Open Transparent Government

Public Engagement – During the 2013 campaign I made a commitment to regularly engage with residents as there were many times that people expressed concerns about their voice not being heard. While public engagement has evolved, my desire to ensure that people’s voices are heard stays constant.

Since 2015, I have helped lead Edmonton City Council’s Public Engagement Initiative, which launched in 2014. This year, due in large part to the participation of over 1,000 Edmontonians, we have developed and approved a new public engagement policy that will transform how Edmontonians, City Staff and City Councillors engage each other, resulting in better policy due to the better use of feedback. I believe public engagement has improved over the last four years but this is an area where work must continue. To ensure this work does not stop, a Public Engagement Advisory Committee will be formed to hold Council and Administration accountable to the new policy while also reviewing new suggestions that focus on continuous improvement in public engagement.

If re-elected I will continue to:

    Host quarterly Community Conversations with residents;
    Hold Live social media conversations (for those who may not be able to attend public meetings);
    Door-knock regularly throughout Ward 1 to gather feedback on past, current, and upcoming items of discussion.
    Attend community meetings, annual general meetings, and events.
    Continue to respond to calls and email in a timely manner.

I will also revisit a motion I put forward during last term to allow residents the opportunity to call or video conference to share their views with all of Council. Whether you are working a full-time job and are unable to take a day off work, are attending school and cannot miss a class or are unable to afford the parking or transportation costs to attend a meeting at City Hall, you should have the right to speak on any agenda item. You should not need to sacrifice your education, career, family, or finances to engage with your local government. Technology has evolved rapidly and we need to use those advances to allow more people to participate in the democratic process.

The Impact of Feedback – Council has now started receiving “What We Heard” reports as part of our meeting agenda for many of the major policy discussions. These documents are critical in showing residents how their feedback is being used. In our recent Transit Strategy discussion, Council was not only provided with a “What We Heard” report but we also received a “What We Did” report which details the communications and public engagement approach, activities, and participation. As there will always be a diversity of views, some people may not be satisfied with the outcome of the engagement. The key is to ensure that the engagement process was thorough and people can see that their voices were heard even if the final recommendation or decision is different from what they wanted. Understanding why a suggestion was or was not used is critical to people staying involved in future discussions.

If re-elected I will request that all major policy discussions have What We Did and Heard reports so that you will know the process and the outcome of engagement on various topics. This will help to keep engagement top of mind throughout the process of a policy discussion.

Campaign Donations and Disclosure – I recently announced that I will not be accepting corporate and union donations during the 2017 campaign. The link above will detail why I have made that decision. As I did in 2010 and 2013, I will also be disclosing all donations made to my campaign in advance of the October 16th election. I believe the release of this information is important to walking the talk of transparency.

Financial and Project Management

Project Management – Project management in the City of Edmonton has undergone some urgently needed and significant changes over the last few years. To ensure consistent, efficient, and transparent delivery of capital projects, the Integrated Infrastructure Services Department was created in April 2016. This department, with new process and reporting changes, has enabled City Council to monitor projects more effectively, improve communication between departments and provide better information to residents regarding the progress of those projects. Latest results, as of December 31, 2016, show improvements:

88% of our significant capital projects are on or ahead of schedule; and, 99% are on or under budget.

If re-elected I will continue to monitor our significant capital projects so that the recent results can continue well into the future.

Financial Management – The continued growth in our city and lack of investment in our mature communities several years ago have created financial pressures as we must fund the construction and operations of new facilities (ex: fire halls, rec centres, etc.) along with the ongoing maintenance of our mature communities.

2018 is expected to be the last year for the dedicated increase to our Neighbourhood Renewal Program. At the same time, the full program and service level review will be completed in 2018. Therefore, when the next Council begins their 2019-2022 operating budget deliberations, City Council should be in a great position to minimize the budget required to provide the necessary services and amenities.

During the 2017 budget discussions I put forward a motion to remove some positions that had gone unfilled for over 6 months which resulted in $5.2 million in savings and helped us achieve the lowest approved tax increase in a decade.

If re-elected, I will take a similar approach to our most recent budget discussions to balance our needs and wants. I would like to strive for an increase no higher than inflation in 2019.

Major Infrastructure Projects

Lewis Farms Recreation Centre/Library and West LRT – The construction of the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre/Library and West LRT will be discussed by the next Council during the 2019-2022 Capital Budget deliberations in late 2018. I am pleased with the planning and design progress we have made on both the Rec Centre and West LRT but we must start construction on these necessary projects during the next term.

