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Laws, Sausages and Huge Massive Loopholes

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The good news is that Alberta has a Conflicts of Interest Act (coming in a future blog, Alberta’s Whistleblower Act and how it’s also full of holes). The bad news is that the definition of “conflict of interest” is either so thin you could put it in a razor and shave with it, or a loop hole so large you could store school portables in it.

Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, one of the Officers of the Legislature who found their budget cut in December, while clearing him of formal wrongdoing, released as scathing a report on the election tactics of Education Minister Gordon Dirks as Alberta’s conflict of interest legislation allows her.

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Download the full ruling

Not many punches pulled. Was the Minister’s announcement of portables for a school in his riding political opportunism? Sure. Would the commissioner have told him not to do it if he had bothered to seek her counsel? You bet. Will be legislation be changed to prevent this sort of thing in the future? Not a chance.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba both place restrictions on the use of Government resources as a campaign tool during general elections and by-elections. While the Premier was promising to “restore faith” with this fall’s Accountability Act, his government rejected proposed amendments which would have prevented government Ministers and MLAs from wielding government dollars and promises like someone waving an election sign at a busy intersection.

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Brian Mason in the Legislature on the evening of December 10th.

In fall of 2013, the Conflicts of Interest Act went before committee for review. The result was superficial, with recommendations such as changes to the definition of ‘private interest’, the ability to sanction members who don’t cooperate with the ethics commissioner and for the commissioner to instigate investigations on his/her own, being rejected.

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Read the full committee report

 

The NDP, in their minority report to the committee, addressed the issue of ‘private interest’, at that time in regards to the inquiry into lobbying efforts of the MLA for Edmonton-Manning:

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The Officers of the Legislature, who have had their budgets cut for the coming year, can find, highlight and point out poor behaviour by those in power and the abuse or mismanagement of resources. But they have little in the way of legislative tools to hold government to account and institute change. Only the voters can do that. So I’ll ask you, my fellow electors, when can we change the way things are done in this province? The more things don’t change, the more they stay same. And with a lessened opposition, difficult freedom of information legislature to use and navigate, and reduced funding to the legislative officers, the less we’re likely to even know about.

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Education Minister Gordon Dirks used office for political gain: ethics boss – Global News

It’s not “crap”, it’s just not very good.

molson

I promised myself at one point this past winter, that I’d make the time to head down to the Molson Brewery and spend some time taking pictures of brick, and masonry..and history. Passing by the site today, I see that a dismantling of the Molson sign has begun. It might have started a while back, but I noticed it today. If were moving forward with an unpopular development proposal for the site and expecting media cameramen to make an appearance, I’d probably pick this as a good time to have an iconic feature removed from view.

Folks in Oliver have a great community league. It’s active, it’s engaged, it’s forward thinking, and it’s home to the next generation of volunteers on which the future of the community league system will depend. As a community league civics director, and as a member of the Federation of Community Leagues Planning Committee, I’ve been impressed by how they’ve approached the proposed redevelopment of the Molson Brewery over the past year.

Identifying concerns with the site’s proposed rezoning, it’s amenities, and a lack of residential uses on a downtown property along a major transit corridor; The Oliver League has connected with all the right people. They’ve held community meetings. They’ve developed positive recommendations and have been ready and willing to work with city planners and the property owner to develop something positive for the area, for downtown and for the preservation of it’s history.

And today Council passed a proposed rezoning which pretty much ignores all of that. The kind of decision that ends with volunteers leaving forehead sized dents in the fabric walls outside Council Chambers.

The Mayor and Council that famously promised “no more crap” didn’t exactly pass crap today. They just did what they’ve frequently done over and over again, in simply accepting what was deposited at their door. Councillors are meant to be the keepers and dreamers of a city’s vision, someone else could be the status quo rubber stamp society.

It’s the legal role of the Sustainable Development department to process applications to rezone a property. And herein lies my challenge to the next Council that will take shape at the end of October.

