2012 Business Plan & Budget Debates

The following are two speeches that I presented during the recent 2012 Business Plan and Budget Debates.

I presented these in Council, not to grandstand, but to explain my position – that this city can be run well, and efficiently, without continually increasing expenditures and not giving Calgarians the true value of that investment.

I referred to it throughout the deliberations and will reference these sentiments throughout the course of my time as Alderman.

Opening speech at the beginning of Budget deliberations – November 22, 2011

Thank you Mayor Nenshi.
This budget

  • Is not about the elimination of staff positions, retaining current staff
  • It is not about maintaining front line or back of house staff
  • It is not about satisfying those who complain about taxes or city hall on an ongoing basis.
  • Or, holding taxes back to an unrealistic 0% increase
  • It is not about politics, theatre or the ‘nature of the beast’

This budget is about addressing our realities of financial constraint in a time of a when our economy demands it.

It is about the reality that collectively, we need to rethink our structure, our processes and our styles of work in a new way which changes the way we think and our methods and culture in a manner that ensures best value for the citizens of Calgary.

This new way of thinking also ensures, continues and solidifies Calgary’s future as the Greatest City in Canada and Calgary’s place on the international stage.

What is required is the political and personal will to hold the line on spending.

City Administration had the complete and amazing task of finding $46 million in efficiencies with no effect on services; and, $60 million of saving with very little impact on front line service.

This budgetary process, this yearly event that Council and Administration take part in, is about finding the correct balance of services compared to the revenues that the city collects.

The nature of this process means that citizens have a voice. We have seen this from the passion which they call our offices; by the way citizens take part in Our Budget, Our Future and every opportunity they have to get involved.

Quoting City Manager Owen Tobert

  1. Citizens value City services and do not want to see a reduction in services
  2. Citizens do not want the status quo. They want the city to focus on service priorities and deliver services in a much more efficient way

The process of changing culture in this building is not complete. If we accept the status quo or continue on this path then there is no need or impetus to change as all of our needs, and wants, will be satisfied within the organization to the possible detriment by eliminating the need to find efficiencies or the incentive to rethink and restructure city hall.

It is through necessity that organizations are required to rethink their processes, methods and priorities to remain efficient and relevant to its customers.

So, I ask members of Council to consider the recommendations brought forward by City Administration, and recognize the efforts that have been made by accepting their assertions; that this budget can succeed with very little change, to honour the effects made, and hold the line.

Closing speech at the conclusion of Budget Deliberations – November 29, 2011

I have stated several times over the past year that the “the City of Calgary must operate like a business and behave like a service provider.”

Above all else, this statement is a guiding principal that I follow while making any decisions on how we spend and allocate tax dollars.

A well run business does not typically spend more than it generates. Nor do well run businesses typically run deficits or increase the cost of its products beyond what customers are willing to pay. Governments, including the City of Calgary should be no different.

Though we have gone well into overtime talking about this years’ budget process, I feel that we succeeded on a number of fronts.

  • We have ensured that the tax rate for Calgarians remains as one of the lowest in the country
  • We have added funding to transit service, particularly to newly established communities
  • Sustained our Police budget
  • Adopted a comprehensive Cycling strategy
  • Addressed a strategy for “Tomorrow’s Workplace”, by restructuring how we utilize office and hours of operation for many departments

Though it is far from perfect, the work that Council and Administration have done brought the city closer to a balance of services to revenue.

As a business, we are finding efficiencies that are a necessary part of ensuring that our shareholders, the taxpayers of Calgary, are getting the best value for their investments.

At the same time, we are providing service to Calgarians and looking after those in our community who need it.
Although I had, and still have, great difficulty with several additions to the budget, some of which were not requested by administration, I honour Council’s overall decision.

As one member  in a team of 15 representatives, all seeking to represent their constituents in the best way possible, not all of the votes will go in the way that I am comfortable with.

Many improvements as to how the city serves its stakeholders were made, but much more needs to be done.

After seven days of rigorous debate, Council made a decision to move forward.

A decision that, unless it was wildly contrary to the best interests of Calgarians, and showed no signs of benefit to the tax payers, should be ratified as we move through 2012.

Therefore I will support this budget and will continue to seek efficiencies and an open and transparent city hall.

On another note, I would like to tip my hat to the City of Calgary, and Mayor Nenshi, for their efforts during yesterday’s events (wind storm that cause damage, closing the downtown core).
My office received comments from a number of constituents regarding yesterday’s wind storm. Of note were the timely, informative and frequent responses from both Mayor Nenshi and the City of Calgary’s twitter accounts on what was occurring and updates on the closures of downtown.