Long-Term Financial Planning
Better Auditing Procedures
Currently our City Auditor completes a full line by line branch audit every 7 – 10 years. By allowing this amount of time to pass between audits, the potential for inefficiencies to go unnoticed rises and as a result, our taxes increase more than necessary. As we do on my condo board and community league and as every business does, we need to review our services on a more regular basis to shift the culture of the city to a point where we are more diligent about how we spend our money. With a $2 billion dollar a year operating budget, Council should feel confident reporting back to the citizens of Edmonton that we are getting the best value for our expenditures.
If elected, I will put forward a motion in the 2014 City Budget discussions to provide the city auditor additional resources to complete branch audits a minimum of every 5 – 7 years.
2017 Update: I put forward a motion to increase resources for the Office of the City Auditor in 2014 budget. After further discussion with the City Auditor, I delayed the motion to the 2015 Budget deliberations at which point my motion to hire two additional staff members to complete additional value for money and process audits was passed by Council.
The Open Government movement in Edmonton is growing thanks to the efforts of Edmontonians who are taking a greater interest in how our city operates. From voting records and Council meetings to snow removal and road construction the city has increased citizen’s access to information. By making as much information possible public for all the view and analyze, we have the opportunity to find greater efficiencies within the city. If Council wants to improve transparency and accountability, we should not be afraid to open up our books and accept constructive feedback. With regards to our finances, the operating budget is still not available in the context of open data.
If elected, I will work with the next Council to have our operating budget available on open data within the next four years. Greater examination of how we spend our money should be encouraged to ensure that departments are providing the best service in the most effective way possible.
2017 Update: Our operating budget is available on our Open Data Catalogue.
Before being elected, Edmonton was already doing well with information on the Open Data Catalogue. Now for the past two years, Edmonton has been recognized as Canada’s Most Open City. We approved our Open City Policy in April 2015 which shows our dedication to making as much information available as possible. With that said, there is still more to do. There are times where it takes more effort than necessary to access information. Therefore, while we are the best in Canada, we must strive to provide even more information in the Open Data Catalogue.
Balancing Vision with Reality
The City has been through a great deal of change over the last decade. We have moved forward on some great initiatives such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Program, the 10 year plan to end homelessness and are in the process of expanding our LRT to all parts of Edmonton. With that said, we have taken on more debt in order to make up for a lack of infrastructure funding. Over the past few years I have taken the time to meet with those currently on Council to start building relationships as well as to learn about the challenges we will face in the future. In those meetings, many Councillors have said that we will not be able to spend at the same levels over the next decade. Therefore our next City Council will have to analyze future projects more thoroughly before making a decision to proceed.
If elected, I promise to continue to do what I already do in my professional, volunteer and home life which is to recognize the need to balance needs and wants. We have to continue the projects which improve our infrastructure while understanding that the non-necessary projects will proceed when we have proper funding or grants in place.
2017 Update: Balancing needs versus wants is challenging in a growing city. New areas require essential services while mature areas need ongoing maintenance. I believe I have been able to walk that line and would encourage people to review my blog posts from our previous budget deliberations to judge for themselves. I plan to apply those same principles to future budget deliberations while also using the results of our Program and Service Level Review to find additional savings.
Fair and Consistent Funding
Currently only 8 cents of every tax dollar goes to cities while we are responsible for 60% of the infrastructure. Under this structure we have to rely on other levels of Government to complete major infrastructure project like the LRT. This also means that in order to secure that funding we are forced to compete with other municipalities for the available money. The Federal Government is now indexing the gas tax which is an excellent first step. The next step is to have a similar plan in place with the Provincial Government as they continue their work on the Big City Charter. Edmonton must have permanent and predictable funding from all levels of government so that we can continue to provide the basic services that are expected by our citizens as well as to create long-term strategies on some of our larger infrastructure projects.
If elected, I will apply my ability to build strong working relationships and develop consensus to ensure the Province provides Edmonton with steady funding so that we can better plan for the long-term needs of our city.
2017 Update: Edmonton is closer to receiving steady, consistent funding to better plan for the long-term as the Province has committed to completing the City Charter work by this fall.
