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First set of responses from Mayor Stephen Mandel

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  • First set of responses from Mayor Stephen Mandel

    Thank you all for your thought provoking questions. Here are my responses. I know I haven't gotten to all of them yet, but I will continue to post responses until Friday.

    Thanks again for your participation.

    Debra W Q. What excites you about/in Edmonton these days

    There is so much that excites me about Edmonton. Our economic potential and the plans we are undertaking to move a lot of big initiatives forward, like Port Alberta. I am excited about the regional cooperation that we are seeing for the first time in 50 years. I’m excited by the vibrancy of our downtown. I am exited by the commitment of our citizens to make Edmonton a great city. We saw this recently with our citizen-led 10 year plan to end homelessness.

    I think there is so much that is great in Edmonton and so much we can make better. There is endless opportunity here, and I think it’s important that we keep our focus on these items, as we deal with a lot of the challenges we are going to face.

    chowdarym Q. I am using park and ride facility at Heritage for my work commute. The entire parking lot is like Ice rink and it is very unsafe to walk. Just wondering who is responsible for cleaning in the parking lot. Also who is liable for accidents?

    The City is responsible for clearing and sanding the area around the park and ride and I believe this has been done recently. I have asked our department to have a look at the lot to make sure it is kept up. Call me office at 780-496-8100 if it isn’t.

    Chmilz Q. yourself and city council are building an Edmonton that is a tourist draw, while mostly forgoing basic projects to make this a great city to live in. Can you comment on that?

    Let’s be clear. Our city has spent more on basic infrastructure in the last 4 years than we have at any time in our history. Last year we spent over $1 billion on infrastructure projects - including LRT expansion, neighbourhood upgrades, road resurfacing and building new police stations, fire halls, libraries, rec centres and other vital services. In 2009 these investments will continue as Council has committed to record borrowing in order to boost our infrastructure spending even more and the Provincial and Federal investments will help us to extend our own.

    It’s important to keep this in mind, because the monies we invest in some of the biggest attractions and events that we can bring to our city is, while certainly not insignificant, not anywhere close to the scale of what we spend every year on basic services.

    It is also important to note that our festivals and events bring millions of dollars into the local economy, adding to jobs and business revenue for our community.

    But more than all of this, these projects – all of them – add to our city’s vibrancy and the projects that make the City great to live in also make it a great City to visit. Look at the upset in Montreal over losing the Formula 1 Race as an example of how much an event like Indy can and will mean to Edmonton.

    We live in a great city for many reasons, not the least of which is the great things we can all do together as a community, whether it’s to take in a festival event, or watch world-class racing. It’s all part of the package that makes up a great city and while I have not personally been in a spending mood lately, I do not regret any of our investments in these events.

    Grish Q. Do you, will you, and how will you plan to accelerate the construction of the LRT to the west end, south east (Mill Woods), and the airport? What role will the city play in the construction and operation of the downtown arena complex? What projects or programs do you wish Edmonton caucuses of provincial and federal representatives (MLAs and MPs) from Edmonton champion for the benefit of our city?

    Thanks for having me participate.

    Expanding our LRT is a priority of Council, but the reality is that much of the funding will come from other orders of government. The City’s portion of the costs will be debt, and we have to be cautious about our debt load.

    We have to remember that practically speaking, LRT is several years out for more destinations. We have been much more aggressive in our planning, but the reality of billions of dollars needed for LRT construction means that our actual pace of growth will be slow. Progress will continue though. I would like us to investigate some shorter term solutions that can help speed the commute from place like Millwoods. Bus Rapid Transit, along a dedicated lane, is still a very viable, and more cost effective option, while we are building out our LRT system.

    On the arena, I believe at this point we need to see what the Oilers and Northlands have in mind and then investigate how the City can facilitate their efforts. I still think our arena report pointed to some good options, including a community revitalization levy. But we have to wait and see what proposal is put in front of us.

    I’d like to see the City’s MLA’s and MP’s advocate for a different funding formula for cities. Property taxes alone are too regressive and stagnant. The propensity by both orders of government, who get 92% of all revenues, is to direct cities to pay for 1/3 of shared project costs. We cannot meet that without a different model.

    Wrecker Q. My main interest is on transportation issues, and I'd like to have your thoughts on the following:a) Improving roadway connections to the downtown b) Completing the inner ring road c) A better north/south route through the ciy. d) integration of all the different modes of transportation, roads, buses, LRT, hi-speed, etc.
    2) Would you support the renaming of Churchill square, to something more appropriate for Edmonton?
    3) Where do you feel a new arena is best placed?
    4) Is the Shaw conference center big enough?

