I came! I saw! It sucked!

While outrage over one horrific public art project or another has become something of an annual tradition in Calgary, Mayor Nenshi still doggedly denies that anything is wrong with the public art policy in the city. What would all those filthy taxpayers know about art anyway? How dare they question how city hall spends their money!

Nenshi likened critics of the latest arts abomination to a “lynch mob”.

Acclaimed Blackfoot artist Adrian Stimson took issue to this but then again, what would he know about Blackfoot inspired art? Can’t he just bow down to the wisdom of the handpicked city committees who choose these fine “arts” projects? No wonder he earned Nenshi’s insults.

 

Nenshi expanded to point out how it is “dangerous” to make judgements on something that hasn’t been “seen” or experienced.

OK. I went and saw and experienced the $500,000 “Bowfort Towers” for myself this evening.

The only thing that was dangerous was getting even close to the ridiculously placed display. It is set between two busy roads where vehicles are whizzing by at upwards of 100 kph as they approach an underpass. Hardly a nice spot for a person to pause and reflect on the piece of “art” that costed as much as an average city house does.

As can be seen below, I paused and reflected on the piece.

I gazed. I contemplated. I meditated. I came to a conclusion.

This piece of very expensive “art” is a turd that can’t be polished. Its is simplistic. It is terribly placed. It is aesthetically unappealing and it is apparently rather insulting to local First Nations. This was an utter waste of half a million dollars while most Calgarians are trying to recover from a recession.

Video of my visit can be found below.

Look, most people are not opposed to all public art. We are tired of “art” that is expensive, poorly placed and to be frank, damned ugly.

We have multiple pieces of art that we paid for that we cant even access as they were built in city industrial sites. We have a blue ring that is a national embarrassment. We have a silver ball that nearly lit a person on fire. The list goes on and on and on.

The policy is broken and Nenshi and his little “arts” crowd had better come to grips with this. Taxpayers are tired of being insulted and talked down to when they question the merit of their precious dollars being spent on art where the word “shit” is a generous description.

The backlash will grow if we don’t change this ridiculous policy soon. Fear city councilors who want to dramatically cut all forms of public art? Well I assure you, you will only empower those councilors when you deny that there is a problem and continue to defend this abhorrent waste of tax dollars.

There are many models in countless cities around the world that produce far better public art than what Calgary is generating. It is time that we emulated them rather than cling to this broken model that only produces crap.

Otherwise, get used to “lynch mobs”.

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Where has the time gone?

Can you believe that it has been over three years already?

Why, it feels like only yesterday that Naheed Nenshi had an epic social media temper tantrum when he found out that the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation had done a FOIP request to see if the Mayor had dumped his legal bills on the taxpayers.

You could almost hear Nenshi’s fingers indignantly hammering his keyboard in rage as he expressed his ire over having been questioned on this issue.

The twitter thread stems from this tweet back in June of 2014

 

Roger Kingkade did a fantastic dramatic reading of the exchange here.

Yes indeed. Three years already. That means that it has been nearly four years since Nenshi defamed Cal Wenzel on a radio show. That defamation led to Nenshi’s grovelling apology and a legal bill that was nearly $300,000.

That legal bill was dumped on Calgarian taxpayers and Nenshi still has not paid it back.

Yes, despite Nenshi’s petulant outbursts it appears that Canada’s most highly paid mayor (depending in the year) still dumped the fruit of his act of defamation upon innocent taxpayers.

Nenshi is claiming that the bill will be paid soon. Nenshi of course claimed so stridently that the bill would never been dumped on us so he holds little credibility in this regard. It now becomes a thing of, “I will believe it when I see it.”

I guess this could be part of why Nenshi got caught up in a scandalous $5,000 per plate pay to play fundraiser just weeks ago.

As a small business owner, I sure could use an interest free loan for a few hundred thousand to make some capital improvements. Alas, these sorts of benefits only apply to Mayors I guess.

