Ward 9 Transportation Grief

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To say that transportation is an issue in Ward 9 is a tremendous understatement. Residents of our Ward must continually adjust for our deficient transportation network as they consider how to get to and from work, how to get their kids to school, how to get to those extra-curricular activities, or whether to participate in those activities at all.

I am committed to being a strong advocate for Ward 9 on City Council, to build a better community for all residents. That includes having our infrastructure projects becoming a top priority.

My work experience overseeing major projects would be a strong asset to getting projects done right, and on budget.

We need to build an interchange at Terwillegar Drive and Bulyea Road. Currently, the traffic signals at this intersection result in backups and stop-and-go traffic that extend on to Whitemud Drive. We have all had the experience of sitting stopped in the left lane of Whitemud Drive, nervously eyeing our rear view mirrors, wondering if it is our turn for that big rear-end collision. An overpass at 40th avenue is the only way to take pressure off of Whitemud Drive and alleviate this serious safety concern.

With a bridge at 40 Avenue, Rabbit Hill Road effectively becomes the entry point to Terwillegar Drive and Whitemud Drive. This would allow us to introduce traffic calming measures along Bulyea Road to minimize shortcutting through the neighborhood, and to minimize the congestion effects of the surplus school site development that has just begun. It is time to build this bridge.

We need to work with our partners at the Province to construct improvements on Anthony Henday Drive. We need at least one additional lane in each direction between Lessard Road and Highway 2. We need an overpass on 136 street, and we need a second overpass at the Terwillegar Drive/AHD interchange. These measures would address congestion on Anthony Henday Drive, would address daily backups along Terwillegar Drive, and provide the new access into Heritage Valley that would permit closure of the very dangerous intersection at Anthony Henday and 127 street.

We need to work with our developer partners, to ensure that they actively continue to build up the arterial roadway system south of Anthony Henday Drive. We need to find a way to get four lanes constructed as early as possible on Ellerslie Road, 121 Street and 127 Street south of Ellerslie, and James Mowatt Trail.

Between 75% and 85% of Heritage Valley and Windermere are not yet developed. We will add over 80,000 people to these communities in the next 10 years. Beyond that, we have the annexation of Leduc County. We need to start developing transportation solutions now, before further development brings unbearable pressures to our communities.

Transportation issues are not trivial, and solutions are expensive. For too many years, Southwest Edmonton has had disproportionately more development and expansion than any other part of the City, and disproportionately less infrastructure investment than other parts of the City. Transit and Transportation in Southwest Edmonton will be a key concern for the next City Council to deal with. If elected, I will work diligently and relentlessly to bring transportation investments to Ward 9.

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Why City Council needs an Engineer

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One of my enduring memories from my childhood is travelling to Disneyland. As we drove across southern California, I was fascinated by the infrastructure around me. What does that ramp do? How do you build a bridge that long, or a building that tall? The elegant lines of Dodger Stadium were of particular appeal, and it is still one of my favorite structures.

These childhood experiences are what led me to a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Alberta. I emerged from the U of A with the technical acumen to build those roads, bridges and buildings that so fascinated me as a young boy. A degree in how to construct all the things that make up a City.

During these university years, I realized how fortunate I was to live in a city, a country where I had all the opportunity one could ask for. The opportunity to get a world class education. The opportunity to work and earn a living doing the things I love to do. The opportunity to raise a family. And I realized that I had a responsibility to give back to this wonderful community. To use my talents and abilities and new found skills to make my neighborhood an even better place to live.

Quite apart from being an engineer, I began my community service in high school – over three decades ago, as a volunteer with the World University Games. I continued that service throughout my adult life – in support of my professional association, APEGA. As a hockey and soccer coach. As president of the Riverbend Community League and Terwillegar Riverbend Advisory Board. And on countless community consultation committees, in support of the Terwillegar Recreation Centre, the Go Centre, the Community Theatre at Lillian Osborne, high speed transit to west Edmonton, the widening of the Quesnell Bridge and Whitemud Drive, the development of Terwillegar Drive, and of Buses, Trails and Pathways in Edmonton. In all of these activities, I was pleased to offer my skills as an engineer in service of my community.

When I graduated from Civil Engineering, I joined a profession, a brotherhood of public service. When one graduates from an engineering program from a Canadian University, one participates in the Ritual Calling of the Engineer. This ritual reminds engineers of their Obligation. While this Obligation is not secret, it is private. It reads, in part, as follows:

“My time I will not refuse; My Thought I will not grudge; My care I will not deny… My reputation in my Calling I will honorably guard.”

