Podcast considers slimmed-down streets, Edge Fund treats

· The Pulse

The return of Edmonton's Summer Streets Program while e-scooters are absent is bittersweet in the estimation of Episode 263 of Speaking Municipally.

"I think the one thing that is exceptionally notable about all of the streets that they're doing this on is that they're streets that don't need to exist," co-host Troy Pavlek said of the sections of Saskatchewan Drive, 104 Street, and Victoria Park Road that will be closed to cars starting this month. "We're not doing a big lift on these. This is pretty close to the bare minimum — but it is nice to see."

Work to open Summer Streets began May 6, and each route will be ready for pedestrians and wheel-based travellers by "mid-May," the city said. Unfortunately, the ever-popular e-scooter rentals won't be on the streets until as late as the end of the month due to negotiations for longer-term contracts.

"This is the most predictable of problems. Summer happens basically the same time every year," Pavlek said. "That left me completely dumbfounded."

Guest Tim Querengesser, Taproot's managing editor, countered that Edmonton has shown itself to be forward-thinking on e-scooters, which may account for the delay as it seeks to get new elements of the program right. It wants three-year contracts, enhanced parking requirements, and licensing adjustments. "But it is still frustrating," Querengesser allowed.

Another summer flavour from the show is Kind Ice Cream's selection as one of the 17 recipients of Phase 1 of the Edmonton Edge Fund. Pavlek said as much as he's willing to wait in long lines for the company's frozen fare, he's not sure all the companies selected actually need a municipal grant.

"It does strike me (that) a lot of these organizations are doing pretty well and scaling pretty well on their own," he said. "Is the investment by the city really the most prudent financial decision?"

Co-host Mack Male lamented that the city did not spend its full pot of $5 million — meting out $4.75 million instead — but said the economic implications of the spending make sense. "The point of the city investing in any of these kinds of things is the economic development," he said. "These companies grow, they employ people, they attract other investment, they catalyze future growth and future investment."

A cyclist pedals uphill in a road lane with bollards separating them from traffic.

The City of Edmonton said its Summer Streets Program should be operational by mid-May. E-scooters, on the other hand, may not be on the streets until the end of the month. (City of Edmonton)

The trio also observed how proposed legislation from the province intersects with various municipal interests.

Bill 20, an omnibus with the potential to incentivize residential development, for example, could also lead to the province undermining the city's single-use item reduction bylaw or rules for Blatchford.

"The province is looking to remove Edmonton's ability to require higher energy-efficiency standards than the Alberta Building Code," Pavlek said. "If you read between the lines, the province is looking to make Blatchford and developments like it illegal."

Hear more on these issues, as well as the sale of the Edmonton Riverboat to two tech veterans, sponsorship deals for recreation centres, three upcoming Taproot events, and more on the May 10 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.