Community Assets

Recently, I went to an elementary school to work with City Planners to have students design a house to fit into a block of houses.   Their task was to design a home to fit in the blank spot in the neighborhood.   What a wonderful experience to see children who created homes that were different colors, shapes, and styles than those in the neighborhood they were given.   They used their imagination to design tree houses, underground houses, large homes and tiny homes.   Nobody told them how to fit into the character of the neighborhood.   I’ve wondered what the city would look like if we as adults could imagine doing things differently.   Imagine instead of a school in a neighborhood we built a community asset or a building that was home to community space which may include education space, room for early learning and other activities a community may want.   Perhaps it would have a library and a place for seniors to gather.  Then it wouldn’t matter if the education space was no longer needed that large as the community may want other uses to fill it.  Perhaps if we built schools with community space that couldn’t be used as education space in new neighborhoods we wouldn’t need separate community halls or gathering spaces.    We wouldn’t need so much land for separate buildings and more room to build homes that could sustain the community.     

At a recent meeting of community members, we were discussing schools and what would happen to communities if school buildings were closed.   Some suggested that the city infill activities in their neighborhoods were beginning to add preschool children and it was exciting to see.   They worried if that would happen if the schools were gone.   Others worried about losing a part of the history of their neighborhood and wanted to preserve the buildings.   The city is investing in mature neighborhoods through neighborhood renewal to rebuild roads and sidewalks.  How do we align this work with building communities?  Closed buildings can have a negative impact on a community.  How do we avoid that?  Currently, if schools are closed and are not needed by a school board then the city has the option to purchase the building.   If the city purchases the building then the taxpayers will pay twice for the building.  What if there is a  different way?  Is the only answer demolition or extensive renovations.  Could we partner with other organizations or the private sector?

I wonder if we need a new model to talk about these community assets and find ways to transition into a more collaborative, community-driven model so that communities across the city remain vibrant and strong. The question is how do we keep these community assets serving a community for years to come based on what each community desires?

School Boards say that there aren’t enough children attending the local school for it to remain viable and others suggest it is because many students choose schools outside their local community. Knowing that Edmonton is one of the youngest cities in Canada, we can anticipate that we have and are going to have a growing school-aged population.  So maybe the real question is, how do we get more young families into mature neighbourhoods? City Council has requested draft amendments to our bylaws that will allow secondary suites in semi-detached and duplexes.   This could potentially add more residents to these mature neighborhoods at risk.  Where do local schools fit in as a way to attract folks to communities?  Does it matter?  Is there a better way to access the needs of a community?  There are also many requests from cultural and non-profit groups for space to serve the community.  Does it matter if we keep doing things the same ways they have always been done or is it more important to figure out how to serve the citizens and be good stewards of the public dollars. Can you close part of a school and transition the balance to community directed purposes?  

I think we need to start these conversations in communities to discuss their needs and desires prior to any discussion about the local schools.  

In order for this to happen, we will need the province, city and school boards working together.  My hope is that the together we can develop a vehicle to see this collaboration truly happen.  It will take all of us including the City, school boards, community members, non-profit organizations, cultural groups, faith groups and businesses working together to see positive change for communities.  

Parental Leave

How do we attract more women into politics?  How do we keep them in politics? These are questions I have been asked since I was elected the only women onto CIty Council in 2013.  I think there are some great campaigns out by Equal Voice and others to encourage women to run.   Are there other barriers to women running for office?

Recently at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference, the issue of parental leave for councillors was discussed.  Quebec recently acknowledged the need to provide some and has instituted 18 weeks of parental leave.

In Alberta under the current Municipal Government Act (MGA) there is not a provision for parental leave.  Current rules indicate that after 8 consecutive weeks of absences a councillor is disqualified.   An exception can be made by a resolution of council passed on each circumstance.  Last week I present a motion to council to request a provision in the new Municipal Government Act to allow municipalities to create policies to provide parental leave for councillors.   City Council unanimously approved of the consideration.  
If this was embedded in the MGA then each  municipality could then create a policy for parental leave for their councils.   This would provide confidence that a councillor would be provided parental leave based on the policy.   

ATCO Gas – Lauderdale Project

On May 30th, ATCO Gas’ contractor, Amtel will be starting mobilization for the Lauderdale Steel Mains Replacement (SMR) project with construction beginning on June 1st.

·       This project will include the replacement of approximately 1500m of gas main. 

·       The project is located between 101st Street to 113A Street along 129th Avenue (a copy of the overall work plan is attached). 

·       There will be some potential traffic disruption in the roadway in this area as the work is completed but the contractor will work with the residents to minimize impacts. Periodic lane closures will be coordinated with the Traffic department.

·       Installation will be primarily by directional drill.

·       The estimated completion date is August 30th

·       ATCO Gas’ Engineering and Construction group has been coordinating this work with the City of Edmonton

Lauderdale Map

 

 

LRT, Road Construction & Fires!