Rebuild the road that leads to you.

It’s the job of planners to prepare zoning applications and bring them to Council. They don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to recommend them, they simply have to prepare them for Council’s consideration. Outside of that, our planning and development process is open to a world of change. We don’t hire individuals trained to simply process applications. We hire educated, professional urban planners. Minds that can interpret and articulate a city vision. That can work with engaged stakeholders and incorporate input from all sources into a recommendation for Council.

Council could have sent today’s rezoning application back to city administration for reconsideration. Or city administration could have gone to Council with an additional alternative proposal, built collaboratively with all interested parties, and with our planners’ own sense and vision of what they want for the core of our city.

Voters will pick new faces for Council in October. Which of those, if any, will take on the role of changing the face our city’s administration. The city has hired some excellent individuals to work in it’s sustainable development department. Encourage them to come to Council with more than cookie-cutter proposals built on narrow vision and input. Developers in Edmonton aren’t known for being particularly experimental or open to taking risks. Don’t be afraid, current and future Councillors, to say ‘no’ once and awhile, and show them that the risk they perceive, might just be a great development that a community wholeheartedly wants.

Edmonton Molson brewery site rezoned amid controversy – Edmonton Journal

Edmonton city councillors approve controversial Oliver plan – Metro Edmonton

Controversial rezoning of Molson brewery site approved by council – CBC News

 

Hey Hey Hey Goodbye…

Katz Group puts pressure on potential Edmonton Northlands contractor

Downtown arena may be dead if Oilers owner Katz doesn’t step up

An election is approaching – an unpopular arena funding model seems to become more so by the day – A provincial budget came and went without $100 million in arena funding, leaving the Mayor’s “the money is coming, the money is coming” reality distortion field, bleeding on the side of the potholed road – And a couple more City Councillors have toyed with the idea of possibly, maybe, sort of, voting against the Arena framework as it heads back to Council without the Provincial funding we knew it wasn’t going to get.

Did I mention an election is coming?

Anyway, as it all heads to either a tear-filled finale or a ramming through from throat to rectum, I’d like to offer Council and Council hopefuls a solution, free of charge.

Cut Katz loose.

Aside from a 30+ year lease for the use of the facility for 41 days per year + the playoffs (if any), let’s do it without him. Let’s do it without the Katz drama, the Katz ego, the $20 million marketing deal and the forfeiture of facility revenues. Let’s do it without his meagre investment to be spread out over decades.

I don’t begrudge Daryl Katz for making fantastically one-sided business deals, I just wish my city could do the same. Here’s Edmonton’s chance – cut Daryl out. If we’re going to build it, if we’re going to own it, if the city is going to stretch its borrowing capacity by a half-billion dollars to do this; then let’s run our rink, fill its seats, and profit fully from it.

If we need partners going forward, who have the expertise and the ability to bring shows through the door; Then starting with a trip to LiveNation, City Council can send Simon Farbrother on the road with instructions to fill the barn, not give away the farm.

State of Democracy

EDMONTON—In findings that should disturb every politician across the country, a series of new national surveys suggest record numbers of Canadians are fed up with the state of our democracy.

Worse for elected leaders, more and more Canadians believe that politicians, regardless of their party affiliation, don’t listen to them, don’t care about the issues that really concern them and aren’t willing to act to preserve and improve our democratic institutions and traditions.

Only 17 per cent of Canadians trust Parliament and only 10 per cent trust political parties.

Read the rest @ TheStar.ca

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I can’t find myself disagreeing with the results of any of the referenced studies. Anyway, I’ve hacked out some thoughts..bit of a rant on the subject of engagement, good governance and political involvement.

 

“Neuman told the delegates that growing numbers of Canadians are disillusioned with elected officials and have now turned to supporting grassroots citizen actions, such as the last fall’s Occupy Movement, the B.C. referendum on the HST and this summer’s Quebec student protests, as a way to make their voices heard.”

 

It’s pretty simple at the end of the day:

No un-returned phone calls.

