The Pulse: May 24, 2022

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  • 16°C: Mainly cloudy with 30% chance of showers. Risk of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Wind northwest 20 km/h becoming light near noon. High 16. UV index 5 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 4-1: The Oilers defeated the Flames in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series on May 22, taking a 2-1 series lead. (details)
  • 7:30pm: The Oilers will face the Flames for Game 4 at Rogers Place. (details)
  • 4-3: The Oil Kings defeated the Winnipeg ICE in overtime on May 23 to take a 2-1 series lead. (details)

The Old Strathcona Farmers' Market building with a blue sky overhead

Renovations to bridge Old Strathcona Farmers' Market into the future

By Sharon Yeo

With its fortieth anniversary approaching, the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market is planning a slate of renovations that will make multi-day operations possible, something the market says both customers and vendors are asking for.

Keith Persaud, market manager, told Taproot the building's history as a former City of Edmonton bus barn has made it difficult for the facility to meet current Alberta Health Services standards and that infrastructure upgrades are a prerequisite if the market were to ever consider becoming a multi-day operation.

"You need to have sinks for sampling and tastings and concession-type food," said Persaud. "Our vendors have plastic bottles with a bucket."

Changes to the local food ecosystem during the pandemic have also been a factor in moving renovations forward, given the proliferation of farmers' markets over the past several years, and the rise in home delivery options. "The industry is changing, becoming more competitive," said Persaud. "People don't want to be in a room shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 people, they want more options to come on other days."

Persaud notes that the shift to a younger cohort of vendors with a different approach has helped make the multi-day conversation possible.

"The new generation is not looking at what their mom and dad did. It's not coming to the market and standing here. It's 'I make this, I hire people, and trucks go out,'" said Persaud. "There's good and bad with that. You're not meeting the owners like you used to. The upside is that the vendors are getting more opportunities to sell products and customers are getting more days to shop markets. It's not as personal as it used to be, but that's the way it's going."

When the proposed renovations — which will include redesigned vendor stalls — are complete, the market intends to open on Fridays from 11am-5pm and on Saturdays from 8am-3pm.

The market also plans to add a general store and a new kitchen and events space, both of which would operate seven days a week. The general store would sell vendor products during off-market hours, and would enable the market to expand its curbside pick-up service to seven days a week. Looking into the future, Persaud teased that a delivery option might even be on the table.

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • Downtown exploded with orange and blue on Sunday night as the Oilers seized a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames in Edmonton's first home game of the Battle of Alberta. Inside Rogers Place, fans threw a record-breaking 1,350 hats onto the rink in celebration of Evander Kane's natural hat trick. The city is inviting residents to join the mayor and council in an Oilers-themed community rally Churchill Square on May 24 from 12-1pm.
  • With ridership on Edmonton Transit back to nearly 70% of pre-pandemic levels, council will consider whether to add fare gates to several LRT stations, ostensibly as part of efforts to improve safety on public transit. Installation wouldn't be done until 2024, if funding is approved this year.
  • Turning part of 102 Avenue into a pedestrian-focused corridor alongside the new Valley Line LRT could provide Edmontonians the "vibrant downtown" they crave, said Paths for People chair Stephen Raitz. Coun. Anne Stevenson said the idea could attract people to downtown businesses and envisions a "pedestrian-centric heart" that includes 104 Street, Rice Howard Way, and Churchill Square.
  • Bridge Healing Asamina Kochi, a proposed pilot project that aims to help healthcare providers connect unhoused Edmontonians with safe living spaces after being released from the ER, has requested $290,000 from the city for one-year of operational funding. "The goal is (that) no patient that ever comes to Alberta Health Services in the future should ever be discharged without a home to go to. And this is the model to show how it can be done," said spokesperson Dr. Louis Francescutti. Council is expected to consider the request this week.
  • Disability advocates have pointed out wheelchair accessibility issues with the six off-leash dog parks opened at community leagues this summer as part of a temporary city pilot project. The city's website says the sites "should be physically accessible for all potential users including those using mobility devices," but advocate Marla Smith, who uses a wheelchair, said she was unable to access four of the parks. The city said it has reached out to two of community leagues to discuss options, and an analysis of the pilot is underway.
  • The Edmonton Storm took a 24-21 win over the Calgary Rage on May 14, marking the club's first win in the Western Women's Canadian Football League (WWCFL) 2022 season. The Storm is the city's only tackle football team for women over 18, drawing players from across the prairies for biweekly practice, and is mostly player-funded.
  • Most of Edmonton's 74 spray parks opened on May 21, and the rest will be open within two weeks, except the High Park and Glengarry locations, which are closed this season for construction. A full list of spray parks is available online.
The door outside the public washroom at MacEwan LRT station

