Media Monday Edmonton: Update #189

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Petrochemicals Diversification Program 669
Minister Deron Bilous speaks to the media at NAIT last week, photo by Premier of Alberta

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

  • In Linda’s latest social media notes, she links to all the Twitter news and points out that Instagram now lets you toggle between different accounts.
  • Here’s a memo sent to Postmedia staff last week by CEO Paul Godfrey in which he wrote “the Toronto Star has made several scurrilous claims about our company, its investors and our products.”
  • For a somewhat more optimistic take on the state of the newspaper business, check out Stephen Kimber’s piece for The Walrus. “The more I see what’s happening with the newspaper business, the more I’ve begun to believe it may simply be necessary for the old to implode in order to make psychic and fiscal space for the new and, hopefully, better.”
  • Should the feds step in to “help democracy’s watchdogs”? That’s what Nick Fillmore argues.
  • In the Globe and Mail, Peter Miller argues that the “CRTC’s ruling on Canadian ads during the Super Bowl is a fumble” and suggests that the regulator should reverse its decision on simulcast. I do agree that getting access to the American ads is much less of an issue now (they were online right away) but I still don’t think many will support his stance on this issue.
  • I have to admit, I haven’t really been following the Ghomeshi trial. But so far at least, it doesn’t look good for his accusers.

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 2/7/2016

Happy Lunar New Year/Super Bowl 50! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Edmonton Chinese New Year 2016
Edmonton Chinese New Year 2016, photo by IQRemix

Upcoming Events

Rogers Place under construction
Rogers Place under construction

Transition pay for Sohi, silencing street preachers, local food perceptions

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

Transition pay for Amarjeet Sohi

There has been a bit of discussion recently about the transition pay that Amarjeet Sohi collected when he left office. As outlined in Council’s Compensation, he collected a little over $46,000 for his 8 years of service (the transition allowance is “three weeks salary for each year served, to a maximum of 36 weeks”).

Prayer Service - International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Amarjeet Sohi in March 2015, photo by Paula Kirman

Councillor Michael Oshry feels that by collecting the pay, former-Councillor Sohi went against the spirit of the allowance. He told the Journal:

“What I have a problem with is having a situation where somebody leaves mid-term, is basically quitting the job. I have a problem with that because it’s now their choice to do that.”

The transition allowance has been in place since after the 2001 election which is when a February 2000 motion to implement the final recommendations of the Independent Committee to Review the Renumeration and Benefits of Members of Council took effect. That motion was carried unanimously, by the way. At the time the transition allowance was “equal to 2 weeks salary for each year served to a maximum of six months salary.” Here’s the rationale the committee provided:

“Severance allowances serve the purpose of assisting individuals to bridge the period between the time that they leave a position until they re-enter the workforce in another position. Most severance allowances are linked directly to length of service and include a maximum pay out. In addition, most employees have access to Employment Insurance benefits to help bridge the gap during a transition to another job.

Members of Council currently do not have access to any severance or transition benefits; nor are they eligible for Employment Insurance benefits. The Committee felt that Members of Council should have access to some severance/transition support; however, they felt strongly that the provisions should not be retroactive. Having the current Council establish the policy for future Councils was viewed as a more appropriate and prudent way to manage the transition to this new policy.”

The transition allowance was increased by one week in 2006, with this rationale from the Independent Council Compensation Committee:

“Members of Council are not always in control of when they leave office and the Committee recognizes it takes time for members to re-establish themselves back into the workforce. Employees in government and non-government agencies, when laid off or the position is phased out, would receive some transition allowance and are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits for this transition period. Members of Council are not eligible to receive these benefits. The Committee felt increasing the transition allowance by one week per year served allowed for fair remuneration comparable to other jurisdictions and Alberta MLAs, who receive three months salary for every year served.”

Council voted on this issue back in June 2006, and actually made it retroactive to 2001. It passed 12-1, with the only dissenting vote coming from Councillor Mike Nickel (he voted against the entire motion to adopt the report’s recommendations).

The Independent Council Compensation Committee reiterated support for a transition allowance back in 2012/2013 when they last issued a report, stating:

“The existing transition allowance is modest, is comparable to other jurisdictions and to the public sector, and provides appropriate economic protection to citizens who must leave other employment to serve on City Council.”

While I can see the point Councillor Oshry is making, I don’t agree. Amarjeet Sohi served for eight years (in my view quite effectively) and I think he’s entitled to all of the compensation that goes along with that.

