The elk over by the rec grounds were bugling like mad this evening, their ardour apparently unaffected by the cold drizzle.   My political enthusiasm was equally undampened, and I was kept cheerful during my door-to-door trek by the warm welcome from many of the Cave Avenue folks.  Thanks for your patience with being interrupted at dinnertime!

Interesting conversations tonight about truck and bus idling, organics recycling, environmentally friendly public transit, about integrating young seasonal workers into the life of our community, about the pedestrian bridge, the management of public debt, and the relationship between the needs of residents and visitors.

A lot of people have asked me when the forum is, so here's a quick list of opportunities to listen to/question the candidates:

Tuesday October 9, 7 pm - 10 pm at the BPL, an all-candidates' forum sponsored by BLLHMA.

Friday October 12, 10:20 - 11:30 am at the BCHS Gym, an all-candidates' forum for the high school students, open to parents.

Friday October 12, 7 pm - 9 pm at the Hoodoo, a meet-and-greet with the candidates

Of course, if you can't make it to any of these events, I'm happy to answer questions by phone, by email, or at the door.  If you're concerned because someone has told you that I'm "for" something, or "against" something else, please ask me about it directly. I'll be delighted to tell you my opinion and listen to your point of view, as well.

A windy afternoon on the campaign trail today!  Many thanks to all the folks who welcomed me at your doors and chatted about the issues.  Special thanks to Phil Carmody's 5-year-old daughter Michelyn, who has become such a seasoned campaigner that she accompanied me around Lougheed Circle to show me how to do it right!

Major discussions today were about the challenges facing the tourism industry, the proposed new rec centre, the debt issue, and how to get younger voters involved.

Speaking of younger voters, kudos to Ms. Moleski and Mr. Shields of BES for really engaging the Grade Sixes in learning about the municipal election.  While door-knocking, I have heard about this project from several Grade Sixes and their parents, and it sounds like everyone is finding it very interesting. 

The fall sunshine was warm, but the air was crisp, on Saturday afternoon in Middle Springs 2.  At least three families had celebrated the first snow by building snowmen.  A birthday party in the Cabin was in full swing.  And the views were spectacular -- Rundle, Cascade, and everything in between, with a fresh dusting of snow.

Lots of interesting discussion:  debt, the pedestrian bridge, herbicides on lawns, how hard it is to get chain stores to support local non-profit events, the Housing Corporation and tree preservation were the big topics of the day. 

On the topic of trees:  As I mention elsewhere in my website, I would like to see a greater emphasis by the Town on the health of our urban forest.  In the last few years, I feel that we have been losing more trees than we are replanting. 

 One Middle Springs couple told me that they had heard that the Town's "tree budget" is fully expended on dead or fallen tree removal, with no money left over for planting new trees.  I haven't seen the budget, so I don't know this for sure, but I hope it's not true. 

 Trees are a lot more than an aesthetic resource for our town, although that part is very important (Can you imagine living in a town without trees?).  They're part of our environmental infrastructure -- filtering pollutants, removing greenhouse gasses, stabilizing slopes, diminishing stormwater impacts, providing habitat for birds, lowering the energy needs of adjacent houses by cooling them in summer and insulating them in winter.  They're part of our tourism infrastructure -- helping to create the beauty of a small, woodsy town in the Canadian Rockies.

We need to be more active in protecting trees and replacing lost trees.  I'd like to see the Town devote resources to doing this.

A voter in Middle Springs had a great suggestion to help make tree replacement more affordable:  a "memorial tree" program, like the very popular "memorial bench" program.  Imagine buying a new tree for the town to celebrate someone's 80th birthday, or a special anniversary, or to remember a dear friend or relative.  With appropriate plaques, we'd all be able to refer to the trees by name.  "Have you seen how Mrs. B's tree is doing down by the library?" , we could say.

Next time you go for a walk here in town, look up at the canopies of the trees you pass.  Notice the dead pines, and the other trees that have been stressed by careless development nearby.  Now look at eye level, and notice the replacement trees, so few and so small.  Let's do a better job on our urban forestry, so that our trees can continue to protect, serve and beautify our town. 

You can read more about urban forests at this link: 

http://www.treecanada.ca/programs/urbanforestry/index.htm

A couple of days ago, the CBC had a story about some research done by the University of Calgary.  Apparently, kids who live in newer subdivisions spend less time playing outside, because of the car-oriented design of those subdivisions.

Well, I wish the researchers could have seen  Sulphur Court last evening.  Kids playing in the cul-de-sac, dogs being walked, dads chatting in the driveways, the mouth-watering scent of dinner wafting from the kitchen windows -- it was great! 

At the doors, I got into lots of discussions about debt and even more about the proposed parkade.  Thanks to everyone who took time out of your dinner hour to chat with me, and thanks for all the encouragement!  I'm including some thoughts below about these two big discussion issues.

On debt:  frequently, we read in the paper that the increases in building costs outweigh the cost of borrowing.  "Build now," we're told, "because it will cost more to build in the future".  I think that this argument is a good one when what you're building is essential.  I've got no argument with the borrowing that was done for Banff Avenue downtown reconstruction.  Essential road work and utility replacements are worth borrowing for, if your capital reserves aren't up to the task.  A pedestrian bridge or a second parkade -- not so much, at the present time.  It's like borrowing to buy a house to live in versus borrowing to buy a summer cottage.

On a second parkade:  here are some thoughts I presented at the Community Plan review:

Parking is a multi-faceted issue.  First, it is an issue of way-finding.  When I come downtown by car, I can almost always find parking within a block of my destination.  I'll bet you can, too.  If we can do that, and visitors can’t, then we have a way-finding issue.  I’m delighted to see that way-finding improvement is an objective of the new community plan. 

Next, parking is an issue of reasonably balancing needs and demand.  It is unreasonable to expect that everyone will be able to find a parking spot within a block of his/her destination on July 1.  With that in mind, do we really have a capacity problem?  This summer, I watched the spaces indicator on the Bear Street parkade every time I passed it.  I saw it under 50 stalls of availability four times.  I understand that the Cascade Plaza parkade had space all summer. Yet this summer was probably as demanding a situation as we are likely to face in the life of the plan.   

Let’s not make decisions for the sake of four days a year.  We can “increase facilities”, not through additional stalls, but through the way-finding objective that is already in the plan and through the ways we manage existing parking to ensure efficient use.