It is the one time of year when everything is on the front burner. At any given time the money allotted to any program or department could be cut entirely, increased wildly, or anything in between.
During this week the Council Chamber is often a mad house filled with very stressed people – including many average citizens checking in on the proceedings – worried about what could happen to the funding for their pet issue.
Heck, in 2009, council actually accidentally cut all funding for garbage collection for about 12 hours until the mistake was pointed out. It can all be very confusing and nerve-wracking living so near the edge.
However for some reason this time around has felt a little… different. The vibe in the Council Chamber this past week has been more relaxed than in previous years. Not to mention, dare I say, it’s been more cordial, too?
In my recent visits to council I think this new friendlier council owes a lot to the unorthodox style of Mayor Nenshi. Normally you would expect the chair of a multi-billion dollar organization to be stern, overtly efficient, matter of fact, and entirely ‘by the book’.
Not so with Nenshi. He thanked ever speaker during the public submissions proceeding in surprisingly specific ways, and made everyone actually feel welcomed. This is hard to do when you consider how imposing a visit to a council meeting can be for a regular Calgarian.
A lot of this probably comes from Nenshi’s personality. He’s not the bossy-type you normally expect a mayor to be.
He’s constantly joking and keeping things light-hearted. Even when disagreeing with other council members or the public he’s kept this up. (My favourite exchange that illustrates this point was when a presenter asked why the City is building a fire hall in an area where only a few hundred people live. Nenshi’s somewhat glib answer? “Because there might be a fire.”)
Certainly there have been disagreements this budget week just as there always have been, but they’ve taken on a very different tone: more of an ‘agree to disagree/we’re all in this together’ manner. Ald. Lowe and the mayor have had their differences of opinion on several issues.
Ald. Mar and Ald. Farrell have appeared at odds with other council members at times too. Ald. Chabot appears to be trying to inherit Ric McIver’s title of resident fiscal hawk by asking questions no one else thought to ask. (Sometimes they are important questions, other times there is a reason no one else asked them.) Regardless, it appears everyone will come of out this with a healthy amount of respect for one another still intact.
How long that will last is up for debate, but for now, it looks like our council really is working well together and making progress in doing so. And this is something we haven’t seen as much of in past sessions.