As it has been years now, we should be reminded that it is an election year. In a few short months, Calgary voters can choose to elect a mayor who is less inclined to dump his legal fees upon them.

I sure hope that the voters lose their apathy and do so.

While the last 4 years went by quickly, a further 4 years of Nenshi would be agonizing.

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I’m stupid!

OK, I know that my stupidity is not exactly a revelation to some. All the same, I thought I would be able to figure out something so simple as what a political cash for access scheme looks like.

Just to recap, an event was scheduled where for the low fee of $5,000 or so, a person could join Mayor Naheed Nenshi along with 20 other well heeled donors for an intimate luncheon where they could get some one on one time for the Mayor. If you don’t want to or don’t have the means to spend a few thousand dollars to speak to the Mayor, you may wait for hours on end in hopes of addressing a city council meeting and pray that the Mayor doesn’t ignore your statement while he tweets instead of listening.

Nenshi boldly shouted that anybody who considered such an arrangement as being a cash for access scheme was stupid.

Well, I remain a fool because no matter how many ways I try to view this whole scandal I can only see a cash for access scheme.

Due to so many people in Calgary being so damned stupid in Nenshi’s eyes, the event was cancelled.

Nenshi essentially stated that Calgarians are too stupid to understand what the fundraiser was about so it was best to cancel it rather than let these dim misconceptions go on.

Apparently if you are a preferred architecture firm in Calgary, it is not stupid to arrange for and pay into these cash for access ripoffs however.

Kasian Architecture was long been doing Naheed Nenshi some rather questionable favors. Even back in 2011 Kasian caused a mini scandal when it was found that they were providing Nenshi with free flights across the country. Nice benefits if you can get them I guess.

The price of some airfare was well worth it for Kasian it appears. Their firm coincidentally happened to win Calgary Mayor’s Urban Design award in 2013. Perhaps giving the Mayor free trips doesn’t guarantee such awards but it apparently certainly doesn’t hurt.

Senior Kasian Architecture executive, Bill Chomik coincidentally landed positions such as being a director on the Calgary Economic Development board and chair of the  Calgary Development Appeal board with the Mayor’s encouragement. What a great selling point for an architecture firm. Having a voice on boards that impact city grants and development appeals must look very good when seeking to partner with developers for contracts.

Kasian Architecture sure has good luck in securing those lucrative city contracts too.

Calgary Economic Development (who was on their board again?) was responsible for the Calgary tax funded film studio. Through what was surely another big coincidence, Kasian Architecture was named the prime consultant on the project. 

The city of Calgary committed $25,000,000 to build the National Music Center. By what was surely a huge coincidence, Chomik and Kasian Architecture got the contract. 

With Kasian being so dedicated to funding the Mayor and doing so well with city contracts, I would say something stinks. But then again, perhaps I am just stupid.

Why, Daorcey Le Bray (Nenshi’s communications man) reiterated just this morning on a forum that the only problem was the wording on the invitation. 

It would seem to me that charging $5,000 for personal access to the Mayor is exactly what pay to play is but how could a fool like myself question the brilliance of the communications gurus in the Mayor’s office?

I look forward to seeing how Nenshi and his gang model the invitations for the next fundraiser where they can charge $5,000 per person for personal time with the Mayor yet not have it actually be a pay to play event. Yes, indeed. I am too dim to see how that can be phrased but surely Nenshi and company will manage the task.

 

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Have a rental crunch? Don’t be dense!

manhat

Scarce and increasingly expensive rental properties in Calgary have been making the news lately. Mayor Nenshi took advantage of the issue to ignore basic supply and demand principles while trying to label Calgary landlords as being greedy and gouging.

It is no secret that Naheed Nenshi is a very ideologically dedicated to increasing urban density within Calgary by any means possible such as Calgary’s virtual suburban development freeze. While hindering and freezing outward growth in a city will indeed lead to increased urban density it will also inevitably lead to a higher cost of living, particularly in the rental market. This makes it understandable as to why Nenshi wants to distract people from the consequences of his development policies with a baseless and divisive attack on landlords within Calgary. It would be rather difficult for Nenshi to sell his density mantra if more people realized just how hard those density policies end up impacting low and middle income Calgarians.

