The Pulse: April 18, 2023

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  • 13°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High 13. Wind chill minus 5 in the morning. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for Porphyria Awareness Day. (details)
  • 3-4: The Edmonton Oilers (0-1) lost to the Los Angeles Kings (1-0) during overtime in Game 1 of the NHL playoffs. (details)

A close-up shot of two hands attaching bright-gold netting to a basketball rim with chipped red paint

Stingers shoot for 500 new nets on Edmonton basketball courts

By Colin Gallant

An Edmonton Stingers program is aiming to install 500 new basketball nets on community courts this year, thanks to a partnership with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

"There's so many nets around the city that you drive by and there's no mesh up, or they're tattered, and you can't really use them," said Reed Clarke, president and CEO of the Canadian Elite Basketball League franchise. "Being a kid who grew up playing on outdoor basketball hoops … I know how important that is to have an actual fresh net up there."

Fresh Nets replaces netting on public basketball courts. Clarke has operated the program as a private citizen for the past couple of years, working with sponsors and the City of Edmonton to install around 300 nets on city-owned courts in 2021 and 2022.

"I just had a ladder in the back of my car, and I was going to on my lunch hour and my breaks, and I was putting up the nets myself," Clarke told Taproot. "I was like, 'God, how cool would it be if I could bring that to the Edmonton Stingers and we (could) … use our exposure as a professional basketball team in this market and make it into something really big?'"

Clarke joined the Stingers — whose season kicks off on May 28 — in November 2022. He has now accelerated the program via a partnership with the EFCL, which provides a list of courts and access to nets. This year, Fresh Nets plans to install 500 nets in the official Stingers colours of navy and gold on community league courts.

"I'm guessing that is going to handle all the community league outdoor hoops, and if not, I've got some extra ones," Clarke said. "And some of these other courts that may not be technically allowed by whatever governing bodies, we might do a few of those," he added.

Rather than Clarke's ladder-in-a-car approach, Fresh Nets is employing some full-time "Fresh Netters" this year. They'll be paid through a combination of sponsorship and investment by the Stingers. "Out of 500, I'd like to get 250 completed by mid-May," Clarke said.

Fresh Nets was originally called Fresh Hoops, which has since become its own entity working on full-court restorations. Clarke said that program is also being absorbed by the Stingers, and there will be a third arm coming soon called Fresh Kicks, working to provide kids with basketball shoes.

Photo: Many community league basketball courts have hoops but no nets, a deficiency the Edmonton Stingers are looking to address this year. (Supplied)


