Edmonton City Council Update:
- Events: Bikes & Bakeries & Breweries
- Chinatown & Downtown
- Police Funding: Laying out the facts...
- Dog Parks (August 22nd)
- Renters Rights
- Noisy Vehicles (June 27th)
- Surplus School Sites
- Chamber of Commerce doesn't pay property taxes - huh?
- Remembering George Floyd
- Around the World - Oslo, and Push the Needle
EVENTS: June is Bike Month (June 4th) I'm hosting a Ward Papastew Bakery & Coffee Bike tour. Meet at Eleanor and Laurant in Garneau (10926 88 Ave NW) and we will embark on a leisurely group ride, stopping at delicious all ages destinations along the way. We will conclude at the Parkallen Pump Track at 3PM.
Later on I'm hosting a Bikes & Beers Brewery Tour June 12th. We will meet at noon and taste flights until 3PM.
CHINATOWN & DOWNTOWN: Holding Chief McFee & Police Commission Chair John McDougall accountable
In a scathing inditement of Chief McFee and the Edmonton Police Commission by Minister Shandro, the Minister sent Mayor Sohi a letter today regarding the Police Act.
I'll quote from Professor Temitope Oriola who wrote: "Consequently, there is a productive tension built into the very idea of civilian oversight of police. That tension does not have to degenerate to adversarial relationship but the oversight agency cannot be buddies with the police. That is the meaning and essence of civilian oversight — to put the police on their toes. Therefore, rather than write an op-ed in support of police action, the chair and his colleagues should have asked the police tough questions." (https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-edmonton-police-commissions-role-isnt-defending-police-action)
Crime is going down across the city. However, 19.1% of calls are coming from downtown and we learned that they are only assigned a fraction of EPS resources, an issue that has been raised since January. Of course, when a celebrity loses their laptop, at least three detectives are on the case.
The Mayor wrote the police a letter asking about downtown resources allocation and I will share the response when I receive it. I've been really disappointed with the excessively political conduct by this Chief (including attending a partisan political fundraiser with Minister Shandro) which really has not been helpful.
The Mayor also wrote about the lack of support we've received here: "I have to say that I am glad that the Minister has finally noticed this incredibly important issue that has been my top priority since being elected. I have desperately been trying to get the province’s attention on this issue for months now." https://medium.com/mayorsohi/my-response-to-minister-shandros-letter-on-the-police-act-1fb9f9fa835f
Mayor Sohi also wrote about Police Funding here: https://medium.com/mayorsohi/a-safe-edmonton-requires-a-fair-and-accountable-funding-strategy-b3f14b5b2eae
I share many of his concerns which I will detail in the next section.
POLICE FUNDING: Laying out the facts
"Our goal in policing should be to work our way out of a job." Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee discusses the idea of defunding the police, ... (CBC Edmonton · Jul 7, 2020)
There is no part of any municipal government across North America that is as political as the police. Considering that the police make up the largest expenditure in the City Budget, they should receive a corresponding level of scrutiny and discussion as part of our conversation about value for taxes and building a safe, inclusive, welcoming city for everyone.
Councillor Michael Janz said council needs to scrutinize the police budget carefully before agreeing to give the department more money.
“I think it would be way too premature to provide any new dollars or a multiyear funding formula before we continue to go through how do we create a safer Edmonton for everyone,” he said.
“I am not opposed to a highly paid, highly skilled, highly resourced police force, I just want to make sure they are doing the best police work that we need.
Here are a few other important points to consider:
- Almost a quarter of your tax bill goes towards the Edmonton Police Service.
- According to Chief McFee, the Edmonton Police have never seen a budget cut in their existence, and they have never seen a layoff.
- We have the best resourced police force in Alberta and 2nd in Canada. No one spends more on police per person than Edmonton. (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canadian-cities-police-spending-ranges-from-one-10th-to-nearly-a/)
- We have the best police airforce with two helicopters, an airplane, and are buying a second airplane for $4.5 Million. We have drones, tanks, and more than five guns per officer. (https://www.theprogressreport.ca/edmonton_police_have_a_secret_plane_and_they_re_getting_another)
- We have the best paid police officers in Alberta: https://www.theprogressreport.ca/edmonton_cops_are_the_highest_paid_cops_in_alberta
- The UCP reduced funding to the EPS by $5 Million https://globalnews.ca/news/6116066/edmonton-police-budget-alberta-budget-2019/ The police service said Friday its operating budget was reduced by $5 million to $9 million due to the province taking a larger portion of the money generated from traffic tickets, as well as having to foot the bill for DNA biological casework.
- The UCP actually defunded the police across Alberta: https://www.albertandpcaucus.ca/news-events/post/new-documents-reveal-tens-of-millions-in-ucp-cuts-to-local-police-budgets
Let’s look at crime:
- Over the last three years, Edmonton has experienced a 17% reduction in crime.
- The city’s crime rate has historically been higher than the national average, but despite the effects of the pandemic, progress has been made in closing that gap. https://www.edmontonpolice.ca/News/MediaReleases/2021AnnualReport
- Chief Mcfee says addiction, trauma, mental health, — these are what is driving the violent crime.
- The number one call for service is traffic.
There are a very small number of criminals who account for the vast majority of calls. Police identify 18 prolific offenders involved in 964 incidents since January 2019. You read that correctly. EIGHTEEN. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/city-council-crime-police-1.5978998
Let’s look at prevention.
- For context the operational costs of one EPS are $191K.
