City Council Update: February 13, 2015

There are no Council meetings scheduled for next week. The next Committee meetings will take place during the week of February 23-27, with the next Public Hearing scheduled for March 2.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here’s what happened at the Public Hearing that took place on Monday.

  • Bylaw 17062 was referred back to Administration for further consultation, to return to Executive Committee on March 10.
  • All other bylaws (except one) unanimously passed third reading (Councillor Loken was absent).

There was one contentious issue though, and that was with Bylaw 17011 which was the adoption of The Decoteau Area Structure Plan (which I wrote about here). With a 6-5 vote (as both Councillor Loken and Councillor Henderson were absent for this one) the following motion was carried:

That Bylaw 17011 be referred back to Administration to work with the proponents outlining the following:

  1. Density: review increasing the net residential density of the proposed Area Structure Plan
  2. Business Employment: review increasing the Business Employment designation within the Area Structure Plan area as it gives direction to the intensity of use in the future Neighbourhood Structure Plan’s
  3. Wetland and Natural Areas: review the mapping and wording within the Area Structure Plan as it gives direction to the next stage of planning for Neighbourhood Structure Plan’s

and return to the March 16, 2015, City Council Public Hearing.

Here’s what the proposed ASP says about net residential density currently:

Residential densities within the Decoteau ASP range from 25 units per net residential hectare (upnrh) to 225 upnrh. The lower range of 25 upnrh will be developed as single/semi-detached housing. The higher range of 225 upnrh will be developed as high density residential, also referred to as medium to high rise units.

And it does make mention of the Capital Region Board targets:

Decoteau is located in the Capital Region Board’s Priority Growth Areas “CE” and “B”. These areas require a minimum net residential density target of 30 units per net residential hectare. The ASP exceeds this density target.

Council is looking for more, however.

Council Services Committee Meeting: February 9

One thing I missed in my last update was the Council Services Committee meeting that took place this week. Here are the draft minutes.

2014 Councillor’s Budget Update – Budget and Actual

This report provides preliminary numbers for the year ending December 31, 2014. There are two budgets to consider:

  • The common budget consists of salaries for Councillors’ and Administrative Assistants; benefits for Councillors and all office staff; and transition, severance, retirement and vehicle allowances for Councillors. It also includes common travel, parking, furniture, telephone expenses, stationery, postage and meeting supplies.
  • The ward budgets consist of personnel and expenses categories. The personnel category reflects Executive and Council Assistants’ salaries, vacation/staff replacement, transportation, and research projects. The expenses category reflects Councillors’ individual travel, training, promotional items, hosting and tickets, communications, and Edmonton Salutes.

What the report shows is that slightly less was spent than was budgeted for both the Common Budget and the Ward Budget. Nearly $70,000 was saved on the Common Budget and nearly $200,000 was saved on the Ward Budget. That means the total Councillors Office spend was $3,578,296, which is $267,383 less than the $3,845,679 that was budgeted.

2015 Common Travel Plans – Office of the Councillors

The 2015 budget for Common Travel and Training remains the same as 2014 at $79,502. This includes:

  • $19,350 for Civic Agency Travel
  • $14,680 for the annual AUMA Conference in Calgary
  • $8,541 for the annual FCM Conference in Edmonton

The report includes some detail about which Councillors are travelling when.

On this report, the Committee made two decisions:

  • First, they voted to allow Councillor Gibbons to submit mileage expense claims for his travel as Chair of the Alberta Industrial Heartland Committee.
  • Second, they voted to allow Councillors representing the City at meetings of intergovernmental bodies to submit “reasonable expense claims” and requested that Administration prepare an amendment to the policy to account for this.

2015 Furniture Plan – Office of the Councillors

If you’ve ever wondered how much Councillors spend on furniture, then this is the report for you! The budget for furniture in 2014 was $11,278, of which just over $9,200 was spent. The budget for 2015 is the same, and so far just $2,108 in requests have been made.