The vast majority of people simply do not want to live in crowded downtown situations. That is why when the market is allowed to develop naturally, cities will grow outward to fill demand and it will keep real-estate and rental properties within the bounds of proper market price. When outward growth is hindered by obstacles such as an ocean or ideological city council, higher urban density along with greatly inflated housing costs soon follow.

Don’t just take my word for it though. The numbers tell the tale and the very direct correlation between urban density and high rent is very easy to see.

Below I have listed American cities in order of declining density based on people per mile square and then have the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in US dollars next to it.

New York City   27,778 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $2,933

San Francisco 17,867 people per sq. mile         Average rent: $3,413

Boston  13,340 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,080

Chicago 11,864 people per sq. mile                   Average rent: $1,628

Miami    11,765 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $2,049

Seattle  7,774 people per sq. mile                      Average rent: $1,402

Cleveland 5,107 people per sq. mile                  Average rent: $635

Portland Oregon 4,375 people per sq. mile       Average rent: $1,106

Houston 3,662 people per sq. mile                    Average rent: $1,191

Dallas 3,645 people per sq. mile                        Average rent: $1,090

Phoenix 2,797 people per sq. mile                     Average rent: $776

Las Vegas 1,659 people per sq. mile                 Average rent $766

The pattern is pretty stark. While variables such as local economy, taxes and desirable real-estate have an effect, it is clear that the higher the urban density you have, the higher the rent.

Even with a strong economy and an incredible landscape, the hipster’s Mecca of Portland Oregon keeps rents reasonable through outward growth and low urban density.

Houston and Dallas are commonly demonized by density proponents for their evil “sprawl” but they clearly offer a great standard of living as they both have strong economies and low rents. Phoenix and Vegas have all sorts of space to grow outwards and it shows with their very low density and their associated low rents. Calgary has plenty of room to grow outward too if we would just allow it.

Keep these numbers in mind as Mayor Nenshi continues to promote high urban density and constant tax increases. While Nenshi may indeed create his high-density utopia but it will come at a very heavy price for people with low or fixed incomes as rents inevitably continue to rise quickly. High density and low rent simply does not happen in the developed world.

 

 

 

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Gian-Carlo Carra’s $100,000 “high-level rendering”

OK, it is hardly news when Gian-Carlo Carra and other members of the Flakey Four on Calgary city council waste the tax dollars and time of Calgarians. It is no shock that Carra want’s to transform a portion of his ward into some unpronounceable European modelled walkway at the expense of automotive infrastructure.

Gian-Carlo Carra has really outdone himself this time though when he went begging to city council for $100,000 to study this inane proposal a year ago and we are now presented with the “high-level rendering” below.

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Yes, $100,000 and one year to create drawings that look like they were done by a 6 year old.

The rest of the “high-level” renderings can be found in a Metro article here. The quality and depth rivals the picture above.

Simple words such as “picnic” apparently are beyond the spelling ability of these folks doing this fine study and they depict nude sunbathers in the pictures too (not well drawn unfortunately).

There really is little more to be said about this. It is just another gross example of finite city of Calgary tax dollars being wasted on the whimsical notions of a city councillor. I really wonder what the tendering process is (if any) to do these six figure studies that take a year to draw stick people.

Just wanted to document this beauty so people have yet another thing to point at when Nenshi and his Flakey Four allies on Calgary city council (Druh Farrell, Brian Pincott, Evan Woolley and of course Gian-Carlo Carra) try to claim that we need to keep imposing record high property tax increases as there simply is no waste to be cut in city hall.

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Ideas so good they have to be mandatory!

