Coming up at City Council: January 19-23, 2015

The winter break is over and Council is getting back to business next week.

Agendas for upcoming City Council meetings are generally released on Thursday afternoons. I like to take a look to see what Council will be discussing, and I figured I should share that here. Below you’ll find links to the meetings taking place next week, as well as links to and thoughts on some agenda items that caught my eye.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, January 19, 2015

Council starts the week with a Community Services Committee meeting scheduled to take place all day.

Civic Precinct Master Plan – Addressing Current Square Design

The situation here is that back in April 2013, a number of festivals expressed concern with the proposed Civic Precinct Master Plan. The City hired a consultant as a result to work to identify changes. Festival groups had issues with being limited to 99 Street for programming, concern about safety when the LRT opens along 102 Avenue, and concern about additional trees resulting in limited movement between spaces. Businesses around the Square are “largely supportive of the principles of the Civic Precinct Master Plan” the report says. In short, the City is going to move ahead with some aspects of the plan, but focused mainly on programming, operations, and governance. Revising and advancing the entire plan is “not recommended” at the moment and will be revisited once LRT construction is complete and the new line is operational.

Edmonton Arts Council Grant Recommendations

The Edmonton Arts Council has recommended that eight projects receive funding under the Cultural Diversity in the Arts program for a total of $86,700: May Banh, William Belcourt, Sofia Cristanti, Yong Fei Guan, Todd Houseman, Erika Namsechi, Yukari Meldrum, and Elisa Marina Mair Sanchez. They have also recommended $29,500 in Festival Seed Operating Grants for 2015 for the Edmonton Latin Festival, Relish Film Festival, and Sand on Whyte.

Edmonton Heritage Council Grant Recommendations

The Edmonton Heritage Council has recommended a little over $363,000 in their Operational, Project, Seed Project, and Travel grant programs. Operational grants would be going to the Alberta Aviation Museum Association, Alberta Genealogical Society, Alberta Labour History Institute, Alberta Pioneer Railway Association, Edmonton and District Historical Society, Edmonton Radial Railway Society, Edmonton Telephone Historical Information Centre Foundation, Friends of Rutherford House Society, The Olde Towne Beverly Historical Society, and Societe historique francophone de l’Alberta. One of the most interesting projects to receive a grant recommendation is ECVO’s History of Edmonton’s Human Services Sector, to “document the history of the nonprofit human services sector in Edmonton.”

Other

Here are some of the other agenda items that caught my eye:

  • Council will likely approve a recommendation to have Mayor Iveson write to the Premier and Minister of Education to share the Youth Council’s strong opposition to Bill 10 in its current form. The report states that “Bill 10 will adversely affect the lives of some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable youth and undermine the principles of inclusiveness and diversity in Alberta schools.”
  • Canada Post is undertaking the conversion to community mailboxes in Edmonton this year. The City had asked if mail carriers might use the 311 App to report incidents and issues they observe, but Canada Post has come back and basically said no.
  • It doesn’t sound like big changes are underway for recognition of citizens, but the City is considering a digital museum and Wall of Fame in City Hall.

There will also be a response to an inquiry from Mayor Iveson on charitable donations to Community Leagues, but the report for that is not yet available.

A large number of reports have been rescheduled to later dates so if you were looking for those you’ll have to wait:

  • Support to Not-for-Profit Organizations (M. Nickel) – February 23
  • Entrance Signage – March 9
  • Status Update on the New Africa Centre Facility and Strategy for the Involvement of the African Community – March 9
  • Community League Collaboration – March 23
  • Single-use Recreation Fees – April 20
  • Lewis Farms Recreation Centre – Program Statement and Recreation Facility Master Plan Updates – November 9

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On Tuesday Council will be holding its next Executive Committee meeting, also scheduled to go all day. Here are some agenda items that caught my eye:

Municipal Development Corporation Business Plan

The recommendation here is that Administration proceed with establishing a municipally owned and controlled for-profit land development corporation “to focus on City-building initiatives in addition to earning profits.” The report includes a 73 page business case for the creation of a Municipal Development Corporation (MDC) prepared by Deloitte. Benefits of an MDC include:

  • The MDC could act “more closely like a private company” to benefit from less constraints and capitalize on private sector expertise.
  • The MDC could be a catalyst to bring underutilized sites to market.
  • The MDC could “generate a financial return and also execute on key city-building objectives.”

