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.

Coming up at City Council: March 16-20, 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, March 16, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Public Hearing scheduled to last all day. There are 20 bylaws on the agenda. Here are some that caught my eye:

Bylaw 17011 – Adoption of The Decoteau ASP

You’ll recall that this bylaw was first considered at the February 9 meeting, where Council asked for some improvements. Here’s what has changed:

  • The net residential density of the proposed ASP has increased from 30.6 to 34.0 dwelling units per hectare.
  • An increase in the Business Employment designation is not being proposed as it would increase infrastructure costs, among other considerations. Administration says this can be further refined during the NSP phase.
  • Mapping and policies related to wetland and natural areas have been verified as providing “an accurate representation of the ecological network proposed for retention.”

This bylaw is ready for second reading only – third reading is being withheld pending review by the Capital Region Board.

Bylaw 17116 – Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw re: Garage & Garden Suites

This bylaw is meant to eliminate restrictions for Garage and Garden Suites and to enable the subdivision of sites zoned RF1 to narrower lots not less than 7.6 meters wide. These two amendments were brought to Executive Committee back on November 12 and address two actions from Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap (pdf):

  • Action 14: Create more and better opportunities for Garage and Garden Suites in established neighbourhoods by amending the Zoning Bylaw’s location criteria and Site regulations for these types of housing.
  • Action 15: Change the (RF1) Single Detached Residential zone to allow the subdivision of properties into narrower lots that are half of the average width of the other lots on the block (but not less than 25ft wide)

There are currently restrictions on where Garage and Garden Suites can be located, on the height of those structures, and on the minimum site area. The proposed amendment addresses all of these restrictions.

The second proposed amendment will allow a minimum site width for single detached housing of 7.6 meters, decreases the minimum site area for single detached housing to 250.8 m2, increases allowable site coverage for narrow lot developments to 42%, and allows the subdivision of a lot zoned RF1 to a maximum of two lots.

Public input came from the Evolving Infill consultation efforts as well as a pilot project that took place in the Prince Charles neighbourhood. The report says that “more than 1000 residents and stakeholders took part in both Evolving Infill and Garage and Garden Suite consultation.”

Bylaw 17114 – To allow for the development of Public Education Services, Allard

This bylaw is to rezone the property located at 660 Allard Boulevard SW from AP to US to accommodate the development of a public elementary school. This is being done “in conformance with the Heritage Valley Servicing Concept Design Brief and the Allard Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan.” No concerns or questions were raised as a result of the advance notice.

Bylaw 17132 – Closure of portions of 101 Street NW, 100A Street NW

This bylaw is about road closures yes, but it’s really about repurposing Fire Station 21 in Rossdale:

“On July 3, 2013, City Council approved a Community Services Committee Report that recommended, in part, that the existing Fire Station 21 be repurposed to house an active river rescue crew, provide backup service to the downtown core, house specialized apparatus, be approved as a major facility within the River Valley, and that the location of the facility within the River Valley be deemed essential and approved pursuant to section 3.5.1 of the North Saskatchewan River Valley Area Development Plan Bylaw. This road closure application is a step in the ongoing progression to achieving these recommendations.”

Apparently the station is built over several lots and road right-of-way created by “Plan Q” way back in 1893.

Other

A few others I wanted to note:

  • Bylaw 17111 is to allow a freestanding sign to be put up at 5315 127 Street NW to identify the new Eco Station.
  • Bylaws 17070 and 17071 will be considered together, and amend the Maple NSP to designate land that was being used for a cell tower to row housing as the tower has been dismantled and is no longer in operation.
  • Bylaw 17133 is an amendment to the zoning bylaw to reduce the required minimum Side Setback for garages in RF4 zoned areas from 0.9 meters to 0.6 meters, “specific to Garages where the vehicle doors face a Lane abutting the Site.” Currently constructing a detached garage for each unit of a semi-detached house would require a Class B discretionary development approval.

Tuesday & Wednesday, March 17/18, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are 14 public reports, 3 bylaws, and 3 private reports on the agenda.

Council Members’ Updates on Agency & Initiative Appointments

This report provides an update on the agencies and initiatives that the Councillors are members of. Here are some highlights:

  • AUMA’s Executive Committee will be making its annual presentation to Council’s Executive Committee on March 24.
  • The Chair and CEO of the Capital Region Board will also be presenting to Executive Committee on March 24. The CRB’s Regional Services Committee may be disbanded pending a report in August 2015.
  • The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) will hold its annual conference in Edmonton from June 5-8. The mayor will host a reception in Churchill Square after the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on June 6.
  • Edmonton will be the host city for the 2019 International Council on Alcohol, Drugs & Traffic Safety (ICADTS). The 7th Traffic Safety Conference takes place here in Edmonton from April 27-30.

Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Strategy

This report presents a draft of the strategy and will be discussed in a facilitated session on Wednesday morning. So what is a Community Energy Transition Strategy?

“Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Strategy is a risk management strategy designed to protect Edmonton’s quality-of-life (social, economic, environment) from climate and energy-related risks.”

“The strategy responds to City Council’s 10-year goal to be “the nation’s leader in setting and achieving the highest standards of environmental preservation and sustainability both in its own practices and by encouraging and enabling the practices of its partners.” Equally, it responds to Council-approved goals in The Way We Green and to corporate outcomes and measures that call for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in both City operations and the Edmonton community.”

Energy transition is about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency and conservation, ensuring our energy systems are resilient to disturbances, and positioning Edmonton to take advantage of clean energy technologies. The strategy contains:

  • A Diagnosis of the energy and climate challenges/opportunities we face globally and locally;
  • Strategic Courses of Action for addressing these challenges/opportunities in coming decades;
  • An Eight-Year Action Plan establishing the first step (2014-2017) and signaling the second step (2018-2021) of Edmonton’s energy transition journey.

