Tag Archives: edmonton

The Latest From City Hall

From the edmontonian’s Headlines…

The City released a short update on what City Council did this week.

The three and four paragraph stories are great for you and me to get a glimpse at what our elected officials are talking about, and it’s bad news for newsrooms that put out the same length, or shorter stories. That Council Roundup is an example of media and public relations skipping the middleman of newsrooms.

There are a few newsrooms in Edmonton (and every city) that write very little on City Hall. When they write very little they are often doing no more than what we see from the City itself in this Roundup; a few quick notes on what was on the agenda and what happened. Newsrooms are going to have to add some depth and perspective to their stories or risk people skipping them and just checking on the official Roundup.

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For example, there’s not a whole lot different from this version:

City Administration presented to Council a concept for a Community Revitalization Levy identifying appropriate boundaries for a long-term downtown renewal plan. City Council directed administration to bring back in October a more detailed report on the dedicated tax levy which would be collected from downtown properties to re-invest in the downtown community.

An initial proposal for the dedicated revenue source, called a Community Revitalization Levy, could fund $366 million in major projects that would enhance downtown and catalyze further revitalization in the city. The majority of the projects identified were in the Council-approved Capital City Downtown Plan, including a Jasper Avenue New Vision, Central Warehouse Housing Incentive Program and River Valley Promenades. The levy would also generate $45 million in support for a new arena and $52 million in public infrastructure to support the arena.

With a revitalization levy in place, the City could borrow to fund major projects and pay off the loan in up to 20 years. The initial review of the levy estimates the potential revenue from new development within the boundary at $1.18 billion.

Although this funding strategy has been used often in U.S. cities, the dedicated levy from a certain area has only recently been used in Canada. In Alberta, Calgary has one levy in place for The Rivers District. In Edmonton, the City has approval to start one levy for the redevelopment of the Fort Road area and a second levy ready to be applied for to support development of the Quarters. The timing of starting a levy is crucial, as development should be poised to begin as soon as the levy is started because that triggers the countdown to pay off the borrowing.

And this version:

An expanded special tax area downtown to fund parks, housing development, sewer upgrades and a new arena is still possible, but Edmonton’s city council won’t vote on it until at least October.

Officials with city administration presented a report to council Wednesday that projected an expanded community revitalization levy, or CRL, would add $1.2 billion over 20 years to city coffers.

That includes $241 million that would otherwise go to the province for school taxes. If the province approves the plan it would have to cover that funding gap by shifting revenues, not by slashing school budgets.

Administration officials told council that increasing the downtown population is one of the purposes of the city’s “catalyst” projects, which include a park in the warehouse district east of 109th Street, Jasper Avenue streetscape improvements and a centralized meeting place near McKay Avenue School.

All of the catalyst projects, including the arena, would cost the city roughly $366 million.

The boundaries of the proposed CRL would stretch from 97th to 109th streets between 100th and 106th avenues.

The CRL wouldn’t impose extra taxes on properties within those boundaries. Instead, for 20 years property taxes on any new development would be used to repay money borrowed for city-led projects downtown.

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So, while some may lament that the City of Edmonton is trying to circumvent newsrooms this, in my opinion, is a catalyst for newsrooms to let people grab a quick bite of information from the City Hall update then dig into meaty, fact and analysis-filled context from journalists. And newsrooms can skip assigning one or more peopleĀ  to come up with a slightly re-worded version of what happened.

Sure, that’s the same approach that could be happening with news releases, but you’d think at some point the PR folks are either going to truly take a piece of the news market with their expanding storytelling or push newsrooms into creating stories of more depth on a regular basis.