Coming up at City Council: August 17-21, 2015

The Fringe is underway and Council is back to work on Monday which means summer in Edmonton is winding down. Next week we’ll hopefully learn more about the Metro Line LRT, now slated to open with modified service in time for the start of the school year. Council will also be discussing some other contentious topics like Park & Ride at Century Park and the Traffic Shortcutting trials currently underway in Prince Charles and Pleasantview.

Below are links to the meeting agendas for the week as well as some highlighted items and notes.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Metro Line LRT

Council is slated to receive an update on the Metro Line LRT project on Monday afternoon (it’s a verbal update on the agenda, so no report to look at). It follows news today that the Metro Line LRT will open to public service on September 6:

“Testing a modified approach to Metro Line operations has already begun and ETS training starts Monday,” said Transportation Services General Manager Dorian Wandzura. “We are confident the Metro Line will be carrying passengers for the start of the 2015 school year.”

The line will open with modified service: “line of sight” operation, a 25 km/h speed restriction, headways of 15 minutes between Churchill Station and NAIT Station, and a decrease in capacity along the existing Capital Line. Instead of getting from Churchill Station to NAIT in 7 minutes, it’ll take 14 minutes.

Dorian Wandzura
Transportation Services General Manager Dorian Wandzura

Shortly after the news conference this afternoon, Mayor Iveson cautioned that interim service is “no cause for celebration”:

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This news should make Monday’s meeting more productive, in that Council can focus on what went wrong and how to get the line to full operation rather than spending a bunch of time expressing disappointment that the line still won’t be open. At least I hope that’s the case.

On July 31, the City announced that it had initiated an independent safety audit of the Metro Line signalling system. The audit, to be conducted by Rail Safety Consulting, is supposed to provide confidence in the safety of the system as well as certification in order to open the line. The City is still blaming Thales, saying that “Thales has failed to provide some essential documentation required for the City to accept Thales’ safety certification.”

There has been a lot of concern about the quality of the infrastructure and workmanship of the Metro Line LRT, but the City has said issues are just part of doing business and are dealt with during the warranty period. A separate report on warranty periods for transportation contributed assets says “a warranty period of two years is applied to both City and developer-constructed transportation infrastructure to ensure the construction material utilized and the associated workmanship are performing in accordance with City standards and expectations.”

On a somewhat related note, the City is currently running a survey on “how to make Edmonton’s transit system greater in the future.” You can fill it out online, or look for the street team at events around the city (like the Fringe).

Recreation Centre Security

This report comes to us in response to an inquiry made by Councillor Nickel back in April. He wanted to know more about crime in relation to our large recreation centres. Here’s what the report says:

  • “In general, calls for service to major Community Recreation Centre facilities have been relatively stable year-to-year since 2011, with predictable increases corresponding to the opening of new facilities.”
  • The situation is a bit worse this year, however. “Calls for police response to recreation facilities have more than doubled in 2015.”
  • Why? “The increase in calls for service for 2015 is driven almost entirely by calls to Clareview Recreation Centre.”
  • City staff have also reported an increase in security incidents this year, but say that “these increases can be attributed to the opening of Clareview and the Meadows Recreation Centres and the increased attendance.”
  • The report says that we’ve seen this before, with the Terwillegar Community Crecreation Centre in 2011: “there was a similar surge of incidents, followed by declining incident rates in 2013 and 2014, as facility staff implemented changes to improve facility security.”
  • Which begs the question – are the security incidents taking place at the new centres all different than the ones we saw at Terwillegar?
  • So what’s being done about this? As you might expect, “a strategic planning exercise is currently underway to improve facility security and public safety.”
  • An external security audit for the Clareview Community Recreation Centre has also been initiated.

It doesn’t seem like there’s cause for concern here, just growing pains associated with running such large facilities.

Options & Incentives for Preserving Trees on Private Residential Properties

Mature trees are critical for environmental quality and biodiversity and, as the City says, they “contribute to the livability of our neighbourhoods.” But sometimes they need to be removed, such as “when they conflict with the location of utilities or are unhealthy (diseased/dying).” The question is, can we do anything to preserve them?

“There is no requirement to plant trees or shrubs for low density residential development, thus there is no incentive to retain existing vegetation on site,” the report says.

Mature Residential Trees
Mature Residential Trees, photo by City of Edmonton

There are three options put forward by the City to try to address this:

  1. Create a Minimum Planting Requirement for All Low Density Residential Zones
  2. Develop Planting Ratios and Require Mandatory Landscape Plans
  3. Include Tree Protection in the Zoning Bylaw

Those three are roughly in order of complexity and impact. Option 2 would go beyond the minimum requirements outlined in Option 1, while Option 3 offers the greatest certainty about existing mature trees. The removal of any tree over a certain size would require a development permit, under Option 3.

The City recommends Option 1, “as these changes can be implemented quickly and are supported by stakeholders.” The suggestion is to have landscaping requirements similar to the RF4 and RPL zones, which is one tree and two shrubs per dwelling. “This would allow development officers to encourage the retention of existing vegetation as a way to meet the minimum landscaping requirements.” It would not prevent the removal of existing trees, however.

Century Park Site Park & Ride Options

The current lease agreement between the City and Procura Development (which owns the Century Park Park & Ride site) expires in 2020, so the City needs to decide if its wants to build its own park & ride facility or extend the lease on the existing Century Park site. The original lease with Procura was for five years from 2010 to 2015, with an option for an additional five, one-year renewal terms. The proposed park & ride facility would be located at Ellerslie Road and 127 Street and would be operational by the fall of 2019. It is known as the Heritage Valley Park & Ride.

  • The current site has 1,300 parking stalls, 1,000 of which are leased from Procura.
  • One third of the funding needed for the Heritage Valley Park & Ride was approved in the 2015-2018 Capital Budget.
  • Discussions are underway with the Province to secure land for the site that may fall within the Transportation Utility Corridor.
  • City Policy C554 on Park and Ride states such facilities should be “located primarily at sites where more intensive development is not possible or feasible such as the Transportation Utility Corridor or other major utility rights of way or where such development is not expected to occur in the immediate future.” Since we want to make Century Park a TOD site, having a park and ride site there is inconsistent with this policy.
  • Procura is apparently not interested in extending the current lease, but has been open to discussing various options with the City.
  • The Century Park lot “gets 98% full on weekday mornings” with approximately 1,500 people parking there between 6am and 9am to get on the LRT. It gets to 85% capacity by 7am! Those passengers make up 29% of the total passengers who board the LRT during the morning peak period.
  • Looking at all eight park & ride locations in Edmonton, “the average utilization of park and ride sites on a typical weekday is 97% at LRT stations and 60-70% at Transit Centres.”
  • The proposed Heritage Valley Park & Ride would require a shuttle bus service, which would cost $2.1 million annually after five articulated buses are purchased for $4 million.
  • The City also anticipates an increase in bus usage if the Century Park Park & Ride were to go away, which would require another $1 million annually plus the purchase of ten new 40-foot buses for $6 million.
  • The City does own some land at Century Park where a parking structure could be built but an assessment found that “the high cost of construction would require unreasonably high parking fees or significant subsidies from the City in order to recover the high capital and operating cost.”
  • A position paper developed by the City found that “over 50% of park and ride users come from within 8 km of a site” and are “only willing to back track up to 3 km to a park and ride facility.”

Century Park Station & Park and Ride
Century Park, photo by City of Edmonton

The report does not make a recommendation on what to do. Moving the park & ride from Century Park to Heritage Valley is aligned with the City’s existing policies and future direction, but the question is how to pay for it. The remaining funding required for the Heritage Valley Park & Ride is assumed to come from other sources, but the City says Green TRIP is not an option.

Other interesting items

  • The Edmonton Heritage Council’s 2014 Annual Report is available and talks about the City Museum project. The Heritage Council has focused on “building an audience” rather than acquiring a building thus far, but “anticipates a full business case going forward in 2018 in consideration of the 2019-2022 City of Edmonton capital cycle.”
  • The City recommends that $1.8 million be approved to fund the Fort Edmonton Park Catering Kitchen Project.
  • Utility work on Phase 1 of the new Louise McKinney Riverfront Park project is expected to begin this summer, with construction completed by the end of 2016. Phase 1 includes a new accessible pathway and staircase, while phase 2 consists of a full service restaurant and upgrades to existing facilities, coinciding with completion of the Valley Line LRT.
  • The next priority of Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap is “to conduct the review of the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay.” The City also anticipates updating Residential Infill Guidelines when the new MDP is updated in 2018.
  • The City is recommending that Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy and Policy, which I wrote about back in March, be approved, that an Energy Transition Advisory Committee be established, and that the Mayor write a letter to the Province to “explore issues through an enhanced Provincial/City working relationship.”
  • PCL Construction Management Inc. is the construction manager for Rogers Place, and the City is recommending that Council approve consolidating previously approved adjacent construction projects under the same agreement to “provide efficiencies” and “coordination and scheduling of the work.”
  • There’s a report on the Feasibility of Re-Establishing a Natural Channel between Mill Creek and the North Saskatchewan River. Basically in order to build freeways in the 1960s we destroyed many streams and creeks resulting in “water pollution, flooding, erosion, and loss of ecological services.” Now we are looking to mitigate these impacts through a practice called “daylighting”.
  • The overall reliability of escalators in LRT stations in 2014 was 85%. ETS has set a goal of 90% by 2016, with at least 87.5% to be achieved for 2015. As of June 30, 2015, the City says overall year-to-date escalator reliability in LRT stations was 89.3%.
  • An update on traffic shortcutting issues, and in particular the trials underway in Prince Charles and Pleasantview, says that a City Policy for Community Traffic Management will be considered in June 2016. The City says that “the short turnaround time anticipated with this new Traffic Shortcutting pilot project will constrain typical public engagement strategies in favour of faster implementation of traffic management measures to better respond to concerns voiced by the communities.” The next report on the trials is expected to go to Transportation Committee on October 7.