The City currently has 9,355 land holdings across Edmonton, and estimates suggest nearly 200 could eventually be appropriate for the MDC, though roughly 30 would be appropriate to seed the corporation.

A list of possible properties that could be transferred to the MDC will be presented at the meeting, but is not available under sections 24 and 25 of the FOIPP act. Properties within West Rossdale and the Edmonton Research Park are possible candidates.

If Council approves the recommendation to establish the MDC, Administration will return by the end of Q2 with a more detailed business plan for Council’s consideration. The initiative could require up to $2 million in funding over the next two years for startup costs. The creation of an MDC also requires approval from the Province.

Uber & Vehicle-for-Hire Regulations

The highly anticipated report on vehicle-for-hire regulations and Uber is now available, and while it talks about the regulations and the taxi industry, it doesn’t say much about how the City is going to deal with Uber. The report notes that a 2007 study found that Edmonton should have 17 taxis per 10,000 people, but 2007 was a long time ago and there’s no updated information included. We currently have 15 taxis per 10,000 people, which means we have a shortfall of roughly 177 taxi plates.

The report does talk about some considerations with UberX, including: drivers and vehicles are unregulated, so no background checks are done; drivers with a Class 5 license cannot transport passengers for hire in Alberta; vehicles are not required to obtain a mechanical inspection on a regular basis; and, drivers can carry personal liability insurance rather than commercial insurance.

An attachment called “Options for Edmonton” outlines the following “options that the City of Edmonton could pursue to improve overall taxi services”:

  • Release a close number of night plates
  • Release night plates with no cap
  • Release winter plates
  • Release accessible taxi plates
  • Release regular plates
  • Allow for taxis and drivers from nearby jurisdictions to be licensed to travel from Edmonton to home
  • Encourage executive car services by reducing minimum fares, setting lower pre-booking time frame
  • Ride Share Services (essentially a modified shuttle service)
  • Open system: remove the cap on taxi license plates
  • City of Edmonton to develop its own app

Notably absent from that list? Any mention of updating the regulations to make services like Uber and Lyft legal! Nor is there any discussion of the benefits of services like Uber.

It should be an interesting discussion!

Ballpark Update and State of Baseball in Edmonton

Executive Committee had previously requested information about Telus Field, and this report is the result. “Baseball has been part of Edmonton’s social and sporting scene since the late 1880’s,” the report says. The Edmonton Prospects (a Western Major Baseball League team) played at Telus Field in 2013 and 2014, and are negotiating terms for their 2015 schedule. The report also includes an attachment called The State of Baseball Report, prepared by RC Strategies, which assesses “the current state of professional and high-level amateur baseball in Edmonton.”

Edmonton Capitals

The City owns the ballpark, which it leases to the Oilers Entertainment Group, which in turn subleases it to the Edmonton Prospects. A condition assessment was completed in 2013 and found that an investment of $1.3 million will be required over the next ten years. The report does not recommend any specific action at this time, but suggests that Administration could further explore options including the creation of a business case to make the ballpark more viable, physical changes to the ballpark, and also the implications of removing or replacing it.

River Valley Access Mechanical Lift Options

This report provides an update on the proposal to “advance the Mechanized Access and the Touch the Water Promenade projects.” Council previously approved $34.4 million for the River Valley Alliance Connective Infrastructure, $24 million of which will go to the West Rossdale Mechanized Access Project with the remainder going to the Touch the Water Promenade. Both projects are required to be completed by 2017. The City will return to Executive Committee in Q2 with another project update.

