Edmonton Minute: Downtown Funding, Finding Savings, and a Budget Wish List
Edmonton Minute - Your weekly one-minute summary of Edmonton politics
This Week In Edmonton:
- This morning, at 9:30 am, there will be a meeting of the Utility Committee. On the agenda is a report regarding the 2023 Water, Wastewater, and Drainage Services Operational Plan which notes that the City will gradually be moving toward wireless water monitoring instead of manual meter reading. A revised Waste Services Bylaw will no longer include fines - instead, it will focus on the terms of service specific to waste utilities, such as the set-out area being free of obstructions, spacing requirements for containers, and disposing of waste in the appropriate container. Other community standards bylaws will address improper waste disposal penalties. Also of note, waste utility rates will not change this year.
On Tuesday, at 8:30 am, there will be an Agenda Review Committee meeting. Shortly after, at 9:30 am, there will be a City Council meeting. Agenda highlights for the latter meeting include bylaws to authorize the reconstruction of William Hawrelak Park and the High Level Bridge, as well as a confidential labour relations update. There are 24 pending motions up for discussion with limited details available. Titles of the motions include Surplus School Sites, Arts Habitat, Edmonton Valley Zoo, and Assisted Snow Programs.
- The Telus World of Science continues to host the “Blue Whale Story”, their feature exhibit this winter. The exhibit contains, amongst other things, an entire blue whale skeleton. The whale, which died off the coast of Newfoundland in 2014 from natural causes, is an impressive 78 foot specimen and would have weighed as much as 20,000 lbs during its life. The exhibit contains the only preserved blue whale heart in the world, which is as big as a cow.
Last Week In Edmonton:
- City Council began the process of finding budget savings. During December’s budget deliberations, Administration was told to find $60 million in savings in the 2023-2026 operating budget. Now, the City is looking to “shuffle” a further $240 million towards other items Council wants to fund. Councillors are working to define “core services” - things that are required under legislation, are necessary (like recreation), or are related to a Council priority (like community safety), and that fall within municipal jurisdiction. While we’re pleased to see Council finally practicing some common sense, shouldn’t this have happened during the already lengthy budget deliberations? Unfortunately, to find money, Council will also look at ways of raising revenue, which, you guessed it, comes from increased taxes and fees.
- The Province announced $5 million in funding to help improve Edmonton’s downtown. The City will get $4 million and the Edmonton Downtown Business Association (EDBA) will receive $1 million, nearly doubling their annual budget. The EDBA plans to put the money toward the 2023 Downtown Spark event, new murals on downtown buildings, and hiring a project manager to bring more retail businesses to the area. It looks like a new plan is sorely needed as social disorder, safety, and mental health and addictions issues continue to plague downtown. Sport Chek and Atmosphere in Edmonton City Centre Mall announced upcoming closures and the mall’s manager cited significant safety concerns.
- As the United Conservative Party prepares its next budget, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi has called for “equitable treatment” with the City of Calgary. In a letter to the Province, Sohi said the City needs $18 million for transitional housing and even more cash for permanent supportive housing and 24/7 shelter beds. His wish list also includes $185 million to upgrade Commonwealth Stadium, funding for expansion of the LRT system, and funding equivalent to what Calgary is receiving to upgrade its Deerfoot Trail for infrastructure support in Edmonton.
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