Opinions

Editorial: Unelect Dale Hodges

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It's October and the winter winds are starting to blow. Thankfully this year, the bitter cold weather is not only a sign of the changing seasons but also of a potential change in leadership with the Mon., Oct. 15th civic election almost upon us.

In Ward One, encompassing the far-reaching territory from the west boundary of Calgary to the west side of Crowchild trail, down to the corner of 16th and Crowchild, and including the University of Calgary, the race for a spot on city council features Dale Hodges, the incumbent of 24 years, Jennifer Banks, a social worker and Normand Perrault, a retired general contractor.

This is good. Civic politics are dominated by incumbents and any time someone makes a run at them, it's at least a tad democratic--ignoring the major deficits in campaign funding between incumbents and challengers (who are usually self-funded) and the abysmally low voter turnout these elections usually elicit. More often than not, challengers bring new ideas to the table that may actually register more with voters than the safe, running-on-the-record drivel that incumbents usually spew for their campaigns.

This rings true with the race in Ward One. Banks, whose top four goals address community, the environment, affordable housing and integrity in governance, brings more to the table that directly addresses urgent Ward One needs than the incumbent Hodges.

According to his website, Hodges' goals are improving road and transit without increasing the city's debt, managing growth with land-use planning, identifying which infrastructure projects are important, creating sustainable, long-term growth and providing affordable housing as a funding priority with the new money the Government of Alberta gave to the city right before the election started. Though they are all fair goals, when put into perspective with what Hodges himself lists on his website as his major accomplishments over the last term--including two road expansion-related infrastructure projects and the extension of the LRT to Crowfoot­--they ring hollow. Tuscany, a neighbourhood on the west end of the city, is the poster child of resource-consuming development sans planning with little-to-no transit service, strange roads and no schools, until the first elementary school opened in 2006. Tuscany was established in 1994, 11 years into Hodges' reign.

As university students, affordable housing is a top priority. Though first-years may be fine in residence this year, as their university career goes on to their second, third or fourth year, they will likely be looking for student-priced accommodation. Hodges is on board with the current bylaw reform that slightly alters the rules with secondary suites, largely providing the opportunities for developers to properly zone new developments with secondary suites in mind while failing to address the problem of illegal secondary suites, but is against bringing secondary suites into established neighbourhoods. The problem with this plan is the lack of urgency it displays. Though they're often quick to bulldoze established and affordable housing centres--like the houses in Victoria Park for the Stampede grounds extension and the York hotel for the new EnCana monstrosity--city officials are too slow in addressing the current need. As students, if anything should mobilize you, it should be the idea that you could either have a voice to determine whether a council member will act on your behalf and in your interest for the next three years, or one who will continue to further a ridiculous NIMBY attitude.

Banks, on the other hand, is in favour of legalizing secondary suites, which could prove an arduous process because of building regulations and other obstacles. But this shows more urgency to address an actual need than supporting the disturbingly slow inching that council has shown so far on the issue.

Without reservation, the Gauntlet fully endorses Jennifer Banks as a Ward One candidate. Though it is unlikely that Hodges will be unseated--last year he won by a 7820 vote margin--a strong showing for Banks will at least send a message. Banks may be inexperienced in the ways of civic politics, but she brings fresh ideas in a city that seems to be grinding to an ineffectual halt on too many key issues.

After eight terms and 24 years of Aldermanic work, it's time for change. The winter winds are blowing and here's hoping they'll blow Dale Hodges out of office.

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Comments

I agree with the editorial, "Unelect Dale Hodges." Unfortunately, this problem is endemic to representative democracy, i.e. politics. The solution is to allow citizens to participate directly in their own governance, that is to vote directly on policy and to have the power to initiate policy. So, in other words, Banks, or anyone else, could initiate policy directly with a petition to Banks' council and council can be required under law (hypothetically) upon deliverance of petition to bring the initiative to vote in council. Of course, the Mayor can veto council (essentially) but then the Mayor's refusal to act in accordance to the wishes of the Worship's constituency would be an effective tool for the opposition in the following election. If the coucil voted in favor of the initiative yet the majority of citizens were opposed, they could vote against the initiative, although again, the Mayor would have final say in light of being re-elected.

