Having focused on Edmonton’s mayoral contest in last week’s edition, I decided that this week’s ‘Substance and Style’ review should focus on the City Council and School Board campaigns across the city.
A number of city council candidates have publicly released the names of campaign donors, including David Dodge in Ward 3 (list here), Heather Mackenzie (list here) and Scott McKeen in Ward 6 (link here) and Dave Colburn in Ward 7 (list here). Mr. Colburn has taken the unusual step of refusing to accept donations from developers or unions as a matter of principle. If I have missed any others, please post in the comments section below.
School board candidates
The Edmonton Public School Board has posted video interviews with candidates competing in the nine wards across the city. Here are the two candidates contesting the election in my area, Ward D:
Election forums online Archived video from mayoral and city council candidate forums can be found on the City of Edmonton website.
Election Day is October 21, but advanced voting locations are now open in five locations across Edmonton. Three special post-secondary advanced voting locations will be open next week at NAIT, MacEwan University and the University of Alberta.
You are eligible to vote if: you present authorized identification, you are at least 18 years of age, you are a Canadian citizen, you are a resident of a ward within the city of Edmonton on Election Day, you have lived in Alberta since April 23, 2013, and you have not already voted in the current election.
On last night’s #yegvote Google Hangout, the third in our series, Ryan Hastman, Mack Male, and I were joined by AlizaDadani from the group ActivatED. According to their website, “ActivatED is committed to electing forward-thinking progressive councillors in the 2013 Edmonton Municipal Election.” Endorsing candidates can be a messy business and ActivatED is already ruffling some feathers in Edmonton’s 2013 election season. The group has already endorsed Linda Sloan in Ward 1, David Dodge in Ward 3, Dave Colburn in Ward 7, Ben Henderson in Ward 8, and Amarjeet Sohi in Ward 12.
Thank you to Ms. Dadani for joining us on the hangout and articulately explaining her group’s raison-d’être and decision making process. You can watch the hangout in the embed above and at EdmontonPolitics.com.
As it becomes clear that poor planning and bad strategy is leaving a few current Edmonton politicians scratching their heads at how to fund this mega-project, it is becoming more likely that the downtown arena will become a top issue in the October 21, 2013 municipal elections.
On May 14, Richard Feehan will be launching his campaign in Ward 10. Mr. Feehan is an instructor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work in Edmonton and is a former vice-president of Catholic Social Services. Also running in Ward 10 is community organizer Michael Walters. Incumbent Councillor Don Iveson, has announced he will not seek re-election for City Council in Ward 10.
When the Edmonton Public School Board ended its two year moratorium on school closures in Nov. 2012 it generated a good deal of public discussion. Parents and communities wanted to know what this new world would mean for schools with falling enrolment. People speculated on whether this moratorium had achieved anything and offered views on what the Board should do next.
The media analyzed closures, infrastructure and the board’s responsibilities. Our own planning department weighed in and talked of infrastructure challenges and different strategies to deal with closures. Even the City of Calgary saw media reporting their City Council wanted to play a greater role in closure decisions.
As a three-term trustee on the board, and former Board Chair, I have seen my share of school closures. The district closed 14 schools in my first 6 years on the board. Closures that reached into the inner city in the spring of 2010 (McCauley, Parkdale and Eastwood) were particularly divisive for the board and the city. People and organizations that had never taken a position on closures addressed the board in an historic six and half hour marathon Board meeting on April 13, 2010.
At the end of the evening a majority of the board had approved all five closure recommendations. I opposed those recommendations. In the weeks that followed I was increasingly convinced that the city had reached a saturation point with closures.
Early in my 2010 campaign for re-election I called for a moratorium on closures. Fairly quickly, school closures became a municipal election issue. Mayor Stephen Mandel, standing between both the public and Catholic board chairs, in the summer of 2010, called for new solutions. Trustee candidates began to openly discuss closures and commit to a moratorium, if elected. On November 30th, 2010, following a record turnover on the board that saw six new trustees elected, the board approved a two year moratorium on school closures.
In addition to a respite for communities facing possible closures, the board was also determined to undertake an exhaustive analysis of closures in order to build support for communities and lessen the likelihood of closure. A moratorium committee presented a report on school viability and closures, and a series of public meetings was held over the next year to discuss the findings of this report. This board response was unprecedented. Never before had the issue of school closures been so thoroughly and publicly analyzed. On Jan. 31, 2012, a series of recommendations, submitted by the committee, were approved by the board. As a member of that committee, I believe we gathered all possible information on closures, brought our best intelligence to the table, transparently engaged our public, and made recommendations that will create better supports for schools. I believe the public would support this work.