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.”

To say there’s a lot to digest here would be an understatement. 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.

By 2035, Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Strategy is “expected to deliver a net present value of approximately $2.5 billion to citizens and community stakeholders.” The report argues that a City Policy is important to make this happen.

So, how much will it cost? Funding of $1.9 million a year is needed in 2016 and 2017 for startup initiatives. The programs beginning in 2018 would require another $27.5 million per year through 2021. No funding sources are identified in the report, but it does say that “additional federal, provincial, and municipal government funding will be needed to advance these initiatives.”

Communications Plan for LRT Funding Advocacy

The report isn’t available yet, but Council will be discussing how to advocate for funds for future LRT development. This item came up at the Transportation Services Committee back on February 25. As a reminder, there is roughly 32 km of the 69.7 km LRT Network Plan without funding.

Committee Reports

The Committee reports 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:

Bylaws

As mentioned, there are three bylaws on the agenda:

  • Bylaw 17005 is an amendment to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw 12300 to change the time for continuation of City Council meetings and Public Hearings. Currently they continue the next business day, but the amendment would allow Council to choose a time within the next three business days.
  • Bylaw 17128 is to decrease the borrowing authority by $9.6 million to $12.3 million for the Aurum Energy Park. This is required to enable the City to recover the actual cost of the local improvement rather than the estimated cost.
  • Bylaw 17101 increases borrowing for sidewalk reconstruction in the Hazeldean neighbourhood by $8,339 because the originally assessed area was short by 46 meters. This is a very small chunk of the $6.9 million project cost.

Private Reports

Council will receive three private reports: one is an intergovernmental update on the City Charter, and the other two deal with the performance evaluations for the City Manager and City Auditor. The 2014 performance evaluation results are time-specific at 1:30pm on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another Community Services Committee meeting has been scheduled for Thursday morning, to allow Council to continue interviewing applicants for the Civic Agencies Recruitment effort.

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: March 9-13, 2015

It’s Committee week again!

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 9, 2015

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

Highway Entrance Signs (Councillor Oshry)

Councillor Oshry made an inquiry back in October about the Highway Entrance Signs that you see as you enter the city. He wanted to know what the process was for removing and replacing them, what the options were for determining the design and contents, how such a project might be funded, and what the public engagement process might look like. Here’s what the report says:

  • There are currently seven such signs, which isn’t really that many when you think about it. There are some key entry points that currently lack a sign, such as Highway 28 or St. Albert Trail.
  • The City says there are three basic options for designing new signs: Standard Architectural Proposal Call, Anonymous Open Design Competition, or a Closed Design Competition.
  • As for funding, options include a fundraising campaign like the “Light the Bridge” effort, private funding “through sponsorship or advertising opportunities,” or a standard Capital Budget profile.
  • The City says the signs are functional and not in need of replacement, so any project to replace them would “need to be assessed against other unfunded growth profiles.”
  • Public engagement options run the gamut from online surveys to workshops and interviews.

I would be surprised to see this report go anywhere beyond Committee – I don’t think there’s an appetite to fund such a project.

LEED Silver Exemption for the Varscona Theatre

The Varscona Theatre is being rehabilitated at a cost of $7.5 million. The City’s contribution is $2 million and Policy C532 says that all new buildings and major renovations to City-owned buildings must achieve LEED Silver certification. Exemptions can be made however, where achieving that certification is deemed impractical.

In the case of the Varscona Theatre, which was built as a fire hall in 1957 and converted into a theatre in 1982, building to LEED Silver would increase total project costs by 11-15%. The report states that the project “is still adopting sustainable design and construction practices where feasible.”

Entering Varscona
Photo by Kurt Bauschardt

The reconstructed Capitol Theatre at Fort Edmonton Park was also granted an exemption back in 2011.

Other

Here’s what the other reports are about:

  • Every six months or as directed by Council, the Edmonton Police Commission is required to submit a report of all agreements entered into for expenditures greater than $100,000. There are three such agreements in this report, totaling $660,944, for helicopter parts, 911 dispatch software, and snow removal services.
  • There’s an update on the new Africa Centre and the corresponding strategy for the involvement of the African community. Council has already approved $838,000 for the schematic design for the building. The estimate for the total project budget is $39,808,100, the City’s portion of which will be considered during the 2019-2022 Capital Budget.
  • There’s also an update on the activities of Aksis, Edmonton’s Aboriginal Business and Professional Association. Last year was the organization’s second year of operation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On Tuesday, the next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are eleven reports on the agenda, six of which deal with requests for tax cancellation, deferral, or refunds. Here’s what caught my eye:

Pictometry

Pictometry Canada Corp. provides high-resolution digital imagery of the city through aerial photography. They use fly-bys to create high resolution images of the ground that can be used for many City processes. These images are not unlike what you’d see in a tool like Google Earth, but they are more frequently updated, are higher resolution, and integrate into existing City software.

In 2013, more than 100,000 images were viewed by City staff. That number grew to over 500,000 last year. The City expects usage to grow and is looking to enter into a five-year contract with Pictometry for about $1.1 million.

“Having reviewed several options, Pictometry has proven itself to be the best tool for the City of Edmonton’s purposes. It is the only service provider that is able to integrate its technology directly with other City enterprise priority systems, allowing for seamless interface between them.”

St. Albert, Calgary, Wood Buffalo, and Fort Saskatchewan are some of the other municipalities that use Pictometry.

