Postings related to my campaign for Town Council.

Hello everyone:

Hope you're enjoying these sunny days!


Parks Canada's special events advisory group (SEPAC) is meeting in the basement theatre of the Banff Information Centre on February 25 from 10 - 11:30 a.m.  The three events under consideration are the Macleod and Dixon Ride for Kids, the Tour for Kids, and the Banff-Jasper Relay.  The meeting is open to the public.  If you would like to attend, Parks asks that you RSVP by Wednesday to .   If you can't attend, but want to submit comments in advance, you can send them to the same email before 8 a.m. on Wednesday.


Looking for a Girls' Nite Out opportunity?  The Soroptimists are doing their annual fundraising evening on March 2 at the BPL.  These people do great work in our community -- if you'd like to support them by attending their event, contact Diane Gibson at


You can see the whole meeting package at this link:

It's a light meeting.  Highlights include:

Finance committee reconsideration

Councillor Stavros Karlos is asking Council to reconsider the motion I made in early 2008 to set up a council finance committee.  You can see the entire report on page 14 of the package.  I am hoping that council will agree to this, whether as a small committee of council and staff, or as a committee including all of council.  I think it would give us an opportunity to concentrate on a regular, year-round basis, on financial issues and processes.  There is a lot of good work being done by administration, but there are always improvements that can be made, and a committee structure would give us a place to ask those questions and suggest those ideas.

Appointment of the Assessment Review Board and setting the Bylaw for this year

This is a regular annual process to allow for the appeal of property assessments.  You can see the background information and the bylaw itself, starting on page 23 of the package.


I am leaving on vacation on Tuesday and -- if all goes well -- may be away for a few weeks.  I apologize for missing the next couple of council update emails, but will get back on track in mid-April.


As always, this post represents only my personal point of view, and does not purport to represent the point of view of the Town of Banff or its Council.

Hello everyone:

What a beautiful, sunny day!  When you come back from skiing, remember to stop by the library -- they're celebrating their 60th anniversary this weekend, and there are snacks, fun activities and prizes.


I was chatting with someone the other day who wanted the Town to fix something, and I discovered he didn't know about the Action Request feature on the Town's website.  So, although I've mentioned it before, I thought I'd take a moment to remind you about this great feature.  On any page of the Town's website (, you will see the words Action Request in black lettering on a white strip at the very top of the page.  If your neighbourhood garbage can is full, your neighbour isn't clearing his/her sidewalk, or you want to find out who to talk to about your assessment, or you have any other request for service or information, just click on that link and fill out the form.  You don't have to worry about which town department to send it to -- the person who receives your Action Request will make sure that it goes to the right person.  And you'll get feedback about what action has been taken.


As usual, council will meet at 2 pm on Monday, and you're all welcome to come to any part of the meeting that may be of interest to you.  You can see the entire package at this link:

It's a brief agenda.  The two highlights are:

Operating and Capital Budget

Council is being asked to give final approval to the 2010 budgets.  You can see the whole report starting on page 16 of the package.

On the operating budget, staff has been working to bring the proposed tax increase down.  Largely because of the staffing freeze that council proposed and passed during the budget process, they feel comfortable with lowering the overall budget and suggesting a tax increase of 2.55% rather than 3.1%.  I think this is a good effort at responding to the community's input.

The capital budget is being brought back just as it was when council last saw it.  It includes starting the wayfinding project in 2010 -- I have asked and been assured that we will start with the most essential directional signs, to help our visitors find our parking, washrooms and other services.

FCSS Strategic Plan

Starting on page 32 of the package, you can read about the activities of Family and Community Support Services.  I'm always amazed by the wide range of programs and services offered by this small budget area for seniors, young adults, young families, and so on.  It's a short, very readable report, and I encourage you to take a look at it to see what's being offered in Town.


As always, this post represents only my personal point of view, and does not purport to reflect the opinion of the Town of Banff or of Town Council.

Hello everyone!


Tuesday night at 7 pm, I'll be helping host this spelling and trivia extravaganza.  Last I heard, there was still room for two six-person teams.  If you're keen to join in, call Bob Pearson at the Whyte Museum to enter.  It's free, it's fun, and it's fiendishly challenging!


I wouldn't blame you if you found the newspaper account a little baffling.  Basically, we explored two ideas for potentially cutting the cost of the Recreation Centre project.

Stavros Karlos focused in on the $2 million addition -- the extra office and upgraded locker space that was added to the project by Council at the request of the Banff Hockey Academy (see my May 22 2009 blog entry at ).  Work is too far along to cancel this addition, but Stav made a motion to ask administration how much money could be saved for now if we just built the outer shell of the addition, and waited until later to finish the interior.  The motion to ask for this information was defeated.  I voted for it, because I thought it would be a good idea to at least find out whether we could save some money this way.

I made a motion to find out how much money we could save by LEED-shadowing, rather than going for LEED certification (see my Jan 10 2010 blog entry).  Council supported this motion, and the information came back to the next meeting.  We found out that we could save $144,ooo by not getting the certification, but we needed to pursue certification in order to apply for a program that could bring us around $200,000 in grant money.  But here's the good news -- just because we were considering backing away from LEED, some of our contractors offered to discount the fees they were charging us for the LEED certification work.  Just by asking the question, we ended up saving around $70,000 on the certification.  This is great support from the people involved in the project.  We'll get our LEED and it won't cost as much as I feared -- and I hope we'll get that grant money, too.


