Saturday, October 30, 2010

15 Minutes With Premier Ed Stelmach

The Premier is 10 feet away from me, making himself available to the media - yes, even the bloggers.

This is a sampling of his thoughts...

"... we've got some time to go before the next campaign, but I feel confident..."

"... (the next election) will be in Spring of 2012... I'm not the kind of individual that governs according to polls."

"... we've always had turnover (with candidates)... this reflects the changing values of Albertans..."

"... as we told Mr. Cameron when he was here, you can travel anywhere and talk to anyone (about the oilsands), I'm not sure that's true in (other energy exporting countries)..."

"... when we get to caucus, everyone has the opportunity for a frank, honest discussion... that's my role as Leader, to build consensus within the party..."

"... I get along with (Prime Minister Harper) very well... my job is to advocate for Albertans, and I'm doing that..."

"... I made a commitment we're going to balance (the budget) by 2012-2013, and we're going to do it..."

Friday, October 29, 2010

PC AGM Update 1

Nation, I just got out of the standing-room-only speech that the Premier gave to the assembled party membership and media at the PC AGM.

The speech was led off with a heck of a good opening speech from former (and future?) PC candidate Leah Lawrence (Calgary-Mountainview in 2008).  Lawrence introduced the Premier, who came in to the room to the tones of "Alberta Bound" by Mrs. Savage's future ex, and was VERY warmly received.

The speech started off slowly, with few chances for the assembled masses to bang their "fan-fans", however once the topic of the speech turned to Alberta's role in confederation, and the Premier's vision for the future, the applause came loud and long.  The crowd roared to its feet with Stelmach's statement that "I am ready to lead this party into the next election".

Some (well, one, anyway) in the Twittersphere are reporting an old, disengaged, nervous crowd on hand.  With respect, and I'll leave this to my blogging colleagues to confirm, nothing could be further from the truth in my estimation. I feel positively middle-aged in this room, at the ripe old age of 32.  The energy is tremendous. The spirits are high. And, while a possible election is still quite a ways away (the Premier indicated party nominations would be taking place "by June of next year"), there are over a thousand Progressive Conservatives assembled in this place not out of fear or a desire to watch a car wreck, but because of their passion for this party and province.

Agree or disagree with the PC's, that can ONLY be good news for a province where passion for politics is usually secondary to the local weather.

A Brave New World

Nation, I'm typing this from the media centre at the Progressive Conservative Annual General Meeting in Calgary.

This is noteworthy because, for the first time, the governing party has accredited bloggers as media.

As I write this, I'm sitting next to Jane Morgan, who is busily typing away, probably eviscerating the Blogger Liason for some oversight. ;)

Check out Jane's blog, as well as The Roundhouse, for ongoing coverage from the PC AGM.  You can also follow the events on Twitter, at the hashtag #pcagm

I will try to blog when I can, but no rest for The Enlightened. ;)

- E.S.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ward 14 Recount

Nation, just because I didn't already have ENOUGH to do today... The City has indicated there will be a recount of the Ward 14 Aldermanic ballots, scheduled for 12 noon today.

What, exactly, triggered this recount is unclear at this time, although it seems somewhat unusual given the margin of victory for Election Day winner Peter Demong.  Early suggestions are that to trigger a recount like this requires a formal request from another of the candidates, or a minimum of 100 rejected ballots per polling station.  You may recall that Ward 14 DID experience some ballot shortages on Election Day, so it may be related to that issue.

We'll be all over this story as it develops.

As a reminder, the "unofficial results" at the conclusion of the first count were:

Demong, Peter - 8483
Dur, Richard - 7188
Fox-Mellway, Linda - 5187
Gerelus, Ken - 1324
Kao, Shawn - 5647
Tummonds, Billy The Butcher - 1201

Stay tuned.

- E.S.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FINALIST!

This blog is a finalist in the category of "Best Political Blog" for the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards.  To say I'm floored and humbled would be an understatement.

And, just to prove that The Best Political Team in the Blogosphere (TM) really IS the BEST, CalgaryPolitics.com has been nominated - in the same category as The Enlightened Savage. 
But the good news doesn't stop there - my compatriots from CalgaryPolitics.com have also earned well-deserved individual nominations, in the following categories:

Shane Byciuk - CalgaryDaddy (Family) & CalgaryRants (Political)
Emily Ask - Gin and Tonic (Personal)

Congrats to all!

And...  remember to vote for The Enlightened Savage!  The Final Round of voting closes October 26th - you can vote once every 24 hours!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ward 13 Profile

(before choosing a candidate for Alderman, please see my post on what the job actually entails)

Calgary's Ward 13 includes most of Calgary south of Anderson Road and west of MacLeod Trail.  It's a suburban ward, with many of the communities less than 30 years old.  Several of the communities are lucky enough to border Fish Creek Provincial Park.  Issues most often listed as high priorities in Ward 13 these days include policing, transportation (particularly the SW Ring Road), and preservation of natural spaces (in particular, the Shawnee Slopes issue).

The candidates (listed in alphabetical order, by first name) are:

Andrew Rodych

Rodych is a Shawnee resident, and a graduate of the University of Calgary in Political Science.  An avid recreationalist, he's a frequent user of public transit and an entrepreneur.  He's also due to be schooled by The Enlightened Savage in a game of Axis & Allies some day soon.

The issues that Andrew identifies most closely with are:
  • Real Representation
  • Community Characteristics
  • Budget Transparency

Rodych's website can be found here.
Rodych's audio Savaging can be found here.


Diane Colley-Urquhart

Colley-Urquhart is the incumbent Alderman, having been first elected in 2000.  She was most recently acclaimed, in 2007.  A Registered Nurse for 40 years, Diane still volunteers at the Chronic Pain Centre.  She currently serves as the Chair of the city's Standing Policy Committee on Land Use, Planning & Transportation.

Diane identifies the following issues as important to her:
  • Sustainable Communities & Innovation
  • Transportation & Mobility
  • Public Safety & Security

Colley-Urquhart's website can be found here.


Sandy Jenkins

Jenkins is a geophysicist and business owner, who finished 3rd in the race for Mayor of Calgary in 2007.  An avid sports fan, Jenkins coaches his son's soccer team and has a daughter enrolled in piano and choir (no word on whether Sandy's enough of a singer to coach the choir).

Sandy's issues include:
  • Transit and Transportation
  • Homelessness
  • Recreation, Environment & Community Living
  • Communication & Consultation

Jenkins' website can be found here.
Jenkins' audio Savaging can be found here.


Trevor Hodge

Hodge is a Bridlewood resident with 3 daughters (none of whom, miraculously, have succumbed to "Bieber Fever"), running on an "everyman platform".  He has 25 years' experience in the Hospitality field.

Trevor cites the following as the big issues for Ward 13:
  • Infrastructure
  • SW Ring Road
  • Taxes & the Budget
  • Shawnee Slopes

Hodge's website can be found here.
Hodge's audio Savaging can be found here.

'Twas the Night Before E-Day...

Nation, it's funny how life sometimes ties things up in a neat bow for you.

I started my interviews for Wards 11, 13 and 14 several months ago, with a sit-down interview with James Maxim, candidate for Alderman in Ward 11.  While I was out running errands today, whom do I run into, literally hours before the polls open?  James Maxim.

I thought I'd take advantage of the opportunity to catch up, and ask him how the campaign has been going.

Our conversation appears below.

video

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ward 14 Profile

(before choosing a candidate for Alderman, please see my post on what the job actually entails)

 
Ward 14 includes most of the communities south of Southland Drive, in between MacLeod Trail and the Bow River.  It is a study in contrasts, with swanky lake communities and some of the oldest standing buildings in the city, within the area formerly occupied by the Town of Midnapore.  Fish Creek Provincial Park and the green belt along the eastern bank of the Bow River bless the area with natural appeal - which is one of the reasons the POES (Parents Of the Enlightened Savage) chose to settle there when I was just a wee little Savage.  Issues most often listed as high priorities in Ward 14 include transportation (including the SE C-Train extension), property taxes and snow removal.

 
The candidates (listed in alphabetical order, by first name) are:

 
Billy The Butcher Tummonds

 
Tummonds is a local business owner - I'm a little unclear, as of my print deadline, what business he's in, though.  Deeply involved in the community, Billy has been able - up until now, that is - to keep his deep, dark past a secret...  but no longer.  Tummonds is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  There. I said it.

