Q & A - MAREK HEJDUK - Calgary Council Candidate for Ward 7
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Q & A

  1. What made you decide to run for City Council?
  2. What are the top 3 matters you would like to change?
  3. Why? (for each)
  4. What is it about living, working, and raising a family in Calgary, that you love the most?
  5. What is the one thing that frustrates you the most about living in Calgary?
  6. Being an elected city councillor is a very time consuming job (almost 7 days a week)… How does your family feel about you running?

1 Foremost I was asked by my community to run after the volunteer work I’ve done in the NW. That resulted in an examination where I realized I’m a father with two children who has witnessed the rising cost of living in this city is slowly eroding our ability to raise our kids properly. I’ve seen a real lack of accountability and common sense in council demonstrated by slow and gradual erosion of inner city community associations, I find it incredulous that a lot of community associations don’t talk to each other one on one and can’t name executive in a council next door. Certainly another barometer of community input is voter apathy where only 36% of eligible voters came to vote in the last election. City hasn’t in fact advertised the upcoming election very well. Honestly I like fixing messes and our city is a mess.

2. + 3.

Accountability and Common Sense

If we look at city halls track record, notably in the last 8 years we’ve seen a shift from politics of the people to politics of the corporations and special interest groups.

That has resulted in economical disasters. The Peace Bridge whose ongoing costs did not account for the cold weather and additional traffic from people seeking to see the bridge (http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/it-will-cost-700000-to-replace-300-light-fixtures-on-calgarys-peace-bridge). Developers lacking proper community consultations regarding developments between city council and Calgarians, as one Community Association president mentioned “It’s not just a Ward 4 issue, This is about what we do with developments all over the city”. (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/highland-park-golf-course-development-fight-1.4025742). Another issue is the city bike lanes and the loss of parking notably in the core of the city to lack of parking on roads on routes around Northmount Drive NW.

In all cases there is a distinct lack of public input, accountability by city of Calgary elected officials and common sense. Instead of just talking about the problems I could propose some solutions, Peace Bridge should have taken into account the temperature variation using local architects who would account for 80 degree Celsius temperature variations would have been accounted for in local design firms, whereas a Spanish Architect wouldn’t appreciate the extreme cooling and heating that leads to much higher wear and tear. I’m not opposed to art, but most councillors don’t seem to acknowledge that Calgary does have amazing world class art in our own backyard, I would draw heavily from our local artist community. In the case where developers lack proper public consultations I would ensure that part of the communication of developments would include a proper change management strategy ensuring all stakeholders sit at the table talking in order to develop a coherent community plan. Finally I love the idea of bike lanes, after all I’ve been struck by cars a total of 4 times in Calgary by cars when I cycled down the streets in the last decade. However a bike lane is the last step the city should have taken to modifying car behaviours, a much less expensive and effective solution is to work with driving schools and public awareness campaigns via City of Calgary website to show that arcing 5 meters into oncoming traffic isn’t the proper way to avoid cyclists, and in order to ensure cyclists comply with local laws license all bikes (for free ticketing non licensed bikes through by-law) with City of Calgary. Cheaper, more effective common sense solutions.

b) Secondary Suites in the City
As the Student Union at the University of Calgary has graciously pointed out, and then re-echoed by current Mayor Nenshi, secondary suites are a contentious issue. Sadly it seems no one holds existing council to dealing with the issue in a final way that doesn’t make it a recurring issue from election to election.

After considerable community input we are dealing with a multi faceted issue regarding the use of secondary suites, the high cost of living, legalizing secondary suites and landlord evictions in order to favor Airbnb in Calgary.

I propose an office that handles secondary suites that includes home inspectors to ensure that the secondary suites are up to fire and safety code as well as monitoring and accordingly charging rental units that wish to become Airbnb hotels.

  • Home inspectors that physically inspect secondary suites to ensure that they are up to code. That includes legal escape windows, fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, current electrical work, water heaters within appropriate life cycle and separate entrance to the suite. The cost of the inspection is borne by the landlord who will pay for the inspection.
  • The office upon passing inspection would grant the landlord a five year operating permit to ensure that the secondary suite remains to code meanwhile allowing city council to focus on other pertinent issues.
  • The office would also be responsible for monitoring websites that allow for hotel like rental of properties (Like AirBnB) ensuring people who choose to become involved in the hotel industry are subject to the same levies, taxes and fines that larger, more commercial hotels are responsible for.

