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.

EndPoverty Edmonton recognizes volunteers and moves closer to finalizing its strategy

When I last wrote about EndPoverty Edmonton, the task force had formed a series of working groups tasked with generating recommendations that would form the basis of a strategy to end poverty in Edmonton. Now five months later, after countless hours of hard work from hundreds of volunteers, the strategy is inching toward completion.

EndPoverty Edmonton is a task force chaired by Mayor Don Iveson and Bishop Jane Alexander and is composed of 18 leaders and stakeholders representing a broad array of communities. The vision is to eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation (roughly 30 years according to the OECD definition) and the task force’s mandate is to develop a long-term plan to achieve that vision.

Volunteer Appreciation

Last week, Mayor Iveson and the City staff working on the project hosted a volunteer appreciation event. “It’s so encouraging to see how many people stepped forward to help,” Mayor Iveson said. “Thanks for caring and wanting to make a difference for your fellow citizens.”

Over 200 volunteers contributed to 7 working groups, 2 round tables, and a few other subcommittees of the task force. Most groups met at least once a month from September 2014 through March 2015, and sometimes they met much more frequently than that. Countless hours were put in to help develop the recommendations required to construct the strategy.

The mayor acknowledged that although the structure and timescale that was imposed was difficult, it was important to maintain momentum, and seemed happy that that had been more or less achieved. He admitted that he’s not sure what EndPoverty Edmonton will look like after the strategy is finalized, but said that multiple options and models are being considered.

The goal now is to build a movement and the challenge is to figure out how to sustain it for a generation. “We have mugs now so we’re an official thing!” he joked. Everyone got to take one home at the end of the night. They won’t make a movement, but they can help to spark the conversation, we were told.

EndPoverty Edmonton

Toward the end of his remarks, Mayor Iveson talked about the TRC recommendations and The Walrus Talks Aboriginal City event from a couple months ago. He shared some thoughts on treaties, on what the Cree word for poverty means (it doesn’t talk about money), and on Canada being “an unfinished country” before joking that he didn’t mean to deliver his nation building speech. I thought the question he posed was entirely appropriate though: “What would it look like if we set out to build a city that lives and breathes the treaty spirit?”

The parting message to volunteers was to stay involved, as ambassadors if nothing else.

Recommendations

The working groups and round tables generated approximately 80 recommendations with over 400 actions. These were presented to the task force in March, and over the last few months they narrowed the list to 59 recommendations by combining similar ones and reworking others. To give you a sense of what the recommendations look like, here are a few selected at random:

  • Establish an Aboriginal Culture and Wellness Center
  • The City of Edmonton should ensure the design of transportation modes and access for citizens from all walks of life to basic services within inclusive Edmonton neighbourhoods
  • Improve income security as a pivotal factor for achieving good health and wellness
  • Improve timely access to a range of preventative-oriented mental health and wellness services
  • Grow entrepreneurship initiatives to build sustainable livelihoods and assets
  • Spearhead a “Make Something Inclusive Edmonton” movement of public space that create opportunities to inspire caring relationships, mutual sharing and learning among community members

Earlier this month, the number of recommendations was further reduced at a two-day facilitated event for task force members. They established criteria, priorities, and categorizations for the recommendations to help narrow the list down to just the most critical ones. For criteria, they considered:

  • Upstream/prevention
  • Impact on vulnerable populations
  • Foundational/sustainable change
  • Ripple effect
  • Achievable

As for priorities, they decided upon two types: “must do” and “why not?” They further categorized these as recommendations that fall within the mandate of the City of Edmonton, recommendations that the City will lead along with other stakeholders, and recommendations that belong with the broader movement.

In the end, 26 priority recommendations were identified and they are expected to go into the strategy that Council will consider in the fall. Half of these are considered “must do” while the other half are “why nots”. The list could still change in the end, but it feels like the task force is very close to finalizing it.

At the volunteer appreciation event, Mayor Iveson made a point of reassuring everyone that “the detail is not lost” and that the broader list of recommendations and actions has simply been parked for now and will become critical again as we get into implementation. He noted the importance of ensuring the work would “resonate with and have an impact on some key audiences” like policy makers and politicians.