    1. One of my biggest priorities would be to address our growing need for another link into downtown. The Walterdale Bridge will require replacement within the next ten years, which makes it timely to review opportunities to address these access concerns.

    We have lagged in our development of our internal ring road and, given how we have allocated our spending priorities, I do not see an opportunity right now to bring it forward more quickly.

    And yes, we need to think more about what’s the most appropriate mix of public transit – especially given the productivity challenges of our current system and the incredible capital cost of its expansion. We simply need it to work better.

    2. I think Churchill Square is appropriate for Edmonton. It’s one of our City’s most recognized destinations. It’s definitely not a priority.

    3. I have been very clear in believing that any new arena must be in the downtown. It is the logical choice given downtown’s position as an LRT and transit hub and it’s central place in the life of our City. I also believe that any new arena must be so much more than just an arena. There is so much potential for a new arena and entertainment complex to help boost our ongoing transformation of downtown as a tourism destination and as a thriving cultural, business, residential and entertainment hub for our entire region.

    4. I think we need to look at the Shaw in the context of all our convention assets in the City that includes an expanding Northlands site. We need a better assessment that shows the whole context before I can say we need more. That said, convention business is very important to our city, so we need to be proactive in delivering adequate facilities.

    Glasshead Q. What are the biggest hurdles that you see in increasing residential density in Edmonton, and what do you and council propose to do to mitigate these hurdles?
    How are you and council addressing the importance of attracting and retaining the young “creative class” to Edmonton?

    Our biggest hurdle to increasing density is public perception – I think generally people support the idea of densification; however, many are anxious of change and expect the worst when density is proposed in their area. We need to do a better job of communicating the benefits of densification and change the perception of what density can mean to their area – for example it can increase walkability and safety, and can add to the charm, and architectural interest of a neighbourhood; It can make communities more functional and efficient. We need to create a vision of how a denser environment can be more interesting and invigorating.

    Attracting and retaining youth in Edmonton has always been a priority of mine. The City has worked hard to attract young people from other parts of Canada, specifically Ontario. A big part of that campaign is changing outsiders’ perceptions of our City. Edmonton’s Next Gen committee is a collaboration of young people from the community and city administration who look at ways to create a city that attracts young people and gives voice to the Next Generation in the life and growth of our community. A large part of this is working on the image of our city.

    In the next month or so, I will also be speaking with students at local high schools to gather their thoughts on what the City needs to be – what works, what doesn’t, areas we, as a mostly grey-haired Council can focus on to make Edmonton a City were young people want to live. Having Don Iveson on City Coucil has also been a real asset in this regard.

    Barry N Q. one of our concerns is the cleanliness of the Downtown area. What steps are being taken to maintain the appearance of the streets in the city's core business area.

    I couldn’t agree more. Downtown is the face of our City and we need to appear clean and welcoming. Over the last couple of years, we’ve added more litter baskets, we flush the roads from three to five days a week during the summer months and we do more frequent power washing of benches and litter baskets, all of this through Capital City Clean-Up.

    This year, we will continue our adopt-a-block program, and we hope to register 1000 volunteers (up from 856 last year). We’re also expanding the river clean-up program to run from May until the river freezes.

    More transportation funds have been allocated for street cleaning along Jasper Ave.

    Also, businesses are becoming more and more involved which will really help to enhance the City’s efforts. Individuals also need to take responsibility for their own trash as well – if people dispose of refuse properly, we won’t have as much of a litter problem. Educatuion is an important part of changing peoples’ habits. We’ve also requested that the Province provide funding support to help address our cigarette litter problem so we’ll see what they do.

    Jstock Q. Why not put the 87th avenue LRT in the median and shift both lanes of 87th avenue over and get rid of the boulevards?
    #2 Can we please have a(n) express/super-express bus from South Campus to West Edmonton Mall via Fox, Whitemud, and 170th street?
    #3 Must route 100 stop running so early?
    #4 As a member of the future voting generation in Edmonton, can we trust city council to make the right decisions (most of the time)?

    1. The 87 Avenue alignment is, I believe, too expensive with too few returns. I strongly believe we need to be aligning our transit investment with our overall efforts to transform into a more transit-oriented city, which means more effort to move LRT along high density routes the entire way – not just high density destinations. We are also currently expanding bus lanes along Fox Drive and Quesnell, plus constructing a $30 million overpass from the South Campus LRT, these enhanced connections should make BRT more feasible from South Campus to the West end.