Silencing street preachers

Earlier this week Council discussed the “use of amplified noise on City sidewalks”. Street preachers, essentially. Councillor Oshry made an inquiry about the issue back in November, saying that “the use of amplified noise by individuals on public property can often disturb the peace of others and infringe on their peaceable enjoyment of public space.” The two page report notes:

  • Excessive noise is regulated by the Community Standards Bylaw (PDF)
  • Section 14 of the bylaw states that a person shall not cause or permit any noise that disturbs the peace of another individual
  • Enforcement Officers “apply objective standards” to determine if an offence has occured
  • Last year a total of 959 noise complaints were received from citizens, most related to garbage collection, street cleaning/snow removal, and construction
  • Activities related to street preaching on public spaces fall under the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Any legislative change would have to fall within the rights of the Charter, and would also apply to “all variations of amplified noise”, including sporting events and outdoor concerts, so that could make a solution tricky. One idea is to restrict amplified noise in certain locations, such as within a certain proximity to building entrances. Another is to require preachers to obtain a permit, just as buskers must do. Ultimately, Council decided to request a report outlining “what other municipalities have in place to regulate amplified noise in public spaces” and information on legislative options that could be used to address the issue. That report is slated to come back to Council in April.

Bylaw
Fine for Violation, photo by Linelle Photography

Some street preachers are concerned the issue isn’t about noise at all. From CBC:

“I think the noise complaint is really a content complaint, wrapped in a noise complaint,” said Nehemia Smeding, who preaches on street corners twice per week. Smeding said he and his fellow street preachers use amplifiers so their message can be heard over the roar of traffic and crowds downtown.

I generally don’t have an issue with noise downtown, especially during the day. There are often organized protests that wind their way through the core making use of a megaphone along the way. I’m even happy with the odd outdoor concert that takes place on the streets during the summer months. However, because of all the buildings downtown noise is already amplified, even without a speaker. So while I can understand what Smeding is saying about wanting to be heard over the traffic (crowds? really?) I think there’s a reasonable limit. It’s probably too loud when I can hear clear as day on my 12th floor condo on 104 Street the preaching coming from 103 Street and 102 Avenue, which seems to have happened much more frequently in recent months. Blame the nice weather, I guess?

As you might expect, this isn’t the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2000, street preacher Tony Hritzuk was charged for apparent disruptions along Whyte Avenue. But not noise disruptions – he was charged obstructing pedestrians. The Traffic Bylaw (PDF) states that “a person shall not stand or be in any other position on a highway so as to obstruct the entrance to a building or to obstruct pedestrians or vehicles using the highway.” He and his lawyer said they’d fight the charge under the Charter, and the charges were dropped.

Perceptions about Edmonton’s local food system

The Edmonton Food Council (which I am a member of) is running an online survey until February 15:

“The Edmonton Food Council is interested in tracking how Edmonton’s food system is changing over time and would like to hear your thoughts and perceptions about the local food system. The Food Council intends on releasing an annual scorecard of Edmonton’s food system using the results from the following questionnaire.”

Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us! And if you’re not already a member, consider signing up for the Edmonton Insight Community to give input to the City on a wide range of topics each month.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #188

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Reimagining Urban Life: Jeff Jarvis
Jeff Jarvis at the World Economic Forum. He wrote that this was the post-Snowden Davos.

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 1/31/2016

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Transforming City
Transforming City, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

Raining in January
Rain in Edmonton…in January!

The City of Edmonton is reorganizing in support of functional integration

The City of Edmonton is being reorganized effective March 1, 2016 around a new mandate of integration based on function. Acting City Manager Linda Cochrane announced the changes yesterday in an email sent to all City of Edmonton staff. She wrote:

“This new structure bundles work in departments based on function: all operations work, all infrastructure work, all planning work, all financial and corporate services work, all citizen services and all communications/public engagement work will each be grouped in the same department.”

The City’s last reorganization took place back in 2011, roughly a year and a half after Simon Farbrother was hired as City Manager. That restructuring was largely cosmetic though in that it didn’t dramatically alter the silos that had existed since the late 1990s (though the Financial Services and Infrastructure Services departments were later merged). This reorganization is all about getting rid of silos and breaking down barriers to more integrated service delivery. And the most notorious silo of all, Transportation, is now gone. More dominoes are indeed falling.