There’s a bit of IKEA in there, and there are lots of ergocentric desk chairs. I’m not sure if they mean ergonomic or if they actually mean the company ergoCentric. In 2014, the big spender was Councillor Sohi, as he installed an adjustable desk. So far in 2015, the biggest request is for two armchairs for Councillor Walters’ office. UPDATE: That request has been withdrawn!

Wrap-up

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.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Edmonton’s 27th DemoCamp took place tonight at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. It was hackathon night at DemoCamp, as more than half the projects demoed were created at a hackathon of some sort.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Teams from two local hackathons that took place recently were on hand to demo tonight. First was the MADJAM Global Game Jam hackathon that took place over the January 23 weekend. It had 72 participants and 15 teams that took part.

“MADJAM is an Edmonton-based, year-long event that is made up of quarterly game jams, each associated to a global or local event. At the end of each jam, the games will be judged by our panel of experts and voted on by the public. The developers of the best games will be awarded points. These points accumulate and the developers with the most points by the end of the year will win totally rad rewards!”

Their next event is coming up the week of April 26 – May 3, called GDX Super Jam.

The other hackathon was the HackED Computer Engineering Club Hackathon, which took place on January 31. About half the participants in that hackathon were software based, the other half were hardware based. The hackathon offered $2,000 in prizes and just 24 hours to build something cool.

In order of appearance, tonight’s demos included:

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

The Bees is a game that has you controlling a swarm of bees after the hive has died. “The bee colony must forge on, in hope of escaping a terrible fate,” the description reads. The team used an iPhone to compose the music, and built their game using the Unity engine. The bees swarm because the emit pheromones, and to keep the game interesting, the team made the seasons change. They focused on what could be done in just 48 hours. Wondering how the game ends? Well no matter what you do, the bees die! In a future version, they’ve talked about maybe having nanobots instead of bees.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

After Hours was also powered by Unity, and is a side-scroller not unlike Super Mario Bros. The team wanted the game “to be tough but fair” and also wanted it to be complete. They decided to do pixel art, because it went well with the music. They added a multiplayer mode too. The goal of the game is basically to make it through the level before the time runs out. If you do, you get to go for a drink!

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

The third demo was my favorite of the night – Broom Blaster. It won second place in the HackED hackathon and is essentially a tracker for curling brooms. Inspired by the Fitbit, Jacob, Jared, Stephen, and their fourth teammate decided to add pressure and motion sensors to a broom that could be paired with a smartphone over Bluetooth low energy. The system tracks both frequency (how many times you sweep) and pressure (how hard you sweep). The team wanted hardware that could be added to an ordinary broom, to make it more cost effective. The app collects the data, and can give training and coaching information. A possible future upgrade? A speaker, so the broom can yell “hurry hard!” at you.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Fourth was SafetyNet by Jobber. Ben demoed his app, which is essentially an online utility to backup your data from QuickBooks Online. He built it at a recent Intuit conference that featured a hackathon and took home the $15,000 prize in the new app category. For some reason QuickBooks Online doesn’t already have a backup feature, so Ben used the REST API to create one. He had just 36 hours to build it, but was able to come up with a simple-to-use but efficient tool. Built in Rails with Bootstrap on the frontend, the app encrypts the data and offers one click to save and one click to restore.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Our fifth demo was WANDA. Built by Visionstate (with some help from Dark Horse Analytics), WANDA is an interactive touchscreen for washroom management. Carolyn showed us how it can be used to give patrons an easy way to submit a request for cleaning or to alert staff that a resource (like toilet paper) is low. When staff go to clean the washroom, they use WANDA to record what they did and when they did it. You’d probably think twice about touch a screen in a washroom, but WANDA features an antimicrobial overlay on the displays. The backend dashboard by Dark Horse lets you make sense of the data, such as determining optimal cleaning times.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Our final demo of the evening was Trajectory from Rocketfuel Games. Matthew showed us a few examples of how Trajectory can make training and certification much more enjoyable and effective. Instead of just embedding a PDF on a web page and telling new recruits to go read it, Trajectory can make the experience much more interactive. Everything a user does is tracked, including how they take to do it, but that data isn’t visualized just yet – that’s coming next.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

