January 9, 2018
Thankfully, St Albert City Council put the brakes on spending under the budget name of 'smart city'. However, some funds are still going in that direction.
From a recent Gazette story: "One example is the Intelligent transportation systems strategy, which received funding for $300,000 in 2018 and will cost the same amount every year thereafter in the 10-year capital plan. In 2018, it aims to help streamline traffic flow on St. Albert Trail by installing equipment to allow traffic lights to change based on actual traffic levels."
This is an interesting proposition. One that, based on past experience, has a high likelihood that taxpayers will be paying for equipment which will never be properly utilized.
For example, there are 'cameras' on almost every set of traffic lights in SA. Someone budgeted for these, spent a great deal of money to have them purchased and installed, and paid for them to be integrated into some sort of traffic monitoring function. All the feeds from these cameras are alleged to be directed into a traffic management office in the bowels of City Hall.
The puzzling aspects of these cameras are; what they were intended to accomplish; who views the feed; what steps can be immediately taken as a result of the obvious evidence provided every day; and how has traffic management along the St Albert Trail (SAT) been adjusted as a result of this information. Given the continued traffic flow mess along the SAT, it is easy to conclude that new technology won’t actually help the problem at all. The cameras have been in place for several years, with no obvious benefit. Why would we believe ‘intelligent transportation systems’ would be any different?
During the 2017 election campaign, most if not all candidates spoke of the public dissatisfaction with traffic flow along SAT. The topic was among the top 4 or 5 of every voter’s list of concerns. It’s a serious problem that could have been fixed long ago if there was any will to do so.
To date, I have not heard of any council member taking this issue on. Someone - anyone - needs to grab this file, do a little homework, and start pushing for the immediate and permanent improvement of traffic flow on SAT.
I intend to work on this file as a concerned taxpayer and roadway user. To help traffic management fix specific problems, I’m collecting examples of poor and ineffective traffic light sequencing to share with any interested councillor and/or traffic management staff.
For example, southbound (SB) on the SAT wishing to turn east (EB) on Bellerose will often line up 10-12 deep for the left turn. At times, these lights are timed to allow 3-4 vehicles to complete the turn. When drivers realize they are going to be waiting another 3-4 light sequences before they can complete their turn, they pull back out into SAT SB, at significant risk to themselves and traffic travelling SB at normal speeds. This entire set of lights is poorly managed, but the left turn described is quite ridiculous.
The light sequencing at SAT - and to a slightly lesser extent at Ray Gibbon Drive (RGD) - where they connect with Anthony Henday Drive (AHD) are each terribly managed. In both cases, high volume traffic flow is stopped immediately after ‘getting going’ from the previous lights on both RGD and SAT to allow the entry of one or two vehicles coming off AHD. Particularly on the SAT, this stop/go exercise constricts flow, increases vehicle emissions, adds unnecessary travel time, and generally disgusts the driving public who expect much better. Although the AHD is a provincial road, there should be no reason why light coordination is not better managed between the City and the Province.
Obstructed traffic flow northbound (NB) on SAT approaching SA in afternoon rush hour is inexcusable. EB and WB on Gervais/Hebert apparently takes priority over the thousands NB on SAT, causing delays NB of 3-5 light sequences - depending. All the while, EB/WB at Hebert is accommodated to the point where no-one waits even for a second light sequence. This arrangement fails every level of common sense, as many are obstructed for the benefit of the few. Eliminating the bumper to bumper crawl from 156 St NB through SA must be the highest priority.
I am aware of many examples where traffic avoids the SAT for the reasons described, and instead uses residential roads not designed for either the traffic volume or speeds. Many, instead of feeling safe near their front street, are dealing with high speed/high volume traffic. Tragedy is inevitable.
I’ll collect and tabulate other examples in SA. I invite you share your examples, give reasonably detailed specifics of location, direction, times and observed problems that impact the smooth efficient flow of traffic in SA. Periodically I’ll make sure council knows what we are talking about.
Please add your observations here or on my fb page.
October 16, 2017 was the day. After several months of effort to get elected into the St Albert City Council, the decision was made by you. Congratulations to those who were successful and will now guide our City for the next four years.
Although I fell short of getting elected, my experience was nothing short of amazing. I met hundreds of kind, thoughtful and encouraging folks, I learned much about our City, and I learned a bit more about myself. This was an experience I shall not forget and I am humbled by the confidence shown in me.
