Get to Know Who's Running: Michael Janz (Ward papastew)

By Emil Tiedemann

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...

Ward papastew

Michael Janz

My name is Michael Janz. I want to be your voice at City Hall. Through smart urban planning focused on building happy and healthy communities and experienced leadership, we can build a more affordable city for all ages, wages, and stages. As we recover from the pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in strong core public services and build a city that prioritizes the wellbeing of people and the environment: a strong local economyjust and inclusive neighbourhoods, and urgent action on the climate emergency. Read more about my priorities for our city here. I bring over a decade of elected service as your public school trustee and I’ve served as a leader in the non-profit sector helping young people. See my neighbourhood endorsements, read my priorities, or provide your suggestions on how we can build better neighbourhoods and a better city for everyone. Many previous and current candidates may share these priorities or perspectives. What has been missing and will be critical is the political will, experience, and courage to turn them into action. Learn more about my experience and what sets me apart."

The Questions:

IE/ Why do you want to run for City Council?

Michael Janz/ When members of the community asked me to run, I heard the same sentiments from so many of them- that our community needs an experienced, trusted and proven advocate for the public good who will put the needs of the people they represent first and foremost. I’m running to help make the best parts of our city even better and to continue building happy and healthy communities that are more livable and affordable for all ages, wages, and stages.

As we recover from the pandemic, we have an unprecedented opportunity to invest in strong core public services and build a city that prioritizes the wellbeing of people and the environment: a strong local economy, inclusive neighbourhoods, and urgent action on the climate emergency. I wasn’t born in Edmonton, but I know what brought me and kept me here: tourism, education, community, opportunity.

I know that I can work collaboratively with partners to make sure that decisions at City Hall are in service of building the power and voice of residents in our neighbourhoods. I will work tirelessly in support of a just, inclusive, climate-resilient future. That’s why I’ve earned the endorsements of progressive community leaders such as former city councillors (Michael Phair, Allan Bolstad), provincial MLAs (Sarah Hoffman, Raj Pannu, Raj Sherman), MPs (Linda Duncan) and many other local activists, business owners, neighbourhood leaders, and friends.

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?

MJ/ At the time of writing (July 2021) I’m the only candidate with actual elected experience, having been elected and re-elected to municipal office in three elections.  I’m ready to hit the ground running as your city councillor. I’ll continue to work hard and stay humble, knowing that this is a role of public service to my community. Always being available and ready to champion the priorities of residents who contact me has been the way I’ve approached my role in public service and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure people always feel heard and to deliver on the outcomes they need.

I’ve served as the elected Edmonton Public School Trustee and Board Chair for 3 terms, working hard for the families in the 20 neighbourhoods of Ward papastew that were part of the ward I represented on the school board. I have 11 years of experience managing billion-dollar budgets, infrastructure maintenance and construction, and transportation systems. I know how to work directly with multiple orders of government and our valued public servants in administration. 

Being elected and re-elected three times as Trustee has taught me the importance of being available to the community at all times, especially during hard times. All of the transferable skills- from balanced budgets to bold leadership- will help me be the best councillor I can be for you. From working with the City Manager to negotiating with colleagues over proposals, budgets, votes, and committees, I’ll take the lessons I’ve learned as Trustee, Vice-Chair, Audit Chair and Board Chair and continue to be an effective advocate for you!

Previously I worked in neighbourhood and community development helping neighbours turn ideas into action as Marketing Director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. I led initiatives such as the Living Local Strategy (the precursor to the “15 minute communities”) and other initiatives that built “neighbour power” across Edmonton. I was humbled to receive awards such as Top 40 under 40 and the Queens Diamond Jubilee medal for my efforts.

I also volunteered on the Board of the Edmonton Public Library for 6 years which provided me valuable insights into municipal governance and capital planning. I understand the issues facing students, staff, and families at the University of Alberta as a former 2007-2008 Student Union President.

I’m a father of a 4 ½ year old and my wife and I are expecting a new child in August. We live in Garneau, right along Whyte Avenue and I’m invested in Edmonton for the long haul. I know what brought me here, what kept me here, and I want to work with YOU to make the best parts of our community even better.

E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?

MJ/ We have a great new city plan, but the tension will be in the pacing, sequencing, and timing of those decisions. The challenge will be in the distribution of resources to actually achieve our shared goals. What do we want, where do we want it, and how are we going to pay for it? I’ll work with my council colleagues to stand up for good, reliable public services and ensure costs are not being downloaded onto those who can least afford them. 

