This just may be the longest blog I've ever written in my life.

by Mark Zaugg 4. December 2010 00:48

It is inherently impossible to include all the ideas that culminate here.  Instead I have to pick and choose and summarize as best I can from the intricacies I've been able to tease in my mind for some twenty or thirty odd years. 

If you know my personality and my style, I'm not about to change now.  I've been that slightly irreverent, smart assed punk ready to crack a mildly funny, self deprecating joke each and every chance I can get and none of that is going to change any time soon.  Couched in the middle of that joke is meant to be a somber and serious thought - and make no mistake, I think long and hard about issues I care for passionately.  Some people like me, some people loathe me.  Both are okay by me -- so long as we can keep a degree of respect between us. 

I'm a guy that really hates to be pigeon holed, primarily because I have such a hard time categorizing myself and my own views.  I try really hard to be open minded and willing to change and adapt when faced with alternative facts, but I also try to stay steadfast and unwavering in my beliefs.  It's when the "steadfast" crashes into the "open-minded" that the little old hamster wheel in my head goes spinning out of control and I have to re-evaluate my views or opinions.  I've flipped opinion on some major issues through the course of my life and I'm continuing to learn along the way.  I'm a really smart guy, and most of what I learn teaches me just how little I know. 

I'm willing to bet that it's right at this point one or two of my good friends just figured out what I'm about to write about. 


To describe me, you have to understand that I'm a prairie boy - a construct of Southern Albertee.  Although I'll point out I was born in Vancouver and therefore not a "real Albertan" and probably every bit an average Albertan since most of us tend to come from somewhere else.  Those who really want to understand me will know that my grit and fibre comes from the Palliser Triangle.  I grew up knowing bullshit comes from bulls and shouldn't come from people.  We don't shy away from any of it because it's just part of the life around us.  Don't throw it around, because you may just be living in it - spread it on the fields to fertilize next year's crop.  Water means irrigation and irrigation means crops and crops mean barley, wheat and canola.  Bow Island has beans and the good corn comes from Taber and the family farm we all came from seems mostly to be a memory.

I'm not from a farm, but I've always been around a farm.  I can plough a more-or-less straight line, I can swath, I can bale, I can combine - but you probably don't want to set me up on the new combine just yet.  I've run grain trucks plenty and I've manned a cattle run once as a kid during branding.

The good years of my childhood were in Rosemary, Alberta.  I best loved the small towns, but moving from Hanna to Calgary was one of the best things that happened in my life.  Sure, I was a bit of a rube in a city of somewhere around a ridiculous 600,000 people, but I had opportunity for the geek to bloom that just didn't exist in rural Alberta.  I liked the city - it gave me a chance to look not so screwball for liking school and finding new interests.

Makes me suffer a bit as the "Jack of all trades, master of none" but I've managed to scrape through.  And I've made myself laugh and amused the hell out of some friends along the way.

And right now, a couple of those friends are wondering if they were wrong above, and a couple others are dying for me to get on with it.


My single favourite quote from Calgary's 2010 municipal election was Naheed Nenshi talking about the crazy mix that makes up him and the crazy mix that makes up Calgary.  I am most definitely part of that crazy mix and consist of a wild mix in and of myself.

I'm a little rural, a little urban.  My head's in the stars, my feet are on the ground.  I'm an uber-geek and my daughter hates it when I "geek out with the computer talk" but I'm conversant and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.  I'm just shy and hate small talk.  I am my own brand of crazy mix as you are your own brand of crazy mix and there's something there that I find interesting.  We may like or dislike each other, but I'm interested in what you've got in your makeup that can change and improve me as a person.

I've got problems in my life I need help to address.  If you've got a solution, we ought to at least try to find a way to talk about it and see how we can manage.  Homo sapiens sapiens remains a social species and we best find a way to exist within a societal structure.

I believe that everything in life consists of compromise.  There are no black and white answers, and any time someone hands me a "silver platter" answer it is - invariably - wrong in some sense.  The proper answer is neither black or white.  Life is complex, I am complex, you - the reader - are far more complex to simply pigeon hole you into a simplistic and formulaic category.  We need to talk and to listen, observe the issues, discover possibilities, discuss ideas going forward and negotiate and compromise our priorities to tackle.

Together we are a composition of that crazy mix.  Our individual mixes must find a way to structure together to make a crazy mix that is our city, our country.

I like this crazy mix - even the parts I'm not all that fond of.


I went through university in the late 80's and a bit in the early 90's.  In the time I went through I saw tuition rise substantially and in my view the quality of education dropped substantially through the years.  We voiced our concerns professionally and unprofessionally, appropriately and inappropriately.  It made no difference in the long haul.

Those were the years of the 5 percent cut across the board.  Don't you see?  The government had consulted with Albertans and that was what we wanted.  I felt really cheated because I'd been trying to speak for years and what I wanted never seemed to come up in the conversation.  It felt like I hadn't been heard at all.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of balancing the budget and being fiscally responsible.  I'm not entirely convinced that taking 5% across the board was the best approach to take - and I'm certain that it hurt more in some areas than in others.  To this very day I think we continue to pay the price on some of the horrible decisions made back then.

They were the years of the ideological black and white answers.  For us or agin us - and there was no room in the middle.  There was a whole lot of consultation with Albertans, but it amounted to a whole lot of talking at me and not any listening to what I was concerned about.  I'd been left on the outside looking in.

Over the ensuing years I've felt more isolated.  I've seen poor choices made in education, in health care, in resource management, in budgets, in environmental stewardship, in riding alignment, in royalties, in strange rulings from the speaker of the house; I've got issues with a significant number of choices our government has taken over the past twenty years.  And I'm not happy about it.  The opposition has been pathetic in my view - failing to hold the government accountable for their poor choices, failing to present alternative and better ideas, failing to create interest and generate political excitement.  

Alberta has not always been like this.  Alberta has had more than it's share of great opposition personalities.  It's pretty hard to live in Alberta and not know the names Grant MacEwan, Grant Notley, Lawrence Decore, Sheldon Chumir.  I could never figure out why Kevin Taft never gained more traction.  Lately I've been disappointed with both sides of the legislature - and I don't believe the present opposition problems stem from David Swann or Brian Mason.  It's a bigger issue than just swapping out the leader.

