EdmontonPolitics.com: #yegvote Hangout #2

Tonight we held our second #yegvote hangout over at EdmontonPolitics.com. What’s a #yegvote hangout? Basically it’s a video conversation that you get to tune into! Dave Cournoyer, Ryan Hastman, and myself decided this would be an interesting way to offer coverage of the municipal election. If you missed our first episode, you can watch it here.

We covered a range of topics tonight, prompted mostly by questions from viewers on Twitter using the #yegvote hashtag. Here’s the archived video if you’d like to watch it:

One of the things we talked about briefly was voting records. Councillor Diotte has a reputation for voting no, but if you look at the data it turns out that Councillor Sloan is actually the contrarian on council. Here’s a visualization of the data (which is available to anyone at the open data catalogue):

http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js

<a href=”#”><img style=”border-top-style: none; border-left-style: none; border-bottom-style: none; border-right-style: none” alt=” ” src=”http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Mo/MotionsVotes2011-2013/Whovotesno/1_rss.png&#8221; /></a> 

There are other tabs there for a few other data points such as who makes the most motions and who seconds the most motions. Very interesting stuff to dig into, something I’ll be doing more of in the coming weeks.

If you have suggestions on topics we should cover in the future or guests we should invite, let us know!

Under Mayor Mandel’s leadership, Edmonton has thrived

Mayor Stephen Mandel announced today that he will not seek a fourth term as mayor. It’s the first time since 1988 that an Edmonton mayor has left the position voluntarily, when Laurence Decore resigned to enter provincial politics.

Had Mandel run again, he would have won. Councillor Diotte was the only person on Council who was willing to run against him, and it is doubtful that another serious challenger would have come forward, let alone had a chance at victory.

The change this year to four year terms likely had an impact on his decision – Mandel would have been into his 70s had he won another term. Three year terms were introduced in 1968, and Mandel has supported the idea of adding another year in the past. "My belief is that a four-year term allows you to be successful," he told the Journal in 2005. "It’s a more substantive time for trying to complete an agenda."

Mandel has also supported the notion of term limits for mayors, noting the demands of the job. "That takes a great deal of energy, and to be creative for a long period of time, there is a simply a limit," he said in 2005. "I mean, how many years can you do it and still be effective?" Like his predecessor Bill Smith, Mandel’s three consecutive terms are more than he or anyone else expected him to serve.

Stephen Mandel at Candi{date} Sept 29, 2010

After failing to win a seat on the public school board in 1995, Mandel was elected to City Council by just 33 votes in 2001. Working alongside Karen Leibovici in Ward 1, commentators at the time noted that Mandel learned a lot and matured politically over those three years.

As the 2004 election approached, Mandel found himself deciding to run for mayor. He did not want to serve another term under Bill Smith, who aside from being a cheerleader was often described as a "lone wolf." Mandel also felt that Robert Noce, the other serious contender that year, was not someone he wanted to work with. "We can wait forever for somebody else to do it, but I’m not going to do that. I believe that one of the real problems of our city is that we wait for everybody," he said at the time.

Mandel handily won the election that year, defeating Smith by more than 17,000 votes. "You have no idea how I feel. This is unbelievable," he told supporters after the results had come in. Despite being snowy on election day, turnout was relatively good at 41.8%. In 2007, Mandel earned 66% of the vote, defeating Don Koziak by more than 60,000 votes. It was a clear mandate for Mandel and the big city vision he had brought to Edmonton. Turnout was just a dismal 27% that year, a sign that Edmontonians were happy with the direction Mandel was headed.

Mayor Stephen Mandel

In the last election in 2010, Mandel earned 55% of the vote, defeating David Dorward by more than 50,000 votes. Turnout improved slightly from 2007, jumping to 33.4%. It was an important election for Mandel. "This election was about building a positive future for Edmonton," he said in his 2010 swearing-in address. "It embraced long-term thinking and a broad vision of an ambitious Edmonton." Just two new councillors were elected that year, suggesting once again that Edmontonians liked where things were going.

Mandel has accomplished a number of the things he originally set out to achieve. Expansion of the LRT, tackling the problem of homelessness, reducing crime, and raising the profile of the arts, to name just a few. He has always pushed for improved relations with the Province, and for Edmonton to get its fair share of attention and money. On regional issues, Mandel regularly pushed for more cooperation rather than competition, though he was willing to be the bully if he felt it was appropriate.

Mayor Stephen Mandel

Mandel wanted Edmonton to be a capital city again, to be a big city. As he said today, “we want our city not just to exist but to thrive.” Under his leadership, it has happened. The feeling of being left behind that Edmontonians felt in 2004 no longer lingers, and any jealousy of Calgary has given way to the realization that the two cities need to work together.