The Purple Peacock

Naheed Nenshi has a dream. In Nenshi’s utopia, Calgarians will eschew suburban living and automobiles en masse while embracing high density downtown condo living and riding bicycles or taking transit to work. Calgary will turn into some sort of North American Amsterdam and lead the world in urbanist dreams. Industrial districts will vanish along with those nasty railroads that move consumer goods. Calgary will offer food trucks, art galleries and coffee shops as main industries. Hipsters from around the world will travel to Calgary to ride bicycles and gaze upon public art created by sole sourced foreign artists.

Despite using every tool at His disposal, Nenshi’s dream so far has pretty much been an utter failure. There is one factor that is foiling Nenshi’s every move to create this beautiful fantasy city. That factor is consumer choice!

consumer

Yes, those damned unwashed Calgarians just refuse to embrace Nenshi’s dream. Citizens are voting with their wallets and moving to bedroom communities in record numbers to flee the congestion and costs that are growing under Nenshi’s high-density stewardship of Calgary. Calgarians are still refusing to jam themselves like sardines into aromatic city transit or ride bicycles to work in winter as well. The personal auto is still by far the most popular means of transportation in Calgary.

Nenshi has tried every punitive means at his disposal to try to get people out of cars. Streets are being given away for a non-existent cyclist demand and parking spaces removed as quickly as possible. City Hall is now even considering charging people to park in front of their own homes. Those damned drivers are still ignoring Nenshi’s efforts to save them from themselves.

Rather than respect the wishes of Calgarians, Nenshi wants the province to empower him to force people to give up their autos and force neighboring municipalities to plan based on His own ridiculous density targets.

Nenshi has long been begging the province to grant him additional taxation powers. Property taxes alone are inadequate to feed Nenshi’s spending lust despite constant massive annual increases. Property taxes and fees do not allow Nenshi to punish behavior he doesn’t like and direct the unwashed masses into the mold He dreams of. Nenshi wants the power to charge for auto registrations and to tax the hell out of fuel. He wants to make automotive use as expensive and unviable as possible.

Nenshi’s taxation dreams have thankfully been stymied by our provincial government and it appears that they will continue to be.

Nenshi’s city hall has been strangling development in the suburbs through bureaucratic means and he has dedicated profound energy to demonizing people who choose to live in the suburbs and those businesses that dare to service such demand. Instead of squeezing into Nenshi’s square hole however, people are simply moving away from Nenshi’s playground altogether.

Nenshi’s plan to curb the exodus of citizens and businesses from the city is even more odious than his taxation dreams. Nenshi has been pushing and making ridiculous demands for a provincially mandated Municipal Development Plan which would give Him a veto power over development plans in neighboring municipalities and impose Calgary’s density requirements upon them.

Nenshi’s unbending demands for authority over other municipalities has stunted any chance of a regional development agreement being developed. Regional planning is a good thing but it simply has to be cooperative. Rather than subject themselves to Nenshi’s dictatorial dreams, the MDs of Foothills, Wheatland and Rocky View have told Nenshi to kiss their collected asses. Okotoks and Airdrie have refused to participate and so far the provincial government has refused to intervene.

Nenshi’s pouting has gotten more vocal as he has been stamping his foot and demanding that the province step in and force those uppity neighbors to take part in his dream.

So far no provincial ministers have indulged Nenshi in His fervent demands as they pretty much know that doing so would be committing political suicide in rural constituencies.

We must remain on guard though. Nenshi is a canny political strategist and he can smell vulnerability in the Progressive Conservative Party right now. You can bet that Nenshi is pressuring the individual leadership candidates to promise a provincially forced Municipal Development Plan and it is possible that one of those candidates may foolishly commit to such a promise in hopes of securing the Purple Endorsement in both the leadership and the next provincial election.

If people wanted to live in Nenshi’s dream, they would choose to. The ever vaunted and subsidized “East Village” languishes undeveloped and suburbs remain popular. Auto sales continue in record numbers and weekend road trips remain more popular than art festivals. Nenshi will never understand and respect the reality that he is supposed to serve the will of the electorate rather than direct it. That is why Nenshi consistently resorts to the hammer rather than accommodating the needs and wants of citizens. That of course is why it is critical that we ensure that our provincial government never empowers Nenshi as he is demanding. It would be damned tough to get that toothpaste back into the tube.