I've voted for a lot of different people and parties over the years.  I became uncomfortable with the PC's during the Getty years, I was lost once the Klein years came.  I have knowingly cast a futile vote against the Tories since 1993.  I don't want to vote against the government, I want to vote for the people and ideas I support.


After saying I don't like to pigeon hole myself, I usually get lumped as a Red Tory.  I am very fiscally conservative, but in general I have a progressive social viewpoint.  I just do not line up well on a left and right scale - I pick and choose the best from where it lies.

Anyone trying to fix me in place based on the mayoral candidates I liked probably had a conniption.  I made my choice after hard thought on my own standards - it's hard to find a common theme based on policy.  What is the common theme was that my primary choices proved to be good communicators who declared a clear sense of direction that lined up with my values.  I always stated I'd be happy with someone I clearly disagreed with who could engage me with clarity.

The election was great for me, I felt genuinely excited to be part of something so interesting and vibrant.  It's something that sadly can never happen in Alberta on a provincial level, though.  After the city election I was asked if I was looking forward to the provincial election - I said no, I didn't expect any changes for the better provincially and I had no interest fighting a futile battle.


We have no room for anything outside of the big tent in Alberta.  At least that's the way it has been for the past 40 years.  But I've been frustrated with a government that is not fiscally conservative enough for me and has been reprehensible in it's actions towards programs such as AISH.  There just hasn't been a place where I could fit into the poltical spectrum here.

The fumbling of the Stelmach government has not only turned me off, but it's turned off thousands of other Albertans.  I've welcomed the rise of the Wildrose Alliance.  They are a terrible fit for me, and I am a terrible fit for them, but they're bringing debate and a better home for some of the more socially conservative friends and family of mine.  Initially my hope was that the PC party would be free to take more of a centralist stance and be more open to policies I'm comfortable with.

Instead I've seen the most blithering arrogance I could imagine.  This has really come to a head over the past month.  It is unacceptable to hear the premier state there is no health care crisis while there so clearly are major problems which have consistently been raised by the ER doctors.  I'm disgusted with the "Distracted Driving" law.  The law itself is a distraction and can only be ineffective and unenforcible since we already have laws about driving without due care and attention which should be enforced now.  The last thing we need are more ineffective laws on the books.

We've seen meddling with AHS - an unelected, unaccountable and apparently grossly overpaid body that the government doesn't even trust to do the job that the superboard has been entrusted to do.  When the number of health boards was reduced to nine regional health authorities and did not produce the expected results, it was pure folly to amalgamate everything to one and expect a better result.

The unforgivable for me, however, should be very clear from my stance from Calgary's mayoral election.  I stand whole heartedly for open debate, defining issues and clarifying the vision that lies ahead.  The government has such a clammy, white knuckled grip right now their hands are numbed, but clearly so is their outlook because for all their attempt to control the spin it's so clearly coming undone.

The Tories sad mishandling of Raj Sherman's criticism stands as the issue which will bury the PC party to me forever.  It is completely unacceptable to me to quash open conversation.  This is a very important issue, it needs to be discussed openly and publicly and we all deserve to make an informed decision.  Burying debate wrapped in caucus confidentiality shows the paternalistic, arrogant, bullheaded attitude of a simplistically ideological party too long in power and out of touch with the populace.  This isn't just a government not listening to me, this is now a government only listening to their own droning and shutting out any outside noise.

It's not just urbane city folk.  Friends who have more of a handle on the rural side tell me they're tired of it, too.  Tired of underused hospitals, tired of being pawns, tired of being taken for granted, tired of talking and not being heard.  Kinda the same as those city slickers, eh?

As far as I'm concerned, Klein separated me from the Tories, but Stelmach has destroyed the PC brand in my mind every bit as badly as Trudeau has destroyed the Liberal brand in Alberta.  I know those are strong terms and I know that many will argue with me vociferously.  To those I say, "Wonderful.  Let's have that argument.  Let's have it openly and publicly.  Let's have that discussion in full sentences and leave room for nuance and subtlety, negotiation and compromise."


I was interested when The Big Listen began.  It was pretty interesting to see the process unfold.  I was cynical that it would come to anything more than public consultation had brought from the Tories in the past.  I've listened favourably to news of Reboot Alberta and eventually the Alberta Party.

Just prior to the Alberta Party's policy convention weekend, I was asked if I was going to attend.  "No, I don't really have the time or the money or was I even slightly interested in joining the Alberta Party."  I've never been a member of a political party in my life, nor do I ever intend to join one now.

"You don't have to be a member to attend."

Huh?  Seriously, what?  That was unheard of.  A policy convention where anyone can participate?  It's not even "pay to play"?

News came fast and furious that weekend and became more and more interesting.  People I've grown to know and trust from the municipal election have become involved with the Alberta Party.  Policy that I can support and believe in started to be established.  I don't necessarily agree with everything, but disagreements are not squelched, they're discussed and acknowledged.  Not everything is fleshed out as fully as I wish, but the work is ongoing and I'm willing to share the load.

We need an open and accountable government.  We deserve to have adult conversations and informed debate.  It's time for a change.  Calgary demonstrated that we can affect positive change around us.  The budget that was passed proved that a new approach can be effective and beneficial to us all.

The issues I wish to raise are going to require serious, in depth conversation and not sound-byte politics.  Scapegoats are not an option.  Paternalism is not an answer.  We need some grown up solutions.

I am determined to stay engaged and not fade away.  We will raise the level of debate and through debate return to better ideas of a better Alberta.  We deserve so much more than we are getting now.

After I post this, I'm filling out that membership I claimed I was uninterested in.  I've found my way out of the political wilderness and I have found my home again.  I am part of Alberta, Alberta is part of me.  It's time to talk and to listen in a meaningful way.

Making a Better Calgary

by Mark Zaugg 20. November 2010 00:38
I decided that I needed to spell out what I see as my objectives for #BetterYYC.  Some of them I have stated previously, other details may have only been implied or expressed through my action.  One of the things that spurred this was a conversation on twitter that I'd been hoping to have.  I've longed for a great example that demonstrated some of the side effects our efforts can create.  I've wanted to demonstrate how the smallest of actions can lead to major changes in our city.  I think I can show that better than ever now.  