 
Among the issues that Billy The Butcher wants addressed:
  • Transportation
  • Community Safety & Emergency Services
  • Responsible Leadership
  • Recreation
  • Environmental Issues

 
Tummonds' website can be found here.
Tummonds' Savaging in print can be found here.


 
Ken Gerelus

Gerelus is a tech entrepreneur, who coaches hockey, basketball and soccer in Deer Run.  A father of 2, Ken is also an avid fundraiser and volunteer for local charities and causes.

Ken lists many issues as being important to him, such as:
  • Housing for the aged
  • Traffic & snow removal
  • Fiscal accountability at City Hall

Gerelus' website can be found here.
 


Linda Fox-Mellway

 
Fox-Mellway is the incumbent in Ward 14, having first been elected in 1995.  Most recently, she was acclaimed in 2007. The proud mother is a former President of her local Community Association, and was awarded an Alberta Centennial Silver Medallion in recognition of her volunteer work.

 
Linda lists the following as being important for Ward 14:
  • Mobility & Transportation
  • Sports & Recreation
  • Public Safety
  • The Environment
 
 

 
Peter Demong

 
Demong is a local business owner in Deer Valley, and has served as the Municipal Chairperson of the Progressive Group for Independent Business.  A doting father to 2 girls, Demong's campaign made news with its delcaration that they had managed to knock on every single door in Ward 14 - some more than once.

Peter's policy focus includes:
  • Accountability
  • Transparency
  • Cost Control
  • Taxation

Demong's website can be found here.
Demong's audio Savaging can be found here.


Richard Dur

Dur is a small business owner and expectant father, who moonlights as a political operative (having managed Paul Hinman's successful by-election bid in 2009).  His hand-written "thank-you" notes have been quite a hit on the campaign trail. 

Richard's issues include:
  • Smart Infrastructure
  • Safe Neighbourhoods
  • Taxes
  • Democratic Accountability

Dur's website can be found here.
Dur's Savaging in print can be found here.


Shawn Kao

Kao is a local IT businessman and father to 3 girls.  Originally from just outside of Grande Prairie, Shawn settled down with a Calgary gal, and calls Lake Bonavista home.  He's an avid volleyball player and has been since high school - his team finished 2nd in the Provincial Finals to the mighty Bishop Grandin Ghosts. ;)

Some of Shawn's more frequently-mentioned policy areas include:
  • Infrastructure
  • Transit
  • Quality of Life
  • Snow Removal

Kao's website can be found here.
Kao's audio Savaging can be found here.

Audio: Interview with Wards 11 & 12 CSSD Candidate Michael Annuik

Nation, I had a chance to sit down with incumbent trustee for Wards 11 & 12 Mike Annuik, of the Calgary Catholic school board, last night.  Mike's a pretty good guy - for a St. Francis graduate. ;)  We had a great conversation, and he was kind enough to give me the chance to record it - which, you'll find below.

Michael's interview begins...  now.


video

What Do These Schmucks Do? - Mayoral Edition

(re-posted, with edits and additions, from October 2007)

Back to the Queen's Printer, as (once again), nobody at the City of Calgary is inclined to tell us what the Mayor's job is...

General duties of chief elected official

(1) A chief elected official, in addition to performing the duties of a councillor, must
(a) preside when in attendance at a council meeting unless a bylaw provides that another councillor or other person is to preside, and
(b) perform any other duty imposed on a chief elected official by this or any other enactment or bylaw.

(2) The chief elected official is a member of all council committees and all bodies to which council has the right to appoint members under this Act, unless the council provides otherwise.

(3) Despite subsection (2), the chief elected official may be a member of a board, commission, subdivision authority or development authority established under Part 17 only if the chief elected official is appointed in the chief elected official’s personal name.

(Municipal Government Act, Part Five, Division Three)



So, essentially... the mayor is an "Alderman-at-large" required to swing the gavel at meetings.

Again, as with Aldermen, the Mayor can do much more if he (or she) wants to get re-elected. Ralph Klein, when he was Mayor of Calgary, focused on the task of communicating with the people that the council served. Bronco seems to view the mayor's role as more of a leader, helping to set the priorities of council as he believes the people of Calgary wish them to be. Each mayor, and each candidate for mayor, would bring their own interpretation of what the role actually entails.

As long as they've got good gavel technique, none of them is wrong... but some are more right, in the eyes of the voters, than others. Therein lies the difference between "Mayor Such-and-such" and "defeated mayoral candidate Such-and-such".

So...  what does it take to be a good Mayor, E.S.?

"Mayor E.S."...  I like the sound of that...

The skill set necessary to be a good mayor depends entirely on the type of mayor that a candidate would like to be.  For example, a great long-term vision isn't really necessary if you're going to be a "referee mayor", like Al Duerr - the ability to keep a cool head and understand the rules governing meetings is probably more of an asset in that case.  But, let's take a stab at this anyhow...

Political Acumen - a good mayor will know when to hold them, and know when to fold them.  If s/he is disinclined to fold them, they'll need to know how to bluff the rest of council.  At the end of the day, though, the mayor is going to have to find themselves on the WINNING side of more motions and votes than the losing side - whether or not it was the side they were on going in to that meeting.

Management Ability - "I don't need them to love me, I just need them to obey me."  Such words have been said by many leaders through history, and it's really no different at City Hall.  The paper shufflers in the Administration department need to understand, above all else, that Calgary's elected Mayor is NOT starring in a re-make of "Yes, Minister" - the one person on council who can say they were elected by, and speak for, the ENTIRE city is the Mayor.  The Administration, a group of rather well-paid people, need to respect the People's Voice while they cash in their paycheques drawing on the People's Property Taxes.  A successful Mayor should make those around him or her WANT to do this, rather than having to fight them over it.

Understanding of Council Procedures and Policies - At the end of the day, whether the Mayor is going to be a bold visionary or a referee making sure every Alderman gets a chance to speak on an issue, they need to understand the written Rulebook that governs debate and administration at City Hall.  You can't win the game if you don't know the rules - and it's even more important if you're the one holding the gavel and chairing the meetings.  NOTHING is more embarassing in a meeting environment than to watch the Chair being informed that what they just tried to do is against the rules - it's like watching a player explain to a referee what constitutes "tripping".

Communications Ability - Not just to speak to Council and to the public, but also to LISTEN to what they're being told BY Council and the public.  As an effective "alderman-at-large", a Mayor who is well-informed can swing a vote, and effectively offer a 2nd vote on Council to the residents of the Ward most affected by an issue or motion.  This requires having the humility to say, and MEAN, things like "this isn't what I would have preferred, but the people of the city have made their opinion clear, and it is my job in this instance not to lead, but rather to serve".

Judgement - As I mentioned above, the mayor is going to have to know when it's appropriate to keep pushing something, and when to back down.  An extension of this is the fact that there are dozens if not hundreds of times each day when the Mayor has to make choices that aren't perscribed by the Rule Book, or by precedent - they're going to need to be able to make tough decisions, with relatively little time to spare.  Being well-informed on most issues is ideal, however often unachievable given the tremendous number of issues that the City has to deal with on a daily basis.  The Mayor will have to be able to judge when it is appropriate to act quickly, and when it is more appropriate to seek more information before giving instructions to Administration.  Not EVERY issue needs a 9-month study - but the ones that DO, should see one done.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The ‘Real’ Disappointments

Nation, one of the things I'm most excited about to come out of this election on the Social Media side of things is the birth of a new blog, by (until now) guest blogger Christina Rontynen and her "plus one".  Being the megalithic blogging presence that I am, I take full credit for the creation of this blog, as well as Calgary Rants and (by extension) Calgary Daddy, not to mention CalgaryPolitics.com.  Add to this the fact that I single-handedly wiped Alberta Tory off the map, and scared Calgary Grit so badly he had to move to Toronto, and it becomes clear that the greatest force shaping the landscape of the Albertan blogosphere isn't rain or wind - it's The Enlightened Savage. ;)

This is the final entry of a series that began with an open invitation by Christina for candidates to show her "the real them".

Christina's post begins...  now.

*****
I started this blogging adventure with an invitation to all mayoral candidates to hang out and let me get know the person behind the politician. I received an overwhelming response – McKenzie, Nenshi, Burrows, and Higgins. So thanks – to those of you that followed me along my adventure.

I thought it was only fair to let you know my dialogues ... or non-dialogues ... with the candidates I didn’t have a chance to hang out with. It’s only transparent and fair of me to give some credit where credit is due.

