The Pulse: April 29, 2024

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  • 15°C: Mainly cloudy. 30% chance of showers late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind becoming north 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High 15. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for World Wish Day. (details)
  • 6-1: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 of the NHL playoffs on April 26. (details)
  • 1-0: The Oilers beat the Kings in Game 4 of the NHL playoffs on April 28. Stuart Skinner made 33 saves. Edmonton leads the series 3-1 (details)

E-scooters in downtown Edmonton.

On the agenda: Citadel, e-scooters, entertainment district

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, city council will discuss a proposed new lease with the Citadel Theatre, who will operate our e-scooters and e-bikes, and the proposed downtown entertainment district.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled on April 29 and a non-regular city council meeting scheduled on April 30. There is an urban planning committee meeting scheduled on May 2 and an executive committee meeting scheduled on May 3.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • The maintenance and renewal of the Citadel Theatre may be transferred to the City of Edmonton in September when the two parties renew their lease, according to a report scheduled to be presented at an executive committee meeting on May 3. The Citadel built and operates the theatre located at 9828 101A Avenue NW, and has leased the land from the city since 1974. The original 50-year lease said the theatre would be transferred to the city at the end of the term. Administration has drafted a new lease that would see the City of Edmonton take on maintenance and renewal of the theatre, which would cost about $1.36 million annually, plus up to $375,000 to support current maintenance work. The Citadel would provide at least $100,000 per year toward capital renewal. Administration estimates the theatre needs $56.2 million for renewal over the initial term of the proposed 10-year lease. The Citadel would cover its own janitorial, insurance, security, utilities, and property tax costs under the proposed lease. The Citadel's interim executive director Alan Nursall told Taproot the arrangement is a win-win. "The city needs a vibrant art district, and this is a small opportunity for the city to keep investing in that space," he said.
  • Administration said it will announce which companies will be permitted to offer e-scooters and e-bikes for Edmonton riders by the end of May. The company or companies the city chooses will be engaged until 2027, an urban planning committee report said. The city said it will install visible parking locations and no-parking zones, and that suppliers can fine users for improper parking. The city is also introducing new compliance fees for suppliers that it said will help deal with improper parking. In 2023, shared e-scooters and e-bikes were available in early April, in early June in 2022, and in late March in 2021. Scooters are already on streets in Spruce Grove and St. Albert.
  • Administration recommends establishing a downtown entertainment district on Rice Howard Way this summer. This would allow patrons to purchase food and alcohol from the street's restaurants and bring it into the street, which would be closed to vehicles. The program would run from June to August. The original plan was to close the street to vehicle access on Fridays and Saturdays. But after receiving public feedback, the city said the program would only run on Saturdays because stakeholders were concerned about noise, maintaining parking, and vehicle access. The street would be closed from 7am on Saturdays to 10am on Sundays. The bylaw to establish a downtown entertainment district is set to be reviewed by council's community and public services committee on April 29. The committee could then recommend council votes on the bylaw at a future city council meeting.
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Headlines: April 29, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • Some members of Edmonton city council say there is a need for more transparency after the Edmonton Police Commission declined to cooperate with an audit proposed by councillors. During a meeting last week, councillors voted to allow the Edmonton Police Service to replenish its operating reserve with expenditures from 2024-2026 because of a $1.414 million net deficit from 2023. With police funding the City's largest budget expense, some councillors said more information is needed to understand how that funding is being spent, especially with property taxes increasing by 8.9% this year. However, the commission, which is responsible for helping the police service develop its annual budget, said "a public-facing audit program will diminish overall effectiveness."
  • Stony Plain Road between 131 Street and 139 Street will be fully closed starting at 7am on April 29 because of construction work on the Valley Line West LRT project. Marigold Infrastructure Partners, which is building the project, says it expects the closure will last until the end of August. During that time, workers will install pavement, sidewalks, street lights, and the first rail.
  • The Edmonton Police Service and City of Edmonton automated traffic enforcement issued 1,323 tickets during a one-day blitz on April 18, with 997 handed out for speeding. There were also 85 red light infractions, 217 Traffic Safety Act infractions, 16 distracted driving violations, one Criminal Code driving offence, and seven other Criminal Code charges.
  • The City of Edmonton is assuring residents that drivers will not face additional convenience or membership fees under its new HotSpot parking payment system. The confusion arose after some people noticed the HotSpot app charges user fees to park, however the City said it will not be charging the fees under its system. While the new system launches April 29, a new HotSpot app for Edmonton drivers won't be available until May 15. In the meantime, drivers can pay for parking via QR code, online, or at EPark machines.
  • Documentarian Rishi Sharma was in the Edmonton area to interview Second World War veterans for his YouTube documentary series Remember WWII with Rishi Sharma. Among those Sharma interviewed was Sherwood Park resident Lloyd Brown, a centenarian and combat veteran who served with the Loyal Edmonton Rifles. Sharma, whose project aims to interview "every single WWII veteran" has travelled the world in search of interviewees. "It gives these veterans the opportunity to live forever," he said.
  • Linda Dumont, an influential Edmonton-based community advocate for the homeless and marginalized, died on April 15 after a battle with cancer. She was 79. Dumont founded the Alberta Street News in 2003 and was celebrated for her community and volunteer work. "The paper is more than a paper," Dumont told Taproot for a 2022 story about efforts to digitize the paper's archives. "I have been there to visit vendors in jail, help with funerals, and to give a voice to issues about homelessness and poverty." Dumont also founded the Shattered Rainbows Creative Society to support creativity among marginalized groups. A celebration of life is scheduled for May 2.
  • Edmonton radio host Jenna Winterburn launched a tongue-in-cheek petition in an effort to prevent country singer Brett Kissel from singing the United States national anthem at Edmonton Oilers playoff games because the team usually loses when he does. Kissel played along by adding his name to the petition and blaming past Oilers losses on the so-called #KisselCurse.
  • The Ukrainian Newcomer Furniture Warehouse in Edmonton closed its doors on April 28 after providing free furniture to more 16,000 Ukrainian newcomers over the past two years. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council said it decided to shut down operations because demand had dropped over the past few months. Those who are still in need or who want to make a donation are asked to contact Habitat for Humanity.
  • LA Sparks guard Kia Nurse will play her first WNBA game in Canada at Edmonton's Rogers Place on May 4 in a pre-season match against the Seattle Storm. Nurse has travelled to Edmonton frequently because the Canadian women's national team trains at the Saville Community Sports Centre at the University of Alberta. Nurse highlighted her excitement to play in front of friends and family, including her brother, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.
  • Shasily Matowe, an Edmontonian who competed on the latest season of Canada's Ultimate Challenge, appeared on CBC's Edmonton AM to talk about her experience on the show. "This entire competition challenged me in more ways than I could have ever imagined," she said.
Two geese walk on ice in front of Edmonton City Hall.

