Get to Know Who's Running: Jon Morgan (Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi)
There happens to be a Municipal Election coming up in Edmonton on October 18, 2021, and I think it's important for locals to get to know the City Council candidates running for their particular ward (as well as their Mayoral candidates, of course). I chose to get more involved in the election this year and so wanted to give each candidate a chance to tell us a little about themselves, their vision, and why you should vote for them. I have sent a 10-question questionnaire to each of the 2021 Edmonton Municipal Election candidates and will post their responses (100% as written) here as they come in. With that said, let's get to know...
“Jon Morgan has been a resident of Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi for 7 years and a frontline public servant for Edmonton Transit Services for 14 years. He has served as President for both the Heritage Point and Montrose Community Leagues in Edmonton and as District Representative on the EFCL Board for the Southwest. Through these roles as a public servant and community leader, Jon has planned, led, and implemented countless volunteer and community initiatives, including community COVID emergency response, Heritage Point Neighbourhood Watch, and Big Bin Events. His platform aims to empower and give voice to marginalized communities and looks specifically at issues of transit, housing, policing, protecting public services, and solutions to systemic issues. Jon understands the challenges of economic recovery after the pandemic. He is dedicated to empowering the diverse community of Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi to create positive change and is eager to boldly and creatively overcome obstacles Edmontonians continue to face. Jon aims to bring both his experience on the frontlines and his continued commitment to his community to this election as he moves forward.”
I♥E/ Why do you want to run for City Council?
Jon Morgan/ I'm running for Edmonton City Council because I see a disparity between the decisions made at the top, and what those decisions mean to the people and communities they affect. Having worked on the ground with transit through the pandemic, I'm concerned that what is asked of frontline workers has been inappropriate to their roles. This has contributed to mental health issues and trauma for staff, community members, and those we serve. I would like to see more community involvement, engagement, empowerment, and solid action on homelessness that includes supports for mental health and housing first solutions, while keeping services publicly owned to ensure accountability, stability, sustainable development, and action on environmental protection.
I♥E/ Can you tell us about your past or current experiences that you think could possibly benefit/ translate to your position as a member of City Council?
JM/ I have over 14 years of experience with city operations as an ETS & LRT Operator, Inspector, and Superintendent. I understand how the frontlines of the city work, and the operations they are responsible for. I've been fortunate enough to work alongside other frontline co-workers including police and fire fighters and know the challenges they face. I've served Edmonton's homeless community who looked to transit as one of the only safe and accessible places in the city during this pandemic. We need proper supports for our homeless populations that prioritize housing first.
I've also been heavily involved in the community league movement and community volunteerism with Heritage Point CL, Montrose CL, Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, community soccer, school councils, and even leading community social media groups. I know what empowered and organized community members are capable of, and am proud of the work we've accomplished in our community. Community groups and community members know what they need. Empowering them will be key to recovery, boosting community safety, and creating belonging.
I know what inaction has cost our city, our community members, and our frontlines. When we inappropriately use resources that aren't suited for the challenges presented, we risk causing more harm than good, costing the city money, and allowing trauma and suffering to continue. With proper use of resources, we can face collective challenges proactively while we save money, lives, and the mental health of all.
I♥E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?
JM/ 1) Economic recovery. Edmonton faces economic uncertainty, and the next 4 years will force hard choices to be made by Edmonton's leaders. Bold decisions will be needed with a deep understanding of where savings can be found with moving around our priorities.
2) Keeping services public. The city is facing economic hardship right now and the push to privatize services like transit, recreation, and others is tempting by an administration and council looking to save money. Privatization brings with it a lack of accountability and the inability to control costs and the level of service Edmontonians expect.
3) Resource allocation. We saw underlying and neglected issues that were exasperated during the pandemic. Ensuring frontline workers and first responders are doing the job that they signed up for will save Edmontonians money and ensure that communities are better served.
4) Homelessness, houselessness, and rough sleep are the largest issues facing our city and the cities across North America. Any plan for recovery must include a plan for mental health supports, housing-first initiatives, transitional housing supports, and safe consumption sites.
5) Racism, islamophobia, and bigotry. With Muslim women in our city attacked multiple times over the last year, the rise in extremism, and our indigenous community still healing from lifelong trauma in our residential schools it's time for leaders at all levels to denounce, involve and empower community, and ensure solutions are followed through on.
I♥E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?
