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

EVENT: MONDAY MAY 13th - Summer Streets Opening Ceremony and Celebration! (Saskatchewan Drive and 106st Lookout)

A guided ride presented by Paths for People, Councillor Michael Janz and Peace Avenue Bike Club

Join us to celebrate the return of the Summer Streets program for the 2024 year! We’re looking forward to celebrating their return, and demonstrating to the City how crucial these routes are on a year round basis.

We’re hosting a free guided ride across all 3 routes, complete with ice cream and a ribbon cutting! This ride is designed to be suitable for all ages and abilities, and will take approximately 60-75 minutes across 13km.

Please RSVP for this free event so we can get a sense of numbers. 

https://pathsforpeople.org/events/summer-streets-celebration/


EVENT: Minding the Gap: Strengthening Collaboration towards Police Accountability and Legitimacy for Victims

Join JHC and community partners on May 15th for a screening of the documentary 𝘚𝘢𝘧𝘦𝘳 𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘈𝘭𝘭, followed by a collaborative discussion and community networking session on police accountability!

May 15th, 2024, 3:00 - 6:30 PM Telus Centre - Theatre 150 (11104 87 Ave NW) University of Alberta Campus - Edmonton

Free admission & refreshments! RSVP HERE

Watch the 𝘚𝘢𝘧𝘦𝘳 𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘈𝘭𝘭 trailer: https://youtu.be/q5RCJS0yqi8

Learn more: https://www.jhcentre.org/safer-for-all


EVENT: Harbinger Media Network Live Podcast and Showcase:

We need strong independent media now more than ever! 

You are invited to a special Edmonton Edition of the Harbinger Media Network Showcase. Harbinger host Andre Goulet is visiting from Toronto and a special live show and podcast will be pulled together with special guests including:

  • Abdul Malik
  • Emma Jackson
  • Jeremy Appel

Book signing of Kenneyism.

Listen and learn more here: https://harbingermedianetwork.com/show/the-harbinger-spotlight/

RSVP: email [email protected]


CITY OF EDMONTON YOUTH COUNCIL RECRUITMENT:

Recruitment for the City of Edmonton Youth Council (CEYC) for the 2024-26 term is now underway. We are requesting your help in promoting this recruitment campaign, which is open until June 9, 2024.

Empowering young people to make a difference in their communities benefits everyone. The CEYC was created to educate and empower youth to provide meaningful input to City Council and take action on local issues. The CEYC works to represent the views, perspectives and aspirations of Edmonton’s youth.

Ideal candidates will be youth aged 13-23 who meet the following criteria:

  • Motivation and passion for volunteering, community development and bringing their vision and voice to the City
  • Leadership experience and diverse life experience
  • Play an active role in making a positive difference within their local communities
  • Capacity for curiosity and willingness to learn
  • Team oriented and willingness to provide feedback and guidance to others

You can find more information at edmonton.ca/Boards.


NEWS:

WE WON! Protecting the public interest - public funds for public buildings

One of the most important principles of politics for me is to protect public interest. In other words, making sure that public money is spent to maximize public benefit. As Peter Lougheed said, “We must think like owners”. I never want to see a dollar spent to subsidize industry doing anything that they would do anyway, without a public subsidy. For decades the commercial real estate industry has made enormous profits. Since the construction of the downtown arena and the new A-Class office space towers added, as well as the pandemic and work from home, there has been a bit of a downtownturn, similar to downtowns around the world in their markets.

Office conversions can be a good thing and very helpful to bring vibrancy – but who should be responsible for paying for it?

Naturally, these owners and their lobbyists came to the city trying to get a subsidy to have public dollars - to the tune of upwards of $70 million - cover their losses. Socialize the risk and privatize the profits, right? They wanted the taxpayer to provide them money to convert their offices to condos. Thankfully, after about a year or more of discussions and negotiations, Council finally said NO. Just a few weeks later it was reported that there was an office building being renovated – without public subsidy. They were going ahead anyway because it made financial sense for them. They didn’t need the handout, and had the city provided one, it wouldn’t have been necessary. 

This should be a lesson that whenever any public dollars are requested, any claims should be rigorously interrogated and  lobbyists and corporations asking for a subsidy should be viewed accordingly.