Many thanks to my family and friends who helped out in a variety of ways. Some assisted with installing the large signs you saw on major roadways, some helped with re-sending messages of support, while others were ‘all in’ during the sign retrieval and storage. Important donations to my campaign efforts were sincerely appreciated! Thank you!
I have received much encouragement to ‘stay in the game’. That decision is distant, and will get consideration in due time, but the suggestions are appreciated none the less.
There is still much to do with respect to governance in this City. I will be keeping a close eye on Council and how business is conducted. Our new Council must be mindful of democratic principles, including the reality that democracy is premised on ensuring fairness, transparency and ‘always for the people’.
I will try to post here regularly, when circumstances dictate that comment is appropriate. I am always interested to hear of community issues and how the City is attending to them. I will be watching for tax increases and if they are clearly justified. All things ‘St Albert’ will be part of the ‘watching’.
Please keep in touch.
Today while conducting some routine personal business I began to speak with a 31 yr old professional, who was very articulate and in a responsible position. The topic of this election came up (because I was wearing my 'vote for Al' button) which then had this person quietly reflect for a few seconds. It was disclosed that not much was understood about any of the candidates, and in fact, she had never voted in her life. After a few more seconds, she observed that her parents had never engaged the kids or family in the voting process and had never discussed politics in the home. This person demonstrated an almost embarrassed demeanour, and admitted that peers had chastised her for not fulfilling the 'democratic responsibility'.
We briefly reflected on how this would come to be. We agreed that parents possess a huge influence in all manner of activities and interests that children adopt due to familiarity and comfort. No different for sports, camping, arts, gardening or political engagement.
Which seemed to cry for an observation.
Every four years we have the opportunity to guide our own destiny. It is a serious responsibility. We should prepare, investigate and evaluate. We all have the ability to select individuals who will govern our city for the next term.
If you have not spoken to your kids about this, now is as good a time as any. Discuss the regional and local issues.
Thoughtfully consider the candidates. Make a list. And then, on election day, take your kids with you to the polling stations so they can see what goes on.
With planting a tree, the best time to do so was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now. Same goes for voting and introducing your children to the concept.
They will be more engaged adults for your efforts.
In the last meetings of our previous City Council, two discouraging and concerning events occurred. Both are related, and in my view deserve to be examined carefully by St Albert residents. They are worthy of a critical analysis of how the electorate should react, with careful thought of potential outcomes.
In one development, a group publicly presented to Council that they were organizing as support for a ‘branch library’ and would endorse candidates that would work for the immediate approval of same. The speaker was backed by a number of folks in the audience wearing t-shirts - also in support of the ‘yes for the library’ campaign - some of which are on the campaign trail now. Since then, a well organized and very public campaign has been launched in what is clearly an effort to convince the public of the need for a second library building.
What this development has cemented is the polarization of what should have been a wide range of election discussions and platform issues into a narrow focus of ‘do you want another library building or not?’ That is unfortunate. It has also pitted a number of committed and knowledgable candidates against each other, where an entire cohort may very well be defeated, and of which leadership talent otherwise enjoyed by our community will be lost.
This ‘system’ of adversarial approach has been building in St Albert for many years. Perhaps it has been a vacuum of leadership, or perhaps too much influence by those who might have something to gain. Regardless, instead of us coming together as a community, we are being torn apart.
Which leads me to the second development that occurred at Council.
When a groundswell effort to slow or stop the library borrowing bylaw was presented to Council in the form of a petition, Council agreed that the public should decide. To that end, a motion was passed which would provide a plebiscite for the electorate with clear indicators of costs, tax implications, projected operating expenses and a timeline (within the next 4 years).
This was the motion:
In a subsequent meeting, just before the dissolving of Council, another motion was brought forward by Mayor Crouse to amend the previous ballot questions by removing all detail concerning costs, tax implications, operating expenses and timeline. This was explained as an effort to make the matter easier for residents to understand. The motion to amend was supported by Mayor Crouse, Councillors Heron, Brodhead and Osborne.
Residents have concluded that the change to the ballot questions insulted their intelligence. I have heard from many that they are not fooled by the changes to the ballot, and are in fact prepared to show even more resolve through their vote.
