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What’s in a Name?

Redevelopment of Edmonton’s City Centre Airport lands is moving ahead. First was news about the last regularly scheduled flight, which will take place June 30. Now, a survey has been released, asking for input on six potential names for the new community. The names are quickly generating a lot of discussion, and rightfully so. They elicit reactions ranging from ‘meh’ to ‘huh?’, and by and large don’t have any link to the actual site.

Airport Lands
Today: the Edmonton City Centre Airport. Tomorrow: Sol’Town?

Let’s look at the proposed names:

Avia Park – my first guess was that the term ‘Avia’ had some link to aviation and the history of this site. I was sort of right. Avia is a Czech company that manufactured military aircrafts. I don’t see an Edmonton link, though. Most of the information about Avia and aviation I could find had to do with how their aircrafts were favoured by the German Luftwaffe in World War II. I hope I’m missing something, because that’s not the link I imagined.

Wingfield; The Landing – these sound like names created to retain the link to the aviation history. Perfectly inoffensive and uninspiring.

Crossroads – this must be a reference to the central location of the site, though perhaps they’re trying to establish it as the new nexus point of Edmonton’s historically divided north and south sides. Hijinks will surely ensue when the cast of Northsiders visits.

Central Park – parroting a name of a famous site to make your own sound appealing. Wonderful. I like this strategy so much that we should adopt it city-wide and rename everywhere in Edmonton after a famous location elsewhere. Let’s name the big hill planned for the north end of the site ‘Mont Royal’, and the adjacent area ‘Le Plateau’. Kingsway Ave can be renamed the Champs-Élysées, and Kingsway Mall can become the Mall of Americas – because having two West Edmonton Malls in one city would be too confusing. The possibilities are truly endless.

Sol’Town – now I’m just confused.

I do, however, enjoy the landing page for the survey. Fancy. Makes me want to hit up Sol’Town for some $23 martinis.

Seriously, though, the survey and process does provide insight into how many Edmontonians think about our city. It’s a reflection some image of a city we’d like to see Edmonton as, not the city we are. Two notable airport to residential community conversions – Stapleton in Denver and Mueller in Austin – preserved their names, and I doubt anyone feels that cheapened them. In fact, the link to the history is more likely to enhance the community. Its current state is an evolution, another step in the site’s history.

Many citizens – and as the Journal story points out, the Naming Committee and architects as well, preferred the name Blatchford. As Mayor in the 1920s, Kenneth Blatchford purchased the farm that would become Edmonton’s first airport (on the City Centre Airport land). His son was a flying ace, and became a distinguished pilot in World War II – in which the City Centre Airport played a crucial role.

This is just one example. There would surely be other appropriate names that respect and celebrate the site’s history and who we are as a city. The Blatchford name, in this instance, would recognize two citizens who made a great contribution, and reestablish a link to a proud part of Edmonton’s history. Why can’t that be enough?

Update! – the genesis of the names are pretty much what you’d expect.

Sande said they picked Avia Park as a riff off aviation and because it sounds avant-garde. Sol’Town is a reference to solar and to being near the soul of the city. Central Park was picked because there will be a large, central park space and because New York’s Central Park gives it instant name recognition.

Crossroads refers to the meeting place between Kingsway and Princess Elizabeth Avenue, and because it sounds catchy, as in, “‘We’ve met at the Crossroads.’ It’s got excellent marketing potential.”

Wingfield and The Landing are again references to the site as a former airport.

We have different definitions of avant garde, but at least he’s honest in admitting Central Park is cribbed. Also, count me as one young person who the name Blatchford resonates with.

On the plus side, as I said on Twitter, I’m looking forward to saying “see you at the crossroads…” in sing-song fashion:

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Downtown Development Can and Should Happen, With or Without a CRL

On Wednesday, Edmonton City Council will review the latest report on a Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) to support building a downtown arena. The scope of this has grown, though, as no longer is a CRL just suggested to support the arena, rather a CRL encompassing the entire downtown is suggested – which would fund the arena, associated infrastructure, and a host of catalyst projects throughout downtown.

As reports tend to do, this one paints a rosy picture of the future should a CRL be implemented. New hotels will pop up. Land values will soar. Downtown will flourish. I think the Capital City Downtown Plan has many good ideas contained within, and I’m a supporter of a strong, vibrant city centre (I live in Oliver – close to downtown’s west boundary, and support many business and amenities here, and throughout downtown and the Old Strathcona/Garneau area). That said, I have a mixed reaction to the CRL Report.

First of all, it continues to infer that a CRL is new tax money. Copper and Blue does a good job of debunking that. Still not convinced, here’s another thorough explanation of a CRL. On a related note, the idea that a CRL is needed to spur investment in downtown bothers me. There’s nothing stopping City Council – nor has there ever been – from directing investment towards downtown. The report notes that capital infrastructure investment in downtown has fallen 39% since 2002. Few would argue that there haven’t been worthwhile projects Council could have been funding downtown in that time. Were Council’s hands tied in doing anything about this? Investment in downtown is a good thing; it should be happening with or without a CRL, and it should have been happening all along.

There are positives, as noted, in the report. Based on my last post about downtown investment, readers can correctly assume that I’m happy to see promised investment in new housing units, a park for the warehouse district, and dedicated bikeways. I’m a strong proponent of investing in things that improve the quality of life for residents on a day-to-day basis. This will produce more return than occasionally-used facilities. These three things, and the park/gathering place in the McKay area, all enhance the quality of life for residents, and make it more attractive to live and spend time downtown.

City Centre Market
A busy Saturday at the market on 104th Street.

On a concerning note, while the $45 million CRL number has been touted as the cost for the arena, there’s an additional (estimated) $52 million cost for the “arena area”, ranging from pedways to land purchase. This number should be included when we’re discussing Edmonton’s investment in a potential new arena.

Beyond this, I just have questions. Some of the things that stood out:

– Funding for the bikeway initiative is only preliminary, and offers no guarantee of future funding to complete the project.
– There’s an assumed 1000 stall parkade in the arena area. Weren’t downtown arena proponents at one point saying there wouldn’t be a need for a big parkade because of the number of stalls within a 10 minute walk of the proposed site? 1000 stall parkades (unless all underground) tend not to contribute positively to a pedestrian-friendly, street-oriented development.
– The assumptions of office, hotel, and even residential growth seem rosy, and there’s no mention of where this assumed market demand for office and hotel space is coming from.
– Attachment 4 (the last page of the PDF) outlines a potential timeline. Mentioned, in an almost off-hand way, is how development of the CRL regulation has taken 2 or more years in other cases. This, and final approval, need to come from the province, which is not guaranteed (they did approve a CRL for the Quarters, though). Looking at the timeline, this can easily turn into a multi-year process before it’s in place.

That last point concerns me the most. Downtown investment and continued redevelopment should happen with or without a CRL. Just like waiting for resolution on the arena issue puts the north edge (the proposed site) in a holding pattern, so too could pursuit of the CRL for downtown as a whole. Downtown has improved by leaps and bounds in the past 10-15 years. With or without an arena or CRL, I’m convinced new businesses will open, new amenities and activities will draw residents downtown. I worry that on a macro level, though, waiting for approval that may or may not come in a timely manner (if at all), could work against downtown redevelopment, stalling increased investment in the area.

$100 Million for Downtown Edmonton

Much has been made in recent days about Premier Stelmach’s statement that provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funds could potentially be used to cover the $100 million missing in the arena funding puzzle. Many prominent Edmontonians, notably Edmonton Journal Urban Affairs columnist David Staples, have been vocal champions of the downtown arena project. Last Friday, David promoted the #GoDowntown hashtag on Twitter, encouraging people to use it and tweet their support for the project.

In response, I posted the following two things:

Fortunately, as you can see, David agrees with my statement in the second post.

I work downtown, and live downtown-ish (three blocks west of its technical boundary). I live here by choice. I enjoy the proximity to amenities (like the river valley trails for running and biking), the ability to walk to restaurants, pubs, and shopping, and the diverse, interesting neighbourhood that surrounds me. I’d like to see our downtown area continue to flourish, but I recognize there’s lots of good things going on, and it has made tremendous strides over the last decade or two. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and downtown Edmonton is heading in the right direction.

Getting back to my statement about the best use of $100 million, my issue with this funding going to the arena is not that project in and of itself. Rather, it is my belief that $100 million could do so much more for our downtown spent in other ways. I spent a few hours last night brainstorming how that could happen. As a caveat, some of the costs are estimates, but this gives you an idea of what $100 million could go towards.

Housing
– 1500 New Housing Unit Grants at $10,000/unit ($15 million)
– 400 New Family Housing Unit Grants at $25,000/unit ($10 million)
– 150 New Live-Work Spaces Grants at $25,000/unit ($3.75 million)

In the Capital City Downtown Plan, one of the strategies set out is a $10,000 per unit housing incentive grant in the Warehouse District. This could be expanded to the whole downtown, and help kickstart proposed projects. The Aurora project has long been on hold, and recent Edmonton Journal articles mention a proposed development in Chinatown, and interest in 40 and 50 story towers on 104th St.

Additionally, this grant could be used to encourage development of different types of units. Family units (2 or more bedrooms) are scarce, and a higher level of subsidy could encourage more family-oriented housing to be developed. Similar, live-work space is identified in the downtown plan for artists, but it could just as easily be used by any number of professions. Both would compliment and diversify the housing options available downtown. Most importantly, I estimate more than 3500 residents move in to those units (based on 1.5 per regular unit, 3 per family unit). That’s 3500 people living downtown, shopping and using amenities every day.

Preservation and Conversion
– BMO’63 Building and Odeon Theatre ($12 million)
– CKUA Building ($5 million)

While it was lamentable that City Council chose not to pursue any action in trying to save BMO’63, it’s not too late. While “demolition” may begin shortly, it’s unlikely to affect the structure for a while, as the asbestos must be removed first. So suffice to say, MSI funding could be used to compensate the owner, or purchase the building outright if action was taken quickly.

