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May 29, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Are we more than champions?

Written by Jeff Samsonow

The question before Edmonton city council today is whether we are a city of champions. This is the revenge of the sign debate, two years after council decided to remove the “City of Champions” slogan from the signs that welcome people to our city on entrance highways.

We could go back and forth all day (as I’m sure they will in council chambers) on whether this moniker is about the good people of Edmonton standing up for each other, coming together in times of need or celebrating sports victories. Suffice to say, this return comes on the heels of the first successful Edmonton Oilers hockey season in more than a decade. (So count me as one who believes this to be mostly about sports.)

Regardless of how many times proponents talk about Edmontonians helping each other out after the devastating Black Friday tornado, or our support of charities and new businesses, it’s still got a whole lot of sports to it. Otherwise the booster video wouldn’t keep referencing sports (see below).

(Bonus points for only have white men in your video representing the best of Edmonton!)

Really, my biggest issue with this might be the term “champions”. While one can champion a cause and become a champion of an issue, we don’t tend to use the term like that as much as we may have in the past. So, it does feel like it’s about sports.

Which isn’t to say we can’t attach our city’s personality to sports teams, but I would argue it’s not exactly the strongest first impression to someone coming to Edmonton. In real life, folks don’t introduce themselves to a new person by proclaiming their sports team allegiances (or all of their recent personal victories). Also, our sports teams don’t really make Edmonton the kind of place someone wants to move to or launch a business in. That comes from a whole host of other factors. Factors that actually speak to what people here are about and how we act, or how we want to be seen.

The second issue on this might be the need to have a slogan on the city’s entrance signs at all. The removal of the wording came about during a discussion on whether such slogans were outdated and did nothing to promote Edmonton to others. Certainly, some cities have identifiable taglines, such as “Keep Austin Weird” but I challenge anyone who claims such slogans are great promotional tools for travel and investment to please name six other Canadian city slogans off the top of their head. It’s a rarity.

So, if we must have a slogan, let it be one that taps into what Edmonton is about, or aspires to be. That could be our “Make Something” brand, as a place where people can come to make something of themselves and build a life, business or passion. (A brand that seems to be inspiring duplication.) It could be something that links to our past as the “Gateway to the North”, or our future as a city that innovates, diversifies industry and creates new ideas.

I suspect any vote at council will fall along similar lines to the decision in 2015 and we won’t be calling ourselves the city of champions again. Then again, those councillors do like wearing Oilers jerseys…

Around the city

The City has passed new rules for our older neighbourhoods. The initial stories focus on a switcheroo councillors pulled on allowing front driveways. (Likely more to come on this.)

City staff will investigate whether Edmonton can introduce a new level of property tax for owners who place restrictive covenants on their property, limiting what can be built there in the future. For homeowners these covenants mean pushing off the pressure to create infill housing on their neighbours, or other neighbourhoods, and for businesses this often means closed grocery stores that sit empty for years.

It takes Edmonton Fire and Rescue a little longer to get out to calls in new west-end neighbourhoods. Another good reason to charge developers more, or charge residents over the long-term for building and living in far-flung suburbs while depending on the same kinds of cost for core services more densely populated and connected neighbourhoods get. The cost for sprawl isn’t properly accounted for when new neighbourhoods are built, and the price – in this case, eventual new fire stations and staff – will be carried by the rest of the city down the road.

Edmonton Police are nearing their transition from police cars to police SUVs. We’re probably the only city in Canada to have more SUVs than cars as police vehicles.

It’s Reconciliation Week in Edmonton, with many events offering a chance to reflect, learn and grow as a city together. Meanwhile… Edmonton’s Archbishop is asking the Pope to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, and there’s a new aboriginal liaison at the Archdiocese.

Public engagement

City Council continues their meeting today, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. The meeting will stream live from council chambers.

At noon, there’s a special meeting of the Audit Committee. That agenda is online. The meeting should stream live from the River Valley Room.

The Recreation Facility Master Plan has a pop-up event today at the Clareview Recreation Centre, 4-8 p.m.

There’s an open house tonight for the concept plan of the Dawson Park and Kinnaird Ravine Master Plan, 5-8 p.m., at Alex Taylor School.

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