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Calgary Conversations Episode 1: David Duckworth

Episode 1 David Duckworth

A conversation with City of Calgary
Chief Administrative Officer David Duckworth.


An inside look into Calgary’s City Hall with Chief Administrative Officer David Duckworth


Chief Administrative Officer David Duckworth and podcast host Jose Rodriguez
Chief Administrative Officer David Duckworth and host Jose Rodriguez recording the Calgary Conversations podcast.


Podcast transcript below.

Jose Rodriguez

Welcome to Calgary Conversations, a podcast of the city of Calgary, where we aim to have frank conversations with City leaders about the issues and topics impacting Calgarians.

My name is Jose Rodriguez. I am leader of media relations and employee communications at the city.

I'm happy to be your host.

Welcome to our inaugural episode of Calgary Conversations. And today, we're fortunate to have our top dog, our big cheese, our boss of the bosses, our chief administrative officer, David Duckworth. Welcome, David.

David Duckworth

Jose. Thanks for having me.

Jose Rodriguez

You bet. Now, before we get started, maybe we can, do a bit of an explainer. So, The City of Calgary has no shortage of media coverage. We have a great media corps that covers us very thoroughly and fairly. there's no shortage of conversations about us on social media. Why the heck are we doing a podcast?

David Duckworth

Good question. Well, I think, an informed, engaged, citizenry. So citizens that are really engaged, I think is really important. And, I believe, podcasts are just one more way to engage with Calgarians. as you mentioned, we have a pretty robust, way of communicating with citizens right now. But, we should embrace all new technology as it comes, comes around.

And I know podcasts are incredibly popular. I know they're really popular with my kids who are in their 20s. And so this is just perhaps another way to engage with citizens. And it's so important that citizens are actually engaged in their municipality. And, this is a way for us to provide some factual, information to Calgarians in an open and transparent way.

And we're hoping citizens listen to this and don't just listen to it, but actually get engaged. If they've got questions, I encourage them to reach out to myself. People on my team, their elected officials were here, collectively to make, to build a world class city. Calgary is already a world class city. We need to continue on that path, on that journey.

And it's so important that we hear from citizens. So at the end of the day, I'm hopeful that this podcast, and the many podcasts that are kind of coming from it, are a way to really engage with Calgarians.

I think it’s really important that Calgarians are informed. We’re hoping people don’t just listen, but also get engaged. I encourage them to reach out to me, my team, or their elected officials with their questions and input. We’re here to continue to ensure Calgary is a world-class city, and it’s so important for us to engage with Calgarians to do that.

David Duckworth

Jose Rodriguez

David, maybe a little bit about yourself. You're a little bit famous, but you're not Taylor Swift famous. So why should Calgarians, what do they need to know about you? And why should we trust you to run our city?

David Duckworth

Yeah, well. Well, I hope I'm not famous. I prefer to be anonymous on the weekends when I'm out and about with my wife and the dog.

Jose Rodriguez

So sunglasses and hats.

David Duckworth

That's what I do. Yeah. So, local government has been really part of my entire life, with the exception of maybe, seven, eight years span. So, I'll expand on that. So, when I was born, my father was an elected official. I'm from British Columbia. I grew up in Langley. my father was a local entrepreneur, and so was his father.

They had, retail clothing stores throughout British Columbia. He became involved in politics. And so when I was born, he was then known as an alderman for the city of Langley. And he was an alderman for a number of years. And he became the mayor of Langley for it seemed like my whole childhood, but I think I was 13 or 14 years old when he hung up the shingle and was no longer an elected official.

And, then I went and got my civil engineering degree, from the University of British Columbia. I always knew I didn't want to be an elected official, but I hung out with my dad. I always liked the construction sites that he took me to, and I was always fascinated about that, which led to me getting my civil engineering degree when I graduated.

I was 21, I believe 22 right around there. I started my career with the city of Vancouver. So I spent, you know, 13 or 14 years listening to my father, who was an elected official. And then, you know, seven years later, I was in the public sector again at the municipal level. So I started my career with the city of Vancouver.

