The Pulse: May 21, 2024

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  • 14°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of showers in the afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm late in the afternoon. High 14. UV index 4 or moderate. (forecast)
  • Orange: The High Level Bridge will be lit orange for the 12th Annual Sashbear Walk. (details)
  • 3-2: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on May 20. (details)

Hands that appear to belong to an older woman point to the phrase "Circle of Friends" with several dot stickers under it.

On the agenda: Homelessness, renaming, and Ride Transit

By Stephanie Swensrude

This week, council committees will discuss an updated plan to end homelessness, recommendations from the city's naming committee, and a growing budget shortfall for the Ride Transit program.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled on May 21 and an urban planning committee meeting scheduled on May 22. There is a special city council meeting scheduled on May 22 and an executive committee meeting scheduled on May 23.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • The draft of the City of Edmonton's updated plan to end homelessness recommends shifting away from an emergency mindset and toward a proactive planning approach. The draft is scheduled to be presented at a community and public services committee meeting on May 21. People who have experienced homelessness engaged with the city to inform the plan. Many said the social service system is complex and lacks a common language, making it hard to access support. Survey participants said they felt apathetic towards the system, as it felt like they were being ranked for eligibility for services. The plan recommends that Homeward Trust convene a sector leadership table to align interests among the homeless-serving sector and the health, recovery, and justice systems. The plan also recommends finding new ways to measure success, as current reporting mechanisms can lack nuance. Coun. Tim Cartmell told Taproot in April that he wanted social services to be able to prove value so taxpayers can see their dollars are making a difference. The finalized plan to end homelessness is scheduled to be presented at a community and public services committee meeting on June 17.
  • Administration supports a recommendation from the naming committee to develop a new culturally sensitive renaming policy and review the name of every municipal asset in the city for accuracy and appropriateness. There is currently no funding available for the latter recommendation, and administration will determine the scope and budget needed for the project once it completes a dataset of all names in the city, which is another of the committee's recommendations. Council's urban planning committee is set to discuss a report with updates on the progress of the naming committee's recommendations at a meeting on May 22.
  • The funding shortfall for the Ride Transit program budget is expected to nearly double in 2024 compared to 2023 as demand for the program grows. The program allows transit riders who earn a low income, receive AISH, are refugees, or meet other criteria to purchase a $35 or $50 monthly transit pass. Council originally approved a subsidy of $7.8 million for the program. In 2023, there was a program funding shortfall of $5.3 million, and the shortfall is expected to be $10 million in 2024. To address the gap, administration said council could change the criteria so fewer transit users are eligible, or further increase the price of the subsidized pass. There is already a planned increase of $1 per month scheduled for February 2025.
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Headlines: May 21, 2024

By Mariam Ibrahim

The word "ARTS" in block letters with images representing visual art, theatre, music, and coming together superimposed on the letters

Podcasters wonder what makes a district

By Colin Gallant

Following city council's decision to designate Rice Howard Way as a downtown entertainment district, news about two other districts in downtown Edmonton caught the attention of Episode 264 of Speaking Municipally.

Co-host Mack Male noticed that MacEwan University and NorQuest College are advocating for an education district.

"They're both expecting student-population growth of 30% to 50% by 2030," Male said. "Post-secondary institutions are critical for downtown, and for the success of businesses and vibrancy downtown. We really should be investing in making downtown a welcoming place for students."

Meanwhile, a consortium of arts institutions around Churchill Square launched new branding for the Arts District.

The Art Gallery of Alberta, the Citadel Theatre (whose lease is up soon), and the Winspear Centre got a Downtown Vibrancy grant to work with Berlin Communications and ZGM Modern Marketing Partners on the project. Male said the effort has the potential to increase downtown's appeal.

"I could get behind funding some branding to try to make something feel a little bit more cohesive," he said. "There's a lot of really great arts organizations and facilities and things around downtown. I kind of like this idea, actually, of refreshing the branding and telling the story of the arts district, and trying to make it a little bit more of a destination for people."

Co-host Pavlek (an admitted southsider) quipped that the University of Alberta's main campus dwarfs MacEwan and NorQuest's geographical footprint, making it something of a de facto district for education. Similarly, the arts district designation may be more appropriate for Old Strathcona, which hosts the bulk of the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in addition to year-round theatre and artistic happenings. "There is some competition," he pointed out.

Council unanimously passed its bylaw for Rice Howard Way to allow open liquor consumption from local vendors on May 14. The new rules will be in place every Saturday from June to September from 11am to midnight, with the option to happen at other times, too.

Hear more on districts, including Male's long-standing proposal for another, on the May 17 episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast. It also includes commentary on Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's State of the City address, police accountability after the clearing of a pro-Palestine protest, and a decision to sell naming rights on recreation centres, among other topics.

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A title card that reads Taproot Edmonton Calendar:

Happenings: May 21, 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.