I met April before she graduated from my law school in Toronto. She is in her mid-twenties and loves the arts, music and dressed up like Stephanie Kaye from Degrassi for Halloween. April is also from Calgary. We talked about the usual ex-pat Calgarian subjects: Joel Otto face-offs, the catchy 1988 Olympic instrumental and the thrill of getting your birthday announced by Buck Shot.
“Calgary is basically one big suburb” was April’s abrupt answer when I asked if she was moving back home. I wanted to challenge her, to point out all the things that I love about Calgary, to accuse her of becoming an ironic Toronto hipster who boycotts Wal-Mart while sipping a Starbucks latte. But in my heart of hearts, I knew she was right.
Naheed Nenshi believes making Calgary a great city will attract young professionals like April and businesses. He has detailed plans to deal with sprawl and create vibrant communities centred on better transit. I am excited about some of Nenshi’s small ideas (radically, getting transit to give you change) and also like his big ones (making developers pay the cost of their developments). Nenshi studied government at Harvard, wrote a book on cities, attended every City Hall meeting for the Herald and is accomplished in business. Shockingly, he is not qualified to be Mayor; he is over-qualified to be Mayor. At an event, someone thought that I was Nenshi. If he is elected Mayor, I will exploit this passing resemblance and have incredible power.
Zak Pashak is the best candidate for Ward 8. Many talk about increasing independent businesses and culture downtown, Zak has done it: he is the founder of the Sled Island Music Festival and owner of music venue Broken City. Zak will make it easier to get around the inner city with dedicated transit, separated bike lanes and a pedestrian environment not dominated by unfinished condos. Zak is an ardent advocate of density and establishing an independent Auditor General. He also lives on my block which will make complaining about City Hall super easy.
I am not writing this to be critical of other candidates but I will make one comment: choose substance over celebrity and the future over the past.
I want to proudly tell people like April that I live in a vibrant and sustainable city. I don’t want to leave this city when the price of oil drops again. That is why I want Naheed and Zak running my city. Remember to vote on October 18. Contact me if you need any assistance making your decision.