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Opinion

Local blogger asks, “Should the City hold referendums to gauge public opinion on ‘big’ decisions”

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Submitted as an Opinion by Garfield Marks

A long time resident and home owner suggested that the city should start having referendums before making big decisions.
This came up over the recent Canada Games, and some very questionable expenditures.
The million dollar artwork welcoming people to Red Deer with attacks focusing on the costs, location and the lack of transparencies and seemingly deceptive manner of getting it approved.
Questions about any cost/benefit analysis being done or publicized. Comments about empty restaurants during the games. Many comments about the debts left behind.
The college may be left with huge debts that they cannot pay off without laying off employees, cutting hours and or programs. The Gary W. Harris facility has come up several times when discussing the debt legacy of the winter games.
So if businesses, store owners, restaurants, and residents did not see any return on hosting the winter games, except perhaps the hotels, would we do it again? Should we have a referendum?
Before we spend nearly a million dollars on a piece of art, should we have a referendum?
I would really like to know what the real costs of hosting events like the winter games. How much debt are we carrying? What expenditures were made under obscure and omnibus resolutions, associated with the games?
The Westerner noted that they lost $151,000 hosting the finals rodeo and that was minor compared to the Winter Games and the art piece and then the fact that Calgary had a referendum about seeking a future Olympic Games and the citizens said no. Will we say no, if given the facts and the opportunity to host the Canada Games again?
Should the city start having referendums? It is our money. It is our city. Perhaps we should?

​Garfield Marks​

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City of Red Deer

Hazlett Lake may be the greatest opportunity lost for the city of Red Deer

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Hazlett Lake

This opinion piece was submitted by Garfield Marks.

In cities around the world, man made lakes have been an economic diversification, city saviour, a tourist destination, and/or heat issue solution. Let us look at examples I found on google.

In 2000, when Jasmin Imamović became mayor of Tuzla, it was a dilapidated, swampy mining settlement short on prospects. Bosnia-Herzegovina’s third-largest city had suffered badly in the Bosnian war, and from recessions, low wages and exodus of people since. Solution was a man made lake.
Tuzla’s economy has also changed massively. The tourism and service industries are now its biggest sectors – a sharp change of direction for a city previously known for its coal plants and smoke-filled skies.
Other cities are also trying to boost their profile by artificially creating “natural” tourist attractions. The UAE’s Palm Jumeirah and The World, some of the world’s largest artificial islands, are an extreme example; a rather more considered effort is Barcelona’s beach at Barceloneta, created as part of the city’s facelift for the 1992 Olympic Games.
The beach, the Catalan capital’s largest, is credited with catapulting Barcelona into the top ranks of European travel destinations: the yearly number of visitors staying in hotels in the city rose from 1.7 million in 1990 to 8.9 million in 2017.
Amsterdam has also tried the fake beach approach, incorporating housing.
The Serpentine (also known as the Serpentine River) is a 40-acre (16 ha) recreational lake in Hyde Park, London, England was a venue for the men’s and women’s triathlon and marathon swimming events in the London 2012 Olympics
In Alberta; Echo Dale, the largest of Medicine Hat’s parks, is located a short distance west of .Medicine Hat… The park has two man-made lakes:
Henderson Lake Park is one of Lethbridge’s premier parks featuring a 24 hectare man made lake, mature trees and groves, gardens, picnic shelters, and recreational properties.

Red Deer has Hazlett Lake in a prime spot by Hwy 2, great for tourism, 100 acres for recreational activities, 2 miles of shoreline for beaches, locate the Aquatic Centre there and you would have a premier tourist destination and residents could have a staycation..
We would not have to spend millions building a man made lake, we have the real thing.