Public Support

When Mayor Iveson first talked of elevating poverty elimination to a task force with the weight of the mayor’s office behind it, he wasn’t sure how the idea would be received. “It’s a bold goal, but we are not afraid to take it on,” he said publicly, but privately he was uncertain about announcing the task force in front of 2200 business and community leaders.

State of the City Address 2015

Of course he charged ahead, and the room expressed its strong support for the initiative. And in April, further support was identified through a benchmark survey on Edmontonians’ awareness and attitudes towards poverty. That survey found that “Edmontonians consider poverty as a significant problem in Edmonton” and that most “would like to know more about how they can contribute towards eliminating poverty.”

Though the feeling that poverty is inevitable lingers, the survey found that the majority of Edmontonians believe that poverty can be eliminated or drastically reduced. There’s also strong recognition that there’s more to poverty than just money.

Count yourself in

The biggest challenge will be turning the work of EndPoverty Edmonton into a movement that can last for a generation. In recent weeks the City along with its partners has developed some marketing material to help build toward this goal.

“Fighting poverty and social exclusion is a collective responsibility. Everyone can play a role. We encourage you to raise your voice. Join the dialogue. Show your support. Rally for change.”

A big element of this was the launch of the new website and the increase in activity on social media. Both are continuing to develop and will gain new improvements in the months ahead, but already I’ve found the Twitter account a great source of information and resources related to poverty elimination.

EndPoverty Edmonton

You can share your ideas on the website, and stay tuned for additional opportunities coming up such as a series of community conversations over the winter.

What’s next?

A two-phase approach has been adopted to take this work forward. The first phase is the approval of the strategy, which is slated to go to City Council’s Community Services Committee on September 14, followed by a full City Council meeting on September 22. The second phase would be the adopt of the implementation plan, which is expected to be complete around April 2016. In between, a series of community conversations are being planned to give Edmontonians an opportunity to learn about the plan and about what they can do to help implement it.

endpoverty edmonton

You can follow @EndPovertyYEG on Twitter, on Facebook, and you can check out the new website at endpovertyedmonton.ca.

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.

Maybe next time Elections Alberta can spend $1 million on something useful

Well there’s $1 million down the drain. Voter turnout for the 2015 provincial election here in Alberta ended up being 53.7%, down from 54.4% in 2012. The flashy ad campaign that Elections Alberta ran probably had very little impact on those numbers, if it had any impact at all. I’d wager than anger against the PCs and enchantment with the NDP’s orange crush did more to impact voter turnout than #ChooseYourAlberta did.

choose your alberta

They could have spent that money on things that would have actually, measurably impacted turnout. Like more voting stations. Or better educational resources on how to vote. Or online voting. Or, as I will argue for in this post, on a better website and on open data. Let’s start with the website.

Is a functional, reliable, up-to-date website too much to ask for in 2015?

The Elections Alberta website is an unmitigated disaster. It’s garish, uses tables for layout, and is horribly unfriendly to use on a mobile device. Worse, there’s not just one website, but many. Here are some of the subdomains I’ve come across:

There are probably others that I haven’t even found yet, too. Each of those sites has a different navigation menu even though they share a similar design, which makes them very disorienting. Worse, they change seemingly on a whim. Links are removed or change, redirects are put in place, and there is no revision history.

I suppose you could argue that we don’t have elections very often so it’s not worth putting a lot of money into the website. But I’m not talking about a fancy, complicated, expensive redesign. I’m talking about a simple, responsible, and trustworthy website that is actually useful.

I think being trustworthy is especially important. Elections Alberta is the authority on elections in Alberta – I would expect to be able to go their website to find accurate, reliable information. But it’s hard to trust a site that is constantly in flux, with information appearing for a few days and then disappearing again, or links that look like they were added almost as an afterthought.

For instance, I downloaded a list of candidates in the 2015 election in Excel format a few weeks before election day, as I was building my results dashboard. It was somewhere on the WTV site. Today that page is gone, and the WTV site redirects to results. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, I can see that a completely different site used to be there, with the link to the Excel document I had downloaded. Why remove that?