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Frustration abounds and public support for future LRT projects in Edmonton is at risk

It has been made abundantly clear that LRT is a key priority for this Council. They reiterated that point again during Tuesday’s update on the delayed Metro Line LRT (the extension to NAIT) and they made it clear to Administration that they’re not happy about the delays, nor about being kept in the dark on progress. “This has been an embarrassment,” Councillor Esslinger complained. “It’s embarrassing to say the least,” added Councillor Sohi. Earlier this week, Councillor Nickel called it “a boondoggle” and Councillor Oshry described the project as “a s**t-show”.

Metro Line LRT

The Metro Line was supposed to open most recently on Sunday, July 5. That follows failed attempts to open on June 7, and May 31, both of which follow countless previous delays. “We are still not in a position to announce an opening date,” Transportation GM Dorian Wandzura told Council when pressed yesterday. The reason? According to the City, there are still issues with the signalling system and Thales is to blame.

Thales claims they’re not the hold up and feel that trains could be operating along the line. They’re still here working on the line, but say that further work consists only of “additional functionality that was not needed for initial revenue service.” We still don’t know why the City and Thales appear to be on such different wavelengths, but there’s speculation that this is all just posturing for a coming legal battle between the two.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, on Monday the Journal revealed that it had acquired a leaked report from 2013 that outlined a number of construction issues plaguing the Metro Line. The report prompted speculation that perhaps there was more to the delayed opening than the signalling system issues the City has consistently cited. Council hammered away at this report during Tuesday’s meeting, and it was clear they were caught off-guard and had not been kept apprised of the situation in previous private updates.

It turns out the leaked report is just one of 80 total reports commissioned by the City on the project. Of the dozen issues identified in that report, nine have been closed and four are live issues that are still outstanding. There’s no word on how many deficiencies were reported and are outstanding from the other 79 reports.

“There are always deficiencies,” Wandzura said. “It’s a normal process that some of those issues are not resolved on opening day, they are dealt with in the warranty period.” Trying to provide context, City Manager Simon Farbrother explained that “every single construction project going on in this city has deficiencies, and that’s normal.” Wandzura added, “if you had a construction project with zero deficiencies, I’d be very concerned.” He reiterated a couple of times that the issues identified in the leaked report “have been or are in the process of being resolved” and that they did not contribute to the delay in opening the line. The City still feels that Thales is to blame for that.

Despite all of this bad news, Brad Smid, project manager for the line, told the Journal that he thought “the project has gone very well.” Yes, he really said that.

Is the City really being made whole?

I get the point that there are always deficiencies. In my world, if you shipped a software product and didn’t find any bugs, that’d be a clear sign that your testing processes are broken. There are always bugs. Still, attempting to reassure Council and the public by explaining that every one of our multi-million dollar projects has problems may not have been the best strategy. It’s clear that not all deficiencies are created equal, but the ones identified in leaked report were discussed as if they were all critical.

“Our objective is to get what we pay for,” said Wandzura during Tuesday’s meeting, adding that the City takes actions “to make the City whole” when deficiencies are found. This could be accomplished by some sort of remediation, financial compensation, or in the worst case, litigation.

Councillor Caterina in particular hammered away at this, suggesting that the City has accepted lower quality work because of mistakes made by the contractors. Pipe that was a smaller gauge than originally specified may have been accepted in exchange for some form of financial compensation, for instance.

The problem with that is any financial amount rendered today is likely far less than what it’ll cost if any work needs to be done in the future. I can envision the news now at a future Council update. There will be some sort of project that a future Council wants to implement, maybe running new cable to take advantage of some future technology, and they’ll be shocked when the price tag comes in significantly higher than expected because this pipe needs to be replaced with the appropriate gauge.

DSC_0803
Photo by Bill Burris

On the signalling contract, the City is holding back some of the payment until the work is done. The contract with Thales states the City can hold back 40%, which is about $19.8 million. Currently 49% of the contract has been paid. Responding to comments from Council that the amount is small to a big company, Farbrother said that “perhaps it’s not seen as punitive, but they are in the press every day” taking heat for the delay.

What these approaches don’t take into account is the wider impact of deficiencies and delays. What about all of the students and staff at NAIT who still can’t take the train? What about the numerous pedestrian and vehicular closures and detours that have added time to commutes and caused endless frustrations? What about the shattered confidence of the public in a year where we’ve had delays with nearly every major public project?

There’s too much in-camera & too little communication

City Council was scheduled to get an in-private update on the Metro Line yesterday. Thankfully, Mayor Iveson requested that the item be discussed in public instead. He wrote:

“Frankly, hearing yet another discussion of yet another private report does nothing to give the public confidence that this city council is getting information and in turn the public is getting information that we all need to determine what is going on with this project.”

“Too much of the discussion around this has been in private so I would like a public report and an opportunity for members of council to ask questions of Administration at least pertaining to these latest issues of deficiencies on the line, so there may be an airing of what is going on. At least any issues that can be clearly communicated to the public there is an opportunity to do that.”

While we didn’t come away with any major revelations during the update (aside from perhaps the number of reports commissioned on the construction) I think it’s critical that the discussion took place in public. Council did have a private update with Administration later in the day, but there’s no reason that everything needs to be done behind closed doors.

For one thing, Council desperately needs to restore the public’s faith in this project and going in-camera is not going to accomplish that. “The trust is gone, let’s just be honest about it,” said Councillor Nickel. “We need to restore people’s confidence,” said Councillor Sohi.

Kingsway/Royal Alex Station
Photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Unfortunately, it seems as though Administration’s first instinct is to go in-camera. For instance, when discussing the report on deficiencies, they attempted a few times to delay the discussion to the private session. “I’m a little disappointed that everything keeps getting reverted back to, ‘this is the normal course of construction’,” said Councillor Caterina. “At what point do we do something different?” asked Councillor Oshry, to which Administration replied, “That’s a perfect thing to discuss in private.”

This desire to go in-camera is a symptom of a much larger communications problem facing the City. Council was caught off-guard by Monday’s leaked report and is eager to prevent that from happening again. “Going forward, we’re going to want to know everything about everything,” Councillor Caterina told Administration.

To bring the discussion yesterday to a close, Mayor Iveson put forward a motion to have Administration “develop and immediately implement a public communication plan” and to prepare a report that outlines “any significant deficiencies with this project.”

“I want to be able to tell the public with confidence” that these issues “have been fully digested,” the mayor said. “The instinct to stop giving dates – we have to move past that, and just report on a regular basis,” he added. “We need to be zealous in our transparency and communication on this project.”

There doesn’t appear to be enough accountability

One thing lacking from the discussion yesterday was any accountability on the part of the City. Councillor McKeen and his colleagues did suggest a few times that the City and Council are ultimately responsible for public projects like this, but Administration seemed content to blame contractors. The public is calling for heads to roll, at least on Twitter, but there’s no sign that that is going to happen.

I’m reminded of that overused cliche about the definition of insanity. The Metro Line has been delayed again and again since December 2013, and yet the same people are in charge using the same contractors. If the inputs don’t change, how can we expect the outcomes to?

Clearly building an LRT line is a major endeavour and integrating it with an existing one has proven to be even more challenging. But it’s hard to reconcile that with the fact that so many other cities have successfully (from an outsider’s point-of-view) built even more complicated transit projects. That may not be a popular perspective within the city because it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but that’s absolutely what the public is thinking.

We’re 18 months past the first delay, and we still don’t have an opening date. How much farther down the current path do we go? We’ve heard from the City that changing contractors now and starting over on the signalling would be too costly, but that is beginning to sound an awful lot like the sunk cost fallacy. Maybe it would make more sense in the long-run to cut our losses and start over. We may not be paying Thales anything more, but we’re also not getting any closer to the end of the project.

I don’t think its wise to fire someone just to have a scapegoat, but it would go a long way toward restoring the public’s confidence in the City if some accountability measures were taken.

What impact does all of this have on the Valley Line LRT?

Understandably, Council had some questions yesterday about the impact of all of this on the Valley Line LRT. Councillor Sohi asked what, if anything, has been learned that could be applied to that project. The response? The importance of communication. Administration cited the establishment of five Citizen Working Groups as proof that things are improving with each project.

At one point, Wandzura tried to explain to Council that different procurement models result in different outcomes. The suggestion was that because the Valley Line will be built using a P3 model, we should expect things to be different. Different, yes. Better? Not necessarily. There are big concerns with the P3 model and the only reason we’re even going down that route is because it was the only way to secure federal funding. The Valley Line could very well turn out to be worse.

On the other hand, maybe expectations have been lowered so much with the Metro Line that the City will be able to exceed them with construction of the Valley Line.

When will we have an opening date for the Metro Line LRT?

Mayor Iveson asked yesterday if there’s any chance the line would be open by the start of school in the fall, to which Wandzura said he believed it would. Farbrother added that they didn’t want to suggest a date which could cause communications and public opinion to deteriorate even further. So the fall is City’s best guess, but at this point there’s no reason to have any faith in that time frame.

MacEwan Station & Rogers Place

As Paula Simons wrote, the stations and line look finished, yet they “just sit there, ghostly and pristine.” Right next door construction on Rogers Place continues, apparently on-time and on-budget. “Like a desert mirage, the promise of the NAIT LRT is always just out of reach,” Paula wrote. It’s looking increasingly likely that the new area will open before the Metro Line does.

