The Pulse: Jan. 17, 2022

There's a winter storm watch in effect for central Alberta. Environment Canada is warning of freezing rain, snow, strong winds, and a rapid drop in temperature. The storm is expected to last through Tuesday.

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  • 0°C: Snow or rain mixed with freezing rain changing to rain near noon. Temperature steady near zero. (forecast)
  • 822: As of Friday, Alberta had 822 patients in hospital due to COVID-19, including 81 in intensive care. The province also reported five new deaths. (details)
  • 6-4: The Oilers (18-15-2) gave up five goals in the third period in a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators (11-18-2) on Saturday night. (details)

Snow-clearing equipment on an Edmonton street

Snow-removal budget needs a permanent upgrade, says Knack

By Karen Unland Karen Unland

It's time for Edmonton to invest in the equipment and staff needed to clear snow more quickly, says Coun. Andrew Knack.

The $58.5-million budget for snow and ice removal has not kept up with the growing inventory of roads, sidewalks, and active pathways in the city, nor does it allow for timely clearing, the councillor for Ward Nakota Isga said on Episode 162 of Speaking Municipally.

"I think the standard to which we hold ourselves to clearing within 48 hours isn't high enough," Knack said, calling instead for a 12-hour window for some areas. "But I think we need more equipment. We sold off a ton in the '90s. And we've never really replenished it in a way that I think justifies the service that people expect."

Knack has requested a report on service standards and the possibility of expanding the city's snow-removal fleet. The report is expected to come back to city council in April. He has also been blogging about snow removal.

Knack served as guest co-host on Taproot's civic affairs podcast. He brought along Coun. Keren Tang, who noted that in the avalanche of information she's had to take in as a new councillor, the data on snow removal was "the most riveting info we had," as it is a huge accessibility issue.

The snow-removal budget is also an opportunity to apply GBA+ (gender-based analysis plus) thinking, chimed in regular co-host Troy Pavlek. As Caroline Criado Perez pointed out in her book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, a study in Sweden showed that clearing main roads first benefits commuters, who are mostly men, while clearing sidewalks and cycle paths last disproportionately affects women. Is it time to make clearing sidewalks the first priority instead of the Whitemud?

"Are we ready? I'm not sure," said Tang, the councillor for Ward Karhiio. "But I think something needs to change. And so I am looking for when this report comes back, when we actually talk about this in terms of that budget implication, and put money where our mouth is."

Knack agreed. "I think we're ready for it. The question is, are we ready to pay for it?"

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By Mack Male Mack Male and Doug Johnson Doug Johnson

  • The city has mailed out more than 400,000 property assessment notices to Edmonton property owners. This year, detached homes typically increased in assessed value by 5% while condos and townhomes typically decreased by 3.1%.
  • Edmonton police are asking city council to implement city-wide ID-scanning, through changes to the business license bylaw, at all liquor store entrances to deter theft. EPS said that a pilot project performed in some liquor stores resulted in a 94% reduction in thefts.
  • Students at Concordia University of Edmonton are expected to return to class virtually on Wednesday after a four-year collective agreement with the school was ratified by 89% of the striking faculty association's members over the weekend.
  • Another 170 Afghan refugees arrived in Edmonton on Jan. 14 and are now quarantining in the city. The group includes human rights defenders and their families.
  • Residents of the central Westmount neighbourhood are concerned that a proposed six-storey apartment complex will block the sun from nearby homes. A public hearing will be held for the development, which will sit along 128th Street and Stony Plain Road, on Jan. 25.
  • Thousands flocked to Snow Valley to celebrate World Snow Day during Sunday's unseasonable warmth. World Snow Day, which is organized by Federation Internationale de Ski, has 142 events registered across the world.
  • The level of COVID-19 indicators in Edmonton's wastewater is now higher than at any other point in the pandemic, though researchers say it is too early to know if the current wave has peaked.
  • Edmonton's TestnTravel is rolling out Testuber, an at-home testing service, this week. The company offers both antigen and PCR testing and guarantees it can collect, test, and deliver a result within 24 hours.
  • Alberta has administered over eight million vaccine doses, including 1.5 million third doses. "Vaccines are an important part of our efforts to prevent hospitals and ICUs from being overwhelmed with new cases of COVID-19, so it is critical that every Albertan continues to get each dose they are eligible for," Health Minister Jason Copping said in a Jan. 14 press release.
Karen Principe takes the oath of office

Meet the councillors: Karen Principe aims to be a good steward of tax dollars

By Karen Unland Karen Unland

Karen Principe, the incumbent-beating councillor for Ward tastawiyiniwak, is keen to ensure her community remains "safe and viable and thriving" so her kids will want to stay.

The dental hygienist and longtime volunteer, who beat sitting councillor Jon Dziadyk and four other contenders in the north Edmonton ward, dropped by Speaking Municipally to share her vision for the next four years.

"Everyone's very concerned about their tax dollars being spent properly," she said she heard during the campaign. "I assured them that I was going to go in and do my due diligence and make sure that I was looking at all the different aspects of how we're spending money."

Principe demonstrated that tendency during budget deliberations in the fall, where she joined councillors Tim Cartmell and Jennifer Rice in voting against the budget, which set a 1.91% tax levy increase.

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A bus in downtown Edmonton

Coming up at council: Jan. 17-21, 2022

By Emily Rendell-Watson Emily Rendell-Watson

City council is back this week after its break. Before the holidays, it finalized the city's 2022 budget. Here are some of the items that are scheduled to be considered this week:

  • An update on the city's public washroom strategy will be received by community and public services committee on Jan. 17. There were more than 90,000 visits to public washrooms recorded in 2021, and this year the city will hire a temporary public washroom co-ordinator.
  • An interim review of the bus network redesign will present ridership data, on-time performance, and insights from riders. The report says that Edmonton ridership is steadily rising and is currently at the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The current lease for the Stanley A. Milner Library is set to expire at the end of 2026. Executive committee is being asked to recommend that the lease be extended by 25 years at a rental rate of $1 per year to ensure continued stability for the downtown library.
A snowy, blue-sky day under the Low Level Bridge

Coming up this week: Jan. 17-21, 2022

By Andy Trussler Andy Trussler

This week's calendar includes events to help you start or strengthen your business, a roundtable on the drug poisoning crisis, and a look at Indigenous clean energy projects.

Photo: Edmontonians continue the tradition of exploring the River Valley despite the cold. (Monica Micek/Instagram)