Smart Growth Policies for a more Vibrant City
In 2010, City Council approved our Municipal Development Plan to help direct Edmonton’s growth and development for the next ten years. This plan was developed in conjunction with The Way We Move and resulted in the creation of four other planning documents. These plans were a great first step in addressing some core issues that have been affecting our city but one crucial section, increasing density still needs additional work and support. Edmonton continues to be one of the least dense cities in all of North America which creates challenges when trying to provide the essential services Edmontonians expect while keeping taxes low. Many of us already understand the need to reduce sprawl but with some of the current policies in place, it is difficult to create meaningful change that the majority will be able to support.
Two years ago, a committee chaired by former City Councillor Michael Phair released a report called Elevate. The vision as listed in the reports is,
“Edmonton is a city in which engaged and informed citizens work together to create strong and sustainable neighbourhoods and communities. Our community will embrace diversity, will provide a physical and social environment where we can live, learn, work, and play, and will meet the needs of current and future Edmontonians through their entire lifetime.”
The committee consisted of community league members, city staff, a former Councillor, current school board trustees and some members of the business community. The report was to expand on the work of The Way We Grow and was seen as an important next step to help increase density within our more mature neighbourhoods. Unfortunately there has been limited movement on the nine recommendations put forward by the committee but if we are serious about increasing our density, we need to make these recommendations a greater priority moving forward. One such recommendation is to, “bring together the four jurisdictions (federal, provincial, municipal and school boards) to create to create innovative partnerships and re-configured policy and funding models designed to assemble a new urban agenda.” A quality working relationship between all four levels is required for our city to continue our growth in a responsible manner.
If elected, I commit to actively work with all levels of government and our school boards to move forward with many of the recommendations put forward in Elevate in order to create community-driven solutions for increasing density throughout Edmonton.
2017 Update: While there are more opportunities for increasing density in the City of Edmonton, we are still short of our existing goal of 25% infill and therefore have a lot of work to do. People who want to live in the mature communities now have some additional choices that are more like what people can choose in new communities. I believe progress has been made in using community-driven solutions for increasing density, but I would like to continue working on improving collaboration with Edmonton School Boards. Certain communities in Ward 1 have been going through school consolidation discussions and it is crucial to ensure the City and the School Board are working together for the long-term success of the communities.
Revitalizing the Jasper Place Communities needs to be a priority but if we do not understand the reasons families choose to live on the outer edges of the city, we will never be able to address the core issues. Having now attended multiple open houses for the Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan I believe we are lacking important information to achieve the desired results. The communities that make up Jasper Place (Canora, West Jasper Place/Sherwood, Britannia Youngstown and Glenwood) already have the highest concentration of multi-unit dwellings in the ward yet school enrollment is down and some are on the verge of closing. Bringing in new families requires that the city actually understands the underlying reasons of why someone would choose one neighbourhood over another. Once we understand what features and services are necessary to revitalize a community, we can then work together with all stakeholders to develop an area redevelopment plan that will have the positive impact we desire.
If elected, I will have the city form a partnership with the Realtors Association of Edmonton to survey new homebuyers so that the city will have a proper understanding of what factors new families consider when purchasing their home.
2017 Update: Conversations with the Realtors Association of Edmonton did take place but a formal partnership was not formed. Thankfully much of the work that I suggested in this section has been occurring through Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap. We know that price is the largest factor for people when deciding where to live and creating more opportunities for development in mature communities (ex: garden suites and basement suites) will help to address the affordability issue. These conversations have also been occurring as part of the school consolidation discussions to provide the city with valuable information about the needs of the communities. Finally, after two and a half years of significant engagement, the Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan was approved by Council in 2015. This plan provides clear direction for the type of development that should occur and where it should be located in the four communities that make up Jasper Place.
Edmonton’s Downtown accounts for approximately 10% of our tax base while covering only one-quarter of one percent of Edmonton’s geographical area. Redeveloping parking lots into new business and residential areas will significantly increase our tax base while reducing the burden on our residential communities. The Quarters project is an excellent example of how to properly encourage growth and we must continue to focus on upgrades to our downtown to retain and draw new residents to Edmonton. When a business is deciding where to locate those that run the business need to be confident that they will not only be able to attract the most qualified people but that they will also be able to retain those people well into the future.
