It's funny how people suddenly think that I might be an expert on every civic topic on the table, or come complete with concrete solutions and opinions as to how to solve every problem ahead of us.
I am a hardworking
taxpayer with a busy job (all of my life), I am an active volunteer (including most recently as an elected Board member of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival), I still teach the odd yoga class, I have a home to care for (complete with a very patient cat), and
I am running a grassroots election campaign to boot. No, I am no expert, nor do I pretend to have all of the answers.
I truly believe in doing the research, listening to all sides, engaging in respectful dialogue, considering
all of the angles, and looking for the win-win, the best solution. While my own mind never stops churning over new ideas, I completely believe that the more minds we have working on solving problems and looking for innovative solutions, the better.
Some people have been asking how I feel about certain topics, so here are some preliminary insights into my own belief system -- by no means an exhaustive list. I welcome dialogue, so do please CONTACT ME with other questions or ideas;
I embrace respectful discussion. And, check back once-in-a-while as I will continue to refine and/or add information.
1. I have spent the majority of my life working to promote and benefit Edmonton's business community, while
also living the personal reality of a hardworking taxpayer. This is not "political positioning" -- this is my reality. I support both, and I believe in balance. One cannot exist without the other. Both must be healthy; both must be
2. I believe in accountability. I do not advocate governments who publish motherhood statements without backbone. I want to see concrete action plans, target dates, and reporting mechanisms to ensure
progress against those plans. In other words, put your money where your mouth is and deliver the goods.
3. I walk by, and through, homelessness and real societal need, every day; I choose to say "hello,"
or "good morning" as opposed to turning a blind eye. I will let that statement speak for itself.
4. While I am no accountant, I did run some preliminary numbers on the City of Edmonton`s operating budget. While the revenues
and expenses seem to be offsetting themselves, we also have a debt accumulation quietly piling up behind us (the fastest increasing expenditure between 2006 and 2012 was Debt Principal Repayment; it increased 256% in those six years). While our contributions
to Reserves decreased by 51%, our long-term debt also increased 310% in that same period. Debt interest payments also increased 232%. Although this is my layman's interpretation of the numbers, am I concerned? Yes. Do I believe
in responsible borrowing for an investment in our future? Yes. However, we must be careful not to hamstring that very same future. The Edmonton Journal reported that about one-third of Edmonton's debt charges form a direct burden on taxpayers.
Tying up revenue to service debt means that those dollars are no longer available to fund the day-to-day things a City needs to do. We are not a Detroit (and I do not believe in fear-mongering)! However, we do need to be mindful, borrow responsibly,
and for the necessities.
5. I am on the real hunt for ideas, outside of taxing our businesses and citizens, to raise revenue.
- We need revenue streams that do not rely on solely taxing either our
businesses or citizens to help this city flourish, and to fund the future. We must protect ownership of our existing utilities, and we must think outside-the-box, get innovative, because while Revenue and Expenses might ostensibly be offsetting themselves,
continuing to accumulate debt to fund our future does not, in my mind, appear to be a logical or sustainable answer.
- Are we receiving our fair share of transfer payments?
- Is property tax the only (or right) approach to funding a municipality's
obligations? While over 93% of municipal revenues in Canada are sourced from property taxes, in the E.U., property taxes account for less than 20%. Are we adequately considering other approaches?
- Other ideas? I want to hear them.
I've heard some new ones already, and I am open to more. We all need to get thinking!!
6. Edmontonians own EPCOR. While it is "easy" to point the finger at property taxes as the greatest increasing
pressure on monthly budgets (and I am not denying or dismissing that), the latest figures I could find (2010) indicated that Edmonton was actually middle-of-the road for single-family property taxes in Canada, but second-highest for utility charges.
If we own these utilities, then why are we charging ourselves so much? (monthly budgets are being squeezed, and this approach would not appear to be business-friendly or competitive). This is a complex issue, and I hardly suggest that I have done all
of the research or formulated any answers. That said, while the citizens of Edmonton receive revenue from EPCOR which helps fund City operations, we also have to remember who is paying the bills (homeowners, businesses) and ensure we are striking the
right balance with those revenue flows.
7. I believe in protecting our green spaces and our urban forest.
8. I believe in our community leagues. I like the suggestion of a coordinated community league
property maintenance program (I do like efficiencies, coordination, and communication! It is my style!)
9. As a citizen, I see a disconnect between the financial pressures facing the Edmonton Public School Board and the City's own
commitment to rejuvenating mature neighbourhoods. Our mature neighbourhoods typically offer more affordable housing; they attract young families who need a local school -- but it is those schools that seem most vulnerable to closure. Once
lost, they are gone forever. I think better collaboration between the province and the City is required; we need to be pulling together, and money cannot be the only driver -- we need to exercise broader vision.
10. I am huge
supporter of the LRT. Full stop. If you haven't tried it, you should. Get on board!
11. All of our businesses are important. Each one makes a contribution to making Edmonton the City that it is. We have
too many best-kept secrets (our great Edmonton success stories). We need to be nuturing them, speaking louder about them, attracting others. We must be business-friendly; they are employers.
12. Did you know that our
own City Council does not have a Code of Ethics? We need one.
13. Making tendered contract awards that consider elements other than just the bottom-line price? I completely support that concept. Again,
money cannot be the only driver in a healthy community or society.
14. Our friends to the north. With the closure of the municipal airport, are we sufficiently engaging our northern communities, asking them how we can better
serve them, attract their business and tourism, remain their destination? Is there more that can be done?
15. I believe that downtown revitalization will hinge on people living and working there, eyes-and-feet on the street,
24/7. Figures that I found indicate that only 11% of Edmontonians currently work in the downtown core. So, if we want more people to live in the downtown, increased places of employment would seem a natural requirement. What are we doing to attract
more corporate business to Edmonton?
16. Since launching my campaign in mid-June, and literally talking to thousands of Edmontonians in Ward 2, I do hear about a lot of (what I consider to be) "disconnects." For example, work
being done once, and then again, and then again..... How can we fix this? How can we become more efficient, more cost-effective?
By no means do I pretend to have all of the answers, but fresh eyes, innovative thinking, and
new perspectives are a must. You will also come to know me as someone who asks a lot of questions. I am also known as someone who gets things done.
Please help me be your representative voice (Vote Nita Jalkanen Ward 2).
And please share your thoughts and ideas; we all need to open our minds, have flexibility in thinking.
In closing, I want to quote from a blog I recently posted on. I think it summarizes my position quite well: "I do not believe
leadership can be arrogant. It will also not be visionary if it does not have support to make that 'vision' a reality. Leadership must be open, engaging, respectful, thoughtful, and it must be supported. We really need to be pulling together
More to come I suspect, as the months ahead unfold. Feedback welcome. See CONTACT ME. Each voice, each step, each vote counts.