Impact of the Alberta Wetlands Policy on City Wetlands

The Government of Alberta will be implementing the Alberta Wetland Policy in June 2015, and this report attempts to provide some insight on the impact it will have on City wetlands. About 1,100 hectares of wetlands remain with in Edmonton’s corporate limits, which is 1.6% of the City’s land base. As you might expect, most of those wetlands are in the undeveloped parts of the city.

If an organization wants to do something with wetlands in Edmonton, they currently need to pay a compensation rate of $19,000/hectare. The report notes this isn’t very much:

“When working within a large urban context where property values are higher (in many cases over $300,000/ hectares), it is financially more attractive for most applicants to pay compensation at a rate of $19,000 hectares to fill in a wetland than to protect it.”

The impact of the new policy isn’t fully understood yet. It will increase the area of regulated wetlands in Edmonton from about 600 hectares to 1000 hectares, but the financial impacts “cannot be evaluated until implementation details are released later in 2015.” The City has started a Wetland Task Force to work to understand the potential impacts of the policy.

Delegation of Authoring – Semi Annual Report

Bylaw 12005 requires that the City Manager provide Council with a semi-annual report summarizing all contracts, agreements, settlments, etc. which involved a revenue or expenditure of $100,000 or greater. Tendered agreements of less than $20 million and un-tendered agreements of less than $500,000 can be approved by Administration, otherwise they must be approved by Council.

“For the period of July 1 to December 31, 2014, Administration approved 150 tendered agreements with a total value of $128,865,510 and 1 9 un-tendered agreements with a total value of $3,310,610.”

The report attachment outlines the agreements greater than $100,000 for the reporting period.

Tax Stuff

Four organizations (Edmonton Chevra Kadisha, South Shore Country Club Inc., Habitat for Humanity, and CASA Child Adolescent and Family Mental Health) requested special Council consideration for their taxes to be cancelled, but all four are recommended to be denied. Wellspring Edmonton, which was granted a tax deferral last year, is requesting a further deferral. The recommendation is to approve that, and to bring a new report to Executive Committee in 2016.

Finally, there’s a recommendation to approve tax refunds totalling $74,061.48 as well as any associated penalties. These refunds are for non-profit organizations for the period of time during which their facilities were under construction and not in use.

Other

There’s a report pending on the pedway to the Galleria and Royal Alberta Museum, but it’s not ready yet. It’ll provide an update on the Sole Source Agreement (which basically means there’s one vendor in particular that the City has solicited and negotiated with).

There’s a status update on the Cornerstones Inclusionary Affordable Housing program. “The City has paid, on average, $200,000 per unit using Cornerstones I funds for a total investment of $4.2 million. The market value of this portfolio at the time it was acquired was $4.9 million.” Administration is planning to bring an official policy forward for consideration in the second quarter of 2015.

A bunch of reports have been delayed until March 24, including at least three that deal with the zoning bylaw. An update on the Open City Initiative has also been delayed until March 24.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The next Transportation Committee meeting takes place on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There is one report on the agenda as well as two responses to Councillor inquiries.

ETS Fare Policy Draft Revision – U-Pass

The ETS Fare Policy was last updated in 2013 to increase the U-Pass fare by $7.50 per year for the next four years (ending in 2016). Since then, Council has also adopted a new Multi-year Budgeting Policy (in September 2014). As a result, Administration is bringing forward a revised policy that brings it in line with that new process. But don’t worry, the public will still get a say: “Citizens will be able to provide feedback on a proposed multi-year fare policy as part of the submitted Transit Branch Business Plan.”

Potholes in Back Alleys (Councillor Knack)

Councillor Knack inquired back in October about the process for repairing potholes in back alleys, about the general condition of back alleys, and if there were any plan to address the long-term sustainability of those alleys.

Back Alley
Photo by Bill Burris

The report responds as follows:

  • Repairing potholes in alleys is similar to repairing potholes on other roads, except that it takes longer. As opposed to two working days for arterials and five working days for collector roadways, potholes in alleys are given the lowest priority and are “generally completed in that same construction season” but could be carried over to the following year.
  • “The general condition of the back alley network is poor (Condition D).” The report says that 30% of the total pothole repair budget is spent in back alleys, yet alleys represent just 9% of the total road inventory.
  • The current Neighbourhood Renewal Program “does not include any funding for alleys”.

Streetlight Pole Maintenance & Replacement Program (Councillor Anderson)

Back in September Councillor Anderson made an inquiry about the streetlight pole maintenance and replacement program. Here are the highlights from the response:

  • The City assumed responsibility for the street light system from EPCOR in 1997.
  • Prior to 2004 the City painted street poles, but that practice was discontinued because replacement was more cost effective over the life of the pole.
  • The City currently has approximately 75,000 street light poles, 10% of which are recommended for replacement. The rest are in fair to good condition.
  • The City replaces approximately 1,500 poles per year.

Other

  • Three reports were delayed. Both the report on Scona Road Traffic Safety & Speed Mitigation Strategies and a report on Bike Lanes on Utility Corridors have a revised due date of April 22. The Enhanced Coliseum LRT Station and Pedway to Northlands Expo Centre report has “to be determined” as its due date, presumably to allow the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee recommendation to be considered by the Northlands board first.
  • There’s also a private report: Civic Agencies Recruitment Interviews & Short Listing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Executive Committee is meeting again on Thursday afternoon. There’s just one item on the agenda, and it’s a private report: Civic Agencies Recruitment Interviews & Short Listing.

