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Opinion

3,000 acres of farmland, yet nowhere to build a pool.

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  • There are 3000 acres but nowhere to plant a pool. Councillor Buchanan asked Mr. Curtis the city manager, during budget deliberations November 20, 2018, if there was anywhere north of the river to build a pool, Mr. Curtis said no. Four years ago I was appointed to sit on the Community Action Committee to look at the need or recommendations for an Aquatic Centre in Red Deer. A new Mayor and a new Council and time was of the essence.

    The city wanted in 2014 to renovate the downtown pool and it was obvious by the paperwork and answers. They repeated, Michener pool was owned by the province. Timberlands had no room available as it was filled with 3 planned high schools and sports fields. Hazlett Lake was too many years down the road, and the Canada Games was in 2019. It had to be built downtown.
    That was 4 years ago and we are no closer to having a 50m pool, than we were 4 years ago. But now the city wants it built in Timberlands near the high schools. It would be like the Collicutt Centre near high schools. Also it will be like the Collicutt, in that it will be east of 30 Ave, between 29 Street and 69 Street. 30 Ave will become like Calgary’s Deerfoot Trail with all that traffic.
    In about 300 acres we will have 3 high schools, sports fields, pickle ball courts and an aquatic centre, but in 3,000 acres north of 11A there is no room to park a pool.

    Councillor Wong asked about, in my mind, the perfect spot just north of 11a near Hazlett Lake, visible to the QE2 and Mr. Curtis said the road allowance would be too narrow and they would have to buy private land to accommodate the pool and services. That would add uncertainty to the costs, but they do not mention that costs uncertainty when they talk about buying 2.5 acres of private land in the Timberlands. Is it a done deal, have they already made a conditional seal subject to council approval? I do not know.

    Mr. Curtis reminded council that the city has had 2 opportunities to build a 50m pool in the last 20 years and they were squandered away. One when building the Collicutt and again when they renovated the downtown pool. Will they do it again?
    The city just built the Servus Arena and the college just opened a new ice facility and the city wants to build a new rink to replace the Kinex arena when it fails. The Mayor says Red Deer services what it has. Looks like we will get another new arena, slated for the Dawe but many are expressing doubts about the feasibility of that venture and feel that it will be ultimately built by the Collicutt Centre.

    In 2001 the city opened it’s 4th and last pool with a population of about 70,000 people. The city services what it has. If you read the financial statements you will notice 2 things that our population is just shy of 100,000 people and that they expect the Michener Pool will be closed at some point in the next capital budgetary cycle. Leaving us with 3 pools.
    If we renovate downtown pool we could be downtown to 2 pools for awhile then back to 3 pools for many years to come. We only build or renovate pools every 20-30 years and by then the Dawe and Collicutt pools will be 70 and 50 years old.
    Using the Aquatic Centre as a catalyst to spur development if we built it north of 11a where development has yet to start. Shoehorning it in with 3 new high schools, new sports fields and pickle ball courts will not get the same bang for the buck.
    Why not combine the new ice rink and 50 meter pool into a Collicutt style complex in an empty field on the north west corner of Red Deer like we did with the Collicutt Center on the south-east corner of Red Deer.

    Spurring development and enjoyed by 60% of recreation facility users in Red Deer, far surpassing all other pools combined.
    This will not happen, because the city is too focused on process and awaiting good fortune to come a calling. I watched the debate and I noticed that council sits in a semi-circle facing in and I marvelled at how their attention is focused in and not out.
    I also noticed that the Mayor and City Manager sit so much higher than council, reigning supreme over the lowly council. Enforced in my mind by little actions like the Mayor telling a councillor his question has taken 6 minutes, though there are no time lines to follow. Shouldn’t an elected councillor in his elected duties as guardians of the public purse be allowed the same latitude and time as the equally elected mayor?

    We have 9 strong and very intelligent elected members looking after our well being, should they not be allowed to bring their strength to the table? We have people trained in law, economics, planning, business, agriculture, politics, law enforcement, education, history, to name but a few. Showcase them don’t muzzle them.

    If they have concerns don’t dismiss them or limit their time, get to the bottom of it, that is why we elected them. The city has for many years survived the booms and busts of the Alberta economy but we have not recovered and are not enjoying the rebounding economy like the rest of the province for the last few years, why? Our economy is failing while everyone else is enjoying growth and our declining population is facing more doom and gloom while those around us our seeing positive growth. Perhaps it is time to stop waiting for potential future development to land in our lap and make Red Deer attractive to businesses, residents, tourists and athletes to name but a few.