I spent nearly a decade there. Then I spent, a large amount of time in Penticton and Kamloops as a senior department head and then, then which brought me to Calgary. I've been here for six years now, so almost my entire career has been in the public sector at the municipal level. So a big chunk of it on the elected official side and a big, big chunk of it as a as an engineer, as a civil engineer and mostly as a public sector manager.

And so, I've had the pleasure to work in several different places. Municipal employees are incredible. And I don't think the average homeowner or property owner in a municipality realizes how dedicated their public servants are. Their public servants are so dedicated they take great pride in delivering high quality services. And this has been my experience everywhere I've worked.

And so that gives me great comfort, knowing that, you know, my 16,000 colleagues that are on the front lines every single day are delivering great services for Calgarians. So again, my entire career, my whole life, it seems, has been in the public sector. and I've enjoyed every single minute of it.

Jose Rodriguez

Nice. Well, let's dig right into it. Affordability. It is a word that is on, the tip of every Calgarians tongue. It goes from, going to the grocery store, getting your fuel, paying your taxes. what is the city doing about affordability?

David Duckworth

So we take affordability really, really seriously. We want to make sure that we deliver really high-quality services that Calgarians count on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. So we want that quality high, but we want it to be affordable. And so what do we do to make sure we provide affordable services?

We benchmark ourselves with other municipalities. I've had the pleasure of working in three other municipalities, so, I've got good contacts, not just in British Columbia, but across the nation. We do a good job of benchmarking. And when we benchmark, we, The City of Calgary compares very, very well. And so we embark on continuous improvement.

So we're always trying to find ways to make sure that we're continuing to deliver high quality service, but at the most affordable rate. And I can tell you that when you look at our user fees that that homeowners pay for water, wastewater, garbage, they compare really, really well across the nation. In fact, we've had very little increases in those user fees over the last five years.

And if you look across the country, there's five, 10, 15 per cent increases in their user fees for those type of utilities every single year. So I'm quite proud the services that we provide there and making sure that those rates are affordable. And then on the tax side where, you know, are some of our largest services that we provide are funded through property taxes, and that includes police protection, fire protection, our transit service and our mobility services.

And there, again, we compare quite favorably across the country. And so we'll continue to do our part to make sure that, again, the services are high quality, but they're also delivered at an incredibly affordable rate. And I should say, when you think of property taxes, no one likes taxes. And a homeowner gets one bill from the city typically a year.

And it's a big bill, right? Unlike income taxes that are taken off your paycheck every two weeks. that one big bill looks like a big bill. However, if you think of if you if you added your property taxes and your user fees that you pay to The City of Calgary and average homes and the order of 13 to $15 a day that they're paying for all those services police protection, fire protection, parks, roads, transit, garbage, water, wastewater, stormwater, the list goes on.

That's really, really, really good value. The other thing to point out that a typical household in Calgary, of all the taxes, property taxes. So property taxes to municipality, the city, property taxes to the province, other types of types of taxes, income taxes, GST, any other sales taxes. A typical home in Calgary, only 11%. Roughly 11% of those taxes that you pay and user fees that you pay come to the city of Calgary.

Close to 90% or 89% goes to the province and the federal government. And I don't think the average homeowner, or maybe even Calgarians really understands that. So what am I saying about that? it's not that the provincial governments and federal governments don't provide incredible value to make this an incredible country that we live in. It's just for that 11%.

The services that Calgarians get from The City of Calgary, in my opinion, are remarkable and quite affordable.

Jose Rodriguez

And yet, your average Calgarians tax increase will be 7.2%. about that. The overall tax increase itself, I think is 5.2%. When you when you mix in commercial and all sorts of things, and every year we seem to have something called a positive variance. Right. Is which really in simple terms I guess is a surplus.

Right. It's money we've collected that isn't earmarked. Can you just talk about how do we set a budget and then we end up with this extra money? Shouldn't that just go directly back to Calgarians?

David Duckworth

So, we don't budget for a positive variance every year, unlike the federal and provincial governments that can actually budget for a deficit. Municipalities in Canada cannot. So no municipality budgets for a deficit. Sorry, they cannot budget for a deficit and no municipality budgets for a surplus. However, their Administration does everything that they can do to make sure they, you know, their budget comes in ideally right on track.

