Monday, November 22, 2010

Lunch with the Mayor

If you live in Calgary, or possibly a great number of other places where the Calgary municipal election has been a big story, you may have noticed that our city recently elected a new Mayor, Naheed Nenshi.

You may have read any one of a number of articles about Nenshi, examining and dissecting every part of his campaignreligious beliefs, social media use and even family traditions.

It seems to me that a great deal of hope and optimism has been placed on Mayor Nenshi.  He's got big expectations to live up to, and a lot of work to do to implement the ideas he campaigned on.  So, on the one month anniversary of Mayor Nenshi's election, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce hosted a lunch with the Mayor event, providing an opportunity for the Mayor to address guests in what would certainly be one of the first of many such events.

The event sold out, over 300 tickets, in just a few short days.  I was fortunate enough that a good friend, Bob McInnis, had a ticket he couldn't use and generously offered it to me.  And so, off I went to have lunch with the Mayor (well, and 300 others).

So, what did His Worship have to say?


He talked a lot about getting used to the new role - did you know that the Mayor gets 125 requests to speak each day?!?

Here are some of the other highlights of Nenshi's speech:
  • emphasized a desire to fundamentally transform the way City Hall operates
  • declared a focus on making Calgary the best place to do business by making our city a great place to live - thus attracting new businesses and encouraging growth
  • spoke about the upcoming budget, and the cuts being recommended to ensure a 6.5% property tax hike, as well as further potential cuts and cost savings to reduce that increase
  • spoke about a desire to change the municipal tax structure to one no longer based on property values
  • talked about legalizing secondary suites throughout Calgary (with stipulations)
  • in answer to a question, emphasized focusing on "getting Southwest Calgary moving" whether by way of the southwest ring road or some other means
In the end, Nenshi left guests with a couple of calls to action, which I would paraphrase as this: get engaged and involved in your community and city, and stay that way.  Volunteer with a local nonprofit, get to know your neighbours, participate in your community association, vote at every opportunity.  Offer your opinions on the current budget recommendations (seriously, do it now - the City of Calgary has set up lots of ways for all of us to take part, and they are inviting comments).  Become part of the conversation about the issues happening around you, and about the city you want to live in.

So, those are the facts (at least, my version of the facts!).

Now on to my opinions...

Mayor Nenshi is brilliant.  He's spent lots of time developing theories, ideas and strategies for improving cities in general, and Calgary in particular; ideas to make it a better place to live and do business.  It may be tough to turn all these good ideas in to reality, though - and there will no doubt be some mis-steps along the way.  And, as already mentioned, there's lots of hope and pressure riding on this Mayor... as citizens, we have a responsibility to not abandon him at the first sign of trouble.

Overall, I believe Mayor Nenshi will be good for our city, bringing positive change, new energy and a wealth of new ideas and strategies.  Our job, as Calgarians, is to do our part in helping build the city we want to live in.

Bob, thanks for the ticket - I appreciate the opportunity to be part of building our city, and to report back on the event!

Now... where can I get a title as awesome as His Worship?

Full disclosure: I was a student of Naheed Nenshi's at Mount Royal College (when it was still a College) fora few classes.  I also chose to vote for him in this election.

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