It seems they have removed nearly all of the previous information and functionality now that the election is over. Searching for your candidates has been replaced with finding your MLA. Which kind of makes sense, except that you’re on the Elections Alberta site, not the Legislative Assembly website. I expect to find election-related information at Elections Alberta, thank you very much!

A small fraction of the $1 million ad campaign budget would have gone a long way toward addressing these issues with the Elections Alberta website.

It’s time to get on board the open data bandwagon

I really like building things for elections. Whether it’s a results dashboard, a where-to-vote tool, a sign management system for a campaign, or something else entirely, I enjoy it all. These projects generally need data. Sometimes you crowdsource the data (where did volunteers drop all of the signs) but often you want official data from the election authority. In the case of the provincial election, I wanted to build a site that was useful before and after the election, with a where-to-vote feature, information on all of the candidates, and a results dashboard. I needed some data from Elections Alberta to make it happen. Here’s a rough overview of what I wanted:

  • A list of all parties (ideally with contact info)
  • A list of all candidates (ideally with contact info, their electoral district, etc.)
  • A list of all electoral districts (ideally with returning officers and other info)
  • A list of all polling stations (ideally with addresses and contact info)
  • The geographical boundary data for each electoral district
  • The geographical boundary data for each polling station
  • Results data for the 2015 election
  • Historical results data

Each of those datasets would allow me to build additional features, especially when combined with my own data. All of them are fairly straightforward in my opinion, and should be things that the authority on elections would have. Once I knew which datasets I needed, I set about finding them.

My first stop was the Alberta Open Data Portal: “The portal makes data the provincial government collects on behalf of citizens publicly available in machine readable formats with an open licence.” Like the City of Edmonton’s data catalogue, the Alberta Open Data Portal should be a one-stop shop for open data. But unfortunately, it contains no election-related data. I of course submitted a dataset request, but knew it wouldn’t be actioned in time. I still haven’t heard anything back about it.

I knew at this point that I’d have to hunt each dataset down individually, likely on the Elections Alberta site. And given what I wrote above about the website, I knew that was likely to be problematic.

As mentioned I found the list of candidates in Excel format. I also managed to find the electoral district boundary information and the polling station boundaries here. I ended up scraping nearly everything else, including the list of electoral districts. Just four days before the election, after repeated requests that went unanswered, they added an Excel document of all the polling stations (which you can see here via the Wayback Machine).

I’m pretty happy with the way the results dashboard turned out, but again it was all scraped. Instead if making a results feed available, or any kind of structured data, Elections Alberta only provides a static HTML page (which of course does not validate correctly making scraping even more difficult). Now that the election is over, I see they have added the resultsnew site, which appears to provide an option to download the results in Excel. Too little, too late.

One quick note on historical data. You can get PDFs here, but that’s pretty useless for anything other than manual lookups. I couldn’t find anything else. The only reason my results dashboard is able to show results data from 2012 is that I had saved copies of the static HTML results files that year.

This situation is untenable. Scraping data, hunting around a constantly changing website, and pleading for more complete datasets is not my idea of an open and accessible government. Open data is not a new concept, and the Province already has an open data catalogue. All Elections Alberta needs to do is make their data available inside of it.

There’s plenty of time to fix this before the next election!

I know that election time is crunch time, and that the folks at Elections Alberta were probably incredibly stressed out and constantly faced an uphill battle. And I know there are smart, dedicated Albertans who work there. Keila Johnston, Director of IT and Geomatics for Elections Alberta, was particularly helpful. But now the election is over, and I’d really like to see some positive change.

It would be an incredible shame if we got to the next election here in Alberta and found ourselves in the same position: with a website that’s out-of-date and unreliable, and a lack of open data to power new tools and experiences for voters. Elections Alberta has the talent and ability to fix both of those issues, if they prioritize it. And the best part? It shouldn’t cost $1 million to do so.

City Council endorses phased approach to Edmonton Galleria project, but many questions remain

The long-discussed Galleria project received a fresh injection of life today after Council threw its support behind a phased approach that would see the $1 billion project constructed through 2020. The item was up at Executive Committee again after last year’s request by Council to find a way to lower the risk to the City.