But municipalities across Canada generally have a positive operating variance or, as you indicated, a surplus. And so what do we do with those funds?

Those funds go into what we call here in Calgary a Fiscal Stability Reserve. Most of those funds go into that reserve. In a way. It's kind of a rainy day fund.

If something was to happen, there's some emergency where we needed additional funds. That's where we would go to, to use those funds to continue to provide the services that we provide. A perfect example was the pandemic. Calgary fared incredibly well. So not only did we unfortunately have to layoff a number of staff, but we did everything that we can to not fill vacant positions as well as to cut back as much as we possibly could to make sure that we weren't going to actually end up in a deficit position.

Calgary was one of the only municipalities in Canada to not be in a deficit position during the pandemic. Now, we did get funds from the province and the federal government that helped out, but there were many other municipalities that were still in a deficit position after they received those funds. So, again, the rainy day fund is for situations unknown, situations like that.

And it also helps, our elected officials use those funds, in a way that they seem best fit for the time when they're, finalizing our, our annual budget. And so we have a minimum amount that we want to have in those reserves. but we also don't want them to grow too big. And so that's why every year you'll see our elected officials, our city council, understand what the positive variance for that year may be.

And we have an indication in November we don't actually know until February or March of the following year, but we kind of have an indication we let Council know what that is. And then they determine should those funds go 100% into reserve, or should some go into reserve, and should some of those funds be used to invest in the services that we provide Calgarians?

And in 2023, our Council elected to use some of those funds and in a way, to invest in the things that they were hearing from Calgarians for their highest priorities. So some of the highest priorities that our council and administration heard was use some of those funds to invest in public safety, particularly around transit. and so that's what we did, as well as invest in infrastructure.

And so that's what we did, as well as to invest in transit. So that's what we did. And so some of those positive variances are used to invest in the services that we provide. An alternative most municipalities do not do is to return those funds to their taxpayers. Usually, our variances aren't huge. The last few years they've been pretty healthy, I would say. But Calgarians need to know those funds are actually going to make sure we're continuing to build a world class city to invest in the over 60 services that we provide to Calgarians every day, as well as to invest in our infrastructure to make sure that ten, 20 years from now, we're not falling behind, with respect to our infrastructure. So, we're doing everything that we can again to continue to build a world class city.

Jose Rodriguez

David, can you maybe tell us a little bit more about how does The City manage its finances?

David Duckworth

The city of Calgary is in; or from the work from our chief financial officer and her team, and my colleagues across, our city, with their hard work; we're in really good financial position. We've got an A Plus credit rating that's near the top. I think there's only maybe three municipalities in Canada that may be slightly above us.

So we've got a really strong credit rating. We're in a really good, healthy financial position. We don't have annual deficits. Our infrastructure, by and large, is pretty good compared to many municipalities across Canada. So we're in pretty good shape right now. But it doesn't take long for that to go in the wrong direction, which is why those reserves and those positive variances are used generally to invest.

Jose Rodriguez

So can you draw back the veil a little bit on, the mystery of how a budget gets made, because there's obviously different elements at play. The City of Calgary will have what it needs and its priorities. Then you'll have Council with its needs and its priorities. How does that work? Does The City of Calgary present a budget with what we want, and then councillors add or subtract? How exactly does that process work?

David Duckworth

I can tell you my experience based on everywhere I've worked, it's a little bit different. Sometimes an Administration will put the budget together and presented to Council. Sometimes, as we did last year, we worked with our City Council for the entire year to determine what they felt our priorities were and what we felt the priorities were. In addition to that, all municipalities engage with their citizens and so I know we've got a number of online forums.

We do two really robust citizen satisfaction surveys every single year where we identified what services are of value to Calgarians, what services do they think we should invest? And we use that information to share with our elected officials, with City Council within Administration, to determine Calgarians want us to invest here. That's where we should invest a lot of our funds.

And so that's what we do. It's generally, it's a collaborative process with councils and Administration. I know in times past we've gone and different routes; every municipality does. There's no perfect way to put together a budget. there have been years where largely Administration would present and do a great reveal in November and show Council what the budget is.

