Steve Webb said that over the past 15 years he’s seen a decline in good governance at Calgary city hall.
The long-time small business owner has always had an interest in politics. He’d been working on the Jeromy Farkas mayoral campaign earlier this year, just to get a taste of the political atmosphere.
“It kind of got me interested in what I thought I might tackle in four years,” Webb told LiveWire Calgary.
“I just see an opportunity this year like we haven’t seen in Calgary for decades, for some real change to happen at city hall and I want to be a part of that change.”
It was out door-knocking and hearing Calgarians’ issues that really triggered the jump into the Ward 1 race in northwest Calgary. Webb knew he’d get involved in local politics at some point, but that was his dry run.
And now he’s set to vie for a seat at Calgary city hall.
Webb said he’s taken part in some of the bigger public hearings at Calgary city hall, including Calgary’s Guide for Local Area Planning.
What he felt there, along with what he’s heard at the doors, is that city hall isn’t listening to citizens. When asked what Calgary’s biggest issue was, he said this was it.
“I’ve seen it time and time again that the Calgarians that are the most important community leaders, who speak on behalf of the residents are not being listened to,” he said.
“It feels like there’s, there’s a lack of true meaningful consultation. The city seems to tick boxes rather than listen to voices.”
Webb would like to create advisory committees to help steer city work, made up of community members. As a representative, he said town halls in the ward will allow him to take their voices back to city council meetings.
On the jobs and economy front, Webb said the city might need to take a different approach. Instead of providing cash, he thinks it would be worthwhile to incentivize with tax reductions for innovative businesses.
Webb also thinks there’s an opportunity for many of the city’s buildings to be repurposed to provide homes for innovation, like indoor farming and other agri-tech.
“The programs that need to be developed need to be thought out incredibly well and we need to plan adequately so that we get actual value out of these investments,” Webb said.
“I think that’s something that’s lacking is having measurable goals for what these programs are going to achieve. It’s something that I just don’t see.”
Webb said he’s a huge supporter of quality public transit. He said, however, every taxpaying Calgarian is a three-time investor in the Green Line, with it being supported by all levels of government.
He said it’s gone from a project that was a proposed $5 billion, with links from Country Hills to south Calgary, to one that covers less than half that distance for the same amount of cash. It might even cost more, he said.
“I understand that when an investment goes completely sour that we need to take a step back and review what we’re investing into at this point in time,” he said.
“As an investor, we should wonder what’s going on.”
Webb is concerned with the routing and how it’s going downtown. He said there could be more innovation in how they approach the project – and transit in general.
“I think we’ve got to start thinking out of the box when it comes to public transit, and looking at more effective routes that have better ridership, but actually reach the people who need the transit,” he said.
Arena: Struggling to find answers
Again, Webb said he supports the Calgary Flames and Calgary Sport and Entertainment, but citizens haven’t been well-informed.
“Even our campaign team, we’re trying to get as much information as we can about this deal,” he said.
“It feels like there just isn’t any transparency here, and it’s hard to comment on something that you know you don’t know the full scope or even have all the information on.”
Webb said he supports the entertainment industry as an important part of a vibrant Calgary.
For a $300 million investment, he thinks Calgarians ought to know exactly what they’re getting out of the deal.
On Calgary development, Webb said it’s a supply and demand issue. He said you can’t force people to live in a certain area or a different type of unit.
“Having said that, we do need to encourage densification, but it has to be done in a smart way,” he said.
Webb supported the idea of the city’s Guidebook, but the implementation and adherence to it, he said, was disappointing. For example, he said there have been recent planning decisions made to reduce city green space. The Guidebook, he said, talked about maintaining green space in communities.
“We have the best intentions at City Hall, but the follow-through, the actual implementation of these policies, that doesn’t seem to be happening,” he said.
In its current form, Webb said he’s opposed to it. He’d like to see it amended if it ever comes back to council.
Asking too much from police: Webb
The idea of defunding police doesn’t appeal to Webb. More funding and better collaboration between police and social services is needed, he said.
“I think we’re asking more out of the police than what should be expected from them when it comes to their scope of work,” he said.
There are opportunities to review all spending at the City of Calgary, Webb said. He’d advocate for a freeze on any spending increases until Calgarians know where their tax dollars are going.
On fluoride, Webb said he’d leave that one to the experts to help form the decision. He said we’ve had this question multiple times and it seems to be around a 50-50 split most times.
Overall, Webb would like Calgary city council to be more open and more accountable to citizens. He said his years of experience as a small business owner, trying innovative approaches to business will help at city hall.
Most of all, he wants to bring trust back to citizens. He said they just want to feel heard.
“I’m going to govern with integrity, and I’m going to do my best to have the voices of Ward 1 heard,” he said.