Ward O-day'min is like no other. It is the economic engine of the city, a destination for most Edmontonians and visitors. It also has unique challenges that can make living in the heart of Edmonton feel like a constant battle. For many Edmontonians, it is a place to travel to for work and they head home to the suburbs. But for us, it is our ’burb. Our sense of community is as strong as others’. But as in any downtown across the globe, social problems can dominate our lived experience. The City’s solutions to our challenges to date have often missed the mark. We must aim to make O-day’min a place where there is a home for everyone, a safe community for all, a great place to do business and work, and an exciting place to enjoy life – whether you live here, work here or have a business here - are visiting or just passing through. We must ensure that access to amenities is on par with what other communities have. We welcome people who come to our ward for work, for the world class attractions and for shopping and dining. But we also want to make our ward as green and livable as any other in Edmonton.
Changes we want to see:
- We need a comprehensive social safety program that is collaborative across Community Leagues, Fire, Policing, Social Agencies and City Operations where we share & align resources, information and communications to get the right people to the right place at the right time to create the reality and perception of safety.
- We need to clean up & prioritize our downtown/chinatown by reducing the amount of derelict housing, creating new city cleaning programs like regular power washing, increasing the amount of trash collection projects, and ensuring there's enough 24-7 social supports to help people get off the streets
- We need to focus on Prevention and Intervention and work on an entire Social Safety Support System that helps transition from Shelter to Housing and includes decriminalization of poverty and mental health.
- We need to bring a balance among the dimensions of home, work and play in the Ward through looking at Cross-Community Zones – ie. From 124th through Downtown to Chinatown/Quarters - as an entire destination zone for employment, business & homes.
- We need to empower neighbourhoods to have a meaningful say in what happens in their communities. One size does not fit all. Unique qualities need to be respected.
A Safe Community - for all people, businesses & visitors.
Action 1 - Comprehensive Delivery Model Review
We need a Comprehensive Review of the Delivery Models for Community Safety (Police, Fire, Operations, Peace Officers, Social Services, etc.) where the responders are not just the police, but social workers, mental health, and health workers. We need community-based policing and social resources that deliver the right people to the right place at the right time with the right solutions. We must invest in community safety, so residents don’t need to hire private security to feel safe in their neighbourhoods, and we must implement better safety practices on public transit, pedways, libraries & other high-use infrastructure.
We need a Centralized Safety Model to support collaborative sharing of information, trend-tracking and transparency. Police, Fire, City Operations, Peace Officers, Social Agencies and Communities need to work together to be part of the solution. We need real time access to achieve real time solutions without waiting forever on 211 calls or sending unwanted and unnecessary resources through 911 calls.
Action 2 - Clean Up & Prioritize our Downtown & Chinatown
We need to empower bylaw enforcement and set immediate targeted outcomes for crime reduction that ensure safety in our Downtown, Chinatown and surrounding neighbourhoods that are seeing shootouts, home invasions, assaults & threats at the doorsteps of residences and steadily rising property crime. We then need to report quarterly on how we are actively reducing those crime rates to make living in O-day'min safe again.
We need sparkling clean streets and alleys in our Destination Zone from 124th Street through to Chinatown. Part of having a safe community is having increased numbers of people present. Right now, our Destination Zone is not thriving. We need to increase traffic to increase safety. This means making it attractive to return, which means making it clean. Regular power washing of alleys and streets. Very frequent removal of trash. No more needles. No more camps. No more public urination. We must collaborate with agencies that offer 24-7 services to ensure we get people who need help off the streets and into appropriate facilities.
Individuals who are a danger to themselves and others by virtue of intoxication with drugs or alcohol cannot continue to actively endanger the public. We need to enforce bylaws & laws for criminal activities, while providing a much better solution for social issues than massive shelter spaces that don’t work & housing people without supports. We need to put our funding into 24 hour supports that work, like those identified below.
We need to focus our investment where it matters the most.
Action 3 - Tax Vacant Derelict Properties, Hold Owners Responsible
We need to make it clear to those that it is not okay to abdicate your responsibilities as a land owners to those around you by not maintaining your property. Derelict properties are unsafe for those living next to them, unsafe for those those who might seek shelter within the property and generally become hotspots for unsafe drug use. Derelict houses become eyesores within the community, unkept fauna & uncontrolled pests add additional work and lowers the property values of the far more responsible owners nearby.