And I think at times it's fair to say that the citizens and Council was often surprised that either some things were in they didn't think we'd be in, or some things weren't in that they thought would have been. And so last year, in 2023, we embarked on a real collaborative process with our elected officials. And that is done in other municipalities as well.

So, a collaborative process, listening to Calgarians elected officials have the ability to listen to their constituents, to make sure Administration understands what they're hearing from their citizens and businesses. And then we kind of package it all up and put it together. And the other thing we try to do is, is to make sure that what is going to be presented is sustainable and it's affordable.

And so I know in 2024, our tax rate, as you alluded to, it's a little over 5% across the city. But if you look at the non-residential sector, because we shifted some of the tax responsibility from the business sector to the residential sector, that means that 5% was closer to 7.2%. It's pretty significant. One of the higher increases probably, that Calgarians have seen in a in a long time, I should say that's probably pretty close to the average across the country.

I know many municipalities in British Columbia that were ten plus percent, some over 20%, because municipalities aren't, immune to inflation. We're immune like any other business in any other home. And so we need to do everything that we can when we're putting the budget together to one to make sure that we maintain high quality services, because that's what citizens ask us for when we do those surveys and to make sure that we're putting in front of Council for a decision.

It's sustainable and affordable, and it wasn't easy looking, you know, a five plus percent increase in taxes. Right. But when inflation is 4%. And then if you look at the years before, we actually had a couple of years of negative tax rates. So they were lower, they were below zero even in inflationary high inflationary times. So there came a point in time where we just had to catch up.

Now, while it was pretty significant, I can say that if you look at over the last five years how Calgary compares to almost any municipalities in Canada, really, really well, like our, our increases have been, on average, remarkably low compared to most places. So again, we're not immune to inflation. There came a point in time where either our service or the quality of our service starts to, you know, degrade or we start to invest, lessen infrastructure.

And while you can get away with that with for a couple of years, ten, 15, 20 years down the road, you can't someone else is going to have to pick up and increase taxes significantly. So as a municipality, you want to try to avoid those big spikes up or down, kind of want to kind of a consistent increase in that, which generally be around the rate of inflation plus population growth.

And so there again, if you look at inflation, around 4% population growth was probably over 3%. That's 7% right there. So we're pretty much bang like right in line with that number. And if you look over the last decade, population growth in inflation Calgary, The City of Calgary has compared incredibly well. We're well below population growth and inflation.

And I can tell you many municipalities are either on track for that number or exceed that number. So again, I think we're doing quite well.

Jose Rodriguez

Getting to some of those investments. So I think, you know, we threw $15 million into, peace officers, I believe, for transit, along with other investments. Some Calgarians would say that The City is spending money that it doesn't have a responsibility to respond. So, for instance, mental health and addictions, those sorts of elements we have pointed to in the past that there's a $311 million gap each year from funding that we are no longer receiving from other levels of government.

I think it's The City of Edmonton just recently didn't, give some of that one-time funding or some of that funding that that would be used for things that are out of their purview. Yet The City of Calgary has, how do you explain that?

David Duckworth

You will hear municipalities across the country talk about this. And, you know, there's been a slow there's been a slow process over the last 20 years where a provincial or federal government slowly steps out of a space. And because we're right close to citizens where the government, the citizens think about first, not the provincial government or the federal government, they'll think of their municipality.

And there's an expectation where when issues transpire, there's an expectation that someone has to deal with it. And a municipality is the closest on the front lines every single day. And it's been a slow trickle over the last 20 years of municipalities stepping into spaces where perhaps they weren't there before, and rightly or wrongly, the values have done that because there hasn't been someone else there providing the service that they felt needed, or when they were hearing from citizens a service that needed to be there.

You alluded to a $311 million annual funding gap, what we call, nearly $74 million on the operating side and the remainder of that $311 million on the capital side that we used to get, that we no longer get those funds.

And so we've made sure our provincial government is well aware of it as well as our federal government. And it comes down to collaboration. We just need to make sure that we are collaborating with our provincial partners and our federal partners because, you know, a strong Calgary means a strong Alberta. And I know our provincial partners know that.