In a private follow-up late yesterday afternoon, Council voted to hold a special meeting on the Metro Line LRT on August 17. They also made a private motion that “will move things forward” but of course we don’t know what that is just yet. An auditor’s report on the project is expected to be discussed by Council on August 24. That’s the most appropriate time for a retrospective, Farbrother suggested.

So for now we wait, with more questions than answers, and still without an opening date.

Coming up at City Council: July 6-10, 2015

Time for another Council update, this time for the week of July 6. There are a number of private reports slated for Tuesday’s meeting, including an update on the Metro Line LRT. Will it be delayed again, or will we finally get a date for the opening? Let’s hope it’s good news. Another private item is on the Communications Plan for LRT Funding.

Below you’ll find links to all the meetings and some highlighted items that I found interesting or otherwise wanted to make note of.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Food Truck Alley on Whyte Avenue

Last summer, a so-called “food truck alley” was proposed for the lane beside Tutti Frutti on the north side of 82 Avenue just west of 104 Street. Well now it looks like it might actually happen.

Bylaws 17278, 17279, and 17280 will be considered at Monday’s public hearing. If approved, these bylaws would close the lane permanently, would amend the Strathcona ARP accordingly, and would rezone the area to allow for “public amenity and temporary commercial space that respects the heritage character of the surrounding buildings and area, while providing pedestrian connectivity between 82 Avenue NW and the rear, east-west lane.”

No permanent structures would be allowed, and the area would need to remain publicly accessible to pedestrians at all times, but allowable uses would include park space, carnivals, restaurants, and general retail stores.

I take that to mean that food trucks could be welcome!

District Energy in the Downtown

Interesting item on a so-called “district energy system” which is basically a more environmentally-friendly way to get hot water delivered to buildings within a specific area. The idea is to use biomass (like waste), solar, natural gas, or waste heat to provide hot water, which could be used as water or in the heating of spaces. Obviously this works better in denser areas.

Here’s the heart of the report:

“Administration has been working with EPCOR, ENMAX, FVB Energy and the Holmes Group since 2012 to develop a feasible scenario for a District Energy System in the Downtown. Initial scenarios for a District Energy System focused on The Quarters Downtown, and in 2012 construction began on a small scale District Energy System to serve the Boyle Renaissance Phases I and II. ENMAX is in the final stages of commissioning a cogeneration plant in the Boyle Renaissance Tower which will be ready to serve the 90 unit senior’s facility in 2015. This plant has the capability to generate heat and electricity for Renaissance Tower and heat for the YMCA Melcor Welcome Village. Electricity generated in excess of Renaissance Tower requirements goes back to the electrical grid for resale.”

The idea is that the City provides building connections, ENMAX owns and operates the thermal generation and would sell to customers directly, and EPCOR build, own, and maintain the distribution system. The proposed system is “estimated to result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 17,080 tonnes per year in early phases and 63,000 tonnes per year at full build out.”

If Council gives the go-ahead, then Administration will prepare a business case for Executive Committee’s review in the fall. They’d also provide an update on the viability of a district energy system in Blatchford.

Valley Line LRT RFP Questions & Answers

I have found that Q&A documents are often the most enlightening of all City documents, so I was very interested to take a look at this one. There’s a total of 98 questions and answers in the document, so there’s a ton of useful information if you’re willing to read through it all.

There are a number of questions about public engagement, which the City often answers by saying that a number of Citizen Working Groups will be established. As of June 25, five Citizen Working Groups have been established based around different zones of the project. You can see the list of members here.

A few other highlights include:

  • The P3 contractor must accommodate special events, so festivals like the Edmonton Folk Music Festival will not be impacted. Access to both the Muttart Conservatory and Edmonton Ski Club will also be maintained.
  • “A relatively small amount of green space will be lost during construction,” but the City says “the vast majority” will be returned to parkland after construction is complete.
  • Apparently there are beavers living below the footbridge, and the City says that if they are still living there when construction begins, “the P3 contractor will be responsible for relocating them.”
  • There will be a wildlife underpass at Connors Road that will “help to maintain access for wildlife to and from Mill Creek Ravine.”

You can keep up-to-date on the Valley Line LRT here.

95 Avenue Bike Lane Removal

At the City Council meeting on June 23, 2015, Councillor Oshry moved that the bike lanes on 95 Avenue between 149 Street and 189 Street and on 189 Street between 87 Avenue and 95 Avenue, be removed. The motion on the floor was postponed to Tuesday’s meeting because Council ran out of time.

Since then, Councillor Walters has indicated he’d like to see the bike lanes on 40 Avenue and 106 Street removed also and he has a motion pending for Tuesday’s meeting. Commenting on the story, Councillor Oshry told the Journal that “Administration has a hard time admitting that (these bike lanes) are not working, that they’re a mistake.”

Mayor Iveson is against removing the bike lanes, suggesting that doing so would send the wrong signal to the public. Could be a close vote!

Committee recommendations

Here are some recommendations from Council’s committees that will be voted on this week worth highlighting:

  • That Administration prepare a policy for Council’s consideration to require vegetarian or vegan food for all catered City Council meetings “to support environmental sustainability.” This one comes from Youth Council, which has already adopted vegan-catered meals for its meetings, and says the meals have a significantly lower environmental impact than meals with meat. I’d rather see a requirement for local food, which I understand a working group convened by the City along with Northlands is investigating.
  • That Administration prepare a policy on traffic shortcutting that would include, among other things, “ways to address traffic shortcutting in a proactive manner.”
  • That $4.2 million in Cornerstones funding be approved for the construction of a seniors’ housing project called Sakaw Terrace and that the Sakaw surplus school site be sold for $100,000 for the project.

Other interesting items

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

UPDATE: Since I posted this a Special Executive Committee meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday. One of the key agenda items is an update on the Implementation Plan for The Way Ahead. Council will be discussing 23 “transformational initiatives” that are expected to help achieve a significant number of the strategic outcomes by the end of 2018.

Coming up at City Council: June 22-26, 2015

It has been a while since my last Council update! I’m going to try to get back into it, with some experimentation on the format. Instead of going day-by-day as I have in the past, I’m going to try a more general overview this time with a focus on highlighting a few specific items. Let me know if you have any feedback or suggestions on how to make this update more readable and useful.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

2013-2017 Council Initiatives – Status Update

There are 23 Council Initiatives underway and by policy they are reviewed annually by City Council. There is an attachment for each initiative here, with work accomplished as of May 2015. Here are some highlights of the next steps:

  • Child Friendly Edmonton – Plans are underway for a Pecha Kucha-style forum in the fall, and development of an intergenerational toolkit is underway.
  • EndPoverty Edmonton – The strategy will be presented to Council in September 2015, with a full implementation plan to be finalized by Spring 2016
  • ELEVATE – Work continues on a collaborative project to demonstrate the intent and approach of ELEVATE, primarily with the Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition.
  • Emerging Economy – Make Something Edmonton is working on supports for ambassadors of Edmonton, Edmonton Original is working on “52 fishhooks” (a reason to come to Edmonton every week of the year), and EEDC is scaling up its Entrepreneurship 101, Front Desk, and Vacancy Hall programs.
  • NextGen – Projects like Pecha Kucha, MEAET, the Ideas Conference, and others will continue, and an RFP is out for the redevelopment of the website.
  • Public Engagement – There are plans to establish a Public Engagement Advisory Committee, and also to undertake the 2015 Everyday Political Citizen campaign.
  • Public Transit – There are a number of sub-initiatives here, but the report notes that 30% of buses are equipped with Smart Bus Technology with plans for another 500 buses to receive the technology by the end of the year. Also, ridership increased 2.5% in 2014 to 89,283,000 trips, and so far in 2015 there has been “a modest increase” over 2014 levels.

You can read the rest of the updates here.

Ward Boundary Review Implications

This report outlines some options for a ward boundary review. This review could address population criteria, may better align ward boundaries to community league boundaries and easily identifiable borders, and could even result in changes to the number of Councillors. You can see the current wards here.

Option 1 is called Ward Boundary Correction and would change the borders of wards 9, 10, 11, and 12 to “balance them to the optimum population levels.” This option is expected to cost $40,000 for public engagement and consultation, redrawing of boundaries, and map creation.

Option 2 is called Ward Boundary Review and is a more in-depth analysis. The last review was completed after the 2007 municipal election, which resulted in a change from 6 to 12 wards. According to last year’s census, there are no wards that have exceeded the minimum or maximum population growth threshold, so a review isn’t required. Moving ahead with a review would allow Council to consider other changes like adding more Councillors or staff, which could result in building, technology, and governance changes. The cost for this option is estimated at $200,000.

Comparing to other cities is difficult, but the report notes that Calgary has 14 wards, Ottawa has 23, and Toronto has 44. Vancouver doesn’t have wards and instead has 10 Councillors at large.

If Council wishes to make changes to the Ward Boundaries and Council Composition Bylaw (15142) they need to do so by April 18, 2017 in order to have it passed at least 180 days before the general election as required by the MGA.

104 Avenue Corridor Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP)

The 104 Avenue Corridor ARP is going to Council on Monday.

104 avenue corridor

This is a big item that you’ve probably been hearing about, especially if you live in Oliver where a series of open houses were held, as well as meetings with community leagues, businesses, and others.

“The 104 Avenue Corridor Area Redevelopment Plan provides a holistic vision and framework of policies and initiatives for the transformation and integration of the 104 Avenue Corridor into a transit supportive, sustainable community.”

The plan covers the area between 111 Street and 123 Street and is important because that is the future alignment for the west leg of the Valley Line LRT. You can read the final version of the ARP and learn more about the project here.

