North Edmonton 'ignored' and 'forgotten' by city hall, new councillors say
Mayor bristles at suggestion that services, infrastructure are unevenly funded in city
During his election campaign, Jon Dziadyk posted pictures to his Twitter account of uneven sidewalks, poorly planned streets, and electrical wires hanging from city-owned poles.
The 35-year-old councillor-elect for Ward 3 says the north side is "ignored" at city hall.
"It's either a real funding difference or a perceived funding difference between the north side and other parts of Edmonton," he said, the day after he upset incumbent Dave Loken.
He pointed to crumbling infrastructure around the "jewel" of the ward, Beaumaris Lake, and the need for traffic lights at 112th Street and 167th Avenue, as ongoing issues in the ward.
Dziadyk's victory was one of the three most exciting races in this year's municipal election.
All were in the northeast part of the city. In Ward 4, Aaron Paquette won on a similar platform of boosting the city's north side. And in Ward 7, Tony Caterina held onto his seat by just 165 votes with challenger Kris Andreychuk almost posting another upset.
"A lot of people in the northeast said loud and clear, 'We want better transit up here.' The response was, 'We're going to cut six bus routes and we're going to take trains off the LRT lines up to Clareview.' That's the exact opposite of what people wanted."
He said residents in his neighbourhoods have seen money flow into infrastructure around the downtown arena, and they want their share of tax dollars to flow into their neighbourhoods, too.
Transit projects draw attention
The biggest infrastructure projects in Edmonton right now are arguably new LRT lines, with construction underway to reach southeast Edmonton and plans in the works for a line to the west end.
In northeast Edmonton, one of the biggest infrastructure conversations is the future of Northlands, with residents worried the site will be completely mothballed, making it a detriment to property values and an environment for crime.
Mayor Don Iveson said decisions on LRT construction were "data-driven." He bristled at the suggestion that services or infrastructure are unevenly funded and said he would challenge councillors who raise that "narrative" at city hall.
While door-knocking, people raised issues such as taxes, he said.
"They're city-wide questions. Edmontonians are Edmontonians first," he said.
"It's true, there are parts of the city that maybe feel separated for whatever reason. But it's not so much parts of the city, it's individuals who may not feel included or who don't like the direction of the city and they make it about geography."
He pointed to the billion-dollar overhaul of the Yellowhead Trail, announced last year, that will be financed by the city, the province, and the federal government.
There are also plans being discussed to build a bus-only bridge over the Yellowhead and the CN rail yards to ferry north side residents to the LRT faster.
How it will play out
The dynamics on this new city council will play out over the next four years, and it remains to be seen how councillors will align themselves, either by geography, policy, or ideology.
Loken, speaking on Monday night as the final vote numbers rolled in, said councillors can't just represent their local issues.
"A person needs to do research, be on top of issues, and be there to understand you're not just there to represent your part of the city, you're there to represent the entire city."