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Edmonton’s future needs fixing; 16-year-old has suggestions

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  • Edmonton’s future needs fixing; 16-year-old has suggestions

    Hi my name is Logan Lehune. I’m 16-year-old student at McNally High School. I would like to give my take on the state of Edmonton and its future.

    I am very passionate about Edmonton and its future and I am very actively involved with the city to try to do my part to make it better. But I feel that if Edmonton does not change fast we will fall behind on the global stage. Darwin said: "It is not the strongest who survive, but the ones who most adapt to change.” And the world is changing rapidly while Edmonton is not. I’m tired of Edmonton always being & thought of as a second-class city and I’m tired of Calgary always stealing the attention. Well it’s time to turn Edmonton into a first-class city and steal the limelight from Calgary for a while. And here is my take on how to do it.

    The downtown and central business districts are supposed to be the heart of vibrancy in most major cities, with high-density buildings that have great architectural aesthetics, safe streets that are full of life, much foot traffic with plenty of cute little cafes and shops, and a downtown to be proud of when you have friends or family visiting. While slowly getting better, this is not downtown Edmonton.

    Look at our neighbours to the south. Calgary has developed a dense, bustling downtown with an enterprising, corporate feel. This is place where tourists from around the world walk Stephen Avenue and admire the many stores, nice buildings and clean, safe streets. While Edmonton is getting better with the downtown plan and more developments such as the Epcor & Icon towers and the urban Sobeys, this is by far not enough. I have heard many stories of people saying how they could go bowling in downtown Edmonton and see tumbleweeds because it was ‘deadmonton,.’ Even though that’s not the case now, it is still the thought in many people's minds.

    The Fix?

    (1) Edmonton needs to aggressively attract more corporate businesses and bring them downtown. This can be done by creating a more positive business climate or offering tempting incentives.

    (2) Close down the city centre airport, which will lift the many tower height restrictions for downtown and allow us to build taller and prettier residential / commercial skyscrapers and make the downtown more compact. This would also bring in a lot of revenue for the city.

    (3) Clean and safe, plain and simple. Edmontonians have a general thought that downtown is unsafe mainly due to what they see on the news. And it’s not necessarily what they see it’s what they don’t see, which is a noticeable police presence, so increase the police presence by a significant amount. The streets are dirty and full of garbage, but this city is on the right track to improve this by putting up more ashtrays and having Capital City Clean-Up.

    (4) Build the new downtown arena that will be a catalyst for redevelopment and lure more people in.

    (5) Close open parking lots. I have never seen a city with so much wasted space that could be turned into green space or be developed.

    Our cities image is of huge importance and if we don’t improve it or attract positive attention we will continue to fall behind. Calgary thinks big and they take action by hosting and going after international events which in turn enhances their image. Edmonton must do the same. We are on the right track by going after EXPO 2017, which will be a catalyst to fast-tracking the city’s infrastructure, be a huge economic boost and shine a well-needed international spotlight on Edmonton. But it is not just trying to attract new events, it is also about holding on to what we already have.

    The Honda Edmonton Indy needs to be kept in the city. While most people look at the overall operating costs of this event and see a net loss, people forget to look at the indirect economic benefits to the city such as increased exposure and tourists that pack local hotels and spend money. Instead of Edmonton’s image being defined as "deadmonton" lets shape it to something better like "Energizing, Enterprising or entrepreneurial Edmonton."

    Good transportation and the efficient flow of goods and people is of critical importance to all major "global" cities, and it is an area where Edmonton is lagging. Our public transport system, while expanding, is pathetic. We were the first major city under one million people to bring in the LRT train in 1978 and we had the potential to develop it into a world-class LRT system for a city of our size. But ever since back then it hasn't grown much. Enough with the planning and get the shovel in the ground already! It takes Edmonton two years to plan a route while Calgary gets it built in two years. Calgary has had a future vision and viewed the LRT as crucially important to the development of their city and thus they have invested heavily. Today Calgary has nearly 50km of track while Edmonton has roughly 20km—the numbers say it all.

