There is a mayoralty election in Calgary this month that should prove to be one of the most interesting in many, many years. The outgoing mayor, Dave Bronconnier (aka 'Bronco') is a brilliant politician, although someone who I believe has damaged our city to a horrific extent.
When he became mayor 9 years ago, he ran on a platform of roads, roads, roads. Calgary had come off several years of prudent provincial and municipal budgeting and, although the economy had rebounded, the infrastructure had somewhat lagged and it was noticeable with some already massive population growth.
So what did Bronconnier do when he won? Spent unprecedented money on roads. This was done at the expense of balanced budgets, snow removal, transit, common sense and any noticeable difference in traffic. The past 9 years have seen so much construction that nearly all major arteries (Deerfoot, Glenmore, Crowchild, Sarcee, Mcleod) have been at a nearly constant crawl due to construction alone. And when construction is finally done on a section, it usually just means that the traffic has been diverted elsewhere. What does a brand-new overbudget multi-million dollar overpass in your neighborhood mean? Typically that you will be waiting an extra half hour in your neighborhood to get on to the overpass in the first place.
The maintenance cost alone of all of these new roads and bridges might bankrupt Calgary one day, so how did the city led by Bronconnier get enough money to fund all of these projects? Well, taxes were raised, Bronco did a lot of whining through the media to the provincial government for transfer fees, the city debt increased substantially, and a number of 'user' fees were raised.
One of the many fees that went up was parking.
Parking in Calgary is an absolute joke. This is a city of barely one million and of low population density yet has one of the highest costs of parking of any city in the world
. Know what else? The Calgary Parking Authority apparently runs at an annual deficit (I recently read that it was as high as $8 million per year in the red
How does this city department try and combat the deficit? Increase ticketing and the penalties of the tickets. How do they do that? Increasing restrictions on parking and hiring more people to ticket you (thereby increasing costs, which are funded by taxpayers).
I am writing this as I am now standing in a 1hr long line to talk to a peace officer to plead not guilty to one of 3 tickets I got for parking in front of my house (tickets were for not displaying a permit, which I actually had displayed - demonstrating the quality of CPA's hiring practices). Of course I am paying a ton for downtown parking while I sit here pleading not guilty.
This year's election has my attention and hoping for some major changes to the Calgary Parking Authority. It's probably too much to ask that they all go to prison (joking) but an overhaul is necessary. I have some thoughts on what needs to be done but I will save that for another ramble.
The one bright spot at the Calgary Parking Authority? A guy named Ken at the call centre. Talk about excellent customer service. This guy must have the most difficult job in the world, working for one of the most incompetent organizations
around and dealing with irate Calgarians who rightfully hate the CPA's guts. Poor Ken.