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Bureaucracy run wild in Calgary costs a homeless charity $350,000 per year.

homeless

Examples abound but this one is a truly magnificent demonstration of the anti-car idiocy that has taken over  in Nenshi’s city hall. It is hard to write anything about the actions of Calgary city hall without the word ridiculous being used too much.

The Mustard Seed is one of the most respected charities in all of Calgary in helping with homeless people. They expanded to a large new building downtown. The new facility provides 228 affordable housing units and three stories for education and employment services. Due to city regulations, the building had to contain 79 parking stalls and 60 secured bike racks.

Due to the reality that homeless people typically don’t need parking spaces, 70 of the parking stalls and all of the bike racks are languishing empty.

Thanks to years of city hall’s anti-auto strangling of parking spaces, Calgary is second only to New York city in all of North America for the highest prices for downtown parking. These rates will only be going up as hundreds of downtown stalls are going to be removed for a bicycle track “pilot” program. This has the side-effect of making downtown parking spaces a very lucrative possession, that is if you are allowed to rent them out.

The Mustard Seed could make $350,000 per year renting out those empty and wasted parking stalls. Unfortunately adding parking goes against the anti-auto ideology of Calgary city hall these days so they refuse to allow the spaces to be rented out. The volunteers and staff at the Mustard Seed get to look at those empty spaces every day and wonder what charitable works $350,000 per year could be dedicated to if only Nenshi’s city hall transportation could drop their ideological agenda and let a little reality creep in.

According to this story, the Calgary Transportation department told the Mustard Seed that letting them rent out their parking spaces would encourage traffic.

Essentially a charity like the Mustard Seed will be paying $350,000 per year to remain in keeping with the anti-auto agenda of city hall councillors such as the Flakey Four (Pincott, Farrell, Woolley & Carra) and their leader Naheed Nenshi. Anti-auto ideology trumps simple common sense and Calgary’s charities are paying the price.

Ward 4 Councillor Sean Chu has thankfully been speaking up on this issue.

chu

Evan Woolley, the councillor for the ward that the Mustard Seed is in has so far remained utterly silent on this issue.  In the next week, I hope we see some more city councillors questioning transportation bureaucrats on this latest idiocy. I expect we will hear nothing but silence from the usual anti-auto suspects. I wonder how good they feel knowing the homeless get to subsidize their anti-auto agenda?

 

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Nenshi advises silence in hopes that fallout from sexual assault case goes away.

 

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In what appears to be one of the most scandalous and criminal issues to come from Calgary City Hall in years we have a response from Mayor Naheed Nenshi that is as scandalous as the issue itself; Nenshi has told council members to shut up in hopes that it goes away.

 

Rather than express outrage, rather than call for further inquiry, rather than at least express remorse over the issue, Naheed Nenshi has chosen to send an email to the other members of city council advising them not to speak to the public about this issue.

 

 

A woman while employed by the City of Calgary had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by her supervisor so many times that an arbitrator has ruled that she should be compensated $800,000 (not that any dollar amount can fix this). It appears that her attempts to end the assaults were ignored and possibly even covered up by her superiors. A tremendous hole in city procedure has been exposed here at the least. We should not be quietly wondering how this happened, we should be screaming and demanding to find out how this outrage happened and ensuring that this can never happen again! Instead of such strong demands, Calgary’s Mayor’s first response has been to try and get people to stop talking about it.

 

 

While hysterics and witch-hunts are not what we need in response to this issue, at the very least we need some open and frank discussion on this and we need it right now, not later. Deferral is a specialty of city hall and we can’t let that happen on something this important. The first step in trying to indefinitely defer an issue is to try and get people to stop talking about it. Nenshi knows this quite well.

