Hicks on Biz: My platform if I ran for council BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 05, 2017
If I were running for Edmonton’s city council on Oct. 16, this would be my back-to-basics platform.
City council’s first responsibility should be to the taxpayer, not the frivolous tax-user.
Cleanse city council of “progressive” multi-million-dollar vanity projects, such as over-built bike lanes (never has so much been spent on so few, with so little in return).
Bring fiscal conservativism back in favour. How can city council save taxpayers’ money, not spend it? Property taxes only provide enough money to maintain public infrastructure (roads, bridges, parks), to provide excellent police, fire and transit services.
Leave the funding of social services — culture, social housing, social programs, recreational programs, libraries, etc. — to the provincial government with its much broader tax base. I love the Edmonton Public Library, but it should be funded from the provincial purse.
Aim for true carbon reduction. The purchase of new city buses, for instance, should not be a mindless mantra of replacing diesel with electric buses. Replacement should be based on the least expensive option that still meets carbon-reduction goals — be it natural gas, hydrogen fuel cell, clean diesel, electric/diesel hybrid. All Alberta politicians should be promoting carbon-reduced fossil fuels, not denigrating them. Our economic well-being depends on global demand for clean-burning, emission-lowering fossil fuels.
The LRT and “the last mile”: Folding like a house of cards to special interests, city council didn’t even think about partnering with car-sharing companies (Uber or even taxis) as an alternative “last mile” of transit service – as opposed to running empty $100-plus an hour ETS buses through neighbourhoods outside of rush hours. What if contracting with Uber – on-demand pick up at the nearest LRT station or transit centre, dropping you at your home – proved to be both more convenient and cheaper than empty neighbourhood buses?
Homeowner rights: You make the biggest decision of your life, to buy a house. You check all the zoning, nearby area development plans etc., to ensure future quality of life for your family and to safeguard your investment. Out of thin air, city council allows a doubling of density (skinny houses), or a sun-blocking high-rise, or a new arterial road where none had been planned. There have to be better ways of protecting individual homeowners and neighbourhoods from the whims of the collective will.
Economic development: For business, Edmonton isn’t a political entity of 930,000 people, but an urban region of 1.3 million people. Phase II of the Sturgeon Refinery in Sturgeon County, two possible new petro-chemical plants near Fort Saskatchewan and marijuana operations at the airport are far more important to our over-all economic well-being than any job-generator (outside the quasi-public and public sector) within City of Edmonton boundaries. A regional mind-set is finally happening, through the Capital Region Board and the new Edmonton Global economic development agency. Edmonton councillors should be cheering just as much for regional as well as city economic growth.
Air service: Ensure that daily, non-stop air service continues to crucial American cities, maybe to the point of subsidization. We’ve lost San Francisco, Chicago and will soon lose the Reykjavik connection to Europe. Every non-stop flight loss is equivalent to a major business leaving Edmonton. If tax-payer subsidization is unavoidable, I’d look at a proposal.
Downtown office vacancy: Great to have ICE District, its swanky new towers and the splendid Rogers Place arena. Not so great that tenants moving to the ICE District are leaving the rest of downtown with 50% to 80% vacancy rates. Should city council “prime the pump,” or simply stand aside and let the laws of supply, demand and market-risk run their course? As a councillor, I’d like a thorough report before making any such move.
Get off all these “new age” energy bandwagons to which our New Democrat provincial government are so hopelessly hitched: Edmonton and all its leaders should be 100% behind cleaned-up oil, gas and coal as a low-cost SOLUTION to greenhouse gas emissions. Conventional energy represents close to half our economy! Have you heard of any battery, wind-turbine, solar panel or electric car manufacturers setting up shop in (Metropolitan) Edmonton?
I’m not running for city council – too old, semi-retired, no wish to be scrutinized at every turn and no interest in the rubber-chicken circuit. Been there as a full-time columnist, done that.
But I sure hope 25-to-55 year-old Edmontonians are out there with similar viewpoints, willing to sacrifice their careers and personal lives for public service.