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Edmonton City Council Update with Giselle General

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Gisele General has kindly provided us with transcripts of her show. You can listen and read it here.

Welcome back to the Edmonton City Council segment!

I’m your host Giselle General and I’m here to share some insights and valuable information to help you feel more engaged and informed about our municipal government so you can make the impact you want to see.

First off is our Rapid Fire Segment.

Here’s just a short summary of what’s been going in the city that I highly recommend you keep an eye on.

1. A few updates on LRT construction in the city. Valley Line Southeast, the route from Mill Woods to Downtown, is anticipated to open in Summer 2022.

Test drives of the vehicles are being conducted throughout the line, as well as open house events for people to visit the stations before they are fully open.

Valley Line West, the route from Downtown to Lewis Estates, is also in progress, with significant work on moving utilities and building foundational structures along 87 Ave near the mall all the way to 156 street.

 

2. Every summer, the Green Shack Program is a program the city sets up in many neighbourhood parks.

If you are in a playground and see a little green shed, it means there is one in your area.

These free drop-in programs where there’s group activities for kids, run from July 12 – August 27.

3. The City is currently collecting feedback from Edmontonians about how snow and ice clearing can be improved for future winters.

The past winter presented immense challenges because of the drastic freeze-melt cycles that sometimes happen over a span of a day, resulting in icy conditions that are dangerous for people and vehicles.

The number of roads that needs to be cleared also increased by a lot over the years.

Options on increasing service and coverage, as well as the associated costs, will be presented to council.

4. The police budget is a huge topic these days, given that it is the largest item in our City’s budget.

City Councillor Erin Rutherford proposed a funding budget with a starting base point of $385 million starting in 2023 and a funding process for items beyond this baseline budget.

The Edmonton’s police commission has two city councillors sitting on the board, Councillors Sarah Hamilton and Anne Stevenson.

Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, another member of the commission claimed that there is a conflict of interest because one of the councillor Stevenson’s staff, Rob Houle, is a critic of the police.

The counterargument is that Houle expresses his criticisms of the police as a private citizen and he does not advice the councillor Stevenson on police matters.

5. The land where the city airport used to be is being built into a residential area named Blatchford.

Councillor Tim Cartmell raised concerns that the target number of homes that should have been built is missed by a wide margin, and that the price of the homes could be out of reach for the average individual.

Currently there’s 32 houses out of the target 2,700 homes and the price for a townhouse in the area start at $500,000.

Next, I want to talk about how to Share Your Insight! Anyone of us living in our city, are likely to want to give feedback so that our policymakers, which is city council, would consider our perspective when making decisions. There are several ways to share your insight and make your voice heard!

Tonight we’re talking about social media. Many people use social media these days to connect to a larger group of people, share information build relationships.

An important thing to note is that there’s no strict policy or procedure as to which platform should our city politicians use. Also, not all politicians use the same platforms.

Some can be very active on Twitter or Instagram, some mainly on Facebook. Some of the accounts are managed by their staff.

For instance, the mayor has two accounts, the one with their name, and the official one for the Office of the Mayor.

There’s no mandatory process to respond or how quickly they have to respond.

There is a code of conduct that the city councillors have to follow, which broadly means that they should treat constituents with respect.

However, because it is pretty broad and it involves a formal complaint process, it might not always work. There’s also a lot of gray area when it comes to targeting people and spreading misinformation.

There are also various social media accounts for different services and departments. (police, library, transit, planning).

Depending on the topic, it might be more effective to connect with those accounts instead of that of a councillor or the mayor, of you can do both.

If they have a track record of being responsive, connecting to your councillor on social media can work. Watch out and make sure you are engaging with their politician account not personal account if they made it clear to do so. Platforms now are stricter with profane language, so your message might be hidden or blocked. For more official correspondence, email or phone calls or requesting a meeting works best.

On future episodes, I will share other ways to share input on specific issues using the other engagements processes that the city does.

Now I want to talk about the City of Edmonton’s ABCs!

What are the ABC’s? It’s stands for Agencies, Boards and Commissions!

They consist of a group of people who apply and are appointed to make decisions, or give advice to the city on certain topics.

I myself have applied and currently volunteer for one, for the Edmonton Transit Service Advisory Board, as I am passionate about improving our bus and LRT service in the city, which is a responsibility of the municipal government.

For today I want to share about the second ABC on the list, which is the Anti-Racism Advisory Committee.

This is a new one, just launched in July 2020. This was launched after the passionate advocacy of Edmontonians in 2020 to address racism in the city, in light of the incident with George Floyd.

Shortly after he has murdered at the hands of the police, almost 20,000 Edmontonians attended protests at the legislature to raise their voice on the issue.

The goal of the committee with 12 members is to make recommendations to council through reports on community based issues, continue awareness and dialogue on anti-racism, and recommend funding allocations on initiatives that address racially motivated hate.

For the Anti Racism Advisory Committee just like many of the ABCs, recruitment of members happens in the beginning of the year where people from all walks of life can apply.

Usually there are announcements by the city when applications are open. Many people, both politicians, civil servants, and everyday people, try to share the word when applications are open.

It is similar to a job application, where you have to send a resume, reference letters and log in to the city’s online application portal. So, if you are interested, mark your calendars so you can join and apply early next year and participate in this committee.

And now I want to end our civic education segment with our final topic called 311 At Your Fingertips.

You might be wondering, what is 311?

Here in Canada, in Edmonton, you might have heard of several 3 digit contact numbers for various needs, like 211, 911 or 811. 311 is for our municipal government, a method for anyone to file complains and concerns that you see, that is under the responsibility of the city government.

Potholes, broken streetlights, sidewalk damage, snow and ice, and so many more.

Last episode I talked about the different platforms where 311 is available, this time around, I’ll go on a bit of a deep dive on how to use the 311 app when you click the New Request Button.

There are different types of complaints you can file such as complaints related to roads, sidewalks and trails, public transit, litter and, parks and trees, neighbourhood related concerns, and parking violations. Our municipal government is responsible for maintaining many things in our city, and with our size, any information they can have will be helpful.

Let’s go through some of them.

The most popular one is the Roads, Sidewalks and Bike Lanes.

If you see a pothole big or small, or a crack on the sidewalk that can be cumbersome or dangerous, this is your main section and you just need to pick the most appropriate sub-category based the type of pathway and your location.

Let’s look at another one, the one for Litter/ Waste. If you look at the subcategories, there are options for both public litter as well as waste management concerns in your home.

The city just changed the waste collection process into those bins just less than a year ago. So if there are mistakes which is understandable, we can do our part to file a report so it can be corrected as soon as possible.

So if you haven’t downloaded yet the 311 app and sometimes feel motivated to report things around you that the city should fix, now is the time to do so.

 

That wraps up our segment on Edmonton City Council!

The next episode of Big Conversations is Saturday June 18th.

 

Read more here:

Taking action to better support children and youth

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