Last Saturday morning I had the opportunity to sit down with Mayor Stephen Mandel and two of my fellow local bloggers (Dave, Jeff) for an informal chat. We talked about a variety of things, including a few issues that I am particularly interested in.
I asked Mandel what he thought about the conversation he had at The Learning Centre, where the biggest issue was homelessness. He admitted that he found it frustrating, because many of the people didn’t know too much about the Edmonton Homeless Commission or the plan that has been put into place. I think that illustrates how much work there is still ahead, something Mandel mentioned a few times. He said that “we need partnerships to get it done” and said there is an increasing desire from people and organizations to get involved. He noted that the plan continues to evolve, and while I think Mandel recognizes that completely ending homelessness is definitely a stretch goal, he is truly committed to making a difference.
Working With Councillors
Mandel likes to say that our current council has been quite successful at moving things forward. We asked him why, and what it’ll take to continue that momentum, and he replied that it’s about building consensus. He talked about this at a different event a couple weeks ago, and noted that councillors often do and should want to do more than just deal with ward issues. Mandel seems to want a team of thirteen that can think about Edmonton as a whole, and that can work together to progress things.
I wanted to know what Mandel thought about food security and other issues surrounding our local food system. He agreed that the Municipal Development Plan was a good start, and noted the successful push by the Greater Edmonton Alliance in helping that document evolve. He talked about our food processing industry, and said it would be good to help it expand (something others are thinking about right now too). When I asked about beekeeping or chickens within the city, he said “we need to make it possible for people to do these things” but noted that it’s a complex issue.
In the economic vision he released yesterday, Mandel pledged to pursue “a new program to accommodate and promote Edmonton’s Urban Agricultural Strategy as both a community and economic initiative.”
I asked Mandel if he had any regrets on how he handled the Danielle Smith airport issue, and he replied “absolutely not.” He was quite emphatic that he’d say the exact same thing if it were to happen today.
I think there are some incredible things happening in Edmonton related to entrepreneurship, whether it’s with Startup Edmonton, Keep Edmonton Original, or just creative people doing things. Mandel said it is important to find a way to effectively support entrepreneurs, noting that “it doesn’t even have to be that much money.” He talked about finding ways for small businesses to compete with big business for City contracts, something he mentioned in yesterday’s economic vision as well. He also brainstormed out loud that a startup fund or something like the Edmonton Arts Council for startups might be a good idea. From yesterday’s press release:
“There are leaders in this community already working to make Edmonton a hotbed for connected young creatives, engineers and entrepreneurs who can compete in a global creative economy,” says Ken Bautista, local tech entrepreneur and co-founder of next gen groups artsScene Edmonton and Startup Edmonton. “We are strong believers that under Mayor Mandel’s continued leadership and this vision, Edmonton will have the best environment for young entrepreneurs to connect, do and win in the economy of the future.”
The feeling I got from Mandel on this issue is that he sees the creative economy as very important to the future of Edmonton (indeed “creative” seems to be one of his favorite words) and that he’ll help if he can, but ultimately he doesn’t want to get in the way.
I asked Mandel about open data and the City’s Apps4Edmonton competition, and he had nothing but positive things to say about the issue. He was familiar with a few of the apps, though he admitted the app he uses most is Sudoku! I mentioned that some departments at the City seem to be hesitant about releasing data, to which Mandel replied “I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t release it. I think we should just make it all open.”
As you may know, Mandel himself hasn’t been updating the @MandelforMayor Twitter account. Paul Mennier, who leads communications for the Mandel campaign, said “it’s his words, my fingers.” Mandel told me he found Twitter “interesting” and that he’d like to explore it more after the election is done.
Development in the River Valley
I think we should explore limited development in the river valley, something Mandel agrees with. He noted that the efforts we have made so far, such as Louise McKinney Park, are not enough. The two biggest roadblocks as Mandel sees it? Proper access, and more vocal public support.
I think Stephen Mandel is the the right mayor for Edmonton for the next three years, which is why I signed this letter of support along with hundreds of other Edmontonians. I encourage you to consider voting for Stephen Mandel on Monday, October 18.