These aspects of being an engineer have resonated with me all of my life. That Obligation validated for me what my life has been about – giving back to the greater good, making my community better, contributing where I can.

As a professional, licensed engineer, I am bound by a Code of Ethics. The first paragraph of that code reads, in part, as follows:

“Professional Engineers shall hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public…”

This means that, no matter what, the public good trumps all. It does not matter if I got paid for my services or not. It does not matter if I am stuck in traffic, or my child was sick, or I was busy. The public good trumps all, in every aspect of my life.

As a City Councillor, I would be responsible for making policy decisions today that consider operating and investment choices to address deficiencies in our city today. But I would also be charged with making policy decisions that shape our tomorrow – that shape the city that our children will inherit.

I have spent almost thirty years of my life designing and building and delivering infrastructure projects. I have spent those years building my professional reputation, honing my craft, and holding the public paramount. I have done this because my personality, my make up, my upbringing has brought me to this place. I am driven to find solutions to infrastructure problems, to find that next best investment opportunity, to examine new solutions to existing problems. To lead teams to consensus decisions. It is my nature.

Which is why I am bested suited to be your next Ward 9 City Councillor. Councillors must hold paramount the welfare of the constituents they serve. I already do that. Councillors must understand how City building works, how infrastructure projects are managed, how bridges and roads and buildings are built. I already do that too. Being a City of Edmonton Councillor is that wonderful collision for the two most important parts of me as a person – serving my community, and building better cities.

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Surplus School Sites - To Build or Not To Build

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Infill has been a much talked about issue during the election campaign, and is a topic I want to clarify my position on as your Ward 9 candidate.

First of all, we need to distinguish between Infill and Affordable and Supportive Housing. Infill is all about density. It might include affordable or supportive housing, but it doesn’t by default. Lot-splitting is about density, but it sure isn’t about affordability.

Conceptually, I support infill. Infill development reduces urban sprawl, and allows us to better leverage our existing assets and resources. We can use the roads, bridges and buildings we have already built to serve more people, and thereby save money.

Infill development contributes to our ability to be better stewards of the environment. Both of these aspects appeal to me as an engineer and as a fiscal conservative – stretching our existing assets and resources further just makes sense. I am a firm support of positive, value added development, that results in responsible, balanced, thriving residential communities.

But.

I do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach for any city wide initiative, particularly on something as sensitive as this. And I believe that any infill project must consider the content and character of the community in which it is going to be built. Such infill development must be undertaken with clear, effective communication and with full transparency and consultation with the residents of the affected neighborhood.

Which is why what happened with the surplus school sites in Ward 9 cannot ever happen again!

There are approximately 160 undeveloped school sites in Edmonton. In 2006, 20 sites were designated as surplus by the school boards identified to the local communities. 20 more were designated surplus in 2009. Many of these sites are in various stages of redevelopment, while other sites await development decisions.

When the First Choice program was announced, it quickly became clear that the process was extremely flawed. These surplus school site projects were not proposed developments – these were “done deals.” No discussion, no consultation, no community input. Citizens in our neighborhoods were denied the opportunity to provide input and feedback into this very dramatic change in the development plan for their neighborhood.

As your Councillor, I will not ever support a process or decision that denies the opportunity for community input.

With respect to infill of existing open spaces, I think we need to expand the conversation to talk about park space and play space. We need to define play space and park space as distinct and separate community resources, and ensure that all of our neighborhoods have equitable access to both. A key focus of my campaign has been on building better communities. That includes space for families to exercise and spend time outdoors.

The City continues to work on its “Breathe” framework, which seeks to provide direction for the sustainable care and expansion of Edmonton’s open areas. Breathe espouses the same values I am expressing here, which is in conflict with the rush to density and the plan to redevelop significant amounts of existing play space.

In Ward 9, construction is proceeding on one site in Haddow. An adjacent site has not been declared surplus, but there are no plans for a school. Two sites were consolidated in Brookview, with construction slated to begin in 2018. A site in Ogilvie is currently the subject of a significant consultation process. A site in Henderson Park will remain dormant until the Ogilvie consultation process is completed and evaluated.

As your Councillor, I will not support redevelopment of Henderson Estates Park. Henderson Park provides the only opportunity in Henderson Estates or Falconer where you can kick a ball, fly a kite or build a snowbank ice rink. It simply does not make sense to consume that play space in that community. I would not support redevelopment of a second site in Haddow Park. Countless kids in these neighbourhoods have benefited from this park, including with the Green Shack program in the summer months.

