Jeromy Farkas said he didn’t anticipate playing the role he did on council when first elected in 2017.
When he saw issues like the Olympic bid, the budget woes and the idea of defunding the police, he figured it was time to take on a stronger role.
But, his final decision to run wasn’t until a conversation with his grandmother a year ago this September.
“She raised me, practically like another mother, and she shared with me some of her perspective as far as our community, the direction that Calgary was going, and she was always somebody that I had such incredible respect and admiration for,” Farkas told LiveWire Calgary
“It was in speaking with her that I found that confidence that I could put my name forward and take a giant leap and take a giant risk to put forward my vision for running for mayor.”
He said after that, he ran through who he thought would be the likely candidates. In the end, he said politics isn’t for bystanders.
“I needed to get involved directly for the future in my city and for the sake of my city,” he said.
Farkas said Calgary has what it takes to come back stronger – both from the prolonged economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top issues: Change
Farkas said that more than anything, the city needs a change. It can’t go forward in the same way.
He said opportunity is going to be a central issue in the campaign for Calgary mayor.
“I think the issues are who is going to have the best plan to bring forward a strong and growing economy and, particularly, I believe that it needs to be based on financial responsibility at City Hall,” Farkas said.
He also identified topics like the Olympics, the arena deal and the Guidebook debate as problematic in that it didn’t really include Calgarians in the decision-making process. Calgary did go to a plebiscite on the Olympic issue. He believes Calgarians voted against the deal because of a lack of involvement and transparency.
“This 2026 bid was all driven by the elites’ it’s all driven by the political class, and practically run out of the mayor’s office,” Farkas said.
“Whereas back in 1988, Calgarians rallied through Frank King and other community leaders and they felt that they had ownership.”
He wants Calgary to be more open and transparent when dealing with many of these topics.
“I think the job of city hall and city councillors should be to empower the people. It’s to listen to know the direction that Calgarians want to see their city go and work tirelessly to achieve it,” he said.
Farkas also said he wanted to support safe and vibrant communities, particularly through support for front line services. He also said the city needs to address inequities in how it spends its budget throughout Calgary.
Transit and the Green Line
Transit must get the best bang for the buck, Farkas said.
He believes the north versus south debate around the $5.5 billion Green Line is a needless one. He said whether or not you support the current project, it’s approved.
The goal for the next council, he said, is to keep the project on track, so to speak.
“That said, I do have my concerns about particularly the downtown portion,” Farkas said.
“I do believe that it’s going to cost significantly more than the price tag that the public has been promised.”
After that, they need to look at the best opportunity to extend Calgary Transit lines, both north and south, he said.
Cost overruns are also a concern on the Events Centre project. He said the city had a deal in place. Farkas expected the Calgary Flames’ parent company to abide by it.
Now that the deal is done, he said what comes next is quite important. He’s not certain all of the issues have been solved. Corners might need to be cut in order to keep it on budget and meet the placemaking goals of the City of Calgary.
“My concern would be that the public benefit of the building, particularly around property tax uplift, realizing the placemaking opportunities and contributing overall to the district could be compromised or otherwise diminished,” he said.
He’s also worried about the flood potential in the new arena. There’s still uncertainty over insurance coverage.
Defunding the police: Different meanings
Farkas said there’s a problem with the term ‘defund the police.’ It means everything from abolishing police departments to making changes to police budgets and reallocating funds.
He believes making drastic cuts to police funding would endanger Calgarians.
Farkas said he’s been a supporter of different preventative and crisis support responses like the city’s DOAP team.
“Programs like these take the pressure off of our police service and help people in crisis,” he said.
Farkas likened it to scrapping an airplane in midflight for parts – you’re almost ensuring a crash landing.
He does support police reforms, particularly around diversity training and education.
“I completely agree that by asking the police to be the be-all agency, we’re setting them up for failure, as well as setting up the community for failure,” he said.
Farkas also raised the issue of a downtown police station, reiterating that Calgary is one of the only major cities to not have one.
On development, Farkas said he strongly believes that development should pay for itself. It also needs to be in areas that make sense.
“City hall needs to be explicit as far as what the revenue requirements are to be able to fund services like transit, police and fire, and there should be flexibility for given developers about how they meet those revenue requirements,” he said.
He said Calgary taxpayers should not subsidize new development.
Farkas doesn’t support the Guide for Local Area Planning document. He called it a failure because it didn’t address the concerns of residents in more than 40 communities.
He said you can’t prevent the change from happening in these communities.
“I think that we need to be strategic, we need to be careful about where that developments happen so that it serves the interests of every Calgarian,” he said.
Misinformation and the perception of being tied to the UCP
Farkas has been accused by fellow councillors on a number of occasions of deliberately using misinformation and inflammatory statements when talking about certain issues. Making the city a playground (40 km/h), secret meetings, golden pensions. He’s often been accused of not coming prepared with his motions and instead pandering with his use of language.
We asked what assurances he could give Calgarians that he would be providing information as mayor that Calgarians could trust.
“Well just because a certain person may disagree with you, doesn’t mean that they’re misinformed,” Farkas said.
“I think that we’ve seen some bully tactics from City Hall and city council as of late, that completely disregards the point of view of residents who are informed and are making good points.”
We also asked about the perception that people view him as a United Conservative Party candidate for mayor.
He said he believes his record on such things as mental health and addictions, social housing, coal policy and others show that he’s willing to criticize the provincial government.
“What I’m hoping to bring as Calgary’s next mayor is somebody who’s willing to stand up on principle to advocate for my constituents,” he said.
Farkas said collaborative relationships at the provincial and federal government are going to be key to helping Calgary move forward.
The one-term councillor said he’s running for mayor to bring change to Calgary.
He said he’s going to work towards a strong economy, transparent government and safe vibrant communities.
“I know that Calgary has what it takes to come back stronger than ever,” he said.
“And I think it’s time for City Hall to work for the people again.”