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: March 2-6, 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.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, March 2, 2015

The week begins on Monday with a Public Hearing scheduled to last all day. There are 9 bylaws on the agenda:

  • Bylaw 17098 – To allow for business, service, and light industrial uses, Wilson Industrial
  • Bylaw 17152 – To allow for the development of business employment uses, Ambleside
  • Bylaws 17085, 17086, 17087 – Amendments to The Orchards NSP and Ellerslie ASP to allow for more housing
  • Bylaws 17093, 17094 – Amendment to the Oliver ARP to allow for a 14 storey building on Jasper Avenue west of 123 Street
  • Bylaws 17096, 17097 – Amendment to the Strathcona ARP to restrict the size of select uses in Strathcona, Queen Alexandra, and Strathcona Junction

The one I’m most interested in is 17094, which is to rezone the property at 12302 and 12308 Jasper Avenue from CB1 to CB3. The proposed opportunity is a mixed-use development up to 14 storeys in height. Currently at that location you’ll find the Peter Robertson, Agnes Bugera, and Front art galleries.

Also on March 2 is the City Manager and City Auditor Performance Evaluation Committee meeting. There are two private items on the agenda – 2014 Evaluation Results and 2015 Evaluation Process Update. The meeting is scheduled to take place over the lunch break.

There’s also an LRT Governance Board meeting taking place on Monday in the River Valley Room. The board will be receiving a verbal update on the Valley Line LRT Project, and the board’s Semi Annual Report will be discussed (it’ll need Council approval). There’s also a report outlining the results of the Public Input on Request for Proposals for Stage 1 of the Valley Line LRT.

Tuesday & Wednesday, March 3/4, 2015

Next up for Council is a regular City Council Meeting that starts Tuesday and may run into Wednesday. There are 19 reports on the agenda, 13 of which are committee reports. There are also 18 bylaws on the agenda for consideration.

Edmonton’s Economic Forecast Update

This item is all about dealing with the price of oil. “To better understand the implications of lower oil prices on the economic prospects for the City of Edmonton and the surrounding region, a series of simulations were run in late January using the City’s economic forecasting models.” Based on those simulations, the City has updated its forecasted economic indicators as follows:

Indicator 2014 2015
(Spring 2014 Forecast)
2015
(Current Forecast)
Real GDP 3.3% 3.7% 2.8%
Inflation (CPI) 2.1% 1.5% 1.8%
Population 3.6% 2.1% 1.9%
Unemployment Rate 5.0% 4.2% 5.2%
Housing Starts 9,798 10,175 10,600

The highlight? “Economic growth will continue in Edmonton and out perform the rest of the province due to its relatively low direct dependence of the energy sector.” Longer term, Edmonton’s economic growth should recover to levels slightly above 3%, which will still be higher than most of the Province and Canada as a whole.

Another round of forecasting is being planned for mid-April to take the Provincial budget into account, among other data updates.

December 2014 Preliminary Year End Financial Results

There’s a lot of information available with this report, including a dozen attachments. A few highlights:

  • Preliminary results for 2014 tax-supported operations identify a net favourable year-end variance of $9.9 million or 0.5% of the overall expenditure budget.
  • Based on borrowing and repayments to December 31, 2014, the City has $2.823 billion in total debt, which is 61.1% of the MGA allowed debt limit.
  • Based on that amount, the City utilized 39.5% of the maximum debt service limit for 2014 as defined by the MGA. “Debt servicing will increase significantly in 2016 and 2018 due to the repayment of $60 million of short-term borrowing in each of the years.”
  • The Quarters CRL ended 2014 with a deficit of $3.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance since inception of $9 million.
  • The Belvedere CRL ended 2014 with a deficit of $1.6 million and a cumulative deficit balance since inception of $5.4 million.
  • The Downtown CRL has incurred $3.6 million in debt servicing costs for 2014, the first year of operation. “From 2019 onwards this program is projected to have an annual positive net position, which will be transferred to the CRL reserve.”

There’s also a recommendation for Council to approve three things:

  • An increase of $3.6 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, with the funds to come from the Financial Stabilization Reserve.
  • An increase of $5.1 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, offset by an equivalent transfer from amounts currently appropriated in the Financial Stabilization Reserve.
  • An increase of $39.5 million to the 2015 Operating Budget, offset by an equivalent amount in revenue, to address the cash flow of expenditures for the 41st Avenue/QEII interchange.

The financial results outlined in the report are based on information available to February 23, 2015 and are unaudited and subject to change.

Capital Finance Update

Last year was the final year of the 2012-2014 Capital Budget that was approved back on December 8, 2011. “As of December 31, 2014, the three year spend was $3,151.4.4 million against the 2012 to 2014 adjusted capital budget of $4,280.4 million representing 73.6% of the total budget.” Some of the things we spent money on include:

  • The Downtown Arena
  • The Clareview & Meadows Recreation Centres
  • The Walterdale Bridge
  • The Southeast to West LRT/Valley Line
  • Neighbourhood Renewal Program

The unused capital budget will be carried forward, a process that is expected to be finalized in the spring.

Implementation Plan for the Way Ahead (2015-2018)

This report, along with the associated Department and Branch 3-Year Business Plan Process report, outlines the Implementation Project for The Way Ahead. Last year Council reaffirmed the strategic plan with 12 revised corporate outcomes and 26 outcome measures. The scope of the project is to identify and prioritize actions and tactics to achieve or make substantial progress toward the outcomes by December 31, 2018.

Branches are currently developing their 2016-2018 business plans now, which will include actions that contribute to the Implementation Project. By April, the public will have been consulted through the Edmonton Insight Community, and by May the Corporate Leadership Team will have reviewed the Branch business plans and approved the Implementation Plan document. We can expect a public release of everything on November 3, in time for the 2016 budget cycle.

