(May 2nd 2022) City Hall Newsletter 🌍 🌲 🚲 ⚽️ 🏡

Dear Readers, I'm breaking these newsletters into two sections. The first is City Updates, the second portion will be an Environment Scan of issues arising in other cities in Canada to inform, delight, or provoke your imagination. 

Edmonton City Council Update:

As the winter weather warms, new challenges migrate and surface. Homelessness has almost doubled during the pandemic, but funding from the UCP and Premier Kenney has not.

In no particular order:

  • Transit Safety
  • Which Neighbourhoods have the most car crashes?
  • Snow and Ice
  • EPCOR CEO 2021 Compensation Increase (up almost a million to $3.1 Million!) 
  • Housing: Do we need an Empty Homes Tax?
  • Business Recovery
  • Problem Properties
  • Encampment Response
  • Transit Safety Response
  • Our First Six Months
  • Open Data: This Is YEG
  • Learn how to ride safely with your family
  • Book Club - This week!

Transit Safety: I wanted to share with you this message from Mayor Sohi. Foot patrols are increasing as well as teams to Transit Peace officers (not commissionaires) and social workers: https://twitter.com/AmarjeetSohiYEG/status/1519805772984504320?s=20&t=waT3D5rjkJsaTLlBfLCjGg

Housing Thoughts: Empty homes tax?

Coun. Michael Janz, who also requested the city’s data after reading a similar report in the Calgary Herald, said he was interested in learning about Edmonton’s situation given the federal government’s temporary ban on foreign home buyers in hopes of cooling the housing market. 

Edmonton should be looking at all sorts of options, including an empty homes tax similar to Vancouver’s, a different tax rate for multimillion-dollar homes, or cracking down on real estate investment trusts, while also focusing on building more non-market and co-op housing, he said in an interview on Wednesday.

“We’ve left the housing market to the invisible hand of housing capitalism and it has led to skyrocketing problems,” he said. “Foreign ownership is but one piece of that, that we’re seeing housing treated as an investment vehicle, not as a human right.”

While most homes seem to be owned by Edmontonians, Janz worries that in time this could change with the potential for speculators to grab up local property as has happened in Toronto and Vancouver. He worries that Edmontonians, including renters trying to save up for a downpayment, may have to compete against foreign investors and other speculators when looking for a home.

“Alberta is stable, we have a growing economy — the bones of Edmonton are very strong,” he said. “I see these same investors and the same problems that cratered affordable housing in other Canadian cities moving westward.”

via: https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/edmontons-2021-property-tax-data-foreign-ownership

 


Six Months Smarter, Stronger, Together (via Councillor Anne Stevenson) This series is a great round-up of our work at City Hall so far in the first six months.

  • Prioritizing Housing Affordability for All, 
  • Taking Decisive Climate Action, 
  • Supporting  a Diversified Economy and Mobility Network to Create Choice and Adaptability
  • Breaking Down Budget Silos to Find Systems Savings and Considering Full Lifecycle Costs of Infrastructure
  • Making Data-driven Decisions Informed by Effective Community Consultation
  • Investing in Public Spaces Where we Can Connect With Each Other and With Nature
  • Working Consistently Towards Reconciliation
  • Promote Community Wellness to Improve Neighbourhood Safety

https://www.annestevenson.ca/blog/six-months-stronger


Problem Properties (Via Councillor Salvador)

Beyond implementing the community property safety team and providing dedicated resources for problem properties work, the motion presented at committee also included exploring a stronger approach to having properties be demolished, as well as using property tax subclasses to keep owners accountable for their properties. In August, council will be getting a report back on options related to demolition and/or disposition of problem properties, as well as options for creating tax subclasses for derelict residential and non-residential problem properties. (https://www.ashleysalvador.com/post/a-stronger-approach-to-problem-properties)


Infill Compliance (via Councillor Salvador): 

I was pleased to read that there has been a downward trend in the number of complaints. Peace officers are seeing dramatic reductions in the number of complaints they receive for infill; in 2017, there were 659 complaints, in 2020 there were 386 complaints and in 2021, there were 371 complaints. The total number of development compliance complaints substantially decreased from 186 in 2018 to 54 in 2019, 32 reported in 2020, and 33 in 2021. That’s evidence of significant improvement, and a reduction in the negative experiences of Edmontonians near infill projects. (https://www.ashleysalvador.com/post/the-next-chapter-for-infill-in-edmonton)


