Cal­gar­i­ans un­happy with road up­keep

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - MEGHAN POTKINS [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/mpotkins

Cal­gar­i­ans are in­creas­ingly dis­pleased with mu­nic­i­pal snow clear­ing and road main­te­nance ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est edi­tion of the city’s an­nual ci­ti­zen sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey.

Sat­is­fac­tion with Cal­gary’s roads-re­lated main­te­nance dropped by nine per­cent­age points over the pre­vi­ous year, while at­ti­tudes to­ward snow clear­ing saw a sim­i­lar plunge, in a phone sur­vey of 2,500 adults con­ducted in Au­gust and Septem­ber.

Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi ac­knowl­edged the poor re­views on snow clear­ing Wed­nes­day, sug­gest­ing that coun­cil has al­ready agreed the city will have to do bet­ter.

“This is very, very ex­pected given the win­ter that we had and coun­cil has al­ready in­vested money in in­creased snow re­moval, par­tic­u­larly for pedes­tri­ans on side­walks and path­ways,” Nen­shi said Wed­nes­day, adding Cal­gary ’s road con­di­tions still com­pare favourably to other cities.

“I would say our road main­te­nance in­dex is prob­a­bly the best any­where. I drive in a lot of cities and I think our crews did an amaz­ing job of fill­ing all those pot­holes this year.”

Coun­cil chose last June to spend an ad­di­tional $9 mil­lion in each of the next two years to clear snow from side­walks and path­ways, largely in re­sponse to com­plaints from pedes­tri­ans.

Cal­gary has tra­di­tion­ally spent less money on side­walks, clear­ing just 10 per cent of its pub­lic side­walks, com­pared with 25 per cent in Ed­mon­ton and 75 per cent in Toronto. Ot­tawa and Win­nipeg clear all pub­lic side­walks.

Next week, coun­cil will get the chance to eval­u­ate snow-clear­ing bud­gets.

Be­yond the al­ready ap­proved funds for side­walk clear­ing, city ad­min­is­tra­tion isn’t rec­om­mend­ing any ad­di­tional op­er­at­ing funds for snow and ice con­trol.

The city said Wed­nes­day the an­nual sur­vey, con­ducted by Ip­sos, as­sists coun­cil in mak­ing bud­getary de­ci­sions based on Cal­gar­i­ans’ sat­is­fac­tion lev­els with more than two dozen city ser­vices. The sur­vey also asks res­i­dents to iden­tify ar­eas where the city should spend more or less money.

Be­yond road and trans­porta­tion con­cerns, Cal­gar­i­ans said they were look­ing for im­prove­ments to Cal­gary Tran­sit and res­i­den­tial garbage col­lec­tion; the sur­vey cap­tured a two-point drop in sat­is­fac­tion with the city’s blue cart pro­gram this fall.

Down­town re­vi­tal­iza­tion, as well as in­vest­ments in po­lice and fire ser­vices, were also iden­ti­fied as pri­or­i­ties.

When it comes to whether the city should cut ser­vices to lower taxes or in­crease taxes to main­tain or ex­pand ser­vices, Cal­gar­i­ans were nar­rowly di­vided for the sec­ond year in a row. Pre­vi­ous sur­veys con­ducted by Ip­sos showed an­ti­tax sen­ti­ment peak­ing last spring.

The lat­est fig­ures sug­gest around 43 per cent of Cal­gar­i­ans would sup­port cut­ting ser­vices to re­duce taxes, com­pared with 52 per cent in favour of in­creas­ing taxes to main­tain or ex­pand ser­vice lev­els.

“When the econ­omy got very, very bad, peo­ple started to say, ‘maybe you need to start cut­ting ser­vices’ — but it never got above 50 per cent,” Nen­shi said Wed­nes­day.

“Now we’re see­ing a di­ver­gence again of peo­ple say­ing, ‘you’ve got to in­vest in ser­vices.’ “

The mayor said he agrees with the rec­om­men­da­tion made by city ad­min­is­tra­tion to hike res­i­den­tial prop­erty taxes by 3.45 per cent next year, with fur­ther hikes of three per cent for each of the next three years.

The hikes wouldn’t amount to much more than the cost of in­fla­tion plus pop­u­la­tion growth, Nen­shi said.

“We have to be re­al­is­tic and we want to let peo­ple into the con­ver­sa­tion that coun­cil has to have, which is how do you make these ac­tual tough trade-offs?” Nen­shi said.

“That is the bal­ance that coun­cil al­ways has to try and fig­ure out.”

This is ... ex­pected given the win­ter that we had and coun­cil has al­ready in­vested money in in­creased snow re­moval.

AL CHAREST

Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi ac­knowl­edged the poor re­views on snow clear­ing Wed­nes­day, but noted the city has in­creased funds for the ser­vice and Cal­gary’s road con­di­tions com­pare favourably to other cities.

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