Edmonton Notes for December 13, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Council approves first property tax freeze since 1997

Edmonton’s city council has finished its work for the year, approving a 0% tax increase for 2021, the first property tax freeze since 1997. I followed the budget discussion fairly closely and wrote about their decisions twice for Taproot:

We also touched on the budget in the latest episode of Speaking Municipally.

At the beginning of the week, council gave final approval to the City Plan. It’s an important document, and its adoption caps off a successful run at the City of Edmonton for Kalen Anderson.

But the budget is where council’s true priorities are revealed. It’s one thing to put an initiative in the plan and quite another to fund it. The mayor took pains to connect the passing of the budget adjustments to City Plan. While I agree the budget council passed managed to fund a number of important projects given the ongoing pandemic, there’s a lot more to do to actually bring City Plan to life.

Mayor Don Iveson

Speaking of the mayor, you should check out Emily Rendell-Watson’s year-end interview with him. I was glad to see him highlight his work on the regional file.

Other recent headlines

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for November 29, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Mayor Don Iveson won’t seek re-election

On Monday, Mayor Don Iveson announced that he would not seek re-election in next year’s municipal election. In the post, he talked once again about cities being perpetually unfinished.

"This complex, ever-evolving work demands thoughtful, compassionate and constructive civic leadership — which is why next fall’s election will be pivotal and why I feel it’s important to give people who may be considering a run, time and notice to make their plans," Iveson wrote.

Mayor Don Iveson

While I am not entirely surprised by Iveson’s decision, I will be sad to see him go. I was proud to support Don back in 2013 when he first ran for mayor. I think he has done incredible work on behalf of Edmontonians, and I think our city is that much better for having had him in the mayor’s chair for two terms.

Many people think of transit when they think of Iveson, for better or worse. I think when we look back though, we’ll actually remember him more for his work on the regional file, which began immediately after he took office. We call it the Edmonton region today, rather than the bland and nondescript "capital region," thanks in large part to his leadership.

Thank you Don, and best wishes in whatever you choose to tackle next!

Other recent headlines

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for November 1, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

City Hall School goes virtual

As a big fan of Linda Hut and City Hall School I was glad to see that it has continued this year, virtually. I know it’s not the same as being in the same room together, but it’s wonderful that so many students will still get the chance to learn more about their city.

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with two classes recently about local media, both times over Google Meet. The first time each student had their own device so there were a couple dozen videos and a very lively chat. The second time there was just one device for the room, which was a little closer to being in the room and seeing everyone in front of you. Both groups of students had great questions and were very engaged.

Thank you Mrs. Hut for the invitation and opportunity to participate!

Other recent headlines

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for October 25, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Taproot Edmonton Presents: Igniting Innovation

Our new podcast, Taproot Edmonton Presents, launched this week with Igniting Innovation, a six-part series exploring how startups and investors are coming together in Edmonton’s tech innovation sector. Here’s the trailer.

The first episode features Zack Storms, founder and chief organizer of Startup TNT, and his wife, Keren Tang, an angel investor with the Startup TNT Investment Summit. They share stories about building and fostering relationships with entrepreneurs and investors in Edmonton’s tech innovation sector, plus discuss diversity and the challenges the community is facing.

We’re releasing new episode every week through to the Investment Summit on Nov. 19. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts!

Ice district Edmonton Alberta October 2020
Construction continues at Ice District, photo by Jason Woodhead

Lined up for Little Brick

Sharon and I went to Little Brick this afternoon for coffee and a cookie and to check out their winterized patio. We found a long line but decided to wait. It took 45 minutes from arrival to having our coffee in hand.

While Little Brick is a great example of a winter patio, with shelter from the wind, heaters, and fireplaces, few are going to wait that long when it’s colder. A lineup isn’t something I had considered when talking about winter patios on Speaking Municipally recently.

It’s a great sign that so many people are wanting to support local businesses though, and I hope that demand continues (and can be met) throughout the winter.

Other recent headlines

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for October 18, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

One year until the municipal election

Edmonton’s next municipal election is exactly one year away: Oct. 18, 2021. And while it does feel early to be talking about the horse race, that gates have opened nonetheless. A number of candidates have announced their intention to run for mayor.

Among them is Councillor Andrew Knack. "Yes, considering it but recognizing there might be some really excellent people that I think would be even better mayors who are considering it right now," he told CTV News.