2016-2018 Operating Budget Guidelines

Work continues on the 2016-2018 Operating Budget, but this report had a few things I found particularly interesting:

  • Population growth rates for Edmonton are estimated at: 1.9% for 2016, 2.4% for 2017, and 2.6% for 2018.
  • The consumer price index increase is estimated at: 2% for 2016, 2.2% for 2017, and 2.2% for 2018.
  • Maintaining current services would result in a general tax increase of: 3.5% in 2016, 3.7% in 2017, and 3.6% in 2018.
  • Including the Neighbourhood Renewal Program and Valley Line LRT funding requirements, the forecasted tax levy increase would be: 6.0% in 2016, 6.1% in 2017, and 5.9% in 2018.

The City will be updating the City Budget microsite with more information as the operating budget is developed, so stay tuned. They’re also planning to “go to the people” for public engagement on the budget, rather than simply hosting their own open houses.

Committee recommendations

Here are some recommendations from Council’s committees that will be voted on this week worth highlighting:

Other interesting items

  • A rezoning for the North by Lamb Development tower is on the agenda for the public hearing. The rezoning would accommodate a 123 metre high tower (approximately 37 storeys) at 10160 106 Street.
  • The City is researching what other cities in Canada are doing with respect to Enterprise Risk Management. “It appears that Edmonton is a leader in its Enterprise Risk Management efforts,” says the report.
  • Council has been told to expect The Way Ahead Progress Report 2014 in September. That report will provide “an account of how well the City is meeting its goals and corporate outcomes.” Administration also says the Citizen Dashboard reports performance, though only 4 of the 26 corporate outcome measures are included. The rest are expected to be added after the Progress Report is released in September.
  • Bylaw 17233 will amend the parking bylaw (5590) to allow pay-by-plate parking, which the City is rolling out under the name EPark.
  • The 2016-2018 business plans for Waste Management Utility and Drainage Services are now available.

Private Reports & Motions Pending

There are seven private reports on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, covering some very interesting topics. For instance, Council is slated to hear about Valley Line LRT expropriation, an update on the City Charter, and a major event hosting opportunity.

There’s also a motion pending from Councillor Oshry called 95 Avenue Bike Lane Removal.

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: May 18-22, 2015

With the provincial election and other things on the go, I haven’t posted a Council update in a couple weeks! Below I’ll cover what’s coming up next week, plus a few notes about what Council has been up to over the last couple of weeks. You can find my previous roundups here.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

May 4-8, 2015

Council started the week with a Community Services Committee meeting. Here are the highlights:

On Tuesday they held an Executive Committee meeting. Here are the highlights:

And finally on Wednesday they held a Transportation Committee meeting. Here are the highlights:

May 11-15, 2015

This was a fairly light week in terms of meetings. There was an LRT Governance Board meeting on Monday which focused on private updates for the Valley Line LRT project. And on Wednesday there was an Executive Committee meeting that focused on two 2016-2018 business plans: Office of the City Manager, and Sustainable Development.

Wednesday May 18, 2015

With Monday, May 18 being Victoria Day and thus a long weekend, Council has an abbreviated week coming up with just two meetings, both scheduled for Wednesday. Council will start with a special Community Services meeting in the morning, followed by a City Council meeting in the afternoon. The agendas are both short, with just three items total.

2016-2018 Edmonton Police Service Business Plan

This draft business plan is another step on the way to finalizing the 2016-2018 Operating Budget. The City says it serves three objectives:

  • It is a decision-making tool designed to assist the Edmonton Police Commission and City Council with the 2016-2018 Operating Budget.
  • It is a high level business planning tool for the Edmonton Police Service to focus on future critical resource planning and allocation.
  • This plan sets out for each Bureau the major activities planned, their alignment to the strategic goals of the Edmonton Police Service and the expected performance measures.

The document is 92 pages long and outlines goals, measures, risks, and financial impacts for the entire service and for each of its bureaus. Here is what the organizational structure looks like:

Here are some of the performance measures identified:

  • Reduce Edmonton’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) by 2.0 points annually from a benchmark of 93.34 in 2013.
  • Achieve annual reductions in the four violent crime indicators (homicide, sexual assault, assault, robbery).
  • Achieve annual reductions in social disorder incidents, which are composed of 17 specific disorder-type events like mischief or prostitution.
  • Achieve 5% annual increase in Domestic Offender Management Checks from 2014 levels.
  • Achieve 2% annual increase in Domestic Violence Victim Interventions from 2014 levels.
  • Achieve annual reductions in the four property crime indicators (break & enter, theft from vehicle, theft of vehicle, theft over $5,000).
  • Achieve 2% annual decrease in traffic corridor/intersection collisions.
  • Achieve annual increases in gang disruptions from 2015 levels.
  • Achieve 43% weighted clearance rate or greater.
  • Respond to 80% or more of priority 1 events within 7 minutes.
  • Dedicate 25% or more of patrol shift work to prevention, intervention, or suppression based activities.
  • Conclude 75% or more of public complaints investigations within 6 months.

For the 2016-2018 period, EPS has identified the following major challenges:

  • Violence Reduction – “As detailed in the Violence Reduction Strategy, this goal is directly related to reducing crime and victimization and promoting investigative excellence through prevention, intervention or suppression activities.”
  • General Growth of Edmonton – “Continuing growth in all areas of the city is expected with the approval of three new area structure plans (Horse Hill, Riverview and Decoteau), the development of other new neighbourhoods and mature neighbourhood redevelopment.”
  • Revitalization of Downtown Edmonton – “Significant projects in the Downtown area are attracting people to live, work and play downtown. A safe, secure place for the public to interact and enjoy these new amenities is important.”
  • Potential Annexation – “The EPS will take on significant new responsibilities and challenges including policing highways 2 and 19 and the international airport. To police these adequately, the EPS will need to increase overall sworn member strength and begin recruitment approximately 20 months prior to annexation. Information provided to the EPS from City Administration is that annexation is now anticipated to occur as early as 2018. An initial ask for 60 sworn resources is therefore anticipated for 2018.”

While the business plan does highlight that “the current fiscal situation of the Province of Alberta is sub-optimal” it doesn’t say enough about the downloading of responsibilities from other orders of government onto EPS, in my opinion. Aside from a few bullet points, there’s just this:

“Decisions made by other orders of government on social policy and funding social programs have a direct and measurable effect on police resources. Of note are program changes or cuts related to mental illness, addictions, homelessness and other vulnerable populations.”

I wish they would have quantified that to some degree. It’s often mentioned by Council as a challenge, but there’s rarely any data presented to back it up.

In terms of financials, EPS anticipates growing from 2419.5 FTEs in 2015 to 2517.0 FTEs in 2018. The net operating requirement is expected to grow from about $280 million in 2015 to $302.6 million in 2018.

City Charter

This item is a private report, so there’s nothing I can point you to for further reading. That said, we know that city charters will be a big topic of discussion for our new provincial NDP government. They committed to incorporating charters as an option in the MGA by the end of 2016. “Alberta’s NDP will support charters as a new legislative framework within the Municipal Government Act to provide greater responsibilities for those municipalities wishing to choose such responsibilities for themselves and their citizens.”

Mayor Iveson said last week that having Rachel Notley and the NDP leading the Province provides “a great opportunity to move ahead” with initiatives like the city charter.

Northlands Update

I’m not sure exactly what this update is about, but I suspect it’s related to the recent news that the Northlands Board of Directors has accepted the recommendations of the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee (NASC). City Council will need to be involved and supportive of whatever plan the Northlands management team ultimately puts in place before September 2016, and with the acceptance of the NASC report, Council will now have clarity about what’s on the table.

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: April 27 – May 1, 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. You can find my previous roundups here.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, April 27, 2015

Council will start the week with the regularly scheduled public hearing beginning at 1:30pm. There are eight bylaws on the agenda.

Buena Vista Apartment Redevelopment

Bylaws 17177 and 17178 deal with the Buena Vista building east of 124 Street NW and south of 102 Avenue NW in Oliver. Edgar Development Corporation has proposed an 85 meter (approximately 26 storeys) mixed-use residential tower, with commercial/retail uses at street level. The building would contain 240 dwelling units and with four levels of underground parking, approximately 229 parking stalls.

The developer is committed to maintaining the three historic facades on the north, south, and west. Together these two bylaws allow for the dismantling and reassembling of the facades and rezone the site from CB1 to DC1 to enable the development to move ahead.

You can learn more about the history of the Buena Vista Building here.

Glenora Blue and Breakfast
Glenora Blue and Breakfast, photo by Dave Sutherland

Here’s a brief overview of the other six bylaws:

  • Bylaws 17173, 17174, and 17175 deal with proposed rezonings in Rosenthal. Some AG-zoned (Agricultural Zone) land is going to be rezoned to RF4/RF5 (semi-detached and row housing) and to RSL (Rsidential Small Lot Zone)
  • Bylaw 17172 would rezone the property at 11312 119 Street NW in Prince Rupert to IB (Industrial Business) from IM (Medium Industrial).
  • Bylaw 17171 would extend the DC2 provisions currently in effect in Griesbach (west of 97 Street NW and south of 153 Avenue NW) until 20125.
  • Bylaw 17139 would rezone the property at 3810 111 Avenue NW in Beverly Heights from RF1 to RF2. The proposed rezoning supports The Way We Grow by “encouraging infill, promoting family oriented housing and walkability, and by optimizing the use of existing infrastructure.”
  • Bylaw 17177 would allow for the development of a mixed-use high rise building east of 124 Street NW and south of 102 Avenue NW in Oliver. This is the Buena Vista building.
  • Bylaw 17178 would rezone the land from CB1 and DC1 and would allow for the dismantling and reassembling of the north, south, and west facades of the Buena Vista building.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting scheduled to take all day Tuesday. There are 10 public reports, 22 bylaws, 2 motions pending, and 4 private reports on the agenda. Looks like a full agenda. Here are a few highlights:

Make Something Edmonton Update

This item was meant to be discussed at the April 14 Council meeting but it was postponed along with Councillor Oshry’s motion on our city’s entrance signs. I wrote a couple weeks ago about the history of Edmonton’s entrance signs and also about the signs & slogans debate. I plan to share some additional thoughts on Make Something Edmonton in the next few days.

