In 2005 it was determined by the municipal powers that be in Calgary that we apparently had way too much time and general resources as a city and had to piss much of it away in what was one of the world’s largest of municipally funded navel gazing exercises which they coined: ImagineCalgary.
Apparently 18,000 Calgarians were asked the five simple questions below:
What do you value about Calgary?
What is it like for you to live here?
What changes would you most like to see?
What are your hopes and dreams for the next 100 years?
How can you help make this happen?
Groups were formed that included the likes of Naheed Nenshi, Brian Pincott and Druh Farrell who interpreted the answers to these questions and created the almost surreal 211 page document called the: imagineCALGARY Plan for Long Range Urban Sustainability.
This document is so packed full of pie-in-the-sky pap, calls for insane goals and massive government intervention that one would think this is some sort of satirical parody rather than a serious (and bloody expensive) municipal planning blueprint. While the ImagineCalgary website is packed full of platitudes, it is near impossible to find a copy of the document itself. I suspect that even they realize that if Calgarians actually take the time to read the idiocy within it that they will reject it universally. I have kindly loaded the entire document on my site where people can access it in perpetuity through the link in the paragraph above this one.
Below I will be going through the notions in this document piece by piece. The ideas within do indeed prove that fact is indeed often stranger than fiction. I really don’t think I could make up stuff as loony as what has been packed into the ImagineCalgary manifesto. This is indeed going to be a long posting.
Now dear reader, before we get into this dissection I am sure that many are thinking: “So what? The city wastes money on stupid studies all the time. This one is eight years old and the money is gone. Note it and get over it!”.
I do wish this was something that was just a passing notion that we could forget about but unfortunately Calgary City Hall under Nenshi’s guidance is using the ImagineCalgary document as their main planning plank. The density obsessed “Plan It Calgary” states right on it’s main City of Calgary page that it is modeled directly from the ImagineCalgary lunacy. Our city planners and managers are actually trying to put this insane document and it’s recommendations into action.
At the City of Calgary’s “Office of Sustainability” (yes there actually is one) site, ImagineCalgary is highlighted along with the crazy local food policy that it inspired which I covered at length in a past blog posting.
So yes folks, what I will be looking at below is not something from tinfoil hat country or anything that I made up. These are real items from the long-term plan for Calgary City Hall under Naheed Nenshi’s leadership.
I will begin with the goals laid out under “Social” in the document today. It is going to take a series to cover all of what is packed into ImagineCalgarys’s goals and strategies. This part of the document is among the most lucid so I may as well begin here.
TARGET By 2036, 90 per cent of citizens report that Calgary is a beautiful city.
Isn’t that statement cute? Doesn’t that just feel nice? Now of course, there are few areas more subjective than that of judging what is esthetically pleasing. How exactly these folks plan to get 9 out of 10 Calgarians to agree on what is beautiful is not very well laid out but it sure is a pretty goal and well worth spending a fortune trying to reach is it not? Strategies are laid out for this of course.
STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions regarding the beauty of the city.
Ahh good. Measuring opinions of beauty is priority one indeed! I expect we shall be opening an office of “Measuring Calgarian beauty opinion” in city hall right away along with the associated supports and bureaucracy.
STRATEGY 2 Establish design performance standards for new residential, commercial and industrial construction to ensure beauty is considered in all new development
Of course we can’t let those unwashed Calgarians determining all by themselves what they feel is beautiful! We must enforce through legislation as the above quote from the plan states! An office of “Establishing and enforcing construction beauty standards” should be opened in city hall along with associated supports and bureaucracy as well as a field measuring and enforcement arm!
What better way to get all those Liberal Arts graduates who are currently making coffee into more lucrative employment than to create a department of City Beauty Police?
STRATEGY 3 Create and protect beautiful public spaces to provide more opportunities for aesthetic enjoyment.
Ahh but of course. We can’t simply rely on home and business owners to make things beautiful no matter how hard the Beauty Police come down on them. We must purchase, create and protect even more beautiful things and places in the city. We can always borrow funds and/or raise taxes again to cover all that.
STRATEGY 4 Foster an understanding of and appreciation for the aesthetic value of our built environment so that citizens, developers and others can enhance our physical resources.
Orwell would be proud of the newspeak used in the strategy above. We can’t assume that these unwashed taxpaying citizens will really understand or appreciate all these beautiful things that are being built for them. We must “foster” these sorts of things. Perhaps mandatory courses in aesthetic value should be held. Maybe these courses will only be required if the Beauty Police find citizens who do not perform the appropriate “oohs and ahhhs” at the city’s great beauty initiatives. Either way, we clearly can’t let people simply decide for themselves what may or may not look good!
STRATEGY 5 Create and protect developed and uncultivated natural areas to ensure we can enjoy these areas now and in the future.
Yards and gardens bad! Natural areas good!
There is something of a clash here with density goals too but that can be ironed out later. I am not sure if these folks have heard of Nose Hill and Fish Creek parks yet.
