Mayor Morris Flewwelling was quite right last week in what he said to the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. Because our civic election takes place late in the financial year, and that budgeting really is a 12-month process, new members on council will not likely bring sweeping changes to the city budget next year.
As it is, Flewwelling said he expects next year’s budget to be tight, with little room for bold initiatives. In fact, he said, there is going to be more emphasis on core services — the most important stuff of operating a city — and less emphasis on programs outside of core services, “perhaps discontinuing some things that we do, that upon reflection and review we might decide to reduce or drop completely.”
Well. (Let’s hold that thought for a moment, though, and get back to it later.)
It will be in the second year of a council’s mandate — or beyond that — before new members will be able to deliver on the promises made during the election campaign, the mayor said.
That’s telling things like they are. But let’s look at these comments in the light of what our mayor believes people should have in mind when they decide to run for city council.
We’ve had two longtime councillors decide to step down in this term. First, this city owes a debt of thanks for the perseverance and dedication of both Larry Pimm and Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer, and all other members of council for putting themselves on the line for this city for so long.
After a certain point, people might believe “the old gang” needs a shakeup. But in reality, the collective experience of our current council is the reason Red Deer is achieving growth with an eye to the horizon, not just the next budget. It’s the reason new neighbourhoods are being developed as distinct communities, that green space is being preserved, and that future growth is being planned in co-operation with the counties and communities that live beside us. When all the talk is about snow removal and budgets — especially at election time — we’ve been lucky to have a council that understands the top priority is the people who will be living here 20 or 50 years from now.
You can call that leadership, if you like. And that’s the spin we want to put on the mayor’s words today.
We already know there will be at least two new faces on our next city council. If you believe you can contribute to the next council, Flewwelling is saying he expects you to be taking the long view, not the short view on how the city is to be managed.
You may want to campaign on doubling the snow removal budget by cutting all cultural expenses and dropping the thermostat in the library to zero, but what are you going to do after that? Watch the city’s growth exit smoothly on nicely-plowed roads?
Pimm, Watkinson-Zimmer and other councillors took the time to think about what kind of city people would want to live and raise their families in — through the next two generations. Good winter driving is but one small aspect of that.
Which brings us to the thought we were holding.
Second thoughts on non-essential programs are good. In fact, we voters would rather like it spelled out what those second thoughts might be.
And we’d like to hear it before the actual election campaign, please.
There are people in Red Deer who are likely very heavily personally invested in delivering those things Flewwelling and city staff may have deemed better off discontinued.
His answers might even inspire the possible candidacy of people who value these things for the city’s future.
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.