And so we'll continue to work with them to make sure they understand, our issues, where they understand our challenges. And I'm confident that at the end of the day, they will be there to support not just Calgary, but all municipalities in Alberta. but they need to hear from citizens and local municipal councils that, you know, their spaces that they're in right now, that they feel pretty keen on the health, safety and mental and mental health and addictions, that really the provincial government should be the lead there.

They do many things in that space, but municipalities have picked up little bits here and there. and it's come a point in time where almost enough is enough. And, unless we get additional somehow funding from the provincial government, whether it's a push keeping a portion of the education tax or whatever that may be, all we can do is increase our user fees and increase our taxes.

And that's super, super challenging. And so we have to limit how much we step into that space. At the same time, Calgarians expect someone to provide that service, which is why municipalities over the last 20 years have been doing that.

Jose Rodriguez

Can we talk downtown?

David Duckworth

Let's do.

Jose Rodriguez

I think it started in 2014 or so. Our big towers that paid a lot of tax started emptying out, and we have a lot of office space. and we've created a thing that's getting international attention, which is our, residential, our office space to residential conversion. Can you talk a little bit about that?

David Duckworth

Yeah, I mean, it's an unfortunate story which is slowly turning out to be an incredibly good news story. And so back in 2015 when oil prices started going the wrong direction, you know, we had the hollowing out of our downtown core that were filled with oil and gas businesses, who likely aren't ever coming back again.

So we have a lot of downtown office space. Downtown was built like a Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's what our downtown is. It needs to be a 24 hour a day place for people live and reside and work. And so that's the journey that we're on for the downtown strategy, to convert it into a downtown that's vacant to a downtown that's vibrant.

So, we're trying to convert the many of those vacant office spaces downtown with an incentive program that we're providing, for the private sector.

For every dollar that we invest, it's being leveraged for $4 of private sector investment. There will be almost 4,000 new residents living in the downtown core with that program. And it will include nearly 2,000 new residential units downtown for people to reside.

So again, this incentive program is about creating a vacant downtown to a vibrant downtown. And, we feel it's a strong investment and it's been recognized, as you pointed out, around the world. So we had a head start from any other municipality by necessity.

Jose Rodriguez

We have to be honest. Right.

David Duckworth

Not a good news story, but we had to do something. So we had a head start thinking about this. And then the pandemic came along. And so when we talk about 30% office vacancy in our downtown, 30% is almost the norm across the world now, large downtowns where people are now working remotely with either full time or part time, has mean that the office vacancy, rates, and municipalities across the world have increased significantly.

So they're looking at Calgary to determine what are you guys doing? And they're emulating what we're doing in other municipalities right now. We've had people from San Francisco, Chicago, New York, other places around the world reach out to our great downtown strategy team to learn what we're doing. So it's a really good news story. At the end of the day, not only are we trying to create a downtown that is vibrant, but we need to increase the tax base in the downtown as well.

The assessed values of those properties. As you alluded to for years, those downtown office buildings have been paying significant amounts of property taxes, a big share of the property taxes. And when those assessed values dropped, unfortunately, you know, the tax responsibility was shifted to the other nonresidential, property owners around the city. It's kind of the donut around the downtown.

And so their taxes increased significantly. And in 2019 and 2020, we heard and we heard loud and clear from that sector that enough is enough. And so by increasing the assessed values of the buildings downtown, that'll help bring more stability to our tax system as well.

Jose Rodriguez

So why would somebody living in the suburbs care about Calgary's downtown? I mean, I can go shopping in my community, fuel up. I don't really need to come downtown. Why would I care?

David Duckworth

Well, we're hoping that residents do. And so, the city, in partnership with the province and the federal government, there's been a lot of, investment and infrastructure around our downtown core. So we want Calgary and we want people from across the province and in other provinces in the world coming to Calgary and spending time in their downtown core.

We've invested in, we're in the process of designing and soon to be built, a brand new event centre in our culture and entertainment district, a brand new convention center that has just been completed and soon to be open.

A half $1 billion investment in our Arts Commons project. And so the design reveal is coming really soon, and that's super exciting. And so, again, we're hoping our downtown is incredibly vibrant, where Calgarians and others are coming to experience it. A healthy downtown, vibrant downtown is it's vital for any city anywhere in the world. And so when you travel, when you go to a place that's got a vibrant downtown, it's just got this feel where you want to come back and experience things.

