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Ask Jeromy: December 2019 Questions

Ward 11 official website
Ask Jeromy
What Jeromy likes the most about serving on council is hearing from citizens. Below are the top five questions/themes/topics we heard from you during the month of December.
 
While Jeromy does his best to answer each constituent question individually, below are what we thought you wanted answers on the most.
 
 
Why do City employees get a bonus for retirement and how did this ever come about?
Of all the silliness at City Hall, I am betting that this one takes the cake.
For decades, each retiring City employee has received an extra pat on the back in the form of a cheque averaging over $10,000. That’s right: while any other employee in any other industry receive a coffee mug or gold watch, Calgary City Hall retirees get what amounts to an average taxpayer cost of over $4M per year. This is on top of their City pension.  The accrued liability exceeds $7M per year.
These bye-bye bucks are not inked in any contract (except Fire Services) and when administration was pressed to give details, such as which council ever passed this and when, they advised “it must have been lost in the mists of time.” Days later, the Clerk’s Office advised that the payouts date back to 1964.
Rick Bell, Calgary Sun columnist, cited the City’s retirement bonus debacle as one of the most ludicrous he has witnessed in decades spent covering Calgary City Hall and I tend to agree.
This unparalleled bonus is the pinnacle of how out of touch City Hall really is.
While I was in favour of scrapping it immediately, and put forward a defeated motion to that effect, Council ultimately settled on a compromise and green-lighted the end of the retirement bonuses by the end of 2021. Based on legal advice, council preferred to grandfather in existing employees for the next two years.
Kudos to Colin Craig with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for unearthing something that shockingly was happening right under this council’s nose and the many preceding us.
 
What is the reasoning behind the transition allowance for Mayor & Councillors and where do you stand?
My push to end the transition allowance for Calgary’s elected officials is simply an ask for my colleagues to heed the recommendations put forward two years ago by the citizen committee tasked with examining council remuneration.
To be clear, this is entirely separate from the retirement bonus. Each member of council receives a transition allowance upon leaving public office – be it for any reason including losing an election, moving on to another level of public office, opting not to run for re-election, or retirement.
Each council member accrues two weeks of pay for each year served to a maximum of one year’s salary (currently $113,325). I have personally declined this transition allowance (as I have Council’s “Golden Pension”).
The argument to maintain this payout, much like the retirement bonus for City staff, is so obviously out of touch with what the private sector has been experiencing. Last time I checked, we all signed up for this job willingly and contrary to the opinion that it may be difficult for Councillors to find another position after leaving public office, some may argue that this role opens as many doors for employment as it closes.
The Alberta Legislature did away with this entitlement back in 2012.  The former chair of the 2016 Council Remuneration Committee recently went on record to reveal his disgust at council’s disregard for the will of the electorate (click here to read his Dec. 2019 opinion column in the Herald). A Herald Poll revealed 78% of participants are in favour of doing away with the transition allowance.
I am grateful to fellow Councillors Joe Magliocca and Sean Chu for their support in putting an end to this unfair payout and their willingness to join me in leading by example. This motion will be brought back to council in the New Year.
 
What are your thoughts on pay-as-you-throw waste and what is the deal with the garbage police?
I appreciate any undertakings by the City to find efficiencies. With respect to the pay-as-you-throw program, while I am happy with the concept I remain concerned with how this program would roll out.
There is common sense to bring in a system where the less garbage you produce, the less you pay; however, I do not want to punish those who do fill their bins such as larger families or those households with young children or family members with special needs requiring diapers and other waste-producing care items.
Based on what was presented to council, I believe the proposed pay-as-you-throw system would be costly to operate and will not result in true cost savings to Calgarians.
I have also heard from quite a few of you on the City’s spot-check waste and recycling program – also known as the “garbage police.” As many of you read last month in the news, the City has expanded the program to check 200,000 carts for proper refuse placement – a big jump from the 5,000 carts spot-checked in 2018.
While I can appreciate the City faces penalties for improper contamination and danger to staff and facilities from improperly disposed items such as aerosol canisters, propane tanks, etc., I think they are missing their mark with their approach. You have reached out to me to let me know that you find the garbage police invasive and reeking of big government. I question the efficacy of any program that leaves residents angry and feeling like government is putting their nose where it does not belong.
I would be more interested in looking into a return to the weekly garbage pickup instead of the biweekly curbside pickup that is currently in place. I also chalk it up to education: let people know what to put where and find more dynamic ways to engage them other than refusing to pick up a bin that may have been contaminated by a stranger walking down their alley, unbeknownst to the homeowner.
 
What is the status of lead pipes in Calgary and what is your position?
Access to clean, safe drinking water is a basic right for all citizens.
The motion that I submitted along with Coun. Druh Farrell to fast-track the removal of all lead water pipes in the city is more than a pet project, it is our responsibility as elected officials. The delivery of safe and useable water is one of the key responsibilities of municipal government, and public safety should be our number one priority.
With an estimated price tag of $11M  to replace the pipes for the approximately 550 properties connected to city water by lead pipes, I understand this was not an anticipated budget item; but if we can find a magical $300M for an arena – I think we can find the dollars to ensure all residents have access to clean drinking water.
I was very pleased to receive unanimous support from our fellow Councillors, who directed staff to explore costs and funding options for the accelerated removal of all lead pipes in Calgary.
Administration will return to council to present options in early 2020.
 
What transit changes have been made as a result of the MAX Yellow coming online?
On Dec. 23, 2019 the City launched MAX Yellow – rounding out their rapid transit network to all four quadrants of the City.
With the MAX Yellow coming online, this means changes to 21 existing routes citywide. If you have any questions about the changes or if there is anything that could work better, please contact 311 or reach out to me and my team.
Please visit http://www.calgarytransit.com/news/2020-transit-network to check out the impacts to routes spanning our Ward 11.
 
 
 



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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