Lack of joint planning between the city and the district, sprawl created by the City of Edmonton’s growth strategies and inadequate, often arbitrary funding from the province all create enormous pressure on the district to close schools. In the winter of 2010, I successfully introduced a motion to begin tri-level discussions with the city and province on school closures and related issues. At first meeting of these three levels of government a senior minister described the initiative as “overdue and a new model of urban planning.”
The board moratorium committee, in Jan. 2012, recommended both the Catholic and public boards meet annually with the city and province to discuss joint planning. Following the mayor’s Community Sustainability Task Force, the Elevate report, released in Feb. 2012, made its top recommendation to “bring together the four jurisdictions (federal, provincial, municipal, school boards) to create innovative partnerships….to assemble a new urban agenda.”
So is anything really different? I would say yes, there are encouraging changes. It is reasonable to expect that three levels of government will be involved in future urban planning.
Schools will be closed in the future. How can this be done respecting the needs and views of communities? In an Andrea Sands article in the Edmonton Journal on January 13th, 2013, Edmonton Public’s Director of Planning, Dr. Lorne Parker spoke at length about the replacement school model. I very much like this model. The idea would see a number of schools (say 3 or 4) in close proximity to each other be closed, and, in return, a new school built to serve communities experiencing closure in the area. It would require gov’t commitment to fund a new school in return for closures. It would require authentic public consultation. Many groupings of schools in the district that would qualify for this approach.
Finally, I think this board’s extraordinary response to community concerns over school closures has reaffirmed, in a very public manner, the importance of community in any school closure decision. I am hopeful that we will never see again, as we did in 2010, a school closure discussion that does not mention the word community once.
Dave Colburn is a three-term school trustee and former chairman of the Edmonton Public School Board who lives in Edmonton’s Bellevue neighborhood, one block from Bellevue School, which was closed in 2003. He is stepping down from the board. This is his debut blog post. You can read more at davecolburn.ca
More than 200 people attended Mr. Walters’ campaign launch, including Ward 9 Councillor Bryan Anderson (who also recently announced his intentions to seek re-election), former Councillor Michael Phair, Edmonton-Riverview PC MLA Steven Young, former School Board Trustee Sue Huff, and past Liberal candidate Arif Khan.
Speaking to a crowd of New Democrats gathered to celebrate his more than 30-year career in politics, former MLA Ray Martin announced his intention to seek election in Edmonton Public School Board’s Ward D in this October’s municipal elections. Ward D’s current Trustee, Dave Colburn, announced he will not seek re-election.
“Once again, Edmonton’s schools in the urban core are in the crosshairs of PC budget cuts.” said Mr. Martin said in a press release this morning. “It’s time for Edmontonians to stand up for these schools and neighbourhoods and I’ll be happy to take that fight to the board and to the PC government.”
If political candidates earned Air Miles for each time they ran in an election, Mr. Martin would be the New Democratic Party’s resident globetrotter. Having served as his party’s provincial leader and leader of the Official Opposition from 1984 to 1993, Mr. Martin has become his party’s most well-known standard bearer over the past thirty-years (at least).
First elected as MLA for Edmonton-Norwood from 1982 to 1993, Mr. Martin returned to provincial politics in 2004, serving as Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview‘s MLA until 2008. Between his times in provincial politics, Mr. Martin was an elected trustee representing Ward D and was a perennial federal NDP candidate in Edmonton. Most recently, Mr. Martin ran as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-East in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections and in Edmonton-Glenora in the 2012 provincial election.
Writer and local activist Mimi Williams has announced her plans to challenge Councillor Tony Caterina in Ward 7 (Councillor Caterina is expected to seek re-election). A long-time NDP activist, Ms. Williams made her announcement at the NDP provincial council held last weekend in Edmonton. Her previous electoral experience includes runs for Edmonton Public School Board in 1995 and City Council in 1998, 2001, and 2004. Ms. Williams is expected to officially launch her campaign later this year.
Michael and his team have worked hard and effectively ran a City Council-like campaign for the Public School Board seat, so it was a rewarding experience to watch their hard work pay off when he was declared elected with 53% of the vote. It was also great to see so many people celebrate Michael’s victory last night, including Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taftand Ward D Public School Trustee Dave Colburn, who both stopped by to offer their congratulations.
