City Council Highlights
Here are some of the issues discussed and debated in City Council in May that will have an impact on Saskatoon and the people that live here.
Hiring of a City Manager
City Council unanimously decided to hire Jeff Jorgenson as the City Manager of the City of Saskatoon.
Hiring a new City Manager is one of the biggest decisions that a City Council can make. City Council established a Hiring Committee at the end of 2017 to initiate a national search process starting in February of 2018. Based on the national search, the Council Hiring Committee received and evaluated 67 applications from candidates from across Canada, significantly higher than our last search for a City Manager. Jeff’s qualifications and commitments have allowed him to rise to the top of this list, and I’m thrilled that he has taken the job to help lead our city at this exciting and important time in our history.
Jeff has a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and was first hired by the City in 1996. He has previously served as the General Manager of Transportation and Utilities and the Acting General Manager of Corporate Performance, and he has consistently proven himself to be a team player and an asset to our city.
This is an important time for the City and there are tremendous opportunities and challenges ahead of us. There will be significant changes across the organization over the next several years—in leadership as well as implementing major initiatives—that will introduce new services and transform existing ones. Jeff has a long and successful history with the City and I am confident in his ability to lead this important change. His passion for Saskatoon is inspiring, and he brings to this role an understanding of the City of Saskatoon, experience in the private sector, and a proven record of problem solving.
New Multi-Use Safety Pathway along CP Rail Line from Ave D to Ave W
The City of Saskatoon was approved for funding under the Rail Safety Improvement Program of the federal government to create a multi-use pathway between Avenues D and W. This three kilometre path will run adjacent to the Canadian Pacific Railway and it will connect those living in the western part of our city to the downtown core (there is an existing pathway from Avenue D to Idylwyld). This will greatly improve safety for those walking and biking and it will incorporate lighting, signage, and way-finding along the path to help encourage safe usage.
The estimated cost of this project is roughly $1.4 million, but the federal government will fund up to 80% of the project, meaning that the City only has to pay for $293,000. This was a project that the City was planning on building in the future, but with this sizable federal grant it makes sense to capitalize on these funds and move forward now. The engineering design contract has been awarded and construction is expected to be completed by March of 2020.
“Downtown: Where We Belong” Initiative
City Council has made a strategic investment in making Saskatoon’s downtown a vibrant and animated place for residents and visitors alike.
The downtown is the heart of any community. It is the hub of business and industry, a key commercial area, a destination for residents and visitors, and a signal to the rest of the world about the values and priorities of the city. The downtown needs to be accessible, inviting, and serve a wide range of ages and people. It cannot just be the downtown for some, but it needs to be the downtown for all.
In the fall of 2017, the Mayor’s Office partnered with the Downtown Saskatoon Business Improvement District and hosted a set of “Downtown: Where You Belong” workshops that brought together business owners, downtown residents, civic staff, students, and other volunteers. All of these participants gathered information and insights from people who were downtown, and then brainstormed ideas and projects that would improve people’s experiences in the area. These ideas addressed such concerns as parking, safety, transportation, accessibility, wayfinding, weather, and creating a sense of community.
Many ideas were generated from these workshops, and City Council has agreed to pilot some of these initiatives so that we can start making progress quickly. Over the summer months, the City will be funding some projects to revamp alleyways, creating a grant to provide seed funding to businesses and groups wanting to add vibrancy to downtown, and begin some work geared towards the current and future residents of the downtown.
These may seem like small changes, but they have been well thought-out to have a big impact. After a few months, the City will be evaluating this project and determining what steps should be taken next. A huge thank you to everyone who volunteered their time and experiences in the workshops to help build a stronger city core.
For more information on this project, you can read the report that went to City Council:
Green Infrastructure Strategy
The City is developing a Green Infrastructure Strategy to help to manage and maintain the parks, trees, natural spaces, and intrinsic beauty of our city. In addition to the environmental benefits of this work, there are positive financial impacts to managing our green assets as we develop more sustainably and adapt to a changing climate.
Managing and maintaining green assets is also important to the residents of Saskatoon, something that we consistently hear in public engagement and discussions in the community. Saskatoon has sprawling parks throughout our neighbourhoods, sports fields where friends and families gather, and an urban forest that is highly valued by citizens. Green spaces in Saskatoon help bring people together, increase quality of life, save infrastructure expenditures, and allow us to have a better balance in our relationship with our natural environment. Our natural habitat and ecosystems are vital for our community and they cannot be taken for granted.
A comprehensive strategy allows the City of Saskatoon to grow more sustainably with the natural environment, to improve access to green spaces, to both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, and to ensure that our green spaces are able to thrive in the years and generations to come. As Saskatoon continues to grow and change, it is important to ensure that our city can be sustainable and maintain a strong and biodiverse green infrastructure. Citizens and visitors alike have certainly come to view this natural beauty as one of the defining characteristics of our city.
Innovation in Park Irrigation – Brighton
On a related note, City Council also approved a pilot project in Brighton to irrigate the neighbourhood parks using primarily storm water. Not only will this save money by not using water that has gone through the water treatment plant, but it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it is a form of adapting to a changing climate. A big thanks to Dream Development—the developer of the Brighton neighbourhood—for taking on this project that will save Saskatoon money in the years to come.
A summary of the first phase of the Green Infrastructure Strategy can be found online.
Next step for Cannabis rules in Saskatoon
At the Public Hearing Meeting of City Council, the City’s Administration put forward a series of recommendations on the zoning of cannabis retailers and cannabis production facilities.
With the decision by the federal government to legalize cannabis, all orders of government in Canada now have a role to play. One of the biggest pieces that Saskatoon and all municipalities with future dispensaries has to figure out is what zoning regulations will apply to these businesses and where they will be allowed in the city.
The administration made several recommendations on this matter for the zoning of cannabis retailers and production facilities. However, Council decided against some of the administration’s recommendations and instead opted for more lenient restrictions to serve Saskatoon well into the future. The City’s administration was proposing a 160 meter buffer between cannabis retailers and parks, schools, registered daycares, community centres, and public libraries, except for in the Broadway business area where this would be reduced to 60 meters. City Council decided to opt for the 60 meter option for the entire city, and it is expected that a bylaw with these regulations will be passed at next month’s Public Hearing Meeting.
The process of getting to this stage was a great example of democracy in action. The decision that City Council made to endorse a 60 meter buffer was made after public consultation, public presentations, and emails, phone calls, and messages that I and other members of Council received. It was an exercise of balancing competing interests and of creating a community-wide solution.