Supporting Community Leagues (Via Councillor Rutherford)

The first motion called for Community Leagues to be considered as key partners in Covid-19 recovery. Specifically, the motion calls for a package to be presented in the Fall 2023-2026 budget with increases to the Community League Operating Grant and the Community League Infrastructure Program. The package will be deliberated this fall. Additionally, our policies need to account for the diversity amoung our neighbourhoods so no League is left behind! Leagues vary greatly in needs, population size, and capacities to offer services. That’s why I put forward a second motion to review the grant and infrastructure program, in consultation with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, to look for ways to enhance equity and efficiency in application processes and distribution of funds.  (https://www.erinrutherford.ca/updates-blog/supportlocalcommunityleagues)


An increase of $880,000 for women's shelters (Via Councillor Jo-Anne Wright)

Edmonton city council is dedicating $880,000 to women’s shelters across Edmonton. Instead. councillors decided to use that money for social initiatives and funding for women’s shelters came from that pot. The one-time investment will be used for mental health supports, cultural support, nursing resources and for people who have precarious immigration status. Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’ Jan Reimer said shelters rely on provincial funding and donations. Money from the city is unprecedented, and will go a long way.


Encampment Response via City Of Edmonton Homeless Response Team

Background:

Social disorder associated with homelessness, like encampments, needle debris or disruptive behaviour, is a symptom of a lack of adequate housing, shelter options, and support. Over the last seven years, Edmonton has experienced an increase in the number of people sleeping in encampments, reflected in steady year over year increases in public complaints to 311. In 2016, we recorded 790 encampment related calls and in 2021, we received over 6,200 calls reporting encampments throughout the City of Edmonton. Our encampment data shows that in the month of February 2022, we experienced a 20% increase in monthly complaints, which is the highest on record. The number of Edmontonians experiencing homelessness has more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic. Homeward Trust’s By Name List (BNL) serves as a real-time record of people experiencing homelessness across Edmonton. As of April 1, 2022, there are more than 2,810 people experiencing homelessness Of those people, up to half are either currently staying in shelter or are unsheltered, with the remainder provisionally accommodated (couch-surfing, short-term housing, etc).

In conjunction with our partnering stakeholder agencies, additional Peace and Police Officer resources have been requested for our Encampment Response Teams which we anticipate will be operational by the first week of May.  Our goal is to double the number of response teams in the field.  On top of increasing the number of teams, additional Peace Officer resources will also be trained for overlap coverage or if more resources are needed to supplement the initial coverage.  Special patrol schedules from the Park Ranger Peace Officer program can supplement high priority areas to reduce the number of immediate reoccupations and enhanced social presence. 

Some information on the current Encampment Response Plan: 

The Encampment Response Plan’s goal is to connect individuals to housing and support to leave encampments as soon as possible. We want to discourage the establishment of large encampments that have negative health and safety impacts on encampment occupants and the surrounding community. 

Private property owners should report encampments or social disorders on private land to 311. If there is an occupied encampment, outreach workers will connect individuals to resources and housing options. This response works towards housing individuals before the closure of the encampment site and can take a few days to a few weeks. See the process at a glance.

The process aims to prevent high-risk encampments from establishing, address elevated stakeholder concerns, and coordinate the closure of encampments with clear and consistent connections to shelter and housing options. To do this effectively, the City, our encampment response team partners and EPS explored different ways to address a significant and growing issue. 

We’d also like to share the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) as a useful resource. This team works with residents, communities, businesses, and organizations to build solutions to create safe and vibrant neighbourhoods and communities. NET responds to repeated or significant incidents that may impact the security and safety of Edmontonians across the city. They work with the community to address the factors that contribute to the issue, along with reducing the fear of crime and social disorder by using problem-solving approaches. The NET team can be contacted to provide education and support to communities at [email protected].

If you are concerned about the well-being of someone who appears to be in distress, please contact the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team. For additional information on community resources, call 211. The best way to report an encampment for investigation and clean up is via 311. If you're looking for more information on the City's response to homeless encampments across the city be sure to visit our webpage. (via The Affordable Housing & Homelessness Team)


Transit Safety:

I'm pushing for more safety and well-being measures that you have noted. I too ride the LRT regularly downtown or trips with my family. I wanted to share with you a response I received from City Admin on the LRT issues as background:

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. Public transit operations and safety are a top priority for both City Operations and Community Services. Central Station is consistently one of our busiest transit locations and, as a result, we dedicate extra attention to monitoring and patrolling it. ETS will review the station and access points associated with Central Station, per the feedback you have shared, to determine if adjustments can be made.

