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Ask Jeromy: October 2019 Questions

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 October.
 
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions. If you’re interested in a topic we haven’t covered, please contact our office!
 
What do you think about the residential speed limit review?
 
 
Update: I gained the support of council through budget deliberations to redirect $200,000 in funds allotted for public engagement on the citywide residential speed limit review to fund the DOAP Team. Through the Alpha House, this team does important work to address issues such as homelessness, social disorder and needle pickup. There is also significant cost savings to having the DOAP Team pick up sharps throughout the city rather than deploying frontline services like Calgary Fire or Calgary Police.
 
The citywide speed limit review is looking to reduce all unposted speed limits on residential streets and collector roads to either 30 km/hr or 40 km/hr. I successfully included the option to maintain the status quo (no blanket change) and deal with these on a case-by-case basis.
 
I believe that it would be more effective to create a mechanism for communities to advocate for speed limit changes within their neighbourhoods on an individual case basis.
 
I also believe that many roads are simply not engineered to sustain lowered speed limits, enforcement would be a challenge and that the implementation of other traffic calming measures such as brightly-lit crosswalks, signage and increased enforcement/pedestrian and driver education would be more effective in many cases.
 
The vast majority of accidents are not taking place on these streets. It is likely that those that are occurring are due to other factors such as distracted driving, visibility issues or other impairments. This is in no way to minimize any tragedies that have taken place on the roads.
 
Any council member may put the idea of reduced speed limits back on the table. Early estimates to implement blanket changes were reported to be “in the tens of millions” by administration.
 
What do you think about the provincial budget?
 
Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu warned us: Calgary, get your spending under control.
 
We can gripe about funding cuts, but we knew there were going to be cost reduction measures through the budget. In fact, given the rate that City Hall spends, many people I have spoken to were surprised there were not more cuts to municipal funding.
 
Folks, City Hall has a spending problem. Coupled with the emptying out of the downtown core – we can continue to push this diatribe that we have a “revenue problem” but I maintain that there is plenty of fat that can be cut.
 
Given that around 55% of the City budget is spent on wages and salaries, I have proposed to start there: would 5% wage reductions be so unachievable? The unions push back that this proposal is unfair and that it’s “insulting” but this is the complete opposite of what I am hearing from the private sector.
 
Private sector in Calgary has been gutted. For the last several years of the economic downturn, we have witnessed scores of people become jobless and those who still have jobs are either working for less than they were a few years ago, underemployed or forced to cash in on their investments.
 
How do you think they feel when the public sector won’t take a small cut – to be matched by Mayor and Council – to their wages? This is something I will bring back through the budget deliberations next month and I am hopeful the majority of council will exercise common sense to side with me on this one.
 
I will not blame the province for doing what is necessary, especially when plenty of low-hanging fruit remains here at City Hall.
 
 
What kind of a tax increase is Council proposing through this budget, and why?
 
 
The culmination of years of shifting our spending problem onto the backs of taxpayers could result in a residential tax hike of around 9% and an increase approaching 20% to strip mall and neighbourhood shopping mall owners this November.
 
Council is looking to shift the residential/non-residential tax shift from its existing 49:51 to a full shift of 52:48 to reduce pressures on businesses.
 
The methodology is that this is to keep the tax shift off business owners, who have cumulatively faced an increase of around 100% over the last 5 years.
 
These numbers are staggering and unacceptable. They also paint a clear picture that we need to aggressively pursue effeciencies and focus on the “need to haves” over the “nice to haves.”  
 
We have heard back from constituents overwhelming in support of spending reductions in the area of non-essential spending, while giving front-line services and our lowest income and most vulnerable Calgarians the support they need. More to come on this next month.
 
 
What should the City do about Car2Go?
 
 
I was surprised to hear the news about Car2Go shutting down their Calgary services several weeks ago. The City is currently in talks with other potential private operators and I look forward to hearing what will come of it. Even though Car2Go did talk to the City about a franchise agreement, the City has opted not to proceed and I am on side with their decision, as I remain concerned when government becomes too ensconced in private sector business.
 
I understand that they are also pulling out of three American cities - Austin, Portland, and Denver. They left Toronto last year. The company has cited a “volatile transportation market” and frequent changes to ride sharing programs as part of their difficult decision to cease operations here. There has also been mention that Calgary’s parking fees played a factor into their decision.
 
It is concerning that this leaves a gap for the estimated 134,000 members. Their data revealed that Calgary was the largest, most quickly growing ride sharing city in North American. I am looking forward to learning of a new partner to take Car2Go’s place in the coming months and I believe there is room for potential partnerships for the City, with private sector taking the lead on this one.
 
 
What’s going on with the 2nd Street Complete Street (bike lane) project
 
The City of Calgary has a final design for the 2nd Street SW Complete Street Project, following two cycles (no pun intended) of public engagement in 2018, incorporating the desire to maintain two-way traffic on 2nd Street SW. I felt it was key to the community to maintain two-way bike traffic.
 
The final design includes a cycle track on the east and west side of 2nd Street SW, curb extension at seven intersections and three rectangular rapid flashing beacons at three intersections for safer pedestrian crossings, as well as a new traffic signal at 2nd Street and 13th Ave SW.
 
The estimated price tag for the project is $750,000 and includes construction of concrete curb extensions at seven intersections and three Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at 15th, 18th and 21st Avenues for improved pedestrian crossing safety.
 
Construction is slated to begin spring 2020 and to be completed by the summer.
 
The project requires removing 15 parking spaces on the east side of 2nd Street SW (between 24th and 26th Avenues) and another 38 out of 93 existing parking spaces on the west side of the corridor, between 12th and 26th Avenues. This is for safety and sightlines for the bike lanes.
 
To compensate for this loss of parking, the City has launched a Mission Parking Pilot (also known as hybrid parking areas) where residents with a Zone J permit park can park for longer than the posted time restrictions in these paid on-street spaces. The Residential Parking Policy Review is underway, and may result in further changes.
 
 
 



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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