A Vision for Ward 7 and North Edmonton’s Main Street

I began this blog with a post highlighting why I chose to run. Today, in my final post before Monday’s election, I want to highlight my vision for my the ward and for the city. A large part of this vision is to see all of 118th Avenue restored from Abbotsfield all the way to NAIT (and, potentially, onto the airport lands) as a north side “main street” with vibrant shopping, arts and community districts, and smaller scale equivalents elsewhere in the ward.

To get there, we need to start in our communities. We have come a long way in the neighbourhoods that bound on 118th Avenue, after decades of neglect. Refreshed infrastructure including new sidewalks, roads and decorative features have made areas like Beverly and Alberta Avenue more walkable. New businesses, restaurants, festivals and other events such as farmers’ markets have started to coax residents from their home and onto the avenue.

But this revitalization did not happen on it’s own. The city did not wave its magic wand to suddenly make three decades of problems and blight disappear – it came from communities. The city has a role to play in revitalization (supporting community driven initiatives and funding improvements), but ultimately we cannot simply impose a solution with no regard for, or insight from, the community, and expect it to work.

There still remains much work to be done – pawn shops, used car lots and abandoned storefronts still dot the Avenue. At the same time, much of the Avenue, particularly the area between Gretzky Drive and 50th Street, has seen little in the way infrastructural improvements or investment from the city.

To encourage development in some of these other older, neglected neighbourhoods we must work to create a market for buyers by revitalizing infrastructure, helping keep schools open, improving access to amenities and encouraging investment.

Crime reduction is an ongoing process, and while crime rates are on the decrease, there is always room for improvement. Better use of police resources, including more beat cops and proactive policing, and crime reduction through projects such as the Neighbourhood Empowerment Teams is one piece of the puzzle. Strong communities, as always, are another.

However, one of the most effective way to make communities safer is to give people a reason to get out of their homes and participate in their communities – whether it’s to go shopping on the Avenue, to go to a festival or just to take their kids to the park – more eyes on the street leads to less crime, and a safer environment for all.

Balancing transportation priorities for Edmontonians of all ages and abilities and prioritizing people in our transportation decisions is another key goal of mine. This includes overhauling our transit system and building safe, cost-effective bicycle facilities. For too long Edmonton has grown around private automobiles, and building wider roads and more freeways has inevitably led us to more cars, more congestion, and more sprawl.

Edmonton’s car dependence has also led us to become one of the worst perpetrators of urban sprawl. For me, the bottom line here is savings – it is undeniably cheaper to reduce sprawl and encourage growth and revitalization in mature neighbourhoods, locating people closer to existing infrastructure and services is cheaper than building new roads, new sewers and new schools in the periphery, while those of us in the core watch our streets crumble, our transit service decline, and our historic schools shut their doors.

That being said, we must also protect our established communities from impersonable, large-scale redevelopment schemes – while the need to grow in, instead of out is beyond doubt for me, we must also be careful that densification and in-fill development do not negatively impact surrounding residents. We need to own the change in our communities.

The sad fact is Edmonton is very much lacking when it comes to good examples of in-fill development, which has led to an understandable wariness on the part of many residents, and a hesitation to accept such development in our neighbourhoods. However if we truly want to see Edmonton grow into a viable and sustainable city, we must shift the way we grow.

My final thought – our city government is very accessible, but many people aren’t always aware of just how to go about raising an issue or getting to know their representatives. People need to know they are actually heard and responded to by their elected officials – and I promise to be accessible and take the initiative by being out in the community. As a social worker, I believe that councillors should also be more interested in what residents have to say and advocate for their needs.

I live, work, and volunteer in Ward 7, and I am committed to continuing to work towards the betterment of the area, and the whole city. I hope that on October 18th, you will elect me to work for you on Edmonton City Council.

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