May 2018 Newsletter
Lois Walsh has served in different roles with the Councillors’ Office for 22 years, and she has served as my Executive Assistant since I began as Councillor. There is no doubt she has made a positive mark on Calgary and Ward 14. Thank you Lois for your service, and have a wonderful retirement!
...and welcome to her replacement Lynne Banning, who is no slouch either. Lynne will be at Counciltalk if you would like to meet her.
The May Counciltalk will be held on May 5 from noon to 2 p.m. at Deer Park United Church (77 Deer Point Road S.E.) in Deer Ridge. I hope you can make it, because I believe it is a truly important exercise. If not, you can find details on the next Counciltalk at calgary.ca/counciltalk.
Transparency from City Council
One of the reasons I created Counciltalk was that I believe Council members - and their decision making process - should be available to the public. We are democratically elected, and should be accountable to the citizens of Calgary.
The Municipal Government Act (MGA) sets out the overarching rules for Council and Committee meetings, including that meetings are to be held in public. For obvious reasons - including those previously stated - holding meetings in public is a no-brainer, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions are also set out by the MGA along with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act.
There are many very good reasons to hold meetings outside of the public eye, and in many cases we are actually legally bound to do so. Examples are when the topic discussed could be harmful to third party business interests, personal privacy, or public safety. But as good as those reasons may be, we must come down on the side of opening our doors to the public as much as possible.
On April 5, I brought a motion to Council with the intent of finding ways to make sure that the use of private meetings is minimized. It was passed unanimously. We will be exploring best practices in other cities, and taking a hard look at the reasons behind why we decide to go into closed session. For more information about my notice of motion please visit calgary.ca/ward14.
The legalization of cannabis is a huge deal for Canadian municipalities. On April 5, Council approved bylaw changes to facilitate the retail sale and consumption of cannabis. On April 24, the City of Calgary began accepting cannabis store applications. By noon 226 applications had been received.
Frankly, we have had to react quickly to the changes coming from Ottawa. The summer 2018 deadline was very short notice, but the subject matter deserves careful thought nonetheless. The City of Calgary is responsible for dealing with the land use bylaws associated with the sale of cannabis, and creating bylaws that regulate public consumption. Simply put, we have opted to treat cannabis similarly to the way we treat alcohol.
In terms of land use, we will be controlling the distance from which a cannabis store can be from things like a hospital, an emergency shelter, schools, and other cannabis retailers. The details can be complicated. Rather than listing them, I will share this handy Cannabis Store Info Map: A picture is worth a thousand words! In terms of consumption, cannabis use will not be permitted in public spaces with a few potential exceptions.
Some might view these rules as harsh - especially in comparison to how we treat similar products, like alcohol. The fact of the matter is that you cannot consume alcohol in public either, but you can walk into a bar to have a drink. Until the Province can find a similar solution for cannabis, our hands are somewhat tied.
It is much easier to loosen regulations than it is to tighten them, and when public health is concerned I would rather err on the side of caution at first. I am certain we have not heard the last of this topic at city hall, so don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know what you think. You can find more detail on this topic at calgary.ca/cannabis.
Calgary’s weather does a number on our streets. There is no doubt. But it finally seems that it is letting up in a way that will allow us to actually start getting out and fixing them. Last month I wrote about street sweeping. I mentioned that the city sweeps over 16,000 lane kilometres of paved roads, and our crews will also be fixing the potholes on all of them.
Because of the long winter, street sweeping is really just getting underway. Once a street is clean though, pothole repair crews won’t be far behind. Now is the perfect time to get them in the queue for repair. The way to report is by calling 311, or using the 311 app (which you can get by visiting calgary.ca/mobileapps).
-Councillor Peter Demong