Get to Know Who's Running: Kirsten Goa (Ward papastew)
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...
"Kirsten Goa is our community voice! She has the vision and experience to make City Hall work better for all of us and understands the pressures and opportunities that our City and our communities are facing. Kirsten’s proven leadership is what we need to navigate this time of uncertainty and rapid change. For almost 20 years, Kirsten has worked with diverse communities to help shape City of Edmonton policies on issues as varied as housing, human rights, local food, land-use and public engagement. Recognizing the essential role that all sectors play in building our City, she has prioritized breaking down the silos and building relationships between citizens, non-profits, industry and government in order to create pragmatic and collaborative solutions for our most challenging issues."
Helping our community navigate and shape change has been my work for over a decade. My experience working on community initiatives and on City policies in areas such as public engagement, land-use, affordable housing, energy-efficiency retrofitting, and community economic development have prepared me to find creative and strategic ways to address the challenges we face and bring Edmontonians together, from all walks of life, to participate in the process.
I am running for City Council because I love our City and I want it to be a place where my children and future generations are able to thrive.
I have a deep knowledge of the issues, of municipal governance and of the communities in ward papastew. I have successfully won concessions and improvements for Edmontonians by working effectively with different community groups and interests, the majority of Council members, City administration, industry, and non-profits. I have a long track record of getting things done at City Hall.
And, importantly, I grew up in ward papastew. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I know the community here.
The following is only a partial list of my experience. Almost all of these efforts were volunteer and rooted in community advocacy. All of them are shared achievements with the many community leaders, City staff, City Councillors, businesses, and advocacy groups who have worked together to achieve these outcomes. This experience is why my candidacy is endorsed by two outgoing City Councillors, Michael Walters and Ben Henderson, and by outgoing Edmonton Public School Trustee Bridget Stirling.
Changed City recreation policies to align with women’s and children’s human rights (2001)
Co-wrote economic case for a local food economy, which included draft amendments to the Municipal Development Plan. (2008-2010) These were adopted by Council and incorporated almost verbatim into our MDP.
Co-chaired a social enterprise project aimed to bring the trades, contractors, the City and communities together to initiate neighbourhood scale energy efficiency retrofits of our existing housing stock (2008-2010).
Community Co-chair for the Advisory Committee for the Council Initiative on Public Engagement (2015-2017) and foundational community co-chair of the Community Leadership working group – 1000s of Edmontonians helped shape our new direction on engagement from the ground up. This work won the National and International IAP2 Organization of the Year award. The highest recognition in public engagement. Work to integrate this into the City of Edmonton organization at a cultural level is still needed and requires leadership and commitment from Council.
Community Co-chair Guiding Coalition on Public Engagement (2018-2020) an advisory body established as one of the first steps in implementing the new policy.
Supported many communities in Edmonton navigate ~50 re-zoning applications to date, from small row house projects through to large scale developments. In some cases, poorly thought out projects were halted, in many we successfully negotiated significant, but realistic improvements to better meet community needs and address concerns and improve the outcomes for everyone.
Successfully advocated to: expand the scope of the Edmonton Design Committee; double affordable housing contributions from developers, stop attempts to undermine commitments made in zoning, normalized the inclusion of larger units that can accommodate families with children, incorporate community gardens on site, retrofit the streetscape to create a more welcoming, safe and walkable public realm and negotiated good neighbour agreements that included opportunities to engage on detail design with a focus on wind mitigation and landscape planning, expand the options for community amenity contributions, and find ways to welcome new neighbours in the community.
This work on land-use included mentoring and learning from many other community leaders in order to expand the capacity of community to shape the changes coming in more effective and proactive ways.
Tirelessly advocated for tools that support community lead traffic calming initiatives rather than waiting for a “neighbourhood traffic management plan”. After a number of years in many contexts, Vision Zero Street Lab is a direct result of this advocacy (by me and many others).
Advocated for investment in traffic safety and redesign of 101 Avenue with the Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition.
Supported my own community as we initiated a complete streets oriented approach to our neighbourhood renewal, substantially increasing safety and accessibility, including a mid-block raised crossing where my own kids would cross to go to the park when they were younger and traffic lights installed where for years I felt like I was taking our lives in to our hands crossing a major arterial to get to the library.
