Edmontonians are committed to competency. It is in our nature and in our history. Our city is filled with builders, inventors, craftspeople, entrepreneurs, and hard working folks committed to excellence and to mastery- whether they’ve been here for generations or only just arrived. But for the City, 2015 was defined in many ways by the opposite - by failed projects.
Our continued struggles to get the Metro Line running as planned and deliver two big bridge rebuilds on time is inconsistent with this spirit of competency, and has injured the public’s confidence in our Council and our administration. It doesn’t seem to matter much that ~ 95% of the projects we undertake are delivered on time and on budget. (Although as a councillor this metric is important to me.) These three big projects and other notable failures, like overseeing contracts properly at Edmonton Waste Management Centre, and the failure of staff to alert Council and the public to the scope of the changes at the Rogers Place Community Rink are symptoms of a corporate culture not adequately committed to competence and transparency. As a City, we must be committed to mastery of project management and city building. In many ways we are, and our staff must be recognized for jobs well done. Many things were done right in 2015. But not everything was and the things that went wrong were big.
Things are Changing
It's important to appreciate the new reality for our city. We are building many complex projects at the same time. This is not our excuse, but our blessing and we need to steward this blessing with mastery.
The good news is that things also changed in 2015. We have begun the search in earnest for a new city manager. We have created a special department of Integrated Infrastructure Management to guide and oversee all city capital projects. We have created new business management, procurement, and project reporting structures within Administration and to Council and to the public. These are all good steps.
But in 2016, these good steps need to bring good things to fruition. We have to get the Metro Line we ordered. The route and the lack of grade separation on this line will always be a sore spot for me and for many, but it is what it is. We are not tearing anything up. And now with provincial and federal governments finally committing to public transit for cities, Edmonton should be able to afford expensive grade separations, that would have helped at Princess Elizabeth Avenue and 106 Street, without huge property tax increases for future extensions. The new Valley Line is a new style of train (that I’d wished we used for both the south LRT and the Metro Lines) that will avoid these conflicts with major intersections like we see near NAIT or near Southgate Mall. The Valley Line’s urban style low floor system, which will stop at major intersections, will not create the same pain for traffic.
I am confident that both the 102 Avenue bridge and the Walterdale bridge will be completed by the end of the year. These are far less complicated situations than the Metro Line, so the take away here is the need for procurement and project management improvements that prevent these kinds of situations from happening again.
Edmonton is still an ambitious city, anchoring a Metro region that is attracting growth and investment from around the globe. With a tough 2015 behind us and 2016 looking to have it share of challenges due to the state of the economy, our Council needs to be prudent, focused, and positive. I am committed to working hard with my colleagues to overcome last year’s infrastructure missteps and to move forward to get things right. We need a renewed commitment to competently delivering projects and building the modern, progressive city we were elected to build.
Regional collaboration is more important than ever
I want to recognize the effective work of Mayor Iveson when it comes to regional collaboration and redefining the potential of our region. The Edmonton Metro region is an economic powerhouse in Canada. In fact, in the past few years, 1 out of 4 new jobs in our country originated here. I have been thrilled to work alongside Mayor Iveson and Councillor Gibbons on the regional file. The Mayor has been a strong, articulate, and visionary voice for smarter collaboration and planning with our neighbours. This year decisions will be made on a new regional Growth Plan, putting our toe in the water on Regional Transit and shared economic development.
We are entering what many consider to be an extended period of global economic contraction and volatility. Now more than ever our focus as a region needs to be on working together to create the conditions to attract more investment, to diversify and innovate within our energy sector, and to build on existing strengths that give our region some degree of economic resiliency. Competing with each other is no longer an option. It’s time for all for one and one for all approaches in the Edmonton Metro Region. It is this untapped strength that will help each of our communities adapt to a changing world.
In 2016 our work, lead my Mayor Iveson, at the regional level, and in developing new partnerships with the provincial government through a new Municipal Government Act and the City Charter will be vital to the future economic, social, and cultural success of Edmonton.
So much more to do…
We need to make progress on projects like Century Park, both in terms of building an exciting Transit Oriented Development site (up to 3000 residential units) and sorting out the parking issues that are important to so many. We need to make key decisions on Blatchford and Uber among others, as well as advancing our Energy Transition strategy.
In Ward 10, I will continue to support new ownership at the Petrolia Mall to create the vibrant commercial centre that so many citizens desire. Bringing amenities back to all mature neighbourhoods continues to be a priority for me.
In Pleasantview the current approach to traffic calming may not be the lasting solution, but we need to stay committed to finding ways to reduce dangerous speeding through this beautiful community.
There are a number of key neighbourhood renewal and road overlay projects advancing in Ward 10 in Lansdowne, Royal Gardens, Allendale, and Ermineskin in 2016/17. The rest of Ward 10 was assessed for road and sidewalk conditions last year. Neighbourhoods like Grandview, Malmo, and Pleasantview are next in terms of major need.
Major drainage projects continue in Aspen Gardens and Greenfield, with projects in Royal Gardens and Duggan completed last year. And I remain steadfastly committed to eradicating the Steinhauer Stench, a sewer odour issue caused by increasing volumes of biosolids rumbling in from the suburbs on their way to Goldbar. We are working with the University of Alberta and Stantec to evolve venting technology to return the full quality of life to the households affected by these terrible odours.
And there is so much more I will keep you all up to date about on this blog.
Here’s to a positive and hopeful 2016 and as always I invite you to reach out with ideas or concerns about our city.