There are no maybes as a city councillor. We vote yes, or we vote no. The public deserves to know why our elected leaders lean one way or another. On such an issue as the Future of Richmond Green, as I vie to be your next Ward 8 City Councillor, you deserve to know how I would vote.
After much time spent speaking with the community, the City, and key stakeholders, I would say yes to the proposal to the Future of Richmond Green because it serves the goals of our city socially, economically, and environmentally – but with qualifications.
My Commitment to a Renewed Partnership
We must ensure that the relationship between the City, City Council, and the community remains strong. Without trust, collaboration, and understanding, the relationship will continue to struggle in a time where we need it to be stronger. The proposal for the future of Richmond Green exposed the flaws in our current engagement process. There are many lessons learned from this, and first and foremost, I commit to investigating how to improve our engagement process so that when we build this city, we can do so where everyone feels empowered in the process.
I support the proposed development because it will see the park grow in publicly accessible green space, enriched amenities, a new baseball diamond and another in the future, and more people will be able to call this community home. However, my support is contingent on the following qualifications. Before development begins on the NW portion of the park, the 5 acre green space expansion, the new baseball field, and the enriched amenities are open to the public first in an act of good faith. When trust is broken, we must do the work to earn it back.
In my work as a teacher, an advocate, even a coach, I’ve always known that to engage in challenging ideas and concepts you need to call people in – not out.
People are complex. We are full of fears, conflicting thoughts, anxieties, and insecurities that filter how we view everything. The one constant of city building is that there will always be competing interests. The one variable at the centre of city building must be people. Most people have a vision for this city and are working hard every day toward that vision, but we must do it together. We must call people into the process of city building rather than leave them out or behind.
As your Ward 8 Councillor that wouldn’t just be my job, it would be my honor and responsibility.
Improving the Process: Moving Forward With Lessons Learned
At a Rally to Save Richmond Green on July 10, 2021, I listened to residents speak about their connection to the park, how they felt isolated and alienated from the planning process, and most importantly, how they felt their feelings, thoughts, and ideas were either entirely ignored or minimized.
This is not how we improve our city. We cannot do it by minimizing, intentionally or unintentionally, the voices of people who love their community and are advocating for what they feel is best for it.
No matter the proposal, when people feel excluded and reduced, when communication fails, people will rightly get their backs up and the process of engagement will be for nothing.
A comment made by an area resident resonated deeply with me, they felt that by the time the engagement began the city already knew what it was going to do and that people should just get on board. It is hard to feel like you were included in the process when the process seems done before you even get in the room.
But these feelings go both ways, as there are public servants who feel vilified, accused of just trying to grab land from the community and hand it to developers. The urban planners, representatives of Calgary Parks, even Councillor Woolley have their backs against the wall because in following the established process, they’re seen as enemies. I do believe the work done so far on Richmond Green was done in good faith but there are major flaws in how that was communicated to local residents.
There are a lot of competing demands and interests that must be met as leaders in Calgary. We are projecting to add 1.3 Million people to our city, the biggest threat to our environment and the City’s bottom line is our continued sprawl. Sprawl must end or the cost of services will continue to rise. Calgary has the same geographic footprint as Toronto but a third of the people. This is not a sustainable model fiscally or environmentally. Ward 8 continues to lose schools due to population decline and it’s a challenge faced by established neighbourhoods across the city. CBE is already warning of 16 more public school closures across Calgary. What we must do is continue creating and maintaining the vibrancy in our communities as they change and grow.
It becomes the job of the city to seek out unique opportunities that support the sustainable goals of our city while being sympathetic to how we further develop our communities. The proposal that will eventually go before City Council is such an opportunity.
We must lead, plan, and engage with the compassion necessary to call people into this process and make them feel a part of it, not just a witness to it.
I believe in this proposal, but I am humble enough to recognize that there are flaws in how it went forward. This doesn’t mean we scrap the whole thing, it means we let it guide us in how we engage and collaborate from this point forward.
The Future of Richmond Green Proposal: The City must commit to clear timelines to deliver on amenities
The proposal brought forward for the Future of Richmond Green is one that will see a great deal of investment in the park, an expansion of green space, and it will create the diversity of housing needed to help address the social, economic, and environmental issues our city is facing today.
The City cannot focus on the housing portion alone. It must present residents with a plan and a timeline as to how the new park land from the City depot site will become publicly accessible. They must also commit to the new ball diamond being in place prior to losing the current one.
My support of this project is qualified in that sense. The City cannot move forward with the development without providing the amenities it promised on a reasonable and clear timeline.
On the engagement itself, this proposal should have come forward with residents engaged as partners, rather than as a box to be checked. Residents deserve a clearly laid out timeline and the City needs to make sure they follow through and meet the bar that’s set.
As your Councillor I will ensure that the promises made by the City are followed through on and done so quickly.
Before I came to my position on Richmond Green, I wanted to make sure I understood the issues being presented by those leading the push to stop the changes to Richmond Green Park. I learned so much before I could make my decision.
My Commitment: More greenspace, state of the art amenities, and re-evaluating how we engage with each other.
While I support the proposal based on all available evidence, it has become very clear that the processes we use to bring communities to the city-building table are flawed and residents deserve more information than they received.
I am committed to making sure that City Council continues to evaluate and grow the ways we engage with people. The work has already started, but the lessons we learn today will help us all build this city better, together. As above, I am also committed to making sure that the community gets what it wants in terms of green space and the baseball diamond. The City must follow through quickly on the promises it makes.
**In speaking with the community, I heard many concerns about the future of this park. Contained in this FAQ are my direct responses to the concerns I heard. By no means does this represent all concerns, so please do not hesitate to reach out and follow up if you feel that something was unaddressed.
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