A few upcoming events were mentioned. Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton is taking place at NAIT from March 6-8, and will be a great opportunity for transforming your idea for improving education into reality. The first ever Polyglot Alberta Unconference is taking place in Calgary on March 28 (and will alternate between Edmonton and Calgary). Preflight Beta is taking place at Startup Edmonton again on February 19, and is a great opportunity to learn about the Lean Canvas Model. And finally, on March 21, Startup Edmonton is hosting the Student DevCon at the Shaw Conference Centre.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Over 150 meetup events took place at Startup Edmonton last year! Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

You can see more photos from the event here. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 28!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #141

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

AE3R4478
CTV interviews someone at an attempt to hold the World’s Largest Game of Hide and Seek, by Don Voaklander

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 2/8/2015

I don’t often do this, but I have backdated this post (and actually posted it on Monday). Jetlag completely wiped me out Sunday when this would have normally gone up! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Caution Hazardous Girders
Caution Hazardous Girders by More Bike Lanes Please

Upcoming Events

Edmonton Chinese New Year 2015
Edmonton Chinese New Year 2015 by IQRemix

Coming up at City Council: February 9-13, 2015

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, February 9, 2015

Council starts the week with a Public Hearing scheduled to take place from 1:30pm until 9:30pm. There are 20 bylaws listed on the agenda – here are a few that caught my eye:

Duncan Innes Park becomes official

Bylaw 17059 and Bylaw 17069 will be considered together, and aim to designate Duncan Innes Park as a Municipal Reserve, which “formalizes its status as a park and offers protection against disposal and incompatible uses.” The park is located in the eastern half of the King Edward Park neighbourhood. The second bylaw is to rezone the park from RF3 to AP.

Bylaw 17062 – Text Amendment to Zoning Bylaw 12800

This bylaw is related to a larger project that is reviewing how the zoning bylaw regulates height and grade in the city. This particular bylaw is intended to “reduce delays in permitting walkout basement developments” and updates definitions and regulations pertaining to height. In addition to other changes, the amendment adds a new method for calculating grade, and removes the distinction between roof pitches steeper than or less steep than 20 degrees, which is “no longer a relevant determinant.”

Closures for The Armature along 96 Street

Bylaws 1705417058 are all for closing portions of 96 Street, from Jasper Avenue to 103A Avenue, to facilitate the development of The Armature, a key feature of The Quarters Redevelopment. The Armature is meant to link The Quarters with the river valley, and will accommodate walking, cycling, public transportation, and private vehicles, but with higher priority given to pedestrians and cyclists.

Bylaw 17011 – The Decoteau ASP

This was supposed to be discussed at the January 26 public hearing but was rescheduled. The bylaw is ready for first and second reading, and must go to the Capital Region Board for review before third reading. This item is slated to be discussed at 2pm. You can read my previous post about this here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Tuesday Council will be holding a regular Council meeting. There are eight reports and five bylaws on the agenda. Council will also receive a verbal update from Administration on the Commonwealth Games bid, and Councillor Henderson has a motion pending on the planned elimination of the use of herbicides on City of Edmonton public lands.

Reports

There are three new reports:

2015 Northlands Capital Budget

The Master Agreement between the City and Northlands requires Northlands to submit each annual budget to the City within 30 days of being approved by the Board. It also enables City Council to object if Northlands plans to spend more than $250,000 on any single new construction project in a given year, or if they plan to spend more than $750,000 on repairs or alterations to an existing facility. Neither of those thresholds have been triggered by the 2015 capital budget.

