The Pulse: March 11, 2024

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

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  • 11°C: Sunny. Wind up to 15 km/h. High 11. Wind chill minus 8 in the morning. UV index 2 or low. (forecast)
  • White: The High Level Bridge will be lit white for the National Day of Observance - COVID-19. (details)
  • 2-3: The Edmonton Oilers (38-21-3) lost to the Buffalo Sabres (30-30-5) in a shootout on March 9. (details)
  • 4-0: The Oilers (39-21-3) defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins (28-27-8) on March 10. (details)

Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton.

On the agenda: OP12, Katz Group parking request, financial updates

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, city hall partially reopens to private events only as councillors meet to discuss OP12, financial updates for the operating and capital budgets, and whether to allow the Katz Group to continue using two lots for parking.

There is a city council public hearing scheduled for March 11, a city council meeting scheduled for March 12 and 13, and a city auditor recruitment committee meeting on March 14.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • Council is scheduled to make decisions on proposed budget cuts at a city council meeting on March 12. Last month, councillors learned that to reach their OP12 goals, they would need to make significant cuts to services. City administration presented a list of options, including eliminating funding to the Edmonton Heritage Council, reducing public engagement, and increasing parking enforcement. Several councillors said they did not support cutting funding to the Edmonton Heritage Council at a council meeting last month. At the meeting, Coun. Jo-Anne Wright also said selling naming rights to city recreation facilities — another of the options to save money — could cause a disconnect between residents and the city.
  • Katz Group Real Estate has submitted an application to extend the temporary use of its properties in McDougall as a surface parking lot. The company owns the lots on either side of 102 Street just north of 105 Avenue, near Rogers Place. The properties are zoned as high-density, mixed-use urban village. While redevelopment of the lot is pending, city council has decided to allow the Katz Group to use the land as a surface parking until Dec. 31, 2023. The group is applying to extend that use until the end of 2028. Administration said surface parking is not a desirable long-term use for the land and that there is already sufficient parking for demand. Administration said it worked with the Katz Group to improve the appearance and safety of the lots, including shrubs, trees, and pedestrian pathways through the lot. "The parking lots to the north of Rogers Place not only ensure hockey and concert fans have access to parking, these lots also provide parking for events at the Fan Park, Ice District Plaza, employees and residents who work and live in Ice District, as well as patrons of… a variety of other downtown businesses," Katz Group president Fabio Guarducci told Postmedia. Council is set to vote on the required bylaw change for the extension at a public hearing on March 11.
  • Council is set to receive financial updates for the capital and operating budgets as of December 2023. Councillors will also receive the financial updates for the capital and operating budgets as of September 2023. Those updates were laid over from a meeting in December due to time constraints, and then from a meeting that was cancelled after the attack at city hall. The more recent capital update said when weighted by approved budget, 99.6% of projects are on budget and 82.4% are on schedule. The city said preliminary results reflect a $48.2 million operating budget deficit as of the end of 2023.
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Headlines: March 11, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • City of Edmonton employees represented by Civic Service Union 52 overwhelmingly rejected the city's "best and final" contract offer, with 87.6% voting against it. The city's proposal included a 7.25%-wage increase from 2021 through 2025, which the union says is not enough given cost of living increases and inflation. CSU 52 president Lanny Chudyk said the vote results show there is a "misalignment" between the city and its employees, and called for negotiations to resume for a fair agreement. The union, which represents about 5,000 municipal employees including some Edmonton Public Library staff, could issue a strike notice as early as March 11 if no further discussions between the parties happen.
  • Advocates are concerned that the 2024 Alberta budget does not include enough funding to address Edmonton's growing housing and homelessness crisis. The budget includes $24.5 million in 2024-25, along with $70 million over the next three years, to add new shelter spaces and fund operational costs. However, the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness called for more substantial investments in affordable and social housing to prevent the situation from worsening.
  • CTV profiled the Hope Mission, which is Edmonton's largest shelter provider. The organization recently expanded its operations to a new 30,000-square-foot warehouse, significantly increasing its capacity to support those experiencing homelessness. The facility includes a commercial laundry for shelters, a thrift shop, and a school lunch program. The organization is facing growing demands due to mental health and addictions issues, a lack of appropriate housing, and an increase in newcomers and refugees.
  • Consulting company disABILITY Accessible by Design is helping public and private spaces become more inclusive for those with disabilities. Brad Bartko, an Edmonton resident born with Cerebral Palsy, co-founded the company with his wife Jennifer in late 2021. Since then, their company has provided staff training and accessibility recommendations to 36 establishments, focusing on inclusive language and reducing barriers for people with a variety disabilities. Bartko was also the lead consultant for Edmonton's K-Days festival in 2023 to enhance its accessibility.
  • Erin McDonald, chair of the City of Edmonton's Naming Committee, appeared on CBC's Radio Active to speak about how the committee's operations are evolving. "We're now looking at the names that are being requested on a much deeper level, thinking about the future of the city and contemplating could this name potentially cause harm," McDonald said. She said this might mean selecting names that aren't people but are instead concepts or ideas that can be more universally celebrated.
  • Family and friends of a 13-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted inside a family change room at the Terwillegar Recreation Centre last week are calling for improved security measures at city facilities. "The city needs to be accountable for this," a family friend said, suggesting the city introduce a wristband policy that would require ID be shown before entry. Coun. Tim Cartmell said he's already met with city administration to discuss options in response to community safety concerns. A 20-year-old man suspected in the attack turned himself in to the Edmonton Police Service, though his name has not been released pending formal charges.
  • The Gateway, the student-run newspaper at the University of Alberta, successfully passed a referendum with 60% of the vote to create a dedicated fee unit to ensure its financial sustainability. The victory follows years of the newspaper operating on reserve funds, advertisements, grants, and donations. "In an age of student apathy and funding cuts to media all over Canada, this was a tremendous win," Gateway editor-in-chief Katie Teeling wrote in an online post.
  • Edmonton police arrested and charged a 34-year-old man after a metal projectile was thrown off a Whitemud Drive overpass on March 6 and seriously injured a woman who was travelling in a vehicle next to her infant. It was the latest in a series of incidents being investigated by the Edmonton Police Service in which bricks, rocks, and a concrete slab have been thrown onto Whitemud Drive from the 53 Avenue overpass. Police say they are investigating whether the most recent incident is connected to previous reports.
  • The Ukrainian National Youth Federation held a rally on March 9 in Edmonton's Churchill Square to honour the children who have died in Russia's war on Ukraine. Federation president Inna Ivchenko said the demonstration aimed to highlight the war's impact on the country's people. "We just wanted to show people that it's not only about the army (and the fighting), it's about civilians," Ivchenko said.
  • The Office to Advance Women Apprentices Alberta celebrated its grand opening in Edmonton on March 8 to coincide with International Women's Day. The office is supported by a $2.354 million federal grant and aims to support women in the skilled construction trades.
The Alberta Legislature Building.