    2/3. As to the specific routes you suggest (questions 2 & 3), I am told that there are currently plans to have 4 express routes similar to what you suggest, and the Transportation department is looking at how the 53rd Ave construction will affect the introduction of these routes.

    4. Can you trust your politicians? Now that’s a popular question. I believe all Councillors are strongly committed to catching up on our transit network and bringing it up to the expectations of our public. But we are limited by money and we also can’t build faster than we have capacity for – financially or materially and overall, I think we need to allocate our scarce resources in a more efficient way.

    We also can’t just keep building at any cost. Just because transit is a priority doesn’t mean we can’t demand much better efficiency and performance from the system we have. I am a big supporter of expanding our system, but I also believe we have not demanded enough accountability and effectiveness for the extensive dollars we do spend.

    Daniel Q. What are your plans to deal with people (homeless?) “Camping” and “entertaining” on the riverbanks and bushy areas from The View condominiums, through Shaw Center to Rosedale court bellow TELUS Plaza? What are the plans to ensure better security for residents and visitors walking the sidewalks and paths along this area? As a follow up question, what is your plan to eliminate panhandling from downtown business core?

    Just this week we saw the report of our Committee to end Homelessness. This plan has five key goals; to provide permanent housing options for all people living on the street and in public places, to ensure an adequate supply of permanent, affordable housing with appropriate supports for people who are homeless, ensure emergency accommodation is available when needed, but transition people quickly into permanent housing, prevent people from becoming homeless and establish a governance structure and an implementation process for the Plan that builds on the strengths of the community; develops capacity; promotes collaboration, innovation and cost-effectiveness; and measures progress. Please visit: for a full copy of the report.

    All of the issues you raise are directly or indirectly related to this crucial issue. We have to work with our homeless commission, our Council, community and all orders of government to tackle homelessness and to see this plan implemented. It’s not an easy challenge, but it’s an essential one.

    The issue of aggressive panhandling was discussed today (Wednesday) at City Council, we’ve asked Administration to make amendments to the Public Places Bylaw to include aggressive panhandlers which will provide the Edmonton Police Service the authority to deal with offenders. I also note that many of the aggressive panhandlers are not homeless but are making a living out of harassing passers-by and this needs to be stopped.

    Monument Q. Why are developments such as South Edmonton Common allowed and encouraged? There are no longer any pedestrian friendly neighborhoods being built in this city and the old neighborhoods have been allowed to deteriorate beyond repair. It doesn't matter how much money we spend on fancy lighting and sidewalks, it's the increase in density and re-introduction of families into older neighborhoods that will revitalize an area. How do you plan to address this issue?

    I agree that we need to ensure that pedestrians are held as a priority in the urban design process. I actually disagree with you and would suggest that on 118 Avenue, downtown, at Century Park, and in Strathearn,; Council has been very strong on intensification issues, even in the face of community opposition and we are seeing progress towards the development of a more walkable, compact city. This vision will, I believe, be reinforced across the region through a new regional plan. Walkability adds strength and enjoyment to the fabric of community life. While out walking we meet neighbours, get exercise, visit local shops, and enjoy public spaces. We also become "eyes on the street", enhancing safety and reducing crime.

    But I would caution that it’s never as simple as pointing to a direction and saying, “we all want that”. The nature of our regional growth, the nature of our employment growth is such that Edmonton has grown strongly along its outer edges. We can’t reverse that entirely nor should we. As much as density must be a growing trend, there is still room in our community for some balance and we have to find ways to accommodate both.

    Sundance Q. Why are you opposed to putting the LRT to West Edmonton Mall along 87th Ave?

    My issue with the proposed 87 Avenue route for WLRT is there isn’t opportunity for transit-oriented development. One of the big advantages of LRT is as an economic tool for redevelopment and intensification. We see this at work in Toronto where the subway lines have become major commercial and residential areas. By going up Stony Plain Road or 100 Avenue, we rekindle those areas for greater intensification and greater opportunity for new business development and greater population density.

    This doesn’t work along 87 Avenue. There is no opportunity to build greater intensification in a manner consistent with a true transit-oriented development approach where LRT flows near high-density population areas. Other than at West Edmonton Mall and the University, which is about 60 blocks away, there is no opportunity to intensify or to serve a maximum population along the way.

    Debos Q. Who is repsonsible for the Yellowhead since it is a Trans-Canada highway? Are there plans to upgrade the Yellowhead? Where and when? Will the potential closure of the City Centre Airport effect plans for the Yellowhead? Why are Yellowhead upgrades not on the list of 'shovel ready' projects that the city recently submitted to the federal government?