Northlands plans to spend a total of $3.8 million in 2015 on capital projects, including $1.1 million at Northlands Park and nearly $900,000 on technology. Some of the interesting items:

  • $30,000 for a Food Hub Facility
  • $100,000 for a Northlands Food Truck
  • $71,040 for new office chairs (really?!)
  • $45,910 for Urban Farm Phase II

Update on the Edmonton Arena District

The last update was provided on September 23, 2014 and this latest update reaffirms that Rogers Place “continues to progress on schedule and within the approved budgets.” Excavation and foundation work is over 95% complete, and steel structure erection is 9% complete and should be done in Q3. On average there are 300 workers on-site during the day with no “time lost” accidents reported. The next quarterly meeting of the Arena Community Benefits Advisory Committee is slated to take place on February 9.

All Eyes on the Big Build!!
All Eyes on the Big Build! by Jeff Wallace

Local and Composite Assessment Review Board Assignments

Council has appointed 17 members to serve on Local and Composite Assessment Review Boards, and they must now be assigned as required by the Municipal Government Act. The purpose of these boards (there are three types) is to hear 2015 assessment (tax) complaints.

Committee Reports

There are five committee reports that include recommendations for Council:

Bylaws

There are 5 bylaws that Council will consider:

  • Bylaw 17089 – for decorative street lights in Laurier Heights
  • Bylaw 17073 – for a special tax to repair and maintain alley lighting
  • Bylaw 17002 – Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Bylaw 17004 – Amendment to the Public Places Bylaw (to ban smoking in Churchill Square)
  • Bylaw 17031 – Amendment to the Community Standards Bylaw (backyard fire pit control)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The first Audit Committee meeting of 2015 will take place on Wednesday afternoon. Here are the audits for which results are now available:

Other

Wrap-up

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.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #140

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

media tour federal building
Media Tour at the Federal Building, photo by Lincoln Ho

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 2/1/2015

I am in London, UK for the week on business! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

2015 Fat Bike Triple Crown
Photo by Robert

Upcoming Events

Winter Shake Up

Coming up at City Council: February 2-6, 2015

It’s Committee 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, February 2, 2015

Council starts the week with a Community Services Committee Meeting scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are three reports on the agenda, all of which require approval by Council.

Accessibility Advisory Committee

This report is for bylaw 17002 which will replace bylaw 13194 and change the name from the Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities to the Accessibility Advisory Committee (because committees are advisory in nature). Apparently a survey of other municipalities found that 70% use the name “Accessibility Advisory Committee”. It also follows the new standard for establishing bylaws of this nature, and would allow the Chair to participate in the shortlisting process for recruiting new members.

Amendment to the Public Places Bylaw

This bylaw is all about the decision to prohibit smoking in Churchill Square. Bylaw 17004 is ready for three readings and enables the City Manager to designate certain outdoor spaces as no smoking areas. What’s interesting is that Administration through the City Manager will now have the power to designate any area as a no smoking area, not just Churchill Square. If the three readings pass, the bylaw would come into effect on April 15, 2015.

Amendment to the Community Standards Bylaw for Backyard Fire Pit Control

This amendment, bylaw 17031, would prohibit outdoor fires during air quality advisories. The fine for violation will be $250, increasing to $500 for subsequent offences. Less than ten violation tickets were issued in 2014 for outdoor fire offences.

Delayed Reports

Three reports have been rescheduled for future meetings:

  • Fire Pit Enforcement Options – March 23, 2015
  • EPS: Policing Expenditures for Non-Residents – March 23, 2015
  • Options for prohibiting smoking at all outdoor City-owned facilities – April 20, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Council will hold its next Executive Committee Meeting on Tuesday, scheduled to run from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are nine reports on the agenda, three of which require Council approval. Here are some agenda items that I was particularly interested in:

Policy on Construction Hoarding Standards

I have been concerned about construction hoarding, especially throughout downtown, for a while now. As a pedestrian, the current approach could be described as lacking, at best. Council has heard the concern and complaints from the community and a new policy on construction hoarding has bee proposed.

“Urban densification and a vibrant public realm are key elements to increasing the livability and sustainability of our city. As the city grows, it is crucial to maintain and improve the walkability and vibrancy of the public realm without hindering development in areas best suited for densification. The City of Edmonton promotes the use of construction hoardings that balance the interests of all parties in order to achieve pedestrian safety, transportation mode equity, vibrant streetscapes and community.”