What could be done with these properties? Well, Magic Lantern Theatres, which until recently operated the Garneau, contacted GE Capital about taking over the Odeon Theatre. And with BMO’63, you could probably fit around 200 FTEs into renovated office space (similar to the Empire Building), and a restaurant/lounge on the main floor. In conversation, Martin suggested a ‘Corso64‘, which I think is a brilliant idea.

What about other ways to increase employment downtown and activity on Jasper Ave? Well, the CKUA Building is for sale, with its current tenants set to move shortly. Having been in that building, I recognize that it may be problematic to renovate for some purposes, but it does have a decent stock of office space already. There is also the space to renovate the main floor and put a restaurant/shop of some sort in. The property lists for $3.2 million, so an additional investment from the City and other investors could turn it into some form of office space for small companies or startups, or studio space for artists, to name two possible outcomes. You could probably fit another 200 or so employees in there.

Capacity Building
– Start-Up/Tech Space ($500K)
– Non-Profit Centre ($5 million)

The Edmonton Champions project calls for:

establishing physical creative and entrepreneurial hubs where the collision between great ideas and people can happen. Places where startups grow, events happen, and community gathers.

A grant to secure and convert space in the downtown core would help accomplish this. The DIY attitude of entrepreneurs would likely lead to them raising additional funds or completing additional work themselves. This space is key to growing our tech economy.

In terms of additional capacity-building, space for non-profits can be hard to come by. Providing affordable office space where they can be housed, and can learn from one another is a strategy that can strengthen Edmonton’s non-profit centre. There is an existing model too, with the Percy Page Centre, which houses many of Alberta’s sporting organizations.

Public Spaces
– Signature Art Piece for 105th St Park ($5 million)
– Renovation of Churchill Square ($10 million)
– Indoor Market and Community Centre ($7.5 million)

The downtown plan calls for a new park in the Warehouse District, and I’m told it will be going in by early next year at 105th St and 102 Ave. Commissioning signature art and attractions is a way to generate interest and activity. There’s a lot of synergy with the growing residential population, and attractions like the City Centre Market and MacEwan nearby. In terms of art and attractions, I’m thinking something unique like Avnish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate at Millennium Park in Chicago.

The renovations to Churchill Square could take many forms, but would be designed to increase activity and make it a year-round space. And if nothing else, the concrete would go.

Riding By

The City Centre Market, which operates on 104th St from May-October, has been looking for winter space. With the Ford dealership vacating its old space on 106th St and 103 Ave, there is a possibility to convert its old showroom into a market and community centre. I’m imaging a development like Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. The Saturday Market could remain the focus, but it could also feature a series of permanent vendors open every day, with the market space being used for different purposes outside of Saturdays in the winter.

Streetfront Initiatives
– 25 Storefront Conversion Grants at $50,000 each ($1.25 million)

An identified challenge is that many street level spaces are not pedestrian-friendly, or not being used at all. These grants would encourage development of streetfront retail space, converting shops in places like City Centre Mall outwards, and filling in empty ground-level space in many highrises along Jasper Avenue. This is another priority outlined in the downtown plan.

Green Energy
– 50 Green Energy Grants at $50,000 each ($2.5 million)

These grants would be used to encourage residential and commercial buildings to invest in green energy – solar panels, geo-thermal (if possible), green roofs, etc.

Infrastructure and Transportation
– 3 Pedestrian Bridges over 104 Ave ($15 million)
– SmartCard system for parking and services ($5 million)
– Bike Lanes, including North-South and East-West main arterials ($1.5 million)
– Bixi Program for City Centre ($1 million)

I do agree with David Staples that connectivity over 104 Ave is a problem. I don’t think we need a winter garden to be the focal point, and to draw activity away from the street, but strategically placed bridges could help connect the North Edge to downtown, increase pedestrian safety, and add a nice architectural touch to 104 Ave. Think one around 102 Ave, 105 Ave, and 107 Ave (near the future LRT stop in front of MacEwan). In terms of design, the three could all be linked, or similar, like a pedestrian version of the Three Sisters bridges in Pittsburgh.

An additional amenity for residents and visitors alike would be a Smartcard system. This could replace parking meters and also be used at other city facilities. Philadelphia has largely done away with metered parking. The Smartcard system is similar to Impark, you have one terminal on each block, and you pay with your card and print a ticket.

I find Edmonton has pretty good bike paths, but outside of the Railtown path, is missing dedicated lanes. A need for dedicated North-South and East-West axis was outlined in the downtown plan, and this would improve commuter cycling within the downtown core.

Additionally, for those who live in the downtown core, or spend time there, a Bixi system would be beneficial. It would encourage short-term trips, providing an alternative to car transportation for meetings and errands.

Next post: I attempt to quantify the impact of $100 million for an arena vs the $100 million investment I laid out above.

15 Steps to a Better Edmonton

In March 2009, I gave a talk at an event called IdeaFest (well covered by Daveberta and Chris LaBossiere). At Andy’s suggestion, I did a session called “15 Steps to a Better Edmonton”. The title is fairly expository.

It was well received enough that a few people asked me to send them a copy of my presentation. After looking at the PowerPoint again, I realized it didn’t really provide much information; aside from a few bullet points, most of what made it into the presentation was my speaking extemporaneously. A few months later, I began turning it into a blog post. I’d write some, then get sidetracked by more timely things. Then I stopped blogging regularly, and it sat in limbo. Chris would constantly remind me about this, and after seeing him last weekend for the first time in months, I felt compelled to finally finish it.

With the recent civic election having passed, and the new City Council settling in for the start of its three-year term, it’s as timely as ever. This post is light on specific policies, focusing more on high-level goals and strategies. But these are all steps we – both individually as citizens, and collectively as a city – can take to make Edmonton an even greter place to live.

It should be noted that my thinking has, of course, changed some over the past 18 months. The details of this post reflect this to a degree, though for consistency the 15 steps have stayed the same.

So without further ado, here are one Edmontonian’s thoughts on how to make our city even better. It’s broken up into three parts – ‘Getting Started’, ‘Mastering the Basics’, and ‘Making the Leap’.

Downtown Edmonton Skyline

Getting Started
Before we get into direct actions, there are some broader contextual and high-level issues that must be discussed and understood. Together, they provide the framework for identifying and achieving ways to make Edmonton even better.

1. Understand Our Challenges
Let me start by saying that I love Edmonton. I’ve spent most of my life here, and I’d be very happy to live here for the rest of it. The city has many strong points (I’ll cover some of them later), but to become the city I believe it can be, there are some challenges that need to be conquered.

There are more than just these one at play, but I’ve picked three to focus on. The broad challenges I see are:

Identity Crisis – What kind of city is Edmonton? What kind of city do we want it to be? If we don’t understand this, and have a clear vision citizens can buy into, it’s that much harder to move forward.

Decreasing Faith in Traditional Institutions – Esteem for government and politicians has been consistently falling across the country. How do we address this, and adjust our institutions or methods of engagement accordingly?

Planning and Sustainability – Is our city and communities sustainable – ecologically, socially, and financially? If not, how do we get there?

2. Understand Why People Stay or Go
We often lament that people, especially young people, prefer to move to Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver, rather than staying in Edmonton. But how much do we really know about why people come, stay, or go. Asking these questions will help us understand:

What brings people to Edmonton?
What makes them stay?
What makes them leave?
What can be done about people leaving?

The last question is particularly important, as developing a strong identity will depend on our ability to successfully attract and keep people that help us achieve our vision of Edmonton.

3. Accept That Our Challenges Aren’t Just About Policy and Legislation

Government can take some steps, but the biggest challenges stem from culture and from people’s attitudes. In some instances, Edmonton is doing well. Our level of volunteering and community involvement is relatively high; our voter turnout, on the other hand, is nothing to brag about. We also have a challenge in that Edmontonians often get down on their city, and feel a need to have a perception that it stacks up to certain others. We tend to dwell on the negatives, and don’t promote our city the way we should. Initiatives like edmontonstories.ca help, and I believe a cultural shift is happening in some circles, but we still get trapped in this.

We have to stop worrying about comparing ourselves to Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. We’re different types (and sizes) of cities. Of course a region of 3-5 million people will offer amenities and attractions our million-large region can’t. But a city and region of our size offers a different vibe, and can still offer many things that will appeal to people. The cities in Canada we are most comparable to are Ottawa, Calgary, and Winnipeg – medium-large cities that offer a high quality of life, a lot of amenities, but also a pace and feel that many find more amenable than that of the biggest cities.

We need to focus on building a city we are comfortable with and proud of, critiques or pejoratives from outside critics be damned.

4. Take Ownership of Our City
This is the corollary to point 3. Success depends upon an engaged, informed citizen body. For Edmonton to continue moving forward, we need citizens to become informed, participate in government and the community, and to hold their representatives accountable. We need people to understand the facts, and to make and support informed decisions based on them. I believe that in most situations, people get the government they deserve, either through our action or inaction; taking Edmonton to the next level requires more than a few legislative actions. It requires the regular engagement and participation of Edmontonians.

The Basics
There are basic expectations and functions that any city needs to meet. They matter a lot. They represent people’s most common interactions with government. We use roads, sidewalks, and transit on a daily basis.

It also says something about our city; a well-kept, clean city shows to residents and outsiders alike that we care about our city, and that we are serious about keeping it up.

5. Take Care of the Fundamentals
As mentioned above, these basic activities represent the most regular interaction of citizens with the services their government provides. Most people are going to experience the snow removal, street cleaning, and transit service provided more than they will any output of a public art levy or a publicly sponsored cultural program, for example. This isn’t meant to diminish the importance of the latter two – they are integral parts of a successful city, but rather to emphasize that basic services and infrastructure are as well. Debate often devolves into a false dichotomy about whether to support arts and culture, or to support basic infrastructure and services. The former matters because what make cities great goes beyond the basics; the latter matters because the term ‘basics’ is fairly expository – they’re the things you’re expected to do well before moving on to more advanced objectives.