So in other words, it is possible to tweak the current system so that citizens can initiate policy and vote directly against policy, and this would be most effective and efficient under the condition that only "populational" majorities would be binding, that is the term "majority" defined by the number of citizens (as per the previous census) and not by the number of ballots actually cast. So if 10% of the population votes against a policy it isn't binding even if all the votes are unanimous, because 10% of the population is not a "populational" majority even if when counted the majority of votes unanimous were 100% of the ballots cast.

It's a very simple adjustment to the current system, but would fine-tune it like a machine, maximizing its efficiency. If you or anyone would care to debate the idea of having the option to vote directly on policy rather than indirectly through elected representative, populational majority vs. voter majority, and citizen-petition initiatives please write to directrepresentativedemocracy@yahoo.com
and thanks for participating in the system you love to hate, democracy.

There is a difference between someone stating "visions" and actually having those visions come true. Jennifer can state her visions however much as she wants, but until she can show me a plan that is sustainable to accomplish these, they are nothing but political rhetoric.

Dale has a proven track record, he does what he says he is going to do - and he is a realist. He might not promise everything that you want, but he WILL deliver on his promises, and much more.

What kind of things does Dale Hodges accomplish besides continuously rubber-stamping development as the city leap-frogs its own infrastructure? But I guess what else should you expect from someone who collected a large portion of his campaign donations from developers and amassed the largest Aldermanic campaign surplus in the '04 election, yet voted down any regulations regarding surpluses.
Maybe having someone in office who questions development decisions and puts community and the environment in front wouldn't be a bad idea.

I think Dale Hodges is going to being sued for MISFEASANCE and ABUSE OF PUBLIC OFFICE.

If anyone is interested, we can arrange to post a copy of the statement of claim currently filed at Court of Queens Bench.

Once this hits the media waves, his days could be numbered.

Who knows, maybe he will be homeless, after he looses all his assets when the bailiff shows up.

Eh, Dude !
(a favorite Hodges cleiche)

My husband and I were planning to vote for Hodges....until we read the story in the Sun today regarding his no-show at the bridge vote! That eye sore could have been prevented if he had bothered to show up to vote! Too busy watching TV.....seriously!!!

Time for new blood is right!

This is the email we sent to Dale Hodges after reading his article....Banks is looking good in our books!

Dale,

We have never written to you or any other politician but after reading the Sun today we felt an overwhelming duty to contact you. We can\'t begin to tell you how disgusted we were after reading this article. Your response from your website is noted below but the fact that people saw you in the back prior to the vote....what is your response to that? Are you going to call Diane a liar??? Honestly this reeks of you siding with the mayor and not having the balls to tell us the truth....that you went against what we all wanted, to keep in the mayor\'s good graces. I thought you were better than that Dale, we both did. Who cares that you opposed the bridge and voted for reconsideration it\'s too little too late at that point...but a good ploy to get us all to think you were concerned with what we thought.
The point of your job is YOU WORK FOR US....it\'s not what YOU think...it\'s what we all want as a ward. This bridge is a complete waste of our tax paying dollars!!! It is not needed and it is an EYE SORE!!! The amount of money being spent on this bridge is atrocious and our tax paying dollars could be much better spent!

We were planning to vote for you......not anymore, it appears there is something smelly here, we don\'t feel you are trustworthy anymore. We will be looking at the new candidates and finding someone new to support, we think that perhaps you have become complacent and need to be reminded who you work for.

I could not attend the first vote as I was suffering the aftermath of a severe infection that had required hospital medical attention. However when the issue returned to Council two weeks later, I opposed the bridge and voted for reconsideration i.e. not to proceed with it. Unfortunately, the motion for reconsideration was lost because only 8 votes were gathered and a minimum of 10 was required to halt the project. I voted against it as it was too costly.

Shawna and Darrel