Highlights from the last 365 days, in no particular order…
- EndPovertyEdmonton strategy approved unanimously by Council
If we’re going to eliminate poverty in Edmonton, it will take a movement – and the commitment of individuals, social service agencies, business leaders, and every order of government to achieve our ambitious goal. After more than a year of work, EndPovertyEdmonton’s 28 recommendations include six game-changing focus areas: eliminating racism, advocating for a liveable income, increasing affordable housing access, making public transit more accessible for those in poverty, enabling affordable and quality childcare, and increasing access to mental health services. The strategy is grounded in ‘Honouring the Treaty Spirit’ and represents an opportunity for reconciliation, consistent with the outcomes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recent calls to action and final report.
- New provincial and federal governments
To say there was a shift in provincial and federal direction this year would be an understatement. In the provincial realm, we see efforts underway to invest in infrastructure to stimulate growth, reduce Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions and a move toward diversifying our economy. Federally, transformative investments in public transit and green infrastructure, along with affordable housing, were front and centre in the new government’s platform and throne speech. Cities are finally front and centre in the national agenda, which makes it an exciting time to be taking a leadership role with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as Chair of the Big City Mayors group. I look forward to strengthening the influence of Mayors in contributing to solving our nation’s challenges and seizing our economic, social and environmental opportunities through more robust partnerships with senior orders of government.
- #EPSstrong following Constable Woodall’s death
This was one of the most difficult events our city has had to endure in recent times, but the public response to this tragic event was incredible. Through round dances, ribbons on trees and lining the streets for Constable Woodall’s memorial, we grieved alongside the Woodall family, as well as the whole extended EPS family. I know they felt our City’s love and support during their darkest hours.
- Administrative renewal and restructuring
This year brought a change in our City Manager as City Council aimed to set our organization on a new path while seeking a fresh perspective on how best to manage our city’s growth. Our Acting City Manager, in consultation with myself and Council, has restructured project management functions into a single ‘Integrated Infrastructure Services Department’ that will bring consistency to how we plan, design, build and manage infrastructure projects in our city. The coming year will also see the reorganization of Council’s committee structure to establish an Urban Planning Committee to better integrate our transportation and land-use decision making.
- Blatchford groundbreaking
It was thrilling to stand in the middle of 217 hectares of open land with community leaders, environmental advocates, fellow Councillors and families as we kickstarted work on this ambitious community that will one day be home to 30,000 people. There are still many big decisions ahead on Blatchford, but Council’s commitment to building one of the world’s biggest ‘net zero’ neighbourhoods remains firm – and I’m excited for what 2016 will bring.
- Energy Transition Strategy passed unanimously by Council
This strategy aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2035 through 11 Strategic Actions, including improving efficiency of the City’s buildings, public education and aiming to generate more energy from within Edmonton’s boundaries. With a new emphasis on carbon reduction from the provincial government, this plan offers a wealth of partnership opportunities in the coming years to aid the province and Ottawa in achieving their ambitious climate and energy goals on the ground, while stimulating our economy.
Increasing the density of our core neighbourhoods to address significant population loss has been a key area of focus of Council since we set a goal to accommodate 25% of the City’s unit growth within the existing footprint of the city. We’re still only at 14%. The spring decision by Council to allow for more garden and garage suites, as well as the subdivision of lots larger than 50’, has already created more housing diversity, started to bring more families back inward, and makes more efficient use of existing roads pipes and sidewalks, which in turn improves the city’s fiscal position. In 2016, we’ll review and update the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay – another key step in Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap.
Economic downturn and City Council’s budget response
It has been a difficult year for our province’s economy, yet Edmonton continues to create jobs and see growth, albeit more modest than recent years. However, realizing the stress many households and businesses are under, City Council passed a ‘discipline and restraint’ budget that found new and better ways to fund policing and neighbourhood renewal, while seeking to ‘upload’ services back to other orders of government.
- Metro line delaysWith a daily ridership of almost 10,000 people and still significantly under budget, the Metro LRT Line hasn’t been all bad news – in spite of the delays. But it’s still not what the city was promised by our vendor, nor what Edmontonians expect from their public transit system. We learned key lessons through the City Auditor’s report I requested that are being applied to the Valley Line LRT expansion and to City project management in general. My new year’s wish? Some good news for this line in 2016.
A more united Edmonton Metro Region
Building a more functional, effective and competitive Edmonton Metropolitan region remains one of my key areas of focus. This year’s launch of the Metro Mayors Alliance and a blue ribbon panel on improving the competitiveness of the Edmonton Metro region was a significant step forward in re-setting our approach to how we plan, grow and promote our region. Much more to come on this all-important regional work in 2016.
What will 2016 bring? My focus will be to ensure necessary changes to the way the city manages projects are implemented and that – through our service level review – we are delivering city services as effectively and efficiently as possible. This will also be a big year for our City Charter negotiations as we advance work on key partnerships in four areas: expanding mass transit, building affordable housing, ending poverty, and improving community safety.
Happy holidays and all the best in 2016!