I feel the net results of such an office would ensure long term housing affordability for below median income Calgarians, would allow Community Associations to deny or accept secondary suites as part of their communities, and more importantly maintain the safety and security of Calgarians who rent.

c) Olympic Bid

There is a lot of controversy around the Olympic bid. Sean Chu wants a plebiscite on the issue, the problem is that a plebiscite isn’t legally bind Calgarians to changes in council vote. Mayor Nenshi and Druh Farrel have put their support behind it both catering to the ego boost from having their names on an Olympic Games.

The reality, for myself, is that one way or the other we are going to have to upgrade the infrastructure in the city. The decision facing Calgarians is whether or not we want to continue to use and support legacy infrastructure left over from 1988 Calgary Olympics. I’m in favor of keeping and upgrading the infrastructure, those facilities have produced world class athletes that keep Canada in the international spotlight.

There are two questions that Calgarians need to ask themselves:

  1. Do you mind putting the city do the debt level or potentially over for an Olympics?
  2. Do we have any real benefit to retrofitting buildings and infrastructure that was slated for removal?

There are very little financial benefits to hosting the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has made unusually high demands of any Olympic bid including extra fees, security and paying for the entire IOC to be here. Secondly upgrading any Olympic venues would only serve to help a limited group of people; sports teams that profit directly from said bid. I’m not in favor of using public money to bail out and benefit private enterprise.

We also have to face a few economic facts; is this really the time to spend money and get farther into debt with rising interest rates, low oil prices with no recovery on the horizon, a higher than national average unemployment rate and skyrocketing cost of living. Things may well recover in the future, for now we should let the Olympic bid lie until we are all financially and emotionally prepared for it.

4) I fell in love with Calgary because it was the Big City Small Town. I liked the fact, when I came to Calgary in late 1999, that when I went for a walk or a run we could say hi to our neighbors and our neighbors would say “Hi” back to us. In some community pockets we still have that feeling, that community that cares about me, that community that cares about you. I love the fact that I have so many great services and parks so close by, my older community is being rejuvenated as I meet other families that are drawn to great communities.

5) In recent years the lack of respect between Calgarians has disappeared. It’s the little pleases and thank you’s, the holding of door for the elderly, the giving up of a seat on transit for the disabled, the common courtesy of letting your neighbor know when you’re having a party. These little things disappeared from our social tapestry soon followed by City of Calgary dictating to citizens what changes were being made to our city.

For example, after lengthy community input the development down the street from me went ahead. They had to shut down the street I live on in order to upgrade sewer and electrical lines. I understand that. I didn’t have to be driving home one night and finding out, without notice, that the entire street was dug up and I had to go home using an alternate route. A notice in my mailbox would have been great, only 50 houses or so on my block and that little notice would have gone a long way to me planning around the shut down.

It’s the “Hello” and “How are you?” when I greet people on my walk to Edworthy, where most Calgarians are afraid to answer back thinking a mugging will happen. It reminds us of the incident where a retired US sheriff was walking in Nosehill Park in Calgary’s NorthWest and he almost shot someone who just said “Hi!”. Calgarians downplayed the incident but it speaks volumes to the past few years where Calgarians haven’t done a very good job holding our social glue together.

6) Being elected as a city councillor is a very time consuming job, 24/7 in appearance. It takes a lot of time, public appearances, open ears (you have two ears and one mouth use accordingly as my wife says) and a good deal of pressure. Before I ran, I spoke with a lot of community members in Point Mckay, Parkdale, Montgomery, Brentwood, Hillhurst, Sunnyside, and Chinatown before I made a decision to run. Then I asked my wife what she thought of running for council.

She said “You seem very passionate about engaging communities and volunteering at community events. You think you can make a difference to Calgarians, and you love seeing positive changes in people’s lives. I support the decision for you to run, make sure you take at least one day off a week for family”.

I followed up with my daughter, Eve (age 4).
Eve said “Daddy you can make new friends, and your friends are my friends. We can all play together and have fun. I get to go to all your meetings and it’s a deal”

My son, Henryk (age 9 months) just drooled a lot.

Yes, I have my family’s support and understanding of my time commitments being in public office.