Appointments to Civic Agencies for 2015-2016

Council needs to appoint members to a few different civic agencies for the 2015-2016 term. The appointments are as follows:

  • Councillor Caterina to the Edmonton Northlands Board and Edmonton Northlands Executive Committee
  • Councillor Oshry to the Edmonton Northlands Board
  • Councillor Henderson & Councillor Walters to the River Valley Alliance Board
  • Councillor Esslinger to the Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway Association Board

This item will likely be just a rubber stamping exercise.

Committee Reports

The Committee reports 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:

  • Designation, Preservation and Restoration of McDougall United Church – A recommendation that the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, approach the relevant provincial ministers to explore partnership opportunities around heritage, arts and post-secondary uses as part of a repair and long-term operational sustainability strategy for McDougall United Church as a public building.
  • Online Voting – That the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, write a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs requesting that consideration be given to amending the Local Authorities Election Act, to permit alternative forms of voting.
  • ParkPlus Software Licensing & Maintenance Agreement – That the name “EPark” and the EPark design contained in the February 25 Transportation Services report be approved for use to distinguish parking solutions provided by the City of Edmonton.
  • Funding Strategies for Future LRT Expansion – That Administration work with the Mayor, to develop a communication plan to inform citizens about the impact of other orders of government on funding the City’s future LRT Network Plan, in light of the upcoming Provincial and Federal elections, and return to City Council.

Bylaws

As mentioned, there are 18 bylaws on the agenda. Here are a few that I wanted to highlight:

  • Bylaw 17003 would designate the Mountfield House, built in 1905, as a Municipal Historic Resource. This is ready for third reading.
  • Bylaw 17092 will amend the Quarters CRL bylaw to increase borrowing by $44,345,000, to pay for the phase II projects. That’ll bring the total for projects in the Quarters CRL to $95,345,000. This is ready for second and third readings.
  • Bylaw 17075 will increase borrowing authorization for the Great Neighbourhoods Initiative by $60 million. This is ready for second and third readings.
  • Bylaw 17102 will authorize the City to borrow $304,186,000 to undertake, construct, and finance Sanitary and Stormwater Drainage projects. This is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17100 will authorize the City to undertake, construct, and finance the Downtown CRL projects by increasing borrowing authorization by $78,178,839. This is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17004 will amend the Public Places Bylaw to provide the necessary legislative authority to prohibit smoking in Churchill Square. This is ready for third reading.

Other

There is one notice of motion pending which is Councillor Henderson’s motion regarding the planned elimination of the use of herbicides on public land. There will also be one private verbal update, on the purchase and sale of land in The Quarters.

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: February 23-27, 2015

Council is back next week with Committee meetings.

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, February 23, 2015

Council starts the week with a Community Services Committee Meeting scheduled to take place from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are four reports on the agenda, two of which require approval by Council. Here are some things I wanted to highlight:

CSAB 2015 Community Investment Operating Grant (CIOG) Recommendations

The Community Investment Operating Grant program is for non-profit organizations whose mandate falls under Social Services, Multicultural, or Recreation/Amateur Sport. As you can imagine, there’s a large number of eligible organizations. The maximum amount an organization can receive is $17,000 and organizations with operating expenses greater than $2 million are not eligible. Organizations can only receive one operating grant per year from the City of Edmonton.

The CIOG recommendations for 2015 total $3,486,180 to 251 non-profit organizations in Edmonton. There were 268 applications received. The report includes the full list of successful applicants.

EFCL Strategic Plan and Growth Strategy

The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) Board of Directors has identified six key strategic priorities for 2014-2018:

  • Vision – The EFCL Board further develops and articulates a strong, long-term vision for its future based on understanding the components of complete communities, and the complementary functions of EFCL and the Community Leagues.
  • Advocacy & Engagement – The EFCL Board advocates for positive change by engaging leagues and equipping them to engage their communities and advocate for neighbourhood issues, and advocating itself on behalf of all leagues when the issue is city-wide.
  • Broadening Our Reach and Diversity – The EFCL works with Leagues to create better opportunities for social inclusion in their membership and programs.
  • Supporting League Leadership and Capacity – The EFCL focuses on building leadership and capacity in leagues.
  • Building an Efficient Operations Model – As a member agency, EFCL provides effective, efficient and innovative business supports to all leagues, and regularly assesses its effectiveness and benefit.
  • Championing Leagues – EFCL actively and intentionally raises the profile of community leagues and recognizes their contributions and accomplishments.

The organization is now working on its 2015-2019 Business Plan to outline activities and projects, timelines, resources, and budget implications for each of those priorities.

The Growth Strategy is an $80,000 funding package to help EFCL implement “a sustainable, efficient, and effective approach to realizing the vision” outlined in its Strategic Plan. EFCL is looking for a $40,000 contribution from the City of Edmonton for this project to hire a half-time, temporary contractor.

NextGen Community Challenge
Community Challenge, photo by Edmonton NextGen

The City has a Partnership Agreement with EFCL and discussions have begun about renewing it. Watch for a report in the second quarter of 2015 on that topic.

