Candidate Profile: Susan Birley For Ward Three

Name: Susan Birley

Ward You’re Running In: 3

Current Occupation: Senior Policy Analyst, Ministry of Government Relations, Government of Saskatchewan

Voter Information: www.birleyward3.ca, SusanBirleyWard3 on Facebook, @birleyward3 on Twitter, 790-8528

I grew up on a farm in northern BC, then completed a BA in Archaeology at the University of Calgary. I was hired as Museum Consultant with the Province of Saskatchewan in 1985, when I purchased a house in the Cathedral area, where I have lived, worked and raised my family for the last 27 years. During that time I have been active with many efforts to help build and protect the interests of the community including serving on the boards of the Cathedral Area Community Association, the Ecole Connaught School Parent Council and Grow Regina. I was also a key part of the action to stop library closures with the Friends of the Regina Public Library. My career with the provincial government has given me a range of experience with policy development, program management and financial administration, as well as a solid understanding of the issues in the arts, culture, heritage, municipal, immigration and Aboriginal sectors.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

1. Briefly, why are you running for council?
I feel that the current council is out of touch with the needs and values of Regina residents. They fail to demonstrate transparency and accountability to the public. For example, the plans to commit a large amount of taxpayers’ dollars to the stadium project without public consultation while ignoring greater problems such as affordable housing, aging infrastructure and the pension deficit, to name a few. Responsible government, transparent and accountable, is needed to address the challenges and opportunities for Regina to grow and thrive.

2. What is the single most pressing issue facing Regina? How would you solve it?
I think the greatest issue facing Regina is how the City will manage its growing debt burden while dealing with its growing infrastructure deficit – at last count $2B over ten years. I would insist on an implementation schedule for plans for downtown and neighbhourhood revitalization that have already been approved with major public input. Some of the water and sewer infrastructure in older neighbourhoods is over ninety years old – a plan is needed for their orderly replacement. Our sidewalks downtown are dangerous to walk on all times of the year and some roadways haven’t been repaired in over thirty years. These are like the bones of our city – they need to be built up and maintained. The federal and provincial government need to be lobbied for increased infrastructure funding.

3. Imagine the Regina Of The Future that you want to help build. What will it look like?
My vision of Regina in the future is one our grandchildren will thank us for. My ideal city of the future uses resources wisely and efficiently, and is carbon neutral. It has a distinct identity and strong sense of place shaped by its heritage and cultural diversity. It is inclusive and equitable, and has a flourishing and diverse economy that all can participate in. It will have strong neighbourhoods and a dynamic downtown. People will live in a neighbourhood where they feel safe, they enjoy their surroundings, they have housing that is affordable and in good repair. They know their neighbours and help each other when necessary, they contribute to their community by getting involved in causes that help build the community. They are able to get around easily by walking, bicycle, or efficient public transit. There are neighbhourhood schools within easy walking distance. The downtown is a vibrant hub for arts, cultural events, music, festivals, technological innovation and micro-enterprise.

4. Beyond immediate concerns like housing, the stadium and infrastructure renewal, what “big idea” project do you want to work on that nobody seems to be talking about?
To me the big idea is about following through on the existing plans for downtown revitalization: the Regina Downtown Neighbourhood Plan: Walk to Work; and the Heritage Neighbourhood Revitalization Plan. Both of these were developed at considerable cost to taxpayers and with a lot of involvement by the people living in these communities. They sat on the shelf for several years and need to be revived – with a commitment of resources from the city. These plans addressed how to create complete, liveable communities through higher density living in the downtown; a range of housing options; well managed parking; safe streets and sidewalks with mobility options for all; rehabilitated heritage buildings; thriving local businesses; and a strong creative sector: all of which will help to make Regina’s Downtown and the surrounding neighbourhoods more attractive and successful. My background in public policy and citizen engagement, my knowledge of the arts, culture and heritage along with my skills in project management and financial administration will help to ensure these plans are implemented.

5. Name something the last council got right.
Deepening Wascana Lake and the landscaping around it. Also they finally (in August 2012) approved the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan and the Heritage Neighbourhood Revitalization Plan as bylaws so they can be incorporated into the Official Community Plan. And the Design Regina process where Council committed to eight community priorities that will guide the development of Regina’s new official community plan. This is a good, forward‑looking step. Unfortunately, there’s been a history of council not living up to its commitments.

6. Now, point out their biggest mistake.
Decision-making processes at Council that don’t incorporate public consultation and that are inconsistent with established plans. Councillors are elected to think about the decisions they are making and make informed, independent choices on behalf of their residents. The process for presenting at Council meetings doesn’t encourage public input – it is hard to find out what’s on the agenda ahead of time and delegations are presenting after Council decisions have already been made.

7. What are you reading these days?
Prairie Dog and Gord Hume’s Local Food Revolution.

8. Beyond your residence, do you own any property in Regina or in the immediate area?
no

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FUN QUESTIONS!

1. What is your favourite Regina restaurant?
La Bodega

2. Who is your favourite Regina artist?
Can’t choose or I will make some of my friends sad.

3. What actor would play you in the gritty cable drama, Queen City Hall?
Susan Sarandon

4. How would your character die?
Throwing herself in front of the bulldozer that is tearing down the library building.

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PICK A SIDE

Cats or Dogs? cats

Vampires or Werewolves? vampires

Boxing or Roller Derby? Roller derby

Steak or Sushi? sushi

Hill Towers or Legislative Building? Leg bldg

Quance Street or Dewdney Avenue? Dewdney

Artesian or Wascana Park Gazebo? Artesian

Prairie Dog or Richardson Ground Squirrel? PDog

Giant Grasshopper or Stegosaurus? If I were a seven year old boy these would be equally compelling

Saskaboom or SaskAdvantage? Is there a difference?

Bike or Sports Car? I love to ride my bicycle. Of course feeling the wind blowing through your hair while driving in a sports car is fun –but bad for emissions.

Le Macaron or Five Guys? Depends how hungry I am.

The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? That’s too hard.

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BONUS QUESTION: Make up your own question (And answer it, of course!)
Q: Who will show leadership, vision and commitment in representing the Ward 3 neighbourhoods of Cathedral, River Heights (north side of Regina Ave.), the Crescents, the Downtown, Central Square, General Hospital and Heritage on City Council?
A: Susan Birley

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Find out about all the other people running in this election on our Candidate Profiles page. And follow all of our online election coverage — including interviews, analysis and podcasts — on our Regina City Election 2012 page.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.