Galleria

The Galleria project consists of the same components today as it did then: four performing arts theatres (1600 seat theatre, 650 seat theatre/concert hall, 200 seat theatre, 200 seat recital hall); the relocation of the University of Alberta’s School of Music, Department of Art & Design, and one other department; construction of an office tower; development of a covered public galleria; and commercial and retail opportunities. The difference is that now it’s not an all or nothing proposition.

Today’s decision by Council to endorse a phased approach means the project backers can seek funding from the other orders of government. It also means in theory that certain triggers must be met before the City needs to spend any money, the first of which is agreeing to a memorandum of understanding in September and giving final approval to the City’s financial contribution.

So how much would the City be on the hook for?

“The total project costs outlined in this report that would be the responsibility of the City total $58.3 million. When factoring in interest charges on the amounts that are eligible to be borrowed for, the total expected cash expenditure for the City is estimated at $75.2 million.”

It sounds like any City money would come with strings attached too: “The release of city funds would be dependent on EDAC achieving certain milestones including the securing of a tenant in commercial/residential development with income sufficient to cover the capital and operating commitments of the Foundation.” That’s a much better approach than they took with the arena. For now they’ve approved $7.5 million for the pedway between Churchill LRT Station and the Royal Alberta Museum.

As I mentioned last year, I’m fine with the land acquisitions the City would be making. That’s probably a wise investment whether the Galleria project goes ahead or not. But there are still too many questions outstanding for me to support this project.

Provincial or Federal funding

The Galleria project is only going to move forward if funding from the other orders of government can be secured, and that’s far from guaranteed.

We saw absolutely zero interest from the PCs in supporting the project, even with Irv & Dianne Kipnes as donors, so I don’t see why the NDP would be any more likely to support it. The Provincial government has stuck to its hard line against funding the downtown arena, and I’d be surprised to see them all of a sudden come to the table on the Galleria.

On the federal side, Mayor Iveson has said that Council has received “mixed signals” and that he’d be surprised if the project could secure any federal funding at all. It has not been easy to get money out of Ottawa. Council had to agree to a P3 in order to get federal funding for the LRT, for instance.

Furthermore, the reality is that the City and specifically Council is going to have to go to bat for the project if the Province or the Feds are going to pony up anything at all. And that begs the question, is this really the project you want to burn important political capital on? Is this more important than the City Charter, LRT, poverty elimination, or any of the other significant priorities Edmonton has?

Lack of support from the Arts Community

Crickets. That’s what we’ve heard from most arts organizations about the Galleria project, at least publicly. Privately many have argued against the project, but the Kipnes are powerful enemies to attract.

A purpose-built opera house would undoubtedly be a good thing for the Edmonton Opera. It’s probably the most expensive art form in the world. For example, the Jubilee is effectively dark for about 90 nights a year to stage just 3 or 4 opera performances because of the construction and rehearsal time that each one takes. That’s a lot of lost revenue when you consider that events like “The Book of Mormon” can arrive and be setup in a day and will nearly always sell out.

Without hearing from other organizations, how can we be sure the proposed four theatres would meet the need that exists in the arts community? How much of the new Galleria space would be open and available to other arts organizations? How often would it be unavailable thanks to either opera or University of Alberta use? What costs or other requirements would go along with use?

Perhaps those details are yet to be finalized and that’s why it is difficult for arts organizations to decide whether or not to support the project. But it’s not a good sign that the arts community at large has been so quiet on the project.

Breaking up the University of Alberta

With MacEwan and NorQuest consolidating their campuses downtown, I can understand that perhaps the University of Alberta feels a little left out, but breaking up its own campus doesn’t seem like a wise move. For years it was pretty clear in all U of A long range plans that a downtown campus was not in the best interests of the university or its students. The South Campus vision was the preferred approach, allowing for a more connected campus.

There has been some vague lip service paid to the fact that being connected via the LRT to all other post secondary institutions would be a beneficial thing, but as soon as the Metro Line opens we’ll already have that. No need for a new campus.

Innovation doesn’t seem to be happening by segregation. The most interesting and powerful ideas that are changing the world are coming from interdisciplinary efforts. Why separate the arts from the science and engineering part of the university?