If elected, I will continue to support the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation as well as the Downtown Business Association to bring in new businesses to our downtown as well as the rest of the city.
2017 Update: Even while the Alberta economy struggles, Edmonton has been seeing growth in our downtown. New towers are being built and we have seen new businesses move into the downtown. One challenge that has come up recently is the vacancy rate. I put forward a motion in late 2016 to work with downtown stakeholders, including Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, to take any necessary steps to help convert excess office space into other uses. That report comes back in July 2017 and an update will be provided after that meeting.
One of the most crucial elements to building a strong community is to make it more walkable and inviting. Having a neighbourhood grocery store is important to those living in our mature neighbourhoods. Currently some former grocery store sites are not able to be re-opened as a different grocery chain because there are legal restrictions put in place. The city must rely on the Province to change this and back in 2007 a request was sent in to have a 10 year limit placed on covenants but was unfortunately turned down. Providing communities with a nearby store to shop for the basics will help make our communities more vibrant.
If elected, I will work with the new Council to submit a new request to the Province that would place a 10 year limit on grocery store covenants.
2017 Update: I did put forward a motion to have Council engage the companies directly to remove the grocery store covenants. Unfortunately, while the requests were made, no action was taken. This topic should be revisited with the new Provincial Government.
Transform the Public Consultation Process
Citizen Engagement does not end when you cast your ballot in an election; that is when it begins. We should be encouraging all Edmontonians to get involved with what is happening in their community and city. One of the primary hurdles we face in improving engagement is with our public consultation process. Although the city has improved over the past years, there is still a great deal of progress to be made. Revising the process starts with providing participants of an open house or a feedback session with clear objectives and expectations. Understanding exactly where we are in the consultation process as well as what has already been decided will help provide participants with a proper understanding of what type of feedback the city is looking for at a particular session.
If elected, I will work with the city planning group to develop a consultation plan that provides Edmontonians with well-defined goals at the beginning of every open house or information session.
2017 Update: Since 2015, I have helped lead the Council Initiative on Public Engagement 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 not stop. To ensure 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.
Part of redefining our consultation process involves working together with community leagues and businesses across Edmonton to improve how this city acquires feedback. Too often I hear from individuals or businesses who feel their voice was not heard and that the consultation sessions that they attended were not worthwhile. The specific area I believe we stand to improve the most in is with our follow-up. What should be a basic customer service skill seems to be lacking in our current public involvement. Whether you are calling 311 or you Councillor to report a small detail or sharing your suggestions on a major city project, people want to know that their voice has been heard. This does not mean that everyone should expect to get everything they want, but as long as they get a proper response to their comments, they will be more willing to proactively support a project.
If elected, as part of the new consultation plan listed above, I will share my customer service skills with the planners to help them create a follow-up strategy where Edmontonians receive a response to all feedback provide. I also plan to clearly communicate through newsletters, meetings, etc. with all residents of the ward by sharing my views of current projects as well as discuss the future of the city, ensuring everyone in attendance realizes the impact their voice has with developing our city.
2017 Update: Responses to public feedback is more common now but needs to happen consistently across the entire organization. Our Public Hearing reports have evolved to provide great summaries and responses to the feedback received throughout the rezoning process. Council also receives “What We Heard” reports as part of our meeting agendas for many of the major policy discussions. In terms of my communications, I have been regularly sharing my views on major issues using this site. Please see the Monthly Community Meetings update below for additional actions that I have taken.
Increasing Accountability of Your Elected Representatives
Three years ago I was the first person to disclose all campaign contributions and I challenged all those running to do the same. Unfortunately, only two other individuals disclosed their donations prior to the election. In the Calgary 2010 election, almost all candidates chose to share that information prior to voting day. Voters should have the opportunity to review that information prior to the election so that they can ask candidates any questions that may arise. Those running for Mayor and Council should want to make that information public to show their desire to be transparent.
At least one week prior to the election, I will be making all campaign contributions public. I encourage everyone running in the Edmonton 2013 election to do the same.
