[We sent five questions concerning green living, local economy and inclusiveness to all of the Election 2017 council candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]
What is the biggest challenge your Ward faces? What policy solutions would you seek if elected?
Asked to choose just one, I’ll go with housing.
Like the rest of the city, we have a need for greater housing choices. Seniors who want to stay in their communities are stuck in their single family homes because there are no options available for them to move within their neighbourhoods. Young families starting out in the real estate market are struggling with the lack of affordable options available to them. Folks who are economically disadvantaged are often forced into unsafe living arrangements because there’s no place else for them to go.
We have a number of surplus school sites coming on board in the next couple of years and I think we need to get creative with what we do with them. I have already talked with members of the provincial government about the need for better choice in seniors housing (not necessarily affordable, not necessarily needing supportive living) and how we might be able to utilize some of these school sites to create communities of attractive row homes or town houses that seniors would be comfortable “aging in place” in. This would free up housing for young families and keep our communities animated. (I’ve lived across from a vacant school. It’s not ideal.)
Lastly, I’m a proponent of inclusionary zoning – a practice whereby every developer applying for a permit for multi-unit residential development is mandated to set aside a percentage as affordable housing. If Edmonton adopted this practice, we’d solve a lot of the NIMBYism we’ve seen and we’d more quickly spread affordable units across the city.
Also related to housing, I’m going to add that residents have complained to me a lot over the last several months that they do not feel that the police, bylaw, their councilor or the various departments within the city tasked with community safety are taking their concerns seriously. People complaining about illegal rooming houses and drug houses should not be told to move. The city has a number of tools at its disposal to deal with these problem properties (one of which was the scene of a murder and a “suspicious” death within the course of the last week) and doesn’t seem willing to use them. People shouldn’t worry about gunfire while they’re putting their children to bed and we need to do a better job of supporting folks who are trying to make their neighbourhoods a better place in spite of the challenges facing them.
How will you help Edmonton become a greener / more environmentally friendly city?
I’ve been a proponent of making Edmonton a more sustainable city since I was a founding member of Eco-City with Tooker Gomberg and Angela Bischoff back in the early 90s. I will continue to urge council to resist the urge to continue to develop the city in the sprawling fashion that it continues to develop. I will work towards encouraging the completion of the many incomplete neighbourhoods on our hands before approving new ones on the outskirts.
I will support the city’s efforts to encourage more active forms of transportation and efforts to improve public transit and walkability and will continue to criticize the fact that we have adopted the brand of Vision Zero without a lot of apparent willingness to adopt the principles behind it.
I will work to ensure that the city takes every opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of its own operations by the incorporation of renewable energy sources in new city facilities and continued support of the programs like Green Leagues, working to assist community leagues become more energy efficient.
How will you strengthen Edmonton’s local economy and support our city’s independent, locally-owned businesses?
On a personal level, I always spend my dollars on local business before large chains whenever I can. As a member of council, I will address some of the concerns I have heard from local business over the course of the campaign relative to what they feel is a burdensome level of taxation that is not giving them value for money. With more and more entrepreneurs working in their homes or in work/live studios, I’d like to see if might not need to assess our licensing regime is fair and serving them well. As our economy shifts from the bricks and mortar jobs we’ve known in the past, we need to be more relaxed relative to zoning around use of property and concern ourselves more with appearance and impact.
Lastly, I will hesitate to jump on the bandwagon with people who think we need to sell the farm to attract businesses like Amazon to operate here. These people forget the many times we have done this in the past (Dell, anyone?) and each and every time we do it, it harms local, independent business – either through direct competition like Amazon would be – or by taking city resources that could be otherwise used to help nurture upcoming local business and handing them over to multi-national corporations.
How will you make this a more inclusive city and support Edmonton’s marginalized communities?
Having been involved in an number of anti-racism strategies in the past, I have witnessed that the best-placed efforts were sidetracked after being taken over by large institutions and the city bureaucracy or were killed by apathy and lack of resources and follow through.
We aren’t going to solve racism with hashtags and we need to properly fund in-house initiatives such as the now defunct Racism Free Edmonton and make appointments to the city’s Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee. The latter’s mandate has been under review for a very long time and no appointments have been made. The city needs to make a concerted effort to recruit more diverse citizens to senior leadership roles and to the many agencies, boards and commissions, in particular, the Police Commission.
If we are to be taken seriously about anti-racism and reconciliation, we need to take our initiatives and commitments more seriously. (On that note, city council patted themselves on the back pretty hard back in March for passing a motion to fly the Treaty 6 and Metis Nation of Alberta flags permanently at City Hall. It’s September. They’re still not there. And after being told they were waiting for poles when I phoned in April, May, and June, I gave up trying to get an answer as to when we might see this happen.)
I have been a vocal critic of police carding, a practice I believe to be racially discriminatory and will continue to be once elected.
Lastly, I think it’s worth noting that if elected, I will be the first woman of colour ever elected to Edmonton City Council in the history of the city. In fact, we’ve only ever elected three men who were not Caucasian. I think a city is more inclusive when the people in the institutions – both elected and bureaucratic – that govern it reflect the people governed. I know that when young people are able to see people who look like them in positions of power, it helps them aspire to community service and shows them a little bit of the possible. I know because I used to be one.
How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?
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