I also believe that the City should listen to what the community wants when it comes to Ogilvie Ridge. If that means moving the building site at a modest cost to the city in the context of a building intended to last 100 years, then we should listen to the community and spend the money.

We cannot pursue infill development at any cost, consequences be damned. We cannot make such dramatic planning and zoning changes without fully considering the impacts on neighborhoods. And we certainly cannot pursue these developments without careful, collaborative, open communication and consultation with the residents whose neighborhoods we are so drastically changing.

I believe in thoughtful decision making that respects the wishes of the community, and that is the approach I would take on infill and surplus sites if elected as your Ward 9 councillor.

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Photo Radar Needs To Be About Safety, Not Money

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I do not support how Edmonton currently operates its photo radar program.

First and foremost, traffic enforcement should be about safety. Correcting those unsafe actions, in the moment, that threaten the safety of other motorists, cyclist and pedestrians should be the primary motivation of our traffic enforcement system.

I understand that, to enforce our traffic laws, on our ever-growing roadway network, requires a corresponding ever-increasing number of enforcement resources. We simply do not have the resources to have police constables do all of our traffic enforcement, so we need to augment the resources of our Edmonton Police Service with peace officers and automated enforcement. Photo radar does not provide immediate feedback that would otherwise correct an unsafe action.

Further, recent media reports indicate that the application of automated enforcement - photo radar - does not correspond to the locations where the highest frequency of collisions occur. We are not concentrating our enforcement resources, where safety is of highest concern - so where are we concentrating it? On high speed roadways, with large traffic volumes. This implies that the primary focus of photo radar is revenue generation, not the correction of unsafe actions.

City administrators point to reduced collision statistics to justify their photo radar strategy. However, the City of Edmonton’s take over and expansion of photo radar enforcement coincides with their reconfiguration of major intersections to include dedicated left turn signals – a reconfiguration that was very much about increasing safety. The city has eliminated left hand turns which cross opposing traffic at major intersections. I am concerned that safer intersections and the resulting decrease in accident rates is being used to rationalize the current photo radar program. I think there is a lack of transparency in this respect.

I am also concerned that speed limits are unjustifiably low in places. The potential combination of a lack of transparency and purposely low speed limits might be a further indication that the current photo radar strategy is more about revenue generation than it is about safety. At the very least, it leads to that perception amongst motorists.

Again from a safety perspective, the City of Edmonton has recently introduced speed zones at schools and playgrounds, on the basis that reduced speed improves outcomes when pedestrian collisions occur. While this might be true, motorists question whether we are providing a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Have we properly considered the potential unintended consequences of residential roads where the speed limit is changing every block? Where there is another sign on every lamppost? Where you are constantly looking at your speedometer, and not at the road in front of you? And if the intent is to enforce those school and playground limits with photo radar, are we truly creating a safer environment for children – or a combination of a less safe environment and more revenue?

I do not advocate breaking the law. Speed limits are set to keep drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and children safe, and the best approach to speed limits is to obey them.

On that basis, if photo radar is to be used as a safety tool, to reinforce safe behaviour, then it should be obviously displayed for all to see, so as to actually modify unsafe behaviour. Hiding behind trees and bushes or up on overpasses is not consistent with this perspective.

When we use photo radar in a disguised way, the perception that it is about revenue generation more than safety is reinforced. It concerns me that, as this perception develops and persists, drivers adopt an attitude that not only is photo radar not to be respected, but that the speed limits being forced are not worthy of respect either. And in this way, our photo radar operation philosophy actually makes roads less safe.

So let’s use automated speed enforcement in a transparent way, and actually increase safety on our roads.

 

 

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City Council Needs to Take Critique of Buying and Building Process to Heart

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A new report from the City’s Auditor paints a bleak picture of Edmonton’s current procurement process.

Why does it matter to you? Because the City of Edmonton spends, according to the City Auditor, approximately $1 billion annually on “a wide range of goods, services, construction, and intellectual property rights.”

That is a large sum of money that requires proper oversight.

Conducting an effective, open, and transparent procurement process would ensure that respect for taxpayer dollars is paramount when it comes to contracting construction and professional services.  Unfortunately, the city auditor’s review found that those key principles of a fair, open, transparent, accountable and value-driven procurement process aren’t consistently followed.

