A first draft of the People's Agenda

· The Pulse
By Karen Unland
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The first version of the People's Agenda from Taproot Edmonton reveals a desire to know where candidates for mayor and city council stand on climate change, homelessness, and the police budget; what they intend to do to improve transportation, infrastructure, and quality of life; and how they will steward the city's budget with integrity.

This is what we've learned from the early responses to our question: "What key issue do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for votes in the 2021 municipal election, and why?"

While the question is phrased to capture one issue, we learned that for many respondents, the issues are intertwined and difficult to separate. This is apt, as the successful candidates will have to manage a lot of complexity and competing interests.

This project is based on The Citizens Agenda, a way for newsrooms to make elections about more than the horse race or the spectacle by listening intently to what voters say is important to them and gearing election coverage accordingly.

We launched our listening campaign in September, and we have been gathering responses ever since, with plans to do more extensive outreach to people who are not already in Taproot's orbit in the new year. We'll also continue to follow up with respondents who have given us permission to do so, and we'll start to publish stories in 2021 diving further into these topics.

Edmonton etched in stone

As candidates for mayor and city council vie for votes in the 2021 municipal election in Edmonton, what should they be talking about? (Photo by Mack Male)

Here is a synthesis of what we have heard so far:

Will our taxes be well-spent?

The people want to know how candidates plan to be good stewards of the City's finances. Many want to ensure that revenues are used as efficiently as possible, with some believing there is administrative waste, others questioning whether the money could be better prioritized, and others worried that post-COVID austerity will be detrimental.

Will Edmonton be a good place to live?

The people want to know how candidates will maintain or improve their quality of life and that of others. Many are concerned about the affordability of the city, while some are particularly concerned about the vibrancy of downtown or the efficiency of the waste management system. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are concerned about the survival of small businesses and the future of local arts.

Will city council have integrity?

The people want to know what candidates think about interference in municipal politics, with some concerned about provincial government's recent changes to campaign finance rules and the role it might play in this election. Some are concerned about the personal integrity of candidates and want to know who their donors are. The people want to feel heard.

Will we be able to move around the city easily?

The people want to know where candidates stand on various transportation issues, with many respondents interested in making transit more accessible and active transportation more attractive, some concerned about automobile traffic flow, and a few skeptical about bike lanes.

Will we spend less on police?

The people want to know whether candidates will be willing to defund or decrease funding for the police. Most who prioritized this item want to redirect some or all of the police budget to social services and community support; a few said it was important to maintain police funding.

Will we house everyone?

The people want to know what candidates will do to decrease or eradicate homelessness. Many see a need for more affordable housing and a direct connection between that and social justice. A few want a crackdown on homeless encampments.

Will we act on climate change?

The people want to know what the candidates plan to do about climate change. For some, this is the only issue that matters as it represents an existential threat; others prioritize other issues as well, but draw connections between climate change and transportation policy, infrastructure decisions, economic diversification, or social justice.

Will we build our city intelligently?

The people want to know what candidates think about various infrastructure-related issues. Many have concerns about projects being late and over-budget; others are concerned about the costs of urban sprawl.

This is based on the first 133 responses. We are still eager to hear from more Edmontonians, as this agenda will shape our election coverage heading into the municipal election on Oct. 18, 2021. So, whether you agree or disagree with what you see here, please have your say.

This data was compiled and analyzed with the help of Madeleine Stout.