Why I am Supporting Mayor Nenshi for Re-Election

**Image Credit: Artist, Mandy Stobo

This October Calgarians are being invited to the polls to vote in their new municipal leadership.  I don't consider myself a political person, but I am engaged in my community and as such municipal elections are important to me.  In previous posts around election time I have written about the role that philanthropists, charities and social businesses can play in supporting and pushing the needle on policy discussions.  Discussions like what George Brookman has been leading around the Penny Tax for the arts, or what a group of technologists and entrepreneurs are doing with #CivicTech and #CodeForCanada and #CodeForAmerica.  This post is about what happens when a city is tied to an industry and thinks that by doing business as usual we will get different results (insanity, comes to mind).  It is also about looking beyond this election cycle and this one politician's role, to that of a multi-generational view, where I am not going to directly benefit from some of the policies set forth in his platform, but my nephews and their kids will.

Following high-school I had the opportunity to live and work in a number of locations around North America - Toronto, Boston, Dayton, New Jersey and NYC. By this list you can see that one of things is NOT like the other.

Dayton, Ohio.

In the late '90's Dayton was a small city in the centre of a Central State that had staunchly conservative leanings to the south and more liberal leanings the further north you got.  This was the city where I was first exposed to unofficial racial segregation and the confederate flag flying openly. It was also where I was first exposed to economic policies that were tied to industry without regard for the citizenry.  

When I lived in Dayton the Automotive Industry had all but collapsed and along with it, the Tire Industry and the various other services and products that went alongside the automotive manufacturing.  NCR was still a major player in town, but it too was affected and was in the process of redefining itself in a technology world that was rapidly changing.  If you weren't part of the Airforce or attending one of the many universities in the area, employment was precarious and limited to specific professions where growth could be seen.  Unfortunately attracting people to those professions was getting harder and harder because the very fabric of the community was being eroded.  As more companies pulled out, funding for the performing arts, education, basic social services provided by the charitable sector and all the other things that make a city interesting and live-able began to disappear at worst, or at best, be cut back so significantly that it made accessing them challenging.

In looking at how our city has weathered the current economic issues, layered with the provincial and inter-provincial politics I think that Mayor Nenshi has led the council through these challenges well.  And like everyone, not without some hiccups.

Ten years ago, Calgary was at a crossroads, we could have kept going business as usual and could very well have ended up just like Dayton. But as a community we voted for change – and change we got.  These changes have been seen in how our most vulnerable access city services and programs, how the very landscape of our city has blossomed into more than just suburban sprawl and strip malls.  We have seen improvements in our inner-city that makes our downtown vibrant after work hours attracting artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and multi-national companies to set up shop here.   It has also positioned us to attract top tier researchers and professors in industries like Quantum Physics, Video Gaming and Software Development, and Machine Learning.  All of these outside of the Energy Sector.

Fast forward a decade and we are now at another crossroad, we are in a unique position where our city’s resiliency and entrepreneurial spirit has helped us weather an economic rollercoaster.  So what new can we be thinking about?

I think it is time we look well beyond the next four years; and that is the message that I am hearing from Mayor Nenshi in his re-election platform. The projects and policies he is presenting are ones that will be realized long after this election cycle, when my young nephews are going to be in High School. These are things that may not directly affect me, but the ripple effect could have a profound positive implications.

As a member of our business community and an active participant in our non-profit sector, I believe that Mayor Nenshi is the person to keep us moving forward and it is for this reason that I have contributed to his re-election campaign.  I feel that this contribution is as much for this year’s re-election as it is an investment in the longer-term future of our city.