    A massive investment into LRT is required. By 2017 we need to get the LRT to West Edmonton Mall and have one other route built as well such as to Downtown>St Albert or Downtown>Millwoods. We also need long-term planning for the LRT to the Edmonton International Airport. Bus service to Edmonton International Airport now is a no-brainer as we are a city (region) of over one million people and we are the only major city in Canada without bus service to the airport. It is pathetic that we still need another way other then cab or shuttle service to get travellers to and from the airport.

    Speaking of our airport, we need to start making smart choices by taking part in the "Stop The Calgary Habit" campaign because over 750,000 people from Edmonton connect through Calgary, supporting Calgary business and air service while limiting Edmonton’s growth. Today we have a non-stop flight to London, England that gets reduced service during certain parts throughout the year while Calgary has service to London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, New York and Tokyo, just to name a few. And Calgary can offer many of those flights due in part to Edmontonians connecting through Calgary (YYC), Think of all the tourists and business that could have come to Edmonton now flowing through Calgary alone. To support and grow our air service Edmontonians need to smartly plan when they travel by using our existing non-stop flights and stop connecting through YYC. Lets grow our airport and air service!

    The efficient flow of goods is equally as important as the flow of people. We need to aggressively pursue the development of the Port Alberta project. Port Alberta is a cargo-hub concept based out of the Edmonton International Airport that would combine air, rail and trucking cargo into a giant distribution complex. On the rail part it will be working with the Port of Prince Rupert — the closest port to Asia in Canada that will transport Asian trading containers through Edmonton and on to the rest of Canada or the United States. Air cargo is also important as Edmonton is on a major intersection for international air cargo routes. And trucking can be combined with all. The continued development and expansion of the Anthony Henday freeway ring road can only improve truck cargo transport. Just imagine the positive economic boost for Edmonton with globalization encouraging goods to be transferred through Edmonton. Good transportation is important to quality of life and economics; it's time Edmonton step up and develops it.

    Edmonton also has many key assets that are important to note such as North America’s largest urban green space, the river valley. Along with the University Of Alberta and other educational institutions that support Edmonton’s place in the knowledge economy. There are much more but this is just to name a few.

    One may question that these ideas sound good, but we also have to pay for them. I personally believe that going into debt and running a short-term deficit to bring Edmonton up to speed is necessary, but not creating a long-term structural deficit. Taxes will need to go up but that's just part of life. We also need to remember that many of these ideas are cost- shared by the three levels of government and for certain developments we can charge a tax levy to pay for it such as the downtown arena. Think of it this way: Ralph Klein eliminated the fiscal budget debt by drastically cutting spending. But doing so, he left us with an infrastructure deficit.

    Throughout my article I may seem a bit negative and hard on Edmonton while making many comparisons to Calgary, but that just shows my passion for Edmonton. In 2007, the Financial Times rated Edmonton as having the best economic potential, even ahead of Calgary, but that's just potential. I want to make it happen, and I feel that if we take the much-needed steps, as mentioned earlier, we can do it!

    • The_Cat
      #14
      The_Cat commented
      Editing a comment
      Great arguments Logan! I like hearing input from our young people and I thought that the forum at Ross Shep was great. I think one of the greatest mayoral campaigns was with Brad Checknita in 1995. He was only 18 years old but he won a lot of votes from the young voters. I'm thinking if Knack and Van Alstine win Monday night, it will mean the start of a youth movement on council.

    • dwebb
      #15
      dwebb commented
      Editing a comment
      Excellent writing and ideas. Don't let the 'No' people get you down. If we don't move forward we get left behind.