If re-elected, I will put forward motions during the 2019-2022 Capital Budget deliberations to begin construction on both the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre/Library and the West LRT. The West LRT will depend on securing funding from the Provincial Government before construction could proceed.

Back Alley Renewal – Back alleys have been neglected for far too long in Edmonton and it is time to move forward with a Back Alley Renewal Program which will ensure our back lanes are receiving the proper attention and maintenance. After I put forward an inquiry to create a plan to address our alleys, this Council approved the alley renewal strategy. The next Council will have the opportunity to formally start the program in 2019.

If re-elected, I will support the implementation of the Back Alley Renewal Program to take care of this critical infrastructure across Edmonton.

Road Improvements – With the rapid growth outside the Henday there are locations that have significant congestion (ex: Winterburn Road, Webber Greens Drive). Currently our Administration is working on prioritizing a list of over 150 locations city-wide that need additional capacity to efficiently move people and goods. As Winterburn Road (215th Street) is along a major industrial area and connected to many rapidly growing communities. Webber Greens Drive is also now connected to two new schools (Michael Phair Junior High and Bishop David Motiuk Elementary/Junior High) and will be one of the main roads used to get to the Lewis Farms Recreation Centre/Library.

If re-elected, I will request that these roads be considered for widening in the 2019-2022 Capital Budget deliberations. In my opinion, these are roads that must be widened to allow for the industrial and residential traffic to flow properly. I would expect that when this work occurs that we also provide space for multi-use trails so people can choose which way they want to move along those roads. There are other roads that will likely need attention (ex: Whitemud from Lewis Estates Blvd to Winterburn Road) and if re-elected I look forward to receiving the prioritization list to determine how quickly we can address these deficiencies.

Choice in Where People Live and How They Move

The Way We Grow – Edmonton continues to experience significant population increases yet the population across our mature communities continues to drop. That creates challenges for our local schools and business which require a population comparable to what it was 30-40 years ago to remain viable. As the average household size has also decreased considerably, providing a wider range of housing choice similar to what we have in new communities across Edmonton is necessary to bring in new families while allowing seniors the opportunity to stay within their existing community. For example, in the community of Lewis Estates there are single family homes, single family homes on narrow lots, semi-detached/duplex housing, row housing, townhomes, single storey semi-detached/duplex housing for seniors, apartments, condos, and seniors housing (independent living, supportive living). Allowing a variety of housing options will provide choice for those who want to move into or stay within their community. To make housing more affordable in mature communities we must expand the opportunities for the ‘invisible density’ (ex: garden suits, secondary suites).

If re-elected I will support new opportunities to expand affordable housing choices that will allow someone to age within their community while continuing to refine and improve how development occurs in our neighbourhoods. I will do this by supporting secondary suites and garden suites to be permitted uses in all low density dwelling types and row housing. This will help to address the issue of affordability in our mature communities while creating opportunities for additional accessible suites for those who would like a wider range of barrier-free housing in mature communities. It is not acceptable to have seniors leaving the community they have lived in because of a lack of accessible housing just as it is unacceptable to see mature schools and local businesses close due to a lack of population.

Also, if re-elected I will support the creation of the nodes and corridor plan which will focus higher density development along arterial and collector roads with strong transit service and by major community amenities. Addressing the ‘missing middle’ of housing is how we can ensure many of the mature communities, including my home of Jasper Park, are able to have the same variety of housing that residents of many newer communities have.

As the next Council will approve the next ten-year Municipal Development Plan, a new growth target will be developed. Instead of focusing on a set percentage of infill, the target must be creating vibrant communities that have a variety of housing choice, active school/community spaces, and successful local businesses that provide products and services that support the vibrancy of the neighbourhood.

Supportive Housing – If we hope to accomplish the goal of ending homelessness and poverty, we need more supportive housing so people can access the necessary resources. I believe that most people understand the need to have appropriate housing as it reduces the need for emergency services to respond to calls since people will have the essential supports on site. We have seen the success of this model in locations like Ambrose Place. Therefore, it is time to make sure supportive housing is spread across the city. Concentrating social housing in the core will not help us end homelessness or poverty so people should start thinking about what locations in their community would work best.

If re-elected, I will support the construction of supportive housing across the city. If the best location is beside where I live, I will be happy to support that. We all must work together to accomplish these goals so it is better for us to be proactive and plan for housing rather than react once something has been proposed.

