I am saddened when I hear that almost half of a polled group of people think that council is awful. The people are not bad people, and they do work hard. But, working hard does not mean one is working properly, and it certainly does not mean that it is the correct work being done. When council commits to projects, we want them to be seen through, to know that our finances are in good hands and that they are acting in our best interests, and many people do not believe that this is the case. If our decisions on who to elect are continually based on likeability, we are going to get into big trouble. Taxes cannot keep going up forever. So, who is taken to task when problems occur? And how should accountability be measured?
Accountability is best measured by how people vote on council, and then what they do in their non-council-meeting schedules. Are decisions often made in the open or closed? Are answers, when pressed, dismissive or explanatory? I have two very serious problems with our current council that, if elected, I would be addressing with great vigour and energy. The first is our homeless situation and the plight of people in poverty, while the second is on the city’s excessive spending commitments. No one but the mayor is standing up and saying: “I will see this program through,” or “We made these mistakes in the past, and here is how we are going to fix them,” but never “A lot of people do not want this right now, and they hate seeing us spend money, so we shouldn’t be doing it.” This will only come with a change in the mentality of the people who are elected to city council.
The 102 Avenue bridge is a sore spot for many people in our area. Not only for the people who live in the area, and have had to put up with the woes of building crews and machinery on site for two years, but more so for the businesses in the area who rely on regular traffic. Yes, the city made an absolute blunder with this project, which they admitted several times this past year. But where is the accountability? When a month after the bridge opens up, and city crews begin closing off the road again, this time to rip up sidewalks, one councillor said: “I think this was the community’s fault for delaying the project in the first place.” There is no excuse for the inability of our city to complete public works obligations competently, and then even less of an excuse for a councillor to blame the citizenry for this horrible example of Edmonton’s transportation bungles.
The Northlands issue is a huge display of lack of accountability. Whether you like or dislike Northlands, 600 acres of land in the centre of the city, indebted to us, that council lost control of is unacceptable. Especially since for the past decade the same councillor has sat on its board, to help its decision-making process and navigate its position in our city as we evolve. Now, when pressed for answers on the future of Northlands, council has said things like: “we will never see our money again,” and “no one expected the business to fail with the removal of the Oilers.” Two statements that are far from being accountable to a citizenry who elect people to handle these very situations for us.
I am annoyed that large city issues always have to be reacted to, and large issues, like road maintenance, never are managed properly until things come to a head. It takes ownership to make initiatives work better and more smoothly. So much revolves around how effective our administration and the city’s employees operate, and how they receive direction and response to what happens as they work. We need council to hold each other to task for the problems of which they are supposed to take charge, to explore many avenues to make things work, to stop blaming the province or the administration for our inability to see plans through, and to have the foresight enough to anticipate problems long before they occur as a result of their decisions.