City council had a busy year in 2013 and Mayor Tara Veer is reflecting on the number of accomplishments and also challenges that were faced.
“Personally 2013 stands out for me for a couple of reasons. It was probably one of the more political years that Red Deer has experienced in recent history – I think both in terms with the bike lane issue and debate which in many respects had polarized our community and had elevated the profile of local politics with an intensity we hadn’t seen before,” she said. “Of course 2013 culminated in the election of a new mayor and council, so for that reason 2013 will always stand out in my mind as a great year and I’m very grateful for that.”
She added 2013 was also the City’s centennial year making it stand out in that regard.
“It really was a year marked by both legacy projects and festivities throughout the community. I think our centennial committee set out with a goal to enhance civic pride through the celebrations that occurred throughout the year and I think they were very successful in doing that.”
She added other accomplishments of council included a lot of behind the scenes policy work.
“In 2013 the previous council was coming to a close, so we were trying to complete some of the bigger picture pieces of legislation and policy that we needed to accomplish,” she said. “I think a couple positive policy shifts council made in 2013 among them was the establishment of policing service levels. We also did some work in laying some foundational grounds of greater transparency and accountability in local government. I think also there we laid some foundational policy with respect to financial decision-making and sustainability.
“Looking ahead our financial sustainability strategy still needs to come forward but there were some foundational building blocks that were put in place.”
In terms of recent challenges, Veer said the snowfall the City has seen to date has been cause for concern.
“We were faced with an extreme snow event that was the most extreme weather event we’ve had since the mid-90s. Normally around this time of year, Red Deer would have been faced with about 16 centimetres of accumulated snow. The last number that was verified for me, we were sitting at about 90 centimetres,” she said. “I think that analyzing the issue with a new mayor and council, ultimately when it became apparent that we were getting another snowstorm in such short order there was decisive action taken in recognizing that the snow and ice policy was built around the average snow event.”
Council is set to review the snow and ice policy in January.
“I think there are areas we need to improve our core service (with regards to snow removal). The City has grown so significantly since that last extreme event that I think it has become apparent that perhaps it’s time to invest in core services in order to keep peace with our growing City.”
Looking ahead, Veer said she is looking forward to working with council and the community in 2014.
“The twilight of 2013 has ultimately been invested in council orientation, election debriefing and then we were faced with the snow emergency right out of the gate.
In terms of moving the public’s agenda forward we haven’t yet had opportunity to do that, and I think 2014 will present us with the ideal opportunity right at the beginning with the operating budget, but also I think 2014 will set the stage for the upcoming four-year council term as well.”
As for challenges council will face this year, Veer said some key areas that will need time invested in include a financial sustainability strategy and to identify and formalize what the City’s core service levels are in the community as well as discussions around the growing community.
“It will be hard but by practical necessity we’ll need to work with the community to work through the many financial requests that there are of council,” she said. “Once council moves forward in terms of strategizing and prioritizing I think we’ll have to invest in relationships with our citizens, community partners and community builders, regional partners and provincial partners.”