I think Councillor Knack is a wonderful councillor and I can absolutely see how he’d make a great mayor someday. Perhaps that is why Councillor Mike Nickel continues to attack him online. They couldn’t be more opposite.

I was very happy to see so many Edmontonians from across the city chime in on Twitter to defend Councillor Knack this weekend. And I have to imagine that most of council is wishing they could redo the sanction hearing.

Ward 1 Councillor Andrew Knack
Councillor Andrew Knack, photo by Dave Cournoyer

Other recent headlines

  • I’m glad to see the temporary patio program has been extended until March 31, 2021. Who knows whether Edmontonians will be willing to eat outside in the cold, but at least now restaurants that want to find out can try. Well, except in situations when the City denies fantastic ideas like Tiramisu Bistro’s proposed igloos. Troy and I talked about this on the podcast and I ranted a bit about winter patios. Heaters are helpful, but protection from the wind is what is what we really need!
  • The City has begun installing new bus stop signs in anticipation of the new bus network that will launch in April. They feature improved accessibility and "indicate a significant and exciting transit change is coming." I look forward to seeing them in person.
  • A brand new LEGO store is set to open in Phase IV at West Edmonton Mall in November. I’m sure plans were underway well before the pandemic but still this must have a challenging time to launch an "experiential" store.
  • The Whitemud Creek Coal Mine, located near Snow Valley, was Edmonton’s last. It operated from 1952 to 1970. "In the hundred years of coal mining in Edmonton, 160 mines and prospects covered 3260 acres and produced 15 million tons of coal."

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for October 4, 2020

Here are my latest Edmonton notes!

Mayor Iveson pledges to end homelessness this fall

Mayor Don Iveson amped up his messaging around ending homelessness this week, saying that city council is "all in" and that he would do "whatever it takes" to deliver dignified shelter for all people by the end of the month.

While the ambition to end homelessness is nothing new, the urgency certainly seems to be. Five years ago, the mayor was talking about eliminating poverty "within a generation." While EndPovertyEdmonton is about much more than housing, that is a big part of it.

Now we’re talking about less than a month. That’s no doubt because of the throne speech, which included "an historic commitment ‘completely eliminate chronic homelessness’" in Canada. The promise of federal money seems to have opened the door, and COVID-19 has made it potentially more affordable (the pandemic has also compounded Canada’s housing crisis, as FCM states, better exposing the problem).

Not that cost has ever really been a barrier. As a society we’ve long had the ability to completely eliminate chronic homelessness, but instead of spending less upfront to prevent the problem we’ve spent more after the fact to manage it. That’s true at all levels of government.

Here in Edmonton, we spend well over $400 million every year on policing. It’s perhaps the single largest line-item in the municipal budget. This summer, the suggestion that we take some of that money and spend it on housing instead came up repeatedly. Councillor Michael Walters had something really interesting to say about this in the latest episode of Speaking Municipally (around the 38 minute mark):

"It could go to housing, we could do that, that makes sense to me," he said. "But then we’re into this jurisdictional problem where the more we take on with our property tax base when its provincial jurisdiction, that’s the money we’re never going to get from the Province, ever…that’s the challenge."

There’s a window of opportunity now to address this important challenge with support from the federal government, avoiding the issue Walters mentioned with the provincial government. Just in time too, as the temperature continues to drop.

Other recent headlines

  • The Edmonton City as Museum Project hosted an "ECAMPing Trip" on Thursday focused on Edmonton’s identities. The entire video is full of interesting information, including the connection to rail in the reason why EIA’s airport code is YEG and not YED. The section on YEG starts around 1 hour, 4 minutes and includes a shoutout to me for the first #YEG tweet.
  • The Association for Canadian Studies suggests that of six Canadian urban centres survey, Edmonton is seeing the most people avoiding downtown. That’s concerning for lots of reasons, though it’s not clear why more people are avoiding downtown here. Lots of folks are working from home, and many businesses downtown remain closed. I think all the construction probably doesn’t help.
  • Speaking of downtown, The Works has setup a multi-site exhibit called Context is Everything featuring about 1,600 handmade dandelions inside different buildings and behind windows. "The dandelion is such a great symbol of strength and perseverance and resilience — and not yielding because it doesn’t care where it goes," said Saskatoon artist Monique Martin. The exhibit is up for the rest of the month, so that’s a good reason to explore.

