Mayor Stephen Mandel took the stage yesterday during lunch to address the hundreds of local business, community, and government leaders in attendance at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City event. As expected, most conversations were about Monday’s provincial election and Mayor Mandel did touch on that subject in his remarks. I would characterize the mayor’s speech as upbeat, and as Councillor Iveson remarked, perhaps that was because of Monday’s result!
You can read Mayor Mandel’s speech in its entirety here (PDF). He started strong, recalling a particularly memorable comment he made seven years ago:
“I remember the first time I stood here, and I uttered the words ‘no more crap’. On that day, I not only got away with cursing in public, but touched on a sentiment we had all been feeling for many years.”
Whether you like Mandel or not, I think he’s right to point out that during his tenure as mayor, the city has changed significantly and for the better:
“Seven years ago, we were a city organization with no big plans, that avoided dealing with significant challenges and left our true potential unexplored.
Seven years later, we are Canada’s fastest growing city at the core of the country’s second fastest growing region. And we have shaken off a ‘good enough’ pattern by taking care to invest in ourselves and our future.”
Mandel praised the work of City Council and Administration, especially under City Manager Simon Farbrother, for making that happen.
Throughout this remarks, Mandel mentioned a number of projects and initiatives underway in the city. There was big applause for the new downtown arena, the new Royal Alberta Museum, and the City Centre Redevelopment. But he also touched on some of the challenges we face, including the expansion of the LRT, our ongoing struggle with homelessness, and the strong need to better work with and celebrate our growing Aboriginal community. But he saved his most critical remarks for our city’s identity:
“First, we must have an economic development organization that better demonstrates its understanding of the competitive environment our city faces. It must be hungry enough to undertake a relentless effort to sell our city.
Second, we must finally look past all of our reluctant half-efforts to actually work at promoting Edmonton’s story. Without a commitment to this, the former will be very different.
We must be willing to put proper, long-term resources behind a true effort to sell this city to the world.”
Mandel saved his comments on the province for the end. After congratulating Premier Redford and all of the candidates who ran in the election, he made it clear that Edmonton expects change too.
“From our perspective, this election demonstrated how clearly Alberta’s growing urban reality is a major change that has fully dawned on the provincial stage. This election presented near unanimous agreement that it is time for a new deal for Alberta’s big cities. I look forward to working with Premier Redford and Mayor Nenshi to move this agenda forward. I hope this is a discussion we can begin to have very soon.”
The mayor finished his remarks by talking about the people of Edmonton:
“Our place in this great province, our unique economic advantages, our strong cultural identity, our skills at cultivating knowledge and innovation – and most of all, the passion and drive of our people – are the things that are going to ensure our future success.”
All throughout the speech, tweets were displayed on screen and there was a high level of participation from people in the audience. It was really interesting to see how everyone reacted as Mandel spoke. After he finished, Mayor Mandel received a standing ovation.
2011-2012 State of the City Report
In conjunction with yesterday’s address, the City launched its annual report to citizens. The 35 page document covers a wide range of achievements and ongoing initiatives. Here are some of the highlights:
- Edmonton’s percentage rate of increase in immigration from 2006 to 2010 was 71%, the highest of seven major cities across Canada.
- The 2011 Graffiti Audit results show a 43% decrease in graffiti vandalism in 20 high-incident neighbourhoods compared to a 2010 baseline audit.
- As of December 31, 2011, the Cornerstones initiative increased Edmonton’s supply of affordable housing by funding 3038 safe, affordable housing units for citizens.
- Edmonton roadcrews repaired 549,000 potholes in 2011, up from 435,000 in 2010.
- Corporations donated 82,470 transit tickets to the Donate A Ride program in 2011.
- Weekly cumulative bus and LRT boardings increased from 389,224 in 2010 to 397,402 in 2011.
- Edmonton has protected 4000 hectares of natural areas, working towards a goal of 5500 ha. Most Edmontonians (75%) are now within a 20-minute walk of a natural area.
- The City’s total debt in 2011 was $1.974 billion, or 53.7% of the debt limit defined by the Municipal Government Act.
- 34,800 new jobs were created in Edmonton from December 2010 to December 2011, the fastest rate of job growth in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
You can download the report in PDF here.