A Bit About Me
It has been my distinct privilege to be the City Councillor for Ward 9 since I was elected in 2017. But, strange as it may sound, I still do not consider myself a politician.
My wife Cathy and I are lifelong residents of Edmonton. We received our diplomas and degrees here. We built our careers and our lives here. Early on, I had a job offer in Vancouver. But this is home, so we stayed.
In those early years, the financial challenges were arguably greater than they are now (Covid notwithstanding). Our first mortgage had a rate of about 17%, although provincial subsidies that took the effective rate down to 12% or so.
When we decided to start our family, we moved to Ward 9 - primarily to be closer to my inlaws. Back then, maternity leave was 18 weeks, and childcare was as prohibitively expensive as it is today. We left our jobs and started our company, and my parents and inlaws provided the childcare we depended on so much in those early years. We were extremely fortunate.
I completely understand the importance of early year child care and education. I lived it. I get it.
As an engineer, I served as a volunteer for APEGA to give back to my profession. That volunteer service included 12 years on the Investigative and Discipline committees. It was my involvement with APEGA that I learned of the importance of well-planned infrastructure, and how infrastructure could significantly improve our communities and the lives of our citizens.
My volunteer work evolved with the arrival of our kids - building new playgrounds and coaching youth sports teams. Serving on community citizen committees that considered, supported, advocated and lobbied for improvements to Terwillegar Drive and Whitemud Drive, southwest transit improvements, the Terwillegar Rec Centre, the Go Centre (Saville Centre now), the theatre at Lillian Osborne High School. I was elected to serve as the President of the Riverbend Community League and the Terwillegar Riverbend Advisory Council.
I don’t come to this Councillor role as a career politician. I come to it as a member of the community, giving back to the community.
At no time before 2017 did I contemplate running for elected office. But when the Council seat became available, my community league colleagues, my friends from my profession, those I coached with, and most importantly, my predecessor Bryan Anderson all strongly encouraged me to run.
Building Better Communities
The overall theme of my 2017 campaign was that we needed to build better communities. As the fastest-growing part of Edmonton, we needed to see the infrastructure investments that matched that growth. People wanted their time back; and they didn’t want the daily frustrations of being stuck in traffic every time they went to class or work, every time they wanted to work out or take their child to an activity, every time they had to get their kids to school or collect their child from child care.
I heard the frustration and listened to people's desire for community connectivity; one where families of all descriptions could thrive and participate fully in Ward 9 / pihêsiwin and beyond. The new award-winning City Plan - a plan I fully supported, that was discussed and developed with Administration while I was Chair of the Urban Planning Committee - expresses this more elegantly. It describes the 15-minute Community, where your entertainment, employment, recreation, education and shopping are all within a 15-minute walk from your front door.
We have seen progress in Ward pihêsiwin.
The investments in our road network have been considerable - Terwillegar Drive with its dedicated transit lanes and multi-use trail will be a model multi-modal mobility corridor when it is complete. Anthony Henday widening, Rabbit Hill Road twinning, countless road projects in the new neighbourhoods to the south, all contribute to a greater road network.
But as I learned early in my career, infrastructure is more than concrete; infrastructure improves the quality of life in neighbourhoods and adds vital connectivity people are looking for. And as the City Plan describes, infrastructure is more than roads, particularly when it supports the 15-minute community that Edmontonians want.
There are many examples of investments that create a better community. We saw the City invest in a community centre as part of the Dr. Anne Anderson High School - a partnership between the City and the Edmonton Public School Board that begins to show us what the concept of community hubs look like. This is a key example of creating relationships that will leverage partnerships to get more out of our infrastructure investments; my colleague Nathan Ip and I worked together to deliver this innovative approach.
We have seen a renewed master plan for the Bryan Anderson Athletic Grounds, one that now includes an artificial turf field and a new Riverbend Branch of the Edmonton Public Library.
But the work is not complete. And I want to continue the work.
Let’s Continue the Work
If we want to create those 15-minute communities, we need more than road investments. We need the amenities that allow us to get what we need in our neighbourhood without getting in the car.
We need small-scale recreation in our neighbourhoods - I have heard that loud and clear from residents. There are many ideas to think about: whether it's a twin arena with a fitness centre or a swimming pool with a library, we need to break up the mega- rec centres into parts and sprinkle those parts around. That’s what communities want, and that’s what the 15-minute community is all about.
One way or another, we need more library outlets south of the Henday.
We need more splash pads and skateboard parks. And we can’t wait for new community leagues to develop and take this on while just in their start-up phase. The need is immediate.
We need to talk about our green spaces, park spaces and play spaces. We need to rethink the City’s naturalization policies - which seems to be a fancy way of saying we aren’t going to cut the grass anymore. I do not believe this is the best plan and there needs to be a discussion.
We are going to have to find a way to clear the snow much more effectively. Not just for safer driving, but to allow more reliable transit and trash collection, City services that rely on our road network.
We need to find a way to calm the traffic in our neighbourhoods. We still need a plethora of crosswalks. And there is an epidemic of speeding noisy cars in almost every neighbourhood. A sign on QE2 telling motorists that the residential speed limit is now 40 kph will not slow motorists on Thibault Way or Whitemud Road. And endless workbooks, discussion groups and meetings to tell us all what we already know aren’t getting it done either.
While we are doing all those things, we need to recognize our responsibility to be ecologically aware and responsible. Not just because our climate is threatened. But because the new energy economy will be a major component of our future local economy. There is a net benefit to be had here.
There is no shortage of work to do. But there will be a significant shortage of resources to do them. This is where my ability to problem solve, advocate, and work collaboratively comes into play.
The after-effects of Covid 19 will leave our finances challenged. Support from other levels of government will diminish, challenging City finances further. Many of our citizens will have a difficult time meeting their financial obligations or getting their businesses back on track. The last thing the City can do is raise property taxes in this environment.
On the flip side, we need to support the expansion of our local economy in every way possible. We need to ensure that we are a city that encourages innovation and entrepreneurialism so our diverse business community can thrive. We need responsible and forward-looking investment in infrastructure and development that will support the continued growth of the city. We need to make it really easy to bring capital to Edmonton, to start a business here, to create employment here. Because an expanding economy will have an expanding capacity to support local government.
Lesser resources. Greater demands. That means setting priorities and making difficult choices. That means exploring creative solutions and partnerships. And it means accepting that there are some things we can’t do right now.
There is a lot to think about and talk about! Each of these concepts deserves their own blog, so please check back for those.
I offer the experience to hit the ground running and start working on these matters immediately. I have thirty years of lived experience making exactly these kinds of decisions in the private sector. I have the benefit of four years of making these decisions at City Council, and I believe our Ward and our City have seen the benefits of my skills and experience.
I also have that “life wisdom” that comes from making those very difficult choices all families are faced with. I share your frustrations and your concerns. I live in the community and share your experiences every day.
There is more work to do, and I have the combination of skills, experience and connectivity to the community that will allow me to continue to very effectively support and represent Ward pihêsiwin and the City of Edmonton.
I am asking for your support. Please vote for Tim Cartmell on October 18.
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