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Ben Henderson Edmonton City Centre Airport Jane Batty Linda Sloan Ron Hayter Stephen Mandel Tony Caterina

phased closure of edmonton’s city centre airport a smart step.

I am very pleased that Edmonton City Council decided to support the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Yesterday’s 10 to 3 vote (with Councillors Tony Caterina, Ron Hayter, and Linda Sloan being the three) puts an end to this portion of a debate that started long before the 1995 City-wide plebiscite on scheduled service.

I am proud of our City Council. They made a courageous decision and have taken up the challenge of implementing some (literally) ground-shifting positive change to how urban Edmonton will develop over the next twenty years. Mack Male was in Council Chambers yesterday and has written a good recap of the vote, amendments, and what the result means for the ECCA and our City. While Councillors stopped short of attaching actual dates to the closure, which may leave some people remaining skeptical about the decision, Mayor Stephen Mandel insisted that the motion was a clear decision to close to ECCA.

The group of Edmontonians supporting the closure were diverse, but it was likely one of the first times that social media has played a prominent role in such an important municipal decision as this. While it is impossible to know what decision Councillors would have made under different circumstances, Notmyairport.ca (which was launched masterfully by Mack Male), twitter (see: #ecca), a large Facebook presence, and a very active group of young Edmontonian bloggers proved that the organic nature of social media can translate into a very powerful advocacy tool. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of grassroots advocacy on future municipal issues (I’m looking at you, Better Edmonton…)

One of the main groups opposing the closure was the Alberta Enterprise Group. While I joked yesterday that this now puts the group at 0 for 2 (AEGs predecessor group, the Grassroots Leadership Group, bankrolled Mark Norris’ campaign for the PC leadership in 2006), I believe that this was a significant legitimizing exercise for the AEG. Although they seem to have a larger focus on provincial affairs, as suggested by their recent trade delegation to Switzerland (which included Premier Ed Stelmach), I doubt that this is the last we will see of this group. With a municipal election ahead in October 2010, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the AEG throw their financial support behind candidates in the Mayoral and some Councillor races.

Edmontonians and their Councillors will now be challenged to put a great of thought and reflection into what kind of communities we want to see realized on the ECCA lands in ten or twenty years from now. It’s hard for me not to get excited about the unique opportunity that the closure of the ECCA is giving Edmonton because it is extremely rare for any major metropolitan area to be given the challenge of developing such a large piece of land so close to the city core.

As I wrote in my letter to Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty earlier this week, the land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart residential and commercial development. These include the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best to be built on the ECCA lands. If developed with thought and foresight, new smart growth on the ECCA lands will bring us a step closer to realizing that there can be a better Edmonton.

Related Links:
– The Edmontonian: Interview with CBC Radio (with @journalistjeff and @mastermaq)
– fusedlogic The Great Edmonton Airport Debate
– Don Iveson: City Centre Airport: Leaning Towards Closure
– Alain Saffel: Should Edmonton close the Edmonton City Centre Airport?
– Darren Barefoot: Edmonton’s Airport Debate
– Scott McKeen: Fifty years of airport rancour must end with decision to close it

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