Robar says he's keen to help city understand costs

· The Pulse

Edmonton's interim city manager Eddie Robar told the hosts of Episode 262 of Speaking Municipally that he doesn't plan to merely warm the seat while city council looks for a permanent replacement for Andre Corbould, who resigned in March.

"I don't think we're going to sit idle on anything," Robar said. "I keep telling people I'm in the best seat in the house because if I mess it all up, I just go back to my old job — and I'm OK with that."

Robar said one of his goals is to improve clarity between council, city staff, and citizens. For example, the unrest among city employees that nearly caused a strike suggests a needed realism about the city's capacity, he said.

"When we ask people in our groups, in our workplace, to achieve expectations (for) service standards that are unachievable, and you're putting that on the employee, I think that is a disservice to the group," he said.

Robar said that mentality also applies to the recent 8.9% property tax increase, when Edmontonians wanted justification for expensive capital projects. Though it's the operating budget that determined the tax increase, he said council needs a clearer picture of the maintenance costs that new capital projects add to the operating budget.

"I think we've got to do a better job of identifying that for council, so they understand (what) the impact of approving 10 new subdivisions looks like," Robar said. "We need people in there to cut the grass, we need people in there to plow the streets, we need people to fill the potholes."

One of Robar's priorities is to meet citizen expectations. Barring that, he said, the city must at least be aligned and clear on what it's capable of given its revenues.

"One of my trackers as a record has always been about managing expectations — what we can deliver for what we have — and making sure that people are well aware of what they can get from us for the tax money that they're putting in," he said.

A person wearing a suit looks at a person wearing a suit who is speaking to an audience.

Interim city manager Eddie Robar, pictured standing next to Mayor Amarjeet Sohi recently, says he is keen to add realism to what the city can expect for the tax dollars it brings in. He said he hasn't yet decided if he'll apply for the permanent position. (City of Edmonton)

Robar was named acting city manager on March 22 when Andre Corbould resigned, but on April 3 was appointed interim city manager instead. He has served the city across numerous departments since 2016, most recently as deputy city manager of city operations. Robar said he isn't sure if he'll apply for the permanent city manager position.

"I'm very much focused on working over the next few months with what I have," he said. "I haven't decided if I'm gonna put my hat in the ring just yet."

Hear more from Robar on Edmonton Transit Service, snow and ice control, traffic operations, "sexy growth," and more on the May 3 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.