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City council will meet in temporary building for a while
Many people in Calgary have had to change their routines since last month's devastating flood — and your city council is not exempt.
Several members of council suffered flood damage to their own homes and all council members are out of their offices as old City Hall undergoes repairs. Their offices and support staff are temporarily on an upper floor of the municipal building (a.k.a. "Big Blue").
This week, those folks held their first full city council meeting at their temporary digs at DJ3, or Deerfoot Junction III in Calgary's northeast. The location is serviceable but it's hardly a long-term solution.
Some Calgarians might wonder, if they can drop by the planning department or pay a bill at the municipal building, why can't the politicians meet in their chamber which — visually — appears to be undamaged?
Well, there are a few reasons.
First, the municipal building is apparently being powered by generators. I have been told a council meeting could overwhelm them, and there's no plan to bring in another generator just so council can debate.
Second, the city clerks' office was flooded out of its space in the basement of old City Hall and had to move its operations to DJ3. No meetings happen without clerks and it make little sense to move these debates to a more comfortable facility if it forces the support staff to jump through even more hoops.
Third, other support staff folks, like the audio/video services required by a council meeting, are also out of house and home.
So DJ3 is where democracy will happen for the forseeable future. It's not a great room. It's crowded. At times, it's too hot and stuffy when dozens of people show up for a public hearing.
It's also strange to run into members of council in the only washroom on this floor — and when I say "run into," I mean literally. Two people have to awkwardly turn sideways to pass each other in this way-too-small room.
The city has already spent millions on flood recovery efforts but the political class, so often derided for feathering its own bed first, has done little to make itself more comfortable as the City of Calgary focuses on serving its customers.
Mayor Nenshi has spoken a few times about wanting to be the last guy back at his desk. For him and the rest of city council, I don't know if they'll be the last ones back but they certainly haven't been among the first.
Timing is also interesting for this situation. Council only has to grind out a few more days in this serviceable but less-than-ideal location before the mayor and aldermen scatter for their August break. After that, they'll return for a few meetings in September before council deliberations are halted ahead of October's municipal election.
Once results are in, I'm sure members of the next council would prefer to gather in the Calgary city council chamber to be sworn in for their four-year term — and not in the far less glamourous DJ3. While some say council could be back in the chamber by September, it seems likely that old City Hall will be closed for much longer.