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Calgary’s Comeback: City manager begins laying plan to get economy back on track

It’s being dubbed Calgary’s Comeback.

New city manager David Duckworth delivered his first public presentation to a strategic meeting of city council Monday, outlining his immediate vision for helping get the city back on track.

Duckworth was the former manager of the city’s utilities and environment unit and took over the role in August from interim city manager Glenda Cole.

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Duckworth put forth three pillars Monday to shepherd Calgary forward: Supporting local business; Revitalizing the downtown; Services delivered in fiscally responsible and affordable manner.

He said that in the coming weeks they would be rolling out a series of programs to support Calgary’s economic recovery. Work being done to fix the city’s tax policy will begin at a city committee meeting Tuesday.

“Figuring out a solution to this complex problem is the underpinning of Calgary’s financial health and competitive position,” Duckworth said.

Calgary’s comeback story and how it’s delivered

Calgary’s Comeback consisted of three pillars work would be focused on to get the city back on its feet. SCREENSHOT

At several points in the presentation, Duckworth and members of council referred to how Calgary’s story is delivered. They eluded to the themes that are shared in Calgary and national media – often negative ones: Tax shift, taxation rates, overspending, budget cuts.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, at one point, talked about the division among elected officials and the potential for incorrect information to be put out to media.

“As a result, when information gets put out there, by one of the elected officials, it’s actually not accurate. Or it is spin of some kind,” she said.

Colley-Urquhart said the city needs to step up and correct the inaccuracies.

“And so, this is going to take some courage, it’s going to put you at odds with what is said. But the result of what’s happened has actually damaged the reputation of the council,” she said.

Duckworth said at several points during his presentation that the city needs to better job at telling citizens what it’s doing right. He noted that in his 30-years as a public servant he’s never met an elected official that didn’t have the constituents’ best interest at heart.

He served notice, however, that they would be taking a more active role in ensuring accurate information is delivered to citizens.

“What I can tell you, in a respectful way, when misinformation is out there, I will ensure that we contact you to let you know that we’re actually going to be setting the record straight,” Duckworth said.

“When the information is correct and it doesn’t look good we need to be able to stand up and say we need to do better. So, it goes both ways.”

Shift in communicating with the public

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that some of the great things the city is doing gets lost in other conversations.

“We’re doing a lot of incredible things to support Calgarians through the economic recovery, and also to accelerate the economic recovery,” Nenshi said.

“The idea here was to create a thematic umbrella, Calgary’s Comeback, to talk about a lot of the great things that are going on, and also to help us as council, refocus a bit of what we’re thinking around the concept of what we’re trying to do here.”

Duckworth said his office would be providing city council with quarterly updates on progress towards the three pillars set out in Calgary’s Comeback.