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December 16, 2017
December 1, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Friday, December 1, 2017

This week in Edmonton

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Holyrood Gardens, image: City of Edmonton

It was another busy week at city hall as the new council gets as much work done before the budget discussions and holiday break. 

After one delayed attempt at a public hearing (because too many people wanted to speak) and two different sessions to hear from the community, city council sent the Holyrood Gardens project back for more work and consultation. After the refusal to budge on affordable housing changes from the developer behind The Mezzo project this council is certainly starting with a different feel than the last couple of councils that couldn’t approve high-rises fast enough

Just a note on this story’s coverage, developers don’t “negotiate an agreement” with city staff through the development, zoning and permitting processes. They put forward plans and staff can let them know if they fit the current regulations. City staff might be able to help guide them through the process too, but there’s no deal signed. Redevelopments and major projects are ultimately up to council to decide.

For example, city staff did not approve of The Mezzo’s plans last year but the city council of the time still voted in favour of it. Major projects and developments, especially when there are zoning changes needed, are in the hands of the elected city council. There aren’t negotiated deals between developers and city staff, and writing something that implies that’s the case only ramps up the cynicism people will have for the process. And aren’t people cranky enough at most development open houses?

Edmonton Transit’s route 747. image: Youtube

The cost of riding the 747, Edmonton’s bus between the airport and city, is going to increase while a new deal is worked out to keep it running more permanently. The hope is that spring will bring an agreement between Edmonton, the airport and Leduc to ensure travellers have a quick and cheap form of transportation to and from the airport. Not to mention the increasing number of people working at the Edmonton International Airport.  

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Details on the City of Edmonton’s workplace harassment will be released after all. While we wait for that, an external consultant has been hired to handle complaints while the system is reviewed and overhauled.

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Edmonton’s got neighbourhood renewal, we’re going to have back alley renewal and now it looks like our river valley is going to get its own renewal plan

The City’s been doing a better job of protecting trees during construction projects, and is also looking for ways to keep our main street boulevard trees around for longer.  

Accidental Beach is under ice right now, but the City is looking at what to do for next summer if it returns again (there’s a chance the river flow shifts and the beach disappears). Longer-term, the City will need to negotiate with the provincial and federal governments to keep the beach permanently when the LRT bridge construction that helped it form is no longer in the river. 

Accidental Beach at the end of the season.

Also at committee this week…

It’s unlikely body rub parlours will be asking customers for ID, but all adult businesses might be getting a break on business licenses in an effort to increase security checks. 

The 1% art program that sees a small budget amount of large projects dedicated to public art will undergo a review but changes are likely to be delayed to see how it fits into the overall review for Edmonton’s next 10-year art and culture plan

Edmonton’s Business Improvement Areas, our business associations in neighbourhoods like the downtown, Chinatown, Old Strathcona and 124 Street, were also at city hall this week providing their annual updates


Around the city

Emergency room waits are a little bit longer in Edmonton. The efforts to get more people to stop going to the emergency room for issues and ailments family doctors or walk-in clinics could handle are probably our best bet to improve efficiency at hospitals. 

Police officers will remain in Edmonton schools, even though Toronto is removing these kinds of programs because of the potential for stigmatizing, criminalizing targeting and triggering of a variety of people and communities.

Edmonton is getting more new schools, this time in the Catholic system. Meanwhile, the Public school board is socking away a little cash in case it’s needed for other modernizations and builds. 

The Edmonton Public School Board also got an update on its student test scores, which are down in the division but still above provincial averages. The latest results also show more needs to be done to help improve outcomes for Indigenous students.

Dynalife is staying downtown, for at least a few more years. The potential for the medical lab to leave downtown was a big deal, especially as many offices sit vacant. 

Brad Ferguson is stepping down from his role as president and CEO at the Edmonton Economic Development Corportation (EEDC) after five years of promoting and supporting city business

More coyotes are being reported in Edmonton. That could mean we have more of the river valley predators or just that tools like the urban coyote project make it easier to report them. Or both. Keep your eyes peeled and your pets on-leash. 

More of Edmonton’s bars and clubs are asking for help on sexual harassment and assault in the wake of a closure of restaurant and music venue The Needle. This is going to be a growing issue for all businesses who aren’t putting in place policies to protect their staff (and customers).

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Outside the city

Alberta Legislature domeThis continues to be a major session at the Alberta Legislature, with bills to update workers rights and the labour code and also new consumer protections hitting the order paper. Among the work changes will be the right to refuse dangerous tasks without repercussions and big changes at the Workers’ Compensation Board. Consumer changes will ban ticket bots from snapping up seats and protect people leaving bad reviews for businesses on sites like Yelp.

There’s a group pushing for a referendum on whether Alberta should continue to have two public school systems, and they held an event in Edmonton this week to talk about what that road to change might look like

Edmonton is getting a new direct flight to San Francisco. Let’s call it Silicon Valley to Innovation Corridor

In a bit of good news/bad news, Alberta’s post-secondary tuition rates will be frozen again. That’s good when we’re considering ways to keep education as affordable as possible, but it’s bad because it’s one of the things the University of Alberta is blaming for pending budget cuts. A middle ground is going to need to be found before schools cut too much or tuition bounces up too high. 


Public engagement

Ward One councillor Andrew Knack is having another one of his community conversations on Saturday, 11 – 1 p.m. at the Jasper Place Library.  

City council begins its last meeting of the year on Monday. On top of regular agenda items and stuff from all the committee meetings of the last couple weeks, (like the things we talked about up there 👆🏽👆🏽) the budget adjustments for 2018 is the big item of the week. Monday is the usual start to the meeting with public sessions for various development and zoning approvals. The rest of the meeting continues Tuesday and Wednesday, before the budget talks through Friday (as needed).

If you’re involved in community leagues and other neighbourhood-level groups and projects, there’s an event Monday evening that might be of interest. There are some changes coming to the neighbourhood liaison role between the City and such groups, and you can learn more about the new way forward at the ATB Financial Arts Barns, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. 

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