What’s all the fuss about indicators in the Community Plan, and why do I think they’re important?  

Clear indicators are where the rubber hits the road.  This is where people actually begin to understand the intent of the plan, and how they will be affected by its implementation.  The draft plan says that the indicators are “the measures we will use to determine if the Community Plan is being implemented successfully.”

So, for the various goals and objectives in the Plan, the document (which you can see at this link:http://www.banff.ca/business/planning-development/banff-community-plan/community-plan-review.htm  ) includes indicators, such as “numbers of visitors”, “consumption of water”, and so on. But here’s the problem — the draft plan doesn’t say whether we want these things to go up or down, neither does it say “by how much”.

In order to tell whether we’re meeting the goals of the plan, for each indicator, the Town would need to know where we are now, where we want to be, and how far along that road the Town intends to get within the 5-year life of the plan.

Let’s take one of the indicators as a typical example: from page 26, “Number of visitors”.  In its present form, any reader of the plan can put his/her own interpretation on that indicator.  Different people might want the town’s visitation to go up, to go down, to stay the same, and each one of those readers could assume that the Town’s intent is the same as his/her own.   

To be meaningful, this indicator would need to be written like this: “2007 visitation is x, our ideal level of visitation is y, and within the 5-year life of this plan, we hope to get to z”.  

I can completely understand that everyone will heave a large sigh at the thought of still more work.  But doing this work will make the difference between vague direction and clear direction.  I think that we’ve already shown an appetite for grappling with the issues on a level of substance, rather than concept.  A lot of good information exists in the Community Indicators project, which could provide a springboard for focused discussion and recommended direction.  And perhaps we could just choose the top 20 priorities in the plan, and set out meaningful indicators for those.

If Council revisits the indicators in the plan, and decides on measurable targets for the most important ones, we will have accomplished several important tasks:

  • we will make sure that the implications of the plan are clear to Banffites, helping us all make personal and business decisions based on a clear understanding of where the town is headed in the next five years.
  • we will be providing clear and unequivocal direction to Town staff, so that they can carry out the true intent of the plan.
  • we will make it clear which goals and objectives of the plan are intended to be the main priorities over the next five years.  There are many, many excellent objectives in this plan – much more than five years’ worth.  It would be good to identify the top, short-term priorities.
  • we will ensure that the Minister is clearly informed of the direction of the Town, making his approval more likely.
  • we will be keeping

    Banff in the municipal planning forefront as an example of best practices in planning and regulation.

I've now sent off my first ads to the Crag and the Outlook.  Huge, huge thank-yous to the folks who are helping out by sponsoring my ads!  I really appreciate your contributions -- and your willingness to put your names in the paper as supporting my campaign.

And, speaking of newspapers, I'm actually interested in quality services for residents, not "quality services for residence"!

A lot of people have been talking to me already about their concerns with some of the capital projects that the Town is considering.  As you probably know, I feel that we should undertake tax-supported debt only for essential items.  I also feel that we should think very carefully about alternative approaches before we consider adding new structures and facilities.  I hope you'll support that point of view on election day.

But even before the election, you can -- and should -- have your say on the Town's proposed capital projects by going to www.banff.ca and filling out the community satisfaction survey.  There's a whole section on capital projects such as the rec/community centre, the pedestrian bridge, another parkade, etc etc.  For each one, you get to say whether you "strongly approve", "approve", "disapprove", "strongly disapprove".

The survey is easy, even fun, to complete.  It will only take you 10 minutes!  And I know that the new council will be looking at the results with a great deal of interest as they plan for next year's budget and program.

The "chain store" issue is a heart and head issue.  From the heart: naturally, I'd like to have Banff be a place of small, unique, locally owned stores and restaurants.  From the head side of things, this is not so straightforward!  Here are just a few of the issues:

  • does the Town have the legal right to ban a class of owners rather than a class of uses? I know that we have been told that the town's lawyers say that it can be done. I find this surprising, so I'd like to see exactly what they said -- and I'd like to see what question they were asked.
  • Following on an excellent point made in council yesterday -- how do we define "chain store"? How did the lawyers define "chain store" during their deliberations? Are franchises the same thing as chains? The franchise operators are locals -- do we consider them a second class business because a nationally known logo is on their front door?
  • I've always been happy to have The Bay here in town, as a place to get clothes for the kids and practical household items. They're certainly part of a chain. What if they had been denied access to the town -- would locals be better off? Or would we be making more trips to Calgary?
  • the landlords are locals, too. Many of them have a lot of unfilled space. Are we going to tell them they cannot rent it to a perfectly legitimate business, maybe even one the town really needs, just because of the ownership of the proposed tenant?
  • why retail and restaurants, but not accommodations, gas stations, etc etc.?

In general, I think that it is advisable for the Town to regulate HOW business is done, rather than WHO does business.   In other words, concentrate on the size and design quality of buildings, the nature of signage, the requirements for parking and housing.   Regulating these things will discourage the Walmarts of the world.

Congratulations to Mayor John Stutz, who was acclaimed on nomination day.  This is great for John , and a tribute to his hard work in the past term.  It's also great for the 10 council candidates, because we'll collectively get more air time to discuss the issues than we would if there was a mayoral race going on. 

And congratulations to the 10 council candidates for making the decision to run.  This is a tremendous commitment of time and energy, and I think all these folks deserve our thanks for their interest in serving the community.   The official list will be available this afternoon on www.banff.ca