Get to Know Who's Running: Kirsten Goa (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

Kirsten Goa


"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." 


The Questions:

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

Kirsten Goa/ Edmonton is changing and changing fast. We need to adapt quickly to cope with the challenges we face, but we also have an opportunity to shape our future together if we do it right. Change is hard and all of these pressures are overwhelming. If we don’t bring Edmontonians into the decision making process for navigating and shaping all of this change, we will not succeed. 

 

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.



IE/ 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?

KGFor over 20 years, I have invested my time, skills, and expertise to break down barriers and build relationships between Edmontonians, non-profits, industry and government with a focus on making Edmonton an even better place to live. This has primarily been volunteer grassroots community work and I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours at City Hall and in meetings or working on projects with communities across Edmonton to help influence and improve municipal decisions. 

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.


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

KG/ i). Affordable and permanent supportive housing

 

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.



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

KG/ As a ward made up of core and mature neighbourhood, a lot of the change that needs to happen in our city will be happening in papastew. Here we are seeing the density pressure and changes in our built form. I want to help our communities anticipate and shape the changes that are coming so that we can enhance the things that make our neighbourhoods such wonderful places to live while also building for the future. 

 

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.



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

KG/ For several years I worked with the City as the community co-chair on the Public Engagement Initiative. The policy that was developed from this initiative is just now beginning to be implemented. We need to expand upon it to foster strong and positive relationships between the City and Edmontonians.


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

KG/ Public hearings identify areas of concern and ways to improve projects and initiatives. I've been involved with community members in many land-use applications, where presentations often painted one picture of what was being proposed without necessarily including any language in the regulation to ensure that these commitments were realized. Council often makes recommendations for modifications or additions before passing or amending a bylaw. But if recommendations or commitments are not included in the bylaw they are unenforceable. I will ensure that the commitments made at the Public Hearing are incorporated into bylaws before they pass.


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.



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

KG/ I think City Councillors need to be accessible through their offices. On social media expectations of unfettered access confuse freedom of expression with allowing people a platform and completely ignores healthy boundaries. If I didn’t actively manage my social media I would be perpetually flooded with harassment, hate, bots, and spam. I won’t expect my staff to tolerate abuse and bullying, and I won’t tolerate it either. That said, I’m happy to have difficult conversations and I’m quite accustomed to dealing with intense emotions including anger. As a former constituency staff for Rachel Notley, I had to manage hate filled correspondence, phone calls and even death threats directed at me and a colleague because we were her staff. If our social media accounts are free-for-alls, they can quickly become toxic and many people will avoid engaging in more reasonable ways because they don’t want to experience the toxicity. We need to support a culture of respect that allows for a wider range of voices to express their thoughts. If we don’t manage abusive behaviour it effectively silences many voices. Many people won’t engage in that kind of environment. Toxic behaviour should not be allowed to drown out everyone else. So I engage with questions, even opposition, but if it becomes toxic or trolling or abusive I do block.


IE/ 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)?

KG/ I have found the Province’s response to the pandemic flat-footed and short-sighted. On the other hand, I am grateful that the City has shown leadership by initiating mask mandates and other requirements wherever they can. As Councillor, I, with my colleagues, would pressure the provincial government to respond more quickly with appropriate measures when the reported new cases of COVID-19 trend in the wrong direction. No doubt this is what the sitting council has already tried to do.


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

KGEdmonton is my home—I was born in Edmonton and I have lived here all my life. So many Edmontonians are passionate about their city and their neighbourhoods and want to ensure a good quality of life for themselves and for others. I grew up listening to stories of our friends and neighbours fighting to save the river valley and ravine system. Everywhere I turn amazing people are making Edmonton a home, and helping others make it home too. It’s this willingness to care and contribute that makes Edmonton the vibrant community that I love.


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

KG/ Principled, proactive, strategic and community-oriented


Thank you, Kirsten!


Follow along with the candidates on Twitter

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

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