Furthermore, what impact would a downtown arts campus for the U of A have on MacEwan’s new Centre for Arts and Culture? Does it make sense to have two arts campuses so close to one another?

More empty space left behind

Look up and you see cranes. Look around on ground level and you’ll see a bunch of empty space.

We’re coming up on four years since the EPCOR Tower opened, the first new office tower built downtown since 1990. Originally known as “Station Lands Tower A”, the building still to this day has empty, unused space (such as the entire 16th floor where the recent downtown event was held). The other buildings that were slated to be part of the Station Lands development have never materialized.

The old EPCOR tower, rebranded First & Jasper, still has plenty of empty space, such as most of the ground level commercial. Even Edmonton’s premier downtown street, 104 Street, is home to its share of vacancies. The old Carbon space near 102 Avenue remains empty as does the old Sobey’s on the corner of Jasper Avenue, one of the most visible – and in theory attractive – locations in all of Edmonton.

All of this space is empty today, before development has really gotten underway. What will happen when the City of Edmonton offices consolidate into the new tower? Scotia Place, HSBC, Century Place, and other buildings are going to have a lot of vacancies. What about when Stantec consolidates into its new tower? All of its existing offices will need new tenants. What happens to City Centre when the new hotel and theatre open in the arena district? It’s already struggling to keep retailers.

In fact, a Cushman and Wakefield report suggests that by the end of 2017, Edmonton’s office vacancy rate could reach 17%, the highest in the country.

I’m all for getting rid of additional parking lots, but where’s the demand for yet another office tower? Especially one that needs to generate revenue to help fund the project.

Competition with the Edmonton Arena District

So far the Katz Group has been publicly supportive of the Galleria but I have no doubt that would change if their significant real estate investments came under threat. There’s simply too much money at stake.

The arena deal is done and for better or worse the Downtown CRL depends on it. So as taxpayers, we need that project to be successful. Does it really make sense to build a competitive project right next door? Another office tower to fill, with additional retail spaces that need to attract patrons? Proponents of the Galleria would argue that the project will drive significant additional traffic to the area but I find their estimates unrealistic and I’ve not see any new data that would change my mind.

Plus we’d have yet another big, open public space to program or have sit empty. Is there really a need for Churchill Square, the EAD square, and a public galleria?

A holistic decision needs to be made

I completely understand that when someone comes forward with $50 million as the philanthropists behind the Galleria project have, there’s a desire on the part of Council to leverage that money. Acquiring funding for projects is hard and having private money brought to the table is a huge help and doesn’t happen every day. But just because you come to the table with money doesn’t mean that your project should go ahead.

Galleria

Council needs to decide not only if the Galleria itself is a good project, but whether it is going to bring a positive, net benefit to downtown and to Edmonton as a whole. Does Edmonton need the Galleria right now? Will it have a positive impact, without negatively impacting the other major projects we have underway?

With so many big questions still unanswered, I remain unconvinced that Edmonton should support the Galleria project.

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.

Alberta goes orange with NDP majority and an Edmonton sweep

Tonight with more than 1.4 million votes cast, Alberta elected an NDP government making Rachel Notley our 17th premier. And to the surprise of many, the polls turned out to be pretty accurate this time. After 44 years in power, the longest unbroken run in government at the provincial or federal level in Canadian history, the PC’s reign has come to an end. They won’t even be the official opposition – although they earned more votes than the Wildrose, they won 11 fewer seats.

2N0A4028
Photo by Don Voaklander

The data in this post comes from my results dashboard. All results are unofficial until May 15 when Elections Alberta is expected to announce the final results. And it could very well change, as we have a tie currently in Calgary-Glenmore between the NDP’s Anam Kazim and the PC’s Linda Johnson.

Here’s what the seat breakdown looks like:

abvote2015 seats

The NDP won with 54, Wildrose came second with 21, and the PCs finished third with 10. And here’s what the popular vote looked like:

abvote2015 votes

We’ll have to wait to see what the final numbers are like, but voter turnout is not going to be much different than it was in 2012 at 54%. My guess is it will in the range of 53-57% when the final results are published.

