Advocacy groups making their cases as Calgary budget adjustments debated

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Calgary advocacy group make their voices heard ahead of budget adjustment debate
Over the last year, Calgary city council has debated new plans and enhanced services, like the Transit Safety Strategy, the Housing Strategy, Route Ahead and more social funding. But supporting the new plans require new funding. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on what different advocacy groups are asking for – Nov 18, 2023

Up until he retired, Doug Clark would ride his bike from his home in Oakridge to his downtown office. It saved him money and kept him fit.

“Before moving to Oakridge, I commuted to downtown Calgary from Douglasdale in the southeast,” said Clark, the new president of Bike Calgary.

“It’s recognizing that there is an increasing demand for this kind of infrastructure as more people are realizing you can actually get around your communities without having to drive in a car.”

Bike Calgary is one of several Calgary organizations asking people to provide input during budget debate week.

Bike Calgary (@bikecalgary)
2023-11-14, 10:36 PM

Budget adjustments will be happening Nov 20. Make sure to let #yyccc know you support active transportation by signing up to speak at council or sending in a written submission. #yycbike…

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City council will debate proposed adjustments to the 2024 budget starting Monday. The budget includes investing in additional 5A (Always Available for All Ages and Abilities) Network infrastructure.

That would mean an anticipated 6 – 7 kilometers of new 5A Network infrastructure that would include connections to fill in gaps, as well as new corridors that connect with schools. The program has a emphasis on addressing inequities in access to the 5A network and providing safe and active routes to school.

Clark said the city has not prioritized spending in those areas especially considering how much is spent on major road construction.

“The city is forecasting to be two million people in a couple of decades. How do we accommodate two million people in the city without making traffic insane,” said Clark.

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“It’s providing these other alternatives so that people can get around without having to build more roads and clog up the streets with more vehicles. I’m not against vehicles. I use it when necessary but I also appreciate being able to get around without having to rely on it,” Clark said.

The city administration recommended spending in areas like public safety and transit and in the city’s mental health and addictions strategy, as well as making more money available to cover inflationary pressures.

If all of the measures are approved, it could add $16 a month to the property tax bill next year for owners of a median-priced house worth $610,000.

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“We have heard from hundreds of Calgarians who are worried and upset that they are continuing to be asked to do more with less,” said Common Sense Calgary executive director Kristy Koehler

She said Common Sense Calgary is calling on councillors to cut back on arts projects and consultants and is questioning if the Event Centre is an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

“I think Calgarians are asking a lot of questions about the arena deal. People are asking if that’s a priority or if it a necessity,” Koehler said.

“We always encourage people to write to their councillor to let them know how they feel and to really make a well thought out argument. There’s no sense in messaging your councillor and ranting in all caps, but really think about the priorities you have as a Calgarian and what you believe is a common sense way to spend your money.  They do pay attention when they get emails that are well thought out,” Koehler said.

Calgarians for Sensible Growth is calling on the city to deliver on its policy to limit sprawl and to focus on investment in established neighbourhoods and new suburbs already under development.

Noel Keough who is a spokesperson for the group says it’s important to have housing available as soon as possible but he says there is more than enough suburban housing already in the pipeline.

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“Approving more suburban tracts now will do nothing to get more housing built now,” said Keough who is Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary.

Keough said existing community revitalization in things like sidewalks, parks, transit, water and waste infrastructure upgrades, the 5A active transportation network and affordable housing are critically underfunded.

“What we find from city documents is that we are coming up short by about $7.7 billion to support the upgrade of infrastructure in established parts of the city  because we’ve kind of cannibalized the resources for that kind of redevelopment to support  these new communities on the edges of our city,” Keough said.

Calgarians for Sensible Growth (CSG) has produced 5-Steps to the City-Wide Growth Strategy.

The document provides a blueprint for how to control  sprawl and redirect tax-dollars to established communities and  suburban neighbourhoods already under construction.

CSG is calling for the City of Calgary to implement the plan to deliver a City Wide Growth Strategy over the next 12 months.

Clark said by 2050 the city would  like to have a 5A always available for all ages and abilities network established in the city.

“We have a small part of that built now but there’s a lot more that needs to be done,” Clark said.

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He estimates the city would  need to be doubling the amount that is currently spending to reach the goal.

“We ‘ve had a lot of spending done in the centre of the city, but recognizing there’s communities all over the city that can benefit and it’s not just about the streets themselves. It’s also making  intersections safer,” Clark said.


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