I expect that the branch library issue will receive a clear mandate from the public. In my many door to door visits, there has been an overwhelming sentiment that a second library building, at this point of time and economics, is simply not necessary.
Perhaps by good planning, the original motion for a plebiscite question was confirmed to be ‘non-binding’. Meaning, that the new Council would not be obligated to adhere to the results. When the ballot questions were then neutered by amendment, the ‘non-binding’ feature remained.
What does that mean to the electorate, and how should the questions be approached?
It is my view that the ballot questions are now a completely non-functional exercise. They don’t give specific information with which the public can evaluate the real consequences of the questions, and they are too ‘loose’ to provide any real guidance to a new Council.
I previously committed to adhere to the outcome of the plebiscite. That decision was made before the amended questions were passed by the four members of Council. I am now in a position where I made a promise based on information which is different than what is now our reality.
How will I respond if I am a Council member? I want to be clear so the electorate will be able to evaluate my worth in Council.
I have heard clearly from so many residents who don’t want a second library, that I must take the position that I will not support a second building unless it is supported by a new, fully articulated ‘binding’ plebiscite that contains all the necessary information with which the public (and Council) can make an informed decision.
A 50% + 1 outcome on any of the existing ballot questions will encourage continued planning (which I will honour), but would not convince me of any need for the immediate construction of any of the three.
If St Albert elects a majority of candidates who support the immediate construction of a second library building, those candidates may similarly discount the ‘non-binding’ plebiscite, regardless of the outcome. That’s how politics appears to be played in this city. And so it should be, if that’s what the electorate desires.
However, if you do not support the building of a ‘stand alone’ second library building, you must elect a majority of candidates who will support your view, regardless of your feelings about providing additional program space for the library. A ‘NO’ vote, and election of candidates who respect your wishes, is the most certain way to ensure the issue is decided in a manner favourable to you.
What can you do to contribute?
Firstly, commit to vote. That is the only avenue you have to invoke change. It will be a long four years until you can influence the management of our City again.
It only takes a few minutes. Plan ahead. Make the effort.
Secondly, be informed. Carefully examine the background and platforms of each of those candidates who have your attention. Ask direct and clear questions of them. All should have contact information available, either in the local media, or in social media, or in the literature that they are delivering to your door.
You should create a short list of your personal concerns in anticipation of the opportunity to ask candidates about their perspectives. You may have many different concerns, all important, which you should explore with potential candidates.
If you have taken a position with respect to the branch library, and if you want clarity from a candidate, consider asking:
‘are you supported by or do you support the ‘yes for the library’ campaign group?’
‘will you support the immediate building of a branch library?’
‘what is your position on creating a new plebiscite for this very question?’
But do not forget the other crucial issues affecting St Albert residents. We have major transportation issues, we must scrutinize the efficiencies and effectiveness of each of our City departments and we must get a better handle on how we plan our future city. These are all important in the scope of how we spend money right now, and how spending today will affect our ability to manage the city’s resources in the future.
Having all the information you gather for the various candidates, you’ll be in a good position to select those who you know (or reasonably believe) will carry your preferences forward as agenda items in the new council. It’s equally important not to ‘guess’ about candidates; you’re better to selectively vote for less that maximum than to vote for anyone without having any certainty about their platform.
This election should be much more than ‘about the library’. But, unfortunately, it is being pushed in that direction. I hope to be proven wrong.
I recently noticed contributions in the 'comments' section of this blog that appear to be 'spam' related and certainly not any coherent response to the content of my blog messages. To be clear, some comments are related and appreciated, which I will leave for public view. I plan to remove the unrelated ones as they appear, but please understand that some may remain visible before I can get to them.
Last week I sent out the following message (in part) to folks on my 'contact list' and asked them to re-send to others in St Albert. The response from both this and the 'contact Al' opportunity on this webpage has been OUTSTANDING! So much so, that I run the risk of running out of signs before election day.
"The rules allow for election signs to be placed starting on Sept 18. They must be removed by Oct 18. I have always been unimpressed with the visual blight of election signs along our roadways and the associated environmental waste. But, I have been educated that name recognition thru such signs is critical.
The way I’m trying to mitigate this is by minimizing the number of signs ordered, and by placing them on private property (where vandalism is also somewhat reduced) instead of along our roadways. I’m also expecting that a form of ‘endorsement’ is implied when the signs relate to a household, as opposed to being on the side of the road. I can certainly use this kind of community support.