With regard to safety in and around ETS property, ETS takes a multilayered approach to safety and security which includes collaboration with the Edmonton Police Service, Transit Peace Officers, and onsite security guards, as well as security infrastructure such as security cameras and emergency blue phones. Proactive patrols of LRT stations and transit centres are completed by police and peace officers and we have requested an increased peace officer presence throughout the transit system. Enforcement resources are supported by security guards who are a visible presence and offer a wide range of assistance to Edmontonians on site in our transit centres and LRT stations. Guards and Transit Operators all have a direct connection to the 24/7 ETS Control Centre and play a critical role in the timely reporting of incidents and requesting enforcement, police or other emergency support.

In February 2022, City Council also approved a Transit Safety Plan which will increase the number of Transit Peace Officer and Outreach teams on Transit. City administration, the Edmonton Police Service and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society will collaborate on an integrated and coordinated approach to crime prevention and targeted responses to criminal activity. We will also be working with Alberta Health Services to ensure that people have access to services that are out of scope for the teams. The Transit Safety Plan includes: 

  • Integrated and coordinated governance and operations for EPS, TPOs and other key partners, including crime prevention and response strategies
  • More social supports, including expanding our Community Outreach Transit Team program with the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, and more partnerships with stakeholders such as Alberta Health Services
  • More frequent cleaning of LRT stations and transit centres
  • Space activation in our LRT stations and transit centres to create more vibrancy and welcome people to our transit spaces

In the short-term, you will see: 

  • More presence from EPS and TPOs in our transit spaces doing foot patrols
  • More interventions from security guards to assist with overdoses in our spaces
  • More involvement from AHS in conducting outreach related to addictions
  • More frequent cleaning and custodial services in our spaces

In the event that you do not feel safe or require immediate assistance while using Transit, Blue Help Phones are located in all LRT stations and Transit Centres. Upon activation of the Blue Help Phone, security cameras are activated and you will be immediately connected to ETS Control Centre personnel. Alternatively, you can report disorder and/or suspicious behavior to the onsite guards or call or text Transit Watch (780-442-4900) 24/7. Non-emergency issues (such as cleanliness) can be reported to 311 for further follow-up. For 24/7 non-emergency Crisis Diversion support for shelter, intoxication, and mental health, call 211 and press 3. In an emergency, immediately dial 911. These reports are critical to ensure proactive resources can be deployed. 

With the approval of the Transit Safety Plan referenced above,  we have been working diligently to hire and implement that plan as quickly as possible. With two new TPO Sergeants, we will be starting a foot patrol program with the Transit Peace Officers while will shift our focus from reactionary call response to a more dedicated proactive presence in the most problematic locations across the entire transit system. This foot patrol program will be starting in mid-May, when TPO schedules can be realigned as per their collective agreement. Additionally, new COTT resources are scheduled to be in place by June as we work with Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society to get our teams selected and trained appropriately. 

Although City of Edmonton peace officer resources can have a crime prevention effect, responding to crime or conducting criminal investigations is not within the scope of their peace officer designation from the province. As a result, we’ve been partnering with the Edmonton Police Service in a number of ways over the last few years, first with their LRT Beats program and then, since that program was dissolved, with their Crime Suppression Branch. In the past few months, their resources have been instrumental in supporting our nightly facility lock up process, and they have coordinated for EPS beat teams to place more attention in monitoring and patrolling transit spaces. We have conducted a number of public safety engagements in transit stations in conjunction with the EPS Community Engagement Team and we will continue to work with EPS at an operational level to address the challenges. (Via the Transit Safety Team)

 


EPCOR CEO makes $3.1 Million in 2021, an increase of nearly $1 Million (Via Working Families Edmonton)

Tell the City of Edmonton as the sole shareholder in EPCOR to rein in the exorbitant pay packages that are given to it's CEO and board directly from the pockets of working families in Edmonton. Sign the petition HERE and don't forget to share with your friends, families and neighbours as this issue effects all of us and don't forget to tell everyone you know to get involved and push for responsible change. - Via Working Families Edmonton

