Terry Koch has been an IAP2 member for 24 years and is a founding member, past President and regular volunteer with the Wild Rose (Alberta) Chapter. He was also honoured to serve on the International IAP2 Board as the Treasurer from 2008 – 2010.
What has been your involvement with P2 over the years?
I started with the City of Edmonton in the mid-1980s, working in Community Relations for the Parks and Recreation Department, then moved to Calgary’s Parks and Rec. Then a job came open at Calgary Transit, where they had fewer community relations people (two versus 26), so with that came more opportunity and responsibility.
The GoPlan was being developed at the time, and that opened my interest in doing public engagement. This was the largest transportation master plan and growth plan the City had done to date. Lonny Gabinet (profiled in the June newsletter) was the Corporate Communications person and needed help from a city employee, and luckily, I was it.
We were given a million-dollar budget for public engagement – in 1991! That was ten times what anyone had seen before: it was a lot of money for going out there and talking to the public. The former Dames and Moore firm was the successful engagement services provider and fortunately Barbara Lewis and Marty Rozelle were assigned to lead the design of the public and stakeholder engagement program.
The City saw the value in P2. Yes, it generated controversy for some: why were we bringing in consultants from Denver and Phoenix? What was wrong with our planners or city staff? People even asked what the problem was in the first place; why did we need a plan? At the time, there was nowhere near the transportation challenges we now have in Calgary, so we had to be the “doom-and-gloom” people and tell them, “It’s coming, folks!” No, we didn’t have a transportation problem at the time – but then, we didn’t have 1.25-million people at the time, either.
Barb and Marty brought in great ideas for getting the message across – innovative workshops, an active Citizens’ Coordinating Committee, guest speakers and with Lonny’s creative ideas, like staging a TV program, we were successful at getting people excited about the future.
I didn’t go to the Portland conference (in 1992), but I got involved in IAP2 in ’93: that’s when I joined and learned about techniques like the Samoan Circle – which has nothing to do with Samoa, by the way – and how it could work for engaging people in Calgary’s transportation plan.
In the Samoan Circle, you look at comparisons of different viewpoints. We designed a workshop for the 1993 Kananaskis IAP2 Conference using the GoPlan as the case study. What role does the politician play? What role does the senior city staff person, or the consultant or the ordinary citizen play? People would sit on chairs in the middle of the room and play those particular roles, verbalizing their position on the project.
It all proved to be a great example of politicians and staff willing to try new techniques – and that was 25 years ago, and through that I became the GoPlan’s day-to-day P2 guy.
That experience got me excited about marrying long-range transportation and growth planning. The two really go together as it’s all about growth and change with those two areas coming together with good dialogue. The trick is, start early and engage often. Calgary was a big ship going in one direction and it was a matter of taking the ship on a new course – not a total 180, but a course correction so that it’s a smarter-growing city.
I then went to work for then-Mayor Al Duerr as one of his executive assistants. I was taken on there because of my experience with the Go-Plan. My first job there was as Administrative Liaison. There would be letters and calls to the Mayor’s office – because that’s often the place people go to first when they have a complaint – and I had to make sure they went to the right departments. I was supposed to be there on a year’s secondment, but they kept me for four years.
I then went to ENMAX, the City-owned utility company, where I worked as a government and communications relations manager for five years. Following that, I went off on my own and set up Terrydele Consulting. I figured this gave me more flexibility. My first real task was to work for ENMAX as a private consultant. They needed someone to do day-to-day engagement on a project to replace power lines in Mount Royal – one of the older and wealthier areas of the city.
There were these big, beautiful old and new mansions with power lines running past them and that distribution system needed to be replaced.
I mainly wanted to be a private consultant was because I wanted to get into the private sector to assist where needed. I enjoyed the variety: I wasn’t the Calgary Transit or utility guy anymore, and could branch out into health care, energy, utilities, planning – all different fields.
A lot of my clients have been sourced through engineering companies with a strong Alberta presence where I was the engagement lead and worked with the project team. Lately, I’ve been working with the provincial government on regional plans. Eventually, there’ll be seven master plans based on the watersheds in Alberta. That started in 2008 and it’s still going on today as those regional plans are approved and being implemented.
One of my favourite projects in the past couple of years is the Green Line – the now-approved new LRT line in Calgary. It’s costing $6.5-billion to do 60 percent of the project – getting it tunneled through the downtown into the Bow River and then going north so it will run from the north end to the southeast – eventually 46 kilometres of new LRT line, nearly doubling the current service.
The dialogue for that started 30 years ago and there’s lots of passion about the project. In 2012, we started working on the final stage – the part where we get serious about building it. The Federal government has committed to contributing $1.5 billion; the City of Calgary $1.5 billion and the Province hopefully will be kicking in its share; but it’s going to need a lot of transit-oriented development to get the commercial and retail base to support it.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?
Mainly, getting to what is the role of the public in a project and determining the appropriate amount of engagement. It could be just at the “inform” level, so people can digest it well before decision-making and you don’t pressure them to come to the table with input until it is the right time.
A lot of the time we haven’t been clear, and people have gotten fired-up about engagement – and then they get disappointed. Part of the “Foundations” training is to decide how to involve people without wasting their time. Even if people don’t like the outcome, if you’re honest with them about their involvement, they are more likely to be good with it.
Recently we were at the final design stage in a highly controversial project and brought forward four or five options for input. But we had to make it clear: we’re not going back to to the budget … or station locations … or bus schedules. We’ve been realistic and honest with people, because if we go off that course, we find we’ve wasted people’s time and raised expectations we couldn’t meet.
I owe a lot of that learning to the Foundations course, which I took in the late 90s after 10 years of jumping in with both feet.
You brought the “Question Quilt” to the Denver Conference. Tell us about that.
Yes! In the mid-90s, the Wild Rose Chapter was looking for something to give to IAP3. We simply gathered questions and that generated a lot of dialogue about IAP2’s guiding principles, and it was the evolution towards the Core Values: answer the questions and you get into a good dialogue about what good P2 should look like. Wild Rose had those questions sewn onto a quilt that’s about 8’ by 8’.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
Definitely, come out to a coffee klatch, a lunch-and-learn or any local IAP2 social and networking event. Meet the people who have been in the profession and give them a good listening to. Learn about what resources there are. Save your pennies and take the Foundations Course and the EOP2. Get a good understanding of the basics and real-life case studies, and do some reading: there’s more literature out there than there ever was and lots more online.
And I always have time for the mentorship program – in fact, I have a phone call later today with my protégé.