My preference would be to have all my small election signs posted on SA front lawns, as the most effective way of ensuring the ‘name recognition’ factor. If you are able to host a lawn sign, please just reply with your name, email and the street address. My volunteer team will drive by and install the signs as they have time."
If you don't see any (or many) of my little signs along the roadways in SA, my strategy will have been successful!
I still have some left. If you wish to help my cause, please continue to volunteer for hosting a sign. When I do run out, I'll post here for all to know.
Thank you all so much!
Candidate - St. Albert City Council
16 October 2017
Resident of St. Albert for 33 years
Retired Edmonton Police Service member - 30 years policing experience
Volunteer with 30 years experience in non-profit governance
‘Professional Conduct’ management experience - 18 years
Experience in contract negotiations, labor relations, mediation, arbitration - 5 years
I will work for ALL of St. Albert for:
Reduce CITY EXPENSES by;
• Working closely with the Internal Auditor - evaluate City expenditures and efficiencies
• Review St. Albert Transit schedules and routes to improve service and reduce costs
• Reduce City capitol project overrun policy from 50% to 15%
• Implement long term funding agreement with St. Albert Public Library
QUALITY of Life
• Public SAFETY
- Implement Civilian oversight of RCMP
• Expand parks and trails systems to facilitate healthy lifestyles
• Support community groups who provide services for senior and disadvantaged residents
• Review Photo Enforcement to improve public safety
Council ACCOUNTABILITY and Transparency
• Improve disclosure of Council deliberations, such as;
- ‘Web-access’ of a clear record of Council motions and individual votes
- Agenda packages available to the public earlier
- Improve Councillor/Committee reporting requirement
If you wish to share any concerns, or you can help with my campaign, please contact me at: email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Donate by e-transfer to this email)
twitter - @allan_bohachyk
Facebook - Allan Bohachyk St Albert
Website - allanbohachyk.ca
If you wish to host one of my signs on your front lawn, please drop me a note, with first name, email address (or phone) and house address. I'd be happy to deliver it immediately after Sept 18!
St Albert’s Unenforceable (or Unenforced?) Bylaws
This topic comes up more often that one might think, and in several iterations. It is on the minds of some of our residents, and may be recognized by others once disclosed. I agree with these residents that the topic is worth discussing.
Part of what must be considered is the true ability of the ‘system’ to enforce bylaws that don’t seem to be accepted by a large number of residents or those that define objects when it’s really associated behaviours that should be regulated. Or those that are simply outdated or irrelevant given a changed environment.
Councillor Russell is on record as asking for a review of the idling bylaw, in part because of the limitations in the regulation that define ‘acceptable’ outdoor idling temperatures that are not reasonable for our climate.
I’d add to that review. Residents have noted that while we are asked not to idle unnecessarily, the City has defeated the value of this effort by obstructing the smooth flow of traffic along many of our roadways. 24 hour dedicated protected left turns along the St Albert Trail has resulted in many (23,000 average daily at the north end by Costco and 41,000 as the Trail leaves south SA) vehicles now idling for an extra 15-20 minutes each day. The unnecessary exhaust load in the heart of our City’s environment is seen to be a serious contradiction to the idling bylaw intent.
Other examples are traffic lights which are not coordinated to any obvious ‘smooth flow’ purpose, suggesting poor planning or absent efficiency reviews. This may fit very well into the suggestion that lights in ‘off hour’ lower traffic areas should transition to flashing red/yellow to allow for continued safe movement of traffic.
Situations where a change of light sequence or other structural adjustment can positively effect idling time are the easy fixes. However, there is concern by our residents that we have to make some cultural changes as well before we can confidently state that our idling practices are as environmentally effective as is possible.
Residents have pointed at ‘drive throughs’ as a culture that defeats idling bylaw efforts. Others have pointed to our schools where many parents pick up their children and wait in idling vehicles, during most of the school months. Neither example is really enforceable, or at least - not enforced - in spite of being in contravention of the intent of the bylaw.
Another example relates to the dog bylaw. Off leash areas are clearly designated and well signed, but the remaining areas (that do not support off-leash) are used routinely by owners who let their dogs run free.
Residents are weary of dog feces around playground equipment, dogs urinating (as is their habit) markers on any conceivable target, and the unknown of unleashed large dogs approaching small children. All this where there is an expectation of a safe, clean play environment for children.
