The Pulse: Feb. 13, 2024

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • -3°C: Mainly cloudy. Clearing in the afternoon. Wind northwest 20 km/h. High minus 3. Wind chill minus 13 in the morning and minus 8 in the afternoon. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Red: The High Level Bridge will be lit red for Wear Red Canada. (details)
  • 7pm: The Edmonton Oilers (30-17-1) play the Detroit Red Wings (27-18-6) at Rogers Place. (details)

A file picture from 2016 of the interior of Edmonton city hall, where people look at displays during a public engagement session.

Edmonton has thoughts on animal control, zoning

By Stephanie Swensrude

What gets Edmonton residents fired up? If one were to look at the city's preliminary data for its public engagement in 2023, the results suggest animal control, single-use items, and off-leash dog parks.

The city sent out more than 100 surveys last year, with the number of responses on each ranging from 20 to nearly 9,000, Dale Shekooley, acting lead strategist for integrated communications at the city, told Taproot.

The survey that elicited the most feedback was on the animal control bylaw, which garnered nearly 8,800 responses in December. The single-use item reduction bylaw received nearly 8,000 responses. Third place was engagement on off-leash dog parks, which saw more than 6,500 responses.

Snow and ice removal got keyboards clacking, too. A survey in April about it received about 4,100 responses. The related topic of community sandboxes got 2,900 responses.

But zoning bylaw renewal was what made people show up at city hall. The six-day hearing saw 279 speakers register to provide feedback both for and against the proposal. (The online survey for the related, but separate, topic of district planning received just more than 1,700 responses.)

The city creates regular opportunities for engagement, through in-person sessions at pop-ups, public hearings in city hall, and through surveys, which are open to the public and sent out via email to members of the Edmonton Insight Community.

More detailed statistics on civic engagement, like how many people attended in-person sessions, are not yet available as these initial numbers are still being validated. The city said some surveys were more popular due to increased distribution through public service announcements or media coverage.

Taproot compiles opportunities to offer thoughts on civic matters every week. Subscribe to The Pulse to get calls for public engagement delivered to your inbox.

Photo: A 2016 file photo of a public engagement session at city hall. (Mack Male/Flickr)


Headlines: Feb. 13, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Coun. Aaron Paquette has asked City of Edmonton administration to review any subsidy agreements with the Katz Group after CBC reported its Ice District subsidiary has filed a lawsuit against Boyle Street Community Services over a conditional $5-million donation. "When I saw the news that they were trying to claw back $5 million from Boyle Street because they hadn't fundraised hard enough, it sort of set some alarm bells ringing," Paquette said. The social services agency has been raising funds to pay for its new facility, the King Thunderbird Centre. Spokespeople for both organizations said they expect the matter to be resolved through a resolution process.
  • Edmonton city council unanimously approved one-time funding of $6 million from reserve funds for Explore Edmonton to double its operating budget. The agency, which is in charge of several major events and manages the Edmonton EXPO Centre and Edmonton Convention Centre, said the funding will help pay for property taxes, insurance, and other operating costs, and will help ensure it won't have to cut any programming.
  • The City of Edmonton's claim against U.S. electric bus manufacturer Proterra has increased to $82 million from just $1.3 million in damages filed last year. Court filings show the city is seeking damages for breach of contract and negligence, arguing the electric buses have consistently underperformed due to inadequate battery range and structural problems. The city bought 60 buses from Proterra, which began bankruptcy proceedings last summer. A representative from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 told CBC last year that some buses had been off the roads for more than a year waiting for replacement parts.
  • The City of Edmonton says its proposed 7.25%-wage increase over five years for Civic Service Union 52 members is its best and final offer. "It has always been the City's goal to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for CSU 52 members, the City and taxpayers," Michelle Plouffe, the city's chief people officer, said in a statement. "We believe our offer represents this balance and should avoid any potential strike or lockout." The city has applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board to conduct an employer proposal vote among union members. The union held a strike vote over the weekend, which was scheduled to end the afternoon of Feb. 12.
  • Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools are struggling with severe overcrowding as student enrolment grows. The two school divisions are seeking more than $580 million from the provincial government to add about 11,000 new student spaces, as the city's population growth strains capacity, particularly in high schools. The situation has forced some schools to adopt staggered recesses, repurpose rooms, and add more modular classrooms. "We need new schools to be built fast and furious," said Edmonton public school board chair Julie Kusiek.
  • The City of Edmonton's Transforming Edmonton blog showcased the intended impacts of the city's new zoning bylaw, which came into effect at the beginning of 2024. The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and the Canadian Home Builders' Association expressed support for the changes, which are aimed at supporting increased housing options, more business opportunities, and greater development flexibility in line with The City Plan.
  • As Alberta experiences significant population growth, some are concerned about whether Edmonton has the infrastructure and resources necessary to meet increased needs. The Alberta Medical Association says there may not be enough healthcare workers and facilities to ensure new arrivals can access care in a timely fashion. "There's no question that it's causing a burden and a struggle for our already overburdened and struggling healthcare systems," said association president Dr. Paul Parks.
A photo of Jasper Avenue when it was opened for people and closed for vehicles during an event in 2019. People walk where usually cars and speed dominate

Walkability optimists meet critical podcasters

By Colin Gallant

Two advocates pushing council to better pedestrianize Edmonton's downtown offered optimism on "mushy middle" achievements, despite pessimism from the hosts of Episode 250 of Speaking Municipally.

The episode and appearance by Stephen Raitz of Paths for People and Jason Syvixay of Urban Development Institute — Edmonton Metro follows an urban planning committee meeting in early February, which received and addressed an administration report on the Downtown Pedestrianization Plan. The committee passed a motion that calls for a second report, all based on the plan Raitz, Syvixay and other advocates submitted in 2023.

Hosts Mack Male and Troy Pavlek thought the committee's passed motion was a nothingburger. But they also acknowledged Raitz and Syvixay's work is a step on pedestrianization, nonetheless.

Still, Raitz consistently argued small changes will lead to big ones.

"It's not some loss if there's still access for a vehicle at some points in the day," Raitz said, about street closures downtown. "That's not some huge L we're taking. We need to recognize that we need to pass the baton to future advocates who can then use the circumstances and situations that we've created to get that big W."

Raitz and Syvixay work together on walkability even though they don't agree on everything. They said the direction the urban planning committee approved creates incremental change that will make Edmonton's downtown easier to walk and stimulate positive change over time.

Both mentioned the failure to permanently close 102 Avenue and the promise of Rice Howard Way. They believe better literacy on pedestrianization and novel ideas will create a more walkable city.

"Rice Howard Way and 104 Street continue to emerge as the two areas that can really have a path to success and serve as a proof product," Syvixay said. "There's actually a lot of conversation already happening with Rice Howard (Way), sort of behind the scenes, with the City of Edmonton administration … It's something tangible that they could see success on."

Raitz said there's more work underway than what's in the motion. "Council, often, can't be so fine-grained in how staff are deployed and how resources are deployed. So the nuance in the context that was missing from the motion, but was actually discussed during the conversation with administration, was the necessity to move forward on the short-term implementation and on actions."

Next up is a report from admin by the fourth quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Paths for People is engaged in the $100 million bike plan and the Winter Cycling Congress. UDI has lots of public events coming up.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: Feb. 13, 2024

By Debbi Serafinchon

Here are some events happening today in the Edmonton area.

And here are some upcoming events to keep in mind:

Visit the beta version of the Taproot Edmonton Calendar for many more events in the Edmonton region.