The Pulse: May 18, 2022

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  • 13°C: Cloudy with 60% chance of showers. High 13. (forecast)
  • 20%: The average PCR positivity rate for COVID-19 in Alberta fell for the third week in a row, dropping below 20% between May 10 and May 16. (details)
  • 7:30pm: The Oilers (4-3) will play the Flames (4-3) in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series in Calgary. (details)

Two pie charts breaking down the proposed one-time and ongoing spending on community safety and well-being initiatives

Councillors undecided on how best to spend community safety money

By Brett McKay

Members of city council's community and public services committee spent a lot of time this week debating how best to spend $8.4 million remaining from the money they diverted from a police funding increase last year.

In the end, they sent the matter to the full council — without a recommendation — to discuss on May 24.

The available funds represent the remainder of $10.9 million that was diverted from a police funding increase in an effort to explore solutions other than policing for systemic issues that lead to poverty and crime. Administration put together 10 business cases for spending that would take steps towards fulfilling the recommendations in the Safer for All report and work towards making Edmonton Canada's safest city by 2030.

Councillors raised questions about whether the money earmarked for these programs was being appropriately applied to pressing problems like the opioid crisis and social disorder downtown.

"I'm quite concerned about the $25,000 dedicated to a drug crisis," Coun. Karen Tang of Ward Karhiio said of the money allotted for drug poisoning response — the lowest amount given to any of the business cases. "If we talk about some of the causes to our social disorder, I think that's a huge one."

Some of the recommended programs are aimed at early intervention and prevention — for example, $200,000 for the Edmonton Public Library's Sing, Sign, Laugh, and Learn program.

"We were trying to be a little innovative," said city manager Andre Corbould in response to councillors' questions about whether that was an appropriate addition. "We had heard from a lot of the community and from council that you didn't want to see the same old things."

Corbould also explained that there were time constraints in determining which proposals to green-light, as there are only seven months remaining in the fiscal year, and preference was given to ideas that could immediately make an impact on the community.

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Headlines: May 18, 2022

By Kevin Holowack

  • Since Edmonton adopted Vision Zero in 2015, crash-caused fatalities have dropped 50%, serious injuries by 23%, and pedestrian fatalities and injuries by 27%, the city announced in its 2021 Vision Zero Annual Report. The document highlights safety improvements resulting from last year's decision to reduce residential and downtown speed limits and the launch of three programs intended to engage the public in street safety initiatives: Vision Zero Street Labs, the Safe Speeds Toolkit, and the Vision Zero School Kit. "The support and interest in these new programs show how much Edmontonians truly care about safe streets," said Jessica Lamarre, the city's director of safe mobility. A decline in photo radar revenues has put the program's funding at risk.
  • The Edmonton Elks reported a net operating loss of $1.1 million for 2021, after a season that saw them post a 3-11 record, with no wins at home and no playoffs. The loss "could have been much worse" given the circumstances, said board chair Ian Murray. On the bright side, the team has signed a partnership with MacEwan University to collaborate on offering student internships, co-ops, recruitment opportunities, support for MacEwan's sports teams, and more. MacEwan president Dr. Annette Trimbee applauded the Elks as "an amazing entrepreneurial and vibrant institution in this city."
  • University of Alberta president Bill Flanagan says the influx of $48.3 million into the school, which was announced as part of a wider provincial investment into "high-demand" programs, will help grow the student body from 42,000 to 44,000 over the next three years with the goal of reaching 50,000 in five years. The investment will expand the U of A's engineering, science, and nursing programs and pay the salaries of around 80 new professors.
  • A group of current and former U of A English professors published an opinion piece in the Edmonton Journal calling on Albertans to protest the "dreadful demolition" of the Humanities Centre after the university expressed its intention to remove the building from its inventory last month. The authors argue that the recent "assault" on the building, including budget cuts, is emblematic of a devaluation of the humanities. They point out that next year the English department will have only 30 professors responsible for lecturing nearly all U of A undergrads, who are required to take English courses. "We ask citizens who care about humanities to write to the university president and board of governors, urging that the humanities be suitably supported," the professors conclude.
  • Edmonton has 29 parks and open spaces projects underway, with another 36 in the planning and design phases, as the city prepares for continued growth in park, trail, and open space use. Glengarry District Park, Confederation District Park, and the Ramsay Ravine are among the many sites scheduled for renewal this season, while Rundle Heights and several parks in the Griesbach neighbourhood will see new or upgraded playgrounds. The city also plans to plant 3,000 trees through the Urban Tree Canopy Expansion project. This is happening in tandem with the city's ambitious 2022 construction schedule.
  • The Edmonton Police Service's traffic safety unit and the Alberta Motor Association are launching a pilot project to deter motorists from speeding past tow trucks. The initiative will see EPS officers monitoring areas where AMA tow trucks are offering roadside assistance along Anthony Henday Drive, the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, Whitemud Drive, and Yellowhead Trail. Alberta's Traffic Safety Act says motorists passing tow trucks or emergency vehicles must decelerate to either 60 km/h or the posted speed limit, whichever is lower.
  • Downtown Spark, a festival featuring large whimsical installations from international and local artists plus music and cultural events, is returning to downtown Edmonton from May 26 to June 5. Edmontonians can expect to find inflatable sculptures by UK-based Designs in Air and Edmonton's own Vignettes at Rice Howard Way, Alex Decoteau Park, and the Yellowhead Brewery. Downtown Spark is presented by the Edmonton Downtown Business Association and partners.
  • As of May 16, Albertans with a driver's licence or ID card can renew it online at anytime through the MyAlberta eServices portal. The new system circumvents in-person service and also allows users to download a temporary licence.
  • Premier Jason Kenney took a selfie outside the Canadian Embassy in the U.S. with a man from Virginia also named Jason Kenney, whose Twitter account has been the subject of misdirected ire toward the Canadian politician since the early 2000s.
A newspaper clipping headlined "Speedway Oval Opener Promises Something 'New'"

