Some have started to muse that this fall’s municipal election could be defined by one question:
Should the city get back to the basics and invest only in our roads and core services or be bold and invest in projects that grow our culture, creativity and vibrancy?
However, this question inevitably leads to divisiveness. In these early days of the election, we have the opportunity to reframe these issues. Instead of pitting investment in innovation, arts and culture and creative projects against core services, let’s talk about how they can support each other, in a way that doesn’t over promise already-spent tax dollars, increase the tax burden on fixed income Edmontonians or increase the city’s debt.
Council Supported Solutions, Not Council Funded Solutions
I believe that the priority of city council is to spend tax dollars on making the city work well. Well maintained roads, public transit, parks, and responsive emergency services should be our priorities. However, the arts, culture and vibrant pedestrian friendly and affordable communities make our city enjoyable and attractive. These things enhance economic growth and our capacity to pay for great basic services.
The city really needs to become a champion of our citizens and their ideas, not just a champion of its own ideas, which usually rely on tax dollars. When it comes to big projects that give us the vibrancy, culture and affordability many of us yearn for, partnerships with other levels of government, the private sector and the community should be the determining factor.
The Downtown Academic and Cultural Centre (‘The Galleria Project’) is a perfect example of the business and philanthropic communities bringing forward a vision already largely-funded. Rather than contributing a large sum of money, city council has negotiated with this group of philanthropists and their development partners to hand over under-used city land, as well as providing a small investment into the project.
There is a growing community of entrepreneurs, creatives and go-getters who are turning to the community to support their city building endeavors. Make Something Edmonton is a great example of a small investment up front that can lead to huge payoff for the city city down the road. This is project where we call out our most creative citizens to make Edmonton the great city we want it to be.
So let’s not make this election about which initiatives are more important. Pitting core services against other types of investments creates deep trenches in our council and stalls innovation and creativity. Instead, council should look to the initiators that are already building Edmonton, and look for creative ways to support them. If I am elected to represent you at City Hall, I will make it my goal to build and foster more partnerships like these while prioritizing spending on exceptional services and infrastructure that gives us our foundation for true greatness.