 

SO:

Why did the city after discussing with a few members of the Red Deer Naturalists think that leaving such an opportunity  dormant, was a good economical idea?  Why not make some beaches? Why not develop this tourist attraction possibility? Incorporate the new Aquatic Centre.Why just build housing?
While other cities are investing millions in building artificial lakes, we are building homes to hide our very own natural lake.
A lot of words have been written about our state of affairs in Red Deer. The fall-out from a depressed economy, being in a bust portion of a boom-bust cycle. Talk of diversifying our economy away from our continued reliance on the energy sector.  Words are not actions, and it is worrisome. Is it fear or lack of vision that impedes us from following up on the words?
No matter how we dress it up, Red Deer is stagnant with growth at about 1% over 3 years, after population loss. Blame the economy, the stars or any number of reasons but it could have been different. Lethbridge is now more populated than Red Deer and Lethbridge is growing in this economy. Lethbridge invested and is still investing in areas appealing to young families including recreational facilities. Lethbridge has a history of investing in facilities to encourage growth, education and tourism. They turned a man made slough into Henderson Lake Park and has never looked back.
Red Deer has a greater opportunity in having a real natural lake. Will Red Deer build a park? NO, they will  plan on houses, and apartment buildings that may never get built, unless we go into a boom portion of the boom-bust cycle. This is the simplistic, easiest and safest plan with a low return on investment. It ignores the high-profile location and possibilities of the lake, but it has less risk. A wall of residences will be built to hide the lake from Hwy 2.
Remember, Hazlett Lake is a natural lake that covers a surface area of 0.45 km2 (0.17 mi2), has an average depth of 3 meters (10 feet). Hazlett Lake has a total shore line of 4 kilometers (2 miles).  It is 108.8 acres in size. Located in the north-west sector of Red Deer.

Red Deer has seen mass exodus of population over the years before seeing a very modest growth of about 1% over 3 years. The handling of Hazlett Lake or lack of vision for Hazlett Lake may be an example. How many Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and pay $10 parking to sit and swim in a lake? We have a lake but we wouldn’t think of building a beach anywhere along the 2 mile coastline. Let Red Deer residents drive to Sylvan Lake and spend their money there.
Lethbridge took a man-made slough and created Henderson Lake Park, a highly regarded tourist attraction. We will put a trail around our lake. Red Deer residents can go to Sylvan Lake to go to a beach.
We have several planned neighbourhoods that are sitting undeveloped or unfilled so this residential development they are proposing for Hazlett Lake, may never get built. What is the draw? We are creating new neighbourhoods, faster than we are growing, why?
Why not look at how we can invite growth to fill the empty lots we have now? Every town and city has lots for sale but how many have a lake, a natural lake with 4 kms. of shoreline?
We have an opportunity here with Hazlett Lake to create something, a destination, an attraction, will we let it slip through our fingers? Apparently it may be too late. Thanks city hall.

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City of Red Deer

Goulet-Jones says City’s new Environmental Master Plan means higher taxes and an assault on energy sector

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This opinion piece was submitted by Calvin Goblet-Jones

City Council Unanimously Rejects reason by approving a severely flawed Environmental Master Plan.

I honestly can not believe every councillor voted in favour of this document, I am severely disappointed in our Council Today.
Make no mistake, this document deserves to be put through the shredder.  There are a few good elements of the $150,000 document such as strengthening our inner city forests however the document is nothing more than a glimpse into a future of higher taxes, bans and a continued assault on our energy sector by a council who says they support energy.
Of course the document is full of buzzwords and flowery language but this document rejects the benefits of our local energy sector.  Instead of looking towards cheap natural gas as an energy source they look to failed renewable energy projects that you and I will pay heavily for.  The Document wants to limit Red Deers energy consumption, wants to limit your personal fuel consumption, and wants to ban ban ban.  The document wants to ban wood fires, wants to heavily regulate vehicles, and wants to shift all the vehicles the city owns to be electric which will cost taxpayers heavily.
Quickly, take a look at Action 20, they don’t mention a ban outright but they mention open air burning, wood burning and vehicles as part of their “action plan” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to interpret what they mean.

Look at Focus Area 1.2.2.3 where they want to limit consumer energy consumption and how they reject our local cheap, economy supporting fossil fuels.

Shame on Council for Unanimously approving this document.

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july, 2019

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