OpEd: Edmonton's city council needs to stick to basics of running a municipality

Municipal governments are designed to keep our roads clear, our parks maintained, our infrastructure updated, our transit accessible, and our city safe and liveable.

The role and authority municipalities hold is quite clear both in legislation and based on how our taxes are allocated.

Yet Edmonton’s city council continues to invest and focus on initiatives that are not in the purview of what a municipality is responsible for. Over the past seven years Don Iveson has been mayor, Edmontonians have witnessed our local government steering away from the priorities and necessities that allow us to best live our lives and instead focused on politically motivated initiatives that do not speak to the masses.

Rather than maintaining our parks, Mayor Iveson has focused on e-bike rebates. Even with council and the public advising this is not the direction they want to head, he continues to state the e-bike incentive is a way Edmontonians can “diversify their transportation choices” and that nothing will compromise the city’s strategic priority to address the climate emergency by providing greener options — not even a global pandemic or our increasingly dire fiscal situation.

A strategic plan is what you want the city to use, but that is no reason to head away from the basic core services for which our mayor is accountable and is elected to deliver.

I would recommend Iveson use this opportunity to find efficiencies in the city’s lines of business and take a deeper look at middle management instead of laying off the hardworking frontline employees that help put the basics of being a citizen first. Perhaps then our taxes and the administration’s payroll can be re-evaluated and our city can stop relying on other levels of government for handouts.

The City of Edmonton is not a business, it is a municipality. They don’t possess the business acumen that comes with entrepreneurship so it is unclear why our mayor believes our city’s business line should expand into development. The Blatchford project is a clear demonstration of municipal government interference in the private sector. The private sector can deliver this project quicker, at lower cost, and more efficiently than a municipality through their business relationships and willingness to get the job done. There are different incentives on which to focus that benefit the taxpayer and limit the red tape bureaucratic process.

From my understanding, there are not a lot of red tape burdens in order to fix potholes. You know, that consistent problem that every neighbourhood experiences and every resident’s taxes pay for? Our dollars should be prioritized to reality, not the imaginary, especially in times like these.

As much as I appreciate efforts to revitalize our downtown core and businesses, especially during tough economic times, the municipal government has failed to explain if they bothered to consider the impact on businesses for a project like Imagine Jasper Avenue. According to the City of Edmonton’s own materials, the project will “elevate the avenue, giving it a consistent look and feel.” To do so, traffic is being limited to one lane in each direction until the fall, increasing congestion and idling in an already busy area and pressuring drivers onto other routes in and out of the downtown — away from already struggling businesses hammered by both the pandemic and broader economic slowdown.

As someone who has co-owned and operated a small business in Edmonton, worked to find customers and meet payroll, I can attest to the fact that decisions made by municipal government can have a direct impact on small businesses and not taking them into consideration can have lasting consequences.

If Iveson is planning to seek re-election, might I suggest setting expectations on what the mayor can do for Edmontonians and stop blurring and politicising the authority of the office, which includes how public hearings are managed. It is not fair to mislead residents on how you can help them and make a difference. Providing false hope is the worst move a leader can make. Be clear in the role and stick to the basics.

Originally Published in the Edmonton Journal

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