    As one gentleman wrote about us hosting the Canada Games but we can’t hold some of the events, and we are showcasing to the country what we don’t have. Poor publicity. If only we had looked outward and acted those other times. Just saying.


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    Opinion

    3 wards for the city based on federal and provincial governance models.

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  • An interesting proposal has been suggested for our municipal governance that is modeled after the provincial and federal electoral system.
    Federally we have Members of Parliament (MPs) and one of them is also the Prime Minister. Provincially we have Members of the Legislature (MLAs) and one of them is also the Premier.
    Federally our fine city is divided into 2 electoral districts or ridings both federally and provincially, so we have 2 MLAs and 2 MPs, and anyone could also be our Premier or Prime Minister, or Speaker, Cabinet Member, or Opposition Leader.
    Back to our city’s governance, we elect 9 people currently, 8 councillors and 1 mayor for 1 electoral district. The idea being suggested is 3 wards, 3 councillors each with 1 also being the mayor.
    Population wise and geographically 3 wards would be fairly easy. Using the last municipal census. Approximately 1/3 the population lives east of 30th Avenue so that would make an easy boundary and approximately 1/3 live north of the river, another easy boundary. The other 1/3 would be south of the river and west of 30th Avenue. Easy and already done.
    Now, why would we consider 3 wards over governance of a single entity?
    Look at thhe history of the wards, the services offered, crime rates, return on investments and you can see the reason.
    The east of 30th Avenue ward has, 3 high schools with plans for 2 more, has the Collicutt centre with a recommended site for the next multi-use aquatic centre, 2 emergency services location, and a pickle ball court centre.
    The north of the river ward has no high schools with no plans for any, the Dawe recreation centre, YMCA, and 1 emergency services centre.
    The other ward has 1 high school, 1 college, downtown recreation centre, museum, tennis courts, Michener pool, Westerner, Kinex arenas, curling rinks, a proposed cultural centre, hospital, multiple emergency services to name but a few.
    So it is easy to see the rationale behind and the appeal for a ward system as our city grows in a manner favourable to some and not to others. 3 wards with 3 councillors each and 1 of the 9 would also act as mayor. It works provincially and federally and it would make councillors responsible and accountable for any continued disparities, right?
    It is an option. Just saying.


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    Opinion

    Will Red Deer finally get a seat at the adult table? Do we want a seat at the adult table?

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  • Opinion by Garfield Marks

    “Red Deer needs a Cabinet Minister“, says the Chamber of Commerce. Yes the fact is we need a seat at the table, but do we have a politician worthy enough to sit at the adult table?

    Yes, I believe we do, at least 2. For far too long, Red Deer has been electing invisible politicians, seat warmers, trained seals, caricatures of what we think we want as politicians. People representing in some shallow way what the population wanted, perhaps we want invisible politicians. But that is not what we need.

    The subject came up due to the recent Provincial election but it is the same in all 3 levels of government. Federally, too like Provincially there is a cabinet table that makes the decisions and sets directions and implementation but there is a somewhat cabinet like table municipally, involving a few people including city manager, mayor, downtown reps, developers and others, that kind of set the game plan, at least in my opinion.

    This came up over coffee one day, started when someone asked who decided to spend almost a million dollars of our taxes on a piece of art off 32 Street saying “Welcome to Red Deer”?

    The hypothesis is that there is an inner circle or small group, not city council, that decides what, where and when to do anything in this city. Which subdivisions to build as we seem to be opening up new subdivisions every year while we have trouble filling the ones already on the market, means there must be at least one developer at this table.

    The question remains then about whether the citizens of Red Deer want a seat at the adult table? Do we accept just paying the bills as our only role?
    We spend millions and millions of dollars every year on politicians, for what? Photo ops, ribbon cuttings, welcome speeches and to vote as they are told by the members at the adult tables.

    Will we get a Cabinet Member from Red Deer? I think we might but just 1 at the Provincial Cabinet level, because the table is small and Red Deer is not seen as a major player needing to be heard. As for federal and municipal tables that is not even on the horizon. Just saying.

    The views in the above story are the opinion of the writer’s. 


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