And so that's what we're doing. You know, on the culture and entertainment side, we're hoping that people want to come downtown, work downtown, live downtown and visit downtown. And so that's the journey that we're on right now.

Jose Rodriguez

So it's hard to talk about downtown without talking about safety or even perceptions of safety. Downtown thoughts.

David Duckworth

Yeah. You know, during and slightly after the pandemic, again, cities around the world had struggles with massive challenges where people were no longer working in their downtown core and they were still working remotely. And, with the opioid crisis, with people that were unhoused, you know, there was a lot of social disorder, not just here in Calgary, but around the world.

And so it took a while for us to, you know, get a handle on that. We still have a ways to go. And so we had safety issues on our transit system, and we had safety issues in our downtown core. We had safety issues across the city. So we work really closely with our partners like Calgary at the Calgary Police Service.

We also have a number of peace officers that do incredible work, across the city to make sure Calgarians are safe. But we've also had to invest. And so that's where some of that in 2023 investments during our budget process to hire 65 additional peace officers, Council approved our public transit strategy, safety strategy last year.

And that's all about having more peace officers in our systems, not just in the downtown, but across the entire city. We recently did a perception survey of Calgarians, and they have noted that there's been marked improvements when it comes to safety, safety and the downtown safety on transit. But again, we have we have a long way to go.

And like I said, every city is grappling with this right now. So we know that public safety is top of mind for Calgarians. I can tell you we are going to do everything that we can do ourselves, and working with our provincial partners to make sure that Calgary is safe for all Calgarians.

Jose Rodriguez

So I'm kind of hogging all the issues here. Anything you want to talk about?

David Duckworth

Oh, gosh. You know, we talked about affordability. I think, kind of our top three priorities right now and will be for our next while is public safety, transit. And the one thing we haven't talked about is housing, affordable housing. Just there's just a recent, article, about 200,000, a little more than 200,000 people migrating, moving to Alberta in 2023.

If we're a third of that, even if we're only a quarter of that, which I'm sure we were, that's 50,000 people or more in a single year.

That's significant.

And with growth, it's great that you have that problem, because the reverse is terrible, because I've worked in a municipality where population decreases, terrible. So it's a good problem to have, but it comes with significant challenges. And one of those challenges around housing.

David Duckworth

And so we need to make sure that we are, again, working with our provincial and federal partners, are doing everything that we can do to make sure that the housing stock, all choices for all Calgarians is available.

And so, we've recently received funding of $228 million, I think, from the Canadian mortgage and housing companies, CMHC. that goes in tandem with our housing strategy, our home is here, housing strategy that our City Council approved, last year in 2023. And it's all about building additional units. And so over the next three years with those funds, we're hoping to build close to 7,000. I think it's 6,800 new market and non-market housing in Calgary over and above what we would experience normally. And so that's about providing more supply and more choice for all to Calgarians, to those that already live here and those that are moving here to make sure that we continue to be an affordable city. At the beginning, you asked a little bit about my story, so why did I move from BC to Calgary?

One of the reasons was for my career, but probably more importantly, our kids were in their early 20s and still in high school and we felt, you know, living in Kamloops, which is a mid-sized small municipality in British Columbia, we would love to live in a in a in a city where our kids want to live and spend the rest of their lives.

And we didn't think that was going to be in Kamloops. We didn't think they would ever be able to move to the Lower Mainland and BC, where we're from originally, the Langley Vancouver area, because it's completely unaffordable. And when we looked at Calgary again, one for my career, it was a great opportunity for me. But secondly, for our kids to come to a city where we felt that they would one day be able to afford to buy a home and raise a family in altogether.

Calgary was incredibly attractive. It still is incredibly attractive. However, we're starting to lose that competitive advantage and everyone's reading about the real estate sector in Calgary compared to other places in Canada. And so we're busting at the seams right now. Again, that's a good thing. But it's also super challenging. And so rents have gone up significantly. The cost of housing if you want to buy has gone up significantly.