Committee Reports

There are 9 Committee reports that were all recently discussed at one of the four committees and have been referred to Council, usually with a recommendation for approval. They are:

Bylaws

There are 22 bylaws on the agenda. Here are a few I wanted to highlight:

  • Bylaw 17103 – 2015 Property Tax and Supplementary Property Tax Bylaw (report not yet available)
  • Bylaw 17129 – This bylaw would designate McKay Avenue School as a Municipal Historic Resource as Council directed back in January.
  • Bylaw 17130 – This would designate the 1881 School as a Municipal Historic Resource as well.
  • Bylaws 17168, 17169, and 17170 deal with the 2015 CRL Rate for the Belvedere, Quarters, and Downtown CRL projects.
  • Bylaw 17196 – This bylaw would amend the Animal Licensing and Control Bylaw to formalize the licensing process for urban beekeeping.

Honey Bee
Honey Bee, photo by Bill Burris

Private Reports

As mentioned there are 4 private reports on the agenda this time. Council will be receiving updates on:

  • Greys Paper Recycling Facility – Follow-up Information
  • Top of Bank Update – Verbal Report
  • Civic Agencies Appointments – Externally-Nominated Representatives
  • Appointment Recommendation – Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton Committee

Motions Pending

There are two motions pending:

  • Amendment to Bylaw 12408 – Non-Profit Community Organizations Exemption Bylaw (Councillor McKeen)
  • Entrance Signs Removal (Councillor Oshry)

One report, The Way We Finance – Electrical Franchise Fee Charges, has been given a revised due date of July 7.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Wednesday Council is holding a special meeting to discuss the Community Energy Transition Strategy, which was postponed from the March 17, 2015 meeting.

The strategy calls energy transition “the golden opportunity of our age” and says that “few places are better positioned than Edmonton in terms of knowledge, experience, and financial capacity to lead and excel in this area.”

There are 11 strategic actions, 7 opportunity areas, 45 focus areas, and 10 community scale programs. Targets include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2035 (compared to 2005 levels), reducing energy consumption by 25% per person by 2035 (compared to 2009 levels), and generating 10% of Edmonton’s energy locally by 2035.

I wrote more about the strategy here and Graham and I discussed it on a recent episode of our podcast too.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The next Utility Committee meeting will take place on Thursday. There are six reports on the agenda.

Analysis of Ratio of In-House Work to External Consultants

This report seeks to clarify the use of external consultants in the 2015 Utilities budget. Drainage Services allocated $72.092 million for External Services, 12% of which is to be spent on engineering consultants with the remainder spent on contractors and suppliers. The report says that in-house design staff generally work on long-term programs and that external consultants are used “primarily because of their specialized knowledge and to supplement in-house resources during periods of high demand.” Futhermore, the report states that external consultants “are important agents in developing and transferring technology for the use and benefit of society.”

historical expenditures comparison

An average of 43.7% of work, based on actuals from 2010-2014, is performed by in-house resources as the table above shows. The report says that Administration will continue using both in-house resources and external consultants “based on the needs and requirements of the capital programs to ensure effective and efficient delivery.”

2014 Waste Management Utility & Drainage Services Utility Annual Reports

These two reports provide an update on the business and financial performance of the Waste Management and Drainage Services utilities for the year ending December 31, 2014. A couple of highlights:

  • Waste Management collected waste from more than 358,000 residential dwellings, serviced more than 1000 non-residential customers, processed close to 475,000 tonnes of waste and recyclable materials at the Waste Management Centre, and interacted with more than 22,000 residents through tours and presentations at the facility.
  • Drainage Services replaced 7 forcemains and refurbished 6 others, completed 821 home inspections in the Flood Proofing Program, repaired or replaced 6,000 manholes and catch basins, and achieved a 14.4% increase in new service connections.

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Coming up at City Council: April 20-24, 2015

If you haven’t watched or listened to Council on the Web recently, you’ll be happy to know they have made some improvements! They are no longer using Windows Media Player. I’m not really sure why they decided to replace it with Flash though. Oh well, they have mobile-friendly (HTML5) streams too.

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, April 20, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Community Services Committee meeting scheduled from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are eight reports on the agenda, plus one response to an inquiry from Councillor Esslinger. Here’s what caught my eye:

Comparison of Policing Costs

Comparing the cost of policing across municipalities is difficult because they all have different services, funding sources, and reporting approaches. Still, EPS has attempted to provide some comparison in this report. They surveyed Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal and received responses from Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, and Toronto. Here’s what they found after trying to account for differences between the agencies:

Comparison Cost Per Capita – Tax Levy Cost Per Capita – Gross Expenditures
Edmonton vs. Regina (2015) $317 vs. $352 $405 vs. $398
Edmonton vs. Winnipeg (2014) $314 vs. $305 $387 vs. $367
Edmonton vs. Calgary (2015) $317 vs. $291 $396 vs. $365
Edmonton vs. Toronto (2015) $317 vs. $366 $413 vs. $407

Gross Expenditures refers to the annual Operating Budget before applying Revenues. Tax Levy refers to the Operating Budget after the application of Revenues.

They also compared the Cost per Authorized Employee:

eps comparison

Here’s a comparison of Staff per 100,000 Population Ratio:

eps comparison

And here’s a comparison of the percentage of budget spent on support services:

eps comparison

There is no summary or concluding remarks in the report. Just the data.

Winspear Centre Staged Funding Agreement & Parking Solution

The current Winspear Centre was built in 1997 and they’re ready for expansion. Plans call for two main components:

  1. $53 million towards a new 540 seat acoustic hall theatre, six multipurpose rooms, and commercial space
  2. $25 million towards a new 380-stall automated robotic parking system

If funded, the expansion would be complete by 2019. Here’s where they expect the funding to come from:

  • $13 million from each of the three orders of government for a total of $39 million
  • $14 million from fundraising
  • $25 million for the parking system in debt financing

So far the City has already approved $3.75 million for the project. The additional $9.25 million will still need to be approved, and could come from the Downtown CRL, the 2015-2018 Spring Capital Budget Update, or the Community Facility Partner Capital Grant Program.

The City anticipates bringing forward a capital budget profile in June.

Single-Use Recreation Fees

The City’s current recreation membership fees are organized into three tiers: facility (access to 13 smaller facilities), facility plus (access to the 13 smaller facilities plus Kinsmen and Commonwealth), and all facility. If you want to get access to the newest facilities, like Terwillegar, Clareview, or The Meadows, you either pay per use or you need to pay for the highest tier. Now the City is looking at the possibility of introducing a membership fee for use at a single facility.

A single-use pass would reduce revenue for the City but could make it more affordable for some citizens to access recreation facilities, which would be positive for health and wellness outcomes. I’m not sure if Council will take any action on this (there’s no recommendation) but my guess is that the fee structure will remain the same.

Other

Councillor Esslinger’s inquiry was made in January and is about the review of off-leash dog parks. Administration is doing that review now and expects public consultation to begin in May.

Here are some of the other reports on the agenda:

One report, on options for prohibiting smoking at all outdoor City-owned recreation facilities, parks, and attractions, has been given a revised date of June 29.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Tuesday, the next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are ten public reports on the agenda, plus three private reports. Here’s what caught my eye:

IT Composite Profiles

This report provides an overview of the 2015-2018 IT composite profiles and funded IT investment initiatives. Here are some of the highlights:

  • For 2015-2018, $73.2 million has been allocated to IT in five profiles, three for renewal and two for growth. This represents approximately 1.6% of the total approved capital budget.
  • Additionally, IT funding of $31.6 million was approved for the Edmonton Police Service and $5.6 million was approved for the Edmonton Public Library.
  • The IT Infrastructure Renewal profile “maintains over 15,000 devices, two petabytes of storage and 100 kilometers of network cable.”
  • The total replacement value of IT infrastructure assets is $55 million.
  • There are five key Enterprise Applications utilized across the City: POSSE, PeopleSoft, SAP, TACS, and Geospatial (SLIM and Microstation).
  • The total replacement value of Enterprise Applications is $189 million.
  • The City has a current inventory of 145 business unit applications with a replacement value of $132 million.

Progress updates will now be included in quarterly capital financial reports, the next of which will be presented to Council in June/July.

2016-2018 Financial Services and Utilities Department & Branch Business Plan

You may recall that all City branches and departments are going to be submitting updated business plans as part of the implementation plan for The Way Ahead. This one is for the Financial Services and Utilities branch which consists of five departments: Assessment and Taxation, Corporate Strategic Planning, Financial Services, Drainage Services, and Waste Management Services (business plans for the latter two will be presented at a future Utility Committee meeting).

The business plan serves three objectives, according to the report:

  1. it is a decision-making tool to aid City Council during the 2016-2018 operating budget deliberations for the City of Edmonton
  2. it is a tactical business planning tool for Administration to remain focused through future resource planning and allocation
  3. the business plans set out the work each branch will carry out over the next three years showing the relationships to strategic priorities and expectations including performance measures

Based on feedback from Council, the City will further refine and finalize the business plans. The final plans will help in the development of the 2016-2018 Operating Budget.