A moment in history: May 18, 1963

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1963, the Edmonton Speedway was prepping for the city's first stock car race.

The popularity of car racing in the Prairies started revving up in the 1950s. Faster, lighter sports cars from Europe had become easier to get in Canada. The Second World War was also a surprising contributor; many people now had mechanical skills learned from using or manufacturing military equipment. And Canada's role in training Allied pilots meant there were abandoned airbases with long, flat strips of runway that racers could take advantage of.

The city's first raceway had a modest start. Originally called the Breckenridge Oval, it was little more than a dirt circle when it first opened in the late '40s. Then, in 1952, the track was paved and shortened to a quarter-mile. The new track had a capacity of 8,000 people and was dubbed the Edmonton International Speedway.

As the excitement for racing grew in the 1960s, so did the Speedway. For the first decade, the Speedway hosted hard-topped cars designed specifically for racing. The 1963 season offered the first taste of stock car racing in Edmonton, featuring "automobiles off the street" with only a few modifications: "taping of glass on headlights, taillights and mirrors and installation of roll bars," reported the Edmonton Journal.

The Speedway would install Alberta's first drag-racing strip in 1967. (Legendary drag racer Don "The Snake" Prudhomme would set a world record on that strip in 1971.) A year after the drag strip opened, a four-kilometre road course was completed. These tracks, as well as a strong fanbase in the city, drew racers from all around the world. The Speedway would host events like the Can-Am series, Formula 5000, and Trans-Am races in the '60s and '70s. At its peak, it could hold 30,000 spectators.

The public obsession with car racing would begin to cool as the '70s drew to a close. The Speedway was eventually bought by a land development company and ultimately closed in 1982 to be converted into a residential area now known as Hudson. While the asphalt and bleachers have been replaced by houses and sidewalks, the Speedway can still be experienced on film; the track was used in David Cronenberg's 1979 racing movie Fast Company.

While nowhere near its heyday half a century ago, racing is still a draw in central Alberta. The Capital City Raceway (later the Castrol Raceway) opened south of the city in 1991. For nearly a decade, the Edmonton Indy wound through the old airport until 2012. And the Edmonton International Raceway continues to host NASCAR and CASCAR events throughout the year, with their 2022 racing season beginning at the end of this month.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.