 

 

Does Naheed Nenshi understand that it is a culture of gagging people on these issues that allows this to happen? Telling others to shut up is exactly what happened to facilitate the ongoing horror that this poor woman endured and it appears that Nenshi’s first instinct is to try to quietly cover up the issue rather than shine a large public spotlight upon it to expose the ugliness. This is an even bigger issue than the overpopulation of white people in city hall that Nenshi described his dislike of.

 

 

As with any problem that people get squeamish to address (such as addiction for example), the hardest but most important part is to admit that there is a problem in the first place. No more silence, no more excuses, no studies or committees are required here. That this incident happened repeatedly and over such a period demonstrates without question that there is a major problem in the management of City Hall. It is time to spread the cleansing light of true transparency (that buzz word that Nenshi pays lip service to but hasn’t followed through on) upon City Hall’s procedures and practices for sexual harassment. Most large administrations ironed this sort of thing out fairly well in the 1980s but clearly Calgary needs more work here. We need to open things up to see where the rot is but in order to do so we need leadership that is ready to speak to the issue to the public rather than hide it as Nenshi did with his request to city council members stating: “I would very strongly suggest not speaking to the media,”

 

 

In municipal politics, we have no official opposition that helps ensure responsibility on the part of government management. We in the public rely upon the media to at least report on issues so we can see a snapshot of what is going on in there. To suggest that our elected officials refuse to speak to the media (public) on such a critical issues is nothing less than abhorrent.

 

 

Having stepped into it on this issue, I am sure that Nenshi will be returning from Switzerland with a prepared statement full of flowery terms speaking of changing the “culture” of city hall in the pursuit of more “inclusiveness” and “vibrancy” and such. I am sure that part of Nenshi’s attempt to silence councilors on this issue was to ensure that they didn’t dare take a leadership role and address the issue before Nenshi himself could climb to the pulpit and tell us all why and how he will make it all better.

 

 

There is more to leadership than tweeting witty quips and hamming for cameras at every ribbon-cutting and festival in the city. Sometimes a leader has to take on some tough issues and they have to do it publicly and openly.

 

 

We have seen the first instinct from Nenshi on this critical issue and his instinct was to try and hush people up. That in itself is very telling and the sensitive and carefully crafted words that are sure to come from him soon on the issue will be ringing rather hollow in light of his initial response.

 

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Calgary secret taxi police to set up sting operations! Priorities indeed.

taxi

The antics of Calgary City Hall never fail to amaze and depress a person. The city of Calgary has actually strangled taxi licenses so much over the years that “gypsy” cabs have been appearing to provide transportation to stranded and desperate Calgarians. In response to this issue, rather than address the gross shortage of taxis in Calgary, city hall’s top livery bureaucrat is threatening “grotesque fines” and even says there is a “covert operation” where these evil and uncontrolled drivers may be caught and charged for daring break Calgary’s archaic taxi laws. In Nenshi’s Calgary the truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.

Despite numbers painting a clear and hard reality that Calgary has a desperate shortage of taxis, Calgary’s city council still inexplicably continues to make excuses rather than pursue the rather simple and obvious solution of just issuing more damned licenses. Councilor Shane (Mr. Flipflop) Keating has spoken of a bizarre concept of temporarily deputizing drivers at peak times while most of the rest of council has stayed oddly silent on this issue.

Mayor Nenshi has gotten outright belligerent. A person innocently tweeted him to ask about this circumstance and got the arrogant and snotty response from Nenshi pictured below.

nenshisnot

It’s just snowstorms Nenshi? Don’t recall many of them during Stampede or summer concerts. People should really expect at least some courtesy when they ask our mayor on a real and pressing city issue.

Why is it so complicated to simply release more licenses? Why are taxis so special and coddled as opposed to other businesses? Do we regulate how many restaurants per capita Calgary has? Car dealerships? Jewelers?

Excuses abound from Calgary’s city council. Even St. Nenshi has laid out the rather weak excuse that Calgary has a dispatch problem and suggests that changes to license regulations are needed rather than admit that we have a shortage of cabs.

