Campaign Launch Speech
I launched my campaing on June 19th at the Strathcona Community Hall. Here is the video of my speech, as well as the text below.
Goa for 8 Campaign Launch
I am running because this is a time of significant pressure and opportunity for Ward 8 and the City. This Ward and its residents need more influence on City Council.
Without a vision, and the ability to organize in the community and on council, we are at the mercy of others' ideas and interests for how best to shape our communities.
I have lived in Edmonton my whole life and in Ward 8 for all but 2 ½ years of it. I love this City and grew up with the stories about saving the Millcreek Ravine. Even as a small child, I knew we could have influence on the decisions that impact our lives. In 1995, I decided I could never enter politics after that vicious municipal election. But that was half a lifetime ago, and slowly over the last few years and especially over the last many months, I realized I had to enter politics, because I know it can be different.
The City is in a period of significant transition – we are going from being a big small city, to a small big city and with that comes a lot of change. Ward 8 is in the heart of our City and at the heart of this change. Bounded by the ribbon of green, encompassing our Provincial historical area, including some of the most dense communities in the city and some of our first suburban communities, the change is coming to us and it is coming fast.
We can react, or we can set the stage for the changes that need to happen. Change can be scary. But it is possible to empower the community, recognize the rich local knowledge people have, engage in the difficult conversations, understand the complex feelings we all have about our homes and communities -- then create a vision that works. This engages people and brings them together. However, it’s not enough to have a vision. We need to be able to act on it. This requires a different kind of politics.
One councillor means one vote. In order to bring our vision to reality we can’t wait for a vote in City Hall to state our case. I will work on the ground with community to understand your pressures, bring diverse perspectives together and create workable proposals. I will also support you in working with others in the community, and all of Council, not just me. We need 7 votes. I will facilitate your relationships with city administration. Capable public servants who have a lot to offer to the conversations we need to have. I will then close the loop and work with my Council colleagues, with your support, to make these things happen.
We often make the mistake of falling into camps. But all issues can be framed in different ways. It is possible and essential to build relationships with people we disagree with and find the places where we have common interest. It’s not always easy, and not everything is winnable, but if we just lock ourselves into camps, we run the risk of losing a lot more. Building consensus can be done across highly divergent perspectives. The solutions are often more rigorous and creative as a result, and far more likely to see the light of day.
We need to bring together new ideas about the pressures we are facing. We need more diverse ways of thinking about the issues that challenge us. Our next Council will be tackling the new Municipal Development Plan (MDP), setting the stage for how we grow over the next 8-10 years. I was heavily involved as a community leader, with the Greater Edmonton Alliance, organizing to put food and land-use planning on the table starting in 2008. In that process, the notion that a City needs to consider "what we eat" and "where our food comes from in how we use our land, was considered novel. With significant pressure, we were successful in getting a section inserted into the MDP and a new focus on local food at the City. However, we didn’t see all the gains we wanted around land-use planning, food distribution or local procurement. This is unfinished work.
This Council will also be overseeing the new policy and framework for Public Engagement that I helped develop through the Council Initiative on Public Engagement. The high level goals include culture change and creating a more participatory democracy. That’s a lot to live up to. There are opportunities in this work to connect to and support the existing capacity of citizens across all demographics, with a focus on underrepresented groups, while also providing opportunities to build new capacity for effective engagement. This is exciting work, that I’m very proud of, but even though the seeds are there, it won’t happen by itself. This work needs to be nurtured, watered, fed.
I’m very excited about the new downtown bike grid and the proposals we have for neighbourhood renewal here in Strathcona. These projects reflect a changing perspective on freedom of movement and effective organizing by citizens. Everyone should be able to move freely in their community without fearing for their safety. Whether it’s my sons walking to their friends’ house, my daughter biking to school, my mom riding to the farmer’s market, or my husband busing to work, I want everyone to get where they are going safely. There are a couple barriers to shifting our traffic culture, even as we make significant strides. Traditionally traffic engineers measure traffic by the number of vehicles moving through an area and how quickly they can get through. This means we count cars instead of people. We need to start counting people.
Another area where we are taking a shortcut in our data is density. We need to become a more compact city and region. The investments we make with our tax dollars can’t keep up with our infrastructure costs. We are digging a deep hole if we don’t change the way we grow. However, the Capital Region Growth Plan, is measuring density based on housing units per hectare instead of people. This means that my single family home with seven people, is counted as one. And my mother’s house is also counted as one. This prioritizes tall tower, one and two bedroom apartment development and exacerbates already existing gaps in our housing stock. In the meantime, our mature neighbourhoods have lost 73000 people over the last 40 years and 1/3 of kindergarten children in Edmonton go to school outside of the Henday. This creates neighbourhoods that are siloed based on demographics. A situation that is unsustainable for everyone. We already have a trend of building single use, single generation amenities to match narrow demographics and then needing to replace it all or re-purpose it within 40 years. We need to find ways to build more resilience into our communities and prioritize diversity and sustainability in our housing stock and the parkland, the recreation facilities, community hubs needed to support it so that we can create more multi-generational, diverse, inclusive communities that can support local businesses and schools for the long-term. This is a challenging task that needs to be taken on in collaboration with the people who live here. There are so many creative options for what we can build together.
One last piece I want to briefly address is affordability. We need to get a lot more creative about both market and non-market housing in terms of affordability, and we also need to look at income. I’m interested in looking at what is happening in Vancouver around a livable income policy which would ensure that all City employees and contractors can earn a living wage.
These are just a few of the areas I want to focus on as your City Councillor. First and foremost, I want to build with you the powerful relationships in our communities needed to develop a collective vision and bring it to action.
When people are able to shape their communities, they can drive the change. This is an opportunity not to be missed!