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September 21, 2017
August 23, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sanctuary city

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Edmonton City Hall. photo: Dean Smith (Creative Commons)

Edmonton is on its way to becoming a Sanctuary City. While there are lots of different policies around this kind of thing, and wording can matter depending on what kinds of rules are actually implemented, this is ultimately a good thing for people living here without official immigration or citizenship status.

Right now, people without permanent resident status can try and access City services, like the library, low-income transit passes or recreation centres and there’s a chance they succeed. Unless they don’t have a permanent address. Or they don’t even try because they’re worried they’ll get reported to federal agencies which might round them up or deport them.

So, it’s important for the City of Edmonton to move forward on something like this.

They can’t fix whether they get permanent status or not, but they can, while they’re living in our city, our boundaries, they can make sure that their lives are a little easier, that they have better access to housing, to transportation which we all have a right to.”

One difference from other official Sanctuary Cities is that Edmonton doesn’t seem like it’s going to impose some of this compassion on the police force. Depending on the local story you read on this, Edmonton Police either automatically report someone without resident status to federal agencies, or they have discretion to do so. Either way, we should include similar rules about not asking about resident status for police encounters with people (who aren’t being arrested or charged with a crime). This might actually see more crimes get reported or witnesses step forward.

Not to mention that whole carding problem we have with people being documented by police, for doing nothing. Once they’re in the system the information may be shared with other law enforcement agencies.

We definitely can’t be content to think all the Nazi-like people live in the United States. Hate in Alberta has deep roots, some of which don’t go back very many years. We can, however, ensure that our voice is louder than that of racists (and sexists, and homophobes, and transphobes, and anti-Muslim people). That begins online, in social media, and may need to move to the streets if that’s where white supremacists are trying to hurt our neighbours.

Somewhat related to the stories above, an Edmonton council committee got an update on the status of our city’s newest 2,100 residents from Syria. There are some struggles with how they’re finding life in Edmonton, a lot of which we can fix through some systemic changes and programming. Hopefully that continues to happen so these refugees have a good chance at building their lives in our city.


Parking problems

We made the joke the other day about how we’re the only local media outlet that’s not pro-driving, but all humour is based in truth.

Behold! This CTV Edmonton story on how “hard” it is to find a parking spot near the Edmonton Fringe is awesomely pro-driver. In nearly four minutes of airtime they somehow forget that Edmonton Transit exists. But at least they mentioned some people bike or take the High Level Streetcar to the festival.

I guarantee you can find parking within 4 blocks of whatever festival or business you’re trying to get to in a neighbourhood like Old Strathcona. This is a non-story.

But it’s not just CTV! The old MacEwan University building in the west end (which may or may not become officially known as “The Orange Hub”) hasn’t even got its new tenants yet and parking is already a problem.

Of course, the real stories with Big Orange is that it’s going to need a lot of work, and we’re eagerly waiting to hear which of the nearly 30 non-profit and arts groups from around Edmonton will be taking over the space. It sounds like it’s going to be a mix, with “14 arts and heritage organization[s], three education-focused groups, two focused on community development, one on sports and seven on wellness. A consortium of three arts groups want to run the small black box theatre…”

While not completely related to parking, complaining about traffic is in the same world. And that’s what people are doing about our new LRT line (currently under construction). The details about some predicted intersection waiting times was what actually prompted us to label all the daily newsrooms as pro-driver.

Now, while there may or may not be some extra waiting time at some intersections where this new street-level train makes its way from Mill Woods to the downtown (in 29 minutes!), the mayor hits the nail on the head about why we need public transit instead of more traffic lanes. “The train allows tens of thousands of people … to travel by train.” That’s going to be thousands of people who might not be sitting in a car beside you in traffic.

Hey, if you’re an Edmontonian who bikes, walks or takes transit, and you’re reading all these stories about traffic and parking and wondering if there’s something wrong with you, just know that we’re here for you. You don’t have to drive everywhere!


Around the city

Edmonton’s city council is moving ahead with a new policy for parental leave. This is becoming possible because of changes to the Municipal Government Act from the provincial government. It sounds like councillors would get up to 26 weeks of reduced work, with 10 of them being paid at full salary. That’s pretty fair!

City councillor babies may not be exactly as pictured. image: Feminist Baby, Loryn Brantz

Councillors have office staff who handle plenty of constituent work, so it’s pretty unlikely someone away for a few weeks would be very noticeable. Plus, it would start us on our way to better council, and City policies to encourage more women to get involved.

In order for Edmonton to get anywhere near our goals of ending homelessness we need a lot of affordable and supportive housing (and money). While there are only a few dozen units in this new building, the interesting thing is this is happening without government funding. If more developers can get on board with this kind of thinking, we’ll actually get a roof over everyone’s head without waiting for provincial and federal government funding.

Alberta’s beer fight far is from over. So, the price of beers isn’t likely to chance any time soon.

If you notice a new charge on your water bill, you won’t be alone. It’s there to help fund tracking and studies of the health of the North Saskatchewan River.


Public engagement

The Urban Planning Committee meets Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. Topics include the City’s new “Breathe” green policy and the delay of the Touch the Water promenade (thanks, Walterdale Bridge). That committee meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room.

If you want to be part of citizen working groups providing feedback on Edmonton’s new Valley Line West LRT expansion, check out public meetings this week along various points along the planned route. Downtown to Groat Road neighbours have a meeting Wednesday night at Robertson-Wesley United Church. Thursday night, the 156 Street community has its meeting at West Jasper-Sherwood Community Hall.

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