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What’s next for Calgary’s new city council?

At the end of Monday’s swearing-in two things happened.

First: Council approved Ward 14’s Peter Demong as the first deputy mayor of the term.

Then, they recessed to Nov. 1. It’s there they will continue their organizational meeting of council.

That’s the next step in a busy month of November, where new councillors will be fed a steady diet of administrative info to prep them for the start of their term.

Then, they will head into the budget.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the next few days will be spent having conversations with councillors to find out what the priorities are for each ward. Then they will chart a course for moving ahead on those plans.

What’s an organizational meeting?

In the prior organizational structure, there were eight committees. These are the overarching committees where policy decisions are discussed and made, and the public can speak. (Example: Transportation and Transit). Those decisions are then forwarded to council.

The City of Calgary approved a change to its standing policy committee structure earlier this year (adding in Standing Specialized Committees). There are now four main committees with the breakdown below.  Many of the old committees under the structure were dissolved after their final meeting.

The City of Calgary’s new committee structure. CITY DOCUMENTS

According to the City of Calgary’s revised procedure bylaw, each councillor must sit on one of these committees. They may not chair more than one of them at the same time. They also can’t chair the audit committee and one of the new committees at the same time.

The city lists 81 entries on its boards, committees and commissions webpage, though not all have council appointments. Some of those listed BCCs may not be active.  Still, council reps will be added to places like the Calgary Public Library board, the Calgary Police Commission and the Calgary Arts Development Authority.

Mayor Gondek said they’ll be figuring out “which councillors would like to serve on the various committees and boards and commissions.”

 “So, we’ll be organizing ourselves getting ready for next Monday.”

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said it would likely be a mix of certain positions lined up in advance and others they’ll discuss at the meeting.

“I suspect what’s going to happen over the next week is we’re going to find sort of a mix of those two, and we’re going to be respectful of everyone’s aspirations and where everyone’s at, and the work that needs to get done,” he said.

The weeks after: Budget adjustments

Calgary is going into the final year of its 2019-2022 four-year budget cycle. 

The city prepares a budget that projects operating and capital costs for four years. It also projects the tax revenue required to continue funding those operations.

Each November, city councillors make adjustments to that proposed budget.

This year’s budget adjustments have dates scheduled for Nov. 8 and then again Nov. 22-26. 

In those meetings, new councillors will be provided a breakdown of many of the departments and proposed changes. They will hear presentations from department heads on the trajectory of each area and overarching plans for the upcoming year.

Then, decisions are made.  That’s where the steepest learning curve will be for first time councillors.

“It’s really about coming down to learn some of the nuances that you can’t really get from just reading a document,” said Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott.

“Learning about how the system works from people who’ve done it multiple, multiple times is going to be significant in the near future. Immediately – let’s not even call it near future. It’s going to be significant tomorrow.”

Mayor Gondek said there’s a plan in place to help get new members up to pace.

“One of the greatest things that administration has done is created a way to do orientation that allows us to tackle the big things upfront, and then slowly accumulate knowledge of everything else we have to do,” she said.  

“We are in good hands, with our finance department getting us ready for budget deliberations.”