Most importantly, in order to successfully pursue grander projects, citizens must buy into them. They won’t buy into them if they don’t have confidence in government. Doing the little things well earns governments the political capital, and most importantly, the trust, to pursue larger-scale goals. For the lack of a better term, customer service, in this respect, matters a lot. If you hired a company to paint your fence and they screwed it up, would you hire them to paint your house? Would you promote someone within your office if they didn’t deliver on basic responsibilities, or would you hire someone who proved themselves at another organization? You can’t shop around with government, but the same principle applies. Why trust someone to deliver on a big project if they can’t take care of the basics.

6. Build On Our Strengths
Edmonton has a lot going for it. We need to always remember that, and celebrate it. A first step, then, should be to identify our strengths, and think about how we can build on them. Here are a few of Edmonton’s biggest strengths.

Public Sector: Universities and Colleges; Government
We are home to two Universities, a large technical institution, and many smaller University Colleges. As thinkers such as Richard Florida have pointed out, universities are drivers of the new economy. There is also evidence they provide more economic stability – they are less prone to fluctuation than other industries (a big plus in a province where natural resources make up a big part of the economy). Post-secondary institutions provide a number of stable, largely professional jobs, they bring in a steady stream of young people, and the ideas and products developed in the classrooms and labs can lead to spinoff and related industries (just look at Waterloo and UW’s synergy, or the creativity at schools such as Stanford that helped fuel Silicon Valley’s rise, or the companies that have been incubated at the University of Texas in Austin).

We also have a large government work force. We are the seat of the provincial government, the City of Edmonton is a large employer, and we have a large presence of federal government employees as well, both in the civil service and the military. Like post-secondary institutions, government tends to provide good jobs, and more stability.

Outdoor Recreation and Amenities
Owing in large part to our well-preserved river valley system, the capital region offers a lot of opportunities for outdoor activity and recreation. Go an hour or two outside Edmonton, and you find many more. Drive west for a little over three hours, and you find yourself in Jasper National Park. Drive south and west for 4 hours, and you’re in Banff National Park.

Snow on the Valley

Lifestyle and amenities are important in attracting and retaining workers. The number of high-quality outdoor amenities in and around Edmonton is hard to match.

Festivals: Arts and Culture
In 2007, Edmonton was designated one of Cultural Capitals. Now, these titles are given out on a nearly annual basis, and most cities probably get their turn at some point, but the title seemed appropriate. For a city of our size, Edmonton has a lot of cultural amenities. We attract a steady stream of concert acts, and Rexall Place and Commonwealth Stadium continue to attract the biggest touring acts. The former has ranked among the world’s top concert venues over the past few years.

Our culture scene especially manifests itself in our festivals, which run pretty much non-stop through the summer months. Ask any Edmontonian, and they can surely name their favourite – probably Folk Fest (which is mine), the Fringe (one of the largest in the world), or Heritage Days. This doesn’t include the two dozen or so other smaller festivals; plus events throughout the year such as the Edmonton International Film Festival and the emerging Winter Light Festival. Suffice to say, there is a lot going on.

Hosting Major Events
This is another area where we punch above our weight class. Edmonton has an enviable track record of hosting major events; in recent years, we did an exempliary job of hosting the World University Games and the World Masters Games.

While I’m not usually a proponent of mega-projects or mega-events, when chosen strategically and executed well, they can add a lot to our city.

Our Public School System
Our public school system is world class. As much as I hate that term, in this situation, it’s warranted and well-deserved. School quality is a major consideration for families, and our strong system is a huge advantage for our city. First, it is a huge attraction for families; while I haven’t found Canadian data, Anthony Flint covers at length the data from the US that shows that school quality is the top determinant of where people live. There’s no reason to think it’s isn’t a major driver here. Second, quality education benefits us all; society reaps the benefits of well-educated and trained workers and citizens.

The Mall
Using the definition of world class, West Edmonton Mall definitely fits the bill.

The People
A common refrain I hear from friends and family who have moved away is that they miss the people more than anything. I can empathize with this, having lived elsewhere for a time. It’s hard to quantify, but the people here are great.

7. Better and More Diverse Design
One of the things I’ve noticed about Edmonton is that, leaving aside the very oldest ones, all of our communities tend to look the same. We have roughly three types of communities. Going outward from the core, you see them no matter whether you go east, west, north, or south.

The closest circle consists of the post-war communities: sprawling lots with a smaller single-story (or sometimes a two-story) house on it, and a detached garage connecting to an alleyway behind the house, almost uniformly on number streets found on a grid system. Commercial activity is separated, but still intertwined with the community. Houses and businesses face the major arterial roads.

Next, we find communities of the late 60s-early 80s vintage. They have slightly smaller lots that hold bigger two-story (and some one-story) houses. Streets are still numbered, and generally on something resembling a grid, but you start to see more cul-de-sacs and winding roads. Commercial activity is adjacent to, but separate from the community. Instead of housing facing major arterial roads, you’ll get the parking lot of a commercial centre, or more commonly, tall fences and backyards that create a feeling of isolation as you pass by.

Then we get to the communities built since the 1990s. They have bigger houses on even smaller lots. The streets aren’t on a grid, and they have names that are interchangeable, similar, and utterly confusing. Commercial activity is separate, and a passerby on arterial roads gets a nice view of tall fences that isolate the community from the road. Now, there are a few exceptions in each case, but in general, our communities fit one of these three archetypes.

Art Gallery of Alberta

Now, this is a problem in that it doesn’t offer much choice for residents. Only a handful of communities are truly walkable (as in, you can go about your daily business on foot), and distinguishable in design. A key to success is diversity, being able to offer different options to people at different stages in their lives (often all within the same community), and to appeal to different types of people. Our focus on segregated uses of land is a challenge.

Not only are the communities laid out in three types, but most of our buildings tend to look generic at best, mundane at worst. Good design is inspiring; we need more of it in our city – decision-makers, architects/developers, and citizens alike have to demand better.

Preserving our history is important. It adds character, diversity, and is a reminder of where our city comes from. I see a shift happening (through preservation of buildings such as the Garneau Theatre), but we are still too quick to discard aging buildings or neighbourhoods in favour of the next big things.

8. Make Public Places Interesting
Following up on the previous point, many areas suffer from a lack of activity. There is an onus, of course, on citizens and civic leaders to create activity in the public space, but design of spaces will also affect this, for better or worse.

When people talk about their favourite places, these places are either bustling with activity, or dead quiet. The latter isn’t really compatible with most of a city – except for a quiet spot in our river valley system or a park. Rather, the city is designed to be full of activity. Whether it be gatherings in major public spaces, or simple, informal interaction at the street level, activity is what makes a city tick. Activity also breeds interest, which will then breed more activity (and so on). Places also should be designed to promote a mix of compatible activities, so that they’re being used throughout the day, not bustling for periods and dead for others.

Design is important, but it’s also up to people to bring activity to the public sphere. We’re all guilty of spending time on our balconies, not in parks, or in our backyards, not our front yards. If we’re committed to interesting public spaces, it’s incumbent on citizens to take initiative and use them.

9. Diversify Our Transportation Options
Despite the advances we’re making with LRT expansion, Edmonton is still designed to be a car-centric city. While there will continue to be a role for automobile travel, it’s imperative to build our infrastructure in all areas of transportation.

Other forms of transportation – public transit, walking, cycling, etc need to be treated as legitimate means, not alternatives for eccentrics and people with no other choice. It’s not enough just to build it, but it needs to be high quality, and desirable.

Public transit, in particular, is an undercapitalized area. The emphasis needs to be on making it competitive with car travel, time-wise and amenity-wise. The more we pamper transit users – through perks like comfortable, well-maintained transit centres, and amenities such as Wi-Fi, the more uptake we’ll see. If we treat the transit experience like an afterthought, that’s how people will experience the system.

There also needs to be a culture shift towards sharing a transportation system. Drivers need to respect the speed and nature of buses, and always be accommodating of cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists, however, also need to be well versed in the rules if they’re sharing the road. We all need to recognize that there are several legitimate forms of transportation, and we have a duty as citizens to respect and accommodate that.

Making the Leap
Beyond the basics, I see 6 steps – strategies, really – that will help make Edmonton an even greater city.

10. Grow Up, and Say No to Growing Out
I live a very urban lifestyle right now. I work downtown, live just west of there, and spend most of my time in the downtown/Oliver/Garneau/Old Strathcona area. While I strongly support a more compact urban form, where I live is as much based on where I am in my life, and my general dislike of commuting, as anything else. I see the appeal a more suburban environment has for people, and having grown up in that environment, I can attest that it has many positives.

Stony Plain Road

That said, there is mounting evidence that continued, unfettered growth outwards is unsustainable – both environmentally and economically. The cost of servicing low-density areas is much greater to the municipality than the cost of servicing a high-density core.

Continued, unfettered growth outwards creates a drain on our resources. This is not to say we should never convert green space to living space, but that our focus should be on optimizing existing infrastructure and developed areas. Edmonton is taking steps in this direction, with the new Municipal Development Plan setting a target of 25% of population growth occurring within the existing footprint. The Capital Region Board is establishing limits to growth, but until this is tested, we don’t know if there is the will to enforce it.

We still have a culture where growth outwards and abundant single-family homes are seen as a right. There needs to be the will from both the public and government to say no when the situation calls for it. Right now, we’re not even having the conversation.

11. Embrace What Makes Us Different
Seen one way, where you live is a consumer choice. Most people have some options, and they will compare and choose the one they like best, be it within a city (comparing homes and/or neighbourhoods), or by choosing between different cities to live in.