Podcasters unpack 8.9% property tax increase

By Colin Gallant

Edmonton City Council's decision to approve an 8.9% increase to property taxes "shocked" the hosts of Episode 261 of Speaking Municipally.

"What typically happens is administration throws up a bigger number, (and) council gets to knock it down a little bit," co-host Mack Male said. "They get to feel like they did their best and tried really hard to try to save some money. We still get an increase, but they look a little bit better for it."

In fact, the opposite happened. Administration proposed a rate of 8.7% for the spring operating budget adjustment, an increase of 2.1% from the 6.6% figure council endorsed during the fall budget adjustment. Council, however, then voted to approve three additional adjustments, which added $5 million to the overall budget. These account for the additional 0.2% increase. The additions fund work for downtown optimization, event attraction, and snow-clearing assistance.

"It strikes my credulity that council can ask administration to find these hundreds of millions of savings, and yet council is not able to find a couple million dollars here or there in a $2 billion budget," co-host Troy Pavlek said, alluding to the major cost-cutting measure known as OP12, which council has directed administration to undertake.

Coun. Tim Cartmell voted yes on all three new adjustments. He also introduced successful motions that ask administration to calculate the impact of reducing neighbourhood renewal spending by 25 to 35% annually and to identify options to reduce tax-levy impacts from the 2023-2025 capital budget.

"He was quick to point out in his comments about (the capital budget motion) that he's not talking about bike lanes," Male said. "But of course, introducing this motion, he's creating the conditions by which council could re-litigate that $100 million for bike lanes."

Hear more about budgets and taxes, the Edmonton Police Service's 2023 deficit, an anonymous letter sent to Premier Danielle Smith alleging impropriety by council, how new provincial bills could affect Edmonton, Speaking Municipally Live: Untangling the housing knot on May 30, plus more on the April 26 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 29, 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.