2017 Update: I fulfilled my commitment to release all contributions made to my 2013 campaign about a month before the election and continued to update the list as additional donations arrived. It was good to see more candidates disclose their donations and hopefully it becomes a standard in future elections.
I have enjoyed my time as President of the Meadowlark Community League and Vice-President of the Jasper Park Community League and have seen the need to increase the inclusion of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) when discussing major city policy. The Meadowlark Community League has hosted Town Hall meetings so that we can have a common voice when speaking to City Council. Encouraging more communities to come together to discuss important issues will provide Council with an even greater understanding of their constituents’ views and will increase the quality of discourse as community residents would be given greater opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with others.
If elected, I will organize a monthly meeting in Ward 1 where residents can bring forward their vision for the city as well as any issues or concerns they may have. I will also ask the EFCL to increase their involvement through Town Hall meetings and community newsletters. This will allow Council to hear from as many Edmontonians as possible prior to making a decision.
2017 Update: After being elected, I started holding monthly community meetings as I committed to. Unfortunately, the attendance at these meetings was in the single digits so I reformatted the meetings into quarterly Community Conversations. The turnout has improved significantly and I will continue to do these if I have the opportunity to keep serving Edmontonians. In addition to the Community Conversations, I also started door-knocking at least once a month in August 2015 to connect with people who might not have the opportunity to attend meetings or call/email me about issues they have been reading about. Door-knocking has allowed me to hear a variety of different views on many different topics and the feedback I received helps in creating better policy.
Improve and Expand Our Transportation Network
Over the last ten years I have used many different methods of transportation. When I was attending the University of Alberta, I took the bus and occasionally drove. Until a few months ago, I walked everywhere as much as possible and now, I have started cycling. With each change of mode of transportation, I have developed an even greater appreciation for creating a complete transportation network. Creating a unified transportation network means all methods of transit are considered important. It should not be the goal of the city to make one form of transportation unpleasant so people will use a different form. When I made the decision five years ago to start walking to work instead of driving, I did so because of the financial and health benefits. If our goal is to shift the mindset of the general public, then we need to bring all groups: drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and transit users together and create a single vision of what transportation in this city should be. With a plan in place we can work together with the Provincial and Federal Government to acquire funding to complete the entire project rather than getting funding to complete one piece at a time and with no knowledge when the next part will be completed.
2017 Update: There was not a specific action item in this section but rather a commitment to recognize the need to provide a balance of transportation options. While many Edmontonians drive, there are many seniors who cannot drive and need to walk and take transit to visit their family and medical appointments. Updates to this section will be provided later in July 2017 after we discuss our new Transit Strategy along with our Snow & Ice Control Policy. You will also note that while some of the bike lanes (ex: 95th Avenue) were removed, we did add a proper network in our downtown core where there is substantially higher ridership. It is challenging to try and balance all modes of transportation but we need to continue working on this as the way people move evolves.
We need to continue our work on the LRT and secure funding for the uncompleted legs including the west leg of this network. I am pleased to see the progress that has been made but there is still work to be done. Our city’s biggest tourist attraction and one our largest employment hubs, West Edmonton Mall, still does not have light rail transit - This is unacceptable. Over the next four years, a firm timeline with proper funding needs to be in place so that the West LRT will be completed within the next decade. A complete LRT network is crucial to the long term prosperity of our city.
If elected, I will work with the rest of Council over the next four years to lobby the Provincial and Federal Government to secure the funding necessary to begin construction of the West LRT.
2017 Update: Over the last four years Council reaffirmed their priority that the West LRT is the next line to be built and detailed design work has commenced. Both the Provincial and Federal Governments have given their verbal support that funding will be provided. In fact, the Federal Government has increased their portion of funding to 40% of the cost of the project. To put the construction portion of the project to tender, we do need their verbal commitment in writing. Having that in place before the middle of 2018 will ensure we are shovel ready in 2020. While we await that funding, Council did approve the funds for land acquisition and is examining additional grade separations for some critical intersections in Ward 1.
