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article imageDon Iveson: Transforming Edmonton Special

By Paula Kirman     Aug 19, 2014 in Politics
Edmonton - Edmonton's Mayor Don Iveson is an active user of social media with many ambitious outlooks for his time in office. He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his plans, visions, and goals for the city.
What are your current plans as Mayor of Edmonton?
My goal as Mayor is to transform Edmonton into a highly liveable, uplifting and globally competitive city that is recognized as one of Canada’s very best. We speak often about moving Edmonton up a tier, and so we’re very much focused on city building for the 21st Century. This means having a strategy that focuses on initiatives, projects and policies that will position Edmonton as among the most prosperous, resilient, inclusive, healthiest cities - taken together, to position us as the most uplifting city in Canada. Obviously that requires leadership in very acute areas like transportation planning, the environment and shifting our urban form towards more compact growth, but I believe Edmontonians are with us every step of the way. They want to see their city take the next leap forward.
Edmonton is still very much a well kept secret, and I’ve often said that we’re the most underestimated city in North America. That has allowed us to slip under the radar to some extent, but we can do more to improve our reputation nationally and internationally. Investment and talent attraction are important outcomes of reputation enhancement, but we want to make sure everyone understands - fundamentally - what makes Edmonton such a wonderful place. It’s my job to share our success stories, to talk about the incredible opportunity this city provides and to help people who are interested in doing something bold.
Of course, we can shift our reputation through our actions and I’d like to supplement on our incredible successes in waste management with important projects like the Mayor’s Task Force to Eliminate Poverty, reconciliation and placemaking with our Aboriginal people and bold environmental leadership to demonstrate how municipalities can really, truly change the world.
What are your main challenges at the moment?
One of the main things I’ve been focused on is the question: ‘How can we deliver city services in more innovative ways?’ As part of our Open City work, we've made great strides in recent years with opening up the data sets we have – incredible treasure troves of information – and allowing citizens to use it in whatever way they imagine. We can learn from what other people do, we can build on it, and we can use their ideas to transform our city. We now see our data as a resource, and it’s part of a wider shift in perspective that moves the city from administrator to enabler. But it’s just a start. If we’re going to rethink the relationship we have with our citizens, this means a transformational change that makes local government much easier to interact with. Imagine a ‘one stop shop’ approach that would allow entrepreneurs and citizens to come to the city and get help with all of their paperwork through a single point of contact. Our Open City Initiative has opened everyone’s eyes as to the possibilities that technology offers to a city like ours – and it’s incredibly exciting.
What do you feel are some of the critical issues facing Edmonton at the moment?
Edmonton is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada and the economic activity being generated by our city is incredible. This has required our City Council to try and manage this growth in the most sensible way possible, but we absolutely need long-term, sustainable, and predictable funding commitments from other orders of government to meet the increased demands on the infrastructure, housing and social services we provide. For example, we have a large light rail transit (LRT) network plan that will one day reach all corners of our city - but as of today, we only have funding to build a fraction of that plan. We see LRT as a critical piece of how we’re going to deal with growth, plan our city smarter and make a lasting positive impact on our environment. This doesn’t just benefit the City - it keeps our province and our country moving forward.
What do you feel are some of the best things going on in Edmonton right now?
There is an incredible amount of activity going on in Edmonton’s core right now and it’s really beginning to transform the character of our city. In addition to a new downtown arena that’s currently under construction, there are three new large office towers underway, a new Provincial Museum in progress, we’re expanding our LRT system to the southeast and - as if that wasn’t enough - we’re developing a community called Blatchford that will be one of the world’s most environmentally low-impact communities that will one day house 30,000 people right in the heart of our city. So, it’s almost impossible to pick one ‘best thing’ because when you take them all together it’s an incredible story of urban transformation. All of this has given a new energy to our city - we’re more proud of Edmonton than we’ve ever been. I think we all feel as though we’re maturing as a city and coming into our own, which is exciting to be in the middle of.
What else would you like our readers to know?
If you have the courage to take an idea to reality, to build, to make something, Edmonton is your city.
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