City Council and all Edmontonians need to look ahead to the future. We must contemplate not only 5 years down the road, but 50 years from now. The plans we implement today will impact not only our children, but their children. Our vision for the future of this city must be clear, encompassing social and economic policy and city planning, inclusive of the many different people and communities found throughout this city. We want to make sure future generations are as proud to call Edmonton home as we are today.
I envision Edmonton as a manufacturing and distribution hub, perfectly situated for national and international markets and augmented by a diverse manufacturing economy. Edmonton has the research and development infrastructure, entrepreneurial acumen, skilled labour force and land to support a thriving manufacturing and distribution hub. This will support and supplement the oil and gas industry, as well as other non-oil and gas industries. We have hundreds of small- and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs whose products we can help expand into national and international markets. I see an Edmonton that encourages business to make Edmonton its home. I see a city where national and international markets are financially within reach, where the cost of operation makes sense. I see the economic peaks and valleys of the oil and gas smoothed out and bolstered by a strong manufacturing and distribution network. This economy can support the infrastructure of city services through taxation so that individual property taxes are not the primary source of revenue for the city.
Communities and Neighbourhoods
I see an Edmonton that cherishes its unique and diverse neighbourhoods and communities. It works closely with community leagues to allow for the organic development of densification where it makes sense. A city that preserves the unique character of each of our communities and neighbourhoods. By taking the time to consult in a meaningful way with community leagues and residents in neighbourhoods, we can find solutions to their unique problems. This helps Council and administration uplift communities and neighbourhoods. I see this as an important component to attract business and investment to diversify our economy.
I imagine a city where all city services are provided for by city employees. Where capacity doesn’t exist to be able to meet the needs of citizens in a cost-effective and timely way, I see those services augmented by private industry with the end goal of developing that capacity and ultimately the city taking over those services. City services should not be driven by profit, but rather by their value and for the common good of Edmontonians. I see a city that manufactures its own asphalt and concrete for its roadways, and is able to maintain and clear those roads. I envision an Edmonton where municipalities from around the world seek our advice and expertise on city-owned and operated services; because of our ability to not only create and support the capacity needed to service its citizens, but to do so in a cost-effective and timely manner.
LRT and BRT
I envision a city where LRT is augmented by Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and dial-a-bus service so that citizens can reach any destination in 45 minutes or less; a transit system that doesn’t prevent the flow of personal car traffic; a system that encourages the use of public transit because citizens can depend on it, and are able to set their watches to its timeliness. I see a system that doesn’t cost billions in infrastructure dollars to build and is operated by the city and its employees; a system that grows according to the needs of the city and that ultimately pays for itself.
Reduction in Greenhouse Gasses
I see a city that reduces greenhouse gas emissions not only through carbon taxes or bike lanes, but by significantly reducing the use of automobile traffic. This can be done by reducing our overabundant downtown parking lots. Reducing parking spaces in our core would encourage the use of public transit and provide needed infill and density development on those lots as well. I envision an Edmonton that provides incentives to home and business owners to install alternative power sources like solar cells or geothermal heating. We need sources that can create net zero structures and that contribute to the energy grid rather than deplete it. I envision Edmonton as a global leader in the reduction of greenhouse gases through alternative energy sources.
I envision a city that has a completely connected, lit, paved and safe multi-use network of pedestrian and bike lanes that run the length and breadth of the river valley and its tributaries. This network will reach deep into suburban communities to allow access directly through the valley system to the core of the city. In taking cyclists off busy roads, where they are at risk, we allow them to commute to destinations away from the perils of traffic for 90 per cent of their commute. Augmented by the existing downtown bike lane network, cyclists could safely navigate the city, weather permitting. I envision those pathways cleared in the winter for those wishing to commute by bicycle year-round, and for runners and pedestrians. The network would also have the added impact of spurring meaningful and controlled development in the river valley, like shops and cafes that cater to the increased use.
I envision a city where speed limits are dictated by empirical data based on expertise. Speed limits in neighbourhoods should always be the same and motorists will be able to trust that the limits won’t change from block to block. I see a city where freeway limits are fast enough to both increase efficiency and protect lives. I envision neighbourhood limits at 40kms and freeways at 100kms. I envision large, obvious signage indicating to motorists that they are entering a speed trap so that there is no question that if they speed they will be ticketed; no more hidden photo radar traps. I envision a city that doesn’t count on photo radar as a source of revenue, but rather a means to save lives. Police will be able to enforce limits so that demerits can be issued, equalizing the punishment so that it doesn’t matter how much money you have.
I envision a city that, working in consort with NGOs, supports and houses homeless people. At any given time there are roughly 5,000 transient and chronically homeless individuals in Edmonton. Many more are only one paycheque away from living on the street. The same number of individual dwellings supported by the city through subsidies and social workers should also be close to the services needed to support reintegration into society. This includes education, job training, health services, social services, libraries, amenities, and most importantly, communities of citizens who can help build relationships and support networks around homeless individuals and families. With the help of incentivized landlords and property owners, I see these dwellings not as large apartment complexes grouped together in one area of the city or single large buildings in far flung suburban communities but rather spread throughout the city. These properties will be in groups of two to three units, diminishing the creation of ghetto-affect housing. I see people who are committed to reintegration. More importantly, I see communities and citizens who are just as committed to creating social support networks around them, coming together to house, support and eliminate homelessness in Edmonton, forever.
I envision a return to the commissioner system in our civic administration. These commissioners would be experts in the departments they head up. This would free City Council to govern based on the advice and input received rather than requiring councillors to be experts on every subject.
I see a city where 80 per cent or more of its citizens vote in civic elections. Right now a turnout of 40 per cent in a civic election in Edmonton is considered excellent and almost unheard of. Of the average of 30 per cent who currently vote, the vast majority are 55 years of age and older. I see a city that engages and inspires young people to be involved with the democratic process and deciding the future governance of the city. Do councillors and the mayor really have a mandate when they aren’t elected by the majority of Edmontonians? I envision an electoral system that encourages all citizens to vote by making voting mandatory. Each ballot would give voters the option to abstain, but they would still be required by law to go to a polling station to check it. Rather than penalizing citizens who don’t vote, incentives would be offered to those who do; a small reduction in property tax, or an incentive like a discount on a parking ticket or library fines, or access to city-run services like recreation centres and swimming pools. Landed immigrants who are working towards citizenship and who have chosen to emigrate, live, and work in Edmonton should be able to have a say in the governance of the city by allowing them to vote in civic elections. I think that would add to the diversity currently lacking on City Council.
I see a city where there is a cap on the total amount of money any civic campaign can raise, and a restriction to the way those funds can be raised. This ensures that no single industry or special interest group can control the outcome of any election.
There’s a Hawaiian saying: “Every palm tree is straight when it’s young and all bend the longer they live.” I see the offices of councillors and the mayor refreshed with new ideas and motivations through the implementation of term limits for both.
Gender Equality in Civic Politics
I envision a city-sponsored initiative that actively encourages women to enter civic politics through education and incentive. I envision a council that is actually representative of the gender demographic in Edmonton.
I envision a City that shares information, is easy to access electronically and is user friendly. For example, if a citizen wants to know the voting record of their Councillor all they need do is go to the city website, simply type in their request and find the data instantly.