May 2nd City Hall News

Events:

  • May 11th - Alberta Bike Swap
  • May 13th - Summer Streets launch party
  • Big Bin Events This Summer! 
  • Fire Hall open houses
  • May 25th - Harbinger Media Network Showcase
  • July 1st - Mill Creek Pool reopening

News & Views

  • Bill 20 is a disaster. Take action
  • Housing Crisis: What is the role of the University of Alberta?
  • What I'm hearing on the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy...
  • Understanding property tax increases
  • The Edmonton Police Commission is refusing to share its plans for auditing the local police department with city council. Councilor Keren Tang put forward a motion in December last year to have a look at the plan, which council approved. But now the EPC says it “owns the audit function” and does not “support sharing that responsibility with council.” 

  • Don't fall for privatization: Chicago doesn't own their own streets (Video)

Breaking news! The UCP backtracked on their cruel and indefensible $4.5 million dollar cancelation of the low-income transit subsidy to the lowest-income Edmontonians.

I had a long post written about the devastating impact yet another UCP cut would mean for the poorest among us. Thankfully, they reconsidered thanks to the immediate outrage, but no praise is deserved for playing games with the most vulnerable among us. As I wrote earlier, the province pays for the Deerfoot in Calgary but won't pay for the Yellowhead or the Whitemud in Edmonton. They won't pay their property taxes. They won't fund emergency services adequately.

We must keep up the political pressure. Phone calls. Letters. Organizing with neighbours. Edmontonians deserve a fair deal and as I wrote earlier, your property taxes could be 7% lower if the UCP paid their bills. Use my letter tool below (michaeljanz.ca/peoplenotparties) to tell them that people matter first, say no to corporate and union donors, and that no secret cabinet meeting should be allowed to fire critical city councillors.

 

May 1st City Hall E-News:

Events:

  • May 11th - Alberta Bike Swap
  • May 13th - Summer Streets launch party
  • Big Bin Events This Summer! 
  • Fire Hall open houses
  • May 25th - Harbinger Media Network Showcase
  • July 1st - Mill Creek Pool reopening

News & Views

  • Bill 20 is a disaster. Take action
  • Housing Crisis: What is the role of the University of Alberta?
  • What I'm hearing on the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy...
  • Understanding property tax increases
  • The Edmonton Police Commission is refusing to share its plans for auditing the local police department with city council. Councilor Keren Tang put forward a motion in December last year to have a look at the plan, which council approved. But now the EPC says it “owns the audit function” and does not “support sharing that responsibility with council.” 

  • Don't fall for privatization: Chicago doesn't own their own streets (Video)

EVENTS:

Alberta Bike Swap - May 11th

Alberta Bike Swap provides a safe place to buy, sell, and donate bicycles. If you have a bike to sell or want to buy a bike they’ll tech check that bike and run the serial number to verify bike ownership because no one wants a stolen bike. Alberta Bike Swap works with dozens of groups to rebuild donated bikes too.  If you have an unused or have outgrown a bike, they have a partner that would recondition that bike for re-use. Learn More: https://albertabikeswap.ca/events/edmonton/


Summer Streets are back! Join us for an Ice Cream May 13th! 

Peace Ave Bike Club, Paths for People, and my office and I will be handing out Ice Cream on May 13th at the Sask Drive and 106 street lookout. We'll be doing a ribbon cutting and encouraging all neighbours to walk, wheel, and roll and get outside this spring/summer! On the following roads, a vehicle lane will be converted for walking, biking and other activities: Victoria Park Road (116 Street to River Valley Road), Saskatchewan Drive (109 Street to 104 Street), Calgary Trail (104 Street, Saskatchewan Drive to University Avenue) https://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/summer-streets

Summer Streets make walking, cycling, and riding safer for everyone, connecting them to Edmonton’s wider network of shared pathways and bike routes. Use the Discover YEG Map to explore Edmonton via bike routes, Summer Streets, and shared paths.