The origins of @BetterYYC came about after Calgary's 2010 municipal election.  This may seem to be obvious today, but hopefully in five or ten years it will become somewhat clouded over with time.  It is a time of heightened interest and people who were previously detached finding new and interesting ways to engage with their city.  My hope with @BetterYYC is to both correct mistakes we have collectively made in the recent past and to re-establish what I believe to be heart of Calgary's identity from the years I've lived in this city and continue that spirit moving forward.  

The idea of Better Calgary did not originate from me and I happily admit I'm standing upon the shoulders of giants.  Many of our citizens have worked hard to create a better Calgary, just as many of our friends and neighbours continue to work very hard to make our city a better place to grow, to learn, to work, to retire, to explore, to enjoy and to live.  BetterYYC should not be considered new or innovative, it should be a recognition of the hard work so many others have established and an invitation for all citizens to find other ways to contribute.

Calgary has been a growth city for as long as I've known it.  I grew up in rural southern Alberta and Calgary was the city we'd flock to for goods and services, but it is the people that make the city what it is.  In 1983, I moved to Calgary for good and was welcomed by friends.  Calgary is a welcoming city because for so much of our history we have needed good people to come and create the very city in which we live.  Every influx of immigration has created a new layer to the complexity and richness of the city and we show off our stripes like strata from a core sample.  Those who are surprised that we could elect a mayor such as Naheed Nenshi have not experienced the richness and diversity of Calgary and have not understood that we did not elect a Muslim immigrant, we elected one of our own who completely believes in our city as we believe it in ourselves.

Unconstrained or undirected growth creates problems and Calgary has been subjected to some and avoided others.  We are not a city of gated communities and ghettos, we are a city where no one cares who your father was but remains interested in your talents and abilities.  We are a city where crime has sometimes become a serious problem, but a city where beat cops can make a huge difference through acting responsibly firm and helpful.  We are a city that is struggling with unconstrained growth on the fringes and we collectively are demonstrating a capability of having in depth and decisive conversations about how best to address our issues of logistics, transportation, schools and hospitals.

We are educated and industrious.  We want great people to come and share our city because we have great things to accomplish.  We bristle at PhD holders driving taxis, we desperately want our citizens to live up to their potential.  We want schools that will teach our children the skills they need to thrive in the world we are creating for them.  We have boundless opportunity around us, we don't want people to be homeless and on the sidelines - we want them involved and succeeding and participating in the bounty of our society.  

We are human, and with humanity comes imperfection and mistakes and those so-called cracks in our system.  Each one of those can be treated as an opportunity to improve something around us.  Every last one of us has a sphere of influence where we can act to make a difference in the world around us.  There is an immediacy to our actions that may have an impact, but there is also a longer term effect.  The stated long term goal of all my actions is to make my city - Calgary - a better city.

I have four premises I'm building from.

  1. You must be observant and recognize things around you which can be improved.
  2. You must care enough about your city and the issues you spot to want to act.
  3. You must create positive change by following through with action over your concerns
  4. You must share your story with others to create inspiration and gain new ideas.

The actions and the problems around you are entirely personal and the choice must be yours to make.  There are people out there doing hundreds of things each and every day that makes Calgary better.  There are people who have literally devoted their lives to it.  For them it is simply a choice of being aware of one specific task, following through and talking about it.  Some days it's a huge job just to find that one thing and you really have to go out of your way.  It isn't a contest, there's not an exam, it's a responsibility you take upon yourself.  You can't pass, you can't fail, you can't do it all, just please find one opportunity around you and act upon it.

The things to accomplish are vast and varied.  I often talk about picking up a bag of garbage because it is a big bugaboo of mine and there is ample opportunity for me in my neighbourhood.  I'm impressed with the difference I've made, but there is much more to be done.  We have awareness to be raised, charities to support, people to teach and to mentor.  Every choice you make can improve Calgary - make a choice purposefully and act to make a positive change.

- Rake up your leaves and the leaves don't clog the sewer and the runoff flows properly and we don't need to call out a city crew to fix it so often saving you tax dollars so the taxes can be redirected to a school which teaches a kid who grows up to make a good income and become a good citizen.

- Shovel your walk so your mailman doesn't slip so he considers your neighbourhood a plum route so he wants to keep it and makes sure you get great service.

- Pick up the garbage on the green area so when the city comes to mow they don't hit that smashed car part and damage the blade and have to spend extra shop time getting it repaired and sharpened.  In return, you can pick entire pieces of garbage instead of garbage that's been shredded by a mower blade.

That's the little stuff we can all do.  There are things we can do that are less tangible and no less important.  

The conversation I referred to at the top was about annoyance with the HAWCS helicopter and subsequently with an elitist attitude from the city police.  It's hard to present an involved argument within 140 characters and retain full clarity, but this is a beautiful example of how #BetterYYC can flounder or be successful.

The HAWCS helicopter is the very example of how one person, acting within their sphere of influence, can make a difference in the world and create a Better Calgary.  If you don't know the story, CPS Constable Rick Sonnenberg was struck and killed by a stolen car.  His sister worked tirelessly to create a memorial fund to purchase a helicopter.  I didn't think it was a good idea.  I argued we'd be better off with more cops on the street than one bird in the air.  "Why weren't we asking the cops about this?" I asked.  The reply I got was, "We did.  They wanted the helicopter."  QED.

The things we do to fix a problem will carry unintended consequences.  Some times they are going to be consequences we have to address.  We're not making a perfect Calgary, we're making a Better Calgary.  It's as simple as that.

So if the helicopter annoys you by waking you late at night, my challenge in return was to actually call the police, make a complaint and find out why HAWCS was circling overhead.

Someone - in reality a whole lot of other people - believed that getting Calgary a police helicopter made for a better Calgary.  A whole lot of people feel annoyed that we're woken up yet again by that blasted thing.  The very essence of #BetterYYC is to come together and have a meaningful conversation about what truly makes Calgary a better city and what needs to be done about it.  Let me run it through the steps above!