It has been an interesting week in Edmonton! This week City Council determined the next phase of LRT Construction adding the new Valley Line from downtown to Lewis Farms and extending the Metro Line from NAIT to Blatchford including potential upgrades near Kingsway Mall. We also prioritized areas for LRT design including the Metro Line, North Blatchford to Campbell Road for preliminary engineering. I was very pleased we were able to come together and ensure that work is going forward in all quadrants of our city. I hope that funding will allow us to build the Metro Line completely sooner than later.

ARGH! I have been hearing and seeing many frustrated motorists along 127 Street. In the north part between 167 Avenue and 137 Avenue, the installation of a new Atco gas line has seen traffic reduced to one lane each way and limited access for turning left into neighborhoods and services. In the south, the reconstruction of 127 St between Yellowhead and 118 Avenue has seen the total closure of southbound lanes and only one lane north. This too has limited access into and out of neighborhoods. Like many of you, it has extended my commute and daily activities and has frustrated me. I don’t like sitting in traffic.

Then I heard the shocking news about the evacuations in Fort McMurray. In one instant the lives of 80 000 people were changed. The are calling this the largest evacuation in the history of Alberta and with an estimated $9 Billion in damage this is shaping up to be the single largest insurance event in the history of Canada. But it wasn’t the facts or the numbers that got me. It was the story of family after family fleeing their homes, heading in any direction that was safe. It was the video of cars fighting bottlenecked traffic as ash and ember flew through the smoke-stained skies. Some reported travelling for as many as 10 or 11 hours just to get to Edmonton…

So now when I sit in my car in traffic for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in just doesn’t seem so bad… not much as changed… only my perspective. I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of Edmontonians, Albertans, and Canadians. It is in these moments that we truly pull together as a community, whether it’s a pancake breakfast, donation drive, or the volunteers tirelessly working at the Edmonton Evacuation Centre at Northlands caring for these families, it’s these moments that remind what makes Edmonton great…

My Thoughts on the Recent Blatchford Discussions

I am dizzy from spinning and spinning! Discussions about Blatchford are like sitting on a merry go round.   At first it’s fun, but the repetitious circling creates nausea.   Council has been committed to the Master Plan Principles to make Blatchford a carbon neutral community.   Over the last two days we were supposed to be debating a District Energy Sharing System and determine where to go with this aspect of Blatchford.   To date, we have been on time and under budget. The runways are gone and recycled, buildings have been taken down and removed and even sold when possible. Remediation is complete.

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We are ready to go on a District Energy system and were set to look at two options brought to council.   Meanwhile both the Provincial and Federal governments are interested in supporting such initiatives.   We unanimously agreed as a Council to reach out and advocate to the different levels of governments to see if indeed funding might be available to help us with this work.   To me, that is being a responsible steward of the project and not compromising our principles.

 

We also heard for the first time from EPCOR who are interested in working with us on this project. We agreed that it was in our best interest to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a renewable energy utility model for Blatchford.   They presented Council with very high level options of wind and solar to us and we are going to need more than a high level look at these options before we can responsibly make any decision.

 

Unfortunately, these decisions do mean a delay of up to one year for development on Blatchford.   District Energy is proven technology but it must be complemented with other energy sources to meet our vision for Blatchford.

 

Throughout the process we have engaged experts at various points to ensure we had good understanding of what is needed.   We have a Business Advisory Group, which includes developers and environmental specialists.   We also have a Community Stakeholder group, consisting of representatives from the surrounding communities and businesses.

 

Some have used the opportunity to discuss District Energy as the opportunity to question whether we as a City should be pursing the development of Blatchford at all.

 

I remain true to the vision, but feel we need to be responsible stewards of the development.   I also believe we must continue to work towards this and trust we can be nimble and develop the site according to the principles as funds are available.

My Pledge for Parity

International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 2016 and at numerous

other events this week. It has been an exciting week and I have been fortunate

to attend a few events. This year’s theme was gender parity and I have been

inspired to keep working towards this goal. I was horrified to see the World

Economic Forum estimate that on our current path we will not reach gender

parity until 2133! That seems absurd to me but, just reminds me that we can

speed this up by working together on this issue.

 

At the City Hall event, I was challenged by our keynote Dr. Christina Stasia

talked about it is time we stopping telling everyone about the issue and starting

showing how it can be done. At the Famous Five luncheon, Sally Armstrong

inspired me that young people are now being more and more engaged to speak

out about what is acceptable. Her thoughts on political will changing policies,

public will and its activities and how today it is personal will that is driving the

conversation and it is showing up on twitter and facebook challenging the status

quo and inspiring action.

 

I really excited about some of the work I’m involved in within the City of

Edmonton and we just announced a new initiative, Diverse Voices for Change.

Edmonton will be one of five municipalities across Canada who will be working to

increase the number of women from diverse communities to be actively engaged

in local government and in particular, increased participation on agencies,

boards and committees.

 

My pledge … to speak out and support women to be involved in our city and take

a leadership role. What is your pledge or what are you going to do to inspire

change and create gender equity?