The most credit goes to candidate Jon Lord. We attempted to make schedules jive several times. We spoke back and forth through Facebook messages. I liked that – very personal – very friendly and obviously evidence he monitors his own account. He sent me an official invitation to watch him speak at his church on Thanksgiving Sunday. His topic was “enthusiasm” – something he told me he was excited about. I do think he has shown great enthusiasm throughout this race. My own Thanksgiving family commitments did not allow me to go that morning – although any other Sunday I would have gone happily and I would have dragged @ppilarski along too. Lord followed up with an invitation for coffee down in his neck of the woods in SW Calgary – or Chinese for dinner one night. Apparently, he enjoys it “once and while”. I told him my schedule and did not hear back. I chalk that up to it being the last week before the election. He certainly tried and I appreciate that.

Jon Lord also commented on my original blog posted on CalgaryPolitics.com. This to me shows that from day one he had an interest in sharing with Calgarians the ‘real’ man behind the campaign.

Ric McIver doesn’t get credit but his team of volunteers does. After my blog went up I was contacted by one of his youth volunteers, a University of Calgary student that was heading up his “McIver for Mayor” efforts on campus. He perceived this blog, and invitation, as a great opportunity for Ric. He told me he had forwarded it on to a “higher level” in the campaign and I would hopefully hear from someone soon. Time passed and I didn’t hear from anyone. At the beginning of October I sent a follow up email to this volunteer and copied an email address I found on the website. The volunteer replied again saying that they were attempting to get me on the schedule. I followed up one last time and was basically told he was busy with other media requests. Understandable. I very much appreciate his team attempting to get me some time with Ric – I feel like I can almost be certain he had never heard of the blog. But who knows. I think this blog could have been quite interesting if given the opportunity to write it. McIver comes across as a politician to the core. What does he do on a Saturday night? I can’t even imagine! I hear he is big into our arts community ... perhaps a play? Or time listening to the CPO?

I did attempt to talk to Hawkesworth. He didn’t get in touch with me – but his online army certainly did when my blogs began to come out. I thought it would be worth reaching out myself. An email received no response. Numerous tweets to Bob directly were not replied to – this to me was the most surprising because throughout #yycvote I had been involved in a few back and forths with Bob on Twitter. Most having to do with authenticity and using social media appropriately. I remain perplexed as to why Bob wouldn’t reach out to my invitation via Twitter. I asked his online army to pass along my invitation as well – it met the response that they wouldn’t because I was biased and would write negatively about their candidate. Too bad – I also think it would have been fun hanging out with Bob, especially after the latest Herald article about his thoughts on spending the day at the spa after realizing his 30 year political reign in the city had come to an end. I would never turn down a chance to get a pedicure.

I never heard a peep from Connelly – although I did mention I’d be interested in sitting down with him to a family member of a volunteer on his campaign.

Wayne Stewart approached me at a forum I attended and said with a big smile, “It is so nice to see the young people getting involved in politics.” That was the last I heard of him. And I know I’m young but the whole encounter turned me off. I’m not just a “young person” curious about politics – I’m passionate about them and about this city, and striving to choose the best mayor for the job. I never heard from his campaign – I did mention the blog to someone volunteering for him and he said he would mention it during a campaign meeting.

Bonnie Devine, Barry Erskine, Sandra Hunter, Gary Johnston, Dan Knight, Amanda Liu ... well I don’t blame them for not getting in touch with me because I don’t think they’ve gotten in touch with anyone.

I talked to Fech in person – he was flabbergasted I had been tweeting about him ... that anyone had been tweeting about him. And I really get the sense that we have all been exposed to the ‘real’ Oscar Fech over the course of this election, and every election that he has been involved with. What you see is what you get with that guy and I certainly hope he isn’t going away – the next council will need his outspoken accountability just as much as the last. Citizens like that are what keep politicians on their toes.

Actually I’m hoping we can all be “citizens like that” via social media long after #yycvote is over. I want this passion to transfer over to #yyccc ... so I’ll see you there Calgary!

(Cross posted on pcinyyc.wordpress.com)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why I Don't Want You To Vote

Wow...  didn't think I'd ever be using THAT particular series of words in the title of a blog post...  but, there you have it.  Clear as day.

...

Yup. Still there.

Nation, there is a clear and present danger to our democracy out there.  It lurks in the shadows, hides behind the steering wheels of mini-vans, walks the dog...

This threat?

The scourge of the Uninformed Voter.

Now, I want to be perfectly clear on this point: EVERYONE who is eligible has the absolute right to vote, and that should never change.  Your vote, informed or uninformed, is just as valid as mine.

Therein lies the problem, though.

Because I've spent hours researching these candidates, and their opinions.  Chances are, as someone reading this, you've spent a lot of time doing the same.  The very act of reading a blog or one of those ancient proto-blogs that they print on paper (whatever happened to those things?) is a sign of your engagement.  But, thousands of people who have done no research, attended no forums, or asked no questions even of themselves about the future of their city will be walking into the polling place on Monday, and they will be casting a ballot.  A ballot based on name recognition. Or on which candidate appears at the top. Or who has the most vowels in their name. Or because their neighbour has a sign on their lawn.

That ballot cancels my ballot out.  It renders my vote moot.  And the next person who comes into that polling place, and votes from a place of ignorance, cancels out YOUR well-researched ballot.  Casting an uninformed ballot is, in many ways, more damaging than casting no ballot at all.

It is my fervent hope that the majority of voters are people who have taken advantage of the plethora of media opportunities, be they traditional, print, or social, to make an informed decision.  But if you know of someone who HASN'T done so, I want you to try to point them in this direction. Give them the URL to CalgaryDemocracy.ca, or CalgaryPolitics.com. Talk to them, in as unbiased a way as possible, about what you've observed from the candidates in your area.

And if they won't engage, I want you to look them in the eye, and tell them to stay home on Election Day.  Stay home, because their ignorant vote is cancelling out the informed vote of someone who went out of their way to get informed.

Because they have the right to vote.

But with that right comes a responsibility to engage in the electoral process, and get informed.

And if they're not going to engage, they should stay home on Election Day.

Because just because you have a RIGHT to do something, doesn't mean that you SHOULD do it. ESPECIALLY if you've ignored your associated responsibilities.

And this is one of those times.

Get informed, or stay home.

Don't steal my vote from me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Text: Interview with Ward 14 Candidate Richard Dur

Nation, I had the pleasure over the past several weeks of exchanging emails with Ward 14 Aldermanic candidate Richard Dur.  I took advantage - as you'd expect - to send some questions his way.  His responses are below.  And, based on his final answer, I'd think he's a natural to show up to the CalgaryPolitics.com Election Night Party at Beckham's.  ;)

Richard's interview begins...  now.

*****

E.S.: Snow removal in the city, particular in Ward 14, is – as you put it on your website – “a farce”. How do we get Calgarians moving in the winter, and keep our roads – including residential roads – in safe, drivable condition, without the huge tax increases that the current council has insisted would be required?


R.D.: By eliminating wasteful spending at city hall such as what we've seen with the $25 million designer bridge so that there is more room in the budget for things Calgarians really care about such as snow removal. I also favour use of private contractors to bolster city ice clearing crews and allowing Calgarians who own snow-removal equipment to get approval to use this equipment to help clear streets and pathways that may be of less immediate priority then major thoroughfares etc instead of penalizing them as is currently the practise.



E.S.: You pledge to use your office budget only to communicate with the residents of the Ward, and not waste on entitlements such as dry cleaning. Mayoral candidate Ric McIver, however, defended the expensing of dry cleaning in 2008, saying "In a city of a million people, I'm not sure people want their representatives looking shabby". Do you think Alderman McIver is wrong on this issue?

R.D.: I agree with Ric McIver's point that "In a city of a million people, I'm not sure people want their representatives looking shabby" - but I don't agree taxpayers ought foot the bill for it - and I'm not sure Ric McIver does either - who, after the publication of Aldermanic expenses, took the right step by reimbursung taxpayers the full amount of his drycleaning bills.



E.S.: You’re expecting your first child in December. Do you feel that the 70-to-80 hour work weeks associated with the job of Alderman will seem easier than the sleep schedule that a newborn baby would allow?

R.D.: Thank goodness I have the wife that I do who'll make both tasks seem considerably easier than they otherwise would be.



E.S.: You talk on your website about the need for responsible use of tax dollars and accountability – would you be in favour of the proposal to put every city contract on the web, for any citizen or interested company to view?

R.D.: There's no doubt that we need both greater accountability and transparency at city hall. Online publishing of city contracts would probably be a step in the right direction - and give bloggers like yourself a heyday!