Non-Profit Organizations in Edmonton

Councillor Nickel made an inquiry back in September to learn about how non-profit organizations in Edmonton manage financial reporting, HR, and IT. The report provides an overview of the current situation, outlines how the City of Edmonton supports non-profit organizations, and identifies some challenges for the second. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Edmonton has approximately 4,000 not-for-profit organizations providing a wide range of programs and services.”
  • “Many not-for-profit organizations are having to adapt to on-line staff recruitment processes. This requires expertise in both human resources and information technology applications.”
  • The primary way the City supports non-profits is through funding, but it works with other organizations that deliver programs and services too.
  • The City says that over the last three years, “fewer organizations are seeking assistance with financial reporting.” They say these organizations are building financial capacity through the resources that are available.
  • Under HR, the highlight is the Shared Services model that was piloted from 2010 to 2013. A group of non-profits are still using that approach to help reduce costs and increase efficiency. The report doesn’t say why the model hasn’t been deployed more widely.
  • There’s not much to take away under IT, aside from the SpaceFinder application that was jointly developed by the City, Arts Habitat, ECVO, and the Multicultural Coalition.

Challenges identified include increasing demand for services from the sector, a general shift toward project-based funding which reduces the amount of core funding available, and high turnover on boards.

I’m not sure what Councillor Nickel was looking for aside from information on the sector, but I find the report to be lacking in detail, frankly. A couple of Google searches probably would have turned up just as much information.

Other

The two other reports on the agenda are:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Council will hold its next Executive Committee Meeting on Tuesday, scheduled to run from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are eight reports on the agenda, three of which require Council approval. There are also two responses to Councillor inquiries. Here are some things I wanted to highlight:

Corporate Measures and Targets

This report is an update on the previous work that Council has done on measuring outcomes for The Way Ahead. The key update is why using genuine progress indicators in tandem with gross domestic product is a good way to measure progress.

“A Genuine Progress Indicator (or Index) measures economic well-being. It is designed to replace gross domestic product as the standard economic indicator. Genuine Progress Indicators attempt to go beyond measuring the market value of goods in an economy and provide an approximation of sustainable economic well-being by subtracting the negative by-products of the economy.”

There’s no one single Genuine Progress Indicator and they are complex to develop. There are also questions about how valid or reliable they are. There are benefits to using them in tandem with other indicators though. “For example, while Gross Domestic Product may rise over time, a Genuine Progress Indicator may not rise as quickly or may even fall over the same time period.”

Over the year, the City is going to be developing a corporate performance measurement registry to house the strategic and key operational measures throughout the organization. There’s a bunch more discussion on the difference between performance measures and indicators, and on genuine progress indicators, in the report.

What will happen to McDougall United Church?

There’s a fairly extensive report on the work the City has undertaken alongside the McDougall United Church Council regarding the future of the church buildings and land. The report calls restoration of the church “unlikely” and says that to avoid demolition, a compromise may be to restore some of the building’s architectural features into a new facility. Here’s the key conclusion:

“Administration has investigated the options for preservation and restoration of McDougall United Church. At this time, Administration has completed its mandate unless otherwise directed to undertake additional work. The Church Council needs to determine the future of its building and congregation. If City Council elects to provide the required funds to the McDougall United Church, it will require reprioritizing Council’s initiatives in order to find funding. Such a decision could set a precedent for other organizations.”

MCDOUGALL UNITED CHURCH
Inside McDougall United Church, photo by Jason Woodhead

The total cost to maintain the church over the next seven years ranges from $18.4 million to $25.4 million. If Council wants to direct some funding to save the church, it won’t be cheap, and it could set a precedent they’d rather avoid.

Current Planning Reserve Fund

This report is in response to an inquiry that Councillor Nickel made back in September about how the current planning reserve fund is operated. Back in 2010 the Current Planning Reserve Fund was established to “ensure full cost recovery and long-term financial sustainability of revenue generating planning, development, building, and mechanical services.”

Here’s what the City targets:

“The target balance of the Current Planning Reserve Fund, as outlined in City Policy C570 – Current Planning Reserve, is 75% of Current Planning budgeted annual operational expenditures.”

The fund balance currently sits at just half the target value, at $26.4 million as of the end of 2014.

The report goes on to say that in fact, a balance of 100% of annual operating expenditures is “likely required to maintain operations and cover costs during a typical economic recession.” Cities like Calgary, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Waterloo all target a reserve fund balance of between 100% and 150% of annual operating expenditures.

Online Voting

In November, Councillor Knack asked for an overview of the Internet voting test conducted in 2012 and an update on any new information that has been learned since that time. The report provides a summary and includes these observations:

“In order for internet voting to be successful, an extensive auditing process, security system, clear communication plan and thorough testing should be completed prior to implementation. The multi-layered authentication sign on system utilized in internet voting has provided electors a secure online voting option. Internet voting has been successfully implemented in a number of municipalities as an additional voting option and tool to help reduce barriers for voters.”

If the City were to move ahead with Internet voting, legislative changes would be required. These changes “have been raised in discussions on the proposed City Charter and revisions to the Municipal Government Act.”

At this time, the City has not developed cost estimates for Internet voting.

I still think the City should adopt online voting as an option. The last time this came up at Council, they voted against it citing security concerns. They had a good discussion about the issue, but my much more cynical take on it was at the end of the day, mayoral candidates were afraid that Don Iveson would use his connections and tech savvy to take advantage of online voting to win the election. Clearly that won’t be a concern in 2017 because, well, he handily won the last offline election didn’t he?

Other

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The next Transportation Committee Meeting will take place on Wednesday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are seven reports on the agenda, plus four responses to Councillor inquiries. Here are some items I wanted to highlight:

Funding Strategies for Future LRT Lines

The total length of the long-term LRT Network Plan is 69.7 km, of which 24.3 km is either in service or will be soon, with another 13 km that has funding approved. That leaves about 32 km still to be funded and constructed. The City has identified the following options for funding future LRT:

  • Tax-Supported Debt Service Room that becomes available in future years
  • Gas Tax Fund that becomes available as South LRT Debt is fully repaid
  • Additional Transit Fare Surcharge
  • Pay-As-You-Go and other traditional Capital Budget Grant sources
  • Additional Tax Levy Directed to LRT Reserve

How much money would we have to spend?

