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September 27, 2023
February 8, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: February 8, 2017

A look at what's in Edmonton news

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Let’s start today talking about getting places.

There are always a lot of neighbourhood development and re-development plans happening in the city, but it’s not every day in Edmonton you hear City staff say something like this: “Currently it’s a wide road without many lights and large surface parking lots, so the goal was to transform it into a people space.” I mean, isn’t Edmonton supposed to be wide roads and surface parking lots?!

The wide road here is 101 Avenue, over by 75 Street, on Edmonton’s east side. Certainly, this isn’t a plan that’s caught as much attention (and controversy) as other pedestrian and bike-friendly designs, but this is still quite a positive tone to hear from staff working on transportation plans. It’s also great to see planners listening to the “lived experience” of those using the roads on a regular basis.

This could be great for people’s safety across the whole city if we see this kind of thinking continue to pick up steam as other projects come on line. I’m thinking of the temporary-ish downtown bike grid, 83 Avenue and 102 Avenue bike streets, and the plans tied to Neighbourhood Renewal of Queen Alexandra along 106 Street and 76 Avenue. These are all projects that, like 101 Avenue in the east, put the safety of people walking first, which makes traveling safer for everyone using the road. Even drivers.

The City is also now looking into the idea of a “transportation hub” due to the terrible location of our Greyhound bus station in a neighbourhood without regular transit and easy connections to core neighbourhoods. It’s too bad neither the City nor Greyhound got this sorted out when the bus depot was due to be moved from the downtown for our new arena district.

One more transportation-related item.

Since it’s winter and we’re slipping and sliding most of the time, the decision to remove community sandboxes, in order to save just $300-thousand, did not sit well with a lot of people and organizations. The 100 or so sandboxes were located around Edmonton, offering people free sand to help reduce slips and falls on icy sidewalks and property. The City’s now reversed course and will be putting the sandboxes back into many neighbourhoods, with maybe even a few this winter.

The City is looking to make it easier for you to get your hands on information and documents through a freedom of information request. It might not sound like something you’ll do, but if you do need to secure information this way from a government body it really should be as easy (and cheap) as possible. And many groups and organizations, like community leagues, might be making these requests on programs and projects that have an effect on something near your home.

This move comes in tandem with requests for “memos” that are currently not part of disclosure, yet often inform councillors on their final decisions and votes. This line from the story lays it out pretty well: “When city officials couldn’t answer a question during a public committee meeting, council members would often agree to accept the information by emailed memo at a later date.” Which means the details didn’t always make it into public debate or documents.

A couple of interesting stories from the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) in the last week.

There’s a potential you’ll be voting for a public school board trustee in a new ward in this fall’s municipal election. The Edmonton Public School Board’s trustees are now just waiting to hear if the education minister will approve new boundaries, a move two trustees don’t agree with.

The bigger headlines for the EPSB today revolve around a call from the board chair to see if public schools could offer Catholic programming. This isn’t, as board chair Michael Janz notes, an attempt to get rid of our Catholic school system, but help limit the number of new schools that have to be built by offering more types of programming at central locations. It could, he argues, save the Alberta government money when it doesn’t have to build two schools in some neighbourhoods.

That being said, there are calls for Alberta to consider one publicly-funded system only.

Later morning addition: This idea about public schools offering Catholic-based programming certainly seems to be topping the news. Interesting point in this editorial from the Edmonton Journal that public schools shouldn’t offer such programming because we have a Catholic school system funded by the provincial government already. That, then, sparks that larger discussion about why Alberta still has two publicly-funded school systems offering, for the most part, the same programming to students.

I know public school chair Janz isn’t asking for the de-funding of Catholic school boards, but that certainly becomes the question when an option like this is put out there. Alberta remains one of the last provinces to put the full weight of public funding behind a faith-based school system.

As we continue with these Edmonton Headlines posts, we may end up questioning some of the journalism at the Edmonton Journal/Sun/Examiner (or the papers all owned by Postmedia in the Capital Region) but we still think they’re doing acceptable work. Even if that’s slightly higher praise than the newspaper company’s CEO gives the current product.

It’s also not great to see CEO Paul Godfrey claim nobody in his company asked about retention bonuses offered to the executive team while a second round of cuts were happening in 2016. That was a big emphasis of the reaction, actually. Two executives are leaving Postmedia anyway, which certainly calls into question how much retaining those bonuses did.

We’re not always going to agree with everything done by Edmonton Postmedia newsrooms, but we’re pulling for a daily newspaper to survive this mess. It’s still one of the city’s largest and most active newsrooms and that’s important to help fight the fight again partisan and fake news.

This was a small story but one worth some attention. There will be a new “new in town” service for Indigenous Canadians moving to Edmonton, which is important because newcomers to the city can often find themselves without connections and familiarity in the transition to urban living. This kind of programming is important here because we have the second-largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada (about to be updated with Census numbers that start coming out today).

2011 Urban Indigenous Populations, StatsCan