The numbers make the fact undeniable (despite Calgary City Council’s denials).  CALGARY HAS A TAXI SHORTAGE!!!!

Let’s look at the simple numbers here. In 1986 Calgary had 1311 taxis servicing a population of 640,000 making a taxi to person ratio of 1-488. Today Calgary has about 1500 taxis (city just added 55 precious new licenses) servicing nearly 1,150,000 people making a taxi to person ratio of 1-767. While the city population has nearly doubled, the number of taxis allowed has grown by less than 15%! If we are to insist on treating taxis like some special, precious commodity that needs such direct management we should at least increase the numbers to reflect population growth.

The density obsessed in Calgary’s city hall love to try and point to New York City as some sort of density paradise where people eschew cars. Well in New York City the cab ratio is about 1 for every 159 people. That ratio goes to 1-117 in Manhattan. That is around 650% more taxis per capita than we have in Calgary. How do they expect people to quit using personal vehicles when city council insists on strangling transportation alternatives? I assure you, folks are not flocking to the damned bike lanes in January.

How much longer do we need to see these headlines before our oddly silent city council will act on this very simple problem?

Temporary taxi stand idea aims to alleviate Stampede travel headaches (the stands were scrapped shortly afterwards and were an utter failure)

Excuses keep coming for Calgary’s taxi ‘service’ even when the cabs themselves clearly aren’t.

People had three hour waits for taxis at Calgary’s airport last week and many resorted to renting cars in desperation. While Calgary City Hall spends $500,000 on idiotic blue ring lightpost “art” in order to make us “world class”, we can’t apparently get our visitors out of the airport. While there may be outright dozens of folks drawn to visit our fine “Peace Bridge”, I can assure you that thousands of visitors got a bad taste in their mouths as their first impression of Calgary was waiting for hours to get out of the airport. World class indeed.

City addresses cab shortage concerns with the start of Ramadan

Yes, rather than address the shortage by putting more taxis on the street, the city erected a prayer tent for drivers. Brilliant.

Calgary cabbies buck bylaw, ignore customer calls a third of the time. Bottom line here is that taxi drivers are taking advantage of the critical cab shortage. They are purposely ignoring short trips from dispatch in order to cherry pick the more lucrative ones. The consumer as always loses.

Want a taxi New Year’s? One public official says… ‘Give up!’

The above advice applies to Flames games, concerts, Stampede of course, pretty much any last call on a weekend or any other time that more than an average number of people may want a taxi. You are not advised to wait a little longer, you are advised that it is hopeless.

The bottom line is that Calgary has a critical shortage of taxis. The next time a city official whether elected or not tries to claim otherwise, call bullshit on them and point them here. This is a simple problem with a simple solution.

With the vigor that many in city hall put into protecting the broken status quo in taxi management in Calgary, one is forced to wonder just who’s palms are getting greased here. To go to the point of sting operations for possible illegal operators? Unreal.

Calgary needs more taxis! Nothing less will address this chronic issue.

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On lobby groups, forums and astroturfing in the Calgary election.

Electoral forums play an important role in elections at all levels of government. These forums provide an opportunity for voters to watch candidates first-hand and hear them respond to the pressing issues of that particular campaign. Candidates can demonstrate their ability to respond on the spot to questions and can engage with other candidates of differing views if the forum format allows for such interaction. People who can’t go to a forum in person can still benefit through watching media summaries of the event as often these forums are covered by all types of media.

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Calgary only held one mayoral forum with all of the candidates and it unfortunately was almost a complete waste of time as the forum was held and managed by a highly biased informal lobby group acting under the name of CivicCamp.

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The most glaring evidence of the forum bias was in the twelve questions selected by this group calling themselves CivicCamp to ask of the candidates during the forum. Unlike most electoral forums where audience questions are allowed and candidates may debate each other on points, in this forum things were carefully orchestrated so that only twelve questions were to be presented and candidates had no means to respond to anything else aside from these twelve questions.

