Mayor Mandel never fails to get the City’s attention with his annual State of the City address. This one was noteworthy as much for what wasn’t said as what was.
The most complex issue the Mayor raised was regional planning and equity. Elise Stolte from the Journal wrote a blog post which includes the text of the regional section.
I’ve been working with the region on one of the few files that’s made some genuine progress, which is regional transit. I brokered a consensus to jointly purchase a smart card system for handling fares, including sharing the cost with St. Albert and Strathcona County – just working on the paperwork now. And we’re midway through a project looking at whether delivering transit in the region would be more effective and efficient if united together in a regional services commission. It took two years to get to this point, but as Chair of the Regional Transit Committee I’ve been proud to show that diplomacy and cooperation can work in the region. It’s the kind of thing that we couldn’t have imagined when Mayor Mandel first made the call for a formal Capital Region in his 2007 State-of-the-City speech.
That said, I support the Mayor’s call for the province to take renewed interest in strengthening the region’s framework for cooperation, planning for growth, clearer prioritization of regional infrastructure and a way to achieve fair sharing of the costs and benefits of growth. He made the case that Edmonton is disadvantaged, and I think he’s right – for example, in the counties the major roads and interchanges are built and maintained by the province – in Edmonton developers and the City pay for this infrastructure. Examples like this go on, from inequitable policing grants to shouldering disproportionate burdens like homelessness. The City Charter work with the province is supposed to address some of these special circumstances, and Tuesday’s speech should create new urgency for the province to show results on the City Charter. Diplomacy will be required to deliver results in the long run.
Unexpectedly, the Mayor blasted the province for cuts to Post-Secondary Education, a key sector of Edmonton’s economy. I’ve long argued that the quality of learning and research happening here is an under-emphasized key competitive advantage for our city. It was wonderful to hear him speak so eloquently about our schools’ importance to creativity and human advancement, as well as the economic importance of research and technology commercialization. I too am very concerned about what these deep cuts could mean for Edmonton – and for our whole province. The ideas and solutions developed at our Post Secondaries are key to sustaining our progress as a city. They support improved resource development, spur investment and guide us in addressing social issues, just to name a few. His advocacy was consistent with the work I’ve spearheaded with our Post Secondaries, School Boards, EPL and others toward positioning Edmonton as a “City of Learners”. It was great to see learning and discovery emphasized with the full force of the Mayor’s influence.
As for the deferral of the mayor’s announcement of his intentions for this fall, it’s a shrewd move. It will put a lid on succession jockeying for a while, which is probably a good thing as Council works through arena details, budget revisions and government relations strategy over the coming weeks. Plus, standing for public office is a big decision for anyone, and so I respect that the mayor may need some more time to decide.
As for my own decision making, since I got asked a lot about it this week: yes, I continue to give strong consideration to running for mayor. I have already decided I won’t run for my Ward 10 Council seat again, and that stands. I have also said I won’t run against the mayor if he runs again. There are many factors in play, so this delay provides some more time to weigh them all carefully.