No unanswered letters.

No letters advising you “to be cautious as to how you approach future communications as your comments could be upsetting to some individuals. This could delay the decision on a new school”.

No party whips, and party leaders, and party agendas to wade through.

And no bureaucratic and political hills to climb and barriers to entry, that have been built up to the point of inaccessibility for the average person.

 

These are things that don’t exist in any successful and inclusive grassroots & community movement. And for the average person who wants to be an engaged citizen, who wants to be involved and have say – these require the strength in numbers of grassroots organization to overcome.

It’s why I joined a community league. To advocate on behalf of my community with like-minded individuals, in way we could never, ever, do on our own. It’s the reason Edmonton’s community league movement was built, to provide citizens with the ability to positively affect the growth of a city in which the voice of the individual was increasingly being drowned out.

As for other levels of government….

In the provincial legislature, my community is represented by an MLA who was thrown out of government caucus for bluntly laying out the state and management of health care in Alberta. Party came first, and a decision was made behind closed doors. against our constituency, our MLA, without any consultation. And yet their smiles were warm and friendly when they came to ask for our support in 2012.

Federally, my riding is represented by an MP who is chronically disengaged, and often unreachable. What accessibility to government and policy can there be for an individual or small-group when even a simple discussion can’t be had, or an inquiry answered?

Of course Canadians feel disengaged, unheard and detached from government. Time during the day is short, our lives are hectic, and we have little tolerance for spending precious free time talking to a wall or wading through rhetoric.

But if we want something more than a depressingly low voter turnout, policy developed in a vacuum, and partisan sniping, then folks need to find the time and fortitude to go out and demand it. It’s the only way we’re going to cultivate future leaders with the will and desire to make their time in government as demanding one them and their colleagues as possible, by initiating engagement, transparency and citizen participation from the top-down.

*ability, Oxford and Edmonton – A green neighbourhood with an auto obsession.

My volunteer life has taken a turn towards looking at walkability, and the accessibility of neighbourhoods to all forms of transportation and all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities. It’s through that lens that I find myself looking at north-west Edmonton’s Oxford Neighbourhood. A suburban community, with the city as it’s developer, aspiring towards “mandatory environmental standards and sustainable development”.

At least, for the built-form of it’s homes.

“Homebuilders for the 87 available lot spaces are required to meet eco-friendly guidelines for conservation and energy-efficiency including achieving a minimum EnerGuide rating of 78 or be certified to Built Green Silver standards or equivalents.” – CTV News 

Oxford’s Residential Design Standards for builders and lot owners.

But for a city in which walkability, bikeability, and ability to reduce auto dependence are increasingly on the minds of many residents, and seemingly with the support of a number of city policies, directives, and statements – how does Oxford fit in.

Well – It’s a suburban development. There are no back lanes and “attached double front garages are required”. The sort of design that leads to a cluttered, vehicle dominated streetscape and certainly limits the ability to have treed boulevards separating pedestrians from traffic. The subdivision has a suburban block style, but there are walkways to provide pedestrian connections. A larger question could be what amenities, and supporting densities are planned for the eventual, large-scale neighbourhood build out that would support a greener lifestyle by allowing residents to do more close to home?

Appreciating the environment standards which the city has set for the community’s homes, there a larger issues at play. And with the city assuming the role of developer, I would expect, and would have expected that a push towards greener living include local streetscapes which are friendlier to people and their bikes and feet, rather than their cars.

Warmer than you think

Edmonton adopts winter city strategy

Is Winter City project best use of $362,000 in tax money?

Sorry, I can’t stand the cold

Ben Henderson wears a funny hat … (and winter city launches in Edmonton)

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When it comes to seasons, I have to give a fist bump to Fall. Not just because the colors enhance the look of the city or because the flying,buzzing, blood-suckers are on their way out and it’s safe to sit in the backyard without the OFF. I like it because I’m not a summer or a winter person. I’m not a fan of hot weather, my house doesn’t have AC and my office is upstairs where it seems every molecule of hot air eventually rises to. Winter? It’s obviously easier to warm up than to cool down, but shovelling and 5pm sunsets? Bah!

