Breaking down the biggest challenges facing Nenshi ...



Lori Williams is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Policy Studies. She has taught at Mount Royal for 25 years.

Smart Talk: featuring Lori Williams

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing Calgary's new mayor Naheed Nenshi as he sets out to establish his vision?

A. There are three major challenges that Naheed will have to deal with, in my mind.
The first one is financial: he's facing a $60-million budget shortfall, a commitment made by the previous council and he's going to have to figure out how to handle that and he has to look at ways of economizing within the city.

The second will be key to the first and that is team-building. There are many new members on the council and he's going to have to help bring them up to speed as they'll have a steep learning curve. The other team-building and challenges will be with the administration in city hall. He'll need their support and he needs to work with them

He's criticized some of them in the past and he's got the challenge of reaching out to and working with them. It'll be a tough balance, on the one hand saying, we want to do things differently than you've had with the explicit or implicit criticism built into that, combined with his desire to work with someone who may have a chip on his or her shoulder.

The third challenge will be to reach out to the people who didn't support or vote for him. His vision will engage a lot of Calgarians and if he manages to cross the gap and do that it could be a very good thing for Calgary.

Q. How long will Nenshi have until the honeymoon wears off and it'll have been a fair period to begin judging his body of work?

A. Much will depend on the issues he faces early on. Those who didn't vote for him will be looking for assurances that he's got the stuff to be a good mayor - particularly his treatment of those who didn't support him in the election.

His promotion of Calgary's image in the media frenzy following his election was a good start. You may have seen the recent Herald editorial from a disgruntled voter claiming he only won because the right-wing vote was split between Barb Higgins and Rick McIver [completely ignoring other ways the vote was split - insider/outsider, older/younger...]. I'm not sure anyone that opposed Nenshi will ever be won over, but an early misstep or crisis could do irremediable damage.

In three or four months, we'll have seen enough to begin making judgments, but most would argue that we need to reach the one year mark before we can draw meaningful conclusions.

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