Here is the new organizational structure:

New Org Structure
Click for a larger version with the branches & managers

So previously there were five departments, plus the Office of the City Manager (you can see the old org chart here):

  • Community Services
  • Corporate Services
  • Financial Services & Utilities
  • Sustainable Development
  • Transportation Services

And now we have six, plus the Office of the City Manager:

  • Citizen Services
  • City Operations
  • Communications & Public Engagement
  • Financial & Corporate Services
  • Integrated Infrastructure Services
  • Sustainable Development

The new structure “bundles work in departments based on function.” This is perhaps most evident in the dissolution of Transportation Services. Here’s what happened to each of that department’s branches:

  • Edmonton Transit is now in the City Operations department
  • LRT Design & Construction is now LRT Projects in the Integrated Infrastructure Services department
  • Roads Design & Construction is now Transportation Infrastructure in the Integrated Infrastructure Services department
  • Transportation Operations is now in the City Operations department
  • Transportation Planning is now in the Sustainable Development department

Mayor Iveson spoke to the Journal about the changes yesterday, saying: “we’ve been talking about this for years; the transportation department, quite frankly, was very siloed and off on its own.” Well, no more.

Why now?

I had the opportunity to speak with Acting City Manager Linda Cochrane about the changes today. I wondered about the timing, given that a new City Manager could be coming on board in a few months and may want to make his or her own changes. “That’s true, some things could change with a new City Manager,” she acknowledged, but said that “Council endorses the bundling of services in a functional way.” She feels there is “strong support” for the new structure. On top of that, Linda is very interested in the role herself and will be applying to become the new City Manager.

During last year’s budget deliberations, Council asked for a full service review of everything the City is doing. Couldn’t that have an impact on the structure, I wondered? “A structure based on function will facilitate the service review,” Linda said. “It will let staff and stakeholders speak in functional ways and that will further the 2% initiative too.” She noted that this structure provides a different lens through which Administration can work to find efficiencies.

A number of City staff I spoke with about the change referenced the importance that Linda places on servant leadership. That’s reflected in her message to staff as well, where she wrote: “as always, service to citizens is our priority.” I asked if she had any other key messages for City employees. “Keep doing the good work you’re doing,” she replied. “That work is important on its own, but it’s also part of the context of service delivery.”

And that speaks to what I think is the big factor driving this restructuring: integration. “There is some phenomenal work taking place in the organization,” Linda said. “But we need to get better at integrating the good work that is happening.”

It’s about integration

There are four principles that “underpin the development and implementation of The Way Ahead,” which is the City’s strategic plan.

  • Innovation: A planning approach and operational culture within a municipality that encourages and enables continuous improvement and the exploration and adoption of new techniques, technologies, products and ways of operating in order to improve results and lead progressive change.
  • Integration: A holistic view of strategic planning that acknowledges the interrelated and interdependent reality of complex urban environments.
  • Livability: A set of interrelated factors that influence people in choosing where they live and reinforce their sense of well-being.
  • Sustainability: A way of living that meets the needs of the present and does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The reality of the last eight years or so is that the City has been tackling these things relatively independently from one another. On some, there has been good progress. Livability is central to the City’s existence and much of the work of “The Ways” has addressed this. Council’s 2% and the changes in culture really address innovation. And with The Way We Finance, there’s been a good start on addressing the City’s sustainability. That leaves integration.

I think the one tangible attempt at addressing the integration principle was the creation of the Great Neighbourhoods Initiative. It falls under the Neighbourhoods branch of Citizen Services, but it is really a cross-department effort to more efficiently deliver services of all kinds, to conduct comprehensive neighbourhood planning, and to improve communication with residents. And it has worked well as a way to revitalize our mature and high-needs neighbourhoods. In fact, one City report said it exemplified a “One City-One Voice” approach to “leading City efforts to deliver services in a coordinated, effective and efficient manner.”

This reorganization builds on that success and is all about addressing integration. Here’s another excerpt from Linda Cochrane’s email to employees:

“The goal is to help open doors for work groups to integrate their work and share expertise. It is based on the One City principle and we believe it will further stimulate our cultural effort.”

Most citizens don’t think about the City in terms of the silos that have long-existed. But thinking about planning things vs. operating them is a pretty easy distinction to make. By bringing that citizen-oriented perspective to the City’s internal structure, there’s a good opportunity to integrate the work of the City to really have a positive impact.