We need to implement recommendations already made to the current council, but largely ignored, such as increasing taxes on clearly derelict housing to force owners to either maintain their property or sell it to someone who is willing to develop it.
By reducing the amount of derelict properties, we can create a cleaner, safer and more efficient Edmonton.
Action 4 - Support National Policing Standards
I will advocate for a national policing college & standards and ongoing police training requirements in cultural competencies and mental health. I will bring forward a motion to Council to support the creation and implementation of a National Police College informed by citizen experience. I will advocate for advocate for the Province to make the Police oversight body independent with better governance aligned to local community needs, transparency and accountability. Protective services is more than enforcement - more focus is needed on prevention, education, facilitation and integrated collaboration with other support agencies e.g. mental health, addictions housing, health, etc.
Poverty and Mental Health Priority - they are human conditions not crimes.
Action 1 - 24 hour Supports
I believe small, 24-7, supportive, wrap-around, culturally driven centres are a priority. We need to locate smaller centres of social support across communities outside of O-day'min. I will work towards creating social agency standards that encourage housing, and not warehousing people. We need to focus on Prevention and Intervention and work on an entire Social Safety Support System that helps transition from Shelter to Housing and includes decriminalization of poverty and mental health. Ambrose Place is a shining example of what our City needs to support. Indigenous development, Indigenous run, culturally grounded all-inclusive services that actually work to house our hardest to house.
Action 2 - Engage Women & Youth
We need a more focused approach for various groups among the vulnerable. Focusing on women means focusing on families and children. Women of all ages are particularly vulnerable in poverty so our programs must focus on prevention & intervention for our youth, promote more pre-natal and early development programming, and support creation of more supportive housing for women - ensure no pregnant women are houseless. We should explore partnerships with organizations focused on women and youth, such as Junior Achievement and Women Building Futures to create new focused programs and easier access to existing programs towards life skills, resilience, entrepreneurship and employment.
Action 3 - Bylaw Review
I am committed to push for a review of bylaws and regulations and service standards to ensure vulnerable people are not further subjected to penalties for their circumstances. We must stop deliberately or inadvertently criminalizing poverty and mental health through structural and systemic biases. The city’s own rules, regulations and service delivery has been found to further marginalize the vulnerable. This is not helpful, and these biases must be addressed to serve all members of our community. We need to pro-actively engage marginalized communities, using their feedback & reporting on changes as policies are being reviewed or created.
Action 4 - Disabilities Advisory Board
We should create a paid advisory board for those with mental and physical disabilities to help inform bylaws, policies and processes from the ground up. We need better hiring practices and future employment opportunities, better transit options, much better business accessibility and more inclusive long-term & affordable housing options for those with disabilities. Currently our disability advisory board is comprised mainly of those without disabilities. This approach is not appropriate. Researchers and academics can be engaged separately. This advisory council needs to be representative and be comprised solely of those with disabilities.
Action 5 - Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Commitment to an MOU then a formal agreement among the various agencies supporting the homeless. Accountability to exceptional service standards from social agencies providing shelter and mental health services. areas the MOU could cover: shared client database, lack of privacy, lack of spaces for couples and families, clients not feeling safe in shelters, clients feeling pressured to accept religious views, preserving the dignity and safety of every person.
Downtown as a neighborhood & destination
Action 1 - Promote Downtown as Destination and a Community
I am committed to promoting Downtown as not just a destination, but as a choice place to live, and a great place to do business. We need to look at cross-community areas – ie. not just downtown as a destination, but from 124th Street through Chinatown -- as an entire destination zone. We need our urban planning, development and community amenities to be reflective of the needs of all demographics of people and recognize that tens of thousands of people live Downtown and in this central ward in addition to the ward being a major destination for work and play as well as for secondary education. We need our Ward to be more livable to serve existing residents and to attract a diversity of residents as well as businesses. It means being respectful of the fact that people live downtown and in O-day'min when planning and carrying out major developments and projects. Our neighbourhoods are boxed in by some of the busiest roads in the city while the Ward is mostly viewed as a destination for people living elsewhere to work and play. We need to attract a diversity of demographics, including families to downtown and closer to the city core. We also need a world class River Valley with well-maintained trails and amenities to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle. Activating the Rossdale Power Plant redevelopment needs to happen now, not in 10 yeas.