JM/ 1) Sustainable growth is a huge issue in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi. Roughly one third of our ward consists of underdeveloped farmland or has issues with food access, environmental protection, and accessibility of services. With growth also comes higher density housing and greater populations. Residents South of the Henday have faced concerns with traffic access exiting the neighbourhood at peak periods. Any future growth in the South end of the ward will need to have good transit support and roads that are the right size immediately.
2) Safety. While speaking with residents of our ward, I've heard concerns of theft, speeding, and crimes of opportunity. Empowering community leagues with supports, utilizing smart road design, refocusing police response, and correcting systemic issues to crime are all ways of correcting these issues.
3) Access to transit. With the new transit redesign, many of our neighbourhoods are either underserved with on demand service (Graydon Hill, Hays Ridge, Cavanagh), or residents have to walk too far for access (Chappelle, Sweet Grass), or residents are entirely ignored (Paisley, Skyrattler, Cashman). We build dedication to transit use with consistent funding for transit that runs on regular schedules and is easy to access. Asking users to walk farther or book on demand is an equity issue. More thought needs to be put into the redesign that takes into account seniors, good sidewalk repair, and access for those that may have challenges navigating longer distances.
4) Access to services and community connection. We know that community creates safety. Community creates empowerment. Community creates belonging. Walkability in our legacy neighbourhoods north of the Henday rely on maintaining the services they already have, like local shops & services, community leagues, and parks that are already integrated into the neighbourhood. However, in our newer neighbourhoods south of Henday, infrastructure is still needed, like rinks, community halls, spray parks, and integrated services. In our future development south of 41 Ave, we'll need to rethink how we develop in a way that incorporates and considers transit, community leagues, and mixed use buildings to foster safety, walkability, and empowered residents.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?
JM/ 1) The work of the Community Safety & Well-Being Task Force offering 14 recommendations for revisions to policing in Edmonton. Moving to less punitive measures that address systemic issues will not only save Edmontonians money in the long run, but also make EPS and community members safer, address root cause issues more effectively, and allow all first responders including peace officers, EPS, EFRS, and EMS to respond where they are needed.
2) Our move to electric buses is crucial in showing leadership in our fight against climate change. I would like to see a commitment to have all fleet vehicles, buses, and police vehicles in the City of Edmonton move to electric as current vehicles approach the end of their life cycles.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?
JM/ 1) Bus Network Redesign (BNR). There are too many issues to allow it to go forward with the current 2-year review plan. I am happy with the increased frequency on main routes, but the inclusion of privatized on demand service in place of regularly scheduled service in a number of our neighbourhoods is problematic and indicative of a larger push for privatization that I will stand against. There seems to be a lack of consultation with other departments of the city when removing routes in neighbourhoods like Skyrattler, while at the same time the state of sidewalks in the area are in serious disrepair. Understanding the intersectionality and impact that decisions one department makes to another is key when making large changes like BNR.
I♥E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?
JM/ I expect respectful dialogue. I also expect to disagree from time to time. If we come together honestly with those two principles in place, we can always find ways to relate and see eye to eye. I understand that frustrations can translate into negative interactions. I approach every interaction with the hope that we may find similarities in our concerns. I expect to be wrong from time to time, and will endeavour to listen to respectful dialogue that calls me out on it.
I♥E/ When it comes to COVID-19 restrictions, what do you think we got wrong (if anything) as a city or province, and is there anything you would want to do differently (municipally OR provincially)?
JM/ 1) I think messaging and support both provincially and federally towards cities has been inconsistent – causing confusion for Albertans and Canadians. Edmonton has been consistent with its desire to have a mask mandate and support for our local economy that was – at times – lacking on follow-up from the other levels of government, causing strife and frustration among Edmontonians.
2) Our frontline staff like transit and police still in the field also experienced safety concerns that they were ill-equipped to handle keeping our system running smoothly. This caused stress, mental health issues, and low morale. Allocation of funding for services that provide support to our vulnerable populations living rough like housing first, safe injections sites, and mental health supports instead of relying on transit, police, and peace officers is required. This would have avoided frontline staff responding to issues they were ill-prepared for and should not be dealing with. This in turn saves morale, money, and the mental health of our frontline.
I♥E/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?
JM/ I love the history, I love the people, I love the culture. I love that even in a big city like Edmonton, I can still walk down the street, go to the grocery store, or attend an event and run into people I know. I love the spirit of innovation, the blue collar & down to earth attitude, and caring nature of our neighbours. I love the progressive, inclusive, accepting nature of people that are ready to embrace, nurture, and stand for what is right. I love our music scene, our artists, our creators, and our dedication to lifting others up and empowering.
I♥E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?
JM/ Always learning to do better.