Ap­pli­ca­tions from cit­i­zens to serve on city groups plunge by 35 per cent

Calgary Herald - - CITY - AN­NALISE KLINGBEIL

Elected of­fi­cials spent hours be­hind closed doors Mon­day, ex­am­in­ing the re­sumes of 289 Cal­gar­i­ans who ap­plied to fill va­can­cies on dozens of boards, com­mis­sions and com­mit­tees — a 35 per cent drop in ap­pli­ca­tions com­pared to last year.

At an an­nual or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing of coun­cil, Coun. Diane Col­ley-Urquhart sug­gested the “dis­ap­point­ing” de­cline in cit­i­zens want­ing to give back to their com­mu­nity could be re­lated to the re­cent­drama sur­round­ing a vol­un­teer group that re­viewed coun­cil pay.

Af­ter a rough ride while pre­sent­ing their find­ings to city coun­cil in late May, city hall’s five-per­son coun­cil com­pen­sa­tion re­view com­mit­tee pub­licly blasted how they were treated by elected of­fi­cials and com­plained that city ad­min­is­tra­tion had a tight grip on their work.

“When you see how those peo­ple were treated when they came for­ward to coun­cil, which was to­tally un­ac­cept­able, that’s a fun­da­men­tal prob­lem,” Col­ley-Urquhart told re­porters Mon­day.

But the new Ward 3 coun­cil­lor, Jy­oti Gon­dek, who has pre­vi­ously sat as a cit­i­zen mem­ber on the plan­ning com­mis­sion, be­lieves the re­cent mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion may be be­hind this year’s de­cline in ap­pli­ca­tions.

“I think there were over 100 peo­ple that ran (for coun­cil), so per­haps some of th­ese num­bers are down be­cause more peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in democ­racy in a dif­fer­ent way,” Gon­dek said in coun­cil cham­bers Mon­day.

Gon­dek en­joyed her ex­pe­ri­ence on the plan­ning com­mis­sion and said more cit­i­zens need to know about the ful­fill­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties on city com­mit­tees.

“We need to get bet­ter at get­ting that word out to peo­ple and telling them what it’s all about and what it re­ally means and the dif­fer­ence it can make,” she told re­porters.

Another new coun­cil­lor, Jeromy Farkas, be­lieves the rea­son the city re­ceived 157 fewer ap­pli­ca­tions this year, when com­pared to 2016, is two-fold.

“The first is that it was an elec­tion year,” said the win­ner in Ward 11, agree­ing with Gon­dek that peo­ple hyper-en­gaged in civic pol­i­tics were likely to run for coun­cil this year, rather than ap­ply for a com­mit­tee.

“The sec­ond piece is around some­thing of a cul­ture that we’ve seen from city coun­cil,” he said, ref­er­enc­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences while pre­sent­ing to city coun­cil as a cit­i­zen, and how the coun­cil pay group was treated.

No one from the City of Calgary was avail­able Mon­day to pro­vide con­text on how many ap­pli­ca­tions were re­ceived be­fore 2016, or pro­vide in­sight on what’s be­hind this year’s drop in re­sumes.

Be­fore coun­cil waded into the re­sumes be­hind closed doors, Col­ley-Urquhart also raised ques­tions about gen­der par­ity on boards, com­mis­sions and com­mit­tees, and blasted a lack of move­ment on the is­sue.

“It’s a bit of a hol­low re­sponse ... It’s not get­ting us any­where,” she said in coun­cil cham­bers af­ter city ad­min­is­tra­tion said gen­der in­for­ma­tion for Cal­gar­i­ans ap­ply­ing for the vol­un­teer po­si­tions isn’t col­lected. In­stead, the city said a work­ing group that’s “in­ves­ti­gat­ing ways in which we can ad­vance gen­der and di­ver­sity on city’s boards” has re­cently formed.

Col­ley-Urquhart said the city has been talk­ing about gen­der di­ver­sity for years, with­out much move­ment.

DAR­REN MAKOWICHUK

Coun­cil­lors Jy­oti Gon­dek and Jeromy Farkas. Gon­dek said more cit­i­zens need to know about civic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

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