I believe it’s been about 20 years since I last had the urge to respond to a ‘Letter to the Editor’ but Jerry Anderson’s submission on Feb. 20 containing a litany of negative charges towards City council struck me as both heartfelt yet wildly misinformed.
I have worked in downtown Red Deer since 1984, most of that time operating the now transformed Uptown Cinema Centre. I have served on the Downtown Business Association twice over the years, currently working on my sixth and final year. I have also attended many council meetings over the years.
I have an immense amount of respect for any independent businessman who has the initiative to hang up a shingle like Jerry has. His viewpoint of the City’s spending is entirely within his right to express and I would be the last to speak in defense of council.
What struck me as mean-spirited and misinformed were his attacks on one current and one former councillor. He infers that the City council rep currently sitting on the DBA Board somehow submitted an ‘improper budget’ to City Hall. I know nothing about an ‘improper budget’ and in any case that rep is only one of 10 people that contribute input to a budget which is overseen by both the City and an independent auditor.
He also slams the rep for supporting the Ross Street Patio. I will be the first to admit that when it started last summer, I too wondered about the six or eight parking spaces being lost. As the summer progressed I noticed the tables and chairs all being used every lunch hour, weather permitting. I believe it adds a reason for people to shop and work downtown enjoying the few short months we have of outdoor diversion. Jerry would prefer everyone stay inside? Just get your business done and get out of the downtown? The person you refer to is probably the hardest working and most committed City rep I have ever experienced on the DBA Board, which includes a former mayor.
He then goes on to slam another former councillor who he claims somehow must have received special treatment because they now have a parking space in front of their downtown store. They had one before! I strongly suggest Jerry attend a City council meeting or two and see for himself how ludicrous it is to suggest they somehow collude in secret to benefit any one person. It is engineering and a host of other City departments that put forth a plan such as the past downtown improvements. Council only votes on the total expenditures. They do not decide who gets a parking spot.
In truth councillors rarely agree on anything unanimously and if he attended some public meetings he would see they operate as distinct individuals with different ideas and agendas. Not all perfect, not all correct but highly driven by their own ideologies and opinions.
As for leaving downtown, only you can make that informed decision. I would only say that I was here in the 80’s when The Bay, Eatons and Kresges all left and I operated one of the only reasons people had to come downtown in the evenings. There were no big complaints about parking because there were few reasons to come downtown. Compared to those times we are in a very good state overall in the City centre with great occupancy and yes, high traffic sometimes. Complaining about City Hall is a great idea and I whole-heartedly endorse it. I just think you should not attack personalities without having your facts correct.