I can’t believe this year is already the 100th anniversary of Calgary Stampede. To join in the fun, we went out to one of the many free Stampede breakfasts this morning. And I ran into Calgary city councillor Brian Pincott. I jumped on the chance to interview Brian for a few minutes to talk about Calgary 100th Stampede and the $25 million Calgary Peace Bridge. Yes, before & during last city election, I wasn’t too convinced of the $25 million price tag for a foot bridge even I was and still is a fan of renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. You see, I got hooked on Calatrava when I watched a documentary about his Turning Torso project years ago at Calgary International Film Festival. I will let you watchBrian‘s explanation of how pedestrian foot traffic has exceeded the council’s original expectation and there was an even unexpected added benefit of the bridge.
I started to love architect Santiago Calatrava‘s work since I saw his work in a 2006 Calgary Film Festival screened doc but I still used some very harsh words about the Peace bridge in July 2009,
Mike may have a point in saying, “Despite waves and waves of public backlash and opposition to the bridge, the mayor and other members of council are stubbornly defending this foolishness. Come election time, this may be their bridge to die on.“
Yes, I was very disappointed/angry of the council and the mayor when I quoted these words in July 2009. Today, I finally got a chance to talk to my ward 11 alderman Brian Pincott when he came to door knock in our community to try to solicit votes for his re-election on October 18, 2010 Calgary Municipal election. I wasn’t going to let Brian go without asking him about the Peace bridge.
After listening to Brian’s answers about the bridge and reading my friend Maureen Hodgan’s insightful piece “Give Peace a chance“, I am starting to think more positively about the bridge and I am starting to understand the rationales for the bridge better and where exactly the money for the bridge actually came from, etc.
Let me excerpt from Maureen’s “Give Peace a chance” (with emphasis added and order of her points rearranged)
– “Part three: The story that your property taxes are paying for the bridge is misleading. 99.5% of the money came from an Alberta Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant. Awarded across the province to municipalities that would be building infrastructure that tackled the demands of growth in a sustainable way, with a side benefit of stimulating a lagging economy, this provincial money could have gone to Edmonton or Rocky Mountain House. But our City was awarded it. Only a tiny portion (0.5%) came directly from City funds. (all those worried about someone dipping into their snow removal funds, take a sigh of relief)” [Kempton’s note: As Brain explained to me, we will actually save money in the long run because we can save some of the annual cost that we would have to pay if we had gone with some other solutions.]
– “Part one: the City Centre Plan, unanimously supported by City Council, identified the need for two additional pedestrian bridges along the river. In the fall of 2008, the majority of Council members (that’s right, the majority) approved construction of one of these bridges which would be located west of Prince’s Island. The bridge met both Council’s and the Transportation department’s desire for more sustainable transportation options. And with a growing number of pedestrian commuters in the core, a smart addition.”
– “Part two: [… the Peace bridge] project is not devoid of local talent. Take for example Graham Infrastructure, the local construction company who, over a five month period, will be assembling the bridge pieces once they are shipped here from Spain. The majority of the project sourced local talent and was tendered through competitive processes, including construction, geotechnical investigation, hydrotechnical reviews, and input from lighting designers. Only the design of the bridge was single-sourced to a well-respected architect who wasn’t born here.”
(Have a read of Maureen’s “Give Peace a chance“, it is easy to read, and I think it will be well worth your time. Well, I enjoy reading it for sure and I learned a lot.)
To me, the mess and controversies of the Calgary Peace bridge were partly created by politicians’ badly chosen words or poorly communicated reasons and rationales. And the mayor and the majority of the councils can only blame the media up to a point because they could have taken over the communications and communicated directly with Calgarians using all the electronic means available to them. If I, a nobody, could get my messages out, so could they. There were no excuses.
Finally, it is not my style to be critical of a politician as he/she exits the political arena, but I have to point out quotes like the following has never been shown to help any debates or contribute to any constructive discussions,
“Sometimes there are people who vote against sunshine.” – Mayor Dave Bronconnier
I hope the new mayor and all members of the new council will be wiser and have learned the appropriate lessons from the Calgary Peace bridge controversies.
Well, am I as convinced or as supportive as Maureen in her “Give Peace a chance“? No, I am not 110% convinced yet. But based on what I heard from Brian and read from “Give Peace a chance“, I suspect if I ask a few more questions and read/scan a few more city commissioned studies/reports, I may be convinced of the benefits of the Peace bridge. And this comes back to the point of communication, our elected officials (the mayor and all members of the council) need to do much better job in explaining themselves using the best electronic/online tools available.
Grant Neufeld interviewed Alderman Brian Pincott about Open Data.
By the way, data-mining by for-profit organization of personal private data is probably bad. But I am not, in general, against data-mining because sometimes government data can be use to help businesses run more effectively and efficiently. And I think helping businesses is a good thing.