Considering Edmonton is the capital city of one of the richest provinces of a relatively rich country, one wonders: what the heck?
Of course, some of the issues are based on Edmonton’s climate, and blast the global warning nonsense. What matters is what Edmonton does with the two seasons it has. They are winter and non-winter, and it seems the city of Edmonton is always surprised when either of these two seasons makes its presence known.
With the winter now (hopefully) behind us for a few months, it might be useful to remind ourselves of a few unpleasant things.
We have behind us huge amounts of snow that were covering city streets with little if any fix in sight. Sidewalks that are the city’s responsibility would become increasingly dangerous because the city must have been of the noble view that it’s only fair to give ice a sporting chance. Whenever crews – paid by taxpayers – would clean roads of snow, they would leave behind windrows the size of the Himalayas. Roads would become narrow, one-way paths capable of accommodating a single bicyclist at a time, that is, only if he or she was careful enough to let another bicyclist pass by. Windrows at intersections would make entering the other road a hazard to traffic and pedestrians: you couldn’t see vehicles approaching from either side.
Times are changing and now we have (hopefully) arrived at spring, to be followed by summer (again, an optimistic estimation, but let’s accept it).
Snow melts, we ought to be happy, right? If we look at our roads and sidewalks, smiles freeze. Dust, dirt, garbage that lay hidden under snow has accumulated along the sides of the roads. Windrows take longer to melt. They create floods all over the place, some more dangerous than others.
If it rained more, some suggest, it would at least wash the dust and basic dirt off our streets and roads and sidewalks. An interesting proposition, difficult to test: Edmonton hasn’t got that much rain.
Then, of course, there is this traditional lament: potholes. City transportation experts would tell us that’s because atmospheric conditions (read: temperatures) keep changing so drastically.
Perfect drivel, of course. A road surface put in professionally and with proper care would alleviate much of the issue. As it is, we have road closures in the summer, so that crews can put new surface on. It looks wonderful and spiffy. A few months later, once the snow has melted, it’s filled with potholes. In a better scenario, the road is closed again next summer, for resurfacing.
A bit of stricter quality control during the original work would have been cheaper.
Considering how much city administration charges citizens in taxes and sundry fees, none of these issues should even exist. Using money that exists in city coffers, it’s not altogether irrational to be calling for minor budget adjustments so the city can employ people full-time, wages and benefits included, to keep taking care of Edmonton’s infrastructure 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
It would mean one minor change of major proportions: turning the city’s funding priorities upside down. No such dubious proposals as taxpayer support for a downtown arena for a professional sports club. These projects claim they’ll revive our downtown. They won’t do anything of the kind, of course. Diverting money thus wasted into useful activities, such as making and keeping this place liveable, would go a long way.
One can list a number of projects where the use of taxpayer money borders on the criminal. How about the harebrained plan to move city employees from their today’s work sites into a new, and useless, office tower, just to help its owner make sure he’s not losing money?
We had a mayor once who’d go so far as to impose fines upon a company that was fixing a city bridge and was tardy with ending the project. It would be paying for each and every day it was late. Yes, yes, yes, Bill Smith was no visionary, something some would-be enlightened people say is a category to which Stephen Mandel and Don Iveson belong. Bill Smith was only making sure taxpayers’ money wouldn’t be wasted. How perfectly pedestrian.
This is rather difficult to fathom: how is it possible that Canadian cities of similar size and climate comparable to Edmonton’s, have found ways to keep their roadways clear of snow throughout their long winters, and that includes residential roadways, also? How is it possible that when spring springs upon them, their neighbourhoods are clean and free of all kinds of garbage and sundry debris? How do they do it, keeping their roads relatively pothole-free?
To put it simply: what are they doing right and Edmonton is doing wrong?
Should our city parents try to learn a lesson or two? And, much more importantly, are they capable of doing it?
Judging by their efforts thus far, one has serious doubts.
Who’s to blame?
We are. We voted them in.