Don Iveson settles into mayor’s office with eye on budget, roads, council initiatives (with video)
Mayor-elect Don Iveson speaks to the media at City Hall in Edmonton on Oct. 22, 2013.
Photograph by: Ed Kaiser, Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - Mayor-elect Don Iveson vowed Tuesday to start work right away on such immediate priorities as approving the 2014 budget and plans for improved roads and sewers.
“Perhaps this is that point in time when Edmonton is no longer underestimated,” he said one day after his crushing civic election victory.
“We will strive to deliver a message to Edmontonians that we will make responsible use of their tax dollars, their utility fees and their user fees they entrust us with.”
Councillors instructed city staff in July to prepare a draft 2014 budget with a tax increase of about five per cent.
Iveson wouldn’t say what he thinks of this idea.
“We’re going to have to take a look at the budget. I have a meeting with the city manager this afternoon and I’m sure that will be on the agenda.”
Council voted in the spring to triple spending on crumbling arterial road maintenance over four years and cut the amount of pavement in the worst condition almost in half by the end of the decade.
At the same time, typical sewer and garbage fees are slated to rise about $60 next year, with the city looking at a plan to spend up to $200 million by 2018 upgrading drainage in flood-prone parts of Edmonton.
Other short-term priorities include:
— Hiring staff and settling into his office, which he intended to start Tuesday.
— Recognizing Edmonton’s long history with indigenous people and strengthening links with Treaty 6, Métis and aboriginal groups, which he’ll mention during his swearing-in speech Oct. 29.
— Talking to all 12 councillors to find out what initiatives they want to pursue and whether they want any alterations to such schemes as downtown revitalization, City Centre Airport redevelopment and LRT expansion.
He doesn’t expect problems working with new councillor Mike Nickel, who Iveson defeated in a 2007 upset, saying, “I think there’s a diversity of views, a diversity of experience” on council.
Iveson met with retiring Mayor Stephen Mandel to discuss the transition of power.
Mandel embraced his successor at the door to his office and predicted he’ll do a good job.
“The people spoke and elected a very progressive, creative young man … who will continue to take our city forward,” Mandel said.
“It’s an exciting time for the City of Edmonton. A very dynamic, creative individual will lead our city for the next four years. Who knows, maybe longer.”
Iveson has also talked to most incoming councillors and several leaders elected across Alberta, including friend and frequent texting partner Mayor Naheed Nenshi in Calgary.
The two centres have been discussing the creation of a big city charter with the province for more than a year.
Iveson hopes to build municipal coalitions to lobby the province and Premier Alison Redford.
“I was very pleased to see the majority of our strong allies in the region re-elected … but Calgary is a critical partner for us as well,” he said.
“Then I think we will be able to assert our needs a little bit more on the province, but I want to make sure that’s done in a positive way that is helpful to the premier’s agenda to build an even more prosperous Alberta.”
Coun. Ben Henderson said he has been close to Iveson since they were both first elected to council in 2007 and looks forward to bringing their vision for Edmonton into reality.
“It’s the next stage of this, adjusting from a suburban city to an urban city,” he said.
“It’s about getting on with LRT and really good public transit, building neighbourhoods that are walkable, getting more people living in the heart of the city.”
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