Pattison Outdoor Advertising Outline Agreement

Last year, following an open RFP process, the City entered into a 10 year agreement (January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2024) with Pattison Outdoor Advertising for advertising space on the transit system. The agreement provides Pattison with the exclusive right to sell ad space on buses, LRTs, and transit centres.

The City needs to buy space for its own ads, and that has averaged $580,000 per year over the last three years. Administration intends to spend about $500,000 per year going forward, and the outline agreement is intended to provide “an efficient approach” that allows the City to negotiate for the best possible advertising rates.

Other

Here are a few notes on some of the other reports:

The two private reports are a verbal update on the purchase and sale of land in the Quarters, the settlement of expropriation claims in Blatchford, and an update on the Vehicle for Hire program.

The following reports have been given revised due dates:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The next Transportation Committee meeting takes place on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are nine reports on the agenda, plus two responses to Councillor inquiries. This one is going to be interesting!

102 Avenue Bridge Replacement Project Update

Missed opportunity here, they should have called this report “Update on GirderGate!” There’s a lot of other information here, but that’s really want Council will want an update on.

Here’s where the project is at:

“The current status of the 102 Avenue project is that the girders now in place are currently being assessed. Until this review is complete the impacts to the project completion timeline are not fully known. The 3 week delay for stabilization of the girders to the project will impact the planned opening date however the exact delay is currently not known until completion of the girder assessments.”

The City has looked at some options to try to minimize the impact of project delays on commuting traffic and businesses:

  • They considered a temporary lane reversal system along Stony Plain Road (3 lanes in direction of peak flow, 1 in the opposite direction) but as it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, it is not being recommended.
  • They are considering dedicated tow truck operations for the area, which could cost $500 to $1000 per day.
  • Vacant lots west of 124 Street and north of Stony Plain Road could be leased by the City to offset parking meter bans. They applied for this, but a local business owner successfully filed an appeal, so this is on hold until at least August 2015.

We’ll have to wait for future updates to understand just how far back the opening date has to be pushed.

Low Income Transit Pass Pilot

This report provides an update on the potential for a low income transit pass. The Edmonton Transit Advisory Board recommended a $35.00 per month pass, which would replace the existing AISH pass. Here are the details of the City’s report:

  • Applicants would need to be residents of Edmonton and would need to meet one of the following criteria: household income below the LICO figures, recent immigrants to Canada who have lived here for less than a year, children under government care, recipients of AISH.
  • ETS estimates that a low income transit pass would result in sales of 19,000 and 20,000 per month, which includes the 4,800 AISH passes currently sold per month.
  • ETS also estimates that total ridership would increase by 1 to 1.3 million trips per year. In total, low income pass purchasers are expected to make 9.5 million trips per year.
  • Although revenue generated from new ridership is anticipated to be between $1.1 million and $1.4 million, it is offset by anticipated losses in revenue from existing riders paying less than they do now of between $3 million and $7.5 million, depending on the price of the low income pass.
  • Full implementation of a pilot project would cost $1 million annually.
  • At a 35% discount, the estimated tax levy impact would be $3.7 million. At a 50% discount, it would be $6.4 million. And at a 60% discount, it would be $8.5 million.

The report also touches on the work of EndPovertyEdmonton, and notes that it recognizes that “accessible, affordable transit plays a key role in ensuring all Edmontonians have equal access and opportunity to jobs, services and travel in our city.”

West Edmonton Mall Transit Centre Options

This report outlines options for temporary enhancement, refurbishment, or replacement of the West Edmonton Mall Transit Centre taking into consideration the Valley Line LRT expansion. Built in the early 1980s, the current transit centre building is “nearing the end of its useful life” and is “no longer able to adequately support the operational needs” of the transit centre.

Here’s an overview of the four options:

  1. Temporary Enhancement – This option would include repairs and some replacements for things like doors, but would not change the look of the building. It would cost between $300,000 and $500,000 for the next four years, after which the building would need to be refurbished or replaced.
  2. Refurbishment – This option would basically retain the bones but would give the building a modern look, complete with upgrades to major systems. This should extend the life of the building by 10-15 years but at a cost of $3 million.
  3. Full Renewal – This option would demolish the existing building and replace it with a new one. The risk is that the Valley Line LRT is only in the preliminary design stages so things could change. The cost would be $4.4 million.
  4. Modular Shelter – This option would demolish the existing building and replace it with a shelter similar to what is currently at the Jasper Place Transit Centre. The estimated life of the shelter would be 20-25 years and it could cost around $3 million.

The recommendation is to go with the Refurbishment option which the report says will provide better value than the full rebuild.

Other

The two responses to Councillor inquiries are as follows:

  • Councillor Nickel made an inquiry in October 2014 about the 97 Street on-street bike route between 34 Avenue and 63 Avenue. The report states that since 2009, “73 kilometers of on-street bike routes have been constructed in Edmonton” which brings the total on-street network to 79 km. The report provides history and context, and also costs involved with relocating the 97 Street bike route.
  • Councillor Gibbons made an inquiry in August 2013 about the potential of having bike lanes along utility corridors (power lines and pipelines). The report says that shared-use paths “are an important part of an integrated bicycle network along with on-street routes.”

Some of the other reports include:

And a bunch of reports have been given revised due dates:

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.

Coming up at City Council: April 13-17, 2015

With the Easter break behind us, Council is back in session 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. You can find my previous roundups here.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, April 13, 2015

Council will start the week with item 7.2 from the March 16 meeting, actually. Bylaw 17116 deals with elimination location-based restrictions for Garage and Garden Suites, and enables RF1 sites to be subdivided into narrower lots, as narrow as 7.6 metres wide.

After they have dealt with that item in the morning, they’ll begin the regularly scheduled public hearing at 1:30pm. Most of the bylaws deal with minor rezoning to allow for infill development. Here are a few of the items that I wanted to highlight:

Bylaw 17151 – Text Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw

This proposed amendment is intended to streamline the process for the development of paths and trails within the river valley by removing the requirement for a development permit for paths and trails that Council has deemed essential. The whole idea here is that the City and River Valley Alliance want to move forward with their plans for a connected river valley park, and they don’t want the process to be held up in permitting. There would still be “adequate environmental review” however.

Bylaw 17142 – Development of a public park in Kernohan

Can you ever have too many public parks? Not really! This bylaw would rezone the properties at 303, 311, and 551 Clareview Road NW from CS1 and CS2 to AP to allow for the development of a new public park. These properties were originally zoned for Public Parks (AP) but were set aside to support First Place development.

Bylaw 17148 – Closure of a portion of 153 Avenue NW

This bylaw will be considered along with Bylaw 17150 and proposes to close 153 Avenue NW east of 13 Street NW in Fraser. The closed area would be consolidated with the adjacent property to make way for single detached housing. There is a 153 Avenue realignment coming in October 2016, which is when the closure would take place.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. There are 20 public reports, 8 bylaws, 2 motions pending, and 9 private reports on the agenda. It’s going to be a busy one! Here are a few highlights:

Make Something Edmonton Update

With this report, Council will receive an update on Make Something Edmonton. The key update is that the committee is now formalizing its approach to creating a community-led place brand. What does that mean?

“The activities and personalities of ‘makers’ inspired a set of statements of encouragement, or brand promises, that Make Something Edmonton believes truly represent the community identity of Edmonton.”

Basically all of the feel-good aspects of MSE are being written down and visualized in the hope that others will adopt some or all of it. Every Councillor has received a copy of the brand guidebook which “outlines how individuals and organizations can express the Edmonton brand in their own marketing and communications efforts.” For instance, with statements of encouragement:

Statements of Encouragement

I’ll have more on this in a separate post before next week’s meeting.

Edmonton Police Commission Recommendations on Unfunded Police Positions

This report is about an Edmonton Police Commission recommendation that the EPS Operating Budget be increased by $6.36 million, on an ongoing basis, to fund 40 FTEs for downtown revitalization. The source of funds is still to be determined.

You’ll recall that EPS had asked for 84 new positions during last year’s budget discussions, but Council agreed to fund only 35 of them. Now the Police Commission is back again with a focus on positions related to growth in the downtown area:

“The Edmonton Police Commission requests that City Council reconsider the proposal for these 40 positions during the setting of the mill rate.”

The report states that if the request is not reconsidered, the request will be brought back during the 2016-2018 budget process.

Impacts of the Bill 20 on the City of Edmonton

This report outlines the changes that are part of Bill 20, the Municipal Government Amendment Act, and the anticipated impacts on the City. Bill 20 received Royal Assent on March 30, at which time “the sections pertaining to City Charters and off-site levies came into force immediately.” Bill 20 is the first legislative piece of the ongoing MGA review, with additional amendments anticipated in the fall and the process continuing until the end of 2016.

The high level summary of impacts is as follows:

  • “Bill 20 provides the Lieutenant Governor in Council the authority to, upon request of a City, establish a charter for that City by regulation.” The report states that a charter regulation for Edmonton is “not anticipated before Fall 2015 at the earliest.”
  • “Bill 20 creates a mandatory requirement for Council to, by bylaw, prescribe a code of conduct for members of Council.”
  • “Bill 20 clarifies that an off-site levy may be imposed once for each purpose specified in the Municipal Government Act, and confirms that developers may be required to pay for public utilities that are not located on the land under development but are necessary to service the development.”
  • “Bill 20 creates a new requirement for Administration to ensure that, when information is provided to one councillor in response to an inquiry about the operation or administration of the City, the information must be provided to all members of council.”
  • “The current Municipal Government Act provides the City Manager with 30 days following the receipt of a petition to report on the sufficiency of the petition to Council. Bill 20 will increase this time period to 45 days.”
  • “The current Municipal Government Act prescribes specific requirements that must be followed when a bylaw or other City action must be advertised, such as placing advertisements in local newspapers. Bill 20 modernizes these advertising requirements by allowing the City to advertise on its website and allows the City to pass a bylaw prescribing alternate forms of advertising that are likely to ensure the advertised matter is brought to the attention of affected stakeholders.”