We’re competing nationally and internationally for people, and we have to be aware of what our advantages over other cities are. More importantly, we need to stand out in some way. What makes Edmonton different from Calgary, Saskatoon, or Vancouver? Or Toronto or Montreal? Or Seattle, Portland, or Austin?

Good transportation, urban design, and basic services have all been covered, but great cities also have attractions that make them unique. Whether it’s restaurants, businesses and shops, or entertainment options that aren’t replicated or available elsewhere, the best cities are known for these things. We have some aspects of this in Edmonton; we need to nurture them, and continue to build a unique local culture in these three spheres.

12. Build Our Social Infrastructure
In hindsight, this should have been listed as a basic. There is an aspect that overlaps with basic services, in that I view social services as something a city needs to offer well. With this point, I’m getting at something else.

Earlier, I mentioned the decreasing faith in traditional institutions and government as a challenge for Edmonton. This doesn’t mean that people are apathetic, but it means that we require different methods and avenues for citizen engagement, and government and other institutions need to be responsive to this.

Morning Session

People might not attend a public meeting on a proposed development in their neighbourhood, but they might discuss urban design at ChangeCamp. They might not volunteer for their community league, but they may use the web to connect with neighbours and mobilize around a common concern. Citizens, institutions, and government alike need to be committed to fostering a culture of engagement. Essential to this is being flexible and open to new and different ways of engaging people and groups. Sometimes it’s not that people don’t want to be involved, it’s that you’re not reaching them where they are, or where they’ll be comfortable participating.

13. Embrace the Region and Mega-Region
In recent years, we’ve taken great strides regionally, with the establishment of the Capital Region Board, and a corresponding move towards collaboration, not competition between Edmonton and its neighbours. This is a good thing, and essential to future growth. Economic cooperation is important, and there is also an economy of scale to some services. Furthermore, a well-coordinated region can offer different living options and neighbourhoods, important in attracting and retaining people with different interests.

Beyond regional cooperation, economies are being organized more about what are referred to as “mega-regions”. These clusters of regions/municipalities are economically linked, and can work to benefit each other. The Edmonton-Calgary corridor has the potential to develop as a strong mega-region in the future, and we should be taking all steps we can to encourage that. Infrastructure investments like high-speed rail to move citizens would be big steps forward.

14. Plan for a Post-Carbon Economy
I’m not going to touch peak oil here, except to say much of what follows in this point is exacerbated if/when oil supplies noticeably decrease, then run out.

Our economy is very much natural resource-driven, and so is our infrastructure – our transportation relies heavily on cars and trucks, buses, and other fossil-fuel powered machinery. Renewable energy use is growing, but still just a small share of production.

No one can predict how our energy production – by design, innovation, or necessity – will change in the next 20-30 years, but Edmonton needs to be well poised to respond to any changes. Key steps include diversifying our transportation system, encouraging research and economic development in energy – especially renewable energy – systems, and implementing policies that will encourage lower energy use.

15. Self-Determination
One of the biggest challenges for cities across Canada is the limited power they actually exert. They’re creatures of the provinces, have no status or recognition beyond that, and could conceivably lose their taxation, or even be amalgamated/dissolved through an act of the legislature. If that happened, it would be an extreme case (and is unlikely), but for the role they play, cities do have a shocking lack of authority.

In order for cities to fulfill their potential, they need more freedom and authority, to raise revenue in different ways than just property taxes, to bargain with the other orders of government, and to have secure, longer-term funding in place.

While some on City Council, notably Don Iveson, raise this issue regularly, it hasn’t caught on in the public. We all want, and expect, great services from our city, but we don’t appreciate the limitations it faces in trying to deliver that. Greater authority for cities must be a cause everyone takes on.

I’ll stop at the original 15. Were I starting this from scratch today, I would probably add a few more. There are a lot of good things happening in Edmonton, and I see the potential for a lot more. I’d also love to hear from readers about what you see as strengths, challenges, and where we need to go next. Building a better Edmonton is a collaborative effort, and I hope this post can help move it along a little bit.

Back to the Future: A Vision for the Edmonton City Centre Airport Lands

Born in the right time and place, I might have been one of the most successful urban planners of the 20th century. That’s not to say I would have produced good work. Rather, I have a personality trait that seems to have also manifested itself in the most successful trends in urban planning: I overthink things.

I’ve realized this over the past few days, as the tendency to overthink has caused me all sorts of problems of late. Some things in life are simple, and best dealt with as such. Urban planning is one such thing.

It is instructive that Jane Jacobs, who we now recognize as having one of, if not the best mind for urban planning in the 20th century, had no formal training. She relied on observation and intuition about what made cities work. Some things are best dealt with that way.

This is not to disparage planning as a profession (though I considered calling this post “I Blame Le Corbusier”), which I have great respect for, and has produced many great ideas and works. A theoretical framework is needed, as communities will not always develop organically (and even if they do, they won’t always work out). The real problem has not been the theories themselves, rather the headlong rush to embrace them. The urban form is always malleable to a point, but often hard to reverse. Urban planning demands a conservative temperament, to be willing to experiment, but to do so cautiously. Today’s trend could easily be tomorrow’s punchline.

Brownstones at Port Imperial

Good redevelopment: infill row housing in Hoboken, New Jersey.

I’ve been thinking about this since the City of Edmonton officially kicked off the design competition to redevelop its City Centre Airport Lands.

At this time last year, I was deeply immersed in the airport debate. Towards the end, I wrote a paper (nicknamed “The Abboud Report” by Councillor Dave Thiele) summarizing my thoughts on the issue (close it), and my thoughts on a future use for the land (family-oriented, low-rise high-density housing). I’ve uploaded the paper here (the urban planning/future use stuff starts on page 13).

The redevelopment of this site is a huge opportunity for Edmonton. We could build a model community, one that adds great value to our city. Or we could blow it. If we do, it will probably be because we ignore the time-tested things that make communities successful, and rush headlong into something trendy, or futuristic. Good urban design should marry the proven best practices, with the best design that technology will allow.

There are five principles that I see as key:

1. A successful city/region offers a diversity of communities and housing options. Whatever we do with the ECCA lands should compliment what our existing and planned developments offer, not duplicate it.
2. There should be activity in an area throughout most of the day – this is a concept I’ll call 16 hour spaces, and will be elaborating on at a later date. In a nutshell, it means there is activity through all waking hours (6 or 7 in the morning until 10 or 11 at night).
3. Most people still want a family-friendly home (read: something with a bit of space, and a yard if possible).
4. Often, it’s best not to reinvent the wheel, but to look for exactly what makes communities (in Edmonton and elsewhere) popular.
5. Fundamentally, communities have to be interesting. You get this by having different uses, and a mix of people and amenities, and by offering things not found in most other areas.

How does this fit in with the ECCA lands? Here’s what I wrote in the report last year:

Density and Development: High­ Rise and Low­ Rise Density

Roberta Brandes Gratz, an award‐winning urban critic and journalist, has this to say on the subject:

High­rise or even low­rise density is not by definition, bad and, in fact, it is the only thing that makes feasible a cost­effective and efficient urban infrastructure. Cities must have sufficient density to function well. In fact, downtowns are at their most productive when density is high. The form of the density can vary. The high density of low­rise neighbourhoods, former streetcar suburbs, contributes significantly to their appeal.

– From Cities Back From the Edge: New Life for Downtown

There are two facets to this that must be addressed. The first is downtown living. Our downtown population has doubled in the past decade, and is now approaching 15,000 residents. Still, it has been demonstrated that we need another 40,000‐ 50,000 residents in the downtown to reach the critical mass that most truly successful downtowns have. We are committed to seeing our downtown succeed; removing the airport overlay and height restrictions by closing the ECCA benefits Edmonton on two counts: first, by removing the restrictions themselves, but second, by creating predictability for developers. No longer will they worry about accommodating height restrictions, or whether the rules might change a few years down the road. Edmonton will finally be able to maximize its high‐rise density growth.

Which brings us to low‐rise density. There is only so much demand for high‐rise density, and much of that can be met by undeveloped or underdeveloped land in Downtown, The Quarters, and Oliver, along with nodes such as Station Pointe, Stadium Lands, and Century Park, to name a few. Introducing minor high‐rise density into communities, such as the Vision for the Corner in Glenora and the Strathearn Heights redevelopment, is also likely to become more common, as is redevelopment that leads to high‐density (and likely mid to high‐rise nodes) around future LRT stations.

To complement the high‐rise density growth, the focus should be on creating low‐ rise density, especially the kind that can appeal to families. In‐fill communities such as Griesbach andTerwillegar Towne in Edmonton, along with Garrison Woods in Calgary give us a model that can work. This means smaller lots and narrower streets, along with a greater focus on row housing and other types of attached housing.

Many cities across North America boast mature, desirable neighbourhoods of this type. To name a few, Mont Royal in Montreal, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, and Back Bay in Boston are all characterized by their brick or brownstone row housing, some fitted for singles and seniors, but much of it fitted for families.

This type of neighbourhood has demonstrated appeal It is also an efficient use of land density‐wise. Within Edmonton’s context, it compliments and offers an alternative to our biggest supply of housing stock – the suburban‐style single‐family detached home. A diversity of housing and neighbourhood types will enhance Edmonton’s desirability, as people look for different things in neighbourhoods and housing; it will thus help the city attract and retain a greater scope of residents.

I stand by this. There are two good examples of airport redevelopment Edmonton can follow: Stapleton in Denver, Colorado and Mueller in Austin, Texas. Both are family-oriented, and lean towards traditional design principles.

Brownstone / Greenstone

Park Slope in Brooklyn: we could build this on the ECCA lands.

If you were to ask me what the ECCA redevelopment should look like (in addition to the land offered for NAIT expansion), I would offer six points:

1. Low-rise density.
2. Preserves and incorporates the existing building stock.
3. Traditional look – brick and brownstone (row) housing.
4. Family-oriented housing.
5. Uses cutting-edge environmental technology (and often building smaller is the best thing for the environment).
6. Serious consideration should be given to form-based zoning in some, if not all areas.

