The Pulse: May 31, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 25°C: Clearing in the morning. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 25. (forecast)
  • 60%: The province has met key Stage 2 reopening targets, with 60% of Albertans now vaccinated and less than 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations. (details)
  • $10,000: Donations to an Indigenous sport organization grew by $10,000 in one day after news spread about the racism faced by Oiler's defenceman Ethan Bear. (details)

Several pairs of children's shoes set at the feet of a monument on the Alberta legislature grounds

Edmonton joins movement to mourn residential school deaths

By Karen Unland Karen Unland

The discovery of the remains of 215 children in an unmarked grave outside of the Kamloops Indian Residential School set off a countrywide wave of shock, grief, and calls for a fuller reckoning with Canada's long history of inhumanity toward Indigenous people.

Edmonton joined that movement. Here's a rundown of what was said over the weekend:

More than 134 residential schools operated across Canada from 1831 to 1996, including the Edmonton (formerly Red Deer) Industrial School and the Youville Indian Residential School in St. Albert, among at least 23 others. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has so far learned of more than 4,100 children who died from disease or accidents while attending residential schools, but many more are thought to be unaccounted for.

Photo of children's shoes set out in remembrance at the Alberta legislature on May 30. (Mack Male/Flickr)



By Michelle Ferguson Michelle Ferguson

  • Fans gathered outside Rogers Place on Saturday to show their support for Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear, who was the target of online racism last week. Bear drove by to greet the crowd.
  • The city's mountain biking community is concerned that plans to recategorize parts of the river valley will make popular trails off-limits to them, reports the CBC. The city began its River Valley Planning Modernization project earlier this month.
  • There are calls for the Edmonton Police Association to stop flying its controversial "thin blue line" flag. Multiple police forces in the U.S. and Canada have banned the use of the thin blue line, reports Global News.
  • Public outcry against the use of herbicides could force city council to reverse cuts made to its weed control budget, reports Global News.
  • The additional funding announced by the province on Friday is not enough "to meet the ongoing challenges of learning loss," Edmonton Public School vice chair Nathan Ip said in a tweet.
  • Councillor Aaron Paquette will be Fort Edmonton's first Indigenous honourary chief factor when the park reopens this summer.
  • A new COVID-19 vaccine clinic hosted at the Africa Centre in north Edmonton is helping overcome vaccine hesitancy, reports the Edmonton Journal.
  • A pilot project will see the installation of honeybee hives at six historic sites across Edmonton. The honeycomb from each location will be sold online by YEG Honeycomb.
The Groat Road Bridge.

City, arts council reviewing lack of clarity around Percent for Art program

By Jackson Spring Jackson Spring

A municipal policy to fund and install public art alongside select infrastructure projects doesn't provide clear guidelines to the officials who determine which projects make the cut.

That may change soon, because the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC) are conducting a review of the Percent for Art policy, which allocates 1% of eligible construction projects' budgets towards new public art installations.

Jenna Turner, the EAC's communications director, told Taproot in an emailed statement that the review includes potential changes to more clearly outline how projects are deemed to be eligible, and to ensure "art is installed where it has better exposure to residents and alignment with strategic city plans and initiatives."

The EAC hopes to present its proposed changes and additions to city council this fall.

Edmonton adopted the Percent for Art program in 1991 with the goal of increasing the amount of public art in the city, but what types of projects are included in the program has changed several times since its inception.

While it's not clear what types of projects were initially eligible for the program, in 2007 the policy was revised to extend it to construction or renovation projects on bridges, streetscapes, parks, and all public buildings. A cap limiting the amount of a project's budget that could be allocated for art to $100,000 was also removed.

In 2010, the last time the policy was revised, eligibility was redefined to include any publicly accessible infrastructure that is deemed to be "highly visible" — meaning it can be observed by the public for a minimum of four hours on a typical day. For example, new LRT stations would get new public art under the program, but LRT tunnels would not.

But in practice, publicly accessible infrastructure projects have been deemed ineligible for other reasons.

No public art will be put up around the Groat Road Bridge, even though a renewal project on the bridge is nearly finished. Jason Meliefste, the city's branch manager of infrastructure delivery, told Taproot's Speaking Municipally that it was exempted from the policy because of the type of construction being done.

"This project came about as a renewal and a lifecycle maintenance project," he said. "The Percent for Art policy was derived with a focus towards some of our growth projects."

The EAC also told Speaking Municipally that another consideration is whether the area is regularly visited by pedestrians, and said the Groat Road Bridge is primarily used by drivers.

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Jason Meliefste

Speaking Municipally: Episode 131

By Mack Male Mack Male

Listen to Episode 131 of Speaking Municipally for the full interview with Jason Meliefste, branch manager of infrastructure delivery at the City of Edmonton, about the Groat Road Bridge.

In addition to the Percent for Art program, co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male spoke with Meliefste about the construction of the project and the impacts on active transportation users.

"Having to do traffic management often requires a balancing act of competing interests around trying to be able to manage as many movements as we can, as safely as we can," Meliefste said.

During construction space for pedestrians and cyclists was reduced. Signs were erected stating that cyclists had to dismount and walk across the narrow pathway on the east side of the bridge.

"Unfortunately, we made a decision early on that we wanted to be able to protect as much space for the contractor," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we met the public's expectation around delivering this project on time."

Photo: Jason Meliefste at news conference in Butler Memorial Park on Aug. 13, 2020. (City of Edmonton)

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A man sits on a bench with a bike behind him, overlooking Edmonton.

Coming up this week: May 31-June 4, 2021

By Sara Gouda Sara Gouda

Thanks to Vahid for sharing their photo with us!