The overall reaction is that Bill 20 “supports City objectives” and that “no significant negative impacts are anticipated.”

Committee Reports

There are 14 Committee reports that were all recently discussed at one of the four committees and have been referred to Council with a recommendation for approval. A few that I wanted to highlight include:

  • Lewis Farms Recreation Centre Land Acquisition – That Administration proceed with Option 2 for District Park Land Acquisition (which means negotiating with the developers to defer costs and repay over time) and Option 1 for District Park Base Level Development (which means negotiating a development partnership for the park with a developer).
  • Aboriginal Day LIVE! Request for Support – That they be granted $100,000 to fund the concert and event, with funding to come from the 2015 Council Contingency.
  • Electronic Cigarettes – This item was referred to Council without a recommendation, which means it’ll likely be a pretty interesting discussion.
  • Fire Pit Enforcement Options – Same as the e-cig report.
  • EPL Board Member Extensions – That Ellen Calabrese-Amrhein, Chair of the Edmonton Public Library Board, be granted an additional one-year term from May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016 to provide consistency during the transition to a new Executive Director.
  • Canada Packers Smoke Stack – That it be designated a Municipal Historic Resource and that funding of up to $265,000 for rehabilitation of the Canada Packers Smoke Stack Reserve Fund be approved.
  • Open City Policy – That policy C581, the Open City Policy, be approved.
  • NAIT Line Transit Security – That the requested six Transit Peace Officers be funded for June to December 2015 and all of 2016, with funding from the 2015 tax levy, and that the issue return to Council for consideration when the mill rate is set.

Bylaws

There are 8 bylaws on the agenda. Here are two I wanted to highlight:

  • Bylaw 17100 – This authorizes the City to undertake, construct, and finance the Downtown CRL projects and to increase borrowing authorization by $78,178,839. This is ready for second and third reading.
  • Bylaw 17102 – This authorizes the City to borrow $304,186,000 to undertake, construct, and finance Sanitary and Stormwater Drainage projects. This is ready for second and third reading. The total cost of the projects is $536,976,000, which were approved as part of the 2015-2018 Capital Budget.

Private Reports

As mentioned there are 9 private reports on the agenda this time. Council will be receiving updates on:

  • City Manager and City Auditor Performance Evaluations
  • Civic Agency Appointment Recommendations
  • Police Helicopter Information and Analysis
  • Green Trip Funding Update
  • Walterdale Bridge Replacement Project Update
  • Inter-Municipal Update

Other

There are a couple of reports that are unavailable or that will be discussed verbally:

There’s also an extensive report to support that working session.

There are two motions pending:

  • Amendment to Bylaw 12408 – Non-Profit Community Organizations Exemption Bylaw (Councillor McKeen)
  • Entrance Signs Removal (Councillor Oshry)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Wednesday afternoon and evening the Audit Committee will meet. Here is what’s on the agenda:

Office of the City Auditor 2014 Annual Report

This report highlights the operating results and activities during 2014 for the Office of the City Auditor. It proudly notes that the City Manager agreed to take action on 100% of the recommendations made in the 2014 audit reports. The report lists 20 different projects that were completed last year.

In 2014, the Office of the City Auditor was named as a best practice audit function and a leader in performance auditing by the Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation. Only 11 municipalities in the US and Canada received the honor.

Looking ahead to 2015, the report states:

“In 2015, we will continue to focus our audits on promoting strong internal controls that result in secure, efficient, effective, and economical City operations and services. This will assist in providing assurance that taxpayer’s dollars and resources are protected and used appropriately.”

David Wiun is the current City Auditor and he is supported by a staff of 13 individuals.

Actual Numbers & Costing for the Automated Photo Enforcement Program

This report provides an up-to-date, all-in cost comparison of the estimated and actual costs of fully absorbing the Automated Photo Enforcement program into City operations from 2007 until 2014. Prior to 2007, the program was contracted out. As a result, 2007 is the benchmark year.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousands words, so here are the key charts:

audit ape table1

audit ape table2

audit ape chart

And the key conclusion from the report:

“Instead of purchasing a commercial “off-the-shelf” application as assumed in 2007, a custom software solution had to be developed at a significantly higher cost. That cost was more than 200 percent higher than the cost projected in 2007.”

“We found that the current cost per violation is marginally lower than the expected cost in 2007. However, the program took six years to achieve an actual cost per violation that was lower than the last year of fully-outsourced operations.”

There is also this response from Administration to the report:

“In conclusion, the maturation of the program is producing benefits in 2014 that have exceeded the cost performance targets originally which were initially proposed in 2007 for 2008 operations. This confirms that the decision to bring the program in-house was sound and the benefits are greater than initially projected.”

Other

  • City of Edmonton 2014 Consolidated Financial Statements – The report for this is not yet available, and Council approval is required. This is the first item of business.
  • KPMG 2014 Audit Findings Report – This is the second item of business and again, Council approval is required.
  • Proactive Audit Involvement in Capital Projects – This is a status report that looked at project management practices for the Rogers Place, Walterdale Bridge, Valley Line LRT Stage 1, and Alex Decoteau Park projects. “Overall we found that all four project teams are applying the 13 project management principles set out by the Project Management Institute.”
  • Strategic Enterprise Risk Management – This is a big report that pulls together the strategic risk registers for The Way We Green, Grow, and Prosper (work had already been done for Move and Live). Four common risks include: local impacts of economic boom and bust, resourcing, decision-making not in alignment with strategic objectives, and ineffective collaboration with partners.

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. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Edmonton City Council could have its first by-elections in 20 years

With the potential loss of two Councillors this year, Edmonton could have it’s first by-elections for City Council in more than two decades.

Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, who represents Ward 12, announced in January that he would seek the federal Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Mill Woods. He was acclaimed on February 12. You can see his campaign page here. Sohi has said he would take leave from Council during the election.

Amarjeet Sohi - Ward 12
Amarjeet Sohi, photo by Dave Cournoyer

Councillor Tony Caterina, who represents Ward 7, was named the Progressive Conservative candidate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview on March 28. He was first elected to City Council in 2007. Curiously, Caterina has said he will remain active on Council during the election, but will not draw a pay cheque.

Tony Caterina - Ward 7
Tony Caterina, photo by Dave Cournoyer

On the school board side, Sarah Hoffman is running as the Alberta NDP candidate in Edmonton-Glenora. She was elected to her second term on the Edmonton Public School Board in 2013 and stepped down as chair in January. She still holds her seat on the school board.

Sarah Hoffman - Ward G
Sarah Hoffman, photo by Dave Cournoyer

Now that we know the provincial election is taking place on May 5, a by-election for Tony Caterina and Sarah Hoffman’s seats would take place sometime before August 4 (assuming they win office). The federal election is slated to take place on October 19, so if Amarjeet Sohi were to win, a by-election for his Council seat would need to take place by January 16, 2016.

By-Election Rules

Sections 160-168 of the Municipal Government Act deal with vacancies and by-elections for councils. Here are the key points:

  • Resignations must be made in writing and given to the Chief Administrative Officer (in our case, City Manager Simon Farbrother). The resignations take effect on the date they are received.
  • The Chief Administrative Officer must report the resignation to council at the first meeting after receiving the resignation.
  • A by-election must be held to fill the vacancy unless:
    • It occurs in the 6 months before a general election, or
    • The council consists of 6 or more councillors and the vacancy occurs in the 18 months before a general election (and there’s only one) or in the 12 months before a general election and there’s enough remaining councillors to count one more than the majority
  • A by-election must take place within 90 days of a vacancy, otherwise the Minister of Municipal Affairs may order a date for one or take any other action he or she considers necessary.

The next general municipal election will take place on October 16, 2017, which is still about 30 months away, so none of the “unless” clauses apply. If any of the three mentioned above resign, a by-election would need to be held within 90 days. And since it is very unlikely that Councillor Sohi would resign before winning a seat in October, we’ll almost certainly be looking at two by-elections – one for Caterina and/or Hoffman’s seats, and another for Sohi’s seat.

The nomination and campaign periods would be set by Council following the vacancy becoming official. In practice, the City Manager would bring a report to Council to inform them of the vacancies and would make a recommendation on the nomination and election dates. The same would apply to the Public School Board, except it would be the Chief Returning Officer (Alayne Sinclair) that would bring the report.

By-Election History

Edmonton has had six by-elections in the past, the two most recent of which were for councillors making the jump to either provincial or federal politics:

  • 1907 – Morton MacAuley resigned eight months into his term and left politics.
  • 1911 – James McKinley resigned to protest the firing of two city commissioners.
  • 1912 – Herman McInnes and Charles Gowan both resigned.

julia kiniski
Julia Kiniski at a campaign meeting in 1949, courtesy of the Edmonton Archives

  • 1970 – Julia Kiniski died on October 11, 1969. She had held office since 1963, when she finally won after about a dozen previous attempts. Her son Julian won the by-election, and was the last person to be elected at-large in Edmonton as the ward system took effect in 1971.
  • 1984 – Bettie Hewes resigned after being elected as MLA for Edmonton-Gold Bar.
  • 1994 – Judy Bethel resigned after being elected as Liberal MP for Edmonton-East.

What to expect

Although Council has requested that the Minister of Municipal Affairs amend the Local Election Authorities Act to permit alternate forms of voting (which would make online voting possible) that has not yet happened and so online voting would not be an option for these by-elections.

