Let's re-imagine a vital and vibrant Downtown
A vibrant Downtown affects all of Calgary. With Downtown now in Ward 7, it means that our other 21 neighbourhoods shoulder the burden of Downtown, and feel the effects first when it's distressed. If we don't address Downtown, we'll increase the risk of crime spreading to adjacent neighbourhoods.
As Ward 7 Councillor, Erin will champion new uses for empty office buildings and all the spaces in between. Erin's excited to work with arts and cultural organizations, post-secondary institutions, developers, and business sectors to re-imagine who will thrive in our Downtown core and what new and different activities we'll all enjoy there.
Erin's vision is of a Downtown where 20- to 40-year-olds live and play in an urban core that meets their needs. We can include single and family lifestyles that are based more on walking and biking than lawn-mowing and car maintenance. Now add in empty-nesters and retirees who want to live among people of all ages and cultures to enjoy an active, urban, maintenance-free lifestyle, and we'll truly have a place for everyone.
If a few hundred families choose an urban environment to raise their families, with a few hundred more individuals, we'll have the multi-use and vibrancy to ensure Downtown stays busy, beautiful, and inviting. With a Downtown elementary and high school in a retrofitted building, we'll have a service offering that makes Downtown truly a community.
With major capital investments approved for Arts Commons, Glenbow Museum and the arena, we can look to the ‘cheap and cheerful’ smaller projects around the major venues, and extending throughout the rest of Downtown. It’s those smaller projects that will add the interest on the human-scale for people walking from place to place and activity to activity.
Connectors are important as well. If a family is on the bike path, is it easy for them to turn and head into the Core? Let’s ensure those few blocks offer an inviting route.
+15s are innovative spaces, but they take people off of the street. Can +15s become seasonal, winter-only connectors? If we have outdoor pools open for only 2½ months each year, why not see our +15s as seasonal and a winter-only asset? This would ensure more people are outside, on the streets, and increasing a feeling of life and vitality, rather than diluting that feeling because some people stayed in the +15s. We'd still have protected walkways on +15s through winter months.
All North American cities are faced with igniting post-pandemic activity in their downtowns. Calgary’s issues are a little bigger and deeper, after years of economic downturn. The optimist in Erin thinks Calgary has the advantage of strategizing about its Downtown for a number of years, in contrast to other cities only thinking of revitalizing post-pandemic. Calgary, as is often the case, is ahead of the game.
Erin believes we have an opportunity to get Downtown to a better, more vibrant place than it was in peak activity times in the late 70s and early 80s. Calgary can go far beyond recovery with our Downtown because we’re ready to truly dive in and envision something different. And bonus – we have so many great ingredients to leverage with our beautiful Downtown skyline and major capital projects already underway.
Erin believes a revitalized Downtown that's vibrant and buzzing will attract entrepreneurs to start their ventures right here. And when they grow those businesses, they'll want to stay in a liveable, inviting Calgary.
How do we get from here to there? Start small, with big impact
Ward 7 extends beyond Downtown and includes another 21 neighbourhoods with specific issues and needs. Many areas have been neglected as the City invested in new communities, passing over established neighbourhoods. Advocating for investment and promised amenities in Ward 7 is a top priority.
Inner-city neighbourhoods need care and attention
Erin is a +30-year resident of Ward 7 and she loves being a part of Calgary's history by living in one of our oldest neighbourhoods. But it's been too hard to get attention for inner-city issues to ensure our neighbourhoods are livable, charming, safe, and beautiful.
Re-investment in older communities can't be passed over for City sprawl. Erin will stand up for strategic plans that include commitments to older areas like Ward 7, end sprawl, and ensure capital budgets are as evident in Ward 7 as newer areas.
Our focus within Ward 7 neighbourhoods needs to be on connecting neighbourhoods and communities to each other, with reliable transit and well-maintained and positioned cycle tracks, sidewalks, and pathways.
We can continually work on improving clean, safe, and welcoming spaces for neighbours to meet up and interact – from our community centres to those hidden gem greenspaces to street safety. It’s these spaces that contribute to loving our neighbourhoods and having a great quality of life.
Much of this work isn’t a great cost, but it’s a matter of listening to local experts, to residents who are the first to see the traffic patterns, the interrupted pathways, the lack of lighting.
Erin commits to working with Ward 7 neighbours to protect the charm and character - the reasons we all chose to make our homes in Ward 7 - while carefully stewarding growth and new development. Her commitment starts now, and will be steadfast through her term as Councillor.