Action 2 - Seniors Advisory Committee
We need a Seniors Advisory Committee to ensure city plans, programs and service delivery consider the unique needs of this growing segment of our community. Our seniors are struggling to feel at home in our Ward as development often overlooks their needs.
The latest bus route rework removed almost every stop that was located near seniors' residences, making transit inaccessible to those that need it most. Seniors should not have to push walkers through blocks of snow to access a bus route that may or may not actually take them to basic health, grocery and medical services. We must ensure that senior residences have co-located transit access and clear sidewalks. Relying on on-call transit is not an option that works.
Action 3 - Faster Construction Projects
Downtown should be more attractive as a place for families. Our infrastructure and amenities musts be accessible for people of all ages and abilities, particularly seniors, people with disabilities and young families with strollers and little ones. Currently, major construction projects have cut off walking and transit routes for seniors and our most vulnerable who cannot navigate bumpy, cracked, unmanageable alternative routes.
Major road and utility works and transportation projects along the Yellowhead, Jasper Ave, 102 Ave and 104 Ave are necessary but negatively affect enjoyment of our neighbourhoods and business options. We need better project oversight & management standards that get construction completed much, much faster in the heart of our City where we are trying to create vibrancy. Right now, the number of construction projects downtown is creating a serious impediment to any kind of foot, two-wheeled or vehicle traffic. Re-imagine Jasper has been ongoing for well over a decade. We dig up one side of a street, dig up the other side and then do it all over again because planning did not include utility foresight.
For the next four years, O-day'min construction projects must be a priority for full completion. Pay a premium if necessary and get it done. Pause outlying projects and concentrate on what makes sense now. Stop doing 50 at once and do 10 well and quickly.
Action 4 - Better Infill Consultation
Protect the history of our Ward and our green spaces. New developments need to incorporate historical aspects of the ward. Infill projects must be done with consultation, engagement and respect - and must also be encouraged in order to achieve our climate goals and densification goals to reduce overall costs.
Action 5 - Rapid Transit that makes sense
Downtown needs hop on - hop off transit to make it more accessible. We need dedicated rapid bus lines around 124th Street, 107th Avenue, through Chinatown and down Jasper - and then around Whyte Ave and back.
We need safe, effective and rapid transit where our kids don’t need to worry about being attacked as a result of race, religion, gender or otherwise. Those who need transit the most live in O-day'min or surrounding communities and we need to ensure that transit is accessible.
Actively engaged community associations
Action 1 - Stronger Community League Voice
Explore a different governance model where community leagues have a bigger role in supporting our communities with perhaps reallocated funding and supports from other operational city programs. We can involve communities more meaningfully in decision making and explore potential partnerships for their involvement in programs and services. It means a larger voice for Community Leagues & neighbours. Bringing some decision making down to the league level and involving them in the decisions e.g. around and facilitating referral and/or coordination of local services like recreation and social programs. We should formally recognize leagues as key stakeholders in consultations around community impacting initiatives starting at the concept development stage and through the life of the project, ensuring pro-active & continual community league engagement with residents. We should encourage and support leagues to run neighbourhood empowering programs e.g., I Love My Neighbourhood Program” where communities are encouraged to develop a sense of place, belonging and safety.
Action 2 - Cultural & Faith-Based Multi-Family Housing Options
We need to support and incentivize creating affordable housing options for multi-family Indigenous, Muslim, Asian, Black and others through partnership with community organizations like Africa Centre, the Mennonite Centre for NewComers, our many Mosques and other representative organizations of culture and faith. As housing costs rise, families are increasingly staying together and many non-western cultures proudly support multi-family living arrangements. As a diverse city, we should be encouraging affordable options.
Red Deer Community Safety Strategy The Community Safety Ad Hoc Committee’s “Toward a Vision for a Safe Red Deer” 2016
I love my Neighbourhood Program “Compilation of Neighbourhood Good Practices – Neighbourhood Recovery Practices: I Love my Neighbourhood”, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development of Chile
Medicine Hat Homeless Strategy: The Medicine Hat model has meet the new national standard for functional zero set by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities -- here are no more than three people experiencing chronic homelessness in a community for three straight months.
Edmonton Global June 2, 2021: “Jaime Rogers with the Medicine Hat Community Housing Society said what has helped is an integrated system in the city where anyone who accesses one service immediately gets added to a central list so they can quickly get supports and be housed”.