Headlines: April 18, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • City council agreed in principle last month to fund the renovation of 882 of the 952 city-owned social housing units managed by Civida for a cost of $10.5 million. In 2022, Civida found 92.6% of its subsidized city-owned homes were in poor to fair condition. The city has said 376 units are in poor condition. Total repair costs are estimated at $34.7 million. A council Q&A document for the 2023-2026 municipal budget says much of Civida's housing stock is "nearing end of life" and will continue to erode without investment, which could lead to the units being discontinued and properties being defaulted for demolition. Jim Gurnett, spokesperson for the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, suggested the renovations are needed because of years of underinvestment by the provincial and federal governments, adding that a failure to build enough housing or maintain the quality of housing built with public dollars represents a "callous disregard for people who live in poverty."
  • City council unanimously approved a series of recommendations intended to improve the accountability and transparency of the Edmonton Police Commission. Administration was asked to prepare bylaw changes that enable council to create an independent third-party entity to manage allegations of breaches of the commission's code of conduct, conflict of interest, and oath of office policies. Administration will also work with the commission and police on an alternative dispute resolution process that can resolve issues before the province gets involved. Council also voted to advocate to the province to appoint a chair on a full-time basis. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called the changes "very positive" and said they will strengthen council's relationship with the commission and police. Council voted against having discussions to expand the commission's mandate to include oversight of all city programs related to safety and well-being until more information about the option is available.
  • Participatory budgeting initiatives by Coun. Keren Tang and Coun. Andrew Knack were spotlighted in a Globe and Mail article. In 2022, the councillors put a total of $50,000 towards 23 grassroots projects in what may have been the first attempt at the citizen-led practice in Alberta. The money came from surpluses in their yearly ward budgets, which councillors are allowed to spend on small-scale projects. "Rather than spending the money on yourself, you can just give the money back to the community and make sure it doesn't get absorbed into this big corporation but a bench, a chair, a tree, or something in the ward," said Tang, who hopes the effort leads to policy shifts that empower community at a time when trust in institutions is eroding. Administration is expected to produce a report at the end of the year on how participatory budgeting can be expanded in Edmonton.
  • Christel Kjenner, the city's director of affordable housing and homelessness, spoke with CFWE Radio about the city's work to create Indigenous-led emergency shelter spaces for people experiencing homelessness. "We want to equip Edmonton's homeless-serving sector with all the tools needed to help get folks access to permanent housing and help them resolve their homelessness permanently," she said. Indigenous-led organizations or governments can express their interest in running a shelter or transition space until May 19.
  • The Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA) announced three programs that put a total of $1.8 million toward business growth, retail, and dining in the downtown core. The Downtown Retail Project, a partnership with Avison Young, will provide up to $250,000 to up to six retailers to offset costs of building a new downtown location. The Downtown Patio Grant will make $5,000 available per business to help build or improve patios. The Business Adaptation & Revitalization Program will connect up to six businesses with a consulting group of University of Alberta business students for six weeks. The EDBA's website has more information about each program and how to access funding.
  • The city is welcoming golfers back to municipal golf courses for the 2023 season. Rundle Park Golf Course is opening April 18 at 12pm, Victoria Golf Course is opening April 20 at 12pm, and Riverside Golf Course will open in late April, weather and conditions permitting.
The Talus Dome in front of a blue sky

Talus Dome has an escape hatch after all

By Mack Male

It may not have been necessary to damage the Talus Dome in order to extricate a man who got himself stuck inside the piece of public art.

Emergency crews used the Jaws of Life and other equipment to get the 26-year-old man out of the sculpture on April 9 before he was charged with mischief over $5,000. But he wasn't as trapped as he and his rescuers thought he was.

"There is a maintenance hatch, it is used for maintenance by our conservation department," Jenna Turner of the Edmonton Arts Council confirmed to Taproot. "Emergency services (were) not aware that it was there and were acting in the quickest way possible."

Aside from occasional vandalism over the years, an incident like this has never happened before, Turner said. That surprised Speaking Municipally co-host and pro-Talus Dome observer Troy Pavlek.

"It's a pile of steel balls, it's almost asking to be climbed," Pavlek said on Episode 216 of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. "It's on top of a hill, and 'King of the Hill' is a natural game for kids."

Speaking of games, the podcast also looked at a recent motion from Coun. Andrew Knack, passed unanimously, to look into how Edmonton could attract mid-sized and large esports events to Edmonton.

"I believe that Edmonton can be a leading hub in North America for video game development similar to how Calgary and Southern Alberta has become a leader in Canada in film and TV," Knack wrote in a recent blog post. "There is great potential to expand Edmonton's economy through Esports and interactive digital media. Bringing everyone together to work on these areas will only increase our opportunity and I can't wait to see where Edmonton will be in just a few years."

Rogers Place might be a fantastic venue for such events, Pavlek said.

"Esports, of course, doesn't have the same requirements of regular sports, everyone's already inside an air-conditioned venue," Pavlek said. "Whether you're in Arizona, or you're in Edmonton, it doesn't particularly matter to the competitors, nor does it matter to the guests who are viewing."

Hear more about this, as well as the latest on the city's encampment response and a visit with the hosts of Let's Find Out, Taproot's newly acquired podcast, on the April 14 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Photo: The Talus Dome, located near the Quesnell Bridge, was damaged recently when crews extracted a person who fell in after climbing the structure. (A.Brege/Flickr)