Anne Stevenson Interview

GETTING TO KNOW O-DAY’MIN’S NEW CITY COUNCILLOR

Meet Anne Stevenson, O-day’min’s newest representative. She’s part of a history-making municipal election that saw eight women elected to City Council.

Stevenson beat out nine other candidates after receiving endorsements from outgoing Mayor Don Iveson and incumbent councillor Scott McKeen. A resident of Oliver, a former city planner, and a new mom, Stevenson will represent O-day’min, named for the Anishinaabe word for strawberry or heart-berry.

Q: How will your background in urban planning help you make decisions on City Council?

A: A lot of the decisions that City Council makes are land-use related. I’m excited to be able to bring that lens in terms of those choices. I think it’s also having a solid sense of the city plan, really understanding that document and how we implement it decision by decision. I’m excited to be at the table to see the vision and the goals and the policy, and to see the city plan come to life through the individual decisions that we make on City Council.

Q: What are some things you hope to accomplish?

A: Just today I was talking about the revitalization of Downtown. Certainly, working to support the businesses here, and the great initiatives happening through the Downtown Edmonton Community League and the Downtown Business Association as well.

Housing and homelessness is absolutely a huge priority for me. I think there’s been some great work done and there’s a number of policy shifts, certain different ways of approaching the resources that we’re already deploying, to be even more effective at addressing housing and homelessness.

Also, continuing to lobby the other orders of government to ensure that we’re getting the funding and the supports that we need. A lot of downtown businesses are asking for permanent supportive housing, and I think that’s something that we can really do—and received such a strong mandate for [when campaigning]. Easily two-thirds of people that I spoke to, when asked what their top issue was, it was housing and homelessness.

A third thing would absolutely be around how we think of and how we fund community safety and wellness. We have a great roadmap through the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force report. I’m committed to ensuring that those recommendations are implemented. And continuing to advance reconciliation and anti-racism initiatives are huge priorities as well.

Climate change is obviously a key one. We can make a lot of difference through our land use and transportation decisions. Something that I’d like to see for our next four-year budgeting process, which happens next November, is to be sure we implement a carbon budgeting system, so that we have a way of tracking and measuring our progress to get to net zero as a city and to ensure that we stay within our budget.

Q: What are some of the unique challenges facing your ward?

A:

Homelessness is a very visible issue in our community across the ward. I was just blown away by folks understanding the complexity of that.

Most people, even when they’re expressing frustration about petty theft or disruption, recognize that the solution is permanent supportive housing. It’s definitely a challenge for our community but a great opportunity as well, to come together and tackle that issue.

The revitalization of Downtown is unique to our area just given the office-worker employment density of the area. We face a challenge, not just in rebuilding the vibrancy back to what it was but doing so in a fundamentally different environment, where we won’t necessarily have the same office capacity that we did before. It provides us with an opportunity to address an issue that has always been apparent Downtown, which is that we didn’t have enough of a residential base. This gives us an opportunity to add more residential units through conversion of existing office buildings into residential units.

I’m such a Pollyanna sometimes but I see more of the opportunities than the challenges. We have a great active transportation network in terms of our bike lanes, multi-use trails through the River Valley, the LRT expansion, bus routes, but there are a lot of missing links. It’s always a lot of fine-tuning those pieces, continuing to support our business areas: High Street, 124th Street and 107th Avenue, and Chinatown. Those are big challenges, and it links into some of that both real and perceived sense of a lack of safety downtown. I think there’s been a loss of confidence in downtown and the core, so rebuilding and attracting people back to the area.

Q: One of your priorities is championing changes that support the 15-minute city. What does that mean and how will you support that?

A: The 15-minute city is about building the type of city where we can live our daily lives with the least amount of travel time or the least amount of friction when going about meeting our daily needs.

A lot of the pieces are there for many of us living in O-day’min but it’s really filling in those gaps. Riverdale is an interesting example. Previously, there was nowhere to meet needs in terms of a café, restaurant, or bakery. We’re starting to see some of that happen through Little Brick and now Dog Patch. To me, those are real examples of retrofitting communities to have the 15-minute city amenities.

Q: Is there anything else that people should know about you?

A: There’s this analogy that I heard one time about city planning. Someone described it as a jazz band. You have the rhythm section and the soloists. The rhythm section is those basics—the core things that we need every day. Then you have the soloists, which are flashy and exciting. I see myself as a rhythm section-type person. I want to be sure that the city is getting a strong foundation to allow our phenomenal community groups, our amazing businesses, our amazing civil society to really shine. I want to be focused on supporting those people and I really look forward to connecting with the community in the coming years.

Anne’s Fast Favourites

Favourite …
Place to get a beverage? Coffee Bureau or Cavern
Edmonton landmark? High Level Bridge and the River Valley. And City Hall is a beautiful building
Way to relax? Reading, camping, and getting outdoors
Podcasts? Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and BBC Radio Desert Island Discs
Show to stream? Parks and Recreation
Spot in O-Day’min? Paul Kane Park and Oliver Exchange