1.  Observe the effects of HAWCS.  How effective has it been with policing?  What are the consequences of having it fly?
2.  How much does the noise affect you?  It keeps me up later some nights and occasionally wakes me in the early morning.  I don't care enough to act, but someone else did.
3.  Call and complain.  Discover why it's up there.  Engage with the police and let them know of your concerns but also become aware of the situation around you.
4.  Discuss your concerns with your neighbours.  Maybe you need better lighting on your block.  Perhaps it was a one off emergency call you can't affect but you don't expect to repeat.  Become aware and share that awareness with the others who have been affected.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

BetterYYC is about finding problems that can and need to be addressed.  Then it requires action by either solving the problem, reporting the problem or forming a coalition of like minded people to solve the problem.  Afterward we must discuss the effects, what worked and what needs improvement.

BetterYYC is a daily process.  It touches every aspect of life in Calgary.  In words I love from a friend I now treasure, it's about embracing Calgary with your entire being.  It needs to be simple, attainable and focused towards positive change.  It is about engagement with our city.

Find how it fits into your life.  Take up the challenge and do one thing today to make your city better.

A #BetterYYC or a #BetterCalgary - so long as Calgary's better.

by Mark Zaugg 9. November 2010 00:43

One or two of you may know that I was the mover and the shaker, the power broker behind the beautiful face, the king maker that allotted the authority, influence and the might behind Calgary's municipal election. 

Even fewer will know that Mayor Nenshi regularly requests my advice on how to set policy. 

The irony is I may appear to be the smart assed class clown that only shoots off a joke from the back row, but in all honesty the previous statements are both overblown and true.  I did rally to the purple banner, I did make my opinion known and it did create positive results.  And there is no question that His Worship (I may be giggling when I write that) has stayed in touch with citizens after the election.  Hardly just me alone, but with all citizens of the city.  No, he and I are not bosom buddies, but one of these years when I least expect it he's going to reply to something either really cool or really inane that I have to say and that is an amazing feeling.  It's surreal to think that the Mayor is following me on twitter and has been for ages..

I really like the feeling that I accomplished something cool - something that I feel was better for Calgarians as a whole.  And that doesn't mean the work is done at all, but I've had an opportunity to not only express my views, but they have found a home with a lot of people who feel the same way I felt.  Including, but certainly not limited to, Naheed Nenshi.  So I've been happy to take up the challenge of some of those people I've come to trust and try to find a way to engage more with my city.

I'm participating with my community centre.  I'm paying attention to city hall.  I'm sending messages to our aldermen - although not my alderman, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to tackle that little issue.

My favourite idea to date was creating @BetterYYC.  The idea came from Nenshi's slogan, "Better Ideas, Better Calgary."  Because I believe those ideas really are better and will truly make for a better city.  And BetterYYC is just a more twitter style of brevity.

Credit for the basic idea comes from DJ Kelly.  "Take ownership to make the change, don't wait for permission."  Do something, do anything, just stay engaged and working on something within your sphere of influence to make better.  Don't overwhelm yourself, just find one thing you can do, then go do it.

I'm working on a couple of premises here:

  1. You have to observe your community.  Whether your block or the city as a whole, if you can't spot something that needs changed, you can't make a difference.
  2. You have to complain.  I don't talk much on this point, but if you're not complaining, you don't care enough to act.  But don't stop there...
  3. You have to actually perform an act of positive change.  Complaining about the situation means nothing unless you're willing to put your nose to the grindstone and put some effort into it.  Please note that I specify positive change.  Some things we do can have unintended consequences.  If we create new problems, they have to be acted upon as well.
  4. You have to talk about it.  Personally I hate talking about it.  I'm a private guy and I don't talk a lot about what I do.  We have to share our ideas and plan what's next.

I've been tweeting basic ideas of what I've been trying to accomplish.  I've retweeted good ideas I've run across from others.  I mean to be very non-judgmental about what makes a #BetterYYC -- if you think your action makes Calgary Better in a way that matters to you, that's good enough for me, we need to hear about it!  We can discuss it afterwards.  Also, please note that I can't do everything I post either.  I'm not Superman nor am I as wealthy as Bruce Wayne - but somebody can step up and do some of them and that would be great if it happened too.

 Now here's my conundrum.  (For city council -- noun: A confusing and difficult problem or question.)  Subsequent to the election, the Better Calgary Campaign has become reinvigorated and seems to be reactivating.  Or at the very least, it's getting more coverage to the point where I've become aware of it again.  Which makes sense because if they're going to be a watchdog on City Hall, they needed to wait for the election to finish and the new edition of city council to get back to work.

 I very much like the idea of Better Calgary.  I have heard of them before and although not personally involved (yet?) I certainly like their message of being engaged with what happens with municipal politics.  I have already expressed that I believe Better Calgary intersects with a large portion of what I want to accomplish with my #BetterYYC idea.

But I don't want to step on toes and I don't want to muddy the waters.  Or heaven forfend, obfuscate the purpose of what #BetterYYC meant to me in the first place.  Picking up a bag of garbage from your neighbourhood does not have a direct role with municipal governance, but it most certainly makes Calgary a better place to live.  I could change to #1GoodDeedYYC or something similar, but the opinions expressed today have been to carry on and stay with the short, inclusive hashtag.

Which leads to my second thought.  My unwritten rule, at least up to right now, is that if you state your idea to make Calgary a better place @BetterYYC you've gotten a Retweet.  And if I've stumbled across an idea I thought was pretty good, I'd RT that as well.  But if you don't tag #BetterYYC or #YYC in your tweet, you're relying on me finding it.  Unlike the perception I'm on twitter 24/7, I tend to glance over on occasion more than reading intensively these days.  Frankly, I'm just not that good at finding all the great ideas on my own.


Be it proposed that @BetterYYC continue as #BetterYYC.
Be it proposed that the primary focus of #BetterYYC be broadly recognized as entailing any positive action that makes Calgary a better city in which to live.
Be it proposed that @BetterYYC will remain a place to RT ideas, actions and communication about how we as citizens make Calgary a better place to live.

Sound good so far?  One last question, should I retain my iron-fisted control of @BetterYYC or should I open up the account to others willing to abide by the basic premise and share the load?  It's no problem when people use the #BetterYYC hashtag - perhaps the solution is just generating more suggestions from you. 

