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Thoughts for the future of Red Deer

For the new people on city council, I wonder how long will it be before all their good the intentions and their enthusiasm is destroyed by a stale administration that appears to lack any creativity, research ability or analytical credibility, as recently exposed in the great bicycle path fiasco.

I don’t hold out much hope of real advancement or progress in the development of sound urban practices over the next four years at the start of Red Deer’s second century with the present administration, and would like to share a few ideas as a planner with over 30 years of municipal experience in major urban centres with anybody in the new council who really wants Red Deer to thrive and progress, and who are prepared to stretch their imaginations a little.

Perhaps as a wake-up call they should advertise with a national employment agency/newspaper the jobs of all senior city management, ensuring that they have the right qualifications with a minimum 15-plus years of progressively senior experience in their profession with a major urban centre with population greater than 150,000, and please no more incestuous appointments. Recruit new qualified blood bringing new ideas. Cease the practice of hiring the ‘has been’ retired employees as consultants who only practice 40-plus-year-old technologies and ideas.

Hire a reputable national management consultant to do a manpower utilization study to weed out the unqualified, the unnecessary and the over-staffed positions.

Instruct the traffic engineers to research alternative solutions to traffic patterns with a given mandate to remove interruptions to traffic flow (i.e. remove 15 sets of traffic signals a year and scrap the exorbitantly expensive traffic light Disney World planned for Taylor Drive/Ross/49th Street and replace it with a cost effective roundabout). Remember, traffic lights stop traffic, roundabouts permit traffic to flow. And please forget the six-lane highway to the east for at least 20 years.

Introduce the loop transit system instead of present tourist site-seeing trips. Close the downtown bus terminal and turn it into a permanent public market. Introduce the ‘oyster card’ system (here’s a great research project for anyone with foresight and brains).

Hire a national/local real estate company to find a major development company to develop the old civic yards as a total complex instead of the two-bit strip mall approach they plan at present. The site should contain a population of at least 1,500 people to invigorate the downtown. How about two levels of underground parking? This process could also apply to the old RCMP building together with city pensioners free parking lot.

Get off the fence and do something constructive. The Eau Clare Market example in Calgary at present should give food for thought.

Turn 51st Avenue into four-lane north/south downtown bypass from Tim’s in the south to 53rd Street Music on 49th Avenue. Close 49th Avenue between 49th and Ross to through traffic and link the existing city park to the car park to the west to form a major activity urban space and really start downtown pedestrianization and please, no more cosmetic schemes that do not do much to encourage revitalization.

Instigate land-use assessment techniques to determine highest and best land use to enhance the tax base and enact bylaws to enforce minimum development standards.

Initiate a land consolidation policy, especially downtown, to prevent poor planning and development practices.

A total revision of residential subdivision design criteria, especially deleting the need of lanes that waste 15 per cent of productive land use.

Budgeting! It is time to stop the tail wagging the dog. Council should direct administration what it can spend before they present their basket of pie-in-the-sky programs and proposals. How about a 15 per cent reduction in all departments’ operational budgets (except police, Emergency Services and Public Works). That would really create some creative pencil sharpening.

I could go on but I think the message is clear that there is something major lacking in the creative forward thinking processes in this city.

David Plumtree

Red Deer

 

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