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...
"Ashley Salvador is a doer and has never sat on the sidelines. She has been active at the municipal level long before she decided to run for office. Ashley is an entrepreneur, vocal community advocate, urban planner & award-winning scholar who loves our City. She has a track record of working hard to deliver value for Edmontonians and is committed to making our City the best place to raise a family, retire, open a business, and live a healthy, active life. She has worked with Alberta Municipal Affairs, the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability, the City of Waterloo & World Health Organization's Age Friendly Cities Initiative, and Abundant Community Edmonton. She's self-employed as the Founder and President of YEGarden Suites, which has driven over $15 million of investment into our mature neighbourhoods. Ashley has a background in Sustainability and Sociology and has served on the Board of Directors at the Edmonton Social Planning Council, Old Strathcona Business Association, Infill Development in Edmonton Association, and on the Street Speeds Committee with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues."
I♥E/ Why do you want to run for City Council?
Ashley Salvador/ I love our city and care deeply about its future. I’m passionate about local government and have been active at the municipal level long before I decided to run for office. Municipal government is the level of government that is closest to the people, where we can take major steps to help fight climate change, address community safety and wellbeing, and build a more compassionate, prosperous, and sustainable future.
Right now, we need leaders who can bring a fresh perspective to City Hall with the skills, knowledge, and experience required to be effective on day one. With so many plans, strategies, and reports already on the table, the next four years are going to be about implementation, execution, and follow through. We need to elect councillors who have the courage to take action on climate change, build a more equitable and inclusive society, and recover socially and economically from Covid-19. That’s where I see myself bringing a lot of value to Edmontonians.
The residents of Ward Métis deserve a councillor who understands the fundamentals of city building, and how City Hall works, so they can handle the details and think about the big picture, while responding to emerging needs from constituents. Having a vision for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous city is important, but knowing which levers to pull on, how to elevate ongoing work, and how to work collaboratively alongside other City Councillors to achieve it is critical for success. My previous experiences working within municipal government and urban redevelopment have grounded my perspective, ensuring I’m ready to work with other members of council and administration for Edmontonians so that our city is a place where everyone can thrive and belong, feel a sense of community, and contribute to a more sustainable future.
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?
AS/ I have a decade of experience working on municipal issues, including affordable housing, age-friendly cities, multiculturalism, and sustainable development. I have a master’s degree in urban planning, as well as a degree in sustainability, and sociology. I’m the founder of YEGarden Suites, a local non-profit, that has generated over $20 million of investment into our mature neighbourhoods while providing affordable housing for ageing in place and
multigenerational living. Building and running a non-profit taught me how to find pragmatic solutions to everyday issues communities face. I work in the space between industry, community, and the City to find common ground and align interests to achieve tangible changes to City policy and people’s lives.
I have also worked with the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability and Alberta Municipal Affairs, as well as the City of Waterloo where I developed and implemented an intergenerational and intercultural learning program as a means to combat social isolation, ageism, and racism, which allowed me to learn about the complexities behind creating a more just and inclusive community. I’ve worked with Abundant Community Edmonton to facilitate community connections and foster a sense of belonging, resilience, and empowerment in our neighbourhoods. I also have served on numerous boards and committees with the Edmonton Social Planning Council, Old Strathcona Business Association, Infill Development in Edmonton Association, and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. These experiences have shaped my understanding of the relationship between policy, zoning, regulatory frameworks, poverty and homelessness, community health and safety, economic development and community revitalization.
Taken together, my education and experience have grounded my understanding and approach to municipal governance. I believe that local government plays a critical role in confronting significant challenges such as climate change, economic prosperity, the cost of living, urban development, community health, safety, and inequity. One of the most important qualities of a city councillor is being able to build coalitions and work collaboratively alongside your colleagues to achieve shared goals. Having experience in multiple municipally-focused areas, I understand how issues are interrelated. Being able to articulate those relationships, and discuss the trade-offs with colleagues on council is a fundamental part of building support on council and driving systemic change.
I♥E/ What do you think are the 4 or 5 biggest issues facing Edmonton right now that you want to focus on most?
AS/ Climate Change
It is incumbent on all levels of government to take action on climate change. I’m focused on implementing and accelerating Edmonton’s new Community Energy Transition Strategy and Action Plan, which charts a course to a low-carbon future by focusing on a renewable and resilient energy transition, a low carbon transportation system, emission neutral buildings, and nature-based solutions, including the protection of our River Valley.
Edmonton is uniquely positioned to attract investment, diversify our economy, and succeed in the 21st century as a leader in climate action. This is an opportunity to bring sustainable jobs to Edmonton, and safeguard our future so that our city is a healthy, sustainable, and prosperous place for years to come.
Edmontonians want to see homelessness addressed. For Edmontonians who are experiencing homelessness, we must take a compassionate and systemic approach. While shelters are a temporary solution, we must invest in permanent supportive housing with wrap-around services, including mental health supports, addiction supports, employment supports, etc. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also the economic thing to do.
The City of Edmonton needs to leverage our partnerships and underused land to create an efficient pipeline of shovel-ready projects that we can use to attract funding from higher levels of government. These projects need to be well-located, so that they are not all concentrated in certain areas of the city and are still close to key services like transit, social supports, and everyday needs like grocery stores.
Growing our Local Economy
Recovering from Covid-19, and retaining and attracting talent will be essential for our long-term success. We want our talented family and friends to stay here and contribute to our shared prosperity. To do that we need to make Edmonton the best place to get a job, own or rent a house, launch a business, start a family, and work remotely. This means supporting the amenities, services, programs and infrastructure that contribute to a high quality of life and low cost of living. Ensuring our neighbourhoods have equitable access to affordable public services, libraries, green spaces and recreation centres helps build our competitiveness and lays the foundation for a sustainable economy. At the same time we must reduce barriers for local businesses, support local entrepreneurs, and invest in our main streets. This will help drive Edmonton's economic recovery while fostering community hubs.
The way Edmonton has developed over the last century has resulted in an expansive, low-density city. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it is costly to maintain and repair. Outward expansion means we are eating into surrounding farmland and contributing to a high cost, high-emissions transportation system. If we’re serious about finding ways to provide value for tax dollars without cutting the services we rely on, we need to rethink the way we grow. This is where the new City Plan comes in, which calls for all growth to be accommodated within our existing boundary.
I will be focused on implementing Edmonton’s new City Plan and continuing to find ways to more effectively utilize the infrastructure we already have by supporting gentle density within existing neighbourhoods, and along nodes and corridors. Through District Planning, Zoning Bylaw Renewal, Growth Management Framework, and the Bike Plan I will help support the development of walkable, 15-minute communities, where people can access the essentials of life within a 15-minute walk, bike, or roll from their home.
Community Safety and Wellbeing
I’m focused on ensuring that all people have opportunities to engage in community life by supporting those who are isolated, marginalized, or facing injustice. That means addressing systemic racism in our communities and institutions, eliminating poverty and homelessness, combating ageism, and supporting the physical and mental health of all residents. Everyone deserves to feel safe in our city, and we must look at how we can modernize our approach to community safety and wellbeing to better serve all Edmontonians.
I’m focused on properly funding social services and programs, encouraging the development of permanent supportive housing with wrap-around supports, ensuring our city is accessible and safe to navigate in all seasons, and assisting people experiencing trauma, distress and homelessness.
I♥E/ What do you think are some of the issues/struggles affecting your particular ward that you would like to focus on most?
AS/ Ward Métis is one of the most diverse wards in our city, spanning both sides of the river, across multiple districts and communities. As an urban planner, I understand that local context matters, and I have the skills to support the diverse interests and needs of Ward Métis residents. While each neighbourhood in Ward Metis is unique in their issues, challenges, and opportunities, in general, I’m focusing on the following:
Revitalizing Mature Neighbourhoods
Ward Métis is composed entirely of mature neighbourhoods, most of which have experienced population loss over the last 40 years. I’m focused on revitalizing these areas, welcoming families back, providing good housing options for seniors to age in place, and opportunities for local businesses to serve our neighbourhoods.
Ward Métis is home to more than half of Edmonton’s closed schools. It’s also home to a number of former grocery store sites that have since closed. Recreation centres, like Eastglen pool, routinely find themselves on the chopping block. The loss of these vital community serving amenities has been difficult on residents.
Refilling our neighbourhoods and attracting community-serving amenities back to these areas to create walkable, 15-minute communities is a top priority for our area. To do this, we need context-sensitive infill and redevelopment, facilitated through processes like the Zoning Bylaw Renewal and District Planning. This will ensure that we can sustainably provide public services and amenities in our communities in the short, medium, and long term.
Public and Active Transit
A functional, efficient, safe public and active transit system is a critical component of building a more affordable, equitable, and low-carbon city. I speak with residents across Ward Métis who would like to take transit or bike, but don’t see it as a viable alternative to driving. Supporting attractive and viable options for people who want to walk, bike, roll, or take public transit will help reduce congestion and traffic for people who have to drive. I will work hard to ensure that we adequately fund transit to make it a safe, reliable, attractive, and affordable option.
We also need to invest in low-cost, high-return active transportation networks that more Edmontonians will be able to use safely, efficiently, and seamlessly between one destination to the next in all seasons. This could include new crosswalks, refurbished sidewalks, multi-use trails, and bike infrastructure. In a regional context, continued collaboration on projects like a regional transportation system will increase our competitiveness, create jobs, and attract investment.
The redevelopment of Exhibition Lands (Northlands) is a major opportunity for Ward Métis. The neighbouring communities do not want to see the site fall into disrepair and become derelict. We must focus our attention towards rapidly building out this site and use it as a catalyst to support and enhance the vitality of neighbouring communities. This project will need a champion on council with the skillset and experience to steward it and ensure it is accelerated over the coming years.