FIRE STATION OPEN HOUSES:

Fire Station Open Houses, Select Saturdays Throughout the Spring and Summer, Times: 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Each year, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services proudly opens its bay doors to Edmontonians. Our fire station open houses provide an opportunity for communities to meet their firefighters and fire prevention officers, explore the fire trucks and firefighting equipment, and learn important fire safety tips. The following preliminary dates and locations will be shared on edmonton.ca/EFRSOpenHouses in early May and promoted publicly after conclusion of this year’s Get Ready in the Park event: I'm going to try to attend these two in our ward: June 1 University Fire Station 3 11226 76 Avenue,  June 15 Rainbow Valley Fire Station 13 4035 119 Street


May 25th - Location TBD - Harbinger Media Network Showcase.

Independent media is more important than ever. Join a local conversation with journalists, filmmakers and artist/activists to talk about the role of why we have to support independent media across Canada. RSVP and follow Harbinger Media Network on social media. Check out unrigged.ca for independent news. I love their email newsletter.


Various Dates: Big Bin Events - https://www.edmonton.ca/programs_services/garbage_waste/big-bin-events)


July 1st - Mill Creek Outdoor Pool Re-opening:  https://www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/mill-creek-outdoor-pool


NEWS

The UCP Bill 20 is a disaster. Take action!

The UCP is again trying to divide us. Municipal political parties. Dark money. Removal of outspoken councillors. As Dr. Jared Wesley wrote, the UCP are a threat to democracy in Alberta and it's past time we took action.

The addition of corporate and union donations would be a devastating blow to municipal elections. Just a few years ago the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues did a study of the 2013 election and found in all City Council Races the candidates who raised the most money won the election. The largest donors? The suburban land development industry. I wrote here about how they profited over 1.1 billion last decade while leaving us to pay the losses on the urban sprawl.

TAKE ACTION: Send the premier and your city councillor a message here using my custom letter tool: michaeljanz.ca/peoplenotparties


HOUSING CRISIS: What is the role of the U of A?

City Council recently approved a rezoning across the street from the U of A and it got me thinking about all the underutilized or unused space on the U of A main campus. The expression I often hear at city hall is “highest and best use of city land” – in other words, land that brings benefit to the community (eg, a park or public space) or land that generates revenue for the city to offset taxes and pay for services (Industrial, commercial, residential in that order)

But what if the University of Alberta could generate revenue and mitigate the housing and climate crisis? The university already has the vehicle: the U of A Properties Trust, an arms length development corporation that pays dividends back into the U of A through innovative developments and land leases. READ MORE: https://www.michaeljanz.ca/maincampushousingoptions


Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy: 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with several different organizations, attending meetings, door knocking, and responding to emails about the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy. I think it’s important to clarify immediately that the proposal is a long-term plan, likely to guide development over the next fifty years. You can still make your voice heard by emailing me, and I will present your feedback. The plan does not come before the council until August. Further to that, any changes requiring funding would likely be another two years until it could be debated and funded in our 2026 capital plan at the earliest, and it would be likely years after that until the key catalysts (Bus Rapid Transit, for instance) could be developed. Prior to any changes or reductions in the parking lots, for instance, we must have suitable alternatives in place, both for transportation and parking. In other words, the parking lot will remain a parking lot for the next four years, at least until 2028 or I’ll eat my hat/bike helmet. READ MORE: https://www.michaeljanz.ca/oldstrathconapublicrealmstrategyfeedback


Don't fall for privatization: Chicago doesn't own their own streets (Video)

I think every taxpayer should have to watch this video. Privatization does not work. This example of selling parking in Chicago is a prime examplehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDx6no-7HZE


Understanding Municipal Property Taxes

I am concerned about affordability for Edmontonians, especially those most vulnerable and I wanted to share some of the background that you may not see reported in the media about property taxes for context.