E.S.: You attended the CalgaryPolitics.com Bowling Fundraiser, in support of Brown Bagging It For Calgary’s Kids. Who was the best bowler on your lane?

R.D.: My wife or one of the volunteers we had out...definitely not me.



E.S.: You’ve spoken on the need to clean-up our C-Train stations, so Calgarians can feel safe using public transportation at night – how can we do this?

R.D.: By providing Police and neighbourhood watch groups with the resourses and tools they need. Also, by discouraging loitering about C-Train stations and by continuing to work with federal and provincial elected representatives to strengthen our criminal justice system.



E.S.: What is your favourite campground in Kananaskis Country?

R.D.: Blue Rock Campground



E.S.: You’re asking residents of Ward 14 to fire their current Alderman, Linda Fox-Mellway, and hire you for the job. In 100 words or less, tell them why they should do that.

R.D.: I'm running to be our neighbourhood's next Alderman because I want to bring a common sense, conservative approach to City Hall and get this city back on track. I love Calgary, and I know we can do better than the mostly out of touch politicians there now. Ward 14 needs a fresh approach. On October 18, vote for common sense. Vote Richard Dur for Alderman.



E.S.: Are you in favour of stricter election financing rules? If so, tell me what sort of rules you’d like to see.

R.D.: I do have a concern with what happens to the money raised after the end of a campaign. I think the money should be used to cover expenses associated with the campaign and any remainig funds either given to charity or used for reelection - not pocketed by the candidate.



E.S.: What is the best place to grab a bite to eat in Ward 14, in your opinion?

R.D.: I'm a big fan of pub fare so either Dixon's or Brewsters.

What Do These Schmucks Do? - Alderman Edition

(Nation, the following is a re-post, with edits and additions, of a post I put out in October 2007.)

The City of Calgary, whether by design or by unbelievable oversight, has NO information available on-line as to what, exactly, an Alderman's job really IS.

Therefore, I have little recourse but to consult the Book of Armaments - er, I mean, the Queen's Printer, and take the words right from the legislative horse's mouth:

General duties of councillors


Councillors have the following duties:
(a) to consider the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole and to bring to council’s attention anything that would promote the welfare or interests of the municipality;
(b) to participate generally in developing and evaluating the policies and programs of the municipality;
(c) to participate in council meetings and council committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which they are appointed by the council;
(d) to obtain information about the operation or administration of the municipality from the chief administrative officer or a person designated by the chief administrative officer;
(e) to keep in confidence matters discussed in private at a council or council committee meeting until discussed at a meeting held in public;
(f) to perform any other duty or function imposed on councillors by this or any other enactment or by the council.

(Municipal Government Act, Part Five, Division Three)

Vague? Sure... but that's legislation for you. To avoid having 480 different Acts, they write as vague an Act as possible, so everyone will fit into it.

For their part, the City of Calgary's Bylaw department doesn't list any Bylaws that would amend or add to the responsibilities, as allowed for in section (f).

Near as I can tell, then, the job of an Alderman with the City of Calgary is to a) show up at meetings, and b) don't spill the beans on top-secret projects. At least, legislatively, that's the job. In reality, there are many other things that can win you the support of your constituents for years to come. Acting swiftly and decisively to get their concerns heard and dealt with at City Hall would be a good start.

Of note, is the fact that several candidates for Alderman in this election state on their websites that they intend to "run the ward" in a certain way. In fairness, they MAY mean "run the ward office", and they simply mis-spoke. It should be clearly noted, though, that we are not electing 14 little Mayors to run small segments of the city - an Alderman's job is to represent the people of their ward, not to govern them as a personal fiefdom. The collective will of Council, all 15 members, governs the City of Calgary. Your Alderman "runs" your ward as much as your MLA or MP runs your riding - which is to say, not at all.

THEY make decisions, as part of a larger body, on YOUR behalf. Without you, they have no franchise to exercise. Remember (because some of them will forget from time to time, and will need reminding) that THEY work for YOU. And, if your Alderman HAS forgotten for whom they work in the past 3 years - show up on October 18th and remind them who call the shots.

So...  tell me, E.S. - what does it take to be a good Alderman?

I thought you'd never ask.  Given the above listed responsibilities, I'd say the following items are of paramount importance in someone who wants this job...

Time - the job of Alderman is a 60-to-80 hours work week, on average.  The people who get elected need to be able and willing to put that time in.
Communications Skill - It's important for an Alderman to be able to articulate to the City Council and Administration this wishes of her or his Ward.  It's JUST as important, though, for that Alderman to be capable of listening to those concerns FROM the Ward - because if you don't know what your bosses think, you can't explain that to your co-workers and employees at City Hall, no matter HOW good a public speaker you are.
Bargaining Ability - Politics is the art of the impossible.  In City Council, it's about sitting down with 15 people representing little pieces of the city, and coming out of the room with resolutions to issues that will keep everyone satisfied.  Being able to build and work with that team on Council is how things get done - and a successful Alderman needs to be able to do that.
Fiscal Awareness - The City Budget is a massive document, outlining spending that is measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Those would be dollars that belong to you and me, by the way.  A successful Alderman will not only be able to read that budget, but they'll be able to keep in mind just that fact - that they're not CITY dollars, they're CITIZEN dollars.
Humility - The height of wisdom, is knowing what you do not know.  Alderman serve on committees where they often have little if ANY practical background or knowledge when elected.  Our Alderman need to be able to admit, if to no one but themselves, when they're faced with a situation where their handle on an issue is insufficient to deal with the issue at hand.  If it means taking courses quietly at SAIT, MRU, Bow Valley College or U of C to get up to speed, so be it.  If it means just going to the stakeholders or the community to get more information, that's fine too.  But ego can't get in the way if the Alderman hopes to do a good job.
Visibility - The successful Alderman is the one who actually responds to constituent concerns (right, Helene?).  An Alderman needs to make sure that they're in the public eye, and can be accessed by the public.  It's possible to be incredibly effective while staying in back room meetings and out of the public eye - but only for one term.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Text: Interview with Wards 11 & 12 CSSD Candidate Kim VanKosh

Nation, find below the responses to an email interview with Ward 11 & 12 Calgary Catholic School Board candidate Kim VanKosh.

E.S.: What are, in your own words, the primary roles of a Catholic School Trustee?


KVK: A Catholic School Trustee is responsible to ensuring both government legislation and Church Law are both upheld within the school district. They must advocate for appropriate funding and ensure that the funding that is received is spent in a responsible manner and that maximum dollars end up at the classroom level. Finally, a school trustee must set goals, priorities and policies for the administration and to ensure that the administration is meeting those goals, priorities and policies.



E.S.: What challenges do the schools in your Wards face that are unique within the system?

KVK: The schools in the growing southeast could not accommodate the number of students. While the opening of Christ the King has significantly eased the burden, there were many parents and students that underwent uncertain and stressful times prior to the school opening. The uncertainty is continuing as some parents I have talked to in recent weeks are unclear on where the boundaries will be after the new school in Copperfield opens in 2012.

The school board needs to ensure that our high schools can accommodate the number of students that will be coming up the pipe. It would be prudent to have appropriate high school planning so that the same accommodation problems experienced at the elementary level are not repeated at the high school level.



E.S.: Athletic and Arts programs, particularly at the High School level, are some of the most expensive programs in the system. Funding for these programs is often achieved through school fees and special fundraising campaigns, however the primary source of income has traditionally been gaming revenue, which has since been phased out at the Bishop’s urging. How would you propose schools address the absence of gaming funds when trying to fund Arts or Athletic programs?

KVK: The School Board has set up a Foundation to assist in replacing the funds that were previously received from gaming revenue. However, this foundation has a long way to go and funds are needed in the meantime. I have suggested that the Board hold a parent/trustee forum on fundraising ideas for school councils. The Board has not held a session yet however I would hope that one on this topic would be held in the future. This would allow school councils to share ideas on what worked and what didn’t work for fundraising.

Another potential avenue for revenues is for schools to set up a society. As a charitable organization, a society can apply for grants such as the community spirit grant.



E.S.: How do you feel your own experiences with the Catholic school system make you the most qualified candidate to sit as Trustee in your Wards?

KVK: I have been an active volunteer at the school that my sons attend both in the classroom and on school council. I have sat vice chair for one year and chair for two years at Cardinal Newman School. I have also been involved in the Inspiring Education Initiative. This involvement has allowed be to keep up to date with the happenings with the school district. Also, since my children are in elementary school, I hear the concerns of parents everyday. I can relate to these concerns and these concerns and feedback is something that I can bring to the Board.