The NDP won support from across the province, picking up 14 seats in Calgary, 19 in Edmonton, and 20 from other parts of Alberta. Here in Edmonton, they won every seat by no fewer than 4400 votes:

edmonton orange

That means some high profile PC members are out, including former mayor Stephen Mandel, current Minister of Human Services Heather Klimchuk, current Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, former deputy preimier Thomas Lukaszuk. Other promising individuals like businessman Chris LaBossiere never made it in. It also means that Liberal Laurie Blakeman is out, our province’s longest serving opposition MLA.

Also interesting is that the number of female MLAs has gone from less than 20 to 27. A step in the right direction.

It’s no surprise that Jim Prentice announced he would step down as leader of the PC party, but it was a shock to hear that he would resign the seat he won in Calgary-Foothills and would leave public life altogether. I can appreciate that being the public eye takes a toll, but his announcement felt incredibly selfish after all his talk of joining politics again because Alberta needed him.

This was a positive election for the Alberta Party. Not only did they roughly double their vote count from 2012, they elected their first MLA in leader Greg Clark who won in Calgary-Elbow.

Albertans have spoken and the winds of change have swept through the province. Rachel Notley and the NDP ran a solid campaign and they now have a clear mandate to govern. Congratulations to all and much respect for everyone who put their name forward as a candidate in this election.

Election Day: Where to Vote and Watch Results

Today is Election Day here in Alberta! It doesn’t take long to vote, so make sure you head down to your polling station today if you haven’t already voted in one of the advance polls. Here’s an overview of how to vote.

Where to Vote

If you need to know where to vote, you can use the tool I built here. It lets you search by address or if you’re on a mobile device in particular, just click “Locate Me” and it’ll figure out where you are. For the most accurate results, simply enter your postal code. Here’s what you’ll see:

where to vote

Once the search completes, it’ll show you the district you’re in, the candidates you can vote for, and your specific polling station (with pins for your location and for the polling station).

I had built this a week or two ago, but yesterday realized that Elections Alberta has improved their own search tool. Nice to see them making some enhancements. The main difference is that my tool has more information about candidates (such as social media links) and also has integrated results information.

Election Results Dashboard

The polls are open today from 9am until 8pm, after which we’ll see results trickle in from around the province. You can watch the results using the dashboard here. It should work well on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone!

where to vote

The dashboard shows some overview information, including the number of polls reporting and the estimated voter turnout, and a chart of votes by party. It has six other key features:

  • Party Overview – districts leading/won, total votes, vote % by party
  • Leader Races – votes for each party leader and whether or not they’re winning
  • Closest Races – districts that have the fewest number of votes separating first and second
  • Regional Races – districts leading/won by party by region
  • Most Supported – candidates who have received the most votes
  • Districts – leader, margin, polls, votes, and turnout by district

Most importantly, it’ll update automatically as soon as results come in from Elections Alberta. You don’t need to refresh the page or do anything else – just leave it open and watch the data appear!

I hope you find it useful. I’ve done quite a bit of testing with it, but do let me know if you run into any issues.

Happy Election Day!

Recap: Mayor Iveson’s 2015 State of the City Address

Nobody fills a room like our mayor, Don Iveson. He delivered his second State of the City Address on Monday in front of an absolutely packed house at the Shaw Conference Centre. Roughly 2,200 people attended the annual event hosted by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. We’re in the middle of a provincial election of course, so there were plenty of candidates in attendance yesterday and more than a few people wondering what, if anything, Mayor Iveson might say. On the topic of the provincial government, he did not tread lightly.

State of the City Address 2015

“Edmonton is too important to Alberta’s future to be ignored,” he said near the end of his remarks. “That’s why I’m confident that no matter what Albertans decide on May 5, together, you along with our City Council, will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again.”

Mayor Iveson spoke for nearly 30 minutes before getting to that point. He spelled out why Edmonton matters, he talked about the opportunities that are before us, and he consistently pointed out that we could do more if only the Province would come to the table as a partner. “I want to be clear about what partnership means to me,” he said. “It means that both parties recognize their mutual interest in achieving something great together.”