Podcast hosts suggest budget misses mark for Edmonton

By Colin Gallant

The 2024 provincial budget lacks meaningful investment in Edmonton, said the hosts of Episode 254 of Speaking Municipally.

It boils down to capital versus operations dollars, said co-host Mack Male. "Funding for schools is great. The problem is those schools don't often get constructed until years after the budget has been announced. We need to have new schools, but we also need to put staff inside them to operate them and to teach the kids that are going to go to those schools."

Male and co-host Troy Pavlek agreed that money for operations is missing from the recently released budget — and not just for schools, but also the healthcare system. Male said the $20 million budgeted for planning a standalone Stollery Children's Hospital does not fix the institution's existing problems.

"Throughout the month of February, for example, lots of the facility was closed — not because of a lack of funding for a building, but because of staff and physician vacations," he said. "The shortage of staff caused as many as three different operating rooms every weekday throughout the month to be closed, which is pretty concerning."

The two also identified a parallel problem in the province's spending on homelessness.

"Most of the funding was slated towards things like more police officers and more funding for adding shelter spaces and temporary solutions, as well as treatment," Pavlek said. Male added that the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness got about half of the $600 million it asked for.

Hear more on this, plus the electric vehicle tax, the Katz Group's parking plea, the homeless reception centre, the Chinatown Recovery Fund, and more on the March 8 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: March 11, 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.