E.S.: As the city continues to expand, new schools need to be built & staffed in the suburbs, while schools in older areas see diminished student numbers. How do we, as a system, deal with the utilization rate at some of our older schools?

KVK: The Board of Trustees has done an admirable job looking at the options for operationally small schools. In two instances, meetings were held with stakeholders and community members. Input and ideas from people in the community were put forward. The Board listened to these ideas and there are currently two operationally small schools that have implemented new programs to keep the schools open. This has worked well for the Calgary Catholic School Board and I would suggest that they continue finding solutions in this manner.



E.S.: Are you in favour of selling closed school buildings and lands, or keeping the assets in CSSD hands and leasing the space to other groups to use?

KVK: Answering this question would require a cost analysis. I do not have access to the information that is required to answer this question.



E.S.: One of the more contentious issues of the last term was the decision of the CSSD to not offer immunizations against human papillomavirus (HPV) in schools to Grade 5 girls, on the grounds that it might appear the CSSD was condoning pre-marital sex. What is your opinion about this issue?

KVK: I agree with the decision made by the school district. The Calgary Catholic School District provides a Catholic education and I agree that administering the HPV vaccination could appear that the district was condoning pre-martial sex.



E.S.: School facilities such as auditoriums and gymnasiums are currently booked by community groups for after-hours use through the City of Calgary’s Recreation department – often at costs significantly higher than to book at a private facility. Would you like to see this policy reviewed?

KVK: I do not have enough information to answer this question. However, I would consider that the district should generate revenues from school facilities if it is able to do so.



E.S.: How do you expect Bill 44 will affect the teaching of the Family Life unit in Catholic schools?

KVK: Bill 44 is about informing parents when sexuality and religion are discussed in class and giving parents the option of excluding their child from the class. The school district is currently looking at how to adhere to Bill 44.



E.S.: A significant minority of students in the CSSD come from Catholic or other Christian backgrounds, but choose themselves not to practice the faith. Should accommodations be made for these students, in terms of Religious Studies curriculum or school masses?

KVK: No, I do not consider that special masses or curriculum should be put in place for non-Catholics that attend a Calgary Catholic school. However, I also consider it okay for students that are not baptized Catholic or do not partake in the Catholic sacraments to attend a Catholic school. While some students may not participate fully, I consider it to be important that these students are experiencing and learning some Catholic teachings.



E.S.: Tell us why the voters of your wards should replace their current Trustee and put you in their place?

KVK: I am passionate about Catholic education and I have the skills and experience to be an effective school trustee. None of the current trustees have children in elementary school. My children are in grade 1 and 3 and I also have one that hasn’t entered school yet. The board is missing a representative from this large segment of students. The benefit of having younger children is that I hear what this segment of parents is saying everyday and I can bring this perspective to the Board of Trustees.

I am currently in my eighth year teaching strategic planning at the University of Calgary. The benefit of this is that it gives me the skills required to work with the board in designing a vision and setting goals and objectives for Calgary Catholic and more importantly how to put that vision, goals and objectives into action.

I have a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Calgary and have over 17 years of experience, 11 years in private business and 6 years in the government sector. I have been responsible for multi-million dollar budgets. I have also been responsible for reviewing the prudency and reasonableness of forecasts and budgets for large utility companies in order to set utility rates. The benefit of this is that I know the importance of being fiscally responsible and I am able to ensure that your tax paying dollars are being spent appropriately.

My information about my priorities and background can be found on my website; http://www.kimvankosh.ca/.

‘Real’ Encouragement from a ‘Real’ Passionate Calgarian: Drinks with Barb Higgins

Nation: The following is a submission from FOES (Friend Of the Enlightened Savage) Christina Rontynen.  It is also posted at her shiny, new blog: PC in YYC

Christina's text appears...  now.

*****

I had been attempting to sit down with Barb since the week after my original blog had been published. A member of her team contacted me and let me know that this “interview” was important to them. Throughout the course of the last month I received emails and the occasional phone call asking my availability for the week ahead. On Friday night I was asked if I could be flexible over the long weekend. As a citizen blogger my answer was, of course, YES - except for the thanksgiving dinner factor on Sunday night. That was unlucky for me because I was invited to experience the Flames home opener with Barb that night. I really chalked it up to bad luck and bad timing. The next morning, to my surprise, one of Barb’s volunteers called and asked if I could meet for drinks at 8pm.


My day continued like any other – and when 7pm rolled around @ppilarski and I got ready and headed out to meet the mayoral candidate. We were meeting at Earls on 4th Street; as a resident of Mission Barb says that 4th Street is one of her favourite hangout spots, especially the Joyce.

We were greeted by a Barb volunteer and sat down in the restaurant. We chatted for a bit, and found out Barb was on route. At this moment her partner, Brad, walked in. He sat down with us and was surprised I was the blogger. I started to explain the concept to him and Barb barrelled into the restaurant. I say barrelled because she has so much energy that you literally feel it when she enters the room – big smile, moving quickly, bright appearance. She is with her campaign manager. Brad and the manager excuse themselves to the lounge; they have a football game to watch. Barb sits down right beside me and says she wants to be close so that she can get to know me.

She is wearing jeans, a blazer and a scarf. I noted this because I’ve never seen her in jeans during the course of this race. I appreciated that she came casually – she came as her weekend self. The first thing she explains is about keeping her purse around her ankle on the floor. A stolen purse in South America taught her that lesson. This leads to a conversation about travelling. The conversation about travelling leads to a conversation about Calgary. This was a turning point in our conversation. At first it was clear that Barb really did not know what to expect – but she warmed up to @ppilarski and me, and started being ‘real’ within a few minutes.

After her warm up it became very clear that her strength was being one on one with people. She looked you right in the eye when you spoke and when she responded. She never hesitated and she never held back. She was enthusiastic, down to earth, and exuded confidence.

“There is nowhere else on earth like Calgary. The energy here is different. You can propose an idea and people get excited about it. They want to do it and they find a way to get it done. It’s refreshing. I love it here.”

We agree that Calgary is a special place; it breeds and attracts individuals that are bold go getters. It’s clear she understands the people of this city. I’ve grown up here my entire life – I know that vibe, I live that vibe, and it is important to me that a mayoral candidate would recognize it and be willing to nurture it.

We talk about her campaign. “I feel like we have finally figured it out – we are finally gelling.” She explains that she felt as if she couldn’t be herself early on in the campaign. She couldn’t handle that anymore, switched up her campaign team (as we all know), and finally felt free to speak her mind and run the campaign the way she envisioned it. I feel like getting to spend some time with her was a direct result of a more organized team – a guest blogger for CalgaryPolitics was no longer on a list, but on the “things to do” list.

I ask her about social media – I had to it’s my passion. “I tried the Twitter thing. At the beginning it was all me and I’d respond to tweets before bed. I was willing to get behind it and use it every day but people just got really nasty. I stopped surrounding myself with nasty people in my real life a long time ago. You shouldn’t surround yourself with those people. If I was sitting here with someone treating me badly I’d pay the bill, wish them well and leave. That’s what I did with Twitter.” She explained what an avid Facebook user she was before the election. She loved sharing pictures and catching up with friends online. She suspended her personal Facebook account for the election and is focusing on her political one. She likes it and feels she is using it effectively. She likes responding to comments online. “It’s like we are sitting here at Earl’s, we are having a good time, but the people at the Joyce across the street are mad because we are here and they are over there. Come on! I picked a restaurant and you are free to come here too. That’s kind of how I feel about Facebook and Twitter. I ended up picking one and anyone is welcome to join me there.”

I’m impressed by her understanding of social media and how it is being used. True, she had no idea about my blog but she did understand its potential and knew about CalgaryPolitics. She told me she was tired of going to bed angry after reading the day’s tweets. I can live with that response. We are all aware there are some angry voices on Twitter this election (something I need to blog about too). Do I wish she would have tried Twitter longer, yes; do I think she understands it will be important to engage on social media in some way if she wins the mayor’s chair, yes.

A conversation about Facebook undoubtedly leads us to a discussion about friends. Those are the people that convinced her running was what she needed to do. Similar to Nenshi, she was looking for a strong candidate to support and bring change to city council. When she didn’t find that, she started to realize that perhaps she needed to step up. “I was physically surrounded by friends at a Wednesday night Stampede party. They were from all different areas of my life, old and new.” They all wanted her to run for mayor, so she invited them over for breakfast on Friday. Dressed in Stampede gear, they all committed to Barb to help; she made them look her right in the eye and promise.