Saying that there have been “some important steps” in the city charter talks thus far, Mayor Iveson made it clear that he expects the new government to continue that work. “To abandon or shortchange the charter would be to miss the chance for Edmonton to be a true partner in building this province,” he said. On homelessness, social services, early childhood education, climate change, and infrastructure, Mayor Iveson said that “Edmonton has shown we do deliver results” and challenged the Province to “give us the responsibility and resources necessary to get to the finish line.”

If there was a theme to the mayor’s remarks, it was resiliency. He opened with a compelling story about the great flood of 1915 that left an estimated 2,000 people homeless and which devastated businesses and entire industries. “Other places in similar circumstances might have let all their hope and promise be swept away,” he said. “But not Edmonton.” His message was clear. Just as our 1915 counterparts made smart decisions for the long-term, so must we.

Though the price of oil is down and there are layoffs in Alberta, Edmonton’s economic picture is much rosier he told us. “Edmonton is weathering this downturn,” he said. Citing the “unprecedented” number of cranes in the downtown, Mayor Iveson talked about the continuing confidence here in Edmonton. Last year Edmonton became the fifth largest region in Canada, “a quiet but important milestone.”

If you’re here in Edmonton, you know these things. But others around the country and around the world do not. “It’s never been more important for us to tell a clear and consistent story about Edmonton,” he said. Yes, he mentioned Make Something Edmonton, but I think Mayor Iveson really intended for his remarks on storytelling to be one of those smart decisions for the long-term. He suggested we start talking about “Edmonton Metro” which at 1.3 million people, “will be a force to be reckoned with.” This is an evolution of the “Edmonton Region” term he started using as soon as he was sworn in as mayor. Unlike “region”, the term “metro” is distinctly urban, is cohesive, and highlights the confidence of Edmonton at its core.

State of the City Address 2015

We need more than a great story for Edmonton to continue to prosper, however. “Mass transit has the potential to transform a city in a way that few other infrastructure investments can,” Mayor Iveson said. He highlighted the federal government’s new transit building fund and said it could be great for Edmonton, “but only if our Province steps up and matches this ongoing commitment.”

He also talked about the task force to end poverty and the importance of sharing Edmonton’s prosperity with all Edmontonians. While work is well underway here, the mayor called out the Province for not taking action since unveiling the Social Policy Framework back in 2013. He talked about the Year of Reconciliation and said “we can show the way for a new vision of Canadian city that lives and breathes the treaty spirit.” He spoke about climate change and said our cities “are not prepared to deal with it.” And he said that “Edmonton can play a role in changing a conversation that has, for too long, hurt the way the world sees us.”

Mayor Iveson also had some interesting things to say about cities. “We’re the agents of change in Canada and, today, we matter more than ever,” he said. “Cities are increasingly the places where the work is getting done.” He talked about how cities “are the crossroads where resources and creativity intersect” and said nowhere is that more true than right here in Edmonton.

His core messages of resiliency and working with the Province were his focus though. “If we want to build a strong and resilient Alberta,” he said, “we need a strong and resilient Edmonton.”

State of the City Address 2015

I thought Mayor Iveson carried greater confidence through his remarks this year compared to last. The highlight of his speech last year, when he looked right at Premier Redford and called for provincial funding for the LRT, was not possible this year with the uncertain political future of Alberta so he needed to be strong throughout. He looked and sounded at ease and his delivery was much better.

It’s true that most of the things he said on Monday were similar to things he said last year. The importance of LRT, the opportunity that comes with being an Aboriginal city, the need to end poverty rather than manage it, the baby steps toward a city charter, and even the need to talk about Edmonton as the heart of the region were all things he touched on in 2014’s State of the City address. But it wasn’t the same message. I think there are two key differences. First, while last year was a bit heavy on ideas and what’s coming, this year he talked about accomplishments, like the task force to end poverty which is well underway or the Open City initiative which is already have a positive impact. Second, he focused on Edmonton’s strengths this year rather than its needs. Edmonton is resilient. Edmonton is compassionate. Edmonton gets things done.

Things are uncertain at best in Alberta right now, but Edmonton is well-positioned for now and for tomorrow. I think it was wise to take advantage of the timing, to contrast Edmonton with Alberta, and to make it clear that Edmonton can play a bigger role in helping turn things around for the whole province.

You can see a few more photos from the event 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.