Edmonton has adopted a more ambitious attitude since Stephen Mandel became Mayor in 2004. I voted for Mr. Mandel in that election because he embodied an exciting and forward-looking change that contrasted sharply with the past decade of mediocre leadership.
In many ways, I feel the same way about Don Iveson in 2013 as I did about Stephen Mandel in 2004.
Because Mr. Mandel’s leadership, the City of Edmonton is a different place. Looking outward, our City is no longer embroiled in painful public squabbles with our regional neighbours. Looking within city limits, we have seriously invested into renewing our crumbling public infrastructure and public spaces. The expansion of Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit system has been a big step in making our city more accessible and our downtown and inner city neighbourhoods are beginning to blossom.
When I first moved to Edmonton in the early 2000s, I lived in an apartment in a decrepit area of Oliver. I soon moved south of the North Saskatchewan River, but when I moved back two years later, I was surprised at how different the area had become. New condo and apartment buildings had been constructed over the past five years, which led to new businesses and restaurants in the area. This spilled over into the 104 Street district, where a bustling farmers market, restaurants and new condo developments have brought people downtown. People are now actually walking down Jasper Avenue at night!
With the closure of Edmonton’s City Centre Airport, the development of the new Blatchford district will present many challenges and opportunities. It is a blank slate that, if properly developed, could grow into a vibrant core neighbourhood. It will take discipline and foresight to make sure this happen.
It would be unfair to only focus on the city centre. Our city’s suburban communities have greatly expanded over the past nine years, putting significant growth pressures on our city’s transportation infrastructure and school systems. The next mayor will need to balance the pressures of managing growth on our outskirts and the continued renewal of downtown and mature neighbourhoods.
Mr. Mandel helped take Edmonton to where it is today and our next mayor will need to avoid the comfortable allure of the status-quo. Our next mayor will need to take Edmonton to the next step. I believe that Don Iveson is the mayor who can take Edmonton forward.
Over his two terms on city council, Don Iveson has defined himself as a hard-working and thoughtful leader through his words and actions. Reinforced by the comprehensive platform positions released over the course of this election campaign, he has demonstrated a solid understanding of the infrastructure and growth challenges facing Edmonton. I appreciate that many of the ideas he has presented in this campaign are long-term plans and opportunities that would transform our city over the next thirty-years. I believe he has the leadership skills needed to build a coalition on the next city council that can implement these plans.
Read Don Iveson’s approach to funding our city and proposals for expanded LRT and public infrastructure, new approaches to housing choice and infill, support for business and the arts and volunteer sector, as well as expanded partnerships with Edmonton’s capital region partners.
Don Iveson has taken principled positions on controversial issues like the closure of the City Centre Airport and the development of the new downtown arena district. While I disagree with his final decision to support funding the downtown arena project, I respect his ability to ask tough questions of the process and how he made his final decision. I trust him to make the best decision, even when I may disagree.
I expect Don Iveson will be the strong advocate Edmonton needs when dealing with the provincial government. Along with Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alberta’s two largest cities could be the powerful force needed to fix the fiscal inequities faced by our province’s urban municipalities.
Perhaps one of the characteristics I like most about Don Iveson is that he is not afraid to dream big. “No one should underestimate our city” is a catchy phrase, but it is more than a slogan. It represents the next step that Edmonton needs to take to become a great city. Stephen Mandel helped build a solid foundation over the past decade and I believe Don Iveson is the person to lead us through the next decade.
(For the reasons explained above, I am happy to be volunteering my personal time during the election campaign to help Don Iveson become the next mayor of Edmonton. If you want to help Don Iveson become Edmonton’s next mayor, you can volunteer too!)