By B. Simm
CALGARY – When talking about the upcoming civic elections, Evan Woolley, Councillor for Ward 8, uses, stresses the word “needs” over and over. In particular, he stresses what the city needs now. Outlining his re-election proposal, Woolley strips the situation down, starting from how we got here, what we’re doing now and how it could all be lost if we don’t stay on course.
Arts and Culture, Beautiful and Brave
“Our economy has been going gangbusters for over decade. Things are awesome, then the price of oil collapses presenting us with a challenge. Yet, at the same time, a massive opportunity exists to revision the city. We still have everything going for us, except the price of oil.”
”What we have is this young, talented population, and we need to support them with 10 billion dollars in capital infrastructure that we can spend to build this next city. So are we going to build this amazing metropolis so that international companies want to move here, are we going to build that infrastructure that’s going to attract top talent?”
In addition to Calgary Economic Development, which is focused on attracting foreign interest and investment, Woolley says the opportunity to invest locally can also turn the city into a beautiful brave new world.
“Right now there’s people developing a policy that aims to make this a music city. We need to increase our spending enormously to arts and culture because we can commercialize a lot of that talent. And we need to bring ACAD, the Alberta College of Art and Design, to downtown Calgary. They’re in an old tired building that they don’t own, with a couple of hundred million in deferred maintenance owed.”
A situation Woolley sums up as, “a dog’s breakfast.”
He adds, “It’s not connected to any community physically. Where your college is, it should bring the neighbourhood to life, but there’s just no opportunity for that. What if we had the opportunity downtown to house it in the old Science Centre (by Shaw Millennium Park), and build hubs of arts and culture in the core that activate these neighbourhoods?”
Woolley’s campaign slogan, “Neighbourhoods First”, is propelled by the idea that the downtown and surrounding urban districts needs to be a
“super vibrant, bustling urban core”, which not only attracts people to move there, but also sustains and spurs on the population that already exists. Happiness is a healthy community. How do we get there?
“I want Calgary to be the easiest place in the world to do business,” says Woolley. I was in Miami and it appears that any dude with ten grand can open a business. You can throw up a sign and start selling Cuban sandwiches.”
Of course there’s more to it than that; anyone who’s tried or gone through a business start up in this city knows the red tape involved is a living nightmare to cut through. But one of Woolley’s main objectives is to open the door for small businesses to thrive.
“We need to create way more permissive space for people with ideas about a small business. An art studio, for instance. You should be able to literally paint the walls, hang a sign and you’re good to go. That’s one of the things I’m pushing really, really hard for. We have in place what we call the City Centre Enterprise District so that anywhere downtown or in the
Beltline you don’t need a development permit (to start a small business).
You go straight to a building permit, which saves tens of thousands of dollars and months of time. So if you took over an old doctor’s office, you don’t have to go through this arduous process to get a restaurant in there up and running.”
Since elected Councillor of Ward 8 in 2013, Woolley has campaigned against tax dollars diverted to buying news roads in outlying suburban districts when there’s critical infrastructure needs in the inner city. As a result, large investments (80 million) have been made to rebuild major transportation corridors including 17 Ave. and 1 St. SW. There’s a pedestrian strategy in place to make the downtown more walkable, and the underpasses leading into the core have been redone resulting in far more attractive and safer pathways. There’s been more investment and redevelopment of park areas in Ward 8 than anywhere else in the city, and he’s championed the difficult cycle track project to get it off the ground. Woolley has made a lot of progress in the last four years towards building the vibrant, bustling city he envisions.
“It’s just not the downtown and the Beltline either,” Woolley points out.
“It’s Killarney, South Calgary, Marda Loop, Cliff Bungalow and Mission. All these neighbourhoods are turning into incredible places. All these communities are seeing massive investments that they have never seen before.”
Suburban sprawl plagues Calgary and takes away from the kind of attention, effort and resources required to make the inner city a highly desirable place to live. Woolley fully recognizes that suburban growth is going to happen, and it’s not a bad thing allowing for affordable homes and different community lifestyles. But a continued emphasis on the sprawl is unhealthy and he argues for a more balanced development strategy.
“In 2010, 90 percent (of residential development) was in new communities and 10 percent in established neighbourhoods. That number in the last five years has switched to 70/30. Our goal is to get that to 50/50. We’ll always build new communities, but the pace is getting smaller… Inner city infrastructure investment drives redevelopment committees, which drives more housing, more people and a better quality of life. My view is the more people that live in your neighbourhood, the better your neighbourhood.”
Chris Davis, Woolley’s combative opponent in Ward 8, threatens to throw a massive wrench into the machine that’s building the future city the youth of today deserves. Referring to Davis and his camp as “angry, tired old conservatives”, Woolley himself is angry because the creative, innovative ideas now in motion could all come crashing down. His agitation with Davis spews out: “He’s opposing the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), he’s opposing secondary suites, he says he’s going to stop the 17 Ave. reconstruction project, and he wants to freeze the bike lanes. This dude and his people will take back the inner city back so many years.”
Election Day is October 16. Get out and vote. It’s good for you, it’s good for all of us.Election, Election Day, Evan Woolley