- City Council just voted $290K to pay for Bridge Housing to reduce those discharged from ER into homelessness https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/bridge-healing-homeless-emergency-1.6458643
- Scaled up? AHS data for 2021 that estimates there were 4,297 homeless patients who visited emergency rooms in the Edmonton zone.
- One person experiencing chronic homelessness can cost up to $114,850 in direct and indirect costs per year in Alberta, according to that data. Total health care savings? $494 MILLION.
These are the kinds of trade-offs we are being asked to make. There are lots of important expenditures, but what is the best ROI for each dollar invested? #yegcc and that is what the UCP are making worse.
How are the UPC making Albertans more unsafe?
- Cutting housing funding: (https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/alberta-budget-no-promises-for-edmontons-supportive-housing-request) Notably left out of the budget is $8.9 million in yearly operating funds the city says it needs on a “priority basis” to run the wraparound supports in 348 new units of supportive housing in Edmonton.
- Static funding for homeless and outreach support services is set to be flat over the next three years, sitting at $193 million.
- Cuts to funding for housing & libraries. The Alberta government is cutting infrastructure money to municipalities by 25 per cent over the next three years. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-municipalities-infrastructure-funding-1.5946392)
- Cuts to Community Leagues & Community supports: The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and Federation of Calgary Communities have written letters address a nearly 50 per cent cut to the community facility enhancement program (CFEP) this year compared to 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/community-facility-enhancement-program-alberta-cuts-1.5959541
- Hundreds of young adults transitioning out of the child welfare system will be cut off from their government benefits for now, reduce the age eligibility of the Support and Financial Assistance Agreements (SFAA) program, with participants aging-out at 22 years instead of 24. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/alberta-government-wins-legal-bid-but-urged-to-take-care-when-cutting-benefits-to-young-adults-1.5890011
- Cut funding for front-line community service providers assisting vulnerable LGBTQiA2S+ youth
But what about people using drugs in public? Or the overdose deaths? With the UCP closures of save consumption and harm reduction, people are dying at the hands of the UCP in greater numbers than ever before.
- As deaths mount, Marshall Smith has driven the province’s focus on abstinence over safer drug supplies.
- Driven by faith and ideology, the UCP have closed safe consumption sites and left us to find the bodies of our dead neighbours and loved ones: https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/05/12/Man-Behind-Pull-Away-Harm-Reduction-Alberta/
So what can we do to improve policing?
There are real reforms the UCP could make right now in the legislature without spending a dollar, such as reforming the police act that would give all of us more powers to keep people safe.
- Chief McFee says the largest call for police service is traffic. It's one of the largest areas of the police.
- We need police responding to violent crime, not fender benders. Have you ever turned in paperwork at a police station to a highly trained, highly armed police officer working a desk pushing paper? That's all too common. https://www.edmontonpolice.ca/CommunityPolicing/OperationalServices/Traffic
- Alberta must delegate the administrivia away from highly paid, armed, equipped police. https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/police-cadets-will-now-direct-traffic-slashing-ot-pay-for-officers-at-stoplights-1.3548864
Would your community like to initiate a dog park? I moved a motion that "That Administration provide a report to Community and Public Services Committee outlining options and resource requirements for community-initiated proposals for off-leash dog parks with the potential to have the options integrated into City processes and strategy implementation." and that report will be forthcoming August 22nd, 2022.
A reminder that my vehicle noise motion (That Administration provide an information report with options including but not limited to increase fines, penalties, and enforcement capacity for passenger vehicles creating excessive noise.) is coming forward on June 27th. I would like to invite you to a zoom meeting on this topic prior to the council meeting to receive your feedback. Please RSVP by signing the petition at www.michaeljanz.ca/noise.
I've moved a subsequent motion on renters rights and just wanted to flag that this is a trend across Canada where tenants groups are rising up against negligent landlords. For context, 37% of Edmontonians rent. In Hamilton, Ontario they've taken steps I would like to see emulated: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/rental-properties-hamilton-1.5960261 - I'll be convening a meeting on this topic soon and you can sign up atwww.michaeljanz.ca/renters
As we think about opportunities to densify as we grow, I wanted to flag with you the issue of surplus school sites. EPSB currently owns and maintains 21 closed school facilities and controls a number of vacant Municipal Reserve sites where schools have not been built. ECSD owns others. Here's a link: https://epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2021-22/february152022/02-DivisionRealEstateStrategy.pdf
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Why don't they pay property taxes? If you are upset about poverty, potholes, outdoor pool times being reduced, inadequate snow removal, or the potential closure of Scona Pool or local Recreation, ask yourself: who’s pushing for austerity? Who's been pushing for service reductions?
"As city council we are facing a very challenging budget, a doubling of the population of unhoused neighbours, and over 55,000 children in poverty in our city. We need to make sure that every single dollar we spend delivers the maximal return on investment whether they are spent on airplanes or executive salaries or tax exemptions for corporate advocates,” said Councilor Michael Janz. “Property tax exemptions are forgone revenue and should not be exempted from this process."
(May 25th) Remembering George Floyd: (VIDEO) https://youtu.be/HEQoiWiHGTs
Around the World:
How Oslo Learned to Fight Climate Change
Don't let them tell you that it can't be done in a northern city - https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-a-warming-planet/how-oslo-learned-to-fight-climate-change
Pushing the Needle: (Twitter.com/pushtheneedle)
I found this twitter most provocative and I wanted to share with you some of their images: