On Monday, St. Albert will swear in its new mayor and council and conduct its first council meeting of the term.
While the result of the municipal election has led to much speculation about how council will work together, we should reserve judgment until we’ve seen this group in action. In politics, saying something and doing something don’t always go hand in hand.
What we do know is that this council will have plenty to deal with. The new council will consider the recommendations of a Municipal Inspection Report from last term and will also have to implement changes stemming from the updated Municipal Government Act proclaimed Thursday. They’ll begin budget discussions almost immediately and will need to set priorities for the next year. It’s no small task for a council with many newcomers, but it’s an extremely important one. These first council meetings may set the tone for the next four years.
The results of the plebiscite will be one of the early topics of discussion given the potential budget implications, though council may opt to wait on any facility decisions in the short term.
Utility rates are always a hot button issue and Coun. Sheena Hughes has a motion to return municipal sustainability initiative (MSI) funding to help lower utility bills for residents. Council will also need to soon consider a potential change to the stormwater rate, one that could have significant cost impact on some residential and business property owners and which has caught the eye of the Chamber of Commerce.
Many candidates in the election spoke of the need for economic development and there will be plenty related to the topic. Continuing to negotiate with Sturgeon County about the proposed annexation and developing a plan for the new land will be one issue on the table this term.
The twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive and the strategy council takes will be determined this term. Should council wait for the province on this ‘unfunded priority’ or can St. Albert get started now with the province’s binding commitment to pay us back in the future? Traffic continues to be a major issue for many in the city and voters were promised solutions. St. Albert’s commitment to a regional transit service with Edmonton will be also at play this term as council decides whether to take the next step forward.
Council will be dealing with all these plus the unforeseen and the ever-present challenge of balancing tax rates while maintaining services.
We have an interesting mix of councillors this term from a variety of backgrounds, but all have the best interest of the citizens at heart. The next four years will be a challenge, but at least for now, we should maintain optimism that the people have chosen the best men and women for the job. Our city is among the best places to live in the country. Let’s work to keep it that way.