This won’t be easy. Just because a bunch of branches have moved into a new department that has the word “integrated” in its title doesn’t mean that magically everyone is going to start working together effectively. The leadership there has a difficult task ahead to break down barriers and really encourage that integration to happen.

A cultural fit

The City has been undergoing a cultural transformation since at least 2007. Over the years this effort has taken on different names, including “Transforming Edmonton Through Organizational Excellence”, and “Transforming Edmonton and Me” (TEAM). Currently known as “Building a Great City”, the City’s internal cultural strategy focuses on five outcomes:

  • Our Employees are Engaged
  • We Have Effective Leadership
  • We are a High Performance Organization
  • Our Workplaces are Collaborative
  • Our Work Focuses on Citizens

It’s the last two that this reorganization seems most aligned with. The strategy notes that “there are many excellent examples of collaborative success in our organization” and that building upon those will be critical for achieving business objectives “in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.” It also highlights the public sector trend toward “citizen-centered services redesigned around the needs of the end user.”

Communications & Public Engagement

I think the other big takeaway is that Communications & Public Engagement has been elevated to its own department. It’s a major change for the organization. I think it makes a lot of sense for Customer Information Services (which contains 311) to be part of the same department as Communications and the Office of Public Engagement (formerly part of the Office of the City Manager). It’s about listening to citizens and talking with them just as much as it is about telling them what the City is up to.

Some of CLT
Gary Klassen, Adam Laughlin, Rob Smyth, Linda Cochrane, Dorian Wandzura (some of the members of CLT)

The Office of Public Engagement is quite small at the moment, with only a handful of staff, so resourcing it effectively will be a challenge. The good news is that improving public engagement has the full support of both City Council and Administration. The Council Initiative on Public Engagement has been underway since 2014 and just began Phase 2 a few months ago. Over the next year and a half, citizens will come together with Council, Administration, and other partners to improve public engagement in Edmonton.

And the timing for this could not be better, with the full service review later this year, a municipal election coming in 2017, and a more complete review of the City’s vision and strategic plan commencing in the next couple of years as well. Effectively engaging the public will be important for all of these initiatives and more.

Why City Council’s approval of ridesharing in Edmonton matters

Edmonton became the first Canadian city to legalize ridesharing services like Uber with Council’s approval today of a new vehicle for hire bylaw.

“The regulatory framework in the new bylaw helps to answer citizen and business demand for more choice in the vehicle for hire industry,” says Mayor Don Iveson. “It represents a significant evolution of the industry and creates a model that will enable the taxi business and private transportation providers to co-exist.”

You can read more about today’s news in Elise Stolte’s story here. As she noted (and tweeted), “the bylaw passed 8-4 with councillors Dave Loken, Bryan Anderson, Mike Nickel and Tony Caterina against.”

Uber in Edmonton

Here is Uber’s statement on the new bylaw:

“Uber applauds the City of Edmonton for its leadership in being the first Canadian jurisdiction to adopt progressive regulations that embrace ridesharing. We thank Mayor Iveson, Councillors and City staff for supporting Edmontonian riders and drivers who want more affordable and reliable transportation options.

While these newly adopted regulations contain concessions for ridesharing service providers, the rules put in place a workable regulatory approach.

The spirit of collaboration and willpower demonstrated by the City of Edmonton to modernize its transportation laws can serve as a model for all Canadian regulators and elected officials.”

They were pretty happy on Twitter too:

The new bylaw will come into effect on March 1, 2016. Uber will be able to operate under a new class called Private Transportation Providers (PTPs). As they operate more than 200 vehicles, Uber will pay a license fee of $50,000/year plus $0.06/trip, with a $20,000/year accessibility surcharge on top of that. Only taxis will be able to pick up street hails or use taxi stands, but both taxis and PTPs will be required to charge a minimum of $3.25 for any trip. Drivers will be required to carry the appropriate insurance as outlined under provincial law, something Uber is working to acquire.

The new bylaw supports The Way We Move

I think the new bylaw supports Council’s transportation goals as outlined in The Way We Move, Edmonton’s transportation master plan. Here’s what I wrote back in September:

“The discussion about Uber in Edmonton lately has focused primarily on the fight between taxis and Uber, understandably. Lots of Edmontonians have horror stories to share about taxis, and there’s no question that competition from Uber will have a positive impact on the industry. But let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. Uber and other transportation network companies can positively contribute to Edmonton’s transportation mix. We should do what we can to allow them to operate here legally.”