At this point in the evening, word had begun to trickle in from our southern neighbours that Naheed Nenshi had taken the lead in Calgary’s Mayoral contest. Later that night, he would solidify his lead over Ric McIver and Barb Higgins and be elected Mayor of Calgary. Maybe it was the power of effectively using social media and word of mouth, but I did not talk with one person that night in Edmonton who had not heard about the Nenshi campaign over the previous 30 days.
Following some hearty celebratory drinks, we grabbed a cab over to the Ward 10Don Iveson election night party at the Parkallen Restaurant where celebrations were in full swing. Not only had Don just been re-elected to his second term on City Council, he also earned the highest percentage (76.3%) and highest vote total (12,945 votes) of any Councillor candidate running in this election.
Don has done an excellent job on City Council over the past three years as a voice for both new ideas and prudent planning. Along with fellow Councillors like Ben Henderson, Don has been a strong advocate for smart transit planning and family-oriented infill in his three years on Council.
After catching up with the crew at Team Iveson, we headed downtown to Mayor Stephen Mandel‘s election night party at the Sutton Place Hotel Ball Room. Mayor Mandel had been leading in the polls all night and by that point had settled into a 25% lead over second place challenger David Dorward.
In the end, Mayor Mandel was re-elected with 55% of the vote, a stunning rebuke to the Envision Edmonton lobby group that had essentially labeled the Mayor everything but a terrorist for not supporting their invalid plebiscite petition a month earlier.
The party at the Sutton Place was dying down by the time we arrived, but I still got the chance to chat with a few of the evenings successful candidates, including Councillor-elect Dave Loken who won a close race in the new Ward 3 and Councillor Henderson who was re-elected in the new Ward 8.
It was a late night and overall it was a fun evening for party hopping.
Overall thoughts on the election results…
I am thrilled that Naheed Nenshiwas elected Mayor of Calgary. His election victory has proved that you can win a Mayoral campaign by using full-sentences and presenting well-thought ideas. He will have a lot of challenges, including inheriting a dysfunctional City Council who do not owe him any allegiance, but not being an incumbent Councillor probably helped propel him into his election victory. I am sure that Premier Ed Stelmach is glad to be rid of his old rival, outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier, but Nenshi is no political slouch.
I am generally pleased with how Edmonton’s City Council contests resulted. The potential for ideologicalcontrarians like Kerry Diotte and Tony Caterina to cause havoc exists, but I believe that we may even have a stronger Council than the previous one, which could bode well in terms of cooperation and consensus building to move projects forward.
It was Christmas morning for political watchers this morning as candidates poured into City Hall to file their nomination papers. I have been to a lot of different political events in my time, but nothing has so far matched the euphoria of Nomination Day at City Hall.
Starting at 9am, bright eyed and well-intentioned candidates began to line up to submit their papers. As they moved down the line, candidates were peppered with questions and camera flashes by the media. For most candidates running in this election, this will be the closest they get to walking the red carpet.
After filing their nomination papers, candidates were scrummed and pressed by the media about who they were, where they were running, and what their positions were on pressing issues. Most of the media questions had to do with the decision to redevelop the City Centre Airport lands, but candidates also brought up their pet issues. Some candidates, like Councillor Jane Batty, came and left quickly. Others, like Ward 11 candidate Kerry Diotte, lingered to get as much media coverage as possible. Different styles for different candidates I suppose.
You might think that 30 days is a short time to reasonably campaign for election, and you would be right, but there were many candidates who came out of the woodwork to launch their campaign today. Most candidates came prepared and some, like Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra, came with campaign t-shirt toting entourages.
One unfortunate Mayoral aspirant, Cheryl Ullah, came with her nomination papers signed, but forgot to bring her $500 deposit with her. In a bizarre scene, she started collecting donations from reporters and other candidates only 10 minutes before the nomination deadline. Although she was able to raise $90 in about 8 minutes (with a generous $60 donation from Ward A Public School Board Trustee Cheryl Johner), she was unable to make up the extra $410 and dropped out of the race. Don Koziak has now lost the record for shortest Mayoral candidacy.
Out of 114 candidates who submitted their nomination papers today, only two were acclaimed. Incumbent Public School Board Trustees Dave Colburn (Ward D) and Catherine Ripley (Ward H) will not face any challengers on October 18. There had been rumours that some City Councillors may also be acclaimed, but in the end a few last-minute candidates filed papers to run against Councillor Don Iveson (Ward 10) and Councillor Karen Leibovici (Ward 5).