This is a great step forward. The City will develop a template for hoarding agreements and set of standard clauses. They are reviewing the Safety Codes Permit bylaw and other applicable bylaws and will make recommended amendments as appropriate.

North LRT to NAIT Construction

Most importantly, the importance of the pedestrian appears to have been realized:

“A review of Edmonton’s current hoarding fees revealed that the amount charged for the
occupation of road is nearly four times more per square metre than for sidewalk. This creates an incentive to keep the road clear while occupying the sidewalk. Administration is working to change fees to reflect the importance of sidewalks in high pedestrian areas and acknowledge the City’s commitment to encourage active transportation.”

Incentives for public art are also being explored, which could make hoarding much more attractive. On top of that, improvements for public notification about road and sidewalk closures have been requested and will be considered.

This is really great news!

Direct Control Zoning for the Protection of Historic Character

Back in November, Council asked for a report on areas that may be suitable for DC zoning to protect historic character. The report outlines some definitions for heritage districts and the criteria used to identify heritage properties and character areas. These are typically 50 years or older. Edmonton currently has seven identified heritage character areas:

  • Westmount Architectural Heritage Area (1997)
  • Strathcona Historical Commercial Area (1998)
  • Historic West Ritchie Area (2011)
  • Garneau Special Character Residential Area (1982)
  • Viewpoint Special Character Area (1982)
  • Oliver Special Character Area (1997)
  • The Brickyard at Riverdale (2001)

Additional potential heritage character areas have been identified in McCauley, Alberta Avenue, Westmount, Inglewood, Glenora, Jasper Place, and Beverly Heights.

Edmonton’s heritage program was established in 1981 “in response to the loss of a number of key historic resources in Downtown.”

Building Canada Fund Projects

This report outlines the projects that could be submitted to the federal government under the new Building Canada Fund. The National Infrastructure and the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure components of the fund provide a combined $14 billion for projects, with a variety of rules and restrictions that much be followed.

Yellowhead Trail
Yellowhead Trail by Brittney Le Blanc

The proposal is for Yellowhead Trail Improvements (Stages 1-5) to be our city’s priority under the National Infrastructure component. Five projects would be designated under the Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure component: LRT Expansion, Key Grade Saparations (50 Street and 75 Street underpasses, Manning/Meridian Interchange), Neighborhood Flood Mitigation Program, Fort Edmonton Park Utility Infrastructure Upgrades, Edmonton Energy and Technology Park.

The City’s portion of those projects would be funded using tax-support debt. Land acquisition is not eligible for funding under the Building Canada Fund, and that is expected to make up more than $200 million of the Yellowhead Trail project costs, so that’s a concern.

TOD on the Coliseum LRT Station and Northlands Site

This report is an update on plans for transit oriented development around Coliseum LRT Station. The high level update is that plans are on hold until the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee (which I am a member of) makes it recommendation on the future of Rexall Place and until the Northlands Board of Directors completes its Strategic Planning Process. The City is meeting regularly with Northlands and have agreed to “evolve a partnership relationship and to enhance communication and collaboration.”

Other

Delayed Reports

Two reports have been rescheduled for future meetings:

  • Possible Amendments to Procedures & Committees Bylaw 12300 – February 24, 2015
  • Public Hearing Process (Henderson/McKeen) – April 21, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The final meeting of the week will be the Transportation Committee Meeting on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. Here are the four reports that will be discussed:

Raising Awareness for High Collision Areas

This report follows on from a request made back in November to explore how to raise awareness of high collision locations. It summarizes six measures that may increase driver awareness of those locations:

  • Static Roadside Signs
  • Dynamic Roadside Signs
  • Pavement Markings
  • Intersection Safety Devices (cameras)
  • Improve Signal Visible Measures
  • Public Engagement and Communications