    The City of Edmonton is responsible for Yellowhead trail. In the recent past, we have made efforts to improve access to Yellowhead, but we need to spend more money on this important road and it needs to be more of a priority. The Yellowhead, at this point, is not a shovel-ready project.

    Sonic Death Monkey Q. What has become of the plans to eliminate the hairpins at Gateway Blvd and Saskatchewan Drive, and to build a new river crossing from there? (optional question - was the idea from this forum?)

    2. Re: Yellowhead Trail, has there been any discussion with the province for them to take over the maintenance and improvements of this important route (as per Deerfoot Trail in Calgary)?

    3. What is your vision of the Rossdale power plant after its decommissioning? I would assume the city, as EPCOR's shareholders, would have an important say in this matter.

    As I stated earlier, the Walterdale Bridge will require replacement within the next ten years, which makes it timely to review opportunities to address these access concerns. The improvements being explored include a grade separation of Queen Elizabeth (QE) Park Road and Saskatchewan Drive, re-configuration to the intersection of Walterdale Hill and QE Park Road, as well as several options for the bridge replacement and possible improvements north of the river.

    2. There are a lot of infrastructure challenges that we discuss in an ongoing way through the regional process and with the province. We haven’t gotten everything we’ve wanted, but our province has been generous in its infrastructure allocations. We will continue to work to address those issues that are not yet resolved.

    3. Whatever the City decides to do with the Rossdale power plant, I’d like to see it as part of an overall plan to make the River Valley a more user-friendly, accessible asset. It could be a very special place, but we need to do more research to see what is feasible.

    Mick Q. I'm concerned that we seem to pay more per km of LRT in Edmonton than other North American jurisdictions.

    While I cant comment on the costs of Calgary’s LRT system, I can tell you that construction costs for LRT vary significantly depending on many factors including the availability of land, tunnelling, drainage requirements, the type(s) of stations, movement of existing utilities, and road modifications, including bridge construction.

    Moving Edmonton’s LRT out of the downtown experiences many of these costs over a relatively short distance. As our lines are extended into areas beyond the downtown where right of way is available the costs per kilometre will be reduced

    Booster Q. 1.River Valley Parks washrooms. Why is the Hawrelak Park washroom nearest the Laurier Park pedestrian bridge closed in the winter.
    2. Louise McKinney Park. It would be nice to see Riverfront Plaza have some signage that tells people passing by that there are public washrooms at the site. Has there been any progress on landing a tenant in the one commercial bay? And have any RFPs been sent out to attract street vendors, cafes or bicycle rental companies, etc for the 2009 season?
    3. River Valley park signage. Can there be better signage on the trail systems.
    4. Downtown surface parking lots. Can city council please change the bylaw so all surface parking lots must be paved and have minimum landscaping standards.

    On your specific questions 1-3, I need to check with the department and get back to you/this forum. I do know that we have a great park system and that every effort is made to make it as easy to use for all Edmontonians as possible.

    As for downtown parking lot standards; we have been more diligent in the past few years in ensuring that owners comply with their permit requirements; but these requirements depend on the standards that were in place when the development permit was approved. Standards were different at different points in time. Current standards include: hard services and landscaping and these standards are becoming progressively more attractive.

    DTrobotnik Q. In your personal opinion, what are the top 5 most important projects to making Edmonton an ideal community?

    I’d like to see:
    1. the City be bold in our vision and not limit ourselves to staying “in the box”, we need to be more creative and optimistic about the future of Edmonton.
    2. Edmonton become more inclusive and a place where disadvantaged people are given opportunities
    3. Edmonton improve as an environment in which young people feel a part of the city and see it as a place they can spend their lives.
    4. Continue to be a world-wide environmental leader
    5. Edmonton’s river valley as a more inclusive and accessible resource.

    MAurelius Q. What is your view of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation's performance? How are you assessing that performance?

    EEDC is made up of many parts.

    The Shaw Conference Centre has done incredibly well. It’s one of the most successful convention centres in Canada and investment into this asset must continue.

    Tourism Edmonton has come a long way – this is really a product of the types of events we can attract as our tourism is very event-based.

    In terms of economic development; this area is a bit challenged. We need to work on our ability to promote Edmonton as a place to invest.
    Last edited by Mayor Stephen Mandel; 04-02-2009, 03:43 PM.

  • #2
    For the sake of clarity

    I have moved the responses here to allow further questions to be placed in the Question thread.

    I will ask that you don't respond to this thread to allow the responses to stand on their own.

    Again, please direct all future questions and any clarifications to the questions thread, found by CLICKING HERE.

    I would like to thank His Worship for answering so soon.