The Pulse: Oct. 12, 2022

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  • 14°C: Partly cloudy. Becoming sunny in the morning. Wind becoming northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 near noon. High 14. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/Orange: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and orange for the Edmonton Oilers' home opener. (details)
  • 8pm: The Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks in their season opener at Rogers Place. (details)

Myrna Bittner of RWI Synthetics speaks at a podium amid signage for PrairiesCan

Entrepreneurs aim to inspire up-and-comers at Startup Week

By Brett McKay

This year's Edmonton Startup Week includes a showcase of the intersection between health innovation and entrepreneurship, with two panelists who pitched their startups at previous Launch Party events.

Entrepreneurs in Action: The Journey from Startup to Scaleup and Beyond brings together three Edmonton innovators: Myrna Bittner, founder and CEO of RUNWITHIT Synthetics (RWI); Izabella Roth, CEO of Infinity Healthcare; and Dornoosh Zonoobi, vice-president of artificial intelligence for Exo Imaging. They will share their experiences and pass on tips to future founders.

Zonoobi pitched her startup, Medo AI, at Launch Party 9 in 2018, before it was acquired by Exo Imaging in July of this year. And Bittner pitched RWI at Launch Party 7, which was part of Edmonton Startup Week in 2016.

Since then, RWI has racked up many accomplishments, including receiving $900,000 from PrairiesCan to develop its modelling of clean-energy transition and winning the Electric Power Research Institute's Incubatenergy Labs Challenge for its work modelling the outcomes of a power outage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bittner said she's excited to be back at Startup Week to share her successes, and to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to step onto the path that led her to this stage.

"I'm hoping that (the panel) is a catalyst for inspiring other people who are in the early stages of being founders in the region, or considering being founders in the region, with some success stories," she told Taproot. "And I think there are three very powerful and distinct success stories that are going to be shared."

Health Cities is presenting the panel at TELUS World of Science on Oct. 19, moderated by Jeremy Deeks of CBRE Canada.

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Headlines: Oct. 12, 2022

By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the "outdated" police commission model isn't providing the oversight Edmontonians desire and should be reviewed. "I don't think we should be expecting volunteers from the community to be appointed and responsible for overseeing a half-a-billion-dollar budget, with Edmontonians asking for more accountability on the conduct as well as how the resources are being spent," he said. Sohi said he hopes the Edmonton Police Commission will conduct a line-by-line analysis of the police budget, while chair John McDougall said the commission is open to further dialogue on budgets.
  • Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, told CBC News a report on police budgeting written by the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance — whose president is Edmonton police chief Dale McFee — for the Edmonton Police Commission represents a real conflict of interest. "The police commission made a mind-boggling decision in giving the contract untendered, uncompetitive, to an organization that consists almost exclusively of chiefs of police," Schafer said. McFee called the criticism a distraction. "Perception is not conflict," he said. Schafer disagrees. "The process was profoundly guilty of real conflict of interest, not perceived conflict of interest," he said.
  • Danielle Smith was sworn in as the 19th Premier of Alberta at a ceremony at Government House on Oct. 11. "I do not take these responsibilities lightly, and I will make sure I work every day to earn your trust," she said. Smith later told reporters that she plans to amend the Alberta Human Rights Act to protect unvaccinated people, whom she called "the most discriminated-against group that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime." She also said she intends to replace Dr. Deena Hinshaw as the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein offered some thoughts on how Danielle Smith and her "strong streak of libertarianism" might impact the province's relationship with municipalities. St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, who is also president of Alberta Municipalities, expressed concerns about the province respecting municipal autonomy but said Smith "does have some good ideas" when it comes to municipal funding, such eliminating the province's education property tax.
  • Meals on Wheels is seeking volunteers after demand for the service skyrocketed during the pandemic. "Post-pandemic, it feels like people are getting back to a normal schedule, but we still need the same support," explained executive director Sonja Zacharko, who said the biggest demand is for 10:30am-1pm on Monday to Friday. Those looking to volunteer can apply online.
  • Some Edmontonians reported seeing a meteor shower over the city just after 10pm on Oct. 10. Christopher Herd, professor and meteorite curator at the University of Alberta's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said that if a meteor fell, the projected landing area is near Calling Lake. Experts suspect no large meteorites survived, however.
  • The Edmonton Oilers announced their 2022-2023 opening day roster ahead of tonight's home-opener against the Vancouver Canucks. Head coach Jay Woodcroft said the team is prepared to make changes at any moment, so expect "some roster manoeuvring over the next little while."
  • The Edmonton Oilers also launched an official year-round streaming service called Oilers+, which provides live and behind-the-scenes content. "Oilers fans have always been league leaders when it comes to consuming their team's content," said Stew MacDonald of the Oilers Entertainment Group. "Our Oilers+ streaming service is the next logical step to satisfy our fans' passionate appetite for more and unique Oilers content."
A portrait of Bashir Mohamed in front of the Statue of Liberty

