Aging infrastructure. Shrinking budgets. Lower tax-generated revenue. Less provincial funding. Growing populations.
These are the hurdles our city government face today. Every day, the city council has to manage these hurdles as part of their mandate to maintain the quality of life we're used to in Calgary, strengthen the economy, address undesirable social conditions and practice environmental stewardship.
It's not easy. And tough choices have to be made. But quick-fix solutions aren't the answer.
Privatizing public services is a quick-fix solution.
Study after study has demonstrated the fallacy that selling off the management of city services saves money. In almost every case, the city wound up spending more and negatively affecting service quality.
Calgary is an innovative city. It always has been. This is the time to show it.
This is the process of evaluating how things get done, strategically plugging the gaps that lead to waste, and planning intelligently for change.
A commitment to collaboration is a good example. City planning needs to be a dialogue between parties, not an outcome dictated by any single party.
Top-down planning by a remote regional or metropolitan authority, can't address local concerns adequately. At the same time, a bottom-up approach leads to unnecessary duplication, overlap, and waste. Smart growth seeks the happy median, trains advocates on both extremes to get there and stay there, and installs managers who understand how to maintain happiness, efficiency, and action.
This applies equally to civil servants and citizens.
On the public side, we can evaluate the department budgets, how they're allocated, where and when the actual spending is taking place, and on what. Most of the time, the cost savings are plain as day if someone bothers to look.
One proposal from Waste & Recycling Services is to change to a 10 hour/day 4 day work week from a 9.5-hour/day 4 day work week. This change alone would help the city retain the money it needs. And the reduction of staff without layoffs would be managed through the natural attrition of retirement, not re-filling those positions.
And we could get more assertive in our messaging to Calgarians to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Less garbage and recycling overall would reduce costs in a multitude of ways. A good example of this was in Les Sorinières in western France. After announcing a pilot project to charge residents per garbage bin they began tracking waste volume throughout the city and gave householders data on the amount of waste they were generating. Awareness reduced waste dropped by more than 20 percent, and the volume of recycled waste rose. The plan to charge residents was not implemented, as it was deemed no longer necessary.
A commitment to implementing modern tracking tools would let the city define high-performance realistically and take the right steps to work towards it.
The city of Copenhagen is a leader in technology adoption: they developed a pilot plant that separated household waste into organic and inorganic materials to produce biogas and bioethanol they then re-use as an energy supply for city heating.
Another trailblazer in this area is Charlotte, North Carolina. They partnered with Duke Energy and Verizon to leverage millions of data points related to the results of public money spent. That awareness has saved the council $10 million since 2011.
Let's get Innovative together, make lasting plans and take the time to permanently address our problems with long-term solutions instead of treating a proverbial ax wound with a proverbial band-aid.