Fall, for that oh so brief amount of time where it’s not too hot, not too cold, and the sun waits until after 7 to disappear, that’s just right. I suppose the same arguments could be applied to Spring, but Fall doesn’t flood my driveway every year.

So, Fall. Great season, lots to like but oh so short. Summer? We’re the festival city, there’s always something going on. Why people choose to take their vacations and leave town during our sunniest months, I don’t get.  Spring, meh. But Winter…What do we with you?

You chill us, you impede us, you make us annoyed with the place we call home. You can make us forget about positives of this place, and four -30 days per year can feel like four months in our memories. Something we seem to instantly recall in any conservation we find ourselves in regarding the weather here. Yes Winter, you give us community and backyard rinks, skating, skiing, skidooing and snowboarding, but…it’s cold! It snows, and shovelling is a pain. The City’s snow clearing is never fast enough, sidewalks can resemble those skating rinks, no one with mobility issues should have to treacherously navigate a windrow to access public transportation.

Winter, at the end of the day, you’re a force of nature, unstoppable & unmovable. So do we do with you?

As a city, our basic needs come first. Yes we clear our roads, with a substantial budget to do so. But what about all the aspects of urban life? What about public transportation, what accessibility for pedestrians and determined cyclists. What about helping and protecting the most vulnerable during the most difficult months of our northern climate?

Beyond that, what about ourselves, our collective morale and spirit during the days when light is short and cold (and colds, the result of hunkering down inside) are easy to come by? Yes, the city (and this Edmontonian certainly appreciates the effort his City has made to provide outdoor activities) has had mixed results with Winter fests under it’s direction. But is that the only source of winter activity, winter fun and interaction? Heck no. Not with countless community leagues, community groups, business associations, etc in operation across our city.

This is the ‘why’ for a winter strategy. This is why, while you’re free to take any position you wish, including giving a “Bah! Humbug!” to whole thing and the WinterCity strategy’s aspirational, maybe even fluffy language, I’d ask you, my fellow Edmontonians not to begrudge the ‘try’.

Debate, discussion, and a committed focus on the winter season need not be a narrow focus on festivals and events, or the costs involved. Our core services and a helping hand to residents in need perhaps stand to benefit the most. Edmonton has a number of agencies, boards and committees, their seats filled with interested and engaged Edmontonians. Their work is often quiet, behind the scenes and without the recognition it most likely deserves, but these folks, these outlets help to build our city. Whether it’s providing advice of the status and growth of the Edmonton Transit System, in advocacy for persons with disabilities, or in honoring people and places by using historical names within the city.

For individuals out there who want to tackle winter head-on, then I say the WinterCity Strategy is a great start, and an advisory council and other related avenues, a great place for them. Go out there and build capacity in those grass roots organizations to hold winter festivals and events. Explore innovative ways to build urban amenities that are attractive in all seasons. Go out and experiment, find ways to improve the accessibility of our infrastructure during the winter months, and liaise with social agencies and service providers to help protect those who need protection from the harshness of our climate.

The budget request to help life this off the ground is not unreasonable, the avenues to explore are plenty, and the optimism and aspirations of “For The Love of Winter”, as a city… let’s run with it and see what happens. When it comes to winter, we won’t be able to see we didn’t plan for it to the best extent possible, and didn’t get outside to make the most of it.

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Edmonton WinterCity Strategy

Transit Bucks

Council set to privatize southeast LRT line – Edmonton Journal

Federal threat forced approval of P3 for LRT, group claims – CBC News

As a community volunteer in the west-end, for several years now, the route for West LRT expansion and it’s engineering and design phases, were and are a big part of my volunteer obligations. The following are some of my thoughts on today’s news cycle and the P3 model chosen to build, operate and maintain the ‘low-floor’ LRT system from the west-end to the south-east.

