Atco Project Update – Dunluce to Sherbrooke Gas Line Installation

I’d like to bring some changes to your attention regarding work scheduled to take place near 127th street in the upcoming months.

With some changes in scheduling, some of the work originally scheduled for 2016 will now take place in 2017. Originally 6.4km of main line was to be installed this year. The updated schedule has 5.4km to be installed this year and the remaining 1km to be installed in 2017. Our work for 2016 (Phase 1 and Phase 2) is scheduled to be complete by October 31 with timing to be determined in 2017 for Phase 3. These changes are reflected on the ATCO website which can be found  at ATCOGas.com/UPR

Community Assets

Recently, I went to an elementary school to work with City Planners to have students design a house to fit into a block of houses.   Their task was to design a home to fit in the blank spot in the neighborhood.   What a wonderful experience to see children who created homes that were different colors, shapes, and styles than those in the neighborhood they were given.   They used their imagination to design tree houses, underground houses, large homes and tiny homes.   Nobody told them how to fit into the character of the neighborhood.   I’ve wondered what the city would look like if we as adults could imagine doing things differently.   Imagine instead of a school in a neighborhood we built a community asset or a building that was home to community space which may include education space, room for early learning and other activities a community may want.   Perhaps it would have a library and a place for seniors to gather.  Then it wouldn’t matter if the education space was no longer needed that large as the community may want other uses to fill it.  Perhaps if we built schools with community space that couldn’t be used as education space in new neighborhoods we wouldn’t need separate community halls or gathering spaces.    We wouldn’t need so much land for separate buildings and more room to build homes that could sustain the community.     

At a recent meeting of community members, we were discussing schools and what would happen to communities if school buildings were closed.   Some suggested that the city infill activities in their neighborhoods were beginning to add preschool children and it was exciting to see.   They worried if that would happen if the schools were gone.   Others worried about losing a part of the history of their neighborhood and wanted to preserve the buildings.   The city is investing in mature neighborhoods through neighborhood renewal to rebuild roads and sidewalks.  How do we align this work with building communities?  Closed buildings can have a negative impact on a community.  How do we avoid that?  Currently, if schools are closed and are not needed by a school board then the city has the option to purchase the building.   If the city purchases the building then the taxpayers will pay twice for the building.  What if there is a  different way?  Is the only answer demolition or extensive renovations.  Could we partner with other organizations or the private sector?

I wonder if we need a new model to talk about these community assets and find ways to transition into a more collaborative, community-driven model so that communities across the city remain vibrant and strong. The question is how do we keep these community assets serving a community for years to come based on what each community desires?

School Boards say that there aren’t enough children attending the local school for it to remain viable and others suggest it is because many students choose schools outside their local community. Knowing that Edmonton is one of the youngest cities in Canada, we can anticipate that we have and are going to have a growing school-aged population.  So maybe the real question is, how do we get more young families into mature neighbourhoods? City Council has requested draft amendments to our bylaws that will allow secondary suites in semi-detached and duplexes.   This could potentially add more residents to these mature neighborhoods at risk.  Where do local schools fit in as a way to attract folks to communities?  Does it matter?  Is there a better way to access the needs of a community?  There are also many requests from cultural and non-profit groups for space to serve the community.  Does it matter if we keep doing things the same ways they have always been done or is it more important to figure out how to serve the citizens and be good stewards of the public dollars. Can you close part of a school and transition the balance to community directed purposes?  

I think we need to start these conversations in communities to discuss their needs and desires prior to any discussion about the local schools.  

In order for this to happen, we will need the province, city and school boards working together.  My hope is that the together we can develop a vehicle to see this collaboration truly happen.  It will take all of us including the City, school boards, community members, non-profit organizations, cultural groups, faith groups and businesses working together to see positive change for communities.  

Parental Leave

How do we attract more women into politics?  How do we keep them in politics? These are questions I have been asked since I was elected the only women onto CIty Council in 2013.  I think there are some great campaigns out by Equal Voice and others to encourage women to run.   Are there other barriers to women running for office?