Councillor Knack spoke about this today, highlighting that ridesharing is an important way to help shift away from private vehicles to more sustainable options. “The status quo can no longer exist and change has to happen,” he said.

Council did what it was supposed to

Back in the summer of 2011, Council was already investigating ways to “provide increased capacity in the City of Edmonton taxi market.” The reality was already that Edmonton’s population had grown faster than its supply of taxis, and quality of service was suffering as a result. In 2012 Council wanted to issue 100 new licenses, but the Vehicle for Hire Commission refused to go along with the plan. So Council amended the bylaw to allow Administration to issue the licenses.

Something had to change, so it’s no surprise that when Uber showed up back in December 2014 Edmontonians embraced the service. All of a sudden at the touch of a button a ride could quickly and reliably be found. Ultimately Council’s role in this debate had very little to do with supporting taxis or welcoming Uber. Instead, it was about ensuring Edmontonians could move around the city efficiently.

I think Councillor Walters said this well in his post today:

“So equality is not the goal here, but rather equity – fairness – for our public. This is not about a big, bad, sophisticated multinational giving away free cupcakes, or the local taxi companies who come in to Council and scream and shout and take their shirts off. This about the kind of vehicle for hire service we want to facilitate with our bylaw. It is about Council’s role as a maker of public policy, not as a referee in an on-going battle between two different companies.”

Perhaps City Council’s most important job is to ensure that all taxpayer dollars spent result in the best possible value for citizens. They are charged with defining a vision for Edmonton and for making sure the City is operating effectively and efficiently toward it. I think their decision today is a reflection of that commitment.

The new bylaw supports innovation & choice

Nearly every Councillor spoke today about the importance of offering choice to Edmontonians by passing the bylaw. “We have to recognize there’s a huge part of our citizenry that want something different than we’re offering them,” said Councillor Henderson. Even Councillor Oshry, who had reservations about the bylaw despite voting in favor of it, said the taxi industry had become complacent. “They have to provide a better service than in the past,” he said.

Although a few Councillors tried to include more restrictions in the bylaw, I think an appropriate balance was ultimately struck. “This bylaw enables innovation and competition, rather than constraining them,” Mayor Iveson said. Too much regulation could have hampered the rapid innovation that is taking place in the industry. Making the Uber of today legal is a great outcome, but the bylaw also opens the door to additional services in the future. For instance, UberPool is a great twist on the Uber service that could have been restricted by overly aggressive minimum fare regulations.

The new bylaw actually specifies two levels of PTPs – commercial for providers with more than 200 vehicles, and regional for those with fewer than 200 vehicles. The license fees for regional PTPs are the same as taxis at $1000/year for dispatch plus $400/year per vehicle and $60/year for drivers. That’s much lower than the $50,000/year for commercial PTPs and means we may even see a homegrown alternative to Uber.

I’m hopeful that making ridesharing legal in Edmonton will entice competitors to Uber such as Lyft to enter the market also. It would be great to have some competition and choice in the ridesharing market.

Edmonton leads the way on ridesharing in Canada

It may have been painful to get there, but Edmonton has provided a way forward for other municipalities in Canada to adopt regulations that enable ridesharing for their citizens as well. I think it’s great that Council (most of them anyway) did not shy away from this challenge and instead chose to provide leadership on the issue. And as Mayor Iveson said today, there’s an opportunity for the City to work with other municipalities in Canada as well as the Competition Bureau to ensure that citizens are getting the best possible value from big organizations like Uber.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #187

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

New Edmonton Journal
Former Edmonton Journal editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand who tweeted fond memories and praise for each of the staffers who lost their jobs

