It’s customary to make personal resolutions as the new year dawns, grasping at self-improvement straws with the notion that turning a calendar page gives us licence to remake our lives.
But it would make more sense, and likely prove more successful, if we banded together as a community to focus on some critical goals we need accomplished in 2012.
Just look at what Central Albertans did when faced with the challenge of building a Ronald McDonald House and you’ll understand how resourceful and purposeful we can be (and that’s just the most obvious recent example).
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a (less than complete) list of projects and issues that need to be tackled by and for Central Albertans in the next year. Feel free to add your own entries.
Not all of them can be accomplished without outside (federal and provincial government) help, but they can certainly be initiated here.
And with a provincial election coming in the spring (and a budget before that from Alison Redford’s government), now is a perfect time to start talking about significant goals for this community.
Rarely do politicians pay more attention to voters than when MLAs’ employment is at stake.
City of Red Deer
l Continue the rebuilding of downtown, particularly along Gaetz Avenue and Ross Street, and initiate a project to fill in vacant lots in the core. The master plan for downtown is a good one, but it needs to be hurried along. (And this requires patience from merchants and citizens alike, because construction is disruptive.)
l A much more expansive waste management program that includes a broader spectrum of recyclables and a kitchen-waste compost program.
l A man-made turf at Great Chief Park now, not when a grandiose plan for the whole park is drawn up years from now. The field is used to the point of abuse. To maximize use, and ultimately minimize cost, turf should go in as quickly as possible on the football/soccer field. Tackle the rest of the park piecemeal, as funds are available.
l A major campaign to build the aquatic centre soon. This will require major fundraising, corporate partners, and federal and provincial funding. This is a serious gap in the city’s infrastructure and it needs to be filled quickly.
l Expansion of the city’s bike lanes pilot project into a workable network that allows riders to commute with ease and safety.
l Shovels in the ground and a completion date set for the Plasco gasification project. The original agreement, signed in 2008 and involving nine local communities, has expired. But need is greater now than ever to divert garbage from landfills and to establish long-term alternative energy sources. (MP Earl Dreeshen, are you listening? This project requires federal funding, now.)
l Completion of the water and waste water system to include all area towns, plus summer villages around the region’s lakes. Municipal councils need to start exerting pressure on Central Alberta’s MLAs to bring the necessary provincial funds to this project.
l A fair distribution of other provincial and federal infrastructure and transportation program funds. For too long, the province’s Conservative governments have treated Central Albertans as a certainty at the polls, and the poor cousins when it comes to funding programs. So too has Ottawa taken this area’s voting tendencies for granted. That needs to stop. Voter loyalty shouldn’t be justification for diminished services.
l A firm timeline for the next phase of development at Red Deer College, hand-in-hand with entrenched status as a degree-granting institution (can anyone say Red Deer University/College?). We need to keep our bright young people in Central Alberta and attract others to the region. The academic programs need to keep pace with the exceptional trades programs that have been established.
l Four new public schools in the region are a good start, but the need will only grow as our communities continue to expand. We need to be proactive about school construction, not reactive. And the schools need to be built with an eye to how they can serve the whole community, much like the new Red Deer Public school in Timberlands will with its public library branch.
In each case, these projects require co-operation, initiative and commitment. We’ve shown again and again that we have those attributes, in spades. Now is the time to put them to good use.
And then our happy new year can be one of exceptional progress.
John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.