Busy Week at City Hall

As a marathon week at Council comes to an end, and as many important topics were discussed and debated at Council, I would like to provide you with an update on a few of the items that garnered the most attention, such as the Metro Line, Bike Lanes and the important work of the Edmonton Youth Council.

Bike Lanes Update

Yesterday, the following motion passed at City Council:

1. That Administration remove and fill the on street bike lanes on 40th Avenue from 119 street to 106 street and on 106 street from Whitemud Drive to 34th avenue with funding from Capital Profile Arterial Road Program - Arterial Renewal Composite # 15-66-1020.

2. That Administration continue working with communities in the area surrounding 40th Avenue from 119 street to 106 street and on 106 street from Whitemud Drive to 34th avenue, to plan alternative infrastructure and routes with a report to return to the October 28, 2015, Transportation Committee meeting.

3. That Administration, prior to the 2019 Capital Budget, provide to Council through Transportation Committee, a proposed revised bicycle transportation implementation strategy to include plans for a high quality (segregated from traffic) network of cycle infrastructure and neighbourhood (local road) routes informed by the 2015-2018 Bike Lane Infrastructure Plan enhanced public engagement strategies approved by Council on June 5, 2015.

4. That Administration prepare Terms of Reference for Council's consideration to establish a new Council Initiative named "Active Transportation". 

This motion marks a big step for Ward 10, where frustration has been growing since the installation of these lanes in 2013. People have been very clear that creating space in our city for cyclists is important, both for existing and future cyclists. However the lanes we put in where cars and cyclists compete for much of the same space at the same time weren't working. This was not about simply giving in to angry motorists. It must be noted the cycling community was also very divided on these lanes, with many in my ward choosing not to use them. I campaigned on smarter and better bike lanes and am committed to replacing these lanes expeditiously with smarter and better ones.

To read about my rationale for requesting the replacement of the lanes on 40th Avenue from 119th Street to 106th Street and 106th Street from Whitemud Drive to 34th Avenue, you can check out my previous blog post: www.michaelwalters.ca/refocusingourbikeplan.

Since I announced my intent to make this motion, I’ve received a lot of feedback from all corners of the city, and I appreciate that conversation. It’s good to know how many people are passionate about the issue of bike infrastructure. While a few have not agreed with my course of action on these two lanes in Ward 10, I hope that the eventual outcome will leave everyone satisfied, and I look forward to the continued discussion around the construction of high-quality bike infrastructure 


Metro Line LRT Line Update

Delays, construction quality and  lack of transparency - these words can be used to sum up the latest expansion of our LRT network. On July 7th, Council had an open and transparent discussion with our Administration on the Metro Line LRT; this discussion was overdue.

At Council, we were told, as with any construction project, some deficiencies in construction are bound to surface (think about the time you may have had a house built), and that the issues outlined by the Edmonton Journal are not contributing to the delay in opening; the delay is still solely a signalling issue. While the construction issues certainly need to be understood, and the delays with the signalling system have gotten to the point of extreme frustration, what I, and my Council colleagues are mostly alarmed about, is the lack of transparency surrounding this project.

As expansion of our LRT network is the biggest priority of this Council, and was one of the biggest priorities of the last Council, it is clear that we cannot continue to operate this way, especially with the City’s largest infrastructure project in its history - the Valley Line LRT - on the horizon, which is why the following motion was passed at Council on July 7th:

1) That the City Manager develop and immediately implement a public communication plan that will ensure maximum transparency on the progress toward the opening of the Metro Line, including regular bulletins for public, stakeholder and council awareness.

2) That Administration provide a report to Council that outlines any significant deficiencies with this project, the remedy that was secured in each case, and what, if anything, has been learned that will  be applied to future similar projects.


Infill Motion on Construction Practices

When I went to the communities of Ward 10 last fall to discuss infill development, as well as the growth of our City, one of the main issues with infill development that I heard  from residents was the lack of accountability and enforcement with regards to construction practices, and how these poor construction practices could potentially have negative affects on surrounding residents.

To begin addressing this issue, at Council on July 7th, I, along with the Mayor and Councillors McKeen, Esslinger and Henderson, made the following motion:

That Administration provide a report outlining:

1. The current rules, regulations and guidelines governing the impact of construction in existing neighbourhoods on neighbouring  properties, e.g., noise, debris, damage to other property (public and private),
2. Our current practice in ensuring good neighbour behaviour during construction in existing neighbourhoods, and
3. What tools could we add to ensure more respectful construction in existing neighbourhoods including but not limited       to:
a. Requiring a copy of the Building and Development Permits as well as any conditions and contact information for the permit holder and the constructor be prominently displayed on site so as to be visible from the street;
b. Identify existing and new opportunities to strengthen communication and enforcement of good construction practices in Edmonton;
c. Requiring a bond before construction begins;
d. Requiring neighbourhood agreements between builders and neighbours as part of the development and building permit process in established neighbourhoods
e. Opportunities to collaborate with the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and IDEA (Infill Development in Edmonton Association) to increase the standard of construction and products used in existing neighbourhoods;
f. A certification or classification program that could be used for builders undertaking construction in existing neighbourhoods;
g. Any methods employed by other municipalities.


Vegan Catering and the Edmonton Youth Council.

On July 7th, the City of Edmonton Youth Council presented their recommendation that catering for Council meetings be comprised solely of vegan options to reduce Council’s environmental, social and economic footprint; this quickly became a divisive topic and it received national media attention. Ultimately, this recommendation was deferred to a Council Services Committee meeting in October, where items like this can be fully discussed.

While the merits of the Youth Council’s recommendation are important, well researched and were excellently presented, this is a debate that belonged at Council Services Committee.

Given that engaging youth in our civic processes, as well as representing their values and ideas is one of the largest challenges that municipalities face, Council should never be apprehensive to discuss and debate any item brought forth by the City of Edmonton’s Youth Council, or any item for that matter. We cannot ask the youth in our communities to voice their opinions, only to react with apprehension, as it could potentially lead to discouraging debate around future topics important to the youth in our City.

The City of Edmonton’s Youth Council has a mandate to provide information and advice to Council in relation to issues involving or affecting Youth. Through this latest recommendation, they are fulfilling that mandate, and I look forward to this important discussion in October.