The Pulse: Nov. 20, 2023

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  • 3°C: Mainly sunny. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 becoming light late in the afternoon. High plus 3. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for National Child Day. (details)
  • 4-6: The Edmonton Oilers (5-10-1) lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning (8-6-4) on Nov. 18. (details)
  • 5pm: The Oilers (5-10-1) play the Florida Panthers (11-5-1) at Amerant Bank Arena. (details)

Councillors Ashley Salvador, Tim Cartmell, and Jennifer Rice in council chambers.

On the agenda: Budget adjustments and rezonings

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, council returns from a break to start its deliberations on the fall supplemental budget adjustment on Nov. 21, with continuations scheduled for Nov. 22, 27, 28, and 29 if required.

  • Administration says a 7.09% tax increase is needed to maintain services, about 2% higher than forecast when city council set the 2023-2026 budget in December 2022. If council approved this increase, households would pay about $750 yearly for every $100,000 of assessed home value. The city's financial pressures include a salary settlement for police that is higher than forecast and increased energy costs, as well as lower revenues from transit and ATCO gas franchise fees.
  • Administration is recommending a net increase of $80 million to the capital budget. Many of the capital items that administration recommends funding are previously approved construction and renewal projects at the end of the planning stage. These now need funding to be built. The Edmonton Police Service is requesting about $6.25 million in new funds for five projects, including technology and equipment upgrades, and for new vehicles for the Human-centred Engagement and Liaison Partnership program.
  • Council could choose to fund new services and programs through the operating budget adjustment. Unfunded service packages include $4.7 million to redeploy the Southeast Valley Line LRT precursor buses, currently set to be phased out in February. Administration has detailed two packages, totalling $13.8 million, linked to the city's response to homeless encampments. The first is for responding to complaints, which have gone up by 1,000% since 2016, while resources have not kept pace. The second is to fund outreach workers and bridge-housing spaces, which the city said it hopes will help people leave encampments and enter permanent housing.

City council will also hold a public hearing on Nov. 20, with rezonings for several apartment buildings in the south-central area and supportive housing in Athlone on the table.

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Headlines: Nov. 20, 2023

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The city has received nearly 15,000 complaints about encampments so far this year, according to David Jones, branch manager for community standards and neighbourhoods. "That's astronomical numbers," Jones told the Edmonton Police Commission last week. The city received 9,000 complaints about encampments in 2022. Encampments are a concern for the Healthy Streets Operations Centre because of the risk they pose, Edmonton Police Service Insp. Angela Kemp said. In early November, two people died, and one person was seriously injured in encampment fires. Two other people were seriously injured in another fire on Nov. 14.
  • The city relaunched its Winter Patio Grant, offering up to $2,000 per business to enhance outdoor spaces with amenities like heaters and lighting. The grant is intended to help boost community vibrancy and support the local economy during the winter, and is part of the WinterCity Strategy. Businesses can apply for the grant until Dec. 8.
  • Edmonton's Westmount neighbourhood is experiencing traffic congestion near 123 Street because of closures on Stony Plain Road related to Valley Line West LRT construction. Marigold Infrastructure Partners, which is building the LRT project, recently began drainage work in the area between 123 Street and 129 Street. Local residents say drivers have been inadvertently entering Woodbend Place, a dead-end street, leading to a stream of cars making U-turns throughout the day. The city said it will evaluate whether additional signs in the area will help drivers better navigate the closures. The drainage work is expected to last until the spring. Stony Plain Road is closed between 129 Street and 131 Street until November 2024 as the bridge over Groat Road is replaced.
  • The University of Alberta has dismissed the director of its Sexual Assault Centre after the director endorsed an open letter that questioned the legitimacy of sexual assault allegations against Hamas during its Oct. 7 attacks. University president Bill Flanagan said in a statement the director's views do not align with those of the university, and that including the centre's name among a list of groups endorsing the letter was not authorized. Flanagan said the university has appointed an interim director for the centre.
  • The Misericordia Community Hospital is set to open its new $85-million emergency department later this month, which will triple patient capacity to approximately 60,000 visits annually and feature enhanced facilities like six ambulance bays and 64 treatment rooms. The project, initiated by the former NDP government in April 2017 and continued under the UCP government, aims to address longstanding issues at the hospital, such as flooding.
  • A 17-year-old Edmonton girl was tackled and detained by an Edmonton Police Service officer on Nov. 13, after the officer mistook her for a suspect in a domestic disturbance. Haylie Nahamko-White said she didn't realize the people in the unmarked vehicle were police and fled, fearing it was an abduction attempt. The police professional standards branch is investigating the incident, and Nahamko-White and her mother have filed a formal complaint. In a separate incident earlier this month, Edmonton police tactical officers stormed a family home at gunpoint following a false kidnapping call.
  • Hundreds of protestors gathered in downtown Edmonton on Nov. 18 to continue their calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. The rally is the latest in a series of protests held in the city since Israel began bombing Gaza following attacks launched by Hamas on Oct. 7. Organizers say they will continue their protests until the violence ends.
  • Edmonton restaurant owners say the industry is struggling as inflation and high food costs take a bite out of profits. According to Restaurants Canada, half of businesses in the industry are breaking even or operating at a loss. Inflation is making customers rethink dining out, said Lisa-Marie Wasswa with El Jardin, which opened in the Mercer building downtown this summer. Mike Rebalkin, who owns five restaurants in Old Strathcona with two partners, said his restaurants have had to change menus and increase prices. "Beef prices, dairy prices, you parlay that with increasing energy costs and even interest rates, it's kind of like a triple whammy," he said.
  • Thim Choy, the owner of Edmonton Cash Register Co. Ltd. and president of Boyle Street Community League has sold the Chinatown-area building he has owned since 1973 and relocated his business to a rental property at 7252 101 Avenue NW. Choy cited financial pressures and crime in the area as reasons for his move. Despite the challenges, Choy said he is committed to supporting the unhoused through his work with The House of Refuge and will continue his community efforts from his new business location.
  • The second-annual Okimâw Awards were held on Nov. 18 at City Hall to honour Indigenous men from Treaty 6, 7, and 8 for their contributions to culture, community, and public service. Jacob Lightning, who is from Morley in southern Alberta, received the Knowledge Seeker award. Elder Francis Whiskeyjack from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, who is an advocate for Indigenous culture and youth at the University of Alberta, received the Lifetime Award.
The exterior of a large steel structure with public art built into the roof and surrounded by a rock fence.

Coming up this week: Nov. 20-24, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

Events happening this week include a look at how Meals on Wheels addresses food insecurity and social isolation, a networking event on trade, a film screening on the financialization of housing, a craft blitz at the library, and a celebration of urban design.

Find even more things to do in Taproot's weekly roundups. And don't miss Taproot's holiday market roundup.

Photo: The Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage is one of the nominees for the Urban Design Awards hosted by the City of Edmonton. (City of Edmonton)