For more recent headlines, check out the latest from Taproot Edmonton.

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Edmonton Notes for September 27, 2020

Thanks for the feedback on the new format last week. I’m going to stick with it for now.

A big week for Taproot Edmonton

Last week was a big one for us at Taproot Edmonton. Emily Rendell-Watson started as managing editor, our first full-time hire. We’re so glad to have her on the team! Emily will be taking over the Council and Tech Roundups, leading much of our People’s Agenda work, and tackling many other upcoming editorial projects. As Karen said, it feels good to have created a job in journalism, especially given the constant stream of layoffs at mainstream newsrooms in our city.

Our growth has been made possible in part by our B2B service, and this week we were named a finalist for "Business Idea of the Year" in the 2020 LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers Awards for that effort. It’s a welcome bit of validation for us.

We capped the week off with the 100th episode of Speaking Municipally. It has been more than two years now since our first episode, but in a lot of ways it feels like we’re just getting started. I know that’s a cliché, but downloads continue to rise, we’re incorporating new voices into the show, and we have a municipal election coming up in a year.

Beautiful colors in the river valley

Winter is coming, but hopefully not too soon. I took this photo today in the Mill Creek Ravine near the Shamrock Curling Club.

Fall in Edmonton

It’s a beautiful time of year to be in Edmonton!

Other recent headlines

  • I’m thrilled that city council endorsed Indigenous names for the city’s wards. Assuming the names receive final approval by the end of the year, they’ll be in use for next year’s municipal election. My ward will be called "O-day’min" from the Anishinaabe language which means "Strawberry or Heart-berry (The heart through which the North Saskatchewan River runs)." It’ll take some practice for the rest of the names, but I will learn how to say them all.
  • Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) is now Explore Edmonton Co. rather than Edmonton Tourism as had been anticipated. The Explore Edmonton campaign has been fantastic, so I can see why they’d want to build on that. Not to mention that exploring your own city is going to be increasingly important as the pandemic continues to restrict tourism from elsewhere.
  • GLC Medical (a subsidiary of Edmonton-based Graphene Leaders Canada) will run clinical trials at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) for a new COVID-19 test that can produce results in less than a minute. This is very exciting and I have my fingers crossed!
  • From the saw-that-coming-a-mile-away department: the NHL bubble hasn’t done anything for local businesses. “We haven’t really seen much, to be honest with you,” said Scott Krebs with Kelly’s Pub.

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Edmonton Notes for September 20, 2020

Trying a different format this week!

Stanley Milner library reopens downtown

The Stanley A. Milner library downtown reopened this week after nearly four years of revitalization work. Capacity was limited for the grand opening weekend, but we booked a timeslot for Saturday and were able to visit. The inside is beautiful, and I look forward to spending a lot of time there post-pandemic. Emily had lots of fun exploring the children’s library, and I was very happy to see so much seating (all with power oulets) throughout the building. I didn’t have a chance to explore the new Makerspace, but I did write a little about that in the Tech Roundup.

EPL Stanley Milner Reopening

While the inside of the library looks great, I still think the outside is ugly. Saying "you can’t judge a book by its cover" or "it’s what’s on the inside that counts" are just nice ways of saying what is plainly true – the outside of the library is a big disappointment. Edmonton deserves better.

I hope the gigantic air vent outside the main entrance of the library is temporary (maybe it is particularly loud right now because of LRT construction). It sounds like a jet engine. You simply cannot have a conversation with someone anywhere near the front door. The beautiful central library in Calgary literally has a train running through it and I don’t remember any uncomfortable or unpleasant noise during any of my many visits.