“Then I realized I had to quit my job!” She took time off from work and came in to give notice over her holidays. “I usually go out of town when I’m on vacation from work so when I walked into the newsroom everyone knew something was going on.” Darryl Janz, of course, took the news the hardest. “He cried. I love him. He is a special man.” Barb hasn’t regretted a single moment since. “I know in my heart this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.”

During the course of our conversation Barb says hello and gives big thanks to a table of her volunteers beside us. She tells me that she spent Sunday phoning volunteers and thanking them, “that’s what I was thankful for this Thanksgiving. I just can’t explain how thankful I am to all these people. I never expected it. I knew I’d have name recognition and people would trust me after my experience as their evening news anchor, but this has been incredible.”

We talk about the fact that the mayor will have to deal with becoming a local celebrity. “I dealt with that in my twenties,” Barb explains. “I have learned how to use my influence to highlight issues that matter. This isn’t about me. I’m doing this because I can facilitate change and point out the issues in this city.” She alludes to the fact that some candidates running will have to adjust to all the popularity they will receive; walking down the street won’t just be walking down the street anymore. She won’t need this adjustment time.

Barb pays the bill as soon as it gets to the table. The waitress recognizes her and we all chat about the election. Barb explains how to vote – unfortunately this young lady has only been a Calgary resident for 2 months.

Barb turns to me directly and shifts her focus. She wants to know about me; something I had asked in my original blog “what would candidates ask me?” @ppilaski and her volunteer begin to banter – it’s just Barb and I. I feel like she has known me for a while, like a mentor. She encourages me on my path of communications and reminds me to go with my gut. We both understand what it is to be passionate and she says she is excited to see where I will end up. Wow. This conversation continues for at least 10 minutes.

I receive a big hug from Barb and @ppilarski gets a firm handshake. “I’m so glad I got to sit down and do this,” Barb gushes, and you can tell she isn’t blowing smoke up my behind ... she genuinely enjoyed giving me an hour and a half of her time. She comments that at this time next week she will be in front of a television biting her nails. One week away from election day and she is still willing to give me so much time. “I wish I could sit down like this with everyone in this city. I want to know their stories. Calgary is made up of people with incredible stories. To understand them is how you understand the needs of the city.”

I walk out with @ppilarski and say “Wow, that’s not what I was expecting.” I’m impressed. She literally opened up her heart for an hour and a half, no pauses, no awkward moments, straight constant attention and conversation, no politicking just people. Her passion and grace overflows – and she is eager to pour it out over Calgary.

Cross posted on pcinyyc.wordpress.com

Why I Won't Tell You For Whom You Should Vote

Nation, I belong to a sub-class of human observer that Ken Chapman and others refer to as "The Influentials". 

This isn't a reflection of status or economic power, but rather a label that reflects the fact that, when people are wondering what's going on in their world, or for whom they should consider casting a ballot, they look to me for guidance.  Not because I'm smarter than they are (unlikely), not because I'm well-connected (somewhat more likely, but still far from a sure thing).  It's because I pay attention - because I'm interested, and I have time.  I've got no exceptional qualifications in this regard, other than simply that - interest, and time.  And so, when the time comes to debate an issue, form an opinion, or cast a ballot, my email fills up, and my phone rings.  "Who should I take a look at?"  "Where do the candidates stand on MY issues?"  "Who should I vote for?"

That last one, you can imagine, isn't being asked by English teachers.  At least, not in those exact words.

The fact of the matter, though, remains that I get asked to tell people for whom they should vote - and it's not something I'm comfortable doing.

I can tell you what *I* think of the candidates, or their campaigns.  I can break down a candidate's platform for you. I can go over the details of why some things may or may not work.  I can tell you "take a look at this candidate".  But I feel VERY uncomfortable telling people how to cast their ballot - because that's a democratically sacrosanct area.  Only YOU can decide who, if anyone, has earned your consent to be governed.

This is why I've never endorsed a candidate on this site, even if they're a friend of mine.  And it's why I'm not going to start now.

I give you more credit than that.

There's a commonly-held sentiment among some pundits, particularly among professional journalists, that the public needs to be "led" to certain decisions.  That the flock, without the firm shepherding of the media, can't make good decisions.

Bull-crap.

I give you more credit than that.
I believe, in my heart of hearts, that if I do a good job of getting you the information, and providing you some service as a "translator" from political-speak to English, that you can make good decisions.  You're smart.  Your opinion matters as much as anyone else's - including mine.  Your vote counts just as much as mine or the vote of anyone else who reports on this stuff.

I encourage you to take a look at the issues, and decide what matters to you.  Look at this site, and at others like CalgaryPolitics.com (for analysis) or CalgaryDemocracy.ca (for raw information straight from the candidates).  Figure out which candidate speaks to your issues, and cast an informed ballot.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same. 

Because when we make INFORMED choices, we make GOOD choices.

The voters always get the government they deserve. An active, informed electorate makes good choices.

But it's THEIR choice to make.

It's YOUR choice.

So make it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Do These Schmucks Do? - School Board Trustee Edition

(Re-posted, with some edits, from October 2007)


With thanks to the Albeta School Boards Association, below is an overview of exactly what a "school board trustee" DOES - handy information, when deciding whom you should elect to the job.


All voters are asked at the polling station for which board they wish to elect a trustee - public or catholic. Make sure to get this question right - your taxes go to whichever board you choose, so make sure you have a say in who gets to spend them!

(ASBA text begins now)

What do school trustees do?

Alberta school boards help shape the future of local communities by governing the education of young people. The provincial government, through the minister of learning grants school boards the independent authority to make decisions regarding the direction and quality of local public education. Accountability to the public is entrenched through the election of local school board trustees every three years. The school board election is October 18, 2010.


School board responsibilities

It’s up to school boards to ensure all children in the community receive a quality education. Specific school board responsibilities include:
  • Communicating, informing and involving parents, staff, and the community-at-large in school board decisions and activities.
  • Adopting an annual budget that achieves jurisdiction priorities.
  • Setting goals and priorities for the jurisdiction that achieve provincial education standards, meet the needs of students and reflect the community’s wishes.
  • Making and enforcing policies that set out standards and expectations regarding the actions of administration, teachers, and students.
  • Lobbying the municipal and provincial governments on education issues of importance to the jurisdiction.
  • Adjudicating policy or decision appeals.
  • Hiring and evaluating the superintendent.


The role of the trustees


A key responsibility for trustees is to stay in touch with community stakeholders so that they understand, and reflect in their decision-making, what all citizens value and want from their local public schools. It’s important to note that trustees do not represent any one school, neighbourhood or community. Rather, they make decisions based on the needs of the entire jurisdiction. As elected officials, trustees have these roles:


Communicators: Trustees ensure the community has a say in what children learn by communicating effectively with stakeholders and ensuring their concerns and wishes are heard.

Planners: Trustees develop plans to deal with student needs and to actively participate in the economic and social strength of local communities.


Policy makers: Trustees create policies to guide administration and staff. They also evaluate the impact of these policies and make adjustments where necessary.


Advocates: Trustees address and seek resolution of public education issues of importance to students, parents, and the community at large.


Educators: Trustees play a key role in developing tomorrow’s citizens because they have the ability to make independent decisions that impact the direction and quality of public education.


Adjudicators: Trustees hear and make judgements concerning local education decisions, procedures or policies that individuals, groups or the public feel are unfair or improper.


Lobbyists: Trustees communicate with the municipal and provincial levels of government to ensure those who influence funding and other resources hear the voice of the local community.


Legislators: Trustees can make decisions that have the status and impact of law -- for example, decisions governing and enforcing the conduct of students and staff.