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So just what are the implications of a P3 agreement that leaves maintenance and operation in private hands for an LRT line that will be retrofitted into and operated within city streets, transecting vehicles, intersections and pedestrians from the far west-end to Millwoods? A decision made without any public discussion, without any dialog between, Councillors, city admin and the public & affected communities; barring anymore investigative reporting we’ll probably just have to wait and see. An unacceptable approach for a project of this scale and impact.

Turning over the handling of maintenance and operations as part of the agreement most definitely should have gone out to the public for consultation. This isn’t, nor should it be some all or nothing proposition between building it anyway, at any cost, or not at all. A multi-billion investment that’s meant to transform land-use and transit modes from one end of the city to the other has to be done right. To do so, the devil is in the details from design to operation.

What does it mean for communities and transit riders, when the system isn’t governed by the City and ETS? Does it mean the possibility of two different fare schedules? Does it mean a lack of coordination between connections with the bus network and high-floor lrt systems? Does it mean potential difficulties in coordinating maintenance, repairs and upgrades between a private operator and ETS and the Transportation Dept? Does it mean reduced or alternate trip frequencies as compared to the public, ETS operated system?

This decision needed public consultation prior to being made. And the public deserved the opportunity, if we didn’t like what we heard, if we felt the Federal Gov was forcing this decision on our Councillors, to push back publicly, call our MP’s out and onto the floor, and let Councillors make a decision with public support behind them. As with many things however, with the bulk of the decision made, any public consultation is likely to be superficial at best, and our CPC MPs (who one increasingly wonders whose interests they represent, us or the PM’s) skirt the issue and fly under the radar.

Council put forward a date and asked for Daryl Katz or a rep from the Katz Group to appear before Council and explain it’s wants and it’s position of funding for the arena project. Perhaps Council should consider doing the same with our local MPs. With more and more of Canada’s population migrating towards urban centres, I certainly wouldn’t mind hearing their thoughts and positions on funding transformative urban infrastructure projects.

 

Dizzy

The City of Edmonton says it can’t ‘affirm’ his economic claims, Councillors say they don’t know what he wants, and to date we’ve been threatened with relocation to Hamilton, Houston, Quebec and Seattle by two different owners of a team that’s been rebuilding for 20 years. If anyone wants the ride stopped so they can get off, I don’t think you can be blamed. The Mayor has set an October 17th deadline for Mr. Katz or representatives to appear before Council, although what would happen if they’re no-shows as the deadline comes and goes is..undefined. I’ve written on the arena a few times before, so until something actually moves other than politicking and posturing, I think I’ve said my piece.

The comments from the Mayor about the two sides being ‘far apart’ despite the existence of an approved financial framework are interesting. To that end, I went looking for old news articles from the time of it’s approval for comments from the Katz Group. Just to try and glimpse their level of support for the framework at the time. Anyway, in the process I compiled a number of articles from the past several years. Time clouds details, and it’s interesting too see the specifics that have been washed out from memory. If you’re interested in some arena-saga nostalgia, check out the collection below.

More confusion over Katz plan

Skepticism, tough questions must stick to arena debate like glue

NHL commissioner adds his say about downtown arena

Research on downtown arena has cost Edmonton $450K

Oilers bid makes arena plan more feasible: councillor

Mandel sets Oct. 17 deadline for Katz Group to spell out arena demands

Concern grows over the future of Rexall Place

NHL’s Bettman asks mayor for meeting on arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Angry taxpayers protest arena

Ex-NHL owner disputes arena economics

Mayor, Katz Group to meet with NHL commissioner in New York

Arena funding model mulled

Edmonton arena deal within reach, mayor suggests – Edmonton – CBC News

Alberta looking at funding Edmonton arena – Edmonton – CBC News

Stelmach, Mandel meet to discuss proposed downtown arena

Oilers owner Katz drops arena non-compete clause

Arena funding hot topic at public hearing – Edmonton – CBC News

Katz sets the record straight in a letter to Edmontonians

Edmonton, Katz Group agree to $450M arena deal | Hockey | Sports | The London Free Press

Oilers talking about move to Quebec City?

