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Back  |  September 16, 2012  | 


In early September, Mayor Nenshi sat down with Calgary is Awesome to chat about, well, why Calgary is awesome. In a just a short time, the interview covered a wide range of topics from the importance of citizen participation, 3 Things for Calgary, chicken wings, The Avengers, and the year ahead in Council.

You can read the full article here, but here's an excerpt:

Q: You’ve lived in a variety of different cities. What do you find unique about Calgary and Calgarians among the places you’ve lived?

A: One of the things that’s really great about Calgary is that we’re at a really interesting size and a really interesting point in our evolution. You can do anything in the city. The arts scene is amazing, the cultural scene is amazing, but you can still kind of get your head around it - get a sense of what’s the great stuff going on, which I think is particularly exciting.

I was at the Betty Mitchell awards recently, the theatre awards, and I said something I really believe - which is that the quality of the work we put on stage in this city is as good as anywhere in the English-speaking world. It’s something that we can be very, very proud of. So, that’s just part of the great things that are going on in this city.

You know, a survey was done recently that said something like 91 per cent of Calgarians thought the city was on the rise. That sort of optimism is actually pretty unique to Calgary. Those of us who live here don’t always see it, and don’t always see how incredibly welcoming the city is, how easy it is for people to succeed as something unique, but it’s very unique and something we should celebrate.

Q: Speaking of that survey, you guys have done a number of public-input surveys recently - the Route Ahead survey, the food trucks survey, the parks and recreation questionnaire, to name a few. That kind of interaction is very new to Calgary - what has public feedback been like?

A: Really, really, really good. We just won a big international award for the work we’re doing with the budget feedback stuff. To me it’s really important. I always say, "Look. The 13 or 14 people sitting around city council table don’t have all the answers. The 15,000 people working for the city don’t have all the answers. But the 1.1 million people who live here really are the experts." Everyone’s an expert in their own life, an expert in living in a great city. So I think reaching out to those people, asking "How can we make the city work for you?" is really important.

Q: Do you have any advice for the average citizen who wants to improve the city or their community?

A: We have to stop relying on government, or business, or non-profits, or somebody else to make our communities better. Every single one of us has the power in our own hands, our own hearts, our own souls to make the community better. That was really one of my first principles when I started here.

During the 2010 election, people got really engaged in politics, a lot of people for the first time. One of the things I was trying to figure out was "How do we keep that going? How do we keep that positive energy moving?" So I pulled together a group of volunteers and they called themselves the "Mayors Committee on Civic Engagement" - terrible name. They came up with this great idea. I always wear this number three for Three Things for Calgary.

The whole idea behind Three Things for Calgary is that every Calgarian has the power to make the community better. This is the year for every single person to do three things for the community. Maybe big things - you might take on a new volunteer role, join a non-profit, join a board of directors. Or they could be small things. My favourite example is the guy who said "I’m gonna have a barbecue. But I’m going to have it in my front yard instead of my back yard. And I’m going to invite my neighbours who I don’t really know."

Kids across schools have adopted three things. "I’m going to pick up litter in my school yard, I’m going to be nice to my little brother." It really matters. If we get this right - these three things by the way, there’s actually a fourth thing. And the fourth thing is that when you finish your three things, you talk about it. Tell people about it. Encourage three other people to do the same. If we do this right, that means there will be three million acts of city building - big ones and small ones - over the course of this year in Calgary. Things that change the city forever. And I think people have the opportunity to say, "Look, if you see something wrong, don’t expect anyone else to fix it. Just fix it. Use your own skills and your own resources and your own past to make things better."

Q: One question that people wanted to know was what is your favourite movie, or if you ever get the chance to go out to the theatre?

A: I’m actually a huge film buff! One of the real problems in this job is that I haven’t had as much time to see as many movies as I normally do. When I was a professor, one year I saw 30 plus movies at the Calgary International Film Festival. So it’s been hard for me.

But this year’s been a little lacklustre! I sort of liked the Avengers. There haven’t been a lot of huge, intellectually stimulating stuff yet. We’re getting into Oscar season now, so it might be a bit better.

I will say, though, that I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies lately and there’s one thing I want to know - what is with all the destruction of urban infrastructure?! I feel like the evil aliens, or warlords, or demigods just don’t think! You have to deliver clean water. How are you gonna do that when you’re blowing up the water mains? When you’re blowing up the streets? How is that subway going to keep going?!

Q: Anyway, the question we always like to end off on is - what makes Calgary awesome?

A: So many things make Calgary awesome! The physical environment, the built environment, the public space - but of course, the thing that makes Calgary the most awesome is the people. The attitude of Calgarians about being welcoming, about being open, about helping other people succeed, and just about building a great place together.

Check out the full interview (including a peak at Mayor Nenshi's bobblehead) here.

- Posted by Daorcey from Mayor Nenshi's team
- Photo by Angie Hung (included because it's also awesome)


Categories: Interviews

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