The Pulse: April 30, 2024

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  • 6°C: Snow changing to rain late in the morning. Snowfall amount 2 to 4 cm. Wind northwest 20 km/h gusting to 40. High 6. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Blue/White: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue and white for Passover. (details)

Coun. Tim Cartmell in council chambers.

Cartmell to push for social agencies to prove value

By Stephanie Swensrude

An Edmonton city councillor wants to use data to track whether homeless-serving organizations that receive city money are improving people's lives, but some in the sector question the effectiveness of more data collection and reporting.

Coun. Tim Cartmell said there needs to be proof that the social service agencies in the city are effective and efficient because they are partially funded with public dollars.

"There's some need, I feel, for some formalized data collection so that we can aggregate it, so we can know what we're doing and know how to evolve," Cartmell told Taproot.

Edmonton's finances are in a tough state. Recently, city council approved an 8.9% property tax increase for 2024. Cartmell said public pressure to cut costs is significant but, without data, he struggles to point to the work social service agencies perform and say that it's important. "Intuitively, it's important," Cartmell said. "Pragmatically, I can't prove that our investments are meaningful."

In 2023, Cartmell asked city administration to prepare a report that detailed all homeless-serving social agencies in the Boyle Street, McCauley, and Central McDougall neighbourhoods, the services they provide, and the municipal funding they receive. The resulting report said the city provides or has committed $22.2 million from 2022 to 2026 towards 10 of the 17 homeless-serving organizations in the area through various funding streams.

Cartmell suggests several metrics could determine if such services are effective. He proposes measuring whether a person using a service can progress from accessing crisis-level services to a situation where they have secure housing, a job, and access to mental health care. He also proposes surveying clients to determine what services they access and why. "Who is seeking what, why are they seeking it, and what agencies are being avoided?"

In countless discussions at city hall, many of Cartmell's council colleagues have questioned whether homelessness, mental health, and addiction are even in the city's jurisdiction, or if the province or federal government should step in rather than the city.

Cartmell, however, thinks collecting more data can help curate a less adversarial conversation. "Right now, I think we're exchanging opinions and subjective views. But if we can actually point to solutions that actually work and actually move people forward in their life journey, we can then turn to the province in a data-informed way to say, 'This works.'"

But collecting this type of data could be redundant, time-consuming, and misleading, said Susan Morrissey, executive director of the Edmonton Social Planning Council.

"I get it, there's the desire to want to ensure that (with) any money that the city is spending there's an accountability loop, and there's a way to be able to make sure that agencies and organizations that are receiving funding are actually using it for the purpose it's supposed to be used for and then are showing some sort of results," Morrissey said.

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Headlines: April 30, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

  • The City of Edmonton's new EPark mobile parking payment system launched on April 29, using the HotSpot parking service. The City says the new system is designed to make parking payments more convenient and accessible via smartphones. A new app for users in Edmonton will be available for download beginning May 15, though parking can still be paid for without the app at machines. People with $25 or more in their EPark account will have it automatically transferred to the HotSPot app, while those with less than $25 in their account are asked to request a refund before June 30.
  • Avenue Living Asset Management has partnered with BMO to renovate a mixed-use residential and commercial building in downtown Edmonton at a cost of nearly $28 million. The project is supported by BMO's short-term retrofit financing program and will add 179 new rental units to help address the low vacancy rate of 2.4% in the city. The renovation of the 49-year-old building, located at 106 Avenue and 101 Street, will include sustainability upgrades and aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 64%.
  • Edmonton's community and public services committee unanimously approved a plan to turn Rice Howard Way downtown into a licensed entertainment district. The bylaw will next go to city council for final approval on May 14. If approved, Rice Howard Way would become a pedestrian-friendly zone that would allow public alcohol consumption on Saturdays beginning June 1. "We're super excited about the entertainment districts. We've seen this in other cities, and it works really well," said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.
  • The Edmonton Oilers playoff run has helped boost business for Edmonton bars and restaurants, especially in the downtown area, where customer turnout and spending has increased significantly. Playoff season not only energizes the city's economy, but also sets the stage for a bustling summer season, said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Edmonton Downtown Business Association. "It becomes this kickoff for what's become a really exciting summer downtown the last couple of years," she said.
  • The City of Edmonton is making efforts to mitigate the city's fire risk amid concerns about a warm, dry fire season. Mark Beare with the City appeared on Global News to talk about the steps being taken, including tree pruning and removing any hazards to nearby properties. "One of the things that we are looking at is what trees are perhaps a bit more susceptible to fire risk," Beare said. He encouraged residents to adhere to all fire bans that may be in place and extinguish smoking materials safely.
  • The City of Edmonton plans to demolish the former Dwayne's Home transitional housing facility, located at 100 Avenue and 102 Street. The City ordered the building's demolition in 2022 because of frequent break-ins and fires after it closed in 2020. Despite the order, the building remains standing, leading City officials to consider demolishing the building and charging the costs to the property's tax roll. If the property owner fails to pay, the City could sell the land under the Municipal Government Act to recover the expenses. "The city has taken every possible step, provided every possible opportunity, and is now moving ahead to do the right thing, which is removing this risk from our community," said Coun. Anne Stevenson.
  • Edmonton man Tyler Cantos marked his 29th birthday on April 28 by running the length of two marathons in one day. "I know that I've done challenges in the past where I've pushed myself through, so I just take that on into my mindset," Cantos said. As part of the effort, Cantos is fundraising for men's mental health and has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a $40,000 goal.
  • Edify Edmonton published a story looking at the increasing popularity of Edmonton's south side, where two-thirds of new developments are located. Part of the draw is the area's proximity to the Edmonton International Airport, along with employment hubs in Nisku and Leduc, said Sue Keating with Melcor, which is developing several south Edmonton communities. Other factors include natural areas like the MacTaggart Sanctuary, and being close to places of worship.
  • WestJet began its new daily, non-stop service between Edmonton and Atlanta on April 29 with its first flight out of the Edmonton International Airport. It's the only direct flight between the two cities and is expected to foster economic growth and increase accessibility for travellers to more than 200 international and domestic destinations via Atlanta.
  • Alberta's proposed Bill 20, which would give the provincial government the power to dismiss municipal councillors and override local bylaws, could lead to a culture of fear among municipal politicians, says Alberta Municipalities president Tyler Gandam. "Alberta Municipalities is concerned the bill will intimidate and even silence legally elected officials who dare to criticize the provincial government," Gandam said during a press conference on April 29, calling the legislation a dangerous precedent. Meanwhile, Premier Danielle Smith defended the bill, saying it would only be used "sparingly."
  • The Alberta government announced plans to develop a 15-year passenger rail master plan with an aim to begin construction by 2027. The vision includes high-speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary, with additional commuter rails within and between the cities. The province also began its search for a company to consult on the development of the plan. This year's provincial budget allocated $9 million for the development of the plan, which is expected to be completed by summer 2025.
A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: April 30, 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.