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

  • Rogers Media today announced that it is cutting 200 jobs across its television, radio, and publishing divisions. No word on the local impact yet. The cuts are slated to take place in February.
  • Here are Linda’s latest social media notes. Congrats on #100 Linda!
  • The Canadian Association of Broadcasters CEO Radio Council is launching a new “radio marketing and advocacy bureau” later this year.
  • Frontline, a program series “that trains and supports writers who are exploring, testing, witnessing and reporting back on some of the most current and pressing issues of our time,” is offering a two-week residency at the Banff Centre for writers focused on environmental reportage.
  • After a tough week for media in Canada, Marsha Lederman wrote in the Globe: “So if the day comes when media organizations are no longer paying journalists to dig up these stories, what will these sites do for material?”
  • Also in the Globe, Simon Houpt wrote: “City newspapers aren’t just pillars of their communities. Ideally, they are the connective tissue of the body politic, as well as its first response to nascent cancers.”
  • Newspapers aren’t the only ones being affected by the shift to digital: “Nearly half of the country’s local TV stations could be off the air by 2020 without a boost in revenues to pay for local programming, the national broadcast regulator has been told as it prepares to open public hearings into the viability of local TV.”
  • This piece by Dave Winer covers a lot of the reasons that I’m uneasy about Medium.

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 1/24/2016

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Arch Lift
Arch Lift, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

Rogers Place Rising
Rogers Place rising behind the warehouses

#3SkillsYEG, Edmonton Tool Library, LRT operators like pilots

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

3SkillsYEG – what three things will you learn?

Today the Edmonton Public Library launched a new City of Learners campaign called #3SkillsYEG:

“#3SkillsYEG invites Edmontonians to create their own version of Robinson’s adventure by learning, teaching and sharing three new things with each other in 2016. By declaring to learn a skill related to “Personal Growth & Well-Being” in February; “Creativity & Expression” in March; and “Making Our City Better” in April, and sharing it on social media, participants will be entered to win an iPad, $200 towards Metro Continuing Education and tickets to the Telus World of Science.”

You can learn more about #3SkillsYEG here. Participating is simple – just pick three skills you want to learn and commit to learning one each month. You don’t have to follow the monthly themes, but that’s potentially a good way to stay on track. There’s going to be events related to each one too. You can enter the contest by declaring the skills you’re going to learn here.

Making a Better Burger
Me learning to make a better burger at Farmfair back in November

I really like this initiative, so I agreed to be a Learning Champion. What that means is that I’ll be participating and sharing my progress and encouraging others to do so as well. My list of “things to learn” is far longer than I’m able to tackle, but I will pick three for #3SkillsYEG and will be writing about each one in the coming months.

Edmonton Tool Library

Here’s a great idea that’s long overdue that two Edmontonians are finally doing something about. Leslie Bush and Robyn Webb are starting the Edmonton Tool Library, which will let you borrow tools just like you can currently borrow books and other items from the public library. There are tool lending libraries all around the world, including in many Canadian cities. Here’s the news from CBC Edmonton:

“The plan is to open the new tool library downtown, where many residents don’t have the room to store many tools. The group doesn’t yet have a firm opening date in mind, but is hoping to be up and running later this year. Edmontonians who sign up for an annual membership will be able to borrow tools for limited periods of time.”

For now they have a Facebook page and an idea. Sometimes that’s good enough to get something going. If you want more information or to find out how to get involved, sign up for their mailing list here.

Vancouver Tool Library Est. 2011
Vancouver’s Tool Library launched in 2011, photo by Richard Eriksson

This idea has come up dozens of times in recent years, especially after Make Something Edmonton launched, but to my knowledge no one has actually tried to make it happen. There are some related initiatives that have been very successful in Edmonton, like ENTS which does provide access to a variety of tools including drills, saws, and more for use in their space. But to be able to borrow a power tool for use in your home, that’s pretty interesting.

The other obvious initiative that comes to mind is EPL’s Makerspace. Like ENTS, there are some tools there you can use on-site, including a couple of 3D printers. There’s no tool library though, at least not yet. With the revitalization of the Stanley Milner library downtown gearing up there’s a related effort called “Makerspace 2020” to determine how the Makerspace should evolve. I know for a fact that tools have come up in consultations on that project, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see EPL itself offer something in the near future.

The LRT driver who sounds like a pilot

If you’ve been a passenger on the LRT recently, you might have heard Jon Morgan. He’s an LRT operator who entertains passengers by giving them updates on connections, the weather, nearby attractions, and more. I heard him recently and was amused, and judging by the smiles, it seems my fellow passengers were too. Here’s what he told Global Edmonton:

“I love our city and I like to learn as much as I can about our city, relay it across to the people. I just like to brighten people’s days as much as possible.”

I’d say he’s doing a good job of that!

If this all seems oddly familiar, that’s because it is. Back in 2010, essentially the same story was written about Tim Mireault. And then again in 2012. Good stories are worth repeating, I guess!