If there is enforcement for such bylaw offences, our residents are not aware of it. If there is little enforcement, or it is unenforceable, does retention of the bylaw have merit?
The bylaw definition of an acceptable dog leash is another example raised.
Specifically, the rule is:
“13(1)The owner of a dog shall at all times, when the dog is off the property of the owner or off the property where the dog has right of occupation, have the dog:
(a) under complete control; and
(b) held on a leash not exceeding two (2) metres in length.”
Which begs several questions:
Why does almost every related retail outlet in St Albert have ‘expandable’ leashes for sale? We don’t wish to impose any unnecessary constraint on the retail outlets, but it causes confusion for those St Albert residents shopping for a leash.
Why is an ‘article’ illegal, when the responsibilities of the dog owner (the bylaw might more accurately say ‘handler’) are so clearly defined? Can a dog be only ‘under complete control’ with a non-expandable leash? How can a 2 meter leash be considered the only method of ensuring a safe and compliant dog? If a handler is not able control their dog, 2 meters is still a significant reach and risk distance, particularly on a sidewalk.
It would appear that removal of the ‘2 meter leash’ clause would not impact the responsibility of the dog owner/handler, can be considered an unnecessary ‘bylaw’ feature and would allow the lawful and responsible use of an expandable leash.
There may be many more examples of ‘unnecessary or unenforceable bylaws’. I’ll keep track of those raised by our residents, and if there is room to clean up these and/or other bylaw offences that deserve such scrutiny, I will bring them forward.
Clearly, in the scope of all things important in St Albert governance, these are not the highest priorities. However, for those negatively impacted by a lack of certain enforcement, these issues deserve some respectful dialogue.
St. Albert….We have a spending problem, and a revenue problem.
It is understood by many of our residents that if St Albert fully commits on all of the capital plans in place for the next 10 years, without fixing our revenue problem, our financial obligations will indeed look bleak; particularly for our children and grandchildren.
We have a higher dependency on residential taxes than most of our neighbours. Business and manufacturing seem to avoid St Albert in favour of the other regional communities. As a result, our business tax base is lesser by comparison.
It’s tempting to look to Fort Saskatchewan or Sherwood Park as comparables, but we must acknowledge that they enjoy a different tax structure because of petroleum based industries that populate their locals. St Albert certainly cannot compete with that industry base, and cannot say - ‘we should operate just like they do’.
However, many other municipalities are doing well - industry and business wise. Stony Plain, Spruce Grove and others, who do not generally reap taxes from the petroleum industry, are still booming with new business. Land development between the two western hi-ways is in a state of almost continuous growth. Edmonton is not a fair comparator, but nonetheless has enjoyed significant industry growth. Why is that?
If you talk to folks in our community who have direct knowledge about the answer to this question (business owners or those who have tried to build in St Albert), the evidence seems quite clear. St Albert is not business friendly. Specifically, the obstructionist nature of our City policies and practices, often directed at those securing a business development plan, is more difficult than in other municipalities. I am told there are many more complex ‘hoops’ to jump through. That applications to ‘adjust’ or ‘redevelop’ a business are met with resistance. The folks I have spoken to are not surprised that industry would sooner select a business friendly local. They point at the evidence of industrial growth everywhere else but here.
I’m in no position to debate this with them because I don’t have a business background. I trust they are sincere in their understanding and beliefs, and their conclusions make abundant sense to me. They have little to gain by sharing this with me because we don’t discuss names or details.
I am convinced they are the residents we must listen to, to gain a well rounded perspective of the realities.
I’m prepared to listen. And, I’m prepared to investigate. And, I’m not afraid to suggest and support change.
This matter must be reviewed very carefully. Perhaps it can be one of the first tasks of our new internal auditor. Maybe a new council can push this agenda. I would be glad to carry this issue forward. We must ensure we deal with this matter quickly. Obviously, there is a lag time between changing the business structure and enjoying the results. Sooner is better.
The risk of not doing anything is that our residential taxes will remain at a higher ratio than necessary. Major projects that we want to consider will always be funded on the backs of our residents. Seniors will be (and are now actively) forced to consider moving out of homes they have lived in for 30 or more years. Younger families will balk at selecting St Albert because of the taxes. And, we will be mulling this over again, year after year.