As I observe, there are three main drivers of the tax increase.

  • The first is police funding. 1.6% of the tax increase is new money going towards policing. We pay the highest per capita for policing in Alberta. This is new money. I wrote about this here at More Money, more police? Not necessarily...
  • The second major driver is preserving services while responding to population growth (100,000 new neighbours over the last two years) and urban sprawl which I wrote about here (michaeljanz.ca/housing). Edmonton has over $10 Billion in roads, and during this 8 year period we are spending $4,200 million on this infrastructure. I urge you to learn more about what we are doing to remain financially strong into the future here (https://strongesttown.com/edmonton-alberta/)
  • The third major driver is cutbacks and underfunding from the Provincial Government. I wrote about this here: https://www.michaeljanz.ca/springsoba2024

Edmonton is growing at an enormous rate. We went up 100,000 people in the last two years. 37% of Edmonton are renters. They don’t even own a home. There are 30,000 who can’t afford more than $1100 a month. There are millions of other trips per week on public transit. Our low-income youth sports programs have increased attendance 20%. I've fought hard to keep user fees down for core services (recreation, transit fares etc) especially for the most vulnerable workers and families who depend on them the most. Home owners have an asset, some of these folks have little to nothing. With this 2024 tax adjustment, A $500,000 home will pay roughly $338 in city taxes a month. The school taxes are separate as they are Provincial taxes and the city doesn't have any control over them. The Educational property taxes are pooled into general provincial revenue.

Unfortunately, many of the cost drivers in 2024 were years in the making (increased inflation, fuel, labour costs, renewal of infrastructure). Since 2015, the Administration has found almost $1.9 billion in savings, and this year our Council just implemented another $240m cost reduction exercise. Since 2015, these efforts have resulted in cumulative savings or cost avoidance measures of $1.9 billion.

The average annual tax increase in the last decade (2014-2023) was 3.3%. During the pandemic, the City kept tax increases below inflation, including a reduction of -0.3% in 2021 and a 1.9% increase in 2022, which was the lowest increase among major cities in Canada. Taxes below inflation for years were functionally tax cuts to services.

I'm also working hard to improve service delivery, grow our other revenue streams (broaden the tax base, including infill, commercial, and industrial opportunities for revenue) to minimize the tax burden.e This is part of the motivation behind Zoning Bylaw Renewal: to build in, not out, thus reducing expenses, improving services. But we are a sprawling city that is incredibly challenging to service and support with a growing population. We’ve finally made increases to the public transit and snow removal budget among others, but we aren’t keeping up with our large geographic footprint, made worse each year by suburban developers making over a billion in profit from suburban sprawl.

Since Council last discussed the 2024 budget last fall, we have encountered higher WCB premiums and we have a better understanding of longer-term labour costs, and therefore we are revising our property tax increase recommendation to 8.7%. Like many households and businesses, the City is facing increased costs on many fronts. We saw that in last fall’s budget update, and we have additional challenges to face now as we make the final updates to the 2024 budget.

The City of Edmonton is in a stable financial position. We have strong financial policies and practices, and a well-defined budget and financial reporting process that ensures transparent disclosure of financial information. In order to keep our financial position strong, we need to make decisions about how to deal with several new cost pressures; to make choices between funding these pressures through increased property taxes or by reducing services to keep taxes lower. We know service cuts or user fees most often impact seniors, the vulnerable, and those facing the most barriers.

It is important to note that the City has no control over education taxes. The city merely collects them on behalf of the provincial government who adds them to general revenue. For the average household, an 8.7% tax increase means about $65 more in property taxes for every $100,000 of their assessed home value in 2024. That means, approximately $195 per year for a $300,000 home, or roughly $17 more a month.

Edmontonians are not receiving a fair deal from the provincial government. If the UCP reversed reductions and funded Edmonton fairly, your property taxes could be ~7% lower. 

