Edmonton Minute: Grass Cutting, Recouping Costs, and a Public Spaces Bylaw
Edmonton Minute - Your weekly one-minute summary of Edmonton politics
This Week In Edmonton:
- City Hall is still closed to the public. This week’s meetings will take place virtually. This morning, at 9:30 am, there will be a Special City Council meeting. On the agenda is an emergency funding request from Explore Edmonton - an agency of the City focused on tourism, with an independent Board of Directors appointed by Council. The organization has a base budget of $11.7 million, and has, for the last several years, been granted additional, “one-time” funding. As part of the budget adjustments in Fall 2023, Explore Edmonton requested additional funding of $10.3 million due to an increased mandate, but that request was denied. It sounds a lot like they spent all the money elsewhere and just expected taxpayers to pick up the slack? Council will also discuss actions that might be taken as a result of declaring the Homelessness Emergency. Some of the actions up for discussion involve re-allocating all remaining Council Contingency funding within the 2023-2026 budget cycle to housing initiatives, and providing all City land for free or nominal cost to support affordable housing projects.
On Tuesday, at 8:30 am, there will be a meeting of the Agenda Review Committee, followed by a 9:30 am meeting of the City Auditor Recruitment Committee. Also on Tuesday, at 1:30 pm, the Special Audit Committee will meet to discuss a private report regarding a “non-audit service request”.
- There will be a Non-Regular Meeting of City Council on Wednesday at 9:30 am to discuss the Public Spaces Bylaw. The omnibus behaviour bylaw is a lengthy one. It seeks to, among many other things, ban the use of amplification systems in public spaces by anyone without an event permit, enhance the federal lifejacket regulations by requiring them to be worn at all times by anyone boating on the North Saskatchewan River, and allow for food trucks to set up and operate in parks without requiring a new permit each time. It will also ban visible drug use in public spaces. On Friday, at 1:30 pm, there will be a meeting of the City Manager and City Auditor Performance Evaluation Committee. There’s not much point in tuning in to this one though, as the majority of the meeting will be held in-camera.
Last Week In Edmonton:
- The Community and Public Services Committee unanimously voted to approve a $1.3-million ongoing increase for turf maintenance and a $900,000 increase for horticulture operations, aiming to reverse budget cuts made during the pandemic. The additional funds would enhance the care of public parks, sports fields, and shrubbery beds. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi emphasized the importance of improving core services like boulevard and street maintenance, and Councillor Jennifer Rice said her office receives many emails regarding service levels in core areas. Good idea - let's cut the grass and cut the extraneous stuff while we're at it. Council as a whole will still need to approve this funding increase at an upcoming meeting.
- Speaking of City services, they could be disrupted as the City has applied for a lockout vote in response to the strike vote application by the Civic Service Union (CSU 52). What does that mean? Basically, a reverse strike - the City could shut workers out of their jobs before the Union has a chance to strike. The Union represents thousands of City employees, including 911 operators, 311 agents, recreation center employees, tax assessors, and librarians. CSU 52 is conducting a strike vote to authorize the union to take strike action against the City, who say that negotiations included 30 bargaining sessions and multiple mediation dates. The Union has expressed dissatisfaction with the City's final offer - a 7.25% wage increase over a five-year period. The City believes this is a fair offer and has applied to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a proposal vote - meaning that employees would get to vote as a whole, rather than restricting such a vote to the union’s bargaining committee.
- The City has filed documents at the Court of King’s Bench seeking to recoup some of their legal costs from the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights after the group unsuccessfully sued the City over its removal of homeless encampments. The Coalition argued that the City's handling of camps endangers vulnerable people and violates their constitutional rights. Although the coalition won a temporary court order in December, an Alberta court later denied the group public interest standing, ruling that it lacked a genuine stake in the outcome. The City claims that the request for $25,000 of the $42,626 legal bill is fair given the coalition's lack of standing and not-for-profit status.
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