  1. Promoting the local economy and economic diversification: Edmonton’s economic recovery is an opportunity to build on our existing strengths and invest in our future. With the right tools and approaches, we can continue to ensure a high quality of life and low cost of living that makes Edmonton a great place to raise a family and start or grow a business. From local procurement to permitting, there are many tweaks we can make to build and keep wealth here in Edmonton and improve the experience of people navigating these systems.

  1. Building a safe, equitable, and inclusive city for everyone: as we emerge from the pandemic, we must prioritize an equitable recovery for all through our next operating and capital budgets and execution of the city plan. This includes affordable housing, transit, and addressing the overdose emergency, homelessness, anti-racism and action on the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations. It’s also about the small, incremental improvements in our neighbourhoods such as dog parks, trees, and walkable streets that can make an enormous difference to building friendships and livability in our neighbourhoods. Safe and welcoming neighbourhoods make for a safe and welcoming city.

  1. Strengthening public services and putting the public interest first in our budgets and decisions: The pandemic has taught us that now more than ever we must invest boldly in our collective well-being that makes Edmonton a great place to live: affordable, accessible, quality transit, libraries, parks, recreation and facilities that support children and seniors. Now is not the time for cutbacks or privatization to core services that downloads costs to the many for the profits of a privileged few. I’ll continue to fight for the public interest at City Hall and in our advocacy to other orders of government, as well as collaborate with our regional partners to fight for a fair deal for Edmontonians.

  1. Accelerating action on energy transition and climate change: As a city, we must meet the challenge of the climate crisis by committing to accelerated actions, such as greening our buildings and transportation network and planting two million trees. The summer heatwaves and extreme weather are only going to worsen and they are adding huge expenses to our city and residents through flood mitigation, insurance rates, and other costs. Through energy transition we can change the climate emergency into an economic climate opportunity. By working with leaders at our post-secondaries, in business, and through the community, we can reduce our costs and keep dollars in our local economy through better urban planning and greening our infrastructure to produce sustainable jobs and a planet for future generations.

E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?

MJ/  I’ve been hearing from thousands of residents in our ward and a few themes have emerged from their feedback. First, we need smart city planning. Ward papastew is facing significant pressures in planning and development. Many have expressed concern that they feel the public interest is taking a backseat to excessive private profit and improvements must be made to public engagement and enforcement of the rules. They want to have a meaningful voice and be respected. Smart city planning also includes improving walkability, greenspaces, parks, playgrounds, sidewalks, and pathways to build better communities. This means building, investing, and maintaining local recreation such as Rollie Miles Rec Centre and the High Level Line. 

I would like to bring my experience ensuring the public has just as strong a voice as private interests in our city plan going forward. This includes the nuts and bolts of infrastructure, such as fixing the alleyways, planting more trees, and creating safe streets. It means looking after the small examples, such as that intersection on 106st near Duggan school that is seeing too many speeders or the Lendrum path. It’s about taking care of the little things and improvements that can make a big difference.

The local economy. Concerns around economic revitalization and the devastating 18% cuts to the University of Alberta (one of our largest employers), as well as the closures of local businesses, such as along Whyte avenue, have informed my first priority of promoting the local economy, good jobs and economic diversification. Local procurement and spending choices that keep money in the local economy are critical. Public spaces and community assets can be animated for new uses. That means looking at regulations and processes and benchmarking against the region to make sure we are sustainable, competitive and attractive. And of course, we can’t forget the critical role that the arts, culture, and festivals play in local tourism, economic development and keeping dollars in Edmonton.

Building a more affordable city for all means investing in the public services that we need in our community that keep money in the local economy while saving us time and money. Just as I’ve done with billion-dollar budgets at the school board, we need to make sure each of our dollars is being allocated property (priority-based budgeting) and working with the city auditor to identify and  implement recommendations for continuous improvement.

Concerns around the overdose emergency, our unhoused neighbours, and anti-Muslim hate crimes on the LRT line, Southgate, and many other unreported crimes, like garage theft and other petty crimes demand action, even though responsibility may rest with another order of government. It’s about collaboration.

I believe that, while I may be running in one ward, I have a duty to make decisions that are for the good of ALL Edmontonians. I believe that the priorities I’ve put forward would build a better city for everyone, no matter where they choose to make their home. For example, there are 52,540 children in poverty across Edmonton and that is concerning to all of us, even if the majority of those children may not be on your block.

