When Mayor Stephen Mandel steps down in October, he leaves behind a city that has been profoundly altered over his nine years in office.
Downtown has changed thanks to the new Art Gallery of Alberta, the Churchill Square revamp and the condo towers that have transformed 104th Street.
The south LRT now continues past University Station to 23rd Avenue and work will be completed on the line to NAIT next year. The ground is set to break on the downtown arena and Royal Alberta Museum.
The man who famously proclaimed that the city should tolerate “no more crap” in its architecture leaves behind big shoes to fill.
What comes next? Will Edmontonians elect a new mayor who continues Mandel’s legacy of vision and growth?
Or will they decide that major projects can’t come at the expense of basics like good roads, efficient snow removal and modern drainage systems?
The race to replace Mandel is dominated by three current members of city council: Karen Leibovici, Don Iveson and Kerry Diotte.
Leibovici, the veteran councillor and former Liberal MLA, is seen as the keeper of Mandel’s vision.
If elected mayor, she believes it is important to continue the momentum now underway in Edmonton and change how the city is viewed by others.
“When you talk about great Canadian cities, people don’t think of us,” she said. “We need to change that dynamic – that’s starting to happen – but we also need to promote ourselves in a different way.”
Like Leibovici, Iveson wants to change the way the rest of the world sees Edmonton, while ensuring that the city looks good when business people try to impress a client or recruit an employee.
“This is not a political problem. This is an engineering problem and we know how to fix it because we’ve been doing it for the last five years with our neighbourhood roads,” Iveson said.
“So we can fix the infrastructure and then we can have pride in a city that looks good and functions well.”
Diotte was the first to enter the mayoral race when he announced his run last May.
A former Edmonton Sun columnist who was first elected to council in 2010, Diotte has put forward a view that stands in stark contrast to the direction of the Mandel years.
An unwavering opponent of the downtown arena, Diotte believes that Edmonton needs to dial back spending and focus on the basics.
“This is a referendum on fiscal accountability and attacking inefficiencies,” Diotte said, adding that’s what he’s been hearing while door knocking.
“That’s what they want and I’ll give it to them. I’m a populist and I really believe in the grassroots and listening to people.”
Political observers will be watching to see whether Leibovici and Iveson can make their case to arguably the same block of voters, and if Diotte appeals to voters that may be weary of the city’s pothole-marked roads.
The race is expected to get underway in earnest on nomination day Sept. 23.