Ill-conceived image fits a pattern, says historian of anti-Black racism

By Karen Unland

The Edmonton Police Service has apologized for releasing an image of a young Black man said to be derived from unidentified DNA found at a crime scene, but the incident shouldn't be forgotten, says writer Bashir Mohamed.

"It's straight out of a dystopian sci-fi book, but it happened, and it happened in our city. We shouldn't be able to forget about it," he told Episode 193 of Speaking Municipally. "It's just one chapter of our city's long and very disturbing history."

Police commissioned Parabon NanoLabs to generate the image, which they publicized in an Oct. 4 news release, then removed after a public outcry. The use of DNA phenotyping was framed as a historical first for the Edmonton Police Service and a last-ditch effort to identify a suspect in a 2019 sexual assault case that had gone cold.

The technology itself is dubious since DNA doesn't tell you a person's age or weight or the effects of life experience on their appearance. The police release itself says it's important to note the image is unlikely to be an exact replica. So, Mohamed asked, why release the image?

"No one's disputing the fact that the DNA shows that this is a black dude," he said. "The dispute is creating an image that represents an entire continent, basically just creates an image of a young Black dude and says, 'This is your criminal.'"

The intent of such images is to evoke emotion, he said, citing the work of anthropologist Amade M'Charek on the practices of organizations such as Parabon. The image conveys the idea of "Black criminality," and that kind of racial profiling has a long history in Edmonton, much of which Mohamed himself has documented.

Learn more about the historical context and implications of this incident in the Oct. 7 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast, which also digs into the single-use item reduction bylaw, rec centre naming rights, and police funding.

Photo: Bashir Mohamed has done extensive research on the history of anti-Black racism in Edmonton.

A newspaper clipping headlined "City may build new steel bridge: Would supplant wooden structure over Latta Ravine"

A moment in history: Oct. 12, 1914

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1934, Edmonton's city council was getting creative in its attempt to build a new bridge over Latta Ravine.

The Latta Bridge isn't one of the flashier bridges in the city, but it was one of the first. The first Latta Bridge (and the ravine it spans over) are named after David Latta, who built the first span out of wood near his home on Jasper Avenue and 90th Avenue.

Latta wasn't an engineer. He had come to Edmonton just before the turn of the century to chase the Gold Rush. But instead of continuing north, he settled in the growing city and opened a blacksmithing and carriage shop. It would prove to be a great success, and Latta would go on to own several other businesses, becoming a city alderman in 1906. (He only served one term, apparently too fed up with bickering to seek re-election.)

The first Latta Bridge allowed Jasper Avenue to span the ravine, but it wasn't exactly an ideal setup. It was only 21 feet wide. That, combined with its wooden construction, meant it was ill-suited for automobiles. And the bridge was not well-aligned with the road, making it a bit of a hazard for travellers. It was also a no-go for streetcars — the Highland Line, which ran along Jasper Avenue, had to jag north to avoid the bridge.

Still, Latta's handiwork survived for decades. By the 1930s, it was apparent to everyone that the old wooden bridge needed replacing. However, bridges were expensive, and it was the middle of the Great Depression. The city simply didn't have the money to finance a new bridge.

However, with some clever planning, two ideas formed. First, the bridge would be built largely out of recycled materials: steel girders that had been left over from a 1931 realignment of the High Level Bridge would make up the main structure, reinforced with scrapped streetcar rails. As for labour, the city used a fund set up by the federal and provincial governments to alleviate unemployment. The city got its essential new bridge by deeming it a make-work project.

The new steel bridge was completed in the summer of 1936. For the grand opening, a dance was held on the bridge, and it was adorned with lights and decorations. In 1952, the city marked the history of the Latta Bridge by installing a bronze historical plaque.

For nearly a century, the Latta Bridge connected Jasper Avenue and symbolized ingenuity during the difficult decade of the Great Depression. But, like the first Latta Bridge before it, its replacement also reached the end of its life. This August, the bridge was closed down so that construction on a third Latta Bridge could begin. That work is expected to be done in the fall of 2023.

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.