While local priorities are important as councillors, we must nest them in the greater struggle taking place in the region, provincially and nationally. Voters see the consequences of corporate tax handouts and massive cuts to public services and infrastructure by the UCP at the provincial Legislature and how it starves resources for Edmonton and results in increases to your property taxes. They know that the provincial failure to provide more flexible tools through the Big City Charter impedes our municipal ability to respond to issues we face locally. We see more issues downloaded by the province onto our city at the same time that they’re taking away more and more of our funding capacity. As your councillor, just as I have as your trustee, I will fight to build power in our neighbourhoods to provide better public services paid for by fair taxation and revenue sharing from other orders of government.

E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?

  • In principle, I love the direction of the new City Plan and the emphasis on living local, enabling economic diversification, and creating more walkable, multi-modal communities.
  • Supporting and reopening the safe consumption sites and the hard work of our social agencies collaborating to provide treatment, harm reduction, and put the gangs out of business.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing initiatives that are effective at reducing overall costs and generating human and community wellbeing. 
  • Stronger community leagues and strengthening neighbourhood ownership and civic engagement.
  • Parking Lane removal on Whyte Avenue in the summer of 2020 with increased pedestrian and patio space.
  • Expanding the safety, quality, and accessibility of transit service.
  • Protections of the river valley and fixing our trails while expanding infrastructure such as the High Level Line.

E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?

MJ/ Overall, I would say that Edmonton is moving in a much more positive direction and a recognition that we must build a more compact, livable city will serve all of us well for generations to come.  It’s easy to play armchair quarterback, but the reality is many of the decisions we have inherited today are the result of decisions made decades ago.

Transit has been chronically underfunded and needs more attention. We’ve allowed too many prime City land opportunities to become gravel parking lots and blights to our beautiful city. We’ve spent too much money on the downstream consequences of policing because of a lack of permanent supportive housing and investment in prevention. What would I do differently? It’s about resourcing and advocacy, and just as I’ve demonstrated at the school board, these are areas where I have extensive experience that I could put to work for you. It’s not enough to talk about goals, we have to make them a reality. We can be real leaders in things like waste management and climate resiliency if we focus more on action and accountability to the public and less on adhering to outdated processes.

E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?

MJ/ Yes, when there is harm or risk of harm to safety and well-being, especially of staff or volunteers. Social media can foster antisocial behavior. In my 11 years as an elected official, I have experienced threats and harassment, but it’s a fraction of that which is experienced by my female, queer, or BIPOC colleagues. I’m in favor of more face to face whenever possible. That is why as a trustee I’ve hosted over a hundred community coffee meetings, community town halls, zoom chats, and much more. 

I have and will continue to meet with anyone, and I’ve found that has been more conducive to lasting, positive relationships that create change for community. I’ve had tremendous success engaging parents through my monthly virtual “Trustee Townhalls” and as your Councillor, I would commit to regular public engagement opportunities with increased accessibility and flexibility- including zoom.

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)?

MJ/ We have had a provincial government that has been too beholden to a small, anti-science, anti-vax, anti-government coalition in their party rather than protecting the interests of the many. Steps such as paid sick days and support for working people earlier in the pandemic would have been helpful. Federally, the fact that some of the wealthiest corporations were able to get COVID funding and then use it to line their own pockets was and is reprehensible. Meanwhile our childcare and education systems were stuck on a COVID rollercoaster that not only keeps us from getting back to work, but put our collective public health at risk.

As your city councillor, I would push for more decisions to be made by public health experts, and continue to implement risk mitigation actions. I would support enabling more public spaces, patios, and walkways that are safe, outdoor, and spacious like we enjoyed last summer. Continuing to fund local recreation, libraries, green spaces, spray parks, and those initiatives are more important than ever. As City Council, we can’t take our foot off the gas on the other poverty elimination actions that have only been exacerbated during the pandemic (unhoused populations, overdoses, racism).

IE/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?

MJSo many things! Like many, I came to Edmonton the first time as a tourism (the Fringe!) then for opportunity (in my case, education at the U of A) but I stayed and put down roots because of the people. I love our festivals, arts, and culture. The River Valley is an absolute gem of our city. Our public education system is a pillar of our strong community and economy. I can think of no other city where you can experience so much opportunity, where there is such a strong sense of community and how we take care of one another. We have a strong social conscience. Edmonton is much more about “we” than “me”.

E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?

MJ/ Experienced. Energetic. Progressive. Pragmatic. Hopeful.

Thank you, Michael! 

Find Michael on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram
See Michael's Platform/Priorities HERE.
Visit Michael's website HERE
Contact Michael HERE.


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