The Way We Move – As I discussed in my 2013 platform, our City’s goal cannot be to make one form of transportation unpleasant so people will use a different method. That is why I supported the removal of the bike lanes on 95th Avenue while also supporting the minimum grid in our downtown. I also supported our new Transit Strategy which will overhaul our existing transit service. This was an important step in ensuring we get higher ridership and better value for what is one of our largest budget items. Council also supported expanding the vehicle for hire industry. Ride-sharing is here to stay and Edmonton was the first city in Canada to allow ride-sharing companies on our streets.

For those that need to drive, we significantly increased our arterial roadway renewal budget from $25 million/year to $55 million/year so we could start to fix our major roads which were in bad shape. This Council also approved the conversion of Yellowhead Trail into a freeway. This project will help with the appropriate movement of people and goods within Edmonton.

While those projects were all necessary, we must prepare for new technology. Automated/autonomous or self-driving vehicles are quickly evolving. These vehicles are on the road right now in warmer climates and have been used for both passenger and freight. Automated vehicles are going to revolutionize not just how we move from point A to point B but it will transform our economy and land use (ex: parking lots). We have a choice: we can either wait and let the rest of the world decide how this technology will integrate with our city or we can choose to be the leading Northern city and create our own policy.

If re-elected, I will continue to advocate to the rest of Council that Edmonton should take the lead on this file. We have made progress but more work is needed. We have locations and partners that would be prime for testing. Expanding our network will provide Council with the necessary data to make policy decisions. It could also encourage new businesses to set up in Edmonton if they are aware that we are looking to lead on this new technology.

The Transit Strategy post above references the first mile/last mile challenge with our transit system. The issue is that running a near empty bus every 30 or 60 minutes to try to connect people to their nearest transit hub is not an efficient use of tax dollars. Therefore, if re-elected, I will re-introduce a motion to explore the use of the vehicle for hire and car-sharing industry along with other options such as dial-a-bus to address the first mile/last mile challenge for our transit system. While there is no guarantee that using the vehicle for hire or car-sharing (ex: Pogo) industry is the right solution, it is not responsible to rule it out before comparing it to the other options. Our focus should be on increasing ridership as much as possible. Therefore, analyzing all options is the right thing to do to make the most informed decision.

Active Transportation – Active transportation deals with those who walk and/or bike. While the investment in our roads in the 2015-18 Capital Budget was over $1 billion, our investment in our sidewalks and trails has been limited. This has created challenges for seniors who have mobility aides, people in wheelchairs, or parents with strollers as the replacement of cracked sidewalks and trails can take some time. Looking forward to the next Capital Budget, there needs to be more attention given to those that walk.

If re-elected, I will support an increase to the Active Transportation budget so that our cracked sidewalks and trails can be made safe for those that choose or need to use that infrastructure. This would also allow us to build more sidewalks and trails so that people can safely navigate to their destinations.

Topics that You Have Raised While at the Doors

Traffic Safety – Traffic safety has been raised as a major issue across new and mature communities. Earlier this year the Office of Traffic Safety committed to engaging all Edmontonians around appropriate speeds on local, collector (ex: 95th Avenue) and arterial (ex: 87th Avenue, 156th Street, 215th Street, etc.) roads. We know that people have a 90% chance of survival if they are hit by a vehicle travelling at 30km/h, a 50% chance at 40km/h and 15% chance at 50km/h. Within most communities I find it odd that I am allowed to drive the same speed as I do on 156th Street – which is the street that I live on. Whether it is children walking or biking to the park/school or seniors who require additional time to cross the road, having a slower speed on our local roads can create a more vibrant community where more people are out and connecting with one another. This would also help us reach our goal set out in Vision Zero.

At the same time, we know that some of our arterial roads have posted speeds that are set 10km/h lower than what they are engineered for. While I understand why that may be a reasonable decision for our local roads, I find it hard to understand why we would set the limit lower than what the arterial roads are designed to support. As safety on our arterial roads is a priority, we can both ensure the efficient movement of people and goods while providing safe crossing opportunities for others by enhancing our crosswalk standards.

If re-elected, I plan to support slower speeds on our local roads and the speed that our arterial roads were designed for. Our focus should be safety, consistency, and efficient movement. I would also like to review all the available information from other cities that have made a similar change and review the results since implementation.

Also, if re-elected Council must set a target date to achieving Vision Zero. It will not be easy but by not committing to a date, it is hard to prove we are serious about accomplishing the primary goal of ending all traffic fatalities.