The report says that static roadside signs “have been shown to have minimal effectiveness on collision reduction.” The City is proposing to update the signs to include more information on what action needs to be taken (slow down, exert caution when merging, etc.). Dynamic roadside signs are like digital message boards or signs that show a driver’s speed. The report says that for speed limit compliance, “Driver Feedback Signs are effective as a speed management tool.”

high collision sign

Pavement markings can be effective, but less so in Edmonton where the roads are covered in snow for so much of the year. Apparently cameras at intersections “showed significant reductions” in collision severities and types. The report says the best way to improve signal visibility is to put it overhead, a measure which “can reduce collisions by 30 to 35 percent.” Finally, the report says public engagement campaigns can be effective, such as a program that resulted in a 15 percent reduction of red-light running vehicles.

Expropriation of Lands for the Valley Line LRT

Council approval is required to begin the expropriation process, so I expect the Committee to make that recommendation as a result of this item. By starting the process, the City will be able to negotiate with property owners to reach a settlement or a Section 30 Agreement (which allows the Land Compensation Board to determine the compensation when a settlement between the two parties cannot be reached).

The required expropriations and temporary and permanent construction easements for this stage are all the land around Mill Woods Town Centre (Lot 3, Block 6, Plan 0022000).

Open Tenders of $20 million or greater

Bylaw 12005 requires that open tenders greater than $20 million require Committee approval. This report highlights one tender, number 927871, which is for “Dust-free Mechanical Street Sweeping and Related Services”. The value of the project is between $30 million and $50 million.

Eliminating Railway Whistling at Public Crossings

Back in November, Councillor Esslinger asked for information about how to eliminate railway whistling at public crossings in the densely populated areas of north Edmonton, particularly late at night. The report says that train whistling is required under Transport Canada’s operating rules, but that an exemption could be sought if the City and CN worked together to apply for one. It would require a “whistling cessation study” to be completed at an approximate cost of $50,000 per location. Depending on the outcome of the study, crossing upgrades would likely be added on top of that cost. There is currently no budget allocated for any of this.

Delayed Reports

Eight reports have been rescheduled for future meetings:

  • Escalators at LRT Stations (Walters/Iveson) – February 25, 2015
  • Traffic Noise from the Anthony Henday (Oshry) – February 25, 2015
  • Low Income Transit Pass Pilot – April 22, 2015
  • Public Involvement Plan – Barriers to Participation – May 6, 2015
  • Community Traffic Management Plan Pilot (Prince Charles & Pleasantview) – May 6, 2015
  • Community Traffic Management Process Possible Changes – May 6, 2015
  • Opportunities for Commercial Development in Future LRT/Transit Infrastructure – June 17, 2015
  • Bike Lane Removal (Nickel) – June 17, 2015

Wrap-up

It’s not up yet, but I expect an overview of everything that happened this week to be on the Mayor’s Week in Review Blog soon.

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.

17 reasons why City Council deserves the 3.8% raise

City Council will receive a 3.81% salary increase in 2015, which would make the mayor’s salary $176,145 and the councillors’ salary $99,994. That’s an increase over their 2014 salaries of $6,464 and $3,671, respectively. As one third of that is tax exempt, the fully taxable equivalent salary is $213,272 for the mayor and $118,824 for the councillors. At the end of the day, we’re talking about another $50,516 per year to pay for all the increases. It’s not a large amount, and I think it’s fair.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here are 17 reasons why Council deserves the proposed raise, in no particular order:

  1. Under our current twelve ward system, Councillors represent between 60,000 and 95,000 Edmontonians each. And our city is one of the fastest growing in the country, so that number is only going up!
  2. Council’s compensation is calculated in an open and transparent way using the percentage change in the 12 month average of the Alberta Weekly Earnings values as reported by Statistics Canada.
  3. Just counting Council & Committee meetings and public hearings, Council met 115 times in 2014. Those meetings included a combined 3,825 agenda items. Many of those included multi-page reports. That’s a lot of reading!
  4. Unlike other levels of government, Councillors do not vote on their own pay raises. It’s done automatically through an independent system that was established in 2011 by bylaw 15969.
  5. An increase of 3.8% is nothing compared with historical increases! Before the current system was implemented, aldermen awarded themselves large increases. In 1972 aldermen gave themselves a 26% increase, and in 1977, immediately after the election, aldermen tried to increase their salaries by 60%! In 1989, aldermen approved a 51% increase over three years.
  6. Supported by Council, our mayor stood up in front of a room full of business people and said that while attempting to eliminate poverty is a complex challenge, he is is unafraid to tackle it. This Council believes in the importance of representing and improving the lives of all Edmontonians.
  7. Councillors work long hours, way more than 40 per week in most instances. Just look at the last week – they had a marathon discussion about Uber and taxis that went to nearly 10pm, and they extended the January 26 Public Hearing twice in order to give everything the time it deserved. On top of that they regularly attend community events throughout the week and on weekends. A busy week could easily exceed 60 hours.
  8. Councillor Gibbons estimated back in 2012 that the proposed 5.35% increase that year worked out to an extra $2 per hour based on the number of hours he puts in.
  9. Many members of Council choose to direct portions of their salary or their eligible increases to worthy causes. For instance, in 2011, 2012, and 2013 Councillor Iveson donated $2,505 of his salary to the Donate-a-Ride program. Sometimes members of Council simply decline an increase. For instance, Mayor Mandel froze his salary for three years until his final year in office.
  10. They are working hard to develop a “true partnership” with the Province that will result in the long-term sustainability of our city. They are renewing neighbourhoods now and building up a fund to pay for maintenance in the future. They’re concerned with Edmonton’s future, not just its present.
  11. A study on the perception of Council’s compensation in 2012 (pdf) found that the annual salaries for comparable positions for the mayor and councillors align well with the actual salaries they receive.
  12. One comparison to another leader in our community: outgoing University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera earned a salary of $544,000 last year. Another comparison: more than 3,100 Alberta government employees earned over $100,000 a year in 2012 and 2013.
  13. Unpopular as the idea may sound, research suggests that higher wages attract better quality politicians and improve political performance. This was the argument made in Boston recently too when Councillors there debated giving themselves a 29% raise.
  14. Council is committed to building our city’s infrastructure, and they’re getting results, securing funding for the Valley Line LRT extension as an example.
  15. If rising costs are your concern, there are far more expensive things to be concerned about. Here are 99 stupid things the government spent your money on. At #53: “The City of Edmonton spent $500,000 on licences for software that an auditor said hardly any employees ever use.” Back in 2008, the City spent $92 million on consultants.
  16. After taking into account the difference in tax exemptions, our mayor and councillors make roughly the same amount as their counterparts in Calgary.
  17. Every year, no matter what they do, Councillors have to deal with hundreds if not thousands of complaints about snow removal, potholes, and other hot topics. Not to mention hearing constant NIMBYism and receiving all kinds of criticism as they try to make positive change for now and the future. It really is a thankless job at times.

I’m sure you can think of many other reasons – what are yours?

Yes, improvements could be made. I’d like to see the salaries stated in terms of the fully taxable equivalent for instance, rather than having to explain that 1/3 is tax exempt. Still, I think it’s crazy how upset some citizens get whenever the topic of salary increases for City Council comes up. There’s no shortage of other more important issues to discuss.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #139

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

  • Congratulations to Dave Cournoyer who has been blogging at Daveberta for 10 years! I remember being a little starstruck when I first met Dave in line for a show at the Varscona Theatre. I was a big fan (I still am) and meeting people in person that you followed online was still a little strange at the time. He was totally cool about it though, and I’m fortunate to have gotten to know him better over the years since. Here’s to another 10 years Dave!
  • Here’s the oldest cache of Dave’s blog that exists at the Internet Archive, from December 23, 2005.

Stephen Mandel's Campaign Office
Dave with Michael Walters & Stephen Mandel in 2010

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.