There are new candidates and competitive races across the City, but there are three City Council Wards that at this point stick out in my mind as the hot races to watch. Curiously, they are in Wards with prime numbers.
In the incumbentless Ward 3, Former Liberal candidate Kim Cassady filed his papers to run for City Council in Ward 3, taking on challengers Dave Loken and Terry Demers. This is Mr. Loken’s third time running for City Council and Ms. Demers second. As retiring Councillor Ron Hayter‘s Executive Assistant, Ms. Demers will have a special insight into the issues in this Ward. New entries into the Ward 3 contest are Shawn Philip Fairbridge, Hatem Naboulsi, John Oplanich, Greg Siver, Louis Sobolewski, and Michael Suess.
In Ward 7, former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen put his name forward last week to run against Councillor Tony Caterina. Challenger Brendan Van Alstine has been pounding the pavement for over a year to unseat Councillor Caterina, so Mr. McKeen’s entry had added some extreme unpredictability to the race in this north east central Ward. Other candidates entering the contest in Ward 7 today are Terry Rolls and Grant David Pullishy.
In south east central Edmonton, the vacant Ward 11 has drawn four main challengers in Community League organizer Shane Bergdahl, many-time candidate Chinwe Okelu, former Edmonton Sun columnist Mr. Diotte, and the well-organized Mr. Luthra. There has been an intense sign and door-knocking war happening in this Ward since earlier this year, which leads me to believe that it could be any one’s race. New candidates entering the race this morning are Roberto Maglalang and Brent Schaffrick
It also appears that some of the most competitive contests in this year’s election might be at the School Board level. In south central Ward F, long-time Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is not seeking re-election, leaving a three-way race between Michael Janz, Bev Sawyer, and Joanna Rozmus. In Ward G, incumbent Trustee George Rice is facing some serious competition from Sarah Hoffman.
Attending Nomination Day at City Hall was an interesting and worthwhile experience. At no other time during the next 30 days are all of the candidates going to be in the same room at the same time. This morning have me the opportunity to put the names (and websites, Facebook groups, and twitter accounts) to the faces and actually talk with some of the candidates. I hope that all the readers of this blog take the time to read up and try to meet with the candidates standing for election in your area. As the campaign begins in full (and the full list of candidates are released this afternoon), I will be taking a closer look at each Ward contest, the Mayoral election, and the races at the School Board level.
The meeting was preceded with a demonstration where over 200 parents and students rallied against the closures and welcomed community leaders, including MLAs Hugh MacDonald and Brian Mason, to speak to the crowd. After the demonstration, the crowd poured into the meeting hall (and thanks to the Edmonton Journal the meeting was live-streamed online so that people across the City could watch).
As the meeting began, it was clear that it would be a very tense evening. At one point during the meeting, as Trustee Sue Huff called out fellow Trustee Ken Shipka for not speaking to the motion to close one of the schools (Mr. Shipka would only say that he was voting for the closure), Board Chair Don Fleming snapped at Huff “RELAX!” It was an out of line comment from Trustee Fleming and only increased the thick intensity in the room.
I shared some thoughts on the inner city school closures a couple of weeks ago and I continue to believe that many of the challenges facing inner city schools have been caused by the lack of smart urban planning in Edmonton. As Edmonton continues to sprawl and spawn new neighborhoods in each direction, it has become increasingly difficult for the school board to plan the future of its schools. This is an issue of urban planning and coordination between City Councillors and School Board Trustees that needs to be addressed. Both Councillors and Trustees are doing Edmontonians a disservice when they do not work together.
I also feel that the Public School Trustees could be more creative with how they use the space available in these undercapacity schools. Could renting out unused space to non-profit, community, or public health groups help cover the costs of keeping these schools operating at such low capacities? Maybe this would not save every school from closure, but it might allow consolidation of two into one. I got the district feeling at last night’s meeting that most Trustees may had not considered these kind of ideas. It is my observation that there are only three Trustees who have been willing to look out of the box since the last election (Trustees Huff, Dave Colburn, and Catherine Ripley have caught my attention).
Last night the meeting room was packed with over 200 engaged and irritated citizens. Hopefully they will continue to stay engaged and challenge incumbent Trustees who continue to think inside the box when it comes to options for under-capacity schools. A growing number of these citizens have helped form groups like ARTES and understand that the election is only six months away.