Council has discussed both the draft operating budget and the draft capital budget. 

At present, the operating budget calls for approximately a 3.1% tax increase.  The budget is back with administration as they look at final figures for Alberta CPI and similar indicators.  Council will see the operating budget for further consideration in February.

The capital budget has been severely affected by the decrease in commitments from the provincial government, and several projects have been delayed to future years as a result.  The budget is back with administration and will come back to council in February.


You can see the main council agenda package at this link:

 Highlights include:

Valleyview recycling bin

The Valleyview condo association is will be expressing their concerns about the Town's approach to recycling bin installation in their community.  You can read their letter starting on page 11 of the package.

Third reading of Land Use Bylaw Phase 1

Work is underway on Phase 2, and you will have lots more opportunities for input.  The whole bylaw remains open for changes until we do the final round of reviews and send it off for the approval of the Minister -- sometime in 2011.

Adding the sidewalk cafe policy to the Streets Bylaw

Council discussed the results of the pilot program at the last meeting, and now planning is bringing the bylaw to Council.  You can see the report and information starting on page 33 of the agenda package.

Affordable Housing Grant

 The town is eligible for up to $231,000 from the provincial government to support affordable housing initiatives.  The proposed plan assigns this money to help with the future Cave Avenue housing development.  You can see the report starting on page 104 of the package (link above).

Other items

Money for blue historic plaques, more work on the Bow Valley Transportation Authority, and an application for Green Municipal Fund money for the rec centre project.


As always, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not purport to be those of the Town of Banff or Banff Town Council.  I welcome your comments!

Hello everyone, and a belated Happy New Year to those of you that I haven`t already seen on the trails or in Nesters! 

Tomorrow is a very busy day for council members ...


Tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., we start work on the capital budget for 2010.  This is an open, public meeting -- you are welcome to attend.  You can see the agenda package for this meeting at this link:

You probably know this, but for those who might be new, I`ll just mention that operating budget (the budget we worked on in November and December) covers the day-to-day workings of the organization (items such as salary, heating the buildings, running the transit system, etc).  Capital budget is about the projects that create or renew long-term assets for the town (items such as the rec centre project, major road or utility projects, etc.)

We have a huge challenge in the capital budget this year.  That`s because our budget was built with the understanding that the province would be supplying around $4.7 million to the town`s capital budget each and every year until 2016, through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.  This was not just a careless assumption -- it was based on many assurances from the province that this money was a commitment.  However, with the econonmic downturn, this commitment has, unfortunately, been one of the areas where the provice has made changes.  At present, the word is that we can expect $2.6 million per year until 2019, leaving us with a $14.7 million shortfall in the first seven years.

I voted for borrowing for the main part of the rec centre project with the understanding that we would be paying back the debt each year using the provincial MSI money.  Now the money has been reduced, but we are far enough into the project that cancellation is not an option, and the debt, of course, will remain.  This is the very situation I wanted to avoid -- the situation where the ability of future councils to do necessary work was limited by the borrowing of past councils.   It is painful to know that I helped to create this situation through my vote.

Administration has worked very hard to present a capital budget that still works within these constraints, but they are cautioning us about how they have had to stretch the expected lifespan of various assets to do it.  As the council process continues, we will be looking for any additional ways to cover our debts, while still doing the work necessary to keep the town`s assets in good shape.  I will be asking whether there are any cuts still available on the rec centre project -- whether we could, for example, re-visit council`s decision to add an extra area of changerooms and offices, or whether we could cut the expenses connected with the LEED certification process.  While it`s important to do the work to make buildings environmentally responsible, I`m not convinced that it`s necessary to pay out tens of thousands to have paper certification exercise completed, and think that we may need to re-visit the council policy that says we must do this.  I`d like to hear your thoughts on this -- if we do the work, do we still need to pay for the certification.


You can see the entire agenda package for Monday`s meeting by clicking on this link:

You are welcome to attend this public meeting, which starts at 2 pm.  Here are a few highlights:

Snow and Ice Management Update

Starting on page 18 of the package, you`ll find an interesting report on the various alternatives that the Town has tested for de-icing.  Using a mix of traction granules and CaMgAcetate in key areas helps protect water quality, diminish corrosive effects on metal and concrete, and is better for plants.

Sidewalk seating and cafe policy

The pilot project last summer was a success, and council is being asked to approve the policy going forward, with a few minor changes.  You can see the report starting on page 30 of the agenda package.

Community greenhouse project

I`m often asked how this is going -- the answer is that lots has been happening.  A concept for the design has been chosen, some of the money has been raised (and more grant applications are out there), and a site on the Rec grounds is proposed.  You can read the whole report (and see the pictures!) starting on page 61 of the council package.