Interest rates don't help. So I can tell you, The City of Calgary, we're going to do everything that we can do to make sure we continue to deliver high quality services to citizens at the most affordable rate, but at the same time, do everything that we can do to kind of get out of the way, to move at the speed of business, to make sure that the development community can build these homes for people.

And so we'll do everything we can to cut red, red tape to make sure that a developer can build something that everyone will be proud of. Another issue that we're looking at right now, which is a big hot topic issue, is where we're calling, our zoning for housing, which is, looking at the single family zoning and allowing single family property owners to do something different to build more units.

And so that's a big debate that our city Council is going to have here in April with the community. this is being done across North America as a way to increase supply of housing. And if you increase supply of housing, hopefully that means more affordable housing for everybody. So we're trying to pull as many levers as we possibly can.

But again, public safety, transit and housing would probably be our three biggest priorities that we're working on right now. And I can see those being the big, big priorities for the next at least couple of years.

Jose Rodriguez

When it comes to the rezoning. there are very passionate people on both sides of that argument. how do you balance those things? Because, you know, sometimes the loudest isn't the most and sometimes vice versa. There's a lot of people who have a lot of opinions on what we're, going to do with the rezoning.

David Duckworth

Administration's job is to listen to Calgarians, listen to our elected officials, look to see what's done elsewhere in other municipalities, not just in Alberta, but across Canada, in North America, in the world, quite frankly, and determine from our best professional advice, what are the things that we would recommend that council consider. And so we will always do that.

We are A political; we stay out of the politics. Our recommendations are always based on our best professional advice. We will continue to do that many things that we put in front of Council are really, really contentious. And so when, it comes to zoning and changing zoning, you can go to any public hearing and generally you'll hear the same things, you know, when a piece of property is being rezone, the people in that area in the community don't really like it.

They think they support it, but just not here. It's in the right place. It should be somewhere else. And you hear those same things and I get it. No one wants their neighborhoods to be ruined or disrupted and people invest. Your biggest, single, biggest investment is typically your household. And you take great pride in that. We know that.

And so we want to make sure we're building great neighborhoods everywhere.

So the rezoning, the housing, the rezoning for housing issue that we're looking at right now, it's not in any way intended to ruin neighborhoods. It's intended to make neighborhoods stronger. It's intended to increase the supply of housing. All have different choices across the city and all neighborhoods for everybody.

But that it's very contentious. And so Council will have to weigh listening to the public, listening to administration's best professional advice and figuring out, where do they go with this issue? I can tell you in British Columbia what we're doing right now, it has been mandated from the province that every municipality just has to do that.

You're hearing from the federal government right now, and I think the Office of National Government right now at the federal level, they support these initiatives. But it's contentious. And when it comes down to the grass roots level in municipality, these are really difficult conversations to have, which gets me back to my very first point. Engagement of citizens is so important.

So hopefully this issue, because it is so important to everyone. People really do get engaged. And when I mean get engaged, just do everything you can to learn everything about it and form an opinion pro or against, speak to your elected officials, speak to city administration, come to public hearings, get engaged. By being engaged, we can build collectively an incredible city.

It's not just an elected official. It's not just a Council and Administration working as a team. The missing piece are citizens. Citizens, elected officials and administration need to work together, speak to each other, have healthy debate. but these are difficult issues to deal with. And Council is going to be dealing with one of them very soon.

Jose Rodriguez

Ground level politics as they say. Right. And you got it. So I think we've burst the champagne bottle on the ship on our first podcast. Any parting words?

David Duckworth

This has been great. So I hope these I hope people actually listen to this and it's of some value. I really encourage people to that are listening to this to reach out to myself. There's nothing I like more than speaking to a Calgarians or a business owner to figure out what we can do to make their lives even better.

So I'm hoping this podcast is a way for people to get informed, and most importantly, to get engaged. So thank you for doing this. I look forward to seeing many more that come from the city of Calgary. So kudos to you guys.

Jose Rodriguez

Thank you for joining us today. As always, we value your feedback. So please reach out to us at and tell us what topics you'd like covered and questions you'd like answered.

Until next time, be kind to yourselves. Be kind to each other. And if you see someone without a smile today, give em yours.

Take care.

Categories: Downtown, Housing, Safety