant and therefore not supported).

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Back | December 13, 2017

New East-West Bus Route

First, we had an announcement from Calgary Transit this morning that a long-awaited east-west connection has been implemented for our northern communities. Last month, we directed Calgary Transit to look for efficiencies when we restored their proposed budget cuts. In plain language, we asked them to take a good look at which routes are underutilized and where service is lacking. Based on this direction, they were able to examine Routes 430 and 100 to come up with a new plan.

Starting December 25, 2017, Route 100 will now extend from North Pointe to McKnight-Westwinds Station. Travel times are estimated at about 37 minutes eastbound from North Pointe and 42 minutes westbound from McKnight-Westwinds (including a brief layover at the airport, requiring no transfers or bus changes). This route is also sensitive to the start and finish times of employee shifts at the airport. For more information, visit: calgarytransit.com/winter-service-changes.

Secondary Suites Reform

Next, we passed a Notice of Motion for secondary suite reform today. Administration has been directed to bring back a revised land use bylaw that makes secondary suites discretionary in all single detached residential areas, as well as establish a registry for suites and reinstate the application fee. The end result will be a process that is based on adherence to regulations and guidelines, to be reviewed by City Administration. This means the end of public hearings with emotional pleas from those in favour of or those in opposition to secondary suite applications. Allowing people to adapt their homes for changing family needs, and providing safe options for reasonably priced housing, are two positive outcomes from this decision.

Joint Use Agreement

In addition to this great news, I continue to work with City Administration to see how the Joint Use Agreement (JUA) can be leveraged to allow complementary uses on sites that are presently designated for single uses only. Plain language – how do we use existing school sites to create mixed purpose areas that could potentially accommodate a public high school with appropriate neighbouring services like seniors’ activities, before/after school care, or something similar. It’s not the typical way to build a school, and it may be a new way to ensure our overlooked communities are retrofitted to meet our needs. I’ll be engaging with the Northern Hills Community Association, Calgary Board of Education trustees and our MLA to see if we can make this happen.

Finally, our Ward 3 Office is also looking at some issues you have raised around land use applications in the community, traffic safety, airplane noise and community standards. We’ll provide information as it becomes available to us. 

Categories: Community; Committees and Motions; Councillor; Council initiatives; Secondary Suites; Transit

Back | December 22, 2017

Council approved an additional $90 million towards economic development and diversification efforts through Calgary Economic Development (CED), adding to $10 million committed earlier this year. This fund will give CED the ability to determine whether infrastructure improvements or similar investments/initiatives can aid our city in attracting and retaining new businesses in the wake of the oil and gas downturn. This funding is to be dispersed with oversight from a steering committee, and is not generated through increased taxes. The funds are being tapped from a Business License fund that is reliant on fees from the land development industry, as well as savings projected from previously established budgets. Without a targeted approach to changing our city from its historic reliance on oil and gas, we face an uncertain economic future. Vacancies in the downtown and resulting devaluation of many core tax revenue-generating properties has eroded the City of Calgary’s tax base.

Categories: Budget; Economics; Council initiatives

Back | December 01, 2017

With budget deliberations completed here is an overview of the decisions and how they affect Calgarians.

The news has reported that there is a property tax increase of 3.8% for 2018. This addresses the fact that Council provided a one-time rebate to taxes for 2017 that was not rebated again this year, as well as the planned increase for 2018 (both of which are lower than originally planned in 2014 when the 4-year budget was created). These two increases amount to 2.9%. Another 0.9% comes from an increase to the police budget, restoration of funding for transit service and restoration of funding for civic partners. Council further allocated one-time amounts of $3 million for preventative services for at-risk populations, and $4 million for low income transit passes, through reserve funds.

A word about the reserve fund, called the Fiscal Stability Reserve (FSR). This fund is supported in large part through the budgeted money that is NOT spent by Administration in a given year. So, because expenditure was less than anticipated year over year, the variance can be applied to important services as needed. Council felt low income transit passes and preventative services deserved this funding.

$45 million in reserve funding was also dedicated to offset increases to non-residential property taxes, which will hit building owners and tenants in places like Ward 3 particularly hard as outlying areas try to cover the severely reduced tax revenue formerly generated by downtown properties.

Council was also able to commit $23.7 million from the 2017 tax room to financing costs for the Green Line, meaning that this important transit project will move forward and Councillor Gondek can continue to advocate for a northbound stage 2. There is also a capital commitment of $1.7 billion to ensure the City carries forward with planned infrastructure improvements that will drive economic growth and quality of life.

For those who are wondering if administrative cuts were made, there were detailed proposals put forward from every department. In the end, Council chose a scenario that sees the elimination of about 155 positions, as well as program/service cuts that maximize efficiencies without sacrificing level of service to Calgarians. This is on top of the millions of dollars that have been saved in the past few years by non-union employees having wages frozen, including the senior leadership team. You're also probably aware that Council took wage cuts this year.

You may have also read that some members of Council were seeking deeper cuts, which some folks deem to be fiscally responsible. The fact is that a proposal to cut $5 million randomly throughout the organization was put forward AFTER Council went through a careful process of reviewing all departments and determining where Calgarians could not be exposed to service cuts. This proposal would have jeopardized service delivery on items Council had just approved, like transit and police service. It simply did not make sense.

It’s never easy or popular to deliver the message that taxes have gone up (roughly $6 a month for the average homeowner). But this was the appropriate decision to maintain service levels while acknowledging that the City is in tough economic times. Also, not raising taxes in small increments over time has led to the current state. When the City bragged about having the lowest property tax rate in Canada (and are still on the very low end), a situation was created where our city had to play catch up all at once.

As the City prepares for the next 4-year budget for 2019-2022, it will be the work of this Council and Administration to figure out a better way of generating revenue for service delivery that is less reliant on a lopsided, assessment-based tax system.

Councillor Gondek is committed to serving the needs of Ward 3 residents and bringing investment back to the communities while respecting the financial strain we are all under in our households. 

Categories: Budget; City Finances; Community; Cost of growth; Councillor


This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.​

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