I will round off my day tomorrow with a third meeting -- the housing working group, starting at 7 pm.  This is an open public meeting, and you`re welcome to attend!  This committee is attempting to build consensus recommendations, and the discussion is always lively.  Key items on the agenda will include working on recommendations about whether the BHC should increase their holdings of apartment style units, whether they should invest money in tracking rental rates and rental construction, and whether they should offset some operating costs by creating a portfolio of rental properties themselves.

It's a perfect day for writing (and reading!) council reports -- somehow, the thought of outdoor activity is not very inviting with the thermometer showing minus 30 on the front deck.

Some of my regular email list will get this update in their inboxes, and others -- alas -- will not get it right away.  That's becaused I only managed to copy part of my contact list before my desktop went belly-up last week.  Soon (I hope) the ever-patient, ever-helpful Ken Lee will salvage all my files and load them on my new computer, and all will be well.


I understand that the park has extended the deadline for comments to be submitted.  If you have not yet put in your comments about the plan, you now have until January 8.  It appears that your best avenue for input is via park planner Mike Murtha  You can also check this link for information:


At the December 2 meeting, as you've probably read, council passed a motion closing debate on the operating portion of the budget.  The budget will not actually become official until it is passed along with the capital budget, probably in January.

This budget, as it now sits, would result in a 3.1% tax increase.  The cost-of-living salary increase for staff will be determined after the Alberta consumer price index figures for 2009 become available in mid-January.  Based on the council financial plan, the increase will be the sum of Alberta CPI for 2008 and 2009.  Alberta CPI for 2008 was 3.1%, and for 2009, it's expected to be approximately 0%.

You may have also seen that I voted against closing the operating budget.  This is because I feel that we have not done everything we can to respond to the very real distress in our community and the uncertainties in our future, and I wanted some time to see if we could do more. 

However, something that has become glaringly obvious to me in this year's discussions is that the present budget process makes it very difficult for an individual member of council to propose meaningful changes.  In part because there are no departmental committees in which councillors work directly with staff throughout the year, we are not familiar with the day-to-day service levels and costs.  In part because there is no finance committee, we are unfamiliar with the options that have been considered and evaluated before the budget comes to council as a draft.  It's therefore difficult to answer the question that is inevitably raised, "OK, if you want to cut the budget, tell us what service you want cut".  Essentially, although the target figure identified in council's financial plan is described as a starting point, barring a miracle, it becomes the ending point as well.

That's why I think that we need some changes to the overall process before the next council is faced with it in the fall of 2010.   Councillor Karlos has proposed zero-based or service-based budgeting, which are great ideas.  I am going to propose an overall effort to reduce (through attrition, not through layoffs) the number of permanent staff at the town, so that we hire people as term employees where possible, in order to have more flexibility when the economy takes a nose-dive.  I am also going to propose a set of information that could be supplied by each department with their budget, in order to give council options for decreasing (or in good times, increasing) costs through levels of service.  These discussions should happen at council early in the new year.

You might well ask why I'm just reaching this conclusion now, in my third round of budget discussions.  I'll freely admit it, the learning curve has been a long one.  The first year, I just tried to understand the system that is now in place.  Last year, events overtook us, with Mayor Stutz's proposal for a 0% tax increase replacing the previous financial plan.  It has only been this year that I have clearly seen the impact of the current approach on council's ability to make changes at the budget review meetings.

Everyone involved in the budget has worked long and hard, and done their best according to their values and beliefs.  There is no question that Mayor Stutz's leadership (and staff's sacrifice) at budget time in 2008 gave Banffites a much better break than was offered by other municipalities around Alberta.  There's no question that staff worked hard this year to bring the overall numbers down to the level proposed in the draft budget.  There's no question that the council members who voted for the budget as it now sits believe that it is the best balance of service and cost that can be achieved.  And there's no question that our tax levels are lower than those in many comparable communities.

But there's also no question in my mind that we are looking at continuing tough times ahead in our one-and-only industry, and I think we will need a more nimble, less incremental budgeting process to respond appropriately.


The group met again on the evening of December 7, and reviewed everyone's perspectives on the existing purpose of the BHC and how well it is living up to that purpose.  I just sat in for half the meeting as an observer, as I arrived home from Ottawa at 8:30 pm that evening.  Councillor MacDonald, who is council's alternate for the working group, replaced me at the table.  The group meets next on the evening of December 21 (7 pm, council chambers).  Meetings are open to members of the public who wish to observe the discussion.


You can see the council package for December 14 by clicking on this link:

Highlights include ... 

Business licence Schedule B fees

The Banff Lake Louise Tourism Bureau's board of directors is proposing a 2% increase in these fees for 2010.  This increase requires council approval.  You can see the report starting on page 46 of the council package.

The Land Use Bylaw

The vast majority of time in the meeting will be taken up by the continuing review of second reading of the Land Use Bylaw.  You can see the summary of what has already happened with this in the minutes of the last meeting, starting on page 14 of the package.  You can also see all the background reports by clicking on the link above and then scrolling down through the list.  We will be continuing on to talk about side-yard setbacks, design guidelines, etc. at this meeting. 


As always, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, and do not purport to be those of the Town of Banff or Banff Town Council.  I welcome your comments!