Agree or Disagree: Politicians should consult the public before making political decisions

Agree or Disagree: Politicians should consult the public before making political decisions

This is the Peace Bridge in Calgary Alberta. Since it opened March 24, 2012 it has been reported that an average of 6,000 people use it a day. It was also awarded in the top 10 of architectural projects and top 10 public spaces in 2012. It is also one of the most commonly photographed structures in Calgary. I live near it. It’s a nice bridge. I don’t stare at it longingly, but it’s nice.

Now if you simply read that paragraph and look at the photo, you might instantly think that this was a success right? Well……….

There was a history of problems since the project started in 2008. The cost of this ONE bridge was $17.995 million. If you remember back in 2008, there was a budget that was $25 million for TWO bridges.

Now, I’m not sure if you have spent $17.995 million dollars on anything, but it would be reasonable to expect some quality work for that right? Well, there was some issues with that. During a weld inspection in 2011, they discovered the welds were not up to standard. So, the city had to hire an independent contractor to fix that. It delayed the opening of the bridge from 2010 to 2012.

There was also issues with who designed the bridge. The designer, Santiago Calatrava was from Spain. He is known for some spectacular designs, but he has been criticized for practicality, cost and execution.

Living in Calgary, I do remember the public outcry on this bridge. Many wondered about the practicality, the cost and quite frankly the secrecy around the project. What little faith some had in City Council was lost. And quite frankly, the public felt it should have been consulted.

Now it is March 2014 and the City of Calgary has another project. This one is called The Action Plan Bus. Basically, it’s going around to areas and asking for feedback on property taxes. If you live in Calgary and you own property, you know the issues surrounding this. They have been raised and it has taken a financial tole on many. Hence, the attempt to consult with the bus.

The City has admitted that property taxes will be going up. The questions remain on how and why.

Good idea? Well, not all agree.

Mike Morrison, who you might know as argues the City already knows there is an issue. They don’t need to use in his own words, “non-experts”. Here is a portion of his post. You can read it here.

“The Action Plan project as a whole is estimated to cost about $500,000, or 1/50th of a Peace Bridge. I would much rather know that the city is 1/50th closer to another Peace Bridge than having a bus driving around the community, collecting the opinions of people who have no idea what they are talking about. That’s not an insult to the good people of Calgary.

Like going into Mordor, one cannot simply know everything about the inner workings of city hall. We’re not experts in things like the Office of Land Servicing and Housing, Corporate Administration and Environmental Safety Management, among all the other departments. Asking Calgarians to try and attempt to, essentially, play a far less exciting version of SimCity seems like a waste of time. The city has hired experts and we have, in theory, elected experts, so why are you asking us? ”

Now, if you read his point, he is admitting he is not an expert. I think he is assuming there are few in the public that are. I’m not a property owner, so I’m not able to confirm or deny his claim. However, I do think that there is something refreshing in trying to consult the public before making the decisions on budget. You simply have to go back to October 2013 and the outrage behind the $471,000 art installation on 96 Ave NE. City Council has made some “interesting” decisions and perhaps an attempt of more transparency is needed here

However, I ask you your input. If you will, I consult you!

Do you think our elected officials should consult you before making decisions that will impact you? Do you Agree or Disagree with that idea?


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