There is a boom and bust cycle in many industries. Risk is a part of business. Our role as the government is to be responsible stewards while remaining flexible to allow for innovation (such as enabling big box stores to tear down and become housing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtuOKLI9ef8), but spending money without an equity stake or a financial return is not responsible stewardship.



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

Bill 20 (municipal political parties, removing councillors, reintroducing corporate cash) has been widely panned as authoritarian and an attack on free speech. I created a letter tool here: (michaeljanz.ca/peoplenotparties) and I encourage you to send the premier a message.

What has concerned me the most is the re-introduction of big, corporate money into municipal elections. Ten numbered companies could donate the entire campaign cost to cover 12 different city council campaigns. Where is the transparency and accountability in that? Who is asking for this? I was proud not to have accepted any donations from developers in my city council election. Now is the time for more public oversight and less corporate capture, not less. We need politicians to serve the democratic interests of the people, not companies with deep pockets looking to influence electoral outcomes.

TAKE ACTION: Please send a message via this letter tool: michaeljanz.ca/peoplenotparties

Learn More:

Parkland institute: Ending pay to play: https://www.parklandinstitute.ca/ending_pay_to_play

Public Interest Alberta Democracy Task Force: Strengthening our Democracy https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/publicinterestalberta/pages/81/attachments/original/1481603064/democracy-task-force-submission-final.pdf?1481603064

Public Interest Advocacy Centre: (our national consumer watchdog): https://www.piac.ca/about/

Canadians for Tax Fairness: https://www.taxfairness.ca/en


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

 

The sin is not only selling your soul, but setting the price too low.

There is a proposal next week to sell naming rights to another city amenity. My objection to this is that it dilutes the message about who paid or who owned the public facility. I’ll be asking if the sale price will exceed 1% of the construction costs of the facility, if not, I definitely won’t be prepared to support it. These are our public amenities paid for with our taxes. They are owned and operated for the corporate good or public good. They are not there because of a donation of their namesake. 

Do you remember who paid for Lindsay Park Recreation Centre in Calgary or the Talisman Centre? I don’t, but I have the impression that some corporation did. Rogers Place was not built or paid for by Rogers. Rexall Centre was not paid for by Rexall. Terwillegar recreation centre was built and paid for by the taxpayers of Edmonton. This is again part of a broader, corrosive trend where corporate interests are undermining democracy. When this came up earlier in our term, I shared this:

https://edmonton.citynews.ca/2022/09/13/naming-rights-recreational-centres-corporate-sponsors/

One city councillor has his issues with the selling of naming rights for recreational centres. For Michael Janz, it’s not the specific name or company gaining the rights that’s problematic, but the concept. “When we sell off naming rights to corporations or charities or businesses, I think it kind of cheapens not just the asset, but it kind of cheapens ourselves as a community,” he said. “And I’m really concerned about that. “It’s a slippery slope that I’m really not OK with.”

I strongly advise you to read the book “Winner Take All” by Anand Giridharadas who describes why the rich do not pay taxes, but with their philanthropy determine the course of the world (and thereby undermine our democracy). Here's a couple of quick interviews:

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcHlNKLQBIM 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWre6hPfswQ

"Last year, more than four hundred billion dollars were spent on philanthropy in the United States. This is nearly going beyond the government budget - excluding the budget for defension." 

This is just one of the insights of the former New York Times columnist. He paints a picture of a parallel government: one that is not democratic, but that is run by the super-rich of this world. If rich people and companies avoid paying taxes as much as possible, but depicture the government as bureaucratic and then are taking credit when they open a new university building or hospital because their name is on it - what is left of our democracy?

Giridharadas therefore advocates a return to the public interest through renewed cooperation within our democratic institutions. Because, that's how the writer rhetorically summarizes the problem: "Which rich person or company has done more for the elderly in the United States than social security?" "Which rich person or company has done more for health care for the poor than Medicaid?" "Which rich person or company has done more for women than the right to vote?" "Which rich person or company has done more for African Americans than the Votings Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act?"

Take Action: If you agree please email [email protected] and let them know your thoughts.

Latest posts

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)

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