In reality, the ultimate goal is to make Calgary better, and that responsibility is shared amongst us all.


by Mark Zaugg 26. October 2010 09:07

So last night after the swearing in ceremony I'm standing around waiting for Brian Pincott to finish an interview so I can say hello and chat for a few minutes.  Suddenly I realize people around me are stretching necks and looking far more excited than usual.  Yesterday that meant one thing and one thing only and I had to smile knowing that Naheed was near. 

Sure enough, he walks up to me hugging and shaking hands and sharing congratulations along the way and he gets to me and...  turns and walks past me to thank a bunch of purple clad volunteers he recognized. 

My fault for not having the foresight to wash my purple shirt earlier, eh?  Congratulations, I'm somewhere in 1,080,000 people in Calgary he doesn't recognize.  Yay me, right? 

Not in the slightest.  I'm completely proud of what I did in this election.  And now the election is over, I'm getting this strange sense of a different direction I'm striking. 

I'm a huge fan of Naheed Nenshi, I'm a firm believer he is the right guy (tm) for this city at this time.  We needed his brand of sensibility and openness, his ability to explain his ideas and his capability of communicating with individual people and making them felt like they have finally, FINALLY been heard by someone.  I think his better ideas are, in fact, better for Calgary.  I believe he has the capacity to understand that the 14 people that were elected to city hall represents that crazy mix that is Calgary and it is going to take someone with a crazy mix to not just comprehend that, but to organize it all to keep it pulling in the same direction.

Transportation remains a headache in this city.  Secondary suites are a ridiculous mismash here.  The city audit really needs to be addressed and is only one of a thousand ways city hall could be more open and more responsive to us, the citizens.  These are things that need to be addressed, resolved and we need to move on with actually living our lives. 

I'm so pleased with the effort I put into the campaign for Naheed Nenshi and I have no doubt at all that I did, in fact, play some small part in creating this phenomenon in Calgary.  I helped to start the conversation, I helped to make it acceptable to consider this outsider to city hall, I helped with the traditional campaign of signs and door knocking and scruiteneering at the polls (okay, I probably did a lousy job there).  Will I do it again for Naheed?  Almost certainly, he's addressing what I feel needs to be addressed and he's more than clever and in tune enough to understand what needs to be addressed next as priorities change.  I'd also turn on a dime and campaign every bit as hard against him should he gut Calgary Transit or actively create a city council filled with acrimony.  Again, I don't see that happening in a million years.

I've been really blessed though my efforts campaigning with Nenshi for Mayor.  Yes, Nancy and Rachel, you've become two of my favourite people.  I'm so glad to have seen Lori, Marc, Wayne, Roy, James and Peter and I'm only just starting to know all the wonderful volunteers who I worked beside.  And every time Stephen walks past me he shakes my hand or slaps my back and I feel my efforts were completely understood and appreciated.  Everyone wants a slice of Naheed, I'm happy just knowing that I could do something that mattered.

After all that partisanship, I'm finding myself pulled more towards the fantastic work that Civic Camp did.  I'm really proud I went up to meet the crew after being at Nenshi's downtown headquarters the night of the election.  I find myself looking towards the community association rather than city hall.  City council's in good hands - I helped put it there.  Now I think I want to go in a slightly different direction on my own.

For now, I'm working on making something better day after day.  Little stuff I can change.  No crying there.


by Mark Zaugg 19. October 2010 20:43

Just how wonderful was that? 

This week was seriously cool for me.  I feel like I actually did something.  I feel like the kids participated in something tangible and realistic.  And I don't feel like it's going to end here. 

So my thoughts last night were that Better Ideas really do make for a Better Calgary - a BetterYYC.  I truly believe that Nenshi's Better Ideas will get City Council and therefore the city back on track.  And through my efforts I helped to start the conversation within Calgary.  My attempt last night was to close the circle and more or less repeat how I announced I would be backing Naheed in the election.

Oh, no.  That's not good enough for DJ Kelly.  He's not going to accept the pleasant enough idea that I'm willing to pledge to work with our new council in order to get Calgary moving in the right direction.  He has to go raise the ante again.

DJ Kelly: Report to yourself. Take the ownership to make change. Don't wait for permission. @ @

I don't think there has ever been a day I've woken up in the morning and wanted to make Calgary worse.  But I've been annoyed with how much garbage collects along the 17th Avenue SE hill and did nothing about it.  I pass there four of every five days either riding my bike or walking up or down the hill.  I've grumbled about it, but nothing is ever going to change unless someone does it.  And clearly it hasn't been done often enough for my taste.  So, pledging to pick up a bag of garbage was nothing.

It very well may be a futile task as garbage continually blows along Blackfoot Trail, Deerfoot Trail, and 17th Avenue.  It's not about futility, it's about making a BetterYYC.  Somehow, in the smallest of ways.


I listened to Naheed in the media today when they spoke of the Nenshi strategy to identify the hyper-involved people on social media and let us carry the message out.  I was involved, but certainly not hyper-involved.  Not until I felt snubbed at the Bow River Flow festival.  Then it became personal.  I really wanted a mayor that was going to work with everyone in council and get some better policy in play.  I feel almost used because I played along with the Nenshi strategy perfectly, but the Better Ideas are more or less my thoughts articulated in a much fuller way.

Initially I was skeptical that Naheed was sincere - wow, was that off the mark.  Then I was skeptical that Naheed could deliver.  Then I decided I had to become the change I wanted to see in the world and I had to pitch in.

We had some great choices in candidates this year.  Some were not for me, others were appealing for a whole number of reasons.  It was a tough choice and I took it seriously.  In the end, I picked who I thought was best for the right reasons.  Others made opposite decisions for what they thought was the right reasons.  The point of an election isn't that we're right or wrong.  Everyone gets to make their choice based on their own feelings.  The most votes win and we can trust in the strength of collective intelligence to hope we get where we want to go.  We will make mistakes - we have made mistakes - and we're going to be wrong about half the time.  But collectively, humanity has shown our outstanding ability to bring change around us.

Others had pitched in on their teams for the exact same reasons I chose Team Nenshi.  We all worked hard, we all did amazing.  I met amazing, passionate, smart, funny Calgarians.  I mentioned a few people I had new found respect for, but I genuinely mean I felt growing respect to so many people on #yycvote, those at the forums, and those who went door knocking.  This isn't about Team Nenshi anymore, it has become true for all of Calgary's citizens.