Stapleton, CO

Mixed-use development in Stapleton Denver.

This would complement what Edmonton has to offer, and embrace the principles of communities popular throughout North America. To any design firms entering this competition: I’m willing to give up my evenings and weekends to help make this vision a reality.

The ECCA redevelopment is a tremendous opportunity for Edmonton; let’s avoid the temptation to embrace the next big thing, stick to what we know works, and make sure we do this right.

Pyramid Power: Ranking the 2010 Edmonton City Council Races

Following Sunday’s post about the announced and rumoured candidates for Edmonton City Council, I want to take a look at how each race is shaping up. I’ve ranked the 13 races from most to least competitive, putting them in four categories:

Toss-Ups: No clear favourite, and could go any of two or more ways at this point.
Competitive: A leading candidate/favourite at this point, but a race that should be a close vote and could go another way.
Leaning Safe: A safe seat for now, but could become competitive or a toss-up in the right circumstances.
Safe: A safe seat for the incumbent, which doesn’t figure to change without something dramatic happening.

The rankings will change as candidates announce their intentions, and as the campaign moves into full swing. It’s intended to be a snapshot of how the election is shaping up at this moment.

A few caveats:

1. I based the rankings primarily around a few criteria: incumbency (and strength thereof), strength of candidates, and 2007 results.
2. These are somewhat subjective, but I think most observers would agree with the ballpark ranking for each race. I’ve done my best to make the rankings as objective as possible.
3. These are by no means meant to discourage anyone from running. Things can change, and because a race is listed as ‘safe’ now doesn’t mean it will remain that way.

A point, and a couple of examples to keep in mind:
– City-wide turnout in 2007 was 26%, and the highest turnout a given ward saw was around 35% (Ward 5), meaning there are plenty of disengaged voters for a candidate to mobilize.
– In 2007, we would have probably ranked Ward 5 as “Safe” or “Leaning Safe” for the two incumbents (Bryan Anderson and Mike Nickel) as of May 17. There’s still 5 months of campaigning, and things can change, as they did in that race, where Don Iveson ended up beating Nickel.
– Similarly, in 2004, we might have ranked the Mayoral race as “Competitive” on this date, but talked about how incumbent Bill Smith and repeat challenger Robert Noce figured to be in a close race. Eventual winner Stephen Mandel would have been seen as a distant third, and a long shot at that point. So don’t get discouraged if you or someone you know is running or thinking about it. To use a sports analogy, there’s a lot of game left at this point.

Without further ado, here’s where the races sit as of May 17, ranked from most to least competitive. I intend to update them every month or so leading up to nomination day.

Finally, a big thank you to the handful of readers who have sent in or posted tips over the past couple of days.

City Hall at Night

Toss-Ups

1. Ward 11
Confirmed: Shane Bergdahl
Probable: Chinwe Okelu
Possible: Chuck McKenna

There will be no incumbent in this race, and nobody figures to start as an overwhelming favourite. Okelu did well here in ’07, finishing second behind Thiele. But this will also be his fifth run for Council, and he was lapped by Sohi last election, who he finished ahead of in ’04. Bergdahl has a strong community league background, but is untested as a candidate. McKenna finished just over 100 votes behind Okelu in these polls last election, and would be well-positioned if he ran here.

2. Ward 3
Confirmed: Dave Loken
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Hutton

Dave Loken, who finished a distant third in Ward 2 (behind Hayter and Krushell) in 2004 and 2007, has declared here. If Hayter runs again, this figures to be his Ward.

If Hayter declares here, I may eventually move this race to ‘Competitive’, but even with his presence, I see this being a toss-up. Hayter’s vote plateaued in 2007, and he was lapped by Krushell. More importantly, I get the impression that many voters, and some prominent voices in the media, believe it’s time for him to move on.

Loken starts the race in a good position, but his performance in ’04 and ’07 indicates that he’s not a shoo-in. He’ll be lucky if Caterina runs in 7, and Diotte in 6 – both of them would have a good chance at this seat. But either way, I expect other challengers to step up in the next month or two, which is why this remains a toss-up.

Competitive

3. Ward 7
Confirmed: Tony Caterina, Brendan Van Alstine
Possible: Kyle Balombin, Chris Martin, Carrie Thuesen, Harvey Voogd

Caterina starts as the favourite, until we see how much traction Van Alstine (or another candidate) has in the community.

If Harvey Voogd is in the race, it moves to toss-up. Voogd finished ahead of Caterina in these polls by about 1% (roughly 200 votes) in ’07, and while most incumbents see a bump in their vote total from their first election to subsequent ones, Caterina has been polarizing, so I’m not convinced he’ll see one.

In any case, this race is eminently winnable for a challenger, but they should get out there right away, and will need to run a strong campaign. A greater number of challengers could also work to Caterina’s advantage, allowing him to win a split race with a lower vote share.

4. Ward 1
Confirmed: Andrew Knack, Jamie Post, Linda Sloan

Two community activists, Andrew Knack and Jamie Post, have declared, and insiders have indicated that incumbent Linda Sloan is running here.

I see Sloan starting as a strong favourite, but vulnerable in the right circumstances. She’s not the most universally popular councillor amongst media, and doesn’t live in this Ward, both of which could work against her. That said, it would take a really strong challenger and well-run campaign to knock her off.

5/6. Wards 6/8
Ward 6
Confirmed: Jane Batty/Ben Henderson
Probable: Kerry Diotte

Ward 8
Confirmed: Jane Batty/Ben Henderson, Lori Heaney, Hana Razga
Possible: Debbie Yeung

I will adjust these two once Jane Batty and Ben Henderson declare their intentions. I think Ben’s safe, and Jane is in trouble in the right circumstances.

Though Batty finished first in 2007, it was close. She hasn’t appreciably grown her vote share since first being elected in 2001, and on a preferential ballot, probably would have fallen behind Henderson and Lewis Cardinal in ’07. It’s a shame, because she is a very good Councillor, but she’s been unable to move her vote total. In 2007, she got the vote of 41% of voters in the Ward 6 polls, and 36.5% in Ward 8, the lowest vote share of any incumbent city-wide. Against a strong candidate (such as Cardinal head-to-head), I’d have her race as a toss-up. Unless he’s facing a strong challenger, I will move Ben’s race to “Leaning Safe” once he declares.

As for the challengers, I think Ward 6 might be a struggle for Diotte, I’m not sure it’s the most receptive area to a low taxes/tough on crime message (which I figure will be cornerstones of his campaign). I haven’t seen enough from Heaney and Razga to know how they’ll match up against the incumbent. Heaney did very well in the polls that carry over to Ward 8 (only 4 of them, in the area she lives), but we need to see what kind of broad appeal she has before drawing conclusions from those. Getting out and doorknocking now, as I’ve heard they are, will bolster both Razga’s and Heaney’s chances.

Leaning Safe

7. Ward 2
Confirmed: Kim Krushell
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Hutton, Don Koziak, Shelly Tupper
Kim Krushell starts as the favourite here, and figures to remain the favourite even if Ron Hayter runs here. But there’s enough to think that he’d keep the race competitive, or if there really is an organized campaign by ECCA supporters, she could be in for a tight race. I think this will move to safe as we get closer to the election, but for now there are a few outstanding questions.

8. Ward 9
Confirmed: Bryan Anderson
Possible: Lewis Cardinal, Donna Finucane, Brent Michalyk
Bryan Anderson is running here. He’s represented the area for 12 years, works hard in the community, and is well-liked. Yet, in the right circumstances, he could be in for a fight. For one, he lives in the new Ward 10, not in this Ward. Further, living in Ward 5 during the last election, I heard many people express that they felt that he’d been around long enough. I suspect his support has peaked. A strong candidate with roots in the community could give him a run for his money.

9. Ward 4
Confirmed: Dan Backs, Perry Chahal, Ed Gibbons, Scott Robb

Ed Gibbons is popular in the Ward, but has two interesting challengers. Backs retained a decent base of support, even after getting kicked out of the Liberal caucus, and Chahal, a former School Board candidate who is well-connected. I think this moves to the ‘safe’ category as we approach the election, but for now I’m waiting to see what Backs and Chahal put forward in their campaigns.

Safe

10. Ward 10
Confirmed: Don Iveson

Don Iveson is popular, and has performed well during his first term on Council. Though some of the more fiscally conservative citizens don’t like him, I suspect they figure it’s not worth the effort to challenge him this time around.

Many assume Iveson is going to run for Mayor in 2013, so the most serious contenders you might see here are people trying to position themselves for this seat three years from now, when they figure it will be open.

11. Ward 12
Confirmed: Amarjeet Sohi

Sohi did very well here in ’07. When you factor in the advanced polls, it’s likely that he outperformed Thiele in this area (despite earning less votes on election day). He’s popular, and has done will in his first term, and doesn’t figure to face a serious challenge. He’ll likely be a fixture here for the next few terms.

12. Ward 5
Confirmed: Karen Leibovici
Leibovici is well-liked in her ward, works hard, and earned the largest vote share of any candidate for Council in ’07. Sounds like a safe seat to me.

13. Mayor
Confirmed: Stephen Mandel, Daryl Bonar
Probable: Dave Dowling
Possible: Don Koziak
For the second consecutive election, Mayor Mandel figures to run without any serious competition (with all due respect to Daryl Bonar). As I mentioned in Sunday’s post, I could see a couple of people running to position themselves for Council or Mayoral bids in the future, but not seriously threatening the Mayor.

This ranks as the safest seat, however, for two reasons: first, I’m struggling to think of anyone who would be willing and able to challenge him, and could get the 45% of the vote or better that would likely be needed to win this race. Second, while I can envision someone being able to raise money and organize a ward-wide campaign against a ‘Safe’ incumbent, I’m not sure a challenger could raise the money city-wide at this point to mount a serious Mayoral bid. Mandel is safe, unless things dramatically change.