Other

A few of the other reports include:

Here too, a few reports were delayed:

  • Building Canada Fund Projects Yellowhead Trail Improvements – February 3
  • TOD on Coliseum LRT & Northlands – February 3
  • Amendments to Policy C533 – Revolving Industrial Servicing Fund – February 24
  • Designation, Preservation & Restoration of McDougall United Church – February 24
  • 109 Street Corridor ARP – March 24
  • Recreation Lake in Blatchford – March 24
  • Greyhound Main Depot Site Operations – April 21

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The next Transportation Committee meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon and to run into Thursday if necessary.

Valley Line LRT & Churchill Square

There are two reports here, one that provides information on the Valley Line LRT Churchill Station structure and integration with the Civic Precinct, and one that provides information on the impacts of the Valley Line Stage 1 construction on Churchill Square and its users.

Preliminary Engineering for the Churchill Connection Structure was completed previously, and here’s an aerial rendering of what it might look like:

churchill station

The successful P3 proposal is expected to be selected by the end of the year, with major construction set to begin in 2016. The Valley Line LRT Stage 1 is not expected to be complete until 2020.

It is expected that 102 Avenue will be totally closed for LRT construction starting in 2016 and lasting until the project is done in 2020. Churchill Square itself will remain open, with only temporary partial closures as necessary. Any closures will be limited to the period from October 1, 2016 to April 30, 2018 in an attempt to minimize the impact on festivals (affects just the 2017 summer festival season).

The Valley Line Public Engagement Plan implementation will include opportunities for meetings, updates, and Citizen Working Groups to discuss the construction and its impact.

Metro Line Update

This report has not been made available under FOIPP, but the item is time specific at 3pm. Let’s hope that Council hears the line is ready to open soon, rather than that another delay is necessary.

Other

There’s a response to an inquiry from Councillor Nickel on the Customer Intake Model for DATS. It outlines the current policies and procedures for booking DATS trips and provides an update on the process to determine applicants’ eligibility for the service.

Tons of reports have been delayed here:

  • Installation of Traffic Lights – Criteria and Process – February 25
  • Hotel Street Parking Access – February 25
  • Parking Options 66 Avenue – 88 Street – February 25
  • LRT Funding Strategies for Other Lines – February 25
  • Streetlight Pole Maintenance and Replacement Program – March 11
  • Potholes in Back Alleys – March 25
  • Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board Bylaw – April 22
  • Bike Lane Infrastructure Engagement Plan – May 6
  • North/South Connections to 83 Avenue – October 28

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 – Special Council Meeting

City Council is holding a Special meeting on Wednesday morning to get an update from Administration on public engagement. They will no doubt talk about the Building the Momentum event which is scheduled to take place on Saturday, January 24 at the Shaw Conference Centre. You can learn more about the Council Initiative on Public Engagement and about Open City initiative on the City website.

Wrap-up

Ah, isn’t great to have Council back in session? You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online.

  • We have some serious Stone Age leadership if these reports about Uber are standard quality. Uber’s experience in other major Canadian city’s doesn’t even include Vancouver, nor does it mention anything about the thousands of positive experiences that the citizens of those cities had; it only mentions that the cities charged a few drivers for not having licenses because, big surprise, they don’t provide a system to get licensed!

    Option-wise it seems that the only one applicable to Uber would be the Open System (Open system: remove the cap on taxi licence plates. The drivers and vehicles would still be licensed by the City and all regulation requirements would be retained.) Unfortunately this classifies Uber as a taxi service, which it isn’t in the traditional sense. The entire premise behind Uber is that I could casually go make some money driving people around and the price isn’t permanently plastered on the side of my personal vehicle. I could work when and where I want and not be under the heel of some taxi cartel.

    We’re going to spend tens of millions making our bus fleet a little easier to track but we can’t figure out how to enable a new method of doing business? City Council, get your shit together.

    • This little gem from the third-party app report is pretty laughable: “Further, the industry is regulated to ensure that an efficient taxi service is available for the public’s use.”

      The regulation sure is doing a good job…

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