These are not easy challenges to have tackled, and they have certainly demanded a lot of Mandel. He was known to have a temper before becoming mayor, and Edmontonians got a glimpse of that during his first term on Council. While Mandel has learned to control his language in public, he’s been known to passionately express his viewpoint behind closed doors. Occasionally his anger got the better of him, such as when he learned that Edmonton had lost federal support for its bid to host EXPO 2017.

Mandel will certainly be remembered for many of the capital projects he had a hand in, such as the South LRT extension, the closing of the City Centre Airport, and of course the downtown arena, but I think his true legacy is actually a little less tangible.

Edmonton City Council Swearing in Ceremony

I have always appreciated Mandel’s view that councillors should be involved in citywide issues, not just ward issues. In his 2007 swearing-in address, Mandel stated: "No matter what community has sent us here, we all share a responsibility to do what’s right for the city as a whole." His approach as mayor was markedly different than Smith’s before him. Mandel often complained of feeling excluded as a councillor under Smith, and that certainly influenced his style. In his remarks today, Mandel again reiterated his view that the mayor “is just one small voice” on Council.

Over his three terms, Mandel has brought an increasing level of sophistication to the City of Edmonton and to the way City Council operates. He showed us what could be achieved by building consensus and working together. He showed us what’s possible when everyone is aligned, both inside and outside of City Hall. That to me is his lasting legacy. He’s changed the way we do things. In Mandel’s Edmonton, we make things happen together.

Mayor Mandel

I’m very grateful that Mandel dedicated over a decade of his life to this city; Edmonton is a better place because of his efforts. I wish him all the best in his next adventure!

Will he retire? If not, what will Mandel do next? Here’s what he told the National Post in 2010:

"I’m not a hobby guy. I like to volunteer when I’m not doing this job, but right now this is busy and I don’t. So I don’t have a hobby, but I wish I did, you know. I wish I was a woodworker. I think when I retire I’m going to try to learn how to cook. I like to cook. I’m not any good at it."

Mandel did hint today that he has been discussing future plans with his family, but said today was not the time to share them.

Mandel’s announcement makes the election this fall much more exciting. Not only does it mean we’ll have a new mayor, but it likely means a large number of new faces on Council. Expect to see a number of campaign announcements over the next month. On that, Mandel shared a few thoughts as well. “I’m excited to know that our citizens will have many diverse options to consider this fall. I want to wish the best of luck to all those who will put their names forward to be Edmonton’s next mayor.”

Edmonton Election 2010: Visualizing Results by Polling Station

Ever wonder where the candidates in last month’s municipal election received the most support? Which parts of the city supported which mayoral candidates? After seeing the maps that were created for Calgary’s top three mayoral candidates, I wondered about the same kind of thing here. Local software developer Josh Kjenner was also interested, and he has been busy visualizing the results by polling station ever since.

Josh wrote an application called Metroview for the City of Edmonton’s Apps4Edmonton competition, a project which he spent about 60 hours on. The tool is implemented in Processing, a programming language and environment that Josh called “a really really intense Java library.” He returned to the project after the City of Edmonton released the final election results by polling station, and spent another 20 hours or so improving it. Josh told me the biggest challenge he faced was conditioning the KML files from the open data catalogue (a common challenge that open data developers face…getting the data and the tools/technology working together).

The result is an interactive application that lets you visualize candidate support and other data on a map of Edmonton.

Here are a few of the data visualizations you can see in Josh’s metroview yegvote 2010 app (requires Java).

Eligible voters versus voter turnout:

Support for Stephen Mandel:

Support for David Dorward:

Support for Daryl Bonar:

You can see that Mandel received most of his support from the south part of the city, while Dorward received the most support from the north part. You can use the metroview tool to see similar results for every ward, public school ward, and catholic school ward too.

Thanks Josh for creating this tool! This is another great example of what can be created when the data is open and available.

UPDATE: It should be noted that you can’t really compare Mandel’s graph to Dorward’s. A dark area in Mandel’s is not equivalent to a dark area in Dorward’s, for example, because of the difference in the number of overall votes that each candidate received. The colors on each graph are in relation to the other areas on that graph for that candidate only. If you look at Josh’s app, you get the raw values as you hover over each area, and you can choose absolute instead of relative for the drawing mode.