Recently at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference, the issue of parental leave for councillors was discussed.  Quebec recently acknowledged the need to provide some and has instituted 18 weeks of parental leave.

In Alberta under the current Municipal Government Act (MGA) there is not a provision for parental leave.  Current rules indicate that after 8 consecutive weeks of absences a councillor is disqualified.   An exception can be made by a resolution of council passed on each circumstance.  Last week I present a motion to council to request a provision in the new Municipal Government Act to allow municipalities to create policies to provide parental leave for councillors.   City Council unanimously approved of the consideration.  
If this was embedded in the MGA then each  municipality could then create a policy for parental leave for their councils.   This would provide confidence that a councillor would be provided parental leave based on the policy.   

ATCO Gas – Lauderdale Project

On May 30th, ATCO Gas’ contractor, Amtel will be starting mobilization for the Lauderdale Steel Mains Replacement (SMR) project with construction beginning on June 1st.

·       This project will include the replacement of approximately 1500m of gas main. 

·       The project is located between 101st Street to 113A Street along 129th Avenue (a copy of the overall work plan is attached). 

·       There will be some potential traffic disruption in the roadway in this area as the work is completed but the contractor will work with the residents to minimize impacts. Periodic lane closures will be coordinated with the Traffic department.

·       Installation will be primarily by directional drill.

·       The estimated completion date is August 30th

·       ATCO Gas’ Engineering and Construction group has been coordinating this work with the City of Edmonton

Lauderdale Map

 

 

My Thoughts on the Metro Line

“Gloom, despair and agony on me” from Hee Haw certainly reflects some folks thinking of the Metro Line.

The Metro line has received a lot of criticism since it finally started operations.   Motorists, pedestrians and businesses have been impacted by the building of the LRT, delays in operations, challenges with signaling, timing of lights and limited train speed.   It has been the source of many conversations, frustrations and jokes!   It certainly wasn’t what anyone planned or hoped for, yet here we are with even more riders than we anticipated.   City administration is working to get the safety certificate so we can run at full speed in the near future.   They have also been working hard to address the pedestrian and motorist concerns by changing traffic light timing to help address traffic congestion.

We haven’t got the Metro Line running at full speed and Kingsway Mall is already stepping up to partner with the City of Edmonton to look at alternate sites for a LRT station and continue to support the long term vision of Blatchford.   I, for one, appreciate their willingness to still partner and sit and the table to discuss what has in not doubt also frustrated them and affected their business.

In a recent letter to me, Kingsway has said that “instead of looking backwards at what could have been one differently, we are looking forward at how we can partner in a way that is beneficial to the City, the community and Kingsway Mall.”

That really speaks to me about what a great city we live in when citizens and business see the bigger vision of what we need to continue to build a great city!

The City of Edmonton Child-Care Policy

This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

It’s a small world after all! Today, the City of Edmonton took one small step to a promising future. Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer may be common interests for children, but one thing that is on almost every parent’s mind is access to quality, affordable child-care. They are interested in finding the best child-care option for their children. Some may choose to stay home, others may work part time or full time, and yet it seems there just isn’t enough space or options for some parents.

Today, Edmonton City Council passed a policy for Employee Child Care. The new policy will see the city exploring opportunities for child-care where more than 500 employees live or work within a five-kilometer radius of a city work site.

This all started with the availability of a day care for city staff in the new civic tower. City of Edmonton Staff were surveyed to determine if they were interested, and very quickly we realized that there is a need throughout the city.

The policy focuses on the provision of early learning and care with an understanding that it should be high quality, affordable and accessible to meet the diverse needs of children. It’s not just about employee retention, but also about employee attraction. It’s a milestone where we begin to give families and predominantly women who provide that majority of child-care responsibilities, choices to work for the city.

Will we have places tomorrow for our employee’s children? No, but we are beginning to take steps whenever we plan, build, retrofit or have leased space available to initiate early learning and care spaces for employees, and for the public if there is room.   Ultimately, this should help address the child-care shortage in the city.

My hope and my challenge is that other Employers will see the City of Edmonton as a leader and model to follow and look to providing quality child care options for their employees.