Let’s look at what the group calling themselves CivicCamp determined to be the twelve most important issues to Calgarians in this election.

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  1. Will you release campaign donors.

  1. Do you support a living wage.

  2. Do you support secondary suites.

  3. Can we expect movement to urban agriculture

  4. How will you support Calgary poverty reduction initiative

  5. Sun Valley Blvd and Macleod trail.

  6. What role should city play in investing in artists.

  7. Do you believe the city requires a charter.

  8. Stance on cosmetic use of pesticides.

  9. What is your stance on curbside recycling.

  10. How will you repair flood damaged infrastructure

  11. What would a diverse economy look like in the city

While candidates and media are reporting spending, tax increases, vehicular congestion and public safety as being among the top issues of concern among Calgarians, apparently these did not make the top twelve questions at this CivicCamp forum.

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If you are wondering why the twelve questions look like they were lifted right out of Mayor Nenshi’s campaign platform don’t be surprised considering Naheed Nenshi co-founded the group that wrote the questions. Of course Nenshi’s pet lobby group won’t ask those awkward questions about tax hikes or the demonization of industry that Nenshi has participated in. Banning audience questions ensured things never went of the choreographed rails.

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Can we imagine a circumstance of more blatant bias than having an electoral forum hosted and managed by a group formed by one of the candidates? I sure can’t.

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This group of people who called themselves CivicCamp lobbied City Council directly demanding massive tax hikes as can be seen in the letter accepted by council. Considering how Nenshi hiked property taxes 32% since being elected, I would say their lobbying was effective. No wonder they didn’t want voters asking about taxation at their forums.   Budget presentation letter

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Let’s be clear here. This loose lobby group that acted under the name CivicCamp was not some simple group of volunteers seeking to hold election forums. This was a highly biased and ideologically driven lobby group that was hiding under the radar by refusing to even simply register as a non-profit society.

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Below is a video of Naheed Nenshi giggling and wearing a CivicCamp shirt while celebrating their successfully lobbying the city council to embrace the controversial Planit document as well as the myopic street-closure promoted by Druh Farrell (the street festival was an unmitigated disaster and was discontinued after a couple of years).

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Does Naheed Nenshi and this group of people have the right to lobby for preferred policies in city hall?

 

Of course they do. A person can’t pretend for a second however that this group of people is unbiased and should be presenting themselves as such during a civic election.

 

The CivicCamp group showed gross bias in Ward 11 when for their forum they gave Brian Pincott (Nenshi’s preferred candidate) an outright veto in choosing the moderator of the forum. Was this sort of power given to any other candidates? Apparently just loading and controlling the questions wasn’t enough, catering to the whims of their preferred candidates in selection of moderators was part of the deal too. In Ward 11 the CivicCamp gang aggressively pressured one of the candidates running against Pincott in their hypocritical finance disclosure campaign to the point of being on borderline harassment. While this candidate had disclosed his donors above and beyond what was legally required, it was not enough for the CivicCamp group. They called, emailed and literally even camped outside his campaign office doors at one point trying to get some sort of extra disclosure or something.

 

There are lobby groups and there are groups that try to facilitate unbiased political discourse. These are two very different things but CivicCamp with Nenshi’s help has managed to try and tie both of these roles into one group which hides from scutiny and never actually pursued or gained any legal form of existence. Despite not actually existing as a legal entity, this group has somehow managed to raise and spend money however which is a whole different area of contention to be examined later.

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The properly registered CivicCamp that I and some others have formed is volunteer based, transparent, legal and is not trying to pretend that it does not carry a policy slant. Let’s hope that if Nenshi chooses to spawn further lobby groups in the future that these groups display the open honesty that we have as opposed to essentially astroturfing in the extreme for the Mayor’s electoral benefit.

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 It is too late for this election, but let’s hope we don’t let a biased group take off with the management of these very importat electoral forums in the next civic election.

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