Downtown arena framework approved – but not all convinced

Arena decision reaction

Katz Group postpones public hearing

No federal money for downtown arena

Edmonton mayor wants vote on downtown arena

 

 

 

Vetoneuve

Edmonton City Centre Airport a Done Deal

Krushell said medevac is a red herring.


“We want to ensure there’s a system in place that addresses that, but International (airport) has plenty of capacity and so does Villeneuve,” Krushell said.


Mandel mum on details after Smith meet-and-greet

“He assured that they’re not going to close the city centre airport until there is another option” at Villeneuve airport, now undergoing upgrades west of the city.

 

Quarterly Update of the Redevelopment of the City Centre Airport

Edmonton Regional Airports Authority advises that land is available at Edmonton International Airport and at Villeneuve where a tenant/Medevac could design and construct a new hangar sufficient to replace their existing space at Edmonton City Centre Airport, within one year.

 

Kim Krushell – City Centre Airport

Training pilots do not pay landing fees in the same way as other users of the ECCA that contribute to the operational revenues of ECCA. Furthermore, the training pilots take off and land from ECCA, but they do most of their actual training at Villeneuve or the International Airport (EIA).


There are 21 aviation-related leases in place at the City Centre Airport, which includes businesses like the Edmonton Police Services and the Flying Club. All of these businesses can be accommodated at either the Edmonton International Airport or the Villeneuve Airport.


Economic Impact Study of Villeneuve Airport and Cooking Lake Airport – 2006

Villeneuve Airport is the primary flight training facility of the Edmonton region. Businesses

offer flight training in a range of aircraft, including helicopters, and the site is often host to

air cadet glider training.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports generate direct employment in the Edmonton region

and contribute significantly to the Alberta economy. The significance of the airports in

terms of the provincial economy is demonstrated by the direct economic impact of the

airports’ employment on GDP and output; of $8 million and $20 million respectively – total

impacts of $18 million and $43 million using economic multipliers.


Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports are also important generators of taxation revenues

to all levels of government. Total taxes paid on an annual basis, by employers, employees

and airport users, are estimated at $2 million. Combined tax contributions for the two

airports amounts to $1,300,000 to the federal government, $500,000 to the provincial

government, and $200,000 to their municipal governments.

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If I’m a resident of Villeneuve, I might be mad or at least perturbed that future development in my small community was vetoed at the Capital Region Board level by Edmonton and St. Albert. I might find some humor in the fact that St. Albert’s airport closed several years ago, and that Edmonton’s City Centre Airport is soon to be redeveloped (a good thing if done well, worth some grumbling if fumbled). And I might be prepared to ask why Edmonton, having made the case for Villeneuve’s growth itself, now chooses to stand in opposition.

The quotes and news picks above could easily be thrown in with clippings from the ECCA closure debate, which made the case for Villeneuve as a home for flight training, aircraft movements and even medevac operations moving from the City Centre.

The Capital Region Board’s Land Use Plan establishes residential density targets of 30-45 units per hectare.  Ensuring sustainable land use, that a municipality has the density required to afford it’s infrastructure, services, and the viability of local amenities is a shared responsibility in the region.  And an area plan that contravenes reasonable targets for density and housing options should indeed expect to be met with opposition at the CRB level.

And In Villeneuve, a case could well be made for a variety of housing types, outside of single-family units with rolling back yards in a proposed plan that falls outside of the region’s land use planning mandates.  Affordable/rental townhomes or apartments for pilots in training who won’t be in the community long-term.  Options to accommodate a growth in population that’s going to be tied to increased usage of Villeneuve airport, and the industrial/commercial amenities which arrive to support it.

The case now becomes, should the municipality and developer reapply with a plan that accommodates multple housing and density targets, what is the board to do?