The roads have understandably been a common theme I have heard about at the doors. Although Edmonton’s climate creates challenges for road maintenance, we have a responsibility to every Edmontonian to provide high-quality basic services. The challenge over the years is that we have been more reactive than proactive. We must be willing to explore different alternatives to address the underlying problems rather than simply increasing the amount of money we spend on maintenance.
If elected, I will ask Administration to study other cities across the world with similar climates in order to find new solutions rather than simply increasing the road maintenance budget without solving the root cause of our road conditions.
2017 Update: At the corner of 111th Avenue and 190th Street the City of Edmonton has a facility where they study materials that are used in other cities to determine if they are suitable for our climate. What they have found is many of the materials are not able to handle the temperature swing that we experience. This has resulted in the engineering team to also work on developing an Edmonton-made solution. This will not be a quick process but I believe that it is important to work on our own solution while we continue to test other materials from across the world.
A report received by City Council in late 2014 showed that to properly maintain our arterial roadway network, we should be spending $55 million/year to ensure our main roads have an appropriate life cycle. Before 2015 the budget for arterial roadway renewal was $25 million/year. While there were some one-time increases from 2012-2014, if our main roads were to start seeing improvements, a budget increase would be necessary. This investment has resulted in a steady improvement in our overall roadway network. Of course, we will still have potholes that need to be filled, but the percentage of our main roads that are rated in poor condition is dropping and will continue to drop over the coming years.
Finally, major improvements will be coming to our back alleys. Read about those changes in this post.
Forming Strong Relationships with All Our Partners
The Capital Region Board is still a work in progress as there are times that a very small percentage of the overall regional population can stop a plan from moving forward that would provide significant benefits for Edmonton which in turn benefits the entire region. A greater focus must be placed in helping other towns understand that we all stand to benefit when Edmonton is growing and successful. This also means that as we continue to work on the big city charter, we must ensure that Edmonton is provided with increased MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding. Currently Edmonton does not receive as much per person when compared to other counties. At a minimum we should expect the same per person funding, if not more, because Edmonton is responsible for a greater share of social programs and mass transit than our neighbours.
2017 Update: There have been significant changes in the Capital Region Board. The name of the board is changing to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region but the large change is that there will be fewer municipalities that make up the new board. This new focus has resulted in a new growth plan that ensures less agricultural land will be used up and we will experience better value for our money by using more of our existing resources to service developments. A true cost/revenue sharing model is still needed to truly have the Edmonton Metropolitan Region operating as one entity. Working together means we can compete on a global level and attract new business that will benefit residents across the entire Edmonton Metropolitan Region.
Municipal politics is quite different than how the Provincial and Federal Governments operate. As there are no parties in Edmonton Civic politics, the Council that represents the city must be able to set aside ideologies to create policy for the betterment of our city. This is what happens within our community leagues and this is what must happen on Council in order to help our city grow and prosper. That is why over the past few years I have taken the time to meet with current and former Councillors/Trustees as well as those currently running for Council and School Board Trustee to learn about the issues they are most passionate about. Therefore if I am fortunate enough to represent the people of Ward 1, I will already understand their vision for the city and be able to find common ground when developing policy for the city.
I have also formed strong relationships through my work with the community leagues in Ward 1. Each year, I attend a number of community meetings across the ward in order to share best practices and resources. Those active within the leagues almost always have a great understanding of what is important to everyone in the community.
City Council must be open-minded and ensure all stakeholders have the opportunity to let their voice be heard prior to making a decision. Taking into account all sides of an issue it is the responsibility of the Councillor to then make a decision that will be best for the ward and city. My decision-making process will be open and transparent. As has been the case in my work and volunteer life, there will be times that I disagree with the direction of the majority. When those times occur, I will respectfully share my views so that we will be able to continue to positively work together towards our common goal of improving Edmonton.
2017 Update: I have strived to make my decision-making process as open and transparent as possible. A great example of the steps I take when discussing major issues can be found in the EPCOR transfer debate. I know that it is impossible to please everyone and it is rare for people to agree 100% of the time but providing detailed explanations about how I came to my decisions is important for people to understand if they can trust me to make future decisions. Continuing to engage as listed above helps to inform that process and I will continue to seek out feedback from as many people as possible.