In 1987 and facing the aftermath of the Black Friday Tornado, Mayor Laurence Decore dubbed Edmonton a “City of Champions.” This was not because of winning sports teams, but because of the indomitable spirit of our citizens and our ability to come together, as a community, for the greater good. Over the years this slogan has come to mean many things to many people, but for me, it will always be about who we are as citizens, friends, families and neighbours.
Edmonton is a City of Champions. Everywhere you look you will find Champions fighting for causes, people and issues that affect our City in extraordinary ways. The team at Youth Empowerment & Support Service are Champions for at risk youth. Mayor Mandel became a Champion for a City that seemed to have been forgotten many years ago, destined to be good enough but not great and he demanded better. The Edmonton Homeless Commission is a group of Champions for some of our most vulnerable citizens. These are just a few examples of thousands I could offer you.
Everywhere I look, I find Champions in Edmonton who are willing to do the work to make our City a better place to live, a more rewarding place to work and a more entertaining place to play. More than that, however, they are working to make us a more compassionate, sustainable and inclusive City, where diversity thrives, opportunity exists and adversity is met head-on with resolve. I am running for City Council in Ward 5 because I want to be a Champion too: a Champion for sensible solutions and innovative ideas; for our citizens, no matter what their circumstances; and for promoting a vision of Edmonton that is grand, but affordable.
The last nine years have been huge, with a Mayor that set big goals and a new direction for our City. We need to commit to finishing the big projects, like the arena and the LRT, which have the potential to transform Edmonton. We also need to encourage investment in our Downtown core, create a dynamic approach to how we grow that is long-term and sustainable, and develop strategies to bring amenities, like recreation centres, athletic facilities and green spaces, to our communities. We cannot allow complacency or stagnation to set in because of the successes we have already achieved.
At the same time, we need to be realistic. All of these things cost money to plan, build and maintain. The City’s debt has increased exponentially in the last nine years. Our basic infrastructure will require $17 Billion over the next 10-years. Our property taxes increase every year and, for many, they have already exceeded the affordability ceiling. For many more, the ceiling is fast approaching. What I hear more and more from residents in Ward 5 is that most think the progress we have made is positive, some think it is frivolous, but all are trying to figure out how we will pay for it. It will not be easy trying to find new sources of revenue, but our current approach to taxation is not sustainable, we cannot perpetually and annually increase property taxes, there is a breaking point.
I want to live, work, and play in a City that offers me the opportunity to choose the right lifestyle for me. We have all the elements we need to offer Edmontonians the lifestyle choices they want, we simply need to ensure that there is a balance between what we offer and how we can afford to pay for it. My vision of Edmonton is simple: a City that offers citizens the opportunity to choose the lifestyle that they want; a City that works with its regional partners to improve the delivery of common services, like public transit; a City that fights for a new financial agreement with the provincial and federal governments; a City that is inclusive, diverse and rich with culture; and a City that balances its needs with its wants. As I listen and learn my attitudes and opinions change, but my commitment to this City and its future is steadfast. I believe in our Edmonton and its Champions and that is why I am running.