But staff at the Capital Region Board recommended against the project because Villeneuve doesn’t sit in any of the board’s designated priority growth areas.  

Villeneuve may not be in previously established priority growth area, but with the emphasis placed on their Hamlet through the closure of the ECCA and St. Albert airports, Villeneuve residents who don’t pay close attention to politics or civic policy could probably be forgiven for thinking that they were.

The CRB shall review the priority growth areas in conjunction with, or subsequent to, the approval of: a.   Changes to the routing of Light Rail Transit (LRT) or regional bus service in the Capital Region Intermunicipal Transit Plan; b.   Creation of new or significant adjustments to major employment areas in the Plan area; and c.   New alignments or changes to alignments and/or location of major regional infrastructure.

Villeneuve airport is a piece of regional infrastructure, under the management of the Edmonton Regional Airports Association. It’s been placed into a position where it can expect an increase in usage, a demand for improvements and investment, and potential spin-offs to the area in terms of housing demand and supportive amenities. Perhaps it’s time to draw a circle in the CRB’s priority growth areas around Villeneuve. We want individuals to be able to “live locally” in their communities, and we’ve placed Villeneuve is a position to expect some form of influx of demand.  It’s only good planning, to plan to accommodate it.

Three Years or Four

Alberta government plans to give municipal politicians longer terms in office – Global News Story

 

I’ll begin this with a bit of disclosure, I’ve run for City Council and may consider doing so again one day.  That said, my first reaction to the news of Council terms potentially being extended to four years could best be described as discomfort.  Municipal governance is part of our daily lives, we interact with it constantly whether we’re enjoying a civic rec center or just crossing the street.  As a community volunteer and advocate, it’s certainly the level of government dealt with the most in regards to what happens close to home – fire rescue services/policing, neighborhood revitalization, amenities, planning & development and other local policy.  Unlike provincial or federal politics, there is no forcing of elections, nor is there an opposition to serve as a check & balance for government, or to advocate for those persons and issues which have been overlooked or neglected.  Locally, the body of decision making is condensed. The advantage for residents, organizations, civic advocates, etc, is in having a Councillor, free from the restraints of party politics with a far greater ability to influence their level of government than a sole MLA.  The downside is the ability of a poorly performing official, simmering grudges/predjudices or hard stances on specific issues to become a crippling blockage for individuals or organizations trying to affect change. The longer the period of time between election cycles, the harder it is to hold civic decision makers accountable, or at the very least see them taking part in debates with challengers on their records, new ideas, initiatives, and etc.

A number of the arguments in favor of extending the council term have revolved around the time periods for orienting new Councillors to their roles, and preparing for elections at the end of their terms.  For the former, I beleive there is a greater onus on voters to inform themselves as to the experience level of candidates in dealing with City Council and Administration.   There is the merit to the argument of Council’s affectiveness in the lead up too elections, as decision items can become delayed, up to several months before an election, and time is needed to bring new Councillors up to speed on on-going items.  Three years however, I would consider to be a suitable amount of time to move one’s legislative agenda towards fruition, and again, there should be a greater onus on prospective candidates to spend the months leading up to election, informing themselfes of on-going projects and City/Council initiatives, leaving them able to discuss these issues with voters, and jumping into Council consideration and debate if elected.

Regardless of what happens in the spring legislative session, I do hope to see debate, research, and public consultation on this issue as there are many aspects to it worthy of consideration.  For more info, this a interesting discussion paper on the issue from the Government of British Columbia.

A Downtown Arena and The Hockey News

From the October 25th edition of the Hockey News….

Early reports had the Katz camp seeking 100 percent control and 100 percent of the revenue (hockey and otherwise) of a 100 percent taxpayer-funded arena.

Once the laughing stopped in Edmonton, the Katz Group agreed that further discussion might be necessary.

“of a 75% percent taxpayer-funded arena” would have been more accurate, but it shouldn’t stop us from filing this under the funny ’cause it’s true category.