When I listened to Naheed's acceptance speech, I have to admit something he said touched me.

But in particular, I want to thank Ric McIver. If you had told me six months ago that I would have gained so much in respect, in admiration for this man, for everything he's done for this city, I'm not sure I would have believed ya. But I have. He has been an outstanding leader for this city and I hope that he will continue to be an outstanding leader for this city. Thank you.

He knows exactly what respect means to me.  That makes Better Politics in a BetterYYC.  In a significant way.


A funny thing has happened while we've been discussing the narrative that the Purple Wave has caused around Calgary.

Let me start with me.  Wayne Stewart, let's get in contact and let's keep making Calgary a great city.  I completely want to work with you to do something to make a Better Calgary.  Big or small, it doesn't matter, I want to rally to your flag. 

That's not really news, though.

The second is an email from a very close friend.  "Thanks for helping to make a difference.   I'm not quite as gung-ho as you but you've got me thinking a bit about extracurricular time put into something to something."

The third is a tweet from one of the awesome people from Team Nenshi.

This isn't about doing something nice today and forgetting about it.  This isn't about doing something good every day for a couple of months and then letting it slide.  This is about making a BetterYYC forever.  In a powerful way.

She gets it.  That is what happens when you've become infected with the Purple Plague.  You want to become a better citizen in a BetterYYC.  We want to feel really proud about our city.  But remember, the Purple Plague comes in all colours of the rainbow.


So I want people to talk about it.  This isn't trumpeting your own horn, it's about inspiring others to create their own Better Calgary.  Do something, do anything, that makes our city better in some way.  Go ahead, be idealistic for a while.  We've already made one "impossible" dream happen this week.  We can help by keeping up the momentum on positive change.

Take your kids to a park, be a snow angel to a neighbour, politely offer your seat on the bus, go volunteer at the food bank for a day.  Do all those things we normally do each and every day.  Just do one thing that's special and perhaps a little extra.  It's your choice, there aren't rules here.

My dream right now is to have two strangers on twitter enter the exact same tweet at the exact same time. 

Today I smiled at a stranger, and the stranger smiled back! #BetterYYC

Mayor Nenshi

by Mark Zaugg 19. October 2010 03:19

Honestly, I wasn't sure he was going to win. 

Honestly, I thought it was going to be the closest race for mayor I'd ever seen.

Honestly, tonight I said we were living in Recount City. 

I spent some time reading through my first posts.  The ones where I thought I'd take a cue from DJ Kelly and be more active in this election.  The ones where I realized that a broken city council was the biggest problem we faced.  The ones where I first realized my initial pick did not represent where I wanted Calgary to go.  The ones where I pondered how city council needed to get moving forward and stop getting high centered on speed bumps.  My early thoughts about what we needed in a mayor, council and ideas to move forward.  My earliest opinions on candidates.

The formative ideas when I was plotting my course.  How stupid was it when I said, "[Nenshi] will need every twitterer he can get to overcome 66% apathy."  Prophetic, perhaps?  That doesn't sound like me.

We're looking at over 50% turnout.  We're talking a lot of turnover in City Council.  I'm not sure all of it is for the better - the problem wasn't necessarily with the people but with their interaction.  We're talking a seismic shift as council swings to the right.  We're looking at an interesting future ahead.  Frankly, there's an unappetizing trial ahead left behind from the previous council, Nenshi's got his work cut out for certain.

And so I'll let my thoughts go back to where it started with me and ponder the Bow River Flow and let my thoughts be peaceful.  Let the ripples swirl in my mind to think, "We have allowed it to happen.  We have made it possible.  Now we have to turn it into something amazing."

It was a lot of work.  You're going to have to be a special candidate to make me want to do it all over again.

.@nenshi @chimaincalgary We've got a city to make better.  I'm on side.  To whom do I report tomorrow?


Many, many thanks to Lori and Roy and Rachel and Nancy and Ashley and James and Wayne and Stephen and Peter and hundreds of others on #TeamNenshi on twitter and the faces I recognized in the crowd but don't have names for.  This one's for all of you.

My Day in less than 15 minutes of typing.

by Mark Zaugg 17. October 2010 12:02

I woke up after staying up late to strike at the Music Club I volunteer with.  (Issue #1: Arts scene in Calgary)  Make a pot of coffee, catch up with a bit of #yycvote.  Rock skimming the pond detail today. 

I drive down to my Dad's in Ward 9 to pick up my kids. (Issue #2: Traffic and Issue #3: Too many improperly placed campaign signs)  We drive back home so I can shower, get addresses, and grab another cup o' goodness.  About to drive my kids down to do a course with Child Safe Calgary.  (Issue #4: Safe neighbourhoods)

I'm hoping to go door knocking.  I have to go from Lakeview to Palliser.  (Issue #5: Getting from Lakeview to Palliser)  Side tangent: I'll spare a thought that the exact same detour is the one we'll be facing in the NE without a traffic tunnel under the airport runway.  Have you listened to the complaints about traffic in the SW?  Do we need to repeat our mistakes with the tunnel?  (Issue #6: Airport Tunnel)

Back to my place to make dinner.  (Issue #7: Affordable housing / secondary suites)  After dinner I'm taking a nap, because tonight I'm working a casino in support of WP Puppets.  (Issue #8: More on the arts, but also funding via casinos, social justice, education in mathmatics)

This is what affects me on a daily basis.  C'mon, Naheed Nenshi, give me some answers.

Issue #1 = Better Idea 12
Issue #2 = Better Idea 5 and Better Idea 9
Issue #3 = Better Idea 6
Issue #4 = Better Idea 7 and Better Idea 11
Issue #5 = Better Idea 9, extra detail is here.
Issue #6 = Better Idea 4
Issue #7 = Better Idea 1
Issue #8 = Better Idea 10 and Better Idea 12.

I'm voting Nenshi.  He's addressing what affects me today.

Save Calgary Racing

by Mark Zaugg 17. October 2010 09:56

And you scraped my email from precisely where?

Strange that this is the first I have received an email from the Motorsport Council of Calgary.  I am certain that I have not given any consent whatsoever when my email address was collected that it would be used in this fashion.