Other recent headlines

  • City Council’s Audit Committee has directed Administration to look at reducing the number of supervisors in the City of Edmonton’s workforce. That’s the right call. The excuse that the numbers are off because the City hired more technical people in-house to help make sure projects would be delivered on-time and on-budget feels anachronistic to me. That said, tens of millions of dollars on a few too many City staff is better than hundreds of millions of dollars on far too many consultants, so I guess we’re making progress.
  • I am very excited about our city’s new Indigenous ward names and I look forward to learning the correct pronunciation of each. If you’re worried about that, check out Councillor Paquette’s tweet!
  • Edmonton will host the 2021 world junior hockey championship from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 without fans in attendance. I hope the bubble is smaller than it has been for the NHL playoffs. I want to be able to cross 102 Street again without needing to make a huge detour. If it must be closed for the bubble, maybe we can get a walkway installed to allow pedestrians to cross over top of the fencing? I mean, if we can spend more than $100 million to save 3 minutes for drivers on Terwillegar Drive, surely we can put up some temporary stairs for pedestrians downtown.
  • The Edmonton Police Service unveiled its new $500,000 tank – I mean, armoured vehicle – this week. "Without the proper tools, things get more dangerous and we can’t respond as quickly," said Sgt. Rick Abbott. Uh huh, I’m sure that vehicle is going to help with response times. He continued: "It does look aggressive. But the reality is we can’t get involved in politics in my job. We’re too busy trying to keep Edmontonians safe." Oh FFS. Council, and Councillor Scott McKeen in particular, should be ashamed for letting this purchase go ahead, especially after making such a big deal about the e-bike rebates earlier this year.

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Edmonton Notes for August 23, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:


Downtown Edmonton Rainbow

Upcoming Events

The vast majority of upcoming events have been cancelled or postponed. If you’re unsure, just stay home – especially if you’re feeling sick.

Most of Taproot’s weekly roundups have a curated selection of virtual events.

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How we migrated the Taproot Publishing blog

Last week, we setup a new blog for Taproot Publishing. It’s one of many things we’re doing to better reflect what we envision for Taproot Publishing, the umbrella organization that publishes Taproot Edmonton, our B2B information products, and more projects in the future.

We already had a blog at the Taproot Edmonton site, and we didn’t want to lose what was there. It was important to us to have our existing posts migrated across to the new blog. We also wanted to make sure any existing links would continue to work correctly.

I’m going to share some of the details on how we did that. We’ve often benefited from the lessons and experiences shared by other media startups, so hopefully someone else will find this helpful.

Initial setup

The taprootedmonton.ca site currently runs on WordPress, self-hosted in Azure. We decided that we didn’t want to self-host the new blog, so we created a new site at WordPress.com and configured blog.taprootpublishing.ca to point to it. We went with WordPress Premium to start.

Thankfully we had picked a theme that is available to WordPress.com sites (Independent Publisher 2) so we configured that and copied over all the styles so it would look pretty similar to what we had before.

The other thing we did was add myself and Karen as users. You’ll want to add any users from the existing site into the new one before you do the post migration, so that you can keep the correct bylines (unless you’re fine with changing those).

Post migration

The next task was to export the posts from our existing site and import them into the new site. While WordPress has built-in functionality for import/export, we discovered it has some limitations. In particular, unless you choose to export "all content", you’re not going to get the featured images that go along with each post.

To solve that, we installed the Export media with selected content plugin to our existing site, so that the featured images could be referenced in the export file.

The export file is just XML though, it doesn’t contain the images themselves. We thought about simply copying the existing uploads folder over to the uploads folder of the new site, but alas, you need to be on the WordPress Business plan or higher for that to work. So we decided to copy them instead to a container in Azure blob storage.

Next, we did a find and replace on the "wp-content/uploads" URLs referenced inside the export file, to instead point them to the new location in Azure blob storage.

Finally, we used the WordPress importer to bring our posts into the new site.

Redirecting old URLs

At this point, our new site was up and running with our previous theme and all of our existing blog posts loading correctly. The next step was to make sure that if someone visited the old URL, at taprootedmonton.ca, that they’d be redirected to the new URL, at blog.taprootpublishing.ca.

To do that, we installed the Redirection plugin to our existing site.

The plugin is both easy-to-use and powerful. You can specific the exact URLs you want to redirect, or you can use regex to match a number of URLs at once. The plugin also lets you choose what to do with any query parameters (such as utm tags that might be appended to your URL). Of course, you can also specify whether the redirects are temporary (302) or permanent (301).

With the redirects all in place, testing was all that was left to do. I realized during my testing that there are other URLs besides the posts to redirect, such as the root /blog and tag or category pages, so don’t forget about those!

Final thoughts

The last step was to update the taprootedmonton.ca site menu to point to the new URL. With that, our new blog is setup and ready to help us tell the story of Taproot Publishing!

I’ve moved my personal blog around a number of times over the years, so maybe that’s why this project felt a little like going back in time! This move was all about the future though, and I am excited to get on with the next task.

Feel free to reach out should you have any questions about how we completed the blog migration!