The Edmonton Civic Election, where the Mayor, City Council, and School Trustees will be elected to three year terms, will be held on Monday, October 18th.

Pursuit of the Pyramid: Edmonton’s 2010 City Council Candidates

City Hall at Night

Edmonton’s 2010 municipal election is just over five months away. This is the time of year where most incumbents announce their intentions, and challengers begin to come out of the woodwork.

I’ll be writing more about the election as part of another project that will be launched soon, but in the meantime, I thought that on the heels of yesterday’s post about Ward 11, many readers are probably curious about who’s running where.

I’ve put together a list of declared, likely, and possible candidates. I believe it’s the most comprehensive list available at the moment. It will be updated on an on-going basis; please send me an email, or post a comment, if you have names to add to it.

(Note: Update Sunday afternoon at 5pm MST, thanks to a City Hall insider).

Mayor
Confirmed: Stephen Mandel
Probable: Dave Dowling
Possible: Don Koziak

Mayor Mandel announced his intentions to run for a third term, and there is unlikely to be serious opposition. He will compete against the usual slate of fringe candidates (such as Mr. Dowling). The most serious opposition he might see is from someone like Don Koziak, or another candidate looking to raise his/her profile for a future Council/Mayoral campaign.

Ward 1
Confirmed: Andrew Knack, Jamie Post
Probable: Linda Sloan
Possible: Karen Leibovici

Andrew Knack, who placed third in 2007, has announced his intentions to run again, as has first-time candidate Jamie Post, who is active with the Glenwood Community League in the ward.

Both Karen Leibovici and Linda Sloan have expressed that they will run again. One will take this ward, and one will take Ward 5, the south half of their current ward. My guess is that Leibovici takes 5, where she lives, and Sloan runs here, but we’ll leave them both as ‘probable’ until they formally announce their intentions.

Update: A City Hall insider tells me that Sloan will run here and Leibovici in Ward 5

Ward 2
Confirmed: Kim Krushell
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Hutton, Don Koziak, Shelley Tupper

Incumbent Kim Krushell has announced her intentions to run here. Fellow incumbent Ron Hayter has yet to announce his, though as I noted yesterday, I believe he will retire. If he does run, it will be here or in Ward 3.

The list of possible candidates includes those who have run before, in most cases multiple times. Caouette and Hutton have run in the past two elections, and could run again here or in Ward 3. Tupper lives in Kensington, which is in the Ward, and in 2007, did about 5% better in the polls here than she did in the ones going to Ward 3. Koziak ran in Ward 2 before his 2007 Mayoral run, and owns a business on Kingsway Ave. If the City Centre Airport supporters were to front a candidate here, it would likely be him.

Ward 3
Confirmed: Dave Loken
Probable: Ron Hayter
Possible: Jabin Caouette, Kerry Diotte, Kerry Hutton

Dave Loken’s website indicates he is running in Ward 3, which is consistent with what I’ve been hearing for months. Hayter could also run here if he decides to seek re-election.

The usual suspects, Caouette and Hutton, show up, as does an interesting name: Kerry Diotte. I heard second hand that he was going to run in “the ward where Hayter’s running”, which I infer to mean Ward 3 (though I guess it could mean Ward 2 as well). I’ve heard elsewhere he was thinking about running in Ward 6 (downtown), but if he were to take the plunge, I think it’s most likely to be here. And to be honest, it’s a good place for him to run.

Ward 4
Confirmed: Ed Gibbons, Perry Chahal
Possible: Dan Backs, Chris Martin, Kyle Balombin

I can’t find any official confirmation that Ed Gibbons is running, but I have heard from several sources that he will in this ward, which is why current ward-mate and fellow Ward 4 resident Tony Caterina is looking at Ward 7. I haven’t heard any other names. Martin and Balombin were the 4th and 5th place finishers in ’07 (behind Gibbons, Caterina, and Harvey Voogd).

Update: A City Hall source tells me that Dan Backs, the one-term Liberal MLA for Edmonton-Manning who was kicked out of caucus, and lost his 2008 re-election bid as an independent, is looking to run here.

Update: Reader Marilyn Hooper notes Perry Chahal will be running here.

Ward 5
Probable: Karen Leibovici
Possible: Linda Sloan

As mentioned earlier, one of Leibovici or Sloan will run here. My money’s on Leibovici, and she won’t face much of a challenge.

Ward 6
Probable: Jane Batty or Ben Henderson
Possible: Kerry Diotte

My understanding is that Batty and Henderson won’t run against each other, but haven’t decided who will run in 6 and who will run in 8. As noted, I’ve heard Diotte’s name floated here too. There will be a number of fringe candidates as well.

I would not be surprised to see a candidate from Central McDougall/Boyle/McCauley area run, largely on the platform of concentrated poverty, which is a hot-button issue in those communities. I haven’t, however, heard a name yet.

Ward 7
Confirmed: Brendan Van Alstine
Probable: Tony Caterina
Possible: Carrie Thuesen, Harvey Voogd

Community activist Brendan Van Alstine has been out campaigning for several months. I’ve heard this is where Caterina is looking to run, though this isn’t confirmed. Thuesen, Ed Gibbons’ Executive Assistant at City Hall, has confirmed that she’s considering it, and 2007 runner-up Harvey Voogd remains a possibility as well.

Ward 8
Confirmed: Lori Heaney, Hana Razga
Probable: Jane Batty or Ben Henderson
Possible: Debbie Yeung

Razga, who ran in Ward 4 in 2007, has announced her intentions. As noted above, one of Batty or Henderson will run here. Debbie Yeung, who has run three times, and finished fourth in ’07, could also make another run here.

Update: Lori Heaney is confirmed.

Ward 9
Confirmed: Bryan Anderson
Possible: Lewis Cardinal, Donna Finucane, Brent Michalyk

Anderson, the four-term incumbent, will run in this southwest ward. He may or may not see serious competition. Donna Finucane finished third in Ward 5 in 2004 (behind Anderson and Mike Nickel), and three years ago, indicated that she had an eye on running again this election. I’m not sure if this is still the case, or if Anderson’s decision changes anything. Lewis Cardinal, the Ward 4 runner-up in ’07, and candidate of record for the NDP in the federal riding of Edmonton-Centre, lives in Ward 9, and may run here in the future. For what it’s worth, I think he’s much better suited for City Council than Parliament (and has a better chance of getting elected too). Michalyk ran in 2007, and lives in the Ward 9 community of Blackmud Creek. He could make another run.

Ward 10
Confirmed: Don Iveson

Iveson announced his intentions, and is unlikely to face serious competition.

Ward 11
Confirmed: Shane Bergdahl
Probable; Chinwe Okelu
Possible: Chuck McKenna
This site was the first to report Bergdahl’s candidacy in yesterday’s post. Since then, I’ve received an email from a reader stating that Okelu is running, though I’m waiting to here for certain that it’s in Ward 11, and that I can credit this reader with the news, before I move him to confirmed.

2007 candidates McKenna and Heaney are possibilities as well.

Ward 12
Confirmed: Amarjeet Sohi
Possible: Chuck McKenna

Sohi should coast to victory here, though I suspect he’ll face some nominal competition. McKenna or Heaney could run here, but if they’re going to run again, I think they’ll probably make a run at Ward 11.

As noted at the start, this list is a work in progress. Please send any tips you have this way. And once again, I encourage Edmontonians to start reading about their likely candidates. It’s also not too late to encourage your friends or neighbours to run, or to think about doing so yourself.

Coming tomorrow: I rank the 13 races from most to least competitive.

Edmonton’s Ward 11: A New Ward, A New Rep

Dave Thiele’s announcement that he won’t seek another term means that there will be at least one new face on Edmonton City Council this year. Thiele, as the story notes, is the first Councillor to announce his retirement. Council’s longest-serving member, Ron Hayter, has yet to formally announce his intentions. The Mayor and the remaining 10 Councillors have all announced their intentions to seek re-election, though not all Councillors have indicated which Ward they intend to run in (Edmonton is switching from 6 two-rep wards to 12 single-rep wards).

A personal digression: I enjoyed a very good working relationship with Councillor Thiele, both during my year as Vice President External of the University of Alberta Students’ Union (where we worked on the Universal Bus Pass issue), and during my time working at City Hall (his Executive Assistant, Marilyn, is also one of the sweetest people alive). In spite of the many criticisms that have been leveled at Councillor Thiele’s performance over the years, he should be recognized for a few things. First, for being committed to his community. Second, for being a long-term advocate for better public transit. Third, for being an early, active supporter of a Universal Bus Pass for post-secondary students. In 2004, he sponsored a motion during budget deliberations to fund the U-Pass as a pilot project for University of Alberta students. Though that motion failed, a subsequent motion for further study the issue and bring it back to Council was passed at the same meeting, an early and important step in moving the U-Pass forward (it was introduced in 2007). Councillor Thiele’s efforts helped keep it moving at a time when it could have easily stalled.

With Thiele’s retirement, and Sohi’s confirmation that he will run in Ward 12, Ward 11 will be an open seat this fall. For my money, I think it will be one of two – Councillor Hayter will retire, leaving Ward 3 as an open race as well. In September, I did an analysis of the poll-by-poll numbers from 2007, and what they indicated for the 2010 election. There were a few things of note about Ward 11.

1. It’s Almost All Mature Neighbourhoods
The ward, which runs from Gateway Boulevard to 50th St (West to East) and Whyte Avenue to 12th Avenue (North to South), with a few industrial areas east of 50th thrown in, is almost entirely post-war to 70s-80s oil boom-era communities. This means issues such as neighbourhood infrastructure and school closures could be important here. New infrastructure projects won’t be much of a consideration, with the exception of the Southeast LRT, which will run through the Ward.

2. The 2007 Vote Totals Make for Interesting Scenarios
Most of Ward 11 is part of current Ward 6, though it takes in 4 communities from current Ward 4 as well.

