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Giselle General hosts Yeg Updates monthly with LCCMedia

Edmonton City Council Update with Giselle General

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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 city 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. The City council has approved Edmonton’s 2023-2026 budgets, which will result in property tax increases of under 5% in each of the next four years. The $7.9-billion capital budget passed 9-4, The operating budget, with expenditures of nearly $3.3 billion in 2023, $3.3 billion in 2024, $3.5 billion in 2025, and $3.6 billion in 2026, passed 8-5. The resulting tax increases have been set at 4.96%, 4.96%, 4.95%, and 4.39% for each of the years. City Council will have the opportunity to make budget adjustments every fall, which could alter those numbers slightly.
  2. Edmontonians who rely on curbside waste collection can now opt out of receiving a paper version of the 2023-24 calendar. Last year, 25,000 people, or 10% of households who receive the service, chose to use the digital calendar, which is available through the city’s WasteWise app. The deadline to opt out is Feb 13.
  3. A new 24/7 temporary emergency shelter in west Edmonton is set to open on Jan. 20 in a former hotel at 155th Street and Stony Plain Road. Operated by the Jasper Place Wellness Centre in partnership with the Tallcree Tribal Government, the shelter will open at 30% capacity and eventually have 209 spaces, including 59 private beds and 150 congregate living spaces. At the executive committee this past week, the city council continue their discussion on addressing homelessness. One of the motions would be asking for a report from the administration and Homeward Trust containing lessons learned from implementing Edmonton’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness
  4. A few updates about snow clearing in the city. A few months ago, the city held a contest called Name A Plow as a fun opportunity for Edmontonians to suggest names for the snow-clearing machinery. The winners were announced this week with catchy names such as Conner Mac-Blade it and Amarsleet Snowhi. The city will start clearing snow off residential areas next week in order to avoid ruts and windrows, which means people for now would have to walk carefully through soft snowpack on roads and sidewalks. 

 

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

For this episode, I’d like to give a refresher on how to contact our elected representatives for the city, the city councillors for each of our wards, and also the office of the mayor. Now that the decisions for the four-year budget cycle are done, if you have feedback on how these are implemented or even about your tax assessments once they arrive you can do this anytime. 

The handy thing is that all of this is in the city of Edmonton website. When you go to Edmonton.ca, click the button on the top called City Government, then click the section called Councillors and Mayor. 

The first thing you’ll see is a tool called Find Councillor and Ward. The names of our city wards have changed in 2021 and I understand that many people are still learning the new boundaries. For myself for example, my neighbourhood used to be part of Ward 1, but when the boundaries were re-made, my neighbourhood got absorbed into the former Ward 5, which is renamed to ward sipiwiyiniwak. So if you need to know the name of your ward and the councillor representing you, there is a section there called Find Councillor and Ward, you type your address, the name of the ward and councillor contact info will pop up. 

On that same webpage, you’ll see a section called Office of the Councillors and Office of the Mayor. If you decide to click on the link that says “Send a Message to The Mayor”, it will direct you to an online form where you can type directly type your contact information and everything you want to say. You can even attach files. Same goes with the link “Send a Message to Your Councillor” but before you can fill out the form, you’ll be asked which councillor you want to contact. 

If you send a message, based on my personal experience, response times vary. I have personally had councillors who have taken more than two weeks to respond, some are a few days. For some councillor offices, it is the councillor themselves who respond to you, then they connect their assistants afterwards they want to schedule a meeting. At other times, the assistant will do the coordinating and responding the entire time. 

 

Now I want to talk about the City of Edmonton’s ABCs! What are the ABC’s?

It 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 next ABC on the list, which is the Community Services Advisory Board.

This board has two distinct duties that come hand in hand. They are an advisory policy board, but they are a budgeting recommendation board as well. As far as their mandate, they give advice on issues that fall under the category of community services, with is defined by them as social policy, arts, culture, multiculturalism, parks, recreation and sports.

Their budgeting recommendation duties are very specific. They make recommendations to city council on how these two funds are allocated, the one called Family and Community Support Services and Community Investment Grants. I personally have known of local nonprofit organizations who were granted funding through these initiatives, so that these organizations can continue their work to serve the community. I think that having people from the community who volunteer for a board like this is important so that there is input from everyday people on a regular basis. 

Just like many of the ABCs, recruitment of members happens at the beginning of the year when people from all walks of life can apply. Usually, there are announcements by the city when applications are open. In fact, the applications for 2023 just closed last week.  It is similar to a job application, where you have to send a resume, and reference letters and log in to the city’s online application portal. So, if you are interested, mark your calendars so you can 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 complaints and concerns that you see, that is under the responsibility of the city government. 311 is more than just a phone number, you can send an email and there’s an app as well. 

Over the last few months, I have given detailed tutorials on what you can do with the 311 app, such as the categories of reports, how to file a complaints with the app and how to monitor the response to your complaint. For this episode I would like to talk about how you can large-scale data on complaints submitted over the years.  

If you are interested in accessing this data, they are available online on the City of Edmonton 311 page. 

311 responds to approximately 2 million inquiries a year and the online data sets were refreshed two times a day. If you go to the page you can see different sub-categories, such as the overall volume of 311 requests, archives broken down by year, as well other focused data sets such as categories by ward, by neighbourhood, or by topics. 

 

Here is a screenshot of what you can see if you click on the data sub-set, the 311 requests top by neighbourhood. There’s a simplified bar graph and then the data columns below. You can use the filter on the right to help you narrow down the information. If you are a researcher, statistician or someone who loves working with raw data, you can download these as well. The archive goes as back as 2014 which is pretty cool. 

 

Screenshot provided by Giselle General
Screenshot provided by Giselle General

I think it is a testament that many Edmontonians do try to use the proper channels so that our city can fix the issues we see around us. The 311 service continues to improve every year so don’t hesitate to use it. Not only is it a useful way to document an issue, but it also helps the city with statistical information that can help with their decision-making. 

That wraps up our segment on Edmonton City Council! I’m your host, Giselle General, your everyday Engaged Edmontonian and I’ll see you on the next episode!

 

 

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