Welcome back to the Edmonton City Council segment! I’m your host Giselle General and I’m here to share some insights and information to help you feel 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 a short summary of what’s been going on in the city that I highly recommend you keep an eye on.
- If you are someone who has to pay municipal taxes, either as a home or a business owner, the tax assessment letters will be arriving in the mail in the near future. It’s never too early to start making plans and understand the different resources if you need information or might struggle to pay it this year. If you haven’t received it by the end of May, contact 311 so you get the information and don’t get late paying by June 30.
- Edmonton Transit Service said its bus ridership levels have returned to 100% of its pre-pandemic levels, becoming one of the first large transit systems to reach the milestone. During January 2023, there was an average of 1.2 million rides per week, compared with just 350,000 rides per week during the height of the pandemic in 2020. ETS attributed the increase in ridership to a variety of factors, including the Bus Network Redesign, which added On-Demand Transit service, and the recent introduction of the Arc electronic payment system.
- The City of Edmonton announced the goals this year for their Safe Crossing Program, which is a strategy to review and ensure that intersections, where people cross the street, are as safe as possible. 100 of these will be upgraded this year, and 400 will be upgraded over the next four years. Every day people can look at the interactive map of these locations online.
- The Stanley A. Milner Library hosted a “human library” on Feb. 15, which students of W. P. Wagner School organized as part of a series of anti-racism events. The event encouraged small groups to talk through issues and challenge stereotypes with dialogue. More than 150 junior high students attended, along with several councillors, MLAs, and community leaders.
- Silver Skate Festival will be the last major event at Hawrelak Park before it closes in March for a three-year rehabilitation project. The free festival included ice skating, snow sculptures, a winter market, live music, and a culinary competition involving four breweries and eateries from various Edmonton neighbourhoods. Many of the large festivals have already identified alternate locations, one of which is the Edmonton Heritage Festival which will be in Borden Park for the next few years.
- City council unanimously approved bylaw updates to expand the waste separation system for recycling and food scraps to apartments and condos. The system will be phased in from 2023 to 2027 and impact around 167,000 residences across 3,400 properties, which will get disposal bins for both types of waste. The city began implementing a curbside waste separation system for single-unit homes in 2021, which reduced landfill loads by about 30% by 2022, according to city reports.
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 the 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 share to you about Engage Edmonton, a place where you can see all upcoming opportunities to share your input, all in a dedicated weblink which is https://engaged.edmonton.ca/
If you register, you will be informed on a wide range of opportunities to share your input, whether it is a discussion forum on a particular topic, surveys, polls and other methods. If you click an active project, which means it is a topic the city is at present gathering input about, you will see an overview of why they are gathering input, all the relenant documents on the topic, a calendar of all the scheduled engagement activities, and a link to an online discussion room. So, whether you want to chat with a city employee in a library or another community building they booked, or share your thoughts within the comfort of your home, Engaged Edmonton can work for you.
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 Edmonton Combative Sports Commission. I admit that I was surprised when I found out that this is a specific committee by the city, but given the nature of the sport, I agree that it is important.
The Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC) is a Council Committee composed of up to 7 volunteer citizen members, and they make decisions regarding licensing, conduct, qualifications and contests of activities that include but are not limited to boxing, wrestling, full contact karate, kickboxing, martial arts, mixed martial arts and muaythai. On top of that, they have an Executive Director who is an employee of the city who manages the operational decisions about combative sports in Edmonton, including licenses and permits. The ECSC also serves as an appeal body for decisions made by the Executive Director.
An interesting update about this particular ABC is that this committee is currently paused since August 2022. There are doing a 9-month review to see whether changes need to be made in this process of having a volunteer-based committee take on the responsibility of doing oversight of combative sports in the city. The review will be completed in May of this year.
If the committee continues, 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. 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 apply early next year and participate in this committee if it still continues.
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 apps, such as the categories of reports, how to file complaints with the app and how to monitor the response to your complaint. For this episode, I would like to talk about the specific method you can use to escalate your issue, called the Service Experience Team.
This complaint form is online, and it will ask for the previous reference number of the initial report. If you filed a 311 complaint through the app, the reference number will be easy to find. But even if you made the complaint through other methods, the person you first contacted through 311 would have provided that to you during the phone call or email. There are different reasons why you might want to use this method. It can be that the issue is not resolved quickly enough, that the request was closed with no explanation, or that you realized that doing a short-term fix on the complaint will not be enough. Since this is a dedicated team, it might be more effective to use this method first before contacting your city councillor. That way, by the time you escalate it to them, you can say that you have used all the methods, the regular 311 processes and the escalated Service Experience Team process.
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!
Watch the episode here: