Get to Know Who's Running: Bev Esslinger (Ward Anirniq)
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...
“Bev is a married mother of two grown children and a grandmother. She has lived in Ward 2 for more than 18 years. Before being elected to City Council, she served two terms as an Edmonton Public School Board Trustee and four years as Chair of the Board. While a Trustee she also served three years as a Director for the Alberta School Boards Association, as well as on a number of committees within Edmonton Public including the Multi-Cultural Task Force, Community Engagement and District Priorities. Bev was instrumental in the development of a Board Strategic Plan and the inception of the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation where she served on the Board of Governors."
I♥E/ Why do you want to run for City Council?
Bev Esslinger/ Edmonton is at a very pivotal time as we need to come together to create a compassionate, welcoming city where everyone is valued and has the opportunity to thrive. I want to be part of building that kind of city. I think my experiences and passion demonstrate that I put people first and want to build on that. We need to “build back better” as we recover from the pandemic and economic challenges we face with limited resources. It will take collaboration, commitment and prioritizing to build that city. I have demonstrated an ability to be collaborate and work with others to do the work. Overall, I want to build a strong future for every Edmontonian.
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?
BE/ My experience prior to City Council was in the non-profit area where I championed families and children as well as active transportation for school children. My experience is diverse as a two term City Councillor and two term Public School Trustee. I have a solid understanding of governance and how the city works that provide me with skills and understanding to get things done. I have been very active in improving safety on Edmonton Transit, Public Spaces and implementing school and playground zones. I have a solid understanding of the land use decisions that will come before council and have worked to minimize impacts of infill on neighboring properties. I was the only woman in my first term and since then have championed Gender Equity and have seen many changes including implementing Gender Based Analysis Plus in the City, parental leave for Councillors, child care policy for staff and have been part of Womens Advocacy Voice of Edmonton since its beginning, council committee for women to provide input into issues that affect women.
I♥E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?
BE/ - Economy and jobs — As we recover from the pandemic and economic pressures we need to find ways to grow our economy, support business and embrace innovation. Pandemic saw pressures emerge on different folks and especially on women and we need to address barriers for women to re-enter the workforce and help those who are needing to retrain to participate in the economy. Diversifying our economy in technology, Artificial intelligence and emerging opportunities such as hydrogen will help create jobs and improve the economy. Building infrastructure is one way to create jobs and we need to find ways to work with orders of government to access funding and opportunities to build city infrastructure. Supporting existing and new business by helping them leverage opportunities through grants and other orders of government programs.
- Safety - It is very clear that many challenges exist to allow everyone to feel safe and participate fully in life. Safety is key at the forefront for many and we have heard lived experiences from many who are facing challenges to feel safe and live without fear. We need to address racism, Islamophobia, and gender based violence. It is going to require all of working together to create a safe city for all. That will mean working with city, non profit organizations, police, library, and other organizations that support people. It will be important for us to work together and respect one another and our differences. Mental health and additions are two key issues facing our city and the most vulnerable today. Transit and LRT safety continues to be an area where improvement continues to be needed. There has been a lot of improvements but, we are not there yet.
- Community building is important as we are very fractured with various perspectives and we need to find ways to unite people and work together for the success of our residents. Edmonton is built on people coming together and we just need to look at our community leagues as one example of people working together. We need to find ways to leverage our collective will and build the city we all want.
I♥E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?
BE/ Ward Anirniq is very unique and issues vary across the ward. In addition to the city wide issues mentioned in the last question, specific concerns about speeding and noise is affecting many communities. Homelessness has also impacted some areas of the ward while others are grappling with personal safety. Crime and disorder has impacted many communities in the ward and I would work to build safer communities for everyone.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?
BE/ Under the Gender based violence prevention initiative the city joined the UN Safe Cities for Women and Girls in Public Places and I think this is important work and I would like to see this work sped up and expanded to ensure we are creating safe places so women and girls are free to go wherever, whenever they want to go. We know that a city that is safe for women is safe for everyone and many do not feel safe and we need to continue to improve that.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?
BE/ I have voted against some of the police requests such as the helicopter as I didn’t think we needed a new one yet. I was happy when we went to a formula based funding formula for police as I was frustrated with the piece meal requests knowing if we approved the police could spend the money anyway they wanted. Today I would take a different perspective on police funding and look more at how we serve people and be respectful of all citizens.
I♥E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?
BE/ It’s an individuals choice but yes, if they feel threatened but, not for a difference of opinion. I respect everyone’s right to block I have never blocked anyone.
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)?
BE/ The city tried to lead as the province was not acting as quickly as we wanted. Ideally the province would step up and lead the charge of public health. We tried to pivot quickly and some things did not work as well such as exemption cards for masks.
I♥E/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?
BE/ People - we have some of the best people who care about others, help others and are great people of all ages and backgrounds.
I♥E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?
BE/ Passionate, determined, loyal, honest, committed
Thank you, Bev!
Follow along with the candidates on Twitter HERE!