Death By A Thousand Cuts

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Back in the 1990’s, the residents of what is now Ward 9 used Keillor Road as the most direct route between home and downtown.  Because the north end of Ward 9 is an island, bounded by the river and the Whitemud Creek Ravine, Keillor Road was the most direct vehicle route.  But the road was woefully inadequate, was falling into the river, all that peak hour traffic was profoundly unfair to the residents of Belgravia.  Keillor Road was closed, and residents of the southwest were directed to make their way downtown by way of Stony Plain Road, 102 Avenue-Jasper Avenue, 111 street / 109 street or Gateway Boulevard.  The “end of the world” is actually the remnants of a retaining wall meant to hold Keillor road on the river bank. 

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Terwillegar Drive Development

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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.

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Unanimous Approval for BRT/LRT Motion

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I am thrilled that my motion related to a comparative study between Bus Rapid Transit and LRT passed unanimously at City Council yesterday.

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The Future of Mass Transit in our City

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On Tuesday January 23, a motion that I developed related to the future of mass transit in our city will be debated and voted on at City Council.

The notice of motion concerns Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, and the need for comparative capital cost estimates related to the build out of our transit network respective to both BRT and LRT.

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Honoured to Serve Ward 9

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For those of you who haven’t had a chance to meet me, I’m Tim Cartmell, your Ward 9 Councillor.  I am humbled to have been chosen as the Ward 9 representative for City Council.

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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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