Time for a new target:
TARGET By 2036, 95 per cent of Calgarians report that they have a range of opportunities for the aesthetic enjoyment of nature, arts and culture.
I can’t think of a day that goes by when I don’t see a Calgarian seated on a curb weeping openly due to the deficit in aesthetic enjoyment opportunities in their lives. This travesty indeed must be addressed!
STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions regarding the range of opportunities available for aesthetic enjoyment.
Step one: open office of “measuring Calgarian satisfaction with aesthetic enjoyment opportunities”.
I see now that Calgary City Hall will have to build a new office tower to house all these new departments. I hope their design passes the muster of the Beauty Police.
STRATEGY 2 Increase public support for the arts to develop additional ways for citizens to enjoy natural and created aesthetics.
Money! Money! Money!
We can’t hire every Liberal Arts grad in the Beauty Police department. With spending of more money though, we can contract the rest to decorate the city further.
STRATEGY 3 Undertake cultural impact assessments for all public or private initiatives, so we can properly consider and enhance the cultural life of our city.
Oh good! Let’s not just let any initiative happen whether private or not! We must assess how that will impact culture! I expect we will spend many millions defining what our culture is and how we intend to enhance and consider it. In the meantime, I guess we will just sort of cook these assessments.
It certainly calls for an entire new “office of cultural assessments” along with the associated bureaucracy.
TARGET By 2016, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that they have opportunities to express their unique gifts and talents
They certainly set the bar high. I am more curious about how many Calgarians actually feel that their unique gifts and talents are actually being hindered. Let’s see how our city plans to get us all to that nice 90% zone.
STRATeGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions of the availability of opportunities for creative self-expression.
Ahh yes. Why did I even wonder? What we need first is to form a department of measuring “availability of opportunities for creative self-expression” along with the associated bureaucracy.
STRATEGY 2 Ensure Calgarians have the support systems necessary to foster artistic excellence and innovation as expressions of their gifts and talents.
This looks like a nice expensive and rather wide open strategy. What does it mean? Art schools on every corner? Free galleries? Subsidized advertising? Free paint? Who qualifies? How? How many?
Yes, this is a formula for a tax-dollar sinkhole.
STRATEGY 3 Identify ways for the full range of stakeholders to co-operate and create connections to realize the full potential of the arts.
The above is pretty much fluff but I imagine money can and will be spent identifying these required “ways”.
STRATEGY 4 Ensure the Alberta Government continues to recognize and strengthen its level of financial commitment to arts and culture in Calgary.
This strategy is easy to figure out and not now. Beg for more money from other levels of government. Nenshi is already demonstrating a strong talent in this.
STRATEGY 5 Boost the strategic roles of the cultural industries and local media for their contributions to local identity, creative continuity and job creation.
What exactly is a “cultural industry” and how and why do we need to “boost their strategic roles”? I am not sure if I want to hear the answer.
How about the apparent “boosts” to media when it comes to their apparent and possible contributions to local identity? How so? Do Calgarians not have an identity? Is it the media’s role to create and maintain this identity? Is this identity defined and is a goal to be reached?
STRATEGY 6 Provide accessible informal and professional arts educational programs to Calgarians of all ages and abilities.
Yes, in this target the best and most expensive strategy was saved for last. We as taxpayers are to be obligated to provide both informal and professional arts educational programs to people of all ages and abilities. I do love that they include “abilities” in there. It means we should have to pay for shitty artists to be taught along with talented ones. 🙂
Yes folks, ImagineCalgary expects the Calgary taxpayers to create an indiscriminate arts Mecca here in Alberta. Police and fire services can wait.
TARGET By 2021, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that Calgary is a city that promotes creative freedom.
While I haven’t seen evidence that creative freedom is being stifled in Calgary, it apparently is a critical goal to ensure that we promote creative freedom even further somehow. How so though?
STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report Calgarians’ opinions of how well we promote creative freedom in our city.
Boy I sure didn’t see that strategy coming. Create an office of “Measuring Calgarian’s opinions of how well we are promoting creative freedom” along with the associated supports and bureaucracy.
STRATEGY 2 Ensure the arts and culture sector plays a leadership role in Calgary’s future, so we can build creative freedom into the most influential levels of decision-making processes.
OK this one is getting interesting. I would say considering how much artistic pap has been included in this ImagineCalgary plan that the arts and culture sector is already leading too damn much. How much more is required?
“Build creative freedom into the most influential levels”? How influential? How built?
Are we talking artist quotas at senior management levels? Seats preserved on city council exclusively for folks from this apparent arts and culture sector?
Will these artists have veto power on every project? What will their budget be?
STRATEGY 3 Promote the development and continuity of the cultures of First Nations, Metis and other indigenous people, as they are the bearers of the historic and interactive relationships with our land.
Ahh yes because native culture is not promoted and funded enough by every other level of government. Why do once what can be done over and over again? This is a municipal priority? I think not.