Regardless of my support for Race City, my choice for mayor must certainly go beyond a single issue.  My choice for mayor will consider what is best for Race City as well as what's best for the rest of Calgary at large. 

I feel the future of Race City should be secure when negotiated openly - using the land as a race site is much preferable to me than using it as landfill.  Race City itself is a facility that is valued and respected in Calgary for it's longstanding history of driver education and a safe facility for high performance driving.  I fully think that should be able to stand on it's own merit.  Keeping Race City profitable is a matter of it's owners and supporters, not the citizens of Calgary at large.

I don't think Naheed Nenshi is going to hand Race City a gold plated guaranteed future, but neither will he shut it down compliments of a "...bullying city administration that doesn't work with private business [Race City] to solve the problems and find a new facility and keep motorsports going in this city."  (CivicCamp 2010 Mayoral Forum.)  The solution with Race City is to give it the opportunity to survive.  We don't need Ric McIver for that, we need a public discussion about the benefits of having a safe venue for high performance driving.  I remain anxious to be part of that conversation, I'm certain we can hold our own.

Let's save motorsport in Calgary.  Let's do it by attending a race, going to a concert, or taking a winter driving course.  Let's talk about the great advantages available to us in a city with a track.

Remove me from your mailing list, this is an inappropriate use of my email address.  You may, however, contact me on a personal level to continue a person-to-person conversation on this matter.

  - Mark

----- Original Message -----
From: Rick Francescone <>
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2010 12:37 am
Subject: Save Calgary Racing

> Dear Motorsport Enthusiasts
> Over the past 3 years, the Calgary motorsport community has been
> threatenedwith the loss of Race City Motorsport Park. 
> Somewhere along the way, city
> administration lost sight of the fact that Race City is an
> important venue
> to maintain for Calgarians, and they made other plans for the
> city-owned
> land that Race City occupies.  By the time that these plans were
> communicated to Race City owner Art Mackenzie, the public, and
> city council,
> administration had progressed so far down this path that it
> seemed Race City
> was doomed.
> The motorsports community has banded together through the Motorsports
> Council of Calgary to oppose the termination of the Race City
> lease with the
> City of Calgary.  We have so far received support from
> about half of the
> aldermen, led by alderman and now candidate for mayor, Ric McIvor.
> Council did not support a lease extension in Feb 2009, but Ric
> McIver tried
> again and on Sept 28 2009 city council directed city
> administration to work
> out a deal to extend the lease with Race City to 2015, which
> resulted in
> another two year deal (2010 - 2011).
> It is important that we continue to support aldermanic
> candidates and a
> mayor that support Race City and/or motorsports in the City of
> Calgary.
> This Monday October 18, we collectively have the opportunity to reach
> another milestone in the battle to maintain a motorsports venue
> in Calgary.
> Our research shows that we have the opportunity to elect a motorsport
> friendly City Council.  While we held a slim majority in
> the past, we were
> missing the most important part, a motorsports friendly mayor.
> We urge you, and your family and friends to get out and Vote for
> Ric McIver
> for Mayor, and vote for the motorsport friendly Alderman that
> represents the
> ward you live in. Visit for
> further info.
> The Aldermanic picks are as follows:
> Ward 1: Dale Hodges
> Ward 2: Joe Magliocca
> Ward 3: Jim Stevenson
> Ward 4: Brad Northcott
> Ward 5: Ray Jones
> Ward 6: Brent Mielke
> Ward 7: Kevin Taylor
> Ward 8: John Mar
> Ward 9: Mike Pal
> Ward 10: Andre Chabot
> Ward 11: James Maxim
> Ward 12: Roger Crowe
> Ward 13: Diane Colley-Urquhart
> Ward 14: Richard Dur
> Your vote is important, and the future of motorsports in Calgary
> depends on
> it.
> Sincerely,
> Motorsport Council of Calgary


by Mark Zaugg 15. October 2010 02:12

It's a word that gets thrown around a lot.  I'm not sure the meaning is fully comprehended.  It's a concept I've tried very hard to understand over the past 10 years, and I'm certain I will spend the rest of my life trying to grasp it fully and to teach what I know to my children. 

Given all that I am, I want to be known for the cornerstones from which I've tried to build my life.  I consider it important that I am thought of as trustworthy, as truthful, as fair (whatever THAT may mean) and as respectful.  Respectful was the last cornerstone I put in place, it should have come much, much sooner in my life. 

I think a lot about respect and what it truly means.  I try to judge how I treat others against some impossible, internal standard of respect.  It is a term I honestly think about on a daily basis and comprises a large part of my moral compass.

It pains me to see the word respect thrown around.

Respect is an economy, but it's a strange economy.  You cannot collect respect, you can only pay respect to others.  You can build respect, you can grow respect, you can use respect and thereby destroy respect.  You can earn respect, but you cannot demand respect - not if you want true respect.

Today, my concept of respect was both horribly maligned and brilliantly upheld.

The first I want to spend as little time as possible discussing.  This morning, Barb Higgins most certainly was in a hostile interview.  Hostile does not necessarily mean disrespectful - although I feel that in this case it actually was both.  Ms. Higgins must be able to cope with both blunt and pointed questions and must be able to ask them on her own accord.  She needs to master both the grace to answer an unreasonable question and the ability to show indignity without becoming defensive or aggressive.  Contemptible questions are not worthy of a response and responding in such a way would be fine in my view.

Instead her response was polarizing and divisive.  Many people supportive of Ms. Higgins only saw the interview as unacceptable.  Those unfavourable to Ms. Higgins picked up on the off-camera "melt down."  I would like to think that I was not a supporter of Ms. Higgins, but considered her a viable choice for mayor.

If she perceived contempt in the crowd, I have no issue if she ignores it all and walks out.  Taking out her anger was inappropriate, undignified and as un-mayoral as I can imagine.

You cannot demand that politics be respectful.  Respect must be earned - in part by answering the tough questions and doing so in an appropriate manner.  I am saddened that I have lost a great deal of respect towards Ms. Higgins today.  At this moment, I no longer feel she is an appropriate choice for mayor.