Here are the 2007 results from the polls that make up Ward 11. Individual candidates who earned less than 10% overall are counted under ‘other’.

Ward 6 Vote Share Ward 4 Vote Share
Dave Thiele 22.35% Other 23.51%
Chinwe Okelu 18.99% Debbie Yeung 18.39%
Chuck McKenna 18.47% Lewis Cardinal 17.97%
Amarjeet Sohi 15.34% Ben Henderson 16.51%
Lori Heaney 12.22% Jane Batty 15.70%
Other 2.40% Undervote 7.93%
Undervote 10.23%

Councillor Thiele did his best here, but so did eventual Ward 6 runners-up Chinwe Okelu and Chuck McKenna. Additionally, the four Ward 4 polls were good ones for fiscally conservative Debbie Yeung, which might bode well for a candidate pitching that message.

3. This Year’s Race Will Be Wide Open
It’s unknown whether Okelu, McKenna, or 5th place finisher Lori Heaney will run again, in Ward 11 or elsewhere (though Heaney’s website makes reference to running in 2010). Okelu would be making his 5th try at Council, and though he came close (0.5% behind Sohi, 3% behind Thiele), wouldn’t figure to be a shoo-in here, given his repeated failure to get elected. McKenna would also have his work cut out for him, after finishing 2.5% behind Sohi and 5% behind Thiele in his first try. If he were to get out campaigning early, and find a couple of messages that connected with voters, he could very well find himself on Council.

There is one confirmed candidate: Shane Bergdahl, a former president of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. I believe he’s a first time candidate, but he has deep roots in the Ward, and a strong community background – two qualities that most successful candidates have.

I expect there will be other candidates stepping forward in Ward 11, and this will be one of the most hard-fought races of the 2010 Edmonton Civic Election. I encourage you to start learning about your ward and candidates, and what you want to see out of your representatives.

The Edmonton Civic Election, where the Mayor, City Council, and School Trustees will be elected to three year terms, will be held on Monday, October 18th.

Be the Change

FDR Shirt

That’s me, sporting my FDR t-shirt. I was incredibly excited to find this in Portland a couple of months back. FDR is one of my political icons; while he was far from perfect, his accomplishments in ushering in the New Deal, and in guiding the United States through most of World War II (he died in office in April 1945, about 4 months before the war officially ended) rank up there with any other President before or since. If he is not the greatest president, he is certainly near the top. I’ve always admired his dedication to helping everyone, especially the less fortunate, and the courage he showed in bringing in dramatic reforms to American society.

The lessons of FDR are useful now. Not only are we facing significant upheaval in our economic system, but we are a society in flux. Additionally, dissatisfaction with, and cynicism about, government run high.

If you’re concerned with any of those issues above, and live in or near Edmonton, Alberta, then you should come to Change Camp on Saturday. The idea, in a nutshell, of Change Camp is to get citizens in a room to discuss their concerns, and hopefully to come up with some ideas about how to go forward. It’s a citizen driven initiative; participants throw out topic suggestions at the beginning of the day, and “vote with their feet“, choosing sessions based on what interests them. For more specific details on the event, I suggest checking out the official website, as well as Daveberta‘s post, along with the slideshow/audio contained within.

All the above sounds great on paper, but what should we really expect? Well, that’s a good question. As a participant-driven event, most of what we get out of it will depend on what we’re willing to contribute in terms of topics and discourse about them. Don’t let the weighty slogan of “how do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation?” discourage you. At the root, Change Camp is an event about bringing people together, and talking about their ideas and concerns. I picture it more “college kids in a dorm discussing the world” – informal, broad, and collaborative – than “Kingston Conference“. Sure, there will be people in attendance with a specific agenda, but I suspect most people are attending because of a general interest or concern regarding citizenship, government, and politics.

I’m not sure what to expect in terms of outcomes, but I see the process itself as being valuable. It’s the kind of get-together I suggested here (in paragraphs 6-7) needs to happen more often; citizens coming together to discuss, learn, and collaborate. One event or idea likely won’t change the world, but many in aggregate may bring about large-scale change, or plant the seeds for future changes. Change will only come about when citizens take the initiative, and get involved to bring it about. Being passive or dropping out of the system won’t get us anywhere.

If you’re interested in government and citizenship and want to connect with others who are, I hope you’ll join the 170 other citizens who have already signed up, even if it’s just to stop in for a bit.

If you do, feel free to come find me; I’d love to chat. I’ll be the guy in the FDR t-shirt.

Event Details:
ChangeCamp Edmonton
Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 9am to 4:30pm
Registration at 8:30am
Maple Leaf Room, Lister Conference Centre, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Follow on Twitter: #yegchange

I’ll also be writing intermittently throughout the day on this site.

Edmonton’s 12 Ward System: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Starting with next year’s election, Edmonton is switching from a system of 6 Wards with 2 representatives each on City Council to one with 12 Wards and a single rep. Earlier this month, Scott McKeen wrote a piece in the Edmonton Journal on the impending switch, and some of the challenges it portends for Councillors. Within that piece, he makes some assumptions about what certain incumbents might be facing. Reading it, I started thinking, ‘what might the 2007 results tell us about the 2010 election’? So, while I’m not a wizard with numbers, I had an inkling that the past election results might tell us something about 2010. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a few hours going through the poll-by-poll results from 2007. I have since sorted them into the relevant ward under the 12 ward system. In undertaking this, I hoped to find if the 2007 vote pointed us towards any trend, and in particular if it gave us any indication how the incumbents and challengers might fare next time around.

A few things to know:
1. The percentages listed in the spreadsheets and this post are percentages of eligible votes, not votes cast. I count undervotes to get a better idea of what percentage of voters actually supported a given candidate. I think it’s important to count undervotes since they come from people who took the time to vote, but didn’t see fit to vote for a second (or in some cases a first) candidate for Council. Abstaining here while voting for Mayor and/or School Trustee could indicate a level of dissatisfaction with the candidates from last election.
2. Anything written here is not meant as an endorsement of (or against) anyone. I’m simply relaying the numbers and what I interpret them to mean. Consider it a public service, and free advice for anyone considering a run in 2010.
3. An obvious limitation is the absence of preferential balloting. Without it, you can’t say whether, for example, someone who voted for Krushell and Hayter in Ward 2 would rank them 1-2 or vice-versa. The best we can do is look at who got the larger share of votes overall.
4. Any candidate(s) who earned less than 10% of the vote were put into the category of other (with the number of candidates in the category in brackets), for sake of tallying vote shares. This was done largely to make the numbers easier to follow, and I stuck with the 10% rule for consistency’s sake even when only one candidate in a ward fell into that category.

You can see the breakdowns sorted in two formats. The polls are sorted by which ward they are a part of in the 6 ward system here, and by which ward they’ll be a part of in the 12 ward system here.

When I have more time, I would like to try to go more in-depth with the numbers, and try to account for things like an ‘incumbent bump’ from first to subsequent election wins, and how voter turnout affects things, but for the time being lets look at the results from 2007. Going ward-by-ward, let’s see what they tell us.

A map of the new 12 Ward System

A map of the new 12 Ward System

Current Ward 1
This ward will be split into new wards 1 and 5. Ward 1 encompasses the most of the area north of the Whitemud, and 5 encompasses the area south, with a few communities north of the Whitemud included.

Ward 1
Karen Leibovici 35.75%
Linda Sloan 29.38%
Andrew Knack 12.89%
Betty Kennedy 11.54%
Undervote 10.45%

Wherever she runs, Karen Leibovici is a good bet to be re-elected. In Ward 1, Leibovici beats out her wardmate Linda Sloan, earning 35.75% of eligible votes compared to 29.38% for Sloan. In Ward 5, where Leibovici lives and is likely to run, she enjoys a similar lead, earning 36.87% to 30.31%. Sloan performed well enough to give her confidence that as long as she’s not running head-to-head against Leibovici, she starts the election in a strong position to win.

Ward 5
Karen Leibovici 36.87%
Linda Sloan 30.31%
Andrew Knack 12.56%
Betty Kennedy 9.64%
Undervote 10.65%

2007’s third-place finisher Andrew Knack doesn’t have an easy decision about where to run next year. His vote share is nearly identical in the two new wards, 12.89% in Ward 1 and 12.56% in Ward 5.

Current Ward 2
In 2004, veteran Councillor Ron Hayter bested the 2nd place finisher, newly-elected Kim Krushell, earning just over 40% more votes than her. In 2007, Krushell wiped out that margin and then some, finishing ahead of Hayter by 4% across the board.

Ward 2
Kim Krushell 28.93%
Ron Hayter 24.02%
Dave Loken 16.89%
Shelly Tupper 11.54%
Other (2) 9.56%
Undervote 9.06%

Krushell lives in the new Ward 2 and is almost certain to run there if she seeks another term. If Hayter chooses to challenge her there, he’ll have to make up the nearly 5% in the returns that he lagged by.

Ward 3
Kim Krushell 30.52%
Ron Hayter 24.61%
Dave Loken 15.44%
Shelly Tupper 7.64%
Other (2) 11.68%
Undervote 10.12%

In the new Ward 3, both Krushell and Hayter have a slightly higher percentage, and third-place finisher Dave Loken loses about 1.5% compared to Ward 2. New Ward 3 also takes in part of old Ward 3, making it a possibility for incumbents and past candidates from that ward as well.

There are also about 3 polls that move over to the new Ward 7. Krushell and Hayter are in a virtual tie there, but it’s doubtful either one would run there.

Current Ward 3
This ward splits into three. As mentioned, some of the north-central ridings go to new Ward 3. The Northeast part goes to new Ward 4, and the southern polls go to new Ward 7.