Main Streets & Vacant Storefronts
The City must be an active partner alongside business in revitalizing Main Streets such as 118th Ave. and 101st Ave. Now more than ever, we must foster a business-friendly environment to help refill vacant storefronts and support struggling businesses. We can create a competitive business environment by streamlining permitting and making strategic investments in better lighting, wider sidewalks, and facade improvements. Not only will this incentivize businesses and housing to fill in vacant or derelict sites, it will create a more comfortable pedestrian experience so that patrons feel safe and visit more regularly.
Beyond infrastructure, great places are defined by great experiences. Arts and culture are fundamental components of a vibrant local economy. From festivals and murals, to theatre and live music, creating places where people want to be is a collective effort.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you loved and would like to expand upon?
AS/ Energy Transition Strategy
Fighting climate change should be near the top of every councillor's priority list. It is no longer a distant concern to be left on the shoulders of future generations - it never should have been. I pursued a degree in sustainability because it was obvious decades ago that this would be the challenge of our time. We now have an Energy Transition Strategy, and I fully intend to make a difference on this file and accelerate its implementation.
Leisure Access Program and Ride Transit Program
These types of programs enhance equity and access to important amenities and opportunities in our communities. They offer affordable and viable ways for lower income Edmontonians to access transit and recreation. I would like to see us build upon these programs and expand their availability and eligibility.
Corner Stores Program
This program generates considerable amounts of investment in our communities while serving to revitalize local storefronts, amenities and commercial areas. As we look to create vibrant, amenity rich 15-minute communities, this program can help us reach that goal and bring back neighbourhood amenities like corner stores, coffee shops, grocers, and more.
Vision Zero Street Labs
Safe streets are a common concern, and one of my top priorities. Often residents are expected to wait years, or even decades, for neighbourhood renewal to implement safer street design into their neighbourhoods. Street Labs is a new program that will introduce temporary, community based, interventions to help address problem areas (ex. speed cushions, bump outs). The Street Labs team has been receiving many inquiries from communities that are excited about more rapid interventions. I’d like to see us expand this program to better meet demand.
Open Streets & Patio Expansions
We learned during the pandemic that there is latent demand for patios, and that the existing regulatory framework and service delivery model at the City was not working for businesses. We also learned that when you give Edmontonians safe places to walk, bike, or roll, separated from motor vehicle traffic, that Edmontonians take advantage of that opportunity. How we use our streets is a major conversation that I’m excited to have.
Permanent Supportive Housing
It’s great to see new permanent supportive housing projects being built across Edmonton, including two new projects in Ward Métis. We need more. If elected, Edmontonains can expect me to be a strong advocate on council for permanent supportive housing with wrap-around services.
I♥E/ What are some of the city/community initiatives that you are/were against, and what would you do differently?
AS/ Roadway Expansions
We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on roadway expansions that weigh down our budget with maintenance, and facilitate costly outward expansion. We have one of the most extensive roadway networks in the country, and we need to start thinking much more carefully about how we look at the $9 billion dollars worth of roadway infrastructure we have. These multi-million dollar projects often run counter to our climate goals and citizen’s calls for greater fiscal responsibility at City Hall.
Underfunding Public Transit
Edmonton has chronically underfunded public transit. We asked our administration to do more with our bus network with less funding. Now that the bones of a better network are in place, we need to think actively about how we can enhance our public transit network in the most efficient way possible to serve the greatest number of Edmontonians.
I♥E/ Do you think elected officials, such as City Councillors, should be able to block people on social media sites like Twitter?
AS/ Short answer, yes.
A block on Twitter is not equal to losing all access to your municipal elected official. The official channels will always be open, I will not block your emails or your calls, and the public can come present to council directly during a public hearing. Blocking is merited when I am being verbally abused or physically threatened. People say some downright vile stuff on Twitter that wouldn’t fly elsewhere. Quite frankly, nobody deserves to be treated poorly for engaging with their community. I will block the 0.1% of accounts on Twitter that engage in that behaviour and look forward to connecting with the rest of you.
It’s also key to highlight that people of colour, women, and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community can be disproportionately impacted by attacks on social media.
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)?
AS/ Early in the pandemic, the City of Edmonton had no choice but to take a leadership role, placing restrictions where possible, within the limits of its jurisdiction. I believe these were the correct set of actions given the lack of clear guidance from the province. I was disappointed to see the mask mandate lifted in the early summer as I felt that we should have proceeded with additional caution given emerging information about the Delta variant. In the absence of provincial leadership, I was pleased to see the City of Edmonton reinstate the mask mandate in early September.
I♥E/ What is your favourite thing about living in Edmonton?
AS/ Although Edmonton as a place has so much to offer, like the river valley, our arts and festival scene, our cultural diversity, or relative affordability to other major cities in Canada, it's the people who bring the most value to living here. Edmontonians have big hearts, sharp minds, and grit. We aren’t afraid of shooting for the moon, but we find a pragmatic way of getting there. I love being surrounded by people who are compassionate and innovative doers and builders who care deeply about the future of our communities.
I♥E/ Can you describe yourself in 5 words or less?
AS/ Thoughtful, collaborative, hardworking problem solver.
Thank you, Ashley!
Follow along with the candidates on Twitter. See Ashley's Platform/Priorities HERE. Visit Ashley's website HERE.
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