“The total currently identified nominal dollars becoming available between the years 2019 and 2034 total $658 million. This would mean that in order to contribute $658 million towards future LRT as a direct funding source, it would take until 2034 to generate this amount of funds, without considering any additional tax levy impact.”

If that were applied to debt servicing costs, that would translate into about $1 billion in capital funding.

Of course, any future construction is realistically going to require assistance from the provincial and federal governments and for that reason, “an advocacy and lobbying strategy would be required.”

In order to fund future LRT expansion, Council will need to have either an appetite for more debt, the desire to increase taxes, the ability to get more money from other orders of government, or more likely, a combination of all three.

Escalators at LRT Stations

Transit riders complain about escalators being out of service all the time at LRT stations, and this report summarizes the current status and way forward.

  • There are currently 37 escalators in the LRT system.
  • In 2014 (to the end of October), reliability for escalators was 83%. Total impact of major interruptions was 990 days.
  • The life expectancy of an escalator is 30 years. The oldest one of ours is 36 years.
  • Escalators break down because of age, vandalism, power outages, and of course sand, snow, and other debris that requires regular maintenance.
  • The current elevator and escalator maintenance contract expires this year, so the City will be refining the proposed contract before renewing in an attempt to improve service.
  • ETS has a target reliability figure of 90% based on an average of 36 days out of service for preventative maintenance.

The 2015-2018 Capital Budget included $11.874 million for the end of life escalator replacement program. Six escalators are scheduled to be replaced using that money: three at Central, one at Coliseum, one at Stadium, and one at either Bay or Corona.

TIL there’s an organization called the Alberta Elevating Devices & Amusement Rides Safety Association. Who knew!

EPark: Brought to you by the City of Calgary

The City is progressing with plans to replace parking meters with pay-by-plate technology, with implementation set to begin in May. They want to contract the City of Calgary to make it happen, noting that its ParkPlus system is “the only fully automated pay-by-plate parking management solution operational in Canada.” The particulars of the agreement are still being negotiated, but the City is looking for a four-year deal that would include all software and services, plus training.

The report also talks about the need to approve a name and design for the system. I don’t think the logo is going to win any design awards, but I do agree that having a consistent name and look is important. Here’s what the City is proposing for Council’s approval:

epark

Like I said, it’s not pretty.

Other

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The final committee meeting of the week will be the Utility Committee Meeting on Thursday from 9:30am until 5:30pm. There are three reports on the agenda:

There’s also one verbal report, on waste management, that is private under sections 16, 24, and 25 of the FOIPP act.

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.

City Council Update: February 13, 2015

There are no Council meetings scheduled for next week. The next Committee meetings will take place during the week of February 23-27, with the next Public Hearing scheduled for March 2.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Here’s what happened at the Public Hearing that took place on Monday.

  • Bylaw 17062 was referred back to Administration for further consultation, to return to Executive Committee on March 10.
  • All other bylaws (except one) unanimously passed third reading (Councillor Loken was absent).

There was one contentious issue though, and that was with Bylaw 17011 which was the adoption of The Decoteau Area Structure Plan (which I wrote about here). With a 6-5 vote (as both Councillor Loken and Councillor Henderson were absent for this one) the following motion was carried:

That Bylaw 17011 be referred back to Administration to work with the proponents outlining the following:

  1. Density: review increasing the net residential density of the proposed Area Structure Plan
  2. Business Employment: review increasing the Business Employment designation within the Area Structure Plan area as it gives direction to the intensity of use in the future Neighbourhood Structure Plan’s
  3. Wetland and Natural Areas: review the mapping and wording within the Area Structure Plan as it gives direction to the next stage of planning for Neighbourhood Structure Plan’s

and return to the March 16, 2015, City Council Public Hearing.

Here’s what the proposed ASP says about net residential density currently:

Residential densities within the Decoteau ASP range from 25 units per net residential hectare (upnrh) to 225 upnrh. The lower range of 25 upnrh will be developed as single/semi-detached housing. The higher range of 225 upnrh will be developed as high density residential, also referred to as medium to high rise units.

And it does make mention of the Capital Region Board targets:

Decoteau is located in the Capital Region Board’s Priority Growth Areas “CE” and “B”. These areas require a minimum net residential density target of 30 units per net residential hectare. The ASP exceeds this density target.

Council is looking for more, however.

Council Services Committee Meeting: February 9

One thing I missed in my last update was the Council Services Committee meeting that took place this week. Here are the draft minutes.

2014 Councillor’s Budget Update – Budget and Actual

This report provides preliminary numbers for the year ending December 31, 2014. There are two budgets to consider:

  • The common budget consists of salaries for Councillors’ and Administrative Assistants; benefits for Councillors and all office staff; and transition, severance, retirement and vehicle allowances for Councillors. It also includes common travel, parking, furniture, telephone expenses, stationery, postage and meeting supplies.
  • The ward budgets consist of personnel and expenses categories. The personnel category reflects Executive and Council Assistants’ salaries, vacation/staff replacement, transportation, and research projects. The expenses category reflects Councillors’ individual travel, training, promotional items, hosting and tickets, communications, and Edmonton Salutes.

What the report shows is that slightly less was spent than was budgeted for both the Common Budget and the Ward Budget. Nearly $70,000 was saved on the Common Budget and nearly $200,000 was saved on the Ward Budget. That means the total Councillors Office spend was $3,578,296, which is $267,383 less than the $3,845,679 that was budgeted.