Mayor Sohi recently wrote to Premier Smith outlining the increasing number of ways the provincial government is cutting funding to municipalities (Read and share the letter). Not only is it irresponsible, it is expensive and unsustainable. 

You have probably seen my comments by now about the Provincial government deciding to stop paying their property taxes in 2019 (https://edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/michael-janz-alberta-govt-needs-to-pay-its-property-taxes-too). That decision has cost Edmonton approximately $60 million dollars, and that amount grows each year. 

Just a few of the other provincial decisions that are costing Edmontonians money are: 

  • Not designating Highways 2 and 16 as provincial, as they did with Deerfoot Trail in Calgary, downloading maintenance costs onto Edmonton to the tune of approximately $17 million annually.
  • Provincial funding for local infrastructure dropped from about $424 per Albertan in 2011 to about $154 per Albertan today.
  • Amending the funding formula for municipal funding from the province (formerly known as the Municipal Sustainability Initiative), short changing Edmonton by approximately $36 million per year.
  • In 2023 the City of Edmonton incurred $9.1 million in direct costs associated with drug poisonings a 790% increase since 2018.
  • not repaying Edmonton $2.2 Million in provincially mandated costs for the 2023 Shigella outbreak.
  • Cutting funding for DNA testing in 2020, costing Edmonton approximately $5 million per year.
  • Underfunding emergency medical responses, costing Edmonton $28 Million in 2023 alone, due to Edmonton firefighters responding in lieu of.
  • Cutting municipality's share of fine revenue from automated traffic enforcement in 2019, costing Edmonton approximately $5-6 million each year since.
  • Underfunding public health responsibilities resulting in higher police costs (According to the police, much of the police service calls are non-police work, but failures in health care and the police are the largest item in the city budget and we pay the highest per capita for policing in Alberta)

There are more but I think you get the picture. Currently, 1% of our municipal tax rate is approximately $20 million. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Smith government’s failure to pay their bills is accounting for 7% of Edmonton’s tax rate- likely much more. 

Yes, we have other financial pressures at the city level. I am not trying to shirk off any responsibility for effectively managing our books as a city or rigorous accountability for expenditures. Many councillors are working very hard to address the root causes and identify solutions (such as curbing urban sprawl).

No matter who you voted for, Mayor, or MLA, now more than ever we all need to come together and demand a fair deal from the legislature like Premier Smith calls for from Ottawa.

Latest posts

May 8th City Hall News

EVENTS

  • Monday May 13th - Summer streets opening party!

  • Wednesday May 15th - Minding the Gap: Police Accountability in Alberta 

  • Saturday May 25th - Harbinger showcase and live podcast recording

  • Youth Council Recruitment!

 

NEWS

  • We Won! Protecting the public interest - public funds for public buildings

  • Ending Pay to play and bill 20: Halt big corporate money taking over City hall!

  • Naming Rights: What’s in a name? Stop the corporate rebrand of public facilities

  • The High Cost of Free Street Parking

Challenging the U of A: Leading with purpose in housing and land use planning

City Council recently approved a rezoning across the street from the U of A and it got me thinking about all the underutilized or unused space on the U of A main campus.

The expression I often hear at city hall is “highest and best use of city land” – in other words, land that brings benefit to the community (eg, a park or public space) or land that generates revenue for the city to offset taxes and pay for services (Industrial, commercial, residential in that order) 

But what if the University of Alberta could generate revenue and mitigate the housing and climate crisis? The university already has the vehicle: the U of A Properties Trust, an arms length development corporation that pays dividends back into the U of A through innovative developments and land leases.

What I'm Hearing About the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with several different organizations, attending meetings, door knocking, and responding to emails about the Old Strathcona Public Realm Strategy.

I wanted to share a bit of what I have been hearing and manage expectations about timelines. You can read and review the full draft plan here: https://www.edmonton.ca/sites/default/files/public-files/Old-Strathcona-Public-Realm-Strategy.pdf?cb=1713376450

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