If It Ain't Broke, Let's Break It!
The City of Calgary's slogan, according to its website, is "Be Part of the Energy."
However, it appears as though our City Council may have a slogan of its own:
"If it ain't broke, let's break it."
Last week, the City announced that it had hired a Danish design company to "reimagine" Stephen Avenue in the heart of downtown Calgary.
The cost? $500,000 to be split between taxpayers and the Downtown Business Association.
First of all, Calgary isn't exactly awash in excess cash at the moment. Cuts are being made across the board, including to emergency services, as Calgary grapples with a financial crisis of City Council's making.
Even supporters of this initiative note that there isn't any money available to actually renovate or develop Stephen avenue during the current budget cycle, ending in 2022.
So, why is the City spending half a million it can't afford on a renewal project it can't possibly fund for - at a minimum - another four years?
Secondly, was it really necessary to hire a firm from Denmark to complete this project? Calgary is home to world class engineering and design companies, many of whom have struggled significantly since the drop in world commodity prices in 2014. We're quite certain that many qualified local firms would have been happy to cash a cheque for $500,000.
Thirdly, is Stephen Avenue really in need of a makeover?
Every day, thousands of Calgarians visit Stephen Avenue businesses, restraints, coffee shops, and bars. They shop in local businesses and eat their lunches outside during the (few) days of nice summer weather.
Anyone who has struggled to walk down Stephen Avenue on a sunny afternoon would ask themselves if there is, in fact, a problem here that needs fixing.
But that's when City Council's slogan comes in to play.
City Council is never happier than when it is spending tax dollars in the pursuit of questionable projects with dubious returns.
Even more concerning is that City Hall seems to think giving Stephen Avenue a face lift will fix the one real problem this street is facing.
Over the past couple years, several Stephen avenue businesses have closed their doors, creating a host of street front vacancies.
The reason these businesses went under wasn't because Stephen Avenue didn't offer a "21st century experience." They closed their doors because the cost of doing business in Calgary became just too high.
And the chief culprit here is - not surprisingly - property taxes.
City Hall's spending addiction drove taxes for families and businesses higher each and every year for more than a decade. Then, when businesses encountered a struggling economy, they couldn't afford to pay their exorbitantly high property tax bills any longer.
And yet, despite this being blindly obvious to everyone who doesn't work in the cloistered halls of our municipal government, our City Council has decided to spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a plan to give Stephen avenue a face lift that Calgary can't even afford.
Just another sad example of our municipal government in action.
Tell your City Councillor to leave Stephen Avenue alone, and to focus on fixing Calgary's property tax crisis!
P.S. Bad public art and facelifts for avenues won't pull Calgary out of its fiscal crisis. If you support Save Calgary's demand for structural reforms down at City Hall then we hope you'll make a small donation to Save Calgary to help us keep up the fight for better government. A donation of even $10 or $20 will help us keeping holding City Council's feet to the fire, and push back against ridiculous projects like the Stephen avenue facelift!
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