Ran for City Council for Ward 8 in 2017, launching our grassroots campaign in June and placed a strong second to incumbent Ben Henderson.
Supported the Friends of Scona Rec with their advocacy to save the Scona pool in the interim, advocate successfully for design funding, and initiate the exploration of alternative financing models.
Sat on the Strathcona Community League board from 2017-2020 as Community Engagement Liaison, working primarily with local festivals and sat on the Civics committee.
Sat on the IDEA (Infill Development Edmonton Association) board as a community member supporting improvements to infill practices, reducing barriers to better infill, and supporting the development of better relationships with neighbours of infill.
Co-developed and taught the Communications and Community Relations course for the IDEA/City of Edmonton builder education pilot program (this was a modest paid contract).
Supported City budget processes with multiple community and advocacy groups to assess where adjustments could be made to better achieve our City goals.
In a place like Edmonton, there is no excuse for anyone to have to struggle to keep a roof over their heads. City Council has taken a leadership role building permanent supportive housing, filling a gap left by the province over many years. However, we need to continue this investment, expand it and also think creatively about how we can work together to end chronic homelessness.
This challenge overlaps with racism, trauma, mental health and addictions. Which is why it’s so important that our response includes wrap around supports that are trauma informed, culturally safe and responsive.
Working with other levels of government is necessary to respond to this challenge, we need to find a way to make the argument to the province regardless of the political stripe and bring all partners to the table. Collaborative efforts across different sectors and interests will be most effective, as well as addressing regulatory barriers in our own processes
ii). Climate Crisis and Energy Transition
My experience with energy efficiency retrofitting and market transformation efforts mean I’m very aware of the challenges we face to make the urgent changes needed to meet our emissions targets. Land-use, retrofitting and transportation are key levers that the City can control.
The current Council made significant strides on the policy side, but we now need a Council with enough courage to make the difficult decisions that will allow us to live within our carbon budget.
The cost of doing nothing is too high and energy transition is an opportunity for economic diversification that we need to embrace.
iii). A budget that reflects our values
It’s really easy to create excellent policies that don’t get reflected in our spending priorities. Our new City Plan lays out a framework for how we can grow as a city in a way that meets our climate, economic and social goals. With limited resources, it’s more important than ever that we prioritize and invest in a sustainable future and reject status quo spending that doesn’t align with these goals.
iv). Implementation of the new City Plan
Executing the City Plan will also require difficult decisions, but it is one of the most important ways we can make our City more livable, affordable, equitable and sustainable. Supporting communities as we navigate these changes will be essential if we want these changes to be embraced and long-lasting.
v). Collaborative leadership and shifting the political climate
In order to continue important work with our regional partners, different levels of government, across communities, businesses, non-profits etc. we need to bring the temperature down. We need less theatrics and more collaborative leadership. Leadership that is clear on the issues, but welcoming to different perspectives. Democracy is rooted in empathy and creativity. We must be able to understand others before we will be able to influence them. And we must be willing to listen, and even be influenced in turn, if others are going to understand us. Our ability to meet the challenges we face will be determined by our ability to meet people where they are at, work together across different interests, navigate conflict and manage change.
We also see the impacts of homelessness and the opioid crisis on our neighbourhoods. We need to find creative and humane ways to respond to the current situation and also be more proactive about mitigating the causes of these failures in the fabric of our community. Supporting communities in responding to the needs of our neighbours in more trauma informed ways, while also taking action to support grassroots outreach organizations, supporting harm reduction and safe supply and building permanent supportive housing are all needed to mitigate these issues.
Well before a public hearing, I am committed to working with communities to navigate and negotiate on projects that are coming to their neighbourhoods. Our communities are evolving and we need to adapt, but we can do this in a way that protects and enhances where we live. We need more pragmatic, winnable approaches to working with property owners and land developers. I got tired of seeing my community just fight and lose year after year. We need to make it easier to build the kinds of projects that communities are asking for and also hold those accountable who drive a race to the bottom. I have a strong track record of successful negotiation, making good projects better and holding developers accountable to their promises.