My Pledge for Parity

International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 2016 and at numerous

other events this week. It has been an exciting week and I have been fortunate

to attend a few events. This year’s theme was gender parity and I have been

inspired to keep working towards this goal. I was horrified to see the World

Economic Forum estimate that on our current path we will not reach gender

parity until 2133! That seems absurd to me but, just reminds me that we can

speed this up by working together on this issue.

 

At the City Hall event, I was challenged by our keynote Dr. Christina Stasia

talked about it is time we stopping telling everyone about the issue and starting

showing how it can be done. At the Famous Five luncheon, Sally Armstrong

inspired me that young people are now being more and more engaged to speak

out about what is acceptable. Her thoughts on political will changing policies,

public will and its activities and how today it is personal will that is driving the

conversation and it is showing up on twitter and facebook challenging the status

quo and inspiring action.

 

I really excited about some of the work I’m involved in within the City of

Edmonton and we just announced a new initiative, Diverse Voices for Change.

Edmonton will be one of five municipalities across Canada who will be working to

increase the number of women from diverse communities to be actively engaged

in local government and in particular, increased participation on agencies,

boards and committees.

 

My pledge … to speak out and support women to be involved in our city and take

a leadership role. What is your pledge or what are you going to do to inspire

change and create gender equity?

Baby steps on my journey

Joy! Pure Joy! I remember feeling great joy and accomplishment when the street lights finally worked on 127 Street north of 167 Avenue. I even went out at dusk to watch the lights turn on! That seems like such a little thing but, it was something I had worked on since I was elected and it took countless phone calls, emails and persistence for 6 months before I saw the lights! Some issues I have faced as a City Councillor are public and debated vigorously, however, some local issues require leg work and persistence. As a Councillor we get to do both!

Often I am asked is the job everything you thought it would be and I’ve always replied yes but, it is even broader than I thought. As a Council we sit as shareholders on Epcor, EEDC and Homeward Trust.

The question I get asked the most is how does it feel to be the only women on council, however, I have nothing to compare it to. I have enjoyed working with the boys down the hall and they are all true gentlemen and are very supportive. A great example of this is when I raised the issue of transit and lrt safety concerns that I had heard from countless women. They listened sincerely to the concerns expressed by women including the representatives from the Women’s Advisory Voice of Edmonton and Post Secondary Students Association. Actually they did more than listen – they acted and set in motion several actions to improve safety and security on lrt and transit. I was very proud of the work that we did as a council to address the concerns expressed by so many women.

As I reflect on my journey, there have been many proud moments for me including the establishment of the women’s committee as a committee of council. Women responded to this committee with over 130 applications for the 15 member committee. It was so exciting to see so many women engaged and willing to share their time and experiences with us.

Another highlight for me was the establishment of school zones in Edmonton after 40 years. I had worked on this issue in my former life as a School Trustee for Edmonton Public and as the Executive Director for SHAPE (Alberta’s walk to school programs). Many folks told me that I should take this on and that it wouldn’t happen. That didn’t discourage or deter me at all as it was the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong that there was no opposition but, rather an opportunity to do the right thing.

So at this point, I can say I have a few battle scars and a few victories. Budget is one of those seasons when decisions are very difficult and you need to stand strong on your own convictions. As we wade through the variety of great programs and needs it is impossible to fund them all. You can promote the ones that are important to you and hope your colleagues will agree. You also vote no if you feel that it is not the best use of our limited resources. They are not easy decisions but, ones you have to make. At the end of the day each of us does what we feel is best for our ward and for our city.

My favourite part of the job is people. We get to go to a lot of events and have many opportunities to interact with people. Sometimes they are celebrations and sometimes people are looking for help. Other times it is representing the city and meeting some terrific organizations doing great work in our city.

We live in a great city and I often mention that it’s not about our buildings, roads or even the arena that makes our city great. It is our people. Edmonton is full of passionate, dedicated and respectiful people. We can be proud of our diversity and our willingness to support others and together build a great city that we call home.