Coming up at council: May 24-27, 2022

By Karen Unland

City council meets on May 24, with a continuation on May 27. There is also a city council public hearing on May 25. Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • Transit safety and security will be discussed as council receives an interim update on the Transit Safety Plan that was approved in February, including hiring a director of transit safety and additional Community Outreach Transit Team members; plans to improve washroom safety; and a review of peace officer and security guard deployment.
  • Council will be asked to decide how to spend the $8.4 million remaining from the money reallocated last year from a police budget increase under the new Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy after the community and public services committee came to no decisions on the matter.
  • Council will debate Coun. Erin Rutherford's motion to replace the police funding formula with base operating funding of $385 million per year, plus funding from traffic safety and photo radar revenues, with additional funding made possible through the same budget process other departments follow.
  • A rezoning application for a proposed mid-rise, mixed-use building in Westmount at the southwest corner of 111 Avenue and 124 Street will be considered at public hearing. If approved, the building could have a three-storey podium base with an overall height of 10-12 storeys.
Seven members of the Amii team smile while wearing "I Heart AB Tech" T-shirts

Coming up this week: May 24-27, 2022

By Debbi Serafinchon

This short work week offers opportunities to cheer on the Oilers, learn more about the deep science of artificial intelligence, hear more about the plant protein industry, gain insights into the future of downtown, and nerd out on some cool hobbies.

Find even more listings in Taproot's weekly roundups.

Photo: The team from the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) is welcoming global experts in AI and machine learning to Edmonton this week. (Facebook)

Speaking Municipally's cover art, featuring a smiling turnip floating in front of Edmonton's City Hall beside the podcast's title

Speaking Municipally dissects debate on police funding and community safety

By Karen Unland

The latest episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast takes a look at various discussions on community safety and police funding that emerged from committee meetings and will resurface at council.

In Episode 179 of Speaking Municipally, co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male dove into the nitty-gritty of three related items:

  • The recommended actions arising from the Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy, which is slated to go before the full council this week after the community and public services committee did not decide on how to spend $8.4 million that has yet to be allocated from the amount withheld from the Edmonton Police Service budget increase last year;
  • Police presence downtown and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's motion to allocate $5 million in provincial dollars for downtown safety and vibrancy toward an immediate response to concerns about disorder, which will come before council at a later date;
  • The fate of the police funding formula, which Ward Anirniq's Coun. Erin Rutherford moved to replace with base funding of $385 million, with other revenue on top of that and the opportunity to put forth service packages for more — council will consider this after executive committee voted 3-2 in favour of her motion.

Male and Pavlek took particular issue with comments from the Edmonton Police Commission's chair, John McDougall, asserting that council was overstepping its bounds regarding the police budget. The Police Act is clear, said Male: "Council decides how much money goes to the police. And the commission decides how they spend it." Requiring the police commission to come forward with service packages for additional funding, as other departments do, could add transparency to the process, he added.

Pavlek wasn't as sure this would lead to more transparency, as there is no mechanism to ensure police spend their budget the way they say they will. But getting rid of a funding formula that guarantees budget increases every year does seem to be warranted, he said.

"Edmonton is the only city in Alberta that has a police funding formula ... and from our experience, I can probably say that seems to be with good reason," he said. "Doesn't seem like it works great."

Hear much more about these issues and the way councillors handled them in the May 20 episode.