[We sent five questions concerning green living, local economy and inclusiveness to all of the Election 2017 council candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]
What is the biggest challenge your Ward faces? What policy solutions would you seek if elected?
Our Ward is in the process of reinventing itself. Most of the neighbourhoods in Ward 8 were built as suburban communities. They are now the centre of a rapidly growing metropolis and region with a population over 1.3 million. Over the last 40 years, mature and core neighbourhoods in Edmonton have lost nearly 73,000 people. If we are going to keep our schools open, our grocery stores viable and our coffee shops bustling, we need to bring people back into these neighbourhoods. But how we do it matters.
Right now there’s a lot of discussion about both small and large scale infill. The reality is that we have derelict and even empty housing that does need to turn over, but we also have really solid housing stock that could easily accommodate families. A combination of income disparity, rising land value (partially due to speculation?), additional costs associated with infill, a lack of medium density family oriented housing and aggressive marketing of the suburbs are all contributing to this phenomenon.
We need to address the anxiety about infill, while also finding creative ways to make housing more affordable. We also need to look at maintenance and retrofitting of our existing housing stock and start to tell a new story about our mature communities.
On the policy side, we need to:
*improve public engagement about infill before new builds happen
*become more clear about our design requirements and shift focus from surface design to design for social connection and economic resilience
*design for the demographic mix we need to keep neighbourhoods sustainable
*improve the accountability and enforcement side when things aren’t going right
*have all large scale infill go through the Edmonton Design Committee
*make our affordable housing policies more robust so that we actually start building it into every large-scale infill project
*create policy that addresses the full spectrum of affordability
*incentivize or otherwise facilitate maintenance and retrofitting of our existing housing stock
*invest in the amenities and infrastructure necessary to support increased density
*work with communities to tell the story about their neighbourhoods and develop ways to market our mature neighbourhoods.
How will you help Edmonton become a greener / more environmentally friendly city?
An environmentally friendly city is also a sustainable and resilient city. Our current growth pattern is unsustainable and we need to wrestle with the challenging issue of how we will shift this pattern in a way that enhances our communities. Shifting culture, requires building strong relationships, understanding the challenges that change brings to a community and providing support and good information as we go through the change.
We need to make sure that the infill we are building brings people back into our mature and core neighbourhoods. When building anything new, we need to consider the full lifecycle of a building and start looking at impacts on energy use and drainage. It’s frustrating that we have large institutional buildings in this city that, after replacing them with something new, we aren’t sure what to do with them.
Just as we need to consider a life-cycle policy for larger buildings, we should also be looking at our existing housing stock and along with other levels of government, provide supports for retrofitting. I went through the retrofit process, and it is a lot easier right now to build new infill (which is hard) than it is to retrofit. We need to work cross-jurisdictional to improve access to retrofitting programs and possibly develop our own as well. This includes looking at the capacity in our trades to do retrofitting work as the focus has often been on new construction.
When we are building new, we need to be building for multiple generations. We have the understanding and technology to build energy efficient and net-zero buildings. Given the difficulty and expense associated with retrofitting, it is very short-sighted to be building anything that does not meet rigorous energy efficiency standards. Some new buildings are claiming LEED equivalency, but there is little visibility into how they are meeting these targets. We have 5x as many new houses being constructed in our suburban communities as we have in our mature neighbourhoods, and currently no requirements about how efficient they are beyond the building code. There is an interest in the development community to improve efficiency and programs like Built Green are starting to become more common, but I think the City can take leadership on energy efficiency in both new and established communities.
I support a robust, accessible, convenient transit system. We reduce congestion for vehicles, and greenhouse gas emissions, if it’s easy for a percentage of people to get out of their cars by encouraging transit, biking and walkability. We need to plan our public spaces for everyone from 8 years old to 80 years old. If our sidewalks, curb cuts etc. work for those of us with limited mobility, then they will surely see that it is also better for the rest of us! Walkability also means having destinations within our neighbourhoods where we can get groceries or a cup of coffee. Many constituents in Ward 8 express frustration that we have lost a number of grocery stores over the last couple years.
A strong local food economy buffers us from rapid changes in the world food market, spikes in the cost of transportation, decreases our carbon footprint and supports our local economy. I co-wrote, with three other leaders, The Way We Eat http://greateredmontonalliance.com/wayweeat.pdf as part of our presentations to City Council regarding the current Municipal Development Plan about eight years ago. There are still a lot of work to do to create a more sustainable local food system.