Edmonton Election 2010: Unofficial Results

It took a while for the data to start flowing but that only added to the excitement of the evening! A total of 196,661 ballots were cast by Edmontonians in this election, giving us a voter turnout of just over 34%. Here is your new City Council (unofficial until finalized on Friday by Edmonton Elections):

  • Stephen Mandel (Mayor)
  • Linda Sloan (Ward 1)
  • Kim Krushell (Ward 2)
  • Dave Loken (Ward 3)
  • Ed Gibbons (Ward 4)
  • Karen Leibovici (Ward 5)
  • Jane Batty (Ward 6)
  • Tony Caterina (Ward 7)
  • Ben Henderson (Ward 8 )
  • Bryan Anderson (Ward 9)
  • Don Iveson (Ward 10)
  • Kerry Diotte (Ward 11)
  • Amarjeet Sohi (Ward 12)

Here are your new Public School Trustees:

  • Cheryl Johner (Ward A)
  • Ken Shipka (Ward B)
  • Christopher Spencer (Ward C)
  • Dave Colburn (Ward D)
  • Heather Mackenzie (Ward E)
  • Michael Janz (Ward F)
  • Sarah Hoffman (Ward G)
  • Catherine Ripley (Ward H)
  • Leslie Cleary (Ward I)

Here are your new Catholic School Trustees:

  • Becky Kallal (Ward 71)
  • Larry Kowalczyk (Ward 72)
  • Cindy Olsen (Ward 73)
  • Debbie Engel (Ward 74)
  • John Acheson (Ward 75)
  • Marilyn Bergstra (Ward 76)
  • Laura Thibert (Ward 77)

You can see full election results at ShareEdmonton.

The closest race tonight was in Ward 2, where Krushell defeated Don Koziak by just 539 votes. Aside from that however, I think tonight’s result is a clear vote of confidence in the direction City Council had been moving under Mandel’s leadership.

Congratulations to all the candidates who ran in this election!

Envision Edmonton’s petition insufficient, City Centre Airport phased closure will continue

Yesterday the declaration of the City Clerk was released, stating that the petition put forward by Envision Edmonton was not sufficient, for two reasons:

  • There were no more than 73,657 valid signatures.
  • The petition was not brought within 60 days of Council’s decision to close the airport.

According to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) that means that City Council was not required to take any notice of the petition. They debated the issue in their final meeting before the election, and voted 10-3 against including a question on the ballot. The vote breakdown was exactly the same as it was in July 2009, when Council voted in favor of a phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Here are some of the quotes from the meeting:

  • “The decision to not put a question on the ballot is the right one for Edmonton.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “For some unknown reason it took 11 months to get a petition.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “This needs to end.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “This motion is the same year late as the petition. This needed to happen last year.” – Councillor Iveson
  • “I am not prepared to support something that could lead to 42 years of inefficient operation.” – Councillor Anderson
  • “Somebody has to have the guts to say enough is enough.” – Councillor Henderson
  • “I am prepared to stand up and say I did eight months of research on this issue.” – Councillor Krushell
  • “Is this the only big decision we’ve made in the last three years?” – Councillor Sohi

In both the meeting and a media briefing, we learned more about the petition verification process.

  • Roughly 80 staff worked for more than 3700 hours to verify the petition. About 60 of those staff were hired specifically for the verification process.
  • One of the first things the City had to do was photocopy every page of the petition. The copies and the originals are now stored in a vault, where they will remain for at least 5 years.
  • It turns out Envision Edmonton did not contact the City Clerk about its petition. If it had done so, it might have learned about the 60 day requirement.
  • Had the petition been valid and sufficient, the outcome of the question would have been binding for ten years. If Council had decided to put a question on the ballot anyway, its outcome would not have been binding.
  • The total cost for the verification is estimated at between $125,000 and $150,000.
  • Banister Research was hired to help complete the verification, which they did via telephone.
  • The petition signatories (addresses) were compared against both the Edmonton Elections database (current as of 2009) and SLIM (Spatial Land Inventory Management).
  • Since the July 2009 decision, the City has incurred costs of $12 million, while ERAA has incurred costs of more than $23 million.

Links

Lots of people have written about this already. Here are some relevant links:

Resources

PDF Municipal Government Act (2.4 MB)

PDF Declaration of the City Clerk (689 KB)

PDF Report on the Petition (55 KB)

Final Thoughts

I don’t for a second think the battle over the City Centre Airport is finished. I’m sure we’ll see additional challenges and fights in the weeks and months ahead. Edmonton Airports seems to think so as well, launching Share The Facts today. I am confident that City Council made the right decision yesterday however, and I think they’ll be rewarded for it on October 18.

Closing the City Centre Airport is the right decision for Edmonton’s future. Yesterday was simply another step along the way to making that future a reality.