 


This is Edmonton: (data visualization tool) How does your neighbourhood compare to the city average on detailed census demographics like household income, age, transportation used to get to work, and other metrics? This is Edmonton lets you compare these metrics between neighbourhoods by combining storytelling, 3D mapping, and data about the hundreds of neighbourhoods in Edmonton. LINK: https://thisisyeg.dha.io/


Vibrant Business Recovery: (Via Mayor Sohi) - I am very optimistic that Edmonton can be a place where doing business is most convenient and affordable. Becoming Business Friendly requires cross-organizational support. Our commitment to this progress is ongoing and has been a result of major cooperation and collaboration across the entire City organization and with key partners such as Edmonton Global, Innovate Edmonton and Explore Edmonton. We must celebrate and promote that we are open for business to grow our business community and non-residential tax base and help Edmonton recover from the difficulties of the pandemic. A vibrant business community is key to our recovery. https://medium.com/mayorsohi/a-business-friendly-city-is-a-recovery-friendly-city-59543cdf8ad9

Introducing HomeEd - Tired of renting from a landlord or renting a mortgage from a bank?
Did you know that City Council has a public housing providerDid you know that for $1 million equity they can open almost 100 new units of affordable housing for families?
With 55,000 children living in Poverty in Edmonton, we need to make improvements across the housing spectrum without merely enriching banks or landlords.  (www.myhomeed.ca)
 

Which neighbourhoods in Edmonton are High Crash Neighbourhoods (P.26)?

https://www.edmonton.ca/sites/default/files/public-files/assets/Safe-Mobility-Strategy_2021-2025.pdf

This reminded me of this article about the Costs of Crashes

https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2022/04/29/cost-crashes-higher-congestion

The narrative of constantly needing to expand roadway capacity, justified by large congestion cost figures, is seriously undermined once those costs are compared to motor vehicle crashes.

Speeding up traffic is not the biggest area of concern that transportation planners and public officials should be focusing on, Crossley says. That would be the economic and quality-of-life costs of automobile crashes. Focusing on that would lead to investments in networks of streets that serve multiple purposes and give people choices in how to get around safely.


Snow removal via Councillor Erin Rutherford: We still need to talk about Snow and Ice: https://www.erinrutherford.ca/updates-blog/stillneedtotalkaboutsnowice

 


Family Biking Show and Tell: 

 

 


Big Bin and Eco-Station Bins: The city is again allowing residents to drop off large furniture and appliances — plus grass clippings, tires, metal, and garbage — at a series of free Big Bin Events running on select weekends from May 7 to Sept. 18, and a series of weekend events at Eco Stations from April 30 to Oct. 2.


SUMMER STREETS on Saskatchewan drive: https://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/summer-streets

In early May, Summer Streets will be added to Saskatchewan Drive, from 109 Street to west of 104 Street, and 104 Street, from Saskatchewan Drive to 78 Avenue. Summer Streets will remain active into the fall, depending on weather conditions. I biked along Saskatchewan drive today and it was gorgeous!


Edmonton's Interest in E-Bikes Soar: This was such an exciting article. I'lll never forget the woman in Belgravia who told me she bought her first E-bike in her 70s because she still wants mobility in her 80s. That's freedom! We have two e-bikes in our household and we love them as they have helped us remain a "one car family" and save money! With Jason Kenney and the UCP taking the cap off of insurance, plus the climate emergency and the high cost of gas, they have paid for themselves in no time! https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/e-bike-edmonton-commuting-shop-1.6409226


📚 BOOKCLUB: I invite you to join your City Councillor for a book club! I invite you to join me for book club to discuss two books that I’ve found very influential on my thinking about city planning and issues facing Edmonton.

The first is Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity (Thursday, May 5th, 7PM - 9PM). The Second is "Confessions of A Recovering Traffic Engineer" (Thursday June 2nd, 7PM - 9PM). To participate, sign up at the links above. Closer to the date we will confirm the location (Virtual / Outdoor). You can get these books yourself from the Edmonton Public Library or at a local bookseller, but I have six copies to loan if you would like to borrow one.

Here are some of the guiding questions that I’m reflecting on:

  • How do we build wealth in our community, become more financially resilient?
  • How can we accellerate our climate goals?
  • How can our communities adapt and grow?
  • What does it mean to “love your neighbour” in the context of Edmonton in 2022?