STRATeGY 4 Ensure newcomers from other regions and countries can access, participate in and express themselves through the evolving culture of Calgary, ensuring the richness of our creative freedom is continuously strengthened.
They already can.
STRATeGY 5 Review, revise and develop policies and practices that foster creative freedom, rather than censorship.
Would love to see some examples of this apparent censorship. Hate to think how much will be spent trying to find it though.
TARGET By 2026, 90 per cent of Calgarians report that participation in creative activities is an important part of their lives.
Now we are getting to the real attitudes here. The Nenshi gang loves to be dismissive when people use the term “social engineering” but what else can you call the above city target?
Here we have a city document setting out a goal that 9 out of 10 Calgarians must consider creative activities (to be determined by city bureaucrats) as being an important part of their lives.
Piss off! I don’t have to consider those things important nor does anybody else. It sure as hell isn’t the cities role to make me prioritize what I feel to be an important part of my life.
How are we to get there? Let me guess:
STRATEGY 1 Develop and use measures to regularly report citizens’ opinions of the importance of and levels of participation in creative activities.
……along with associated bureaucracy.
STRATEGY 2 Create public opportunities for all Calgarians to recognize the intrinsic value of arts and culture as an important element of our vibrant city.
I have to admit I am surprised that I got this far before encountering the term “vibrant”.
Public opportunities to recognize this eh? We already have those so it must be assumed that we are expected to go further. Mandatory presentation at workplaces? Street displays during rush hour? Ads on TV during the Stanley Cup playoffs?
What if some of us refuse to recognize these things as being intrinsically valuable to us or important? Are we allowed?
STRATEGY 3 Ease or eliminate restrictions on the forms of creative expression that can occur in public spaces, so citizens can participate in and appreciate a wider range of formal and informal creative activities.
Consider abandoning or easing busking bylaws for musicians and artists.
Identify ways to lessen the impacts of liability insurance requirements.
Assess the types of signage regulations that affect the development of murals and other informal expressions of visual art.
OK where to begin.
Not all of us want to listen to some untalented nut playing bongos or be followed by a mime begging for quarters while we eat our lunch outside. We may not even want to listen to the artists with real talents at all times. We have appropriate areas and times for these means of expressing and generating income. Busking need not be banned but yes it damn well needs a degree of regulation in crowded urban environments.
“Lessen impacts of liability insurance requirements”????? Now you nuts are starting to scare me. The only way to lessen those impacts would be to have somebody else assume liability for the actions of street performers. That somebody would be the city and that means me! There is a reason for these requirements. I do not expect nor deserve to be on the hook as a taxpayer when some mentally unstable performance artist hits a passerby with body fluids!
Now on one hand the city wants beauty police and on the other they want to reduce laws so that we can see an expansion of graffiti throughout the city. That idiotic experiment already failed dismally with a city park and would continue to do so elsewhere. Some call them “graffiti” artists and most call them vandals. This strategy is nothing but newspeak for decriminalizing graffiti and seeing even more ugly spraypaint visually polluting our environment. It will take a lot of work for the Beauty Engineers to get 90% of us to say that graffiti is making our city look better I assure you.
STRATEGY 4 Promote creative expression in public spaces to make Calgarians more aware of, and allow them to participate in, a wider range of cultures and creative experiences
Just more words saying more buskers and graffiti.
STRATEGY 5 Build the leadership and facilitation skills of cultural leaders, so they promote the kinds of events that directly engage people in creative experiences.
OK I guess first we will need to find these cultural leaders. Which cultures? How will we build these skills? Free courses? Books? Seminars?
Why is any of this a city responsibility?
STRATEGY 6 Attract and support new talent and creative leadership in the community, including support for and the promotion of local artists from diverse communities.
Attract new creative leadership? What about all those creative leaders that we are already grooming and facilitating in Strategy 5 above? How many creative leaders can we maintain? What if we have creative leaders clashing? Creative turf wars? General chaos!!
Really though, what are we speaking of here? Classified ads in other cities? Craig’s list?
The word “support” is used multiple times. That is an easy translation of course: lavish with tax dollars!
STRATEGY 7 Ensure Calgary artists are recognized for their excellence, to honour the important roles they play in encouraging other citizens’ to participate in and value creative self-expression.
OK we don’t really need this but it will be cheap and easy enough to do. Issue a ribbon for participation for every artist in Calgary and be done with it.
Well that is a breakdown simply on the “Social” portion of the ImagineCalgary plan that is the model for almost all current city initiatives. Believe it or not, the above goals and strategies are among some of the more rational in the ImagineCalgary plan.
In days to come I will break down: Conflict resolution (some beauties in there), Equity, Transportation, Environment, Equity, Employment, Waste Management, Economic, Access, Governance, Health and Infrastructure from within the document.
This will be a long and cynical road but in going through ImagineCalgary one at least can see where the City of Calgary’s government inspiration and plan is coming from even if it is unattainable and irrational.
If Calgary really keeps trying to follow through with ImagineCalgary’s plans, we will make Stockton California look like a paradise within a couple decades.