    • Logan,L
      #16
      Logan,L commented
      Editing a comment
      I would like to expand on my article and respond to some comments, but I appreciate the feedback or tips for me as I am very interested in learning more. But as a note all these views are mine personally and not of my parents lol I just live my mom and to be honest she knows very liitle of politics etc.

      1st of all everything is connected in some way or another and there is way more to it then I could write, I just skimmed throught the highlights of what I think needs to be done. Previous councils mistakes of "thinking in the now" and not "thinking of the future" help shaped Edmonton the way it is today. And I believe that Edmonton must take aggresive steps to move towards a more proggresive future, and not looking back or stalling proggress like I believe canidates like Don Koziak or David Dorward would do.

      To "Abaka" I agree with you on some parts especially with the UofA & top talent. We live in a globally competitive world and we have to create a city thats viable and can meet the needs of many talented people of many backrounds. We also have to create a city that can retain it's own talent, right now Edmonton is pumping out a lot of great people but they are leaving for better oppurtunities elsewhere. We cant just create "Jobs" we have to create "Careers" from different innovative sectors and for the people working in it a world class city to meet there needs. The fact is we live in a fast paced changing world in a competitive knowledge economy and we need to continue the right steps by supporting things such as the UofA's goal of becoming one of the top 20 universities by 2020.

      On current open spaces for land development infill, currently we are in a slower economy right now so there will be less demand at the moment but that is just part if the boom and bust cycle but demand will come back. And for business to want to come we have to be a forward thinking city with a positive business climate to attract them.

      Also to "Abaka" , yes as a matter a fact I do go downtown.5X or more a week for school I have to connect on my bus downtown, plus to visit my mom working downtown, I also volunteer downtown, go out to eat downtown to places like Sunterra or Joeys Med Grill, and I get tutored downtown as well as go to the farmers market on saturday. So Im downtown a lot. I am aware that the parking lots are private property but can you blame me for not getting annoyed with all of them when I see much potential if developed. The fact is the downtowns around the world symbolize the power the city if we do not have a bustling downtown, then were not a major city.

      I am very pro-closure of the City Centre Airport, and I want to look to the future when it comes to the oppurtunities of closing it. Currently many people will say Edmonton astheticly is pretty "blah" or boring but right now we have leading architectural design firms from around the world competing to design something thats world class, sustainable, and futuristic. We will house up to 30,000 people that will enhance business in the local area, there will also be transit orientated developments. Doing this will help promote urban density and "SmartGrowth", when we do this it is cheaper and more cost effective on the city then continuing with urban sprawl thus saving money. With the height restrictions gone on downtown towers alowing us to build taller commercial or residential buildings it will also help the core become more compact and dense, and when the city is more dense it increases the tax base and money for the city. The LRT to northwest Edmonton is planned to go through the cca lands, if we keep it open it will cost billions to go underground expanding it but if we build it above it costs much less saving the taxpayer and the city money. And when the city brings in and saves more money it does not have to tax you as much to pay for services. By far the tax revenue possible for closing the airport is much more then keeping it open. Dont even get me started on so called "Envision Edmonton" and there special interests.

      I fully back EXPO 2017! The business case is all there and I think Edmontonians should all get behind it. It frustrates me when people say well "it is to expensive" and "Id rather have the money spent on infrastructure". 1st of all the cost will be shared by both the Province & the Federal government (hopefully they back it) and they will pay the bulk. Also to host EXPO 2017 we need to have the infrastructure in place to support it such as expanded LRT thus work that needs to be done will get done faster do to $$$ coming in from other levels of government. And its a great time to showcase Edmonton in Canada's 150th and get some increased exposure. Yes I believe we will have some net losses but for the greater good of the city. Sometimes you purposly take a net loss such as me hiring a tutor for chem, yeah it costs me money but them my marks improve think of it that way.

      So basiclly a lot of this is not set in stone but its and oppurtunity. And "Luck is where preparation meets oppurtunity" if we are prepared as a city to take the right proggresive steps, we will have a great future.
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