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Calgary council rejects councillor’s request for public art apology

Councillor Jeromy Farkas tried to have council issue a public apology for how it has handled the public art issue in the past several years, but councillors were having none of it.

“Until we acknowledge the shortcomings of this policy, we will not achieve the path forward that Calgarians deeply deserve on this issue,” said Farkas in his pitch to council.

He said council is ultimately responsible for the actions of the entire city.

“We have fallen short, and I think it’s time to take responsibility.”

However another councillor quickly pointed out that a request for an apology from Farkas himself in the council chamber earlier this year went unfulfilled.

“There was a time when the chair asked you to apologize in council and acknowledge your shortcomings,” said Coun. Shane Keating.

“It went to a challenge of the chair before it actually ended because we didn’t want to make the chair look bad. That’s my interpretation of what happened.”

That request happened in April of this year, when comments Farkas had made on social media were determined to be in breach of council’s code of conduct.

Keating then asked that the discussion be taken behind closed doors. When council returned, only councillor Chu and Farkas voted in favour of issuing an apology.

Councilors Gian-Carlo Carra, Diane Colley-Urquhart, Evan Woolley and Druh Farrell were not present.

After the closed-door discussion but before the vote, Mayor Naheed Nenshi gave his objections in public.

“This (apology) is to me meaningless,” said the mayor.

“Are we going to apologize when the bus doesn’t pick up the passenger? Are we going to apologize when we have a new route on Calgary Transit that doesn’t serve people as well as the old route did?”

Nenshi said council’s recent actions in reforming the art policy spoke volumes to the desire to make things better.

He said symbols and gestures matter, but they can also be dangerous if they’re used for politics.

“They’re dangerous when they throw people under the bus,” he said. “They’re dangerous when they actually don’t accomplish anything to make the community better.”