Let me jump to the good parts, because I feel there are a whole lot more people who have built my respect.  This is not an endorsement of any of the people listed below - some of which you can not vote for.  These are people for whom my opinion has been enhanced to a significantly higher level and some of the reasons why.  These are but the smallest fraction of what is good about people in Calgary.

I had no idea Wayne Stewart was going to endorse Naheed Nenshi today.  It changes nothing in my mind.  I am completely forthright to say I feel that Mr. Stewart exemplifies what I value most from my personal cornerstones.  The offer is sincere, Mr. Stewart, I wish to rally to your banner and support you in whatever projects you take on.  On a complete tangent, one of the people I highly respect in Calgary worked with Mr. Stewart's campaign.  I would have reconsidered my support on that knowledge alone.

I have said before that I have grown to appreciate Paul Hughes, both as a candidate and as a person.  He is more than welcome to challenge me on my thinking and faulty reasoning.  He has built my trust and I willingly look to his opinion when I am lacking insight.

For a guy I kept trying to write off, I was impressed after speaking with Craig Burrows.  He earned my respect by speaking with me, by listening with what I said, by disagreeing with some issues I mentioned which were truly out of focus, and by speaking to the heart of how to work with a fractured council.  We do not agree entirely, but by amiably disagreeing with each other I feel I can respect and work with him because I haven't been written off as wrong.

Gary Johnson certainly earned my respect by being approachable and interested and representing an entirely different face of what a mayoral candidate could be.  It is that approachability that leads me to believe he could, in fact, be a great mayor who could reach average Calgarians.

For his tireless efforts to reply and engage on twitter, Jon Lord earned a lot of respect from me.  Again, he's willing to argue a position without making me feel written off.  And Jon will come at you with hard data, so I better be ready if I expect to hold my own.  I'm a nobody out here with a nobody opinion, but Mr. Lord thinks I'm worth engaging.  That builds respect with me.  I'm still going to crack a #jonlord1st joke any chance I get, but I certainly hope none of them come off as disrespectful.

Nargis Dossa earned both my respect and my vote by being responsive and willing to grow and learn while campaigning.  Again, we don't completely agree.  Agree and respect are completely different issues.

There are candidates outside my ward who have genuinely earned my respect.  Agree or disagree, it's not that you'll get my vote, it's more that they have helped shape my thoughts and opinion.  The standout example is Trina Hurdman for helping me choose my trustee candidate.

Each and every person I met on Team Nenshi were awesome people.  Every last one, not a single exception.  How awesome is that?  Every candidate deserves an amazing team like that.  I hope they have them.

My mind flits to twitter and some exceptional people I've met through #yycvote.  Sure, there are trolls unworthy of mention, but there are people with well considered opinions different from my own.  I value them all, particularly as it gives me opportunity to hone my own thoughts.  I'm wrong about half the time, it is wonderful to match wits and forge ideas against people with genuine big brains and actual informed opinion.

Lots of respect to the people of who informed me of what was happening, what was upcoming, and helped keep me aware of who was out there.  Massive respect to the media guys I've followed.  They've helped me immeasurably along the way.

I simply cannot talk about earned respect without specific mention to DJ Kelly.  You're the one that challenged me to be more involved that just mere voting.  I feel that I've accomplished some good and I thank you for the push.

And of course I wish to end by talking about Naheed Nenshi.  Mr. Nenshi earned my trust long ago from his coverage of city hall.  He grew that respect by having clear policy and listing a plan to achieve his goals.  He has gained my respect by differentiating between asking tough questions and respecting the individual candidate.  He has never twisted or maligned another candidate's position, but has most certainly asked clarifying questions.

Virtually the only conversation we have had since the campaign started was very brief after the Vibrant Calgary forum.  He spoke of some of his ideas that might not be popular but are probably the right answers for Calgary.  He turned to me and asked something to the effect of, "So, do you regret coming on board now?"

Nope, not in the least.  I hope Naheed is reading this a few days after the election when he has had time to breathe and think to himself, "I'm glad Mark was on board to help."

I may not be the world's smartest guy, but I think.  I may not be the world's most observant guy, but I have my eyes open.  I may not be the world's most tactful guy, but occasionally I put forward a half-hearted effort.  I may not be the world's funniest guy, but I better drop that thought right away.  And I may not have the definitive answer on what constitutes respect, but I know I think a whole lot more of a whole bunch of people than I did before the start of this election, and I'm damned proud of them all.

That is respect in politics.  Even rough and tumble politics where we attack each other's positions pretty hard, but retain respect for the individuals.


Probably won't be saying much here until after the election.  Best of luck to all the candidates still in the race.

Top 10 things I don't get about Calgary's municipal election

by Mark Zaugg 13. October 2010 19:35

10.  How a candidate could come into this election sitting on a warchest of donations gathered under different rules. 

9.  How aldermen who created the election sign law couldn't abide by it.  Alternatively, how candidates who hope to become aldermen don't seem to understand it. 

8.  How you could put yourself up as a "fringe" candidate in order to express a differing point of view and not show up at the forums to express yourself.  Alternatively, how you could put yourself up as a "mainstream" candidate and not espouse your opinion at every forum possible. 

7.  How "American-style" election means mean-spirited mud slinging.  C'mon, that's a bit of an over-generalization - isn't it? 

6.  How poorly traditionally "right" winged candidates have fared in a traditionally "right" city.  It's no secret that I was won over by Craig Burrows actual numbers and plan ahead.  I felt there was much more room for small-c conservative discussion in a field of 15 candidates. 

5.  How I could have no idea who Wayne Stewart was before this election.  He's a very impressive guy and I am very proud to have shaken his hand - even if he scowled at the button I was wearing.   

4.  How we obsessed with chickens, bridges, tunnels and racetracks through this election.  Alternatively, how we obsessed over them at city council the past three years. 

3.  How losing a vote as solid as mine was not a horrific wake up call to my initial candidate of choice.  Perhaps he just wasn't listening? 

2.  How you can sleepwalk through the campaign with a lack of clear policy, then throw it all together in a couple weeks while riding it out on name recognition.  Alternatively, how you could let your campaign take on such a different face than the face for which you are publicly known. 

1.  How anyone can listen to Naheed Nenshi in person and not feel that they have had a very friendly conversation with a person who wants the very best for the city that he loves.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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