Ward 3
Ed Gibbons 26.36%
Tony Caterina 23.18%
Harvey Voogd 17.64%
Other (5) 20.40%
Undervote 12.41%

First-term Councillor Tony Caterina does his best in new Ward 3, coming in just 3% behind incumbent Councillor Ed Gibbons. The vote for Harvey Voogd, the third-place finisher, falls back here compared to other polls. This could be Caterina’s best shot, though he’d be in tough if he faced Hayter or Dave Loken, who will run again and would be a contender in the new Ward 3.

Ward 4
Ed Gibbons 27.24%
Tony Caterina 21.56%
Harvey Voogd 18.19%
Other (5) 21.99%
Undervote 11.01%

Gibbons and Caterina both live here. Gibbons does a bit better and Caterina does a bit worse compared to Ward 3. This would be Gibbons’ best place to run. From what I understand, Caterina is out in the community a lot (especially in this part), which might help him close the gap some. This would be one of those instances where knowing the first place preference of voters would be helpful. My gut says Gibbons, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If he runs here, Caterina could at the very least make it closer than many pundits would think. This or new Ward 3 look like his best chances to retain a seat on Council.

Ward 7
Ed Gibbons 23.75%
Harvey Voogd 20.91%
Tony Caterina 19.71%
Other (5) 24.88%
Undervote 10.75%

New Ward 7 is the most interesting of the three. Scott McKeen surmises that Caterina would be in tough here, and he’s correct. Caterina earns just under 20% of the vote in new Ward 7, slightly down from the other new Wards. I think the broader point is that, no matter where he runs, Councillor Caterina has his work cut out for him.

Ed Gibbons likely won’t run here, which is good since his vote drops compared to that in new Wards 3 and 4. He earns less than 24% of the vote, just ahead of Voogd, and behind the cumulative total of the 5 other candidates. This is not a strong performance for an incumbent. With the high share of votes going to candidates besides the incumbent and overall second place finisher, I think the indication is that Ward 7 could be wide open, regardless of who’s on the ballot.

Current Ward 4
This ward largely splits into two – new Wards 6 and 8, though 4 of the 41 polls (from the southeast part) move to new Ward 11.

Ward 6
Jane Batty 20.50%
Ben Henderson 17.90%
Lewis Cardinal 17.87%
Debbie Yeung 14.30%
Other (11) 21.34%
Undervote 8.10%

Both incumbent Councillors live in the new Ward 6. If they choose to go head-to-head, it will be an interesting battle. Batty came in first, besting Henderson by 2.6%, a small margin and certainly one that could be made up with the advantage of also being an incumbent. But, there are two other factors worth considering.

First, Batty was a two-term incumbent entering this election. Despite this advantage, she only got 20.5% of eligible votes, meaning that 59 of every 100 voters in these polls did not cast a vote for her. For reasons I can’t understand, since she is a good Councillor, Batty hasn’t really grown her vote since first getting elected in 2001. She would be vulnerable, particularly against a strong opponent.

The second thing is that Ward 4 was a close three-way race. Lewis Cardinal came close to besting Henderson. In the polls moving to new Ward 6, Cardinal finished a mere 7 votes behind Henderson. Both earned close to 18% of the vote. Both are fairly close in terms of policy. Their strong performances indicate a strong block of votes for progressive/left-wing candidates.

Who would win a matchup between Batty and Henderson? My money is on the latter. He would have momentum behind him as the newer councillor, and has strong ties in areas like the arts community. But the numbers tell us it could be close either way.

Ward 8
Ben Henderson 19.14%
Jane Batty 18.29%
Lewis Cardinal 16.88%
Debbie Yeung 14.85%
Other (11) 23.27%
Undervote 7.56%

In new Ward 8, Henderson comes in first, Batty a close second, and Cardinal third, the vote share for the latter two less than in new Ward 6.

As McKeen mentioned, Henderson could run here, but there’s also a good chance that rookie Ward 5 Councillor Don Iveson will run here. Not only are the two closely aligned in terms of policy, but it would be a tough matchup for Henderson to win.

Current Ward 5
Three polls from current Ward 5 move to new Ward 8. One of them happens to be the community where Iveson now lives.

Ward 8
Don Iveson 37.91%
Bryan Anderson 27.00%
Mike Nickel 14.53%
Other (1) 6.42%
Undervote 14.26%

He performed very well in these there polls in 2007, and would likely do very well across new Ward 8, as much of the riding is similar in character to the areas that gave him the best returns in ’07. If it’s not Iveson (or Henderson) on the ballot in Ward 8, someone like them is in a good position to do well. Iveson could also run in Ward 10, but we’ll come back to that in a second.

Ward 9
Bryan Anderson 30.36%
Mike Nickel 28.10%
Don Iveson 25.15%
Other (1) 5.80%
Undervote 10.70%

New Ward 9 is likely to be an open seat. Neither of the current Ward 5 incumbent live here. Anderson did the best here of any candidate on the ballot in ’07, but his home base is in the new Ward 10. Mike Nickel, who was bested by Iveson, did his best here. What this tells us is that a candidate selling a more fiscal conservative agenda might do well here. Nickel does nearly 5% better here than in Ward 10, and doubles his support compared to the northernmost polls in current Ward 5 (those headed to new Ward 8). Iveson’s vote is down a similar amount here compared to Ward 10, meaning that it might be tough going for a candidate pushing a message like his. Keep in mind that Iveson ran a superb campaign, and though Nickel was more popular here than elsewhere, he still had his share of critics in this area. A candidate like, say, Lewis Cardinal (who lives in Ward 10) won’t have the latter conditions, and if 2007 is an indication, will probably run a good, but not great campaign. In terms of other candidates, Brent Michalyk, who ran in 2007, lives in the southern part of this ward, but he earned less than 6% of the vote. Donna Finucane has run a couple of times, most recently in 2004. She may run again, but given the turnover in this area, 6 years is a long time, and she’s not guaranteed to begin the campaign with the name recognition one might expect.

Because of these factors, I would say that the Ward 9 seat is the most wide-open one by far heading into the election.

Ward 10
Bryan Anderson 30.17%
Don Iveson 29.92%
Mike Nickel 23.16%
Other (1) 6.16%
Undervote 10.60%

Ward 10 is where Anderson lives, and Iveson lived as well at the time of the ’07 election. This is likely where Anderson will run if he seeks another term, and most would expect him to be in a strong position to hold off any challengers. And they might be right, but if Iveson also wants this seat, he’s well-poised to win.

As the numbers show, Iveson battled Anderson to a near draw, trailing him by 66 votes out of a possible 27,306. This is a riding where knowing the voters’ first place preference would be helpful. But in the absence of that, all we can do is speculate. If the two were on the ballot, my guess is that voters would go for the younger incumbent, rationalizing that Anderson has served them for four terms, but Iveson is the one likely to serve them for four more. Iveson’s campaign volunteers would likely be more motivated as well. But if only one of them is on the ballot in Ward 10, that one is likely to win big; both earned 30% of votes here.

Current Ward 6
Aside from a few polls that go to new Ward 8, the polls here split into new Wards 11 and 12.

The Ward 8 polls are interesting. Lori Heaney, the overall 5th place finisher, actually comes in first here, nearly 4% ahead of Thiele. I’m assuming she lives in this area, and should she wish to run in the future this might be her best spot.

Ward 11
Dave Thiele 22.35%
Chinwe Okelu 18.99%
Chuck McKenna 18.47%
Amarjeet Sohi 15.34%
Lori Heaney 12.22%
Other (1) 2.40%
Undervote 10.23%

If Amarjeet Sohi runs in Ward 11, he might face an uphill battle to stay on Council. Sohi, who finished 2nd overall, finished 4th in these polls. Thiele does his best here, but still only earns the vote of about 45% of those who showed up. Third place finisher Chinwe Okelu’s vote is pretty consistent across the board, good but far enough off the leader’s pace to show that he has work to do if he plans to run again. Chuck McKenna does his best here. Of note, Debbie Yeung also did the best in the 4 polls from current Ward 4 that move to new Ward 11, indicating a potential fiscal conservative streak amongst voters here. This would, of course, be bad news for Councillor Thiele, widely perceived as one of the most liberal spenders on Council. Between that and his relatively low vote share, Thiele is vulnerable here. And this ward is probably his best shot at a win; Ward 12 would be a tougher battle.

Ward 12
Dave Thiele 20.86%
Amarjeet Sohi 20.78%
Chinwe Okelu 18.80%
Chuck McKenna 16.10%
Lori Heaney 8.98%
Other (1) 2.79%
Undervote 11.70%

Thiele did finish first here, a mere 15 votes ahead of Sohi in polls that cast 19,920 votes. It would stand to reason that with a term of experience and exposure under his belt, Sohi would be ready to surpass his elder on Council. Except that he probably already did in ’07.

This is the one instance where advance polls are informative. Sohi got his vote out and then some. In the other wards, the advance poll results deviated little from the overall result. Here, Sohi takes 32% of votes, almost double that of Thiele. It’s safe to project that the bulk of those votes came from Ward 12 polls, meaning Sohi almost certainly got more votes from people who live in the Ward 12 polls. His advance poll vote is a sign of a well-organized campaign. With a term of experience behind him, Sohi is likely to cruise to victory in Ward 12 – with or without Thiele on the ballot.

Summary
The numbers do tell a story. It shows us that some incumbents look to be in good shape, others might have a fight on their hands regardless of where they run, which is what we might have expected to find.

Of course, a lot can still change. If Mayor Mandel decides not to seek another term, one or more Councillors could step up and run for his job (Leibovici and Sloan thought to be the most likely, Iveson and Krushell the next most, anyone else on Council would be a surprise), thus opening up any number of seats. Similarly, I think at least one or two incumbents will end up retiring; they may not be tipping their hand yet, but why do so and risk becoming a lame duck when you still have 1/3 of your term remaining?

In any case, I think before anyone makes assumptions or plans for 2010, it’s important to look at what the numbers are telling us. I hope this is informative for anyone interested in or engaged in Edmonton civic politics.