I would also like to see us consider options for improving drainage and increasing resilience through landscaping. In some jurisdictions, homes have to be designed to accommodate all drainage needs on site. We are a long way from this, but if we support the development of this capacity in the City administration, and in our communities we can save water, decrease flood risk and mitigate the limitations of our current drainage system.
Addressing the impacts of climate change, also includes recognizing that the impacts will be felt first and most severely by our most vulnerable. Issues related to poverty, homelessness, income and food insecurity and racism all need to be addressed as a part of our social and environmental stewardship.
How will you strengthen Edmonton’s local economy and support our city’s independent, locally-owned businesses?
We need to look at where the opportunities are, on the ground, for new and emerging businesses. We are becoming a more diversified economy and we need to put our efforts into supporting innovation. The new Regional Economic Development corporation Edmonton Global will bring new opportunities for collaborating with our regional partners and attracting opportunities for our local businesses as well as bringing new business to the City.
We need to decrease the fees and hoops that new businesses are facing when they are starting out. There is no reason to make it more difficult when innovation is high and income is limited. I would like us to shift our focus to the enforcement end, so that if we have businesses behaving badly we are in a better position to address those issues. In the meantime, those that are good neighbours and bringing jobs and innovation and vibrancy to our communities need to be supported and freed up to do what they do best. We also need to be making sure that our Business Improvement Areas are connected on the ground to the businesses themselves and to the communities they serve. Prioritizing local innovation and business is essential because every dollar spent in the local economy contributes to the multiplier effect, whereas dollars spent in a large corporation leave the local economy and don’t continue to sustain our communities. Another way to support local businesses is to get out ahead of incoming development and start recruiting the tenants that communities are looking for. A neighbourhood can get together, create the vision for what amenities they want in the community and start looking for those businesses. We have so many opportunities for collaboration if we break out of our silos.
How will you make this a more inclusive city and support Edmonton’s marginalized communities?
As volunteer co-chair of the Council Initiative on Public Engagement, a key part of our work was to figuring out ways to reach out to a significantly more diverse population than has typically been engaged with the City. Beyond that, we need to meet people where they are at, provide support for existing capacity and also provide opportunities for learning, training and networking so that we have more diverse perspectives at the table all the time!
I want to work with the Province and the police commission to ban carding. This tool is not accomplishing its stated goals, and is perpetuating systemic racism. We need to work with police to enhance their capacity and use other tools so that this does not continue.
We have a serious issue with diversity on Council and in City Administration. I was a part of the City’s Opening the Potential program for women interested in running for public office. Even there I witnessed additional barriers to women of colour. If we are going to have a Council and Administration that reflects the diversity of our population we need to look at a range of tools to shift our culture. We need to start by recognizing the capacity that is there and find ways to raise it up. We need to provide mentorship, more flexible workplaces (at all levels), childcare and other supports. We don’t make good decisions in a bubble. This needs to be unpacked in an ongoing and systematic way.
We need to look specifically at the high rates of homelessness and vulnerability for our LGBTQ+ youth and start addressing that head-on with those on the ground. We need to go and listen to young people and those that provide services for them and find out what they need directly. And then start building it, through collaboration. We need to work to combat this issue on a societal level and also make sure the supports are on the ground.
We also need to acknowledge the intersection of racism and poverty. Again, there is a significant piece of work we need to do around culture change. This needs to be shaped by those most impacted, but also raised up and championed by those of us who have the privilege and platform to elevate the issue. The layers here are complex, but we have to start peeling them back in systemic ways.
We also need to have those in the dominant demographics step aside and make space. I’ve been shocked by how dominant certain perspectives and voices are during this campaign. Those who come to speak to me vs. those who wait or step back. I’ve been working on specifically inviting people into the spaces and making room, but it’s an uphill battle that is invisible to those who already have the space.
A few other things I want to work on include:
*a livable income policy at the City for staff and contractors
*More resources for Housing First and more ongoing supports and a better transition out of Housing First
*Making our City and our public spaces much more welcoming to children and those who care for them
How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?
My platform is posted on my website (kirstengoa.ca). I also post regularly on social media. Follow me on twitter @kirstengoa or “Like” our Facebook page @kirstengoaward8. You can also find us on instagram: _kirsteng__ Our office is at 10516 – 82 Avenue Campaign phone: 587.598.GOA8(4628) Email: email@example.com We are a volunteer driven campaign and would appreciate any support in terms of time, donations, taking a sign, wearing a button and/or coming out to events. Please Vote on October 16th!