City Clerk and Returning Officer Alayne Sinclair tells me that turnout is often even worse for by-elections than it is for general elections, so the City would try to pick a date that would maximize turnout. There would also be ample opportunity for advance voting.

With provincial and federal elections, and possibly municipal by-elections, all taking place this year, Edmontonians will be busy at the polls.

Coming up at City Council: March 23-27, 2015

It’s Committee week again and it looks like it’ll be a busy one with lots on the agenda.

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, March 23, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Community Services Committee meeting scheduled from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are thirteen reports on the agenda, plus one response to an inquiry from Councillor Knack and one private report. Here’s what caught my eye:

Urban Beekeeping Pilot Project & Bylaw Changes

This report provides an overview of the pilot project on urban beekeeping and also recommends some bylaw changes for Council’s consideration. Here’s how the pilot went:

  • Over 35 inquiries were made, but only 3 residential sites were setup. Timing and strict neighbour permission requirements are blamed for the low numbers.
  • All 3 sites successfully complied with the provisions of the pilot.
  • “The three pilot sites were managed by experienced beekeepers and conversations with enforcement staff were very positive.”
  • Just one complaint was received from a citizen, and it was about a noticeable increase in bees. Research about how to reduce bee hive impacts on neighbours will be “incorporated into an ongoing education and awareness program.”
  • Participants, neighbours, and community members were all surveyed – just one respondent indicated they did not support the idea of urban beekeeping.

A representative from Animal Control & Licensing met with the Edmonton Food Council, a meeting that I attended. We had a great discussion about the pilot and the proposed changes. The report says, “the Food Council supports the City to enabling implementation of urban beekeeping in a way that enhances the positives of beekeeping while minimizing the exposure of citizens to undue risk.”

Currently, the Animal Control & Licensing Bylaw prohibits citizens from keeping large animals (like Stampy I guess), poultry, bees, or poisonous snakes, reptiles, or insects, unless they have permission from the City Manager. The proposed amendments would allow those things if a citizen successfully obtains a license issue by the City Manager. This is not unlike needing to get a pet license for your dog or cat. The City could place terms and conditions on a license, such as the term, or the maximum number of animals that may be kept. They can investigate complaints and they can perform inspections. And of course, the license can be revoked at any time. The requirements are pretty straightforward:

  • You need to be 18 years of age or older
  • You need to pay any applicable fees
  • You need to provide all required information

A license to keep bees is proposed to be free. To get a license, you’ll need to comply with the City’s Bee Site guidelines, you’ll need to register with the Province Apiculturist and comply with the Alberta Bee Act, and you’ll need to complete a recognized beekeeping course. Guidelines include:

  • Hives can only be in the backyard, and must be at least 3 meters from a neighbouring fence line.
  • You can only have one active hive in your yard, consisting of a bottom board and hive cover with no more than four supers.
  • A fresh water source is required to minimize bees going to neighbouring properties.

This is really great to see – the guidelines are reasonable and approachable, the proposed process allows the City to take action when necessary, and the City is encouraging education and community around beekeeping.

I’m excited to see urban beekeeping moving ahead in Edmonton!

Electronic Cigarettes

Councillor Knack made an inquiry back in December about electronic cigarettes, seeking information about whether the current smoking bylaw is applicable or not. The report is very clear:

“The current City of Edmonton Smoking Bylaw does not apply to electronic cigarettes. This product does not contain tobacco and is not currently regulated under the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act or Public Places Bylaw 14614.”

There are no specific restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes. Because they are relatively new, Health Canada has not fully evaluated them and generally advises Canadians against purchasing or using them. Because of that, e-cigarettes cannot be used in AHS facilities nor inside City facilities.

Fire Pit Enforcement Options

This one is a follow-up to the discussion that took place back in November. As directed, Administration has identified “mechanisms to protect citizens from extreme nuisance impacts of neighbourhood fire pits”. They came up with three:

  • Existing Mechanisms – Rather than issue a $250 fine, officers could require a mandatory court appearance.
  • Create a Subjective Nuisance Bylaw Provision within the Community Standards Bylaw
  • Enhanced Responsive Services – This would require additional staff, and therefore, budget.

The first two would have no cost implications.

Other

Here are some of the other reports on the agenda:

Additionally, a bunch of reports have been given revised due dates, so get your calendar out and pencil in these dates if they’re of interest:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Tuesday, the next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are twelve reports on the agenda, plus one response to an inquiry from Councillor Esslinger. Here’s what caught my eye:

City Council Policy on Open City Initiative

The recommendation here is that Council approve City Policy C581, the Open City Policy. “An open city is a connected city,” the report says. “Philosophically, an open city is connected and responsive to the goals and objectives of an informed and engaged public, who in turn are partners consulted in setting the goals and objectives of the city.”

The included draft policy incorporates the five most frequently occurring suggestions from respondents to an Edmonton Insight Community survey:

  • Emphasis on citizen and community involvement in decision-making
  • Embrace openness in all City employees’ and election officals’ actions
  • Clarify how privacy will be protected
  • Specify how the City will ensure all practices and processes will adhere to Open City Principles
  • Use understandable language

The draft policy says that as an open city, “Edmonton will create opportunity for diverse input and participation, inviting Edmontonians to play a larger role in shaping the community and enabling social and economic growth.” The core commitments in the policy would have the City:

  • Manage information and data assets as a strategic resource
  • Ensure information and data are open by default and private where appropriate
  • Expand opportunities to foster a collaborative environment and engage Edmontonians to ensure municipal activities reflect community values, priorities and standards
  • Embrace technology and new business models to deliver services to Edmontonians
  • Remove barriers to access and open up new possibilities for collaboration between Edmontonians and the City
  • Work with other public and private sector organizations for the advancement of Open City principles

I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the second point (I’d rather see a separate point on privacy and not diminish the “open by default” commitment), but overall, I think this is a big step in the right direction. I expect Council will be happy with it too.

Update on Infill Progress

This report provides an update on the 23 actions identified in Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap. Here are the highlights:

  • Three of the five communications actions have been completed, including work on the website and the development of the Good Neighbour Construction Guide.
  • Three of the five collaboration actions have also been completed, including the Infill Tour and the Infill Planning Academy Course.
  • One of the three knowledge actions has been completed – the creation of a document that provides a basic understanding of drainage services in Edmonton.
  • Twp of the five rules actions have been completed (these deal with zoning changes).
  • Two of the five process actions have been completed.

Northern/Circumpolar Initiatives Secretariat

Council is considering the formation of a Northern/Circumpolar Initiatives Secretariat that could help Edmonton “achieve significant progress in the Northern/Circumpolar region through supporting and building partnerships with northern communities.” EEDC was directed to develop a business plan for the initiative, which this report includes and summarizes.

The area of influence would be the Edmonton region, but also Whitehorse and Yellowknife. The hope is that Edmonton can form partnerships with northern communities around issues like health care, education, commerce, innovation, and community development.

The idea would be to formally create the Secretariat by the end of Q2 2015. The City, EEDC, the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Alberta would provide funding and in-kind resources as partners in the initiative. Council has already approved a one-time package of $90,000 for 2015.

Other

Here are a few notes on some of the other reports:

The following reports have been given revised due dates:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The next Transportation Committee meeting takes place on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are five reports on the agenda, as well as one response to an inquiry made by Mayor Iveson.

Cell Phone and Wi-Fi Coverage in LRT Stations and Tunnels

I don’t think there’s much new here, but the report provides an update on the inquiry that Mayor Iveson made about getting connected when you ride the LRT. The City is targeting Q4 2015 for service in the tunnels. They are currently discussing the implementation of “a single co-location solution” that would allow any service provider to “connect to a common carrier supported infrastructure”. So instead of every company installing hardware, one set of gear will be installed that all will share. Can’t wait to see this roll out!

Valley Line Stage 1 Environmental Impact Screening Assessment Update

This is a pretty big report with four attachments. The recommendation to Council is to approve the Environmental Impact Screening Assessment, to approve the list and locations of Major Facilities, and to approve the upgrades for the construction access route through the west side of Louise McKinney Park.

311 Calls – Snow & Ice Complaints

This report summarizes the process for managing 311 calls received for snow and ice control operations. Improvements for managing these calls have been made and more are planned. For instance, revised scripts reduced the ratio of calls being referred to Roadway Maintenance from 63% to 49%.

For the 2013-2014 season there was a total of 47,779 calls, and that decreased to just 22,186 in the 2014-2015 season. The report says that 82.7% of notifications are closed within 5 business days, which is an improvement from 53.8% last time.

You can see snow & ice maintenance calls into 311 using the 311 Data Explorer.

NAIT Line Transit Security

Since 2011, ETS says it has seen a 17% increase in security-related files due to rapid ridership growth “without a proportionate increase in Transit Peace Officer staffing levels.” In order to “maintain the reputation of Edmonton Transit as a safe, secure and welcoming system” with the activation of the Metro Line to NAIT another six Transit Peace Officers will be required.

The report also notes than the Metro Line presents “unique security challenges” due to its proximity to the downtown arena and entertainment district. And though the Transit and Police Partnership Team pilot project has been positive, it also demonstrated the need for more security as a total of 140 arrests, 450 warrant executions, and 329 ticket violations were generated in a five month period.

Alternatives to adding new Transit Peace Officers include sticking with the status quo, engaging police, or hiring private security. The cost for wages, benefits, equipment, and training for six Transit Peace Officers from June to December 2015 is $354,000 and $607,000 for 2016.

Other

The other reports include:

And a bunch of reports have been given revised due dates:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Executive Committee is meeting again on Thursday afternoon. There’s just one item on the agenda, and it’s a private, verbal report: Civic Agencies Recruitment – Applicant Interviews. This is a continuation of an ongoing item.

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.