Edmonton Journal reporter Elise Stolte reported an example of city officials going to tender on a $142-million construction project, then changing drawings and specifications seven times during the bidding process.  This resulted in 600 questions coming back from potential contractors.

This is a clear indication that this project had not been thoroughly planned and designed.  A proper project plan starts with a clear understanding of the problem we are trying to solve, the service we are trying to provide, or the structure we would like to build.  A clear understanding of how the complete works will be operated in turn leads to a project program.  Without this fundamental planning process, we get a project that is ill-defined, and that leads to the barrage of questions from contractors that cannot quite comprehend what will be expected of them if they are successful in their bid.  

Further, the decision “to build or not to build” must also include an analysis of operating costs, maintenance costs, and reinvestment and renovation costs at regular intervals over the life of the asset to be constructed.  This life cycle approach is at the heart of capital asset management and planning.

Questions, unknown expectations, and unclear documents all increase the risk of a project.  And where contractors see risk, they inflate their prices to account for that risk.  Poorly planned projects cost more money from the outset, and accumulate extra costs as their design is corrected at the same time it is being constructed.  Poorly planned projects don’t quite fit their intended purpose, and become more expensive to operate as a result.  “There is never time to do it right, but always time to do it again” is the axiom at work here.  The rush to get to tender with incomplete designs will not ever result in a successful project.

This is only one example, but it’s a sobering one. Unfortunately in Edmonton we have heard of too many examples of projects delivered late, or over budget, or both.  City Council must find a way to ensure that city administration is focused on getting the right projects executed at the right time for the right value.  We must ensure that we set the accountability standards high, and that our administrators are prepared to meet those standards.

As a Professional Engineer and business owner, I’ve seen projects through from start to finish. I know that just as I’ve worked hard to build a personal brand founded on trustworthiness and responsibility, our city needs to do the same.

The recommendations laid out in the City Auditor’s report are comprehensive, and they are achievable. We must ensure that the key principles of procurement I’ve mentioned above are met.

If I am chosen as your councilor for Ward 9, I commit to ensuring that our procurement process is revised to work for you, the taxpayer.  

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A Bold Vision for the Future of Northlands

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Yesterday the City of Edmonton voted to take control of the Coliseum and the Northlands Park. The next City Council will have to – very quickly – determine what to do with these two facilities.

The guiding principles that need to be applied to this project are simple - does the project serve Edmontonians, and does it serve the immediate community.

As it stands, Northlands is in a lull, and not serving either of these two principles.

There is no question the Coliseum has fallen into disrepair in the last few years. Northlands was cash-strapped, and there just was not the resources available to maintain and upgrade the building.

The heating and ventilation systems need upgrading, to be sure. But its primary deficiencies are largely aesthetic. Precast exterior walls with no windows are a legacy from a bygone architectural era. Stained walls. Chipped floor tiles.

Worse, it has no viable future as a 16,000 seat arena. Even if we wanted to, you cannot maintain and operate an area on the basis of six rodeo events a year and a curling event every eight years or so. As an arena, the building is not viable.

But the Coliseum has great bones. Its structure is sound. The ice plant is less than ten years old.

And ... it is bought and paid for.

We need to remember that the cost of a five storey building with a 70,000 square foot roof is not trivial, and to simply blow up this building might be a rush to judgement.

What else can we do with this building? What else can it be?

Can it become the hotel that the Expo Centre needs to improve its viability? Can it be renovated to provide a combination of covered parking to serve the Colisuem LRT station, and multi-family housing? Can we put two rinks in the basement at minimal cost, using the relatively new ice plant that sits there today, and add other recreation centre activities on new floors above?

It is distinctly possible that the viability of any renovation of this building does not make economic sense. But I believe we need to explore all potential possibilities. The City of Edmonton struggles with the costs of constructing new infrastructure. We simply don’t have the money to build all the structures we might want as a city.

Does it makes sense to demolish a building we already own, with a strong, sound structure that will last for decades to come?

On the other hand, there is no other reasonable choice for Northlands Park than to repurpose most of the facility into in-fill housing. Most of the barns are falling down already, there is nothing to be saved there. The grandstand roof has failed. We might look at preserving the grandstand seating and repairing the roof, but only if we identify a need for a small scale, outdoor arena with a seated capacity of 5,000-10,000 people. Even at that, renovation of the grandstand may be less viable than simply building a new facility.

