Lana Bentley said she’s always had an interest in people.
A social worker by trade, Bentley started her career as a family therapist. She’s worked in several roles in the health and wellness field, but it’s all been smaller scale, personal impact.
Now, she’s looking to create a bigger impact in her community with a run for Calgary city council in Ward 6. Earlier this month, incumbent Jeff Davison altered his plans and is now running for mayor.
“I’m at a stage in my career where I still have that same desire to create impact. I’m looking to explore that at a different level,” Bentley told LiveWire Calgary.
“Serving as a representative for my community seems like a really great way to do that.”
Like many Calgarians, Bentley said the last year has introduced a lot of different challenges – and opportunities. She said it’s a good time for her to step up and be a part of the process.
“I’m the type of person that is motivated to participate in those conversations,” Bentley said.
“I’ve never liked sitting on the sidelines.”
It was after feedback from those around her that first spurred the idea to run for council. Then, it was serious personal reflection on how she wanted to contribute to Calgary.
“For me, the thing that was most appealing about jumping into a municipal election is that I think municipal government allows people to connect with their with their representatives in a different way that doesn’t exist with other orders of government,” Bentley said.
Economic recovery top of mind for voters
The economy is not only a big issue in her ward, but a big one for the city. It has been for a few years, Bentley said.
She said vacancy rates in the downtown and the city’s high unemployment will be on the minds of voters come October.
The post-pandemic recovery should be a priority for the city, Bentley said.
“Obviously, the pandemic has certainly intensified people’s concerns, and has brought yet another level of disruption to a city that has been faced with challenges over the last few years, due to a variety of reasons,” Bentley said.
She said she’s hearing from small businesses in her area who are struggling to keep their doors open.
“It’s a concern for me. It’s a concern for my neighbours. I know it’s a concern across the city and across the province, undoubtedly, so I think that economic recovery is going to be a really big piece of the puzzle,” she said.
Also out of the pandemic, Bentley said the city needs to keep a close eye on mental health. She said it’s going to take some creative thinking to hold space for that conversation while focusing on the economy.
She said it’s a foundational issue.
“People do well if they can,” she said.
“I think supporting communities around being well across all relevant domains is going to be really important.”
Outdoor spaces a Ward 6 priority
Accessible community spaces are something that’s come up as Bentley’s talked with people around the ward thus far.
“I’ve heard folks say that they want to make sure that is an area of continued focus and investment,” Bentley said.
She’s also heard that equity, diversity and inclusion are important to residents in Ward 6.
“We have seen the city make attempts at tackling those conversations and I think we need to continue that,” Bentley said.
They’d also like to see a city council that function in a respectful and collaborative manner.
“People want to hear solutions, and people have told me they want to be presented with a positive vision and a positive, optimistic outlook for the future because we’re heading into some uncertain times,” Bentley said.
But, once again, it rounds back to the area economy and how best to support local businesses in the area.
“It’s not just to get out of that but thrive as we come out,” Bentley said.
Not top of mind: Green Line
The city’s $5.5 billion Green Line doesn’t really roll off Ward 6 residents’ tongues. Bentley recognizes that it’s a hot-button issue for many Calgarians.
Ward 6 was the benefactor of the West leg of the LRT with the opening in 2012.
Where Bentley stands on the Green Line requires further thought and more specific consultation with area residents, she said.
“I’ve traveled throughout the riding and engaged with folks from many different communities within the riding, and the Green Line has not come up,” she said.
Bentley said her position on the arena deal, which her predecessor, Coun. Jeff Davison led the charge on, is evolving.
When it comes to the economy, Bentley sees the potential connection to a vibrant downtown area. So, there are benefits, she said.
“I’ve also heard some people express frustration, and the perception being that their voices and their immediate needs are not necessarily being given the attention from city council that they deserve,” she said.
She said the last 14 to 15 months have been transformative for Calgary – and the world – and many of these decisions may need to be revisited with a post-pandemic lens.
Bentley said she’ll continue to discuss it with the area residents to get a better feel for what they’d like to see.
Police funding reallocation, systemic racism
Bentley said the Calgary Police Service deals with a complex range of calls. As a social worker she can see how some of the issues could be tackled through a social lens.
“I do think it’s worthwhile for us to look at the full continuum of responses. I think services are intended to engage with people in crisis points, and those services do need to receive adequate resourcing,” she said.
Bentley would also like to see other points along the intervention spectrum more adequately resourced, too. She said early intervention is critical for longer term success.
There are ties to the problem of systemic racism, and Bentley’s happy to see the city try to address issues of diversity and equity.
She said people want to see themselves reflected in the organizations that serve them and have influence on their lives.
“I think that this is a longer-term conversation, to really see things change and I believe that it’s possible,” she said.
“As difficult as it can be to talk about things like racism. I’m so glad that we are.”
Bentley said she’s offering a positive vision of Calgary for voters in Ward 6. She’s personally invested in the success of the ward and in Calgary.
She’s been doing the work of helping building family and community success for 20 years, she said.
”I think that I can bring a really unique approach and a really unique perspective as well as the experience of working towards families succeeding and thriving in our city,” she said.