Jyoti Gondek feels optimistic as she reflects on 100 days as mayor

As she marks 100 days in office, mayor Jyoti Gondek said she'd rather look at what's been accomplished than give herself a grade.

Symbolic benchmark has become a report card for political leaders

Jyoti Gondek reflects on her first 100 days as mayor of Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

As she marks 100 days in office, mayor Jyoti Gondek said she'd rather look at what's been accomplished than give herself an early term grade.

Many politicians like to use 100 days as a benchmark and Gondek is no different.

The first woman to serve as Calgary's mayor, Gondek said city council's ability to effectively collaborate since October's election has been the most rewarding part of settling into her new job.

She pointed to council's decision to recommit to the city's downtown strategy, declaring a climate emergency and responding to needs identified by Calgarians during the election campaign as key accomplishments.

"It's those really big challenges that face our city that this council has delivered some early results on already," said Gondek.

There has been a noticeable drop in the amount of rancour on this council versus the previous group.

Gondek attributes that to the challenges facing council right now.

"I think it's that understanding of how intentional we must be to drive change and stay focused on a strong future for our city," said Gondek.

"We would rather be working with each other than divided against each other."

Report card or cliche?

Reflecting on 100 days in office is something of a political tool for those in power. But it's also become a bit of a cliche.

A political studies professor at Mount Royal University, Duane Bratt, said the practice can be traced back to US president Franklin D. Roosevelt who promised 100 days of action once he took office in the depths of the Great Depression.

In Bratt's analysis, Gondek has had a turbulent start.

He said she came into the office facing the challenge of Coun. Sean Chu, who it was learned during the election campaign had been found guilty of discreditable conduct while he was a Calgary police officer.

Gondek refused to swear him into office so a judge had to perform that job. 

She called on the provincial government to remove Chu from office and call a byelection. But the Kenney government has rejected that possibility.

Some drama

Then Bratt said the mayor appeared to catch some Calgarians off-guard by supporting the climate emergency declaration.

Council approved changes to the city's four-year budget plan which included a 3.87 per cent tax increase for 2022.

Then on Dec. 21, Gondek took a call from the chair of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, Murray Edwards, who said the organization would not proceed on an agreement with the city for a new downtown arena due to rising costs.

Bratt said rightly or wrongly, Gondek took criticism for that decision as it happened "on her watch."

"There's been a lot of political drama, not a lot of action and most of it hasn't been very good for the mayor," said Bratt. 

"Probably the highlight was winning the election."

He points out that unlike premiers, prime ministers or U.S. presidents, mayors don't have full control of the legislative agenda.

"In a municipal government, you're only one of fifteen people. It's not like you have a majority government and you can ram through a whole bunch of legislation as (premier) Jason Kenney often brags about," said Bratt. 

For her part, Gondek acknowledges there have been rough patches while getting some of the things done on her to-do list.

"Things are rarely sunshine and lollipops all the time and I would say that this has probably not been better or worse than the start for other mayors," said Gondek.


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