Politicians: Trustees are elected every three years to govern the local public education system on behalf of the community. The democratic process ensures the public remains part of public education.
(ASBA text ends)
So...  tell me E.S., what does it take to be a good school trustee?
Thanks for asking. :)
To my mind, given the responsibilities outlined above, the following skills and qualities would be important qualifications in someone seeking this particular office:
Fiscal awareness - schools boards spend a LOT of money, but there's only so much that they receive from the provincial government, so they have to make tough budgeting decisions.  Being able to read & understand complicated financial imformation, then, would be useful.
Ability to listen - Trustees are the public access point to the school system.  Parents, teachers, AND students need to feel as though their trustee is actually listening to their concerns, even if they can't always provide the kind of result for which they're hoping.
Non-dogmatic approach - People in public life are just as entitled to their own political ideas as private citizens.  School trustees, though, need to be careful in that they have to show an ability to work with people who have radically different political sensibilities from their own. This IS, after all, the only job in this election where the provincial minister of education can fire you for not playing well with others.
Political Acumen - Trustees don't have to have years of experience in working with local politicians, but if they don't, they have to be fast learners.  A big part of the trustee job is to lobby civic and provincial politicians on behalf of their school district.  Knowing how to speak their language - and being able to learn the dance moves - is a huge asset.
Fairness - Conflict resolution is an important part of the trustee job description. Whether it be within the board itself, conflicts within the community or issues between teachers/students/parents (or any combination thereof), the trustee needs to be able to have every walk away satisfied and unbloodied.  The people who come out on the "losing end" of a decision will eventually forgive the trustee for making it, so long as there's a consistent fairness to that trustee's decisions (ask any parent about consistently fair conflict resolution in their own home - it helps).
Foresight - It's one thing to have to play with the cards you're dealt. It's another thing entirely to be thinking Euchre while the rest of the table is playing Go Fish.  Being able to understand population growth trends, suburban sprawl, transportation issues, and labour developments and think 3, 6, 9, or more years down the road is a HUGE asset in a school trustee.  Being able to understand what's happening to the demographics in this city, where people are moving to and where they're leaving from, who's taking their place, how that affects current schools and where to build the new ones - it's the difference between mowing the lawn and re-landscaping.  It pays to have someone around who can mow, but the landscaper can mow, and also plan for the future.  A vision of the future, unclouded by political dogma, is a major asset for this job.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The ‘Real’ Calgarian Candidate on Skates: Thursday Evening with Craig Burrows

Nation, again we have another great piece by Christina Rontynen, contributing to CalgaryPolitics.com.  This marks the third in a series of pieces that resulted from a post she wrote, asking Calgary's mayoral candidates to show her the "real them".  The ones who have gotten back to her, are getting stories written about the experience. The ones who haven't, aren't.  Any questions?  ;)

Christina's text begins...  now.

*****

I first met Craig Burrows through a mutual friend. It was shortly after my original blog about discovering the real people behind the mayoral candidates that I “bumped” in to him at the Barley Mill in Eau Claire Market. He was immediately interested in the idea of showing people the real him. “I’m an avid golfer. When I’m trying to relax before getting to sleep I dream about being on the green,” he explained while beaming. I told him to take me out for a round – after all I’m a firm believer that everyone’s true colours come out on the course.


Time passed ... and our terrible month of weather continued. Craig contacted me, personally, still eager to show Calgary the man behind the mayoral candidate. He was playing hockey at the Westside Rec Centre on Thursday evening with his team the Stumplejumpers. Yes, I did ask right away what that team name meant, and the response – “Don’t ask!”

Craig has been playing with this group of guys since the Westside Rec Centre opened. Many of his teammates are made up of the volunteers and board members that were responsible for the construction of the Centre. “I literally had to try out [for this team].” Burrows admits it was a tough crowd. But he clearly had what it took to impress them – at least it looked that way on the Thursday evening I went to watch him play.

The team very much looks like a team on the ice and on the bench. They seem to be in sync with one another, and happy to be playing together. The Stumplejumpers are in white jerseys – Craig happens to be wearing his Team Burrows jersey (I’m sure you’ve seen these if you’ve been to at least one of the many mayoral forums). No audience, no cheerleaders. It really is just men and their hockey sticks. A Thursday night away from home being guys, having fun, and letting off a week’s worth of steam. The Thursday night at 9pm ice time is ideal - late enough to spend time unwinding with the family after work and early enough to enjoy some “chicken wings and beer” after the game. “We’ve had the ice time since the Centre opened up. We were able to get it as being one of the first groups to organize. Actually, we were offered $10K for the ice time but this is so important for us that we would never sell it. Thursday at 9pm is perfect.”

This particular game was quite special for the Stumplejumpers – not just because I was there but because the CBC was covering their story as well. This hockey team stacked with real Calgarian boys were receiving their 15 minutes of fame.

The game begins.

Craig starts the game on the bench; he is chatting with the CBC reporter. The black jersey wearing team they are playing against is quite aggressive and the Stumplejumpers are a little lacking on their defence – and losing. Craig comes out in the second period after his CBC interview is completed. I couldn’t help but wonder if this reporter knew hockey ... clearly not. If she were a real sports fan she would have gotten Burrows on the ice as soon as possible. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he plays hockey – I happen to know because I was one of those girls in high school that somehow always ended up dating the hockey playing type. By the way Burrows fires himself on to the ice it is clear he was itching to get out there. He successfully breaks up a play by the black team and assists a goal during his first shift. During his second shift it was clear Craig wants the puck. He is one of those guys banging his stick on the ice and constantly moving around. I was impressed that he was always looking for the pass and was quite skilled at staying open.

The game continues. You can imagine it to be similar to any amateur hockey game you’ve attended. These guys are serious but they are having fun. Craig is always congratulating team members, the first to laugh when someone (including himself) takes a tumble, and drops the occasional “f-bomb”. The last always made me laugh ... wonder how many times he has wanted to let one of those slide during the mayoral forums. Burrows is overall very vocal on the ice – I would confidently call him the most vocal on his team.

He is a good hockey player; he appeared to be tiring half way through his time on the ice, but quickly caught a second wind early in the third period. He is able to play fairly long shifts, clearly an asset to the team. Burrows tells me he started playing hockey as a kid, and played Triple A his whole life. His favourite memory is when he played in front of 16000 people at the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament at 12 years old. He played hockey in university for McGill’s team but quit after school. “I quit right after until I started up again with these guys. I missed it. I love this game.”

The CBC cameraman was making his way around the entire rink during the game. He was taking shots of Burrows on the ice doing his thing. The Stumplejumpers were very conscious of this – and it was hard not to notice the fact that they were trying to give their teammate, Burrows, every opportunity they could. It was endearing. I can’t imagine this is a regular occurrence. The conversation in the locker room, whether Craig was aware or not, was about making their buddy look good. This speaks volumes to me about the attention and respect Craig commands from his hockey playing peers. Craig took every opportunity his boys gave him – including assisting on several goals, and a pretty sweet breakaway ending with a shot on net that bounced off the post.

The last thing I ask Craig is about his favourite NHL hockey player. His team is the Flames (as a sports fan running for Calgary’s mayor I’d say he better be...), and favourite player is Jarome Iginla. “He is a modern day Gordie Howe. If you don't understand, then you don't know hockey!” he continues by talking about the Flames. “My fav team is hands down the Flames - no broken ankles from jumping on and off the bandwagon for me.” He says this with a big smirk on his face.

The real Craig Burrows? I’m impressed by him. And surprised by the lack of attention he has gotten in this race. He is clearly a ‘real’ Calgarian boy. Passionate about the city the way he is passionate about hockey. He is respected by his team mates – an indicator of his character. He is true to his commitments – obviously a valuable member of this team, and obviously in campaign hyper drive he makes sure he is at the game giving his all. He is the teams on ice captain – seeing opportunities and playing strategically. His mind is sharp – he is a politician, a planner, and eager. If his real life on ice tactics translate in to his abilities in the mayoral arena I can see why this team agrees he would be the right choice to lead this city.

(this has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

NOMINATED!

No, Nation, not THAT kind of nomination...  (yet).

Your humble scribe has been nominated in the category of "Best Political Blog" for the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards.  To say I'm floored and humbled would be an understatement.

And, just to prove that The Best Political Team in the Blogosphere (TM) really IS the BEST, CalgaryPolitics.com has been nominated - in the same category as The Enlightened Savage.  In the first round, you can vote for 2 choices. You know what to do. ;)

But the good news doesn't stop there - my compatriots from CalgaryPolitics.com have also earned well-deserved individual nominations, in the following categories:

Shane Byciuk - CalgaryDaddy (Family) & CalgaryRants (Political)
Emily Ask - Gin and Tonic (Personal)

Congrats to all!

And...  remember to vote for The Enlightened Savage!  Round One voting closes on October 17th!

The More Things Change...

Nation, I was doing some research through my archives this morning when I came across this passage, written the morning after the 2007 Civic Election.


