Posts Tagged ‘council

Calgary alderman talking the talk on freedom of information

- March 15th, 2013

gordlowe

Gord Lowe doesn’t always say the right things.

He is one of the biggest defenders of the city’s budget, the first to say we’re getting good bang for our buck, even though many of us disagree.

But he deserves credit for his take on information requests.

He’s right, the city should just automatically disclose info that’s routinely requested. It’s a boon for transparency, and could possibly save the city some cash in the long run.

And if the data is publicly available, I have less concern with Lowe’s notion of charging people to have it compiled to their specifications. That’s a user fee I could support, so long as the public data was somewhat user-friendly.

Either way, this is a better approach than the one taken by Lowe’s council colleague Dale Hodges who was more interested in cost recovery.

Bike share a potential boondoggle

- February 2nd, 2012

Bixi

Boondoggle is one of my favourite words. Seemingly nonsensical, it is instantly identifiable with government and waste.

Which brings us to bike share. It’s a needless expense, at a time when the city claims every penny is being spent as wisely as can be.

Face, meet palm.

As I have pointed out on this blog, and in my most recent column, there is absolutely no guarantee the plan will be a success here. The notion of business people hopping on bikes in suits to head off to a lunch meeting just seems like a non-starter.

The whole idea could die, for now, in council chambers, but I fear the city will wind up spending millions just to prove me right.

Stupid spending

- January 10th, 2012

Bixi

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or the Calgary Sun newspaper, then you know that we are not fans of stupid, wasteful spending by our governments.

And it’s always nice to know we’re not alone.

Not to give another outlet too much credit, but Maclean’s magazine has a great cover piece this week titled “99 stupid things the government did with your money.”

It’s a pretty comprehensive list, including stupidity at the federal, provincial and municipal level. Calgary gets rapped for the public art expected to grace the airport tunnel, as well as the tens of thousands spent in court over a $100 ticket given to our notorious street preacher.

I’m a touch disappointed the soon-to-open Peace Bridge didn’t make the cut for stupidity. It has all the requirements: dodgy process, lack of design competition, big price tag, proximity to other bridges, and it even violates the city’s overarching policy it was supposed to help us meet.

But I digress.

While all the items should be of note to governments and citizens across the country, there was one that should give us pause.

Late last year, the Sun pointed out to Calgarians members of council were looking to spend millions on a bike share program to allow cycle commuting around the core.

This, despite repeated pleas the city could possibly cut anything more out of the upcoming budget.

As Michael Platt points out in the column linked there above, Ald. Druh Farrell suggested Calgary copy Montreal’s vaunted Bixi bike share.

The problem, as Maclean’s points out, is that Bixi isn’t a model anyone should be following.

The City of Montreal has been forced to give municipally owned, and money-losing, Bixi $108 million in loans and loan guarantees as it has run into problems after expanding into Toronto and Ottawa.

From Maclean’s:

Mayor Gérald Tremblay insisted taxpayer money would all be paid back once Bixi becomes an international bike-sharing powerhouse. Not so fast, warned the city’s auditor general. Montreal taxpayers could suffer significant losses, he said, because “basic rules of management were neglected or circumvented.”

As Calgary city audits have shown, neglecting basic rules of management is not something exclusive to Montreal.

The money needed to start up a bike share program in Calgary is far from the $108 million bailing out Bixi, but it would be stupid to spend anything on a program that isn’t in any way a necessity to make Calgary a better place.

Beyond that, proponents of the program haven’t managed to dig up anyone pining for such an extravagance.

When the item was up for discussion at a city committee in December, no one interested in the plan was present to pitch for it.

In my first column of 2012, I asked people to resolve not to be so stupid this year. Killing the bike share discussion would be a step in the right direction.