Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Edmonton for Edmontonians
Submitted to the Edmonton Journal and SEE Magazine

The greater Edmonton area is inhabited by over one million people. Clearly, no matter what policies and directions are taken by city council, they will not be popular with the entirety of the local populace. A new downtown arena for the Oilers hockey club, the design and construction of the Art gallery, renovations to Churchill Square, LRT stations designed like giant shoes, suburban sprawl, paying shortfalls for the Indy Car Festival, bidding on events such as the Expo World Fair, re-naming of events like Klondike Days to Capital Ex, closure of the City Center Airport, high speed rail links between Edmonton and Calgary and so forth are all examples of recent controversies (aside from the usual quibbles about construction, pot holes, etc.) that have been played out in the local media.

These controversies are based in a variety of perspectives. Some view the issues from a buisness point of view, while others from the perspective of wanting to "put Edmonton on the map". There are those who want to embrace and further develop the vibrant Arts community that exists here and develop infrastructure for pedestrian friendly echelons, and there are those who want to play on their ATV's, drive their half-ton trucks and enjoy their "toys", who choose things like the Indy over the Fringe Festival any day of the week. This is life in a cosmopolitan city.

In the end, we need to ask "what is really important?" In my opinion, making Edmonton an amazing place for Edmontonians to live while accommodating the diversity of of tastes in this city, and remaining fiscally and environmentally responsible is paramount. I admit that my bias leans more toward building our city upwards as opposed to outwards, developing areas where people can enjoy cafes and the Arts (I'd love to see a boardwalk established in the River Valley like Eau Claire Market in Calgary), preservation of green areas that support activities like what we have in the River Valley and so on. Despite my bias, a utilitarian approach needs to be taken as to where our tax dollars go. The Indy Car Festival - scrap it. You simply can not justify the cost-benefit ratio. A new downtown arena? No way in that it is a modest few who can actually afford to go to Oiler's games and, if they want the rink, they should pay for it, just the same as I would if I wanted to build a new rock climbing gym. One may argue the same about the new Art gallery, but, in its defense, it is financially accessible to most Edmontonians and is a fine addition to the Arts District, sitting beside the Winspear, and a crucial part of downtown revitialisation. And speaking of downtown, it only makes sense to develop a vibrant city centre in the interest of minimising infrastructure costs and road congestion. Edmonton's land area versus population is horrendous!

The two key questions we need to ask in all city project undertakings is: (1) will it be used and (2) will it be accessible to the vast majority of people who live here? No one can dispute the financial benefits of living in a city that is "on the map". But, to use a metaphor, it is unhealthy to suffer, be miserable or bored fifty weeks of the year, while living and enjoying life for only two weeks on holiday (which many can not afford). We have short summers and long winters here. Does it not then make sense that we focus on the day to day living aspects of our city for our citizens than it does to appease a minority of the population or to attract visitors? Trust me, make Edmonton amazing for Edmontonians, and more folks will choose to move here, thus contributing more to the local economy than a two day tourist! We are so much more than "Oil Country" and cowboys. We are three hours from the Rockies, a city of Festivals, Artists, world class Universities, medical pioneers, rednecks and many cultures... Each is a vital component of our city's fabric. Let's weave all of this into an amazing place to live for all!



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