Among the issues that Calgarians want Bronco and the new council to deal with (despite his brave "they want exactly what I offered them" face last night):


  • Council Transparency

  1.  A formal record of all council votes
  2. Campaign finance reform
  3. Full disclosure of donors BEFORE voting day

  •  Affordable Housing

  1.  Expansion of capacity and units
  2. Secondary suites - NOT the $25,000 / 20 year-plan Bronco championed (universally panned as an unrealistic farce of a proposal)

  •  Transportation

  1.  Re-routing of the Westward LRT line
  2. South West ring-road
  3. Expansion of C-Train service and capacity

  •  Public Safety

  1.  Increased funding for the Calgary Police, Fire and EMS departments

  •  Environment

  1.  Expansion of curbside recycling to include high density housing
  2. Snow removal (a perrennial complaint)
  3. Protection of the Bow and Elbow watershed, both within and UPSTREAM of the city limits


 
... stop me when any of this starts to sound familiar.
So, I put it to you, Nation - of the items on that list, written 3 years ago - how many have been resolved?

(this has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Text: Interview with Wards 3, 5, & Airdrie CSSD Candidate Linda Wellman

Nation, as the Lead Correspondent for the Catholic School Board Trustee races for the Canadian Blog Award-nominated CalgaryPolitics.com, I've tried to reach out to as many candidates as I could find contact information for (if you're a candidate, and you haven't received an email from me, email me at the address in my bio!).

The first candidate to get back to me with her responses was the incumbent Trustee for Wards 3, 5, & Airdrie, Linda Wellman.

Her responses appear below.

*****

E.S.: What are, in your own words, the primary roles of a Catholic School Trustee?

L.W.: The primary role of a Trustee is to;
• Govern with excellence and act on behalf of ratepayers to ensure that the School District fulfills its mandate in a manner that is reflective of our faith values
• set policy that guides Administration in achieving goals
• ensure the annual budget provides the resources to support the desired outcomes while ensuring fiscal responsibility and accountability
• to hold the Chief Superintendent accountable through regular monitoring that provides evidence of compliance to the Boards’ stated Ends Policies
• Engage members of the community to ensure the Board has input to make informed decisions
• Advocate on behalf of students, parents, staff and ratepayers
• Be accountable to the Minister of Education on all educational matters
• Be accountable to the Bishop on all religious and moral issues
• Be accountable to the electorate
• Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the Administration and of the Board of Trustees
• Be a positive role model both in our schools and in the broader community


E.S.: What challenges do the schools in your Wards face that are unique within the system?

L.W.: Each and every school is unique, no two schools are alike - needs vary from school to school. In some areas within the Ward, the English as Second Language population exceeds the district average. Currently ESL students make up 20% of the overall student enrollment. Notre Dame High School in Panorama Hills and St. Martin de Porres High School in Airdrie have been top priorities on our capital for modernization and additional student spaces, despite our ability to provide the evidence of the critical need in these areas, the government has not been responsive. It is unconscionable that the government has not put in place the budget to address critical needs in our fastest growing communities.


E.S.: Athletic and Arts programs, particularly at the High School level, are some of the most expensive programs in the system. Funding for these programs is often achieved through school fees and special fundraising campaigns, however the primary source of income has traditionally been gaming revenue, which has since been phased out at the Bishop’s urging. How would you propose schools address the absence of gaming funds when trying to fund Arts or Athletic programs?

L.W.: The District has established the Calgary Catholic School Foundation that operates independent from the District and has its own Board of Directors and allocations committee. Schools can make application to receive funds based on the merits of the activity. Schools have available a wide range of fund raising activities they can engage in that is not contrary to teachings of the church. Prior to the Board implementing its new policy on fundraising, less than 40% of District Schools used gaming as a means of fundraising. Schools can access grants from CEFP for playground structures.


E.S.: How do you feel your own experiences with the Catholic school system make you the most qualified candidate to sit as Trustee in your Wards?

L.W.: I have 21 years service as a Trustee for Calgary Catholic and have been involved in many aspects of education both locally and provincially. In addition, I have more than 20 years experience in the Human Resources field; this experience includes payroll, budget forecasts, administration of benefit plans, claims management, and policy implementation. Trustees, as Governors, are responsible for the development of policies that give clear direction, both in guiding the school district and in setting annual budgets that will enable us to achieve our goals.


E.S.: As the city continues to expand, new schools need to be built & staffed in the suburbs, while schools in older areas see diminished student numbers. How do we, as a system, deal with the utilization rate at some of our older schools?

L.W.: Overall, Calgary Catholic has good utilization rates, this is a result of sound planning and utilizing portables that has allowed us to expand and decrease schools to reflect the changing needs of the community. In the inner city we do have schools with smaller student enrollments, in each of these situations the district works with the parents of the school community to find alternatives to increase students numbers. Sacred Heart School implemented gender based instruction to bolster its numbers and St. Angela has been marketed as a workplace school due to its proximity to the downtown core.


E.S.: Are you in favour of selling closed school buildings and lands, or keeping the assets in CSSD hands and leasing the space to other groups to use?

L.W.: Decisions are based on the size of the site, the location, market value etc. Selling off property would bring in one time funds and in accordance to the School Act, the proceeds must be spent on capital, whereas leases generate ongoing income that can be used to subsidize operational expenses and enhance programs. The district has in the past leased space and then reclaimed the space back as the district’s needs changed, this would not have been possible if the sites had been sold.


E.S.: One of the more contentious issues of the last term was the decision of the CSSD to not offer immunizations against human papillomavirus (HPV) in schools to Grade 5 girls, on the grounds that it might appear the CSSD was condoning pre-marital sex. What is your opinion about this issue?

L.W.: (candidate did not respond)


E.S.: School facilities such as auditoriums and gymnasiums are currently booked by community groups for after-hours use through the City of Calgary’s Recreation department – often at costs significantly higher than to book at a private facility. Would you like to see this policy reviewed?

L.W.: School rentals are managed by the JUCC which is an agreement between the City of Calgary, Calgary Catholic and Calgary Public School Boards. My understanding is that rentals are done on a cost recovery basis only. Rental rates are based on overtime rates that are tied to employee contracts, resulting in our inability to compete with the private sector that does not have unionized employees.


E.S.: How do you expect Bill 44 will affect the teaching of the Family Life unit in Catholic schools?

L.W.: It is not expected to make any change at all to program delivery, the Alberta Catholic Schools Trustees’ Association of which every Catholic Jurisdiction is a member and the Minister of Education have come to agreement on a clause that forms part of our student registration form, this clause recognizes the religious instruction in our Catholic Schools.


E.S.: A significant minority of students in the CSSD come from Catholic or other Christian backgrounds, but choose themselves not to practice the faith. Should accommodations be made for these students, in terms of Religious Studies curriculum or school masses?

L.W.: When parents enroll their children in Calgary Catholic Schools they are required to sign a statement acknowledging their understanding that the entire school day is permeated by our faith and their children will participate in all school celebrations. Under the School Act, a parent may exempt their child from participating in certain instruction whether catholic or non-catholic.


E.S.: Tell us what you’ve achieved for your wards over the past 3 years that you think merits your retention as a Trustee.

L.W.: It must be stated that as an individual trustee, one has no power or authority; it is through the power of debate that one influences the Board Corporate in decision making. As an individual trustee, I bring to the table in depth knowledge and experience which has been gained over the years through serving on various committees at both the local and provincial levels. During the past three years I have played a significant role in the following accomplishments;


 The opening of Light of Christ Elementary/Junior High School in Saddle Ridge
 The opening of St. Jerome Elementary School in Panorama Hills
 The opening of Good Shepherd School in Airdrie
 Notre Dame & St. Martin de Porres High Schools have remained top priorities on our capital plan for additional program & student spaces
 Strongly supported maintaining program access to ensure students have a wide range of educational choices
 Have actively engaged parents and ratepayers in consultations to ensure decisions reflect their interests, such as the discussion around homework, school attendance boundaries, grade configurations, school naming and the development of our new Mission and Vision Statements
 Despite funding challenges have balanced our annual operational budgets while minimizing cuts to programs and services
 Have strongly vocalized the non-negotiable values of Catholic Education in the Minister’s ongoing conversation on Education that will lead to the transformation of education and an amended Alberta School Act
 Our students have continuously met or exceeded provincial averages in the Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Examinations
 Calgary Catholic has been named one of the top 50 employers in Alberta
 Calgary Catholic is a finalist in the top 100 employers for Canada
 Our grade twelve completion rates are among the highest in the province
 Strongly support the operation of our English as Second Language Reception centre that assesses and places students in the appropriate grade level along with the resources needed to help them succeed. Support is also provided for the family as they transition to their new life in Canada
 During the past three years I have continued to be visible and accessible to my constituents and have attended and participated in over 150 schools events.

(this has been cross-posted to CalgaryPolitics.com)