Hope to see your there: https://edmonton-21056195.hubspotpagebuilder.com/bookclub

 


 

ENVIRONMENT SCAN: 

Housing In BC

Minister Eby says he hasn’t done a U-turn. He says he still cares about tackling speculation. In addition to the measures his government has already introduced — the vacancy tax, the doubling of the foreign buyers’ tax and the registry that will log the names behind trust and corporate ownership of land — he believes the province can do more work to regulate Airbnb and is waiting to see how the federal government’s newly announced flipping tax will play out.

The Rise of Corporate Profits in the Time of Covid:

Canadian corporations made record profit margins in 2021, which are contributing to inflation and will worsen inequality. Profit margins in 2021 exceeded 20-year averages for corporations in all of Canada’s major economic sectors. Last year’s profit margins averaged 16% overall, with the finance/insurance/real-estate sector boosting margins to 22%. These profits come at a time when the effective average combined federal-provincial corporate tax rate hit an all-time low of just 16.6%.

Sponge Cities: How Can Cities Become More ‘Spongy’?

A city’s sponginess is not set in stone. Adding more parks, trees, other greenery or natural drainage can boost a city’s absorbency and make it more flood- and drought-resilient. Many cities are adding green spaces to increase sponginess and deliver other benefits, from cleaner air to wildlife habitat and places to escape summer heat. The new IPCC report urges cities to take protective measures now. A new AI-based study compares cities' trees and lakes to how much concrete they have, to gauge their ability to respond to climate shocks.

https://nextcity.org/urbanist-news/how-can-sponge-cities-use-nature-to-tackle-climate-fuelled-floods

Smart Cities Dive: The Cycling Surge is here to stay: 

“Bicycle demand in our world is about short trips,” said Martin Morzynski, vice president of marketing for StreetLight Data. “If you can identify neighborhoods where people are taking short trips by car, there is an opportunity to increase biking with more infrastructure and support. Either people are on bikes already or you have the opportunity to create a biking culture.” Read More: https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/cycling-surge-here-to-stay-in-many-cities-report-suggests/610480/

Heat Deaths: How are you or your parents going to stay cool this summer? 

De Guzman and her colleagues actually modeled this out in a paper they published last month. They simulated heat events in Los Angeles, with and without strategies in place to mitigate the heat island effect, and calculated what those improvements would mean for mortality. “We tried these different dosages, so to speak, of trees plus reflective surfaces,” she says. “Then through a process that involves creating algorithms and understanding actual mortality numbers that were collected and reported by the state, we're able to see how many of the excess deaths that we saw would have been prevented.” They found that making simple tweaks to the built environment, primarily adding trees and painting roofs light colors, would save one in four lives that would normally be lost to heat events. https://www.wired.com/story/extreme-heat-is-a-disease-for-cities-treat-it-that-way/

If we want Canada to recover economically, it's time to raise the corporate income tax rate: Renowned economist Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated that governments are key participants in creating new, transformative economies, with businesses among the beneficiaries. Government spending to transform our economy will produce a “crowding in” of businesses competing to provide the goods and services needed. This investment will also greatly improve business confidence — leading to more, not less, investment by the private sector. The money that governments invest will inevitably “trickle up” to wealthy asset owners. Increasing the corporate income tax rate is one of the easiest ways to keep that money circulating and benefiting all of us.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2022/04/22/if-we-want-canada-to-recover-economically-its-time-to-raise-the-corporate-income-tax-rate.html

We need to develop a Co-op housing strategy for Edmonton: In the early years, seed funding came from unions and churches. But starting in the 1970s, the federal government provided financial support in the form of government-backed mortgages and subsidies to low-income tenants. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/04/19/Co-op-Solution-Housing-Crisis/

Upzoning In New Zealand: 

Land use might traditionally be a municipal responsibility, but last year, New Zealand’s federal government passed a rare cross-party bill that applies to its five largest cities. Owners of detached houses would be allowed to build up to three units of housing and construct up to three storeys on their lots. They would still need to seek a building permit, but not one to rezone the property. BC Housing Minister Eby is also interested in this. https://thetyee.ca/News/2022/04/15/A-Wicked-Problem-David-Eby-Housing-Fixes-Frustrations/

 

Email:
Address: 1 Sir Winston Churchill Sq, 2nd Floor, Edmonton, AB T5J 2R7