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Did council pay attention during election?

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013 06:00 am

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You can’t blame the average voter for being a bit apathetic as municipal, provincial and federal politicians get embroiled in controversies such as smoking crack cocaine, soliciting prostitutes or claiming expenses that are, at the very least, inappropriate.

But here in St. Albert, the members of St. Albert city council are exhibiting signs that they actually listened to feedback from the public during the October municipal election. The tone, according to reporting published in the Gazette over the past six weeks, seems less adversarial, less melodramatic and more accommodating and co-operative.

The first example that leaps to mind is the fact that council kept the tax increase low. As usual, taxes were one of the most popular concerns during the election. This council seems to be listening carefully, and has even stepped back from some projects, in addition to having city departments trim budgets. That's not true in some other capital region communities where the increase is double and triple what we're looking at here.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine brought forward a motion to look at affordable housing in St. Albert. That was occasionally an issue in the election, and is an issue every day for a good percentage of St. Albert residents.

The new Safe Journeys to School initiative is really more of a response to the tragic pedestrian accidents, but it also is addressing the traffic problems in the city, which did raise concerns during the election and which every motoring resident deals with every day.

Council will talk about looking at a municipal planning commission or something similar during its strategic planning session in January. The Erin Ridge school issue showed the public wants a voice in large developments, especially near residential areas.

Council transparency is an issue in most communities, and it looks like St. Albert city council wants to be seen as an open and accountable group. They’re going to start posting council attendance and other information on the city website and at the last meeting also discussed regular columns in the Gazette.

If readers are the kind of taxpayers who worry not just about the short-term issues, but also the long-term ones, then they’ll be happy to know city council is trying to move forward on improved relations with Sturgeon County. Now, Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the city’s declining support for Sturgeon’s municipal development plan illustrates, and there is a lot of water under the bridge between these two municipalities, but all signs indicate the mayors are communicating regularly and we all know any détente must start at the top.

It's still very early in the game, but even council’s strongest critics must admit the elected officials are doing what they promised: listening to the public’s concerns and doing something about them.


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