The land which the grandstand occupies has value as another in-fill opportunity. In the early 2000’s, land along the south and east edges was converted primarily from single family residential homes to parking, to support the Expo Centre project to come. That land could be converted back to residential uses, however the services now there serve a parking lot, not residential use. Repurposing this land will require development that resembles a new development.

That isn’t a bad thing, its just something to remember as we discuss the best path forward for the south end of the old Northlands site.

The return of the Northlands site to city control is an exciting opportunity for us. We need to find a way to acknowledge the significant role that these lands played in the evolution of Edmonton. Going back to the Sales Pavilion and the Edmonton Gardens, these lands have play host to countless events central to the development and growth of our city.

Let's try to find the balance approach that pays tribute to this history, while at the same time leveraging these assets for the greater good of our city.

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Edmonton Beach

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Edmonton Beach – The Accidental River Valley Development, and the Lesson It Provides


Edmonton Beach, the Accidental Beach, Cloverdale Beach or my personal favourite, the Sand District.

This beach is an unintended by-product of the construction of the new Walterdale Bridge. The two temporary dams that allowed the erection of the two bridge towers resulted in the deposits of river sand along the south bank of the river. When the construction dams are removed, it is likely that the river will revert to its original channel, and the beach will erode and disappear – unless we take steps to preserve it.


And we should preserve the beach. This will require conversations with the various federal bodies that protect our waterways, and we will require a plan to allow safe access, parking and litter control that respects the property of nearby residents. Edmonton Beach would be a great addition to our roster of river valley parks like Ward 9's Terwillegar Park and Fort Edmonton Park (both with great footbridges).


But unlike our other parks, Edmonton Beach will allow people to interact with the water. And I believe that is the real lesson.


I believe we need to apply what we have learned. People want to get down to the river, to watch it, walk along it, maybe wade in it, maybe even fish in it. And I think it is time to expand those opportunities.


I would like us to build on the Edmonton Beach experience. Let’s allow limited commercial development between Government House Park and Louise McKinney Park. I am not advocating big malls or side roads. Let’s just enhance what we already have, and allow a coffee shop here and a wine bar there. Maybe an ice cream shop or a bike rental shop. We need only look at the sea wall in Vancouver or The Forks in Winnipeg to see what people-places our river valley could become.

And while we are at it, let’s clear some of the brush away from the banks along the multi-use trails on the north side, and from Saskatchewan Drive on the south side. Imagine what it could be like if you could stand along Saskatchewan Drive on July 1, and watch the fireworks from the high river bank while watching the LED show on our two signature bridges.


Edmonton owes its history, its very existence, to the river. We have done an admirable job of preserving the natural environment of the river. It is now nearly possible to traverse the entire Capital Region, from Fort Saskatchewan to Devon, on multi-use trails. But enjoyment of a riverbank stroll should not be limited to bicyclists and joggers. And making a small urban stretch of our river valley accessible and enjoyable will not compromise the long stretches of untouched riverbank.


Edmonton Beach has shown us what the river could be to Edmonton. It’s time to make use of our largest untapped asset.

 

 

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Why I'm Running

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In meeting with many of you in the community, one of things I’m often asked is why I’ve decided to run for City Council.

 

Running has been an aspiration in the making over my lifetime.

 

My wife and I have been life long residents of Edmonton. We have raised three children in Ward 9. During that time, we have met many wonderful community leaders and have appreciated the progressive, pragmatic, balanced and forward-looking representation we have received from Bryan Anderson in Ward 9 at the City Council table and from former Premier and MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, Dave Hancock. I want to see that same approach to elected office continue.

 

I’m running because, as a young man, my parents taught me that one of our great responsibilities as engaged citizens is to find meaningful ways to contribute to our community.  To leave the world we inhabit better than we found it.  To give back.

 

I’m running to help Council stay accountable to you, their electorate. To ensure that we are a city which encourages innovation and entrepreneurialism so that our diverse business community can thrive.

 

I’m running so that we have responsible and forward-looking investment in infrastructure and development that will support the continued growth of the city.

 

I’m running to be the voice for Ward 9. To ensure that our challenges, some of which are at a critical crossroads (like transportation), are not only raised to the top of the priority list but resolved by listening to the voices of our residents.

 

I’m running because Edmonton is amongst the best places in the world to live. To work. To raise a family. And we all play a role in helping to keep this positive momentum going.

 

Truly, I’m running for my family, and yours. So that our children and grandchildren can grow in a community that they’re proud to call home.

 

I look forward to meeting you over the coming months and continuing the conversation about what’s important in our community.

 

 

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