2015 Common Travel Plans – Office of the Councillors

The 2015 budget for Common Travel and Training remains the same as 2014 at $79,502. This includes:

  • $19,350 for Civic Agency Travel
  • $14,680 for the annual AUMA Conference in Calgary
  • $8,541 for the annual FCM Conference in Edmonton

The report includes some detail about which Councillors are travelling when.

On this report, the Committee made two decisions:

  • First, they voted to allow Councillor Gibbons to submit mileage expense claims for his travel as Chair of the Alberta Industrial Heartland Committee.
  • Second, they voted to allow Councillors representing the City at meetings of intergovernmental bodies to submit “reasonable expense claims” and requested that Administration prepare an amendment to the policy to account for this.

2015 Furniture Plan – Office of the Councillors

If you’ve ever wondered how much Councillors spend on furniture, then this is the report for you! The budget for furniture in 2014 was $11,278, of which just over $9,200 was spent. The budget for 2015 is the same, and so far just $2,108 in requests have been made.

There’s a bit of IKEA in there, and there are lots of ergocentric desk chairs. I’m not sure if they mean ergonomic or if they actually mean the company ergoCentric. In 2014, the big spender was Councillor Sohi, as he installed an adjustable desk. So far in 2015, the biggest request is for two armchairs for Councillor Walters’ office. UPDATE: That request has been withdrawn!

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: February 9-13, 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.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Monday, February 9, 2015

Council starts the week with a Public Hearing scheduled to take place from 1:30pm until 9:30pm. There are 20 bylaws listed on the agenda – here are a few that caught my eye:

Duncan Innes Park becomes official

Bylaw 17059 and Bylaw 17069 will be considered together, and aim to designate Duncan Innes Park as a Municipal Reserve, which “formalizes its status as a park and offers protection against disposal and incompatible uses.” The park is located in the eastern half of the King Edward Park neighbourhood. The second bylaw is to rezone the park from RF3 to AP.

Bylaw 17062 – Text Amendment to Zoning Bylaw 12800

This bylaw is related to a larger project that is reviewing how the zoning bylaw regulates height and grade in the city. This particular bylaw is intended to “reduce delays in permitting walkout basement developments” and updates definitions and regulations pertaining to height. In addition to other changes, the amendment adds a new method for calculating grade, and removes the distinction between roof pitches steeper than or less steep than 20 degrees, which is “no longer a relevant determinant.”

Closures for The Armature along 96 Street

Bylaws 1705417058 are all for closing portions of 96 Street, from Jasper Avenue to 103A Avenue, to facilitate the development of The Armature, a key feature of The Quarters Redevelopment. The Armature is meant to link The Quarters with the river valley, and will accommodate walking, cycling, public transportation, and private vehicles, but with higher priority given to pedestrians and cyclists.

Bylaw 17011 – The Decoteau ASP

This was supposed to be discussed at the January 26 public hearing but was rescheduled. The bylaw is ready for first and second reading, and must go to the Capital Region Board for review before third reading. This item is slated to be discussed at 2pm. You can read my previous post about this here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Tuesday Council will be holding a regular Council meeting. There are eight reports and five bylaws on the agenda. Council will also receive a verbal update from Administration on the Commonwealth Games bid, and Councillor Henderson has a motion pending on the planned elimination of the use of herbicides on City of Edmonton public lands.

Reports

There are three new reports:

2015 Northlands Capital Budget

The Master Agreement between the City and Northlands requires Northlands to submit each annual budget to the City within 30 days of being approved by the Board. It also enables City Council to object if Northlands plans to spend more than $250,000 on any single new construction project in a given year, or if they plan to spend more than $750,000 on repairs or alterations to an existing facility. Neither of those thresholds have been triggered by the 2015 capital budget.

Northlands plans to spend a total of $3.8 million in 2015 on capital projects, including $1.1 million at Northlands Park and nearly $900,000 on technology. Some of the interesting items:

  • $30,000 for a Food Hub Facility
  • $100,000 for a Northlands Food Truck
  • $71,040 for new office chairs (really?!)
  • $45,910 for Urban Farm Phase II

Update on the Edmonton Arena District

The last update was provided on September 23, 2014 and this latest update reaffirms that Rogers Place “continues to progress on schedule and within the approved budgets.” Excavation and foundation work is over 95% complete, and steel structure erection is 9% complete and should be done in Q3. On average there are 300 workers on-site during the day with no “time lost” accidents reported. The next quarterly meeting of the Arena Community Benefits Advisory Committee is slated to take place on February 9.

All Eyes on the Big Build!!
All Eyes on the Big Build! by Jeff Wallace

Local and Composite Assessment Review Board Assignments

Council has appointed 17 members to serve on Local and Composite Assessment Review Boards, and they must now be assigned as required by the Municipal Government Act. The purpose of these boards (there are three types) is to hear 2015 assessment (tax) complaints.

Committee Reports

There are five committee reports that include recommendations for Council:

Bylaws

There are 5 bylaws that Council will consider:

  • Bylaw 17089 – for decorative street lights in Laurier Heights
  • Bylaw 17073 – for a special tax to repair and maintain alley lighting
  • Bylaw 17002 – Accessibility Advisory Committee
  • Bylaw 17004 – Amendment to the Public Places Bylaw (to ban smoking in Churchill Square)
  • Bylaw 17031 – Amendment to the Community Standards Bylaw (backyard fire pit control)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The first Audit Committee meeting of 2015 will take place on Wednesday afternoon. Here are the audits for which results are now available:

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.