Planning for thoughtful growth
Older areas constantly evolve and adding population is one of the best ways to protect property values. We want to see our neighbourhood businesses thrive, our schools full, and amenities like parks and transit. How we add that population needs care – we need to evolve, but also preserve the qualities we all love about our communities.
Local Area Plans provide the opportunity to identify where multi-family developments can be most easily absorbed and define size and scale limits to fit with neighbourhoods. With those general standards, individual development decisions still require a rigorous process to ensure adjacent neighbours are consulted with and heard.
If we learn to stop sprawl, we will see increased housing values and rental costs in our established neighbourhoods, like Ward 7. A key platform plank for Erin is to focus on accessibility in Ward 7 neighbourhoods by considering mechanisms where a portion of new housing (purchase or rental) is pegged at below-market rates. A varied community that includes people of different ages and stages, cultures, backgrounds and income levels is a more interesting and a more resilient community. We need to be careful of gentrification and reducing access by pricing individuals and families out of Ward 7 communities. As one of many inspired to encourage Calgary's young people to stay and make their homes in Calgary, Erin believes Ward 7 affordability is key to realizing that vision.
Raising the bar on community consultation and Council accountability
The City has elaborate processes for community consultation to support planning and development. But something isn't working when citizens say they weren't aware of a project and they aren't clear about the planning process. There's a gap to be closed.
It's not enough to say 'lots' of consultation took place if that process didn't actually hear the feedback or adjust the plan in response.
We need to review processes and measures to ensure the time and money invested in community consultation are serving the critically important purpose of listening to citizens.
Erin's experience in communications and social issues gives her insight into consultation processes. Experience with systems change offers a realistic understanding of the scope of the work and the importance of identifying the problem accurately, preserving what is working well, and adjusting carefully. As the saying goes, sometimes we have to go slow to go fast. This is an area that needs attention and improvement - thoughtfully implemented.
Taking responsibility as a Councillor means getting community input right and listening to residents who know their community best. I am committed to do my part to raise the bar.
We’ve seen lots of issues at City Council get mired in unproductive discussion, move forward when they didn’t fit the strategic plan, and stall out when they did. This has to stop. It will take all representatives to be open to hearing different views, to stay focused on the issue and content, honour good governance without abusing process and procedure. It requires respect for each other, for citizens, and for the democracy that these elected positions represent. These are the basics and Erin commits to upholding them all.
If we’re truly working together and moving in the same direction, we can leverage our work and energy to attract support from other levels of government. This is how we will work for the benefit of Calgarians, rather than staying at the level of turf war.
It should also be a constant process for the City to step up and right wrongs, and to look for opportunities to simply get out of the way. Council guidance needs to support City administration to continue providing high quality, high value services and ensure resources are appropriately used. These are the basics of the ‘business’ side of managing and Council needs to play its part.
And now the really big stuff
It’s time for Calgary to be serious and stay the course on our biggest, most important issues. The Green Line needs to get moving. It’ll only get more expensive if we delay and we have to have faith in the future of our city to make it great. Great cities have great transportation.
In some ways, the Green Line decision was made in 1981 when the C-Train began. It is the mode of transit we chose then and it needs to be a network that connects the entire city to be a worthwhile investment that serves us well. The Green Line is crucial.
We have to be smart about growth and climate change and protecting our water and other resources, and about accessibility and equality. These are truly the big issues and we have to consistently and appropriately keep them on the agenda. They can’t be on the side, or a committee. These represent values that must be integral - built in to every agenda and every initiative.
We’ve got a perfect example, with Alberta’s approach to economic diversification, of learning the hard way. Starting and stopping instead of sustained commitment means, 30-40 years later, we still have all of that work to do to diversify. Having the ability to plan longer-term, ensure strategies and tactics align with that longer-term vision, and then build in the accountability to ensure progress is evaluated, are important steps -- basic governance -- that Council needs to deliver. Erin's experience with governance and strategic planning, including formal training through the Institute of Corporate Directors, position her well to ensure this 'nuts and bolts' work of Council takes place.
In 2021, let’s deliver as a smart City Council that ensures we build a welcoming, vibrant city that works for everyone and for generations to come.
Erin has a fire in her belly. With >30 years living in the community, Erin is ready to bring her experience and passion to City Council.
Read more about Erin's background and what she brings to Council.
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