This is a recording and transcription of my speech from my campaign launch event on March 4th at Hazeldean Community League
For those of you that know me well, Aaaron Sorkin is favourite writer for television and film. And if you don’t think The West Wing is the best show on broadcast television, meet me out by the bike racks later and we'll fight. I'll win.
But today I’m not thinking of The West Wing. I’m thinking of Aaron Sorkin's other show, The Newsroom. On that show, the people that worked, explainably, in a Newsroom; they created a broadcast network news show that didn't pander to its audience, it didn’t reduce the issues to hashtags and headlines, give the electorate the information they needed and let them decide, because it trusted people innately. And how did they create such a broadcast in the face of network and advertiser pressures?
Well, they just decided to.
I could come up here today and tell you that I was always destined to be a city councillor from the day I was born. But the truth is wasn’t foretold in some ancient prophecy that the one with the power to vanquish Mike Nickel would have powers he knew not, that only one could hold office while the other declared his candidacy. That didn't happen. Granted, the other day a strange woman in a pond distributed a sword to me, but that manifestation of destiny doesn’t count because we all know, that is not the basis for a system of government.
Now, jokes aside, I'm up here to tell you why I'm running for city council and the simple matter is:
I decided to.
And, I think that our capacity to choose is important here, it's better to just decide to than to be destined to or always have your family pressures to do so.
I looked at what I knew, what I didn’t know, I looked at pros, cons, I used the data available to me, and I made a choice.
I’m not very good at politics, to be honest. I’ve sought out campaign advice from a lot of people and most of the time they’ve told me things like: “Troy, you talk too much, just tell voters what they want to hear, and don't say any of the other stuff”, or “you don’t need to understand the policy completely, just float it out there and worry about specifics later”.
And I tried it for a little bit. I tried schmoozing and politicking. And the truth was, I wasn't very good at it. I didn't like it, and I didn't want to do it.
So I’m not going to. Right up until the election, and afterwards as I sit on city council (knock on metal), you’ll find me broadcasting strong positions. I'm going to continue to do it. I won't equivocate on the things that matter to me, the speed limit in my neighbourhood is too high, people who walk are not given the due thought by city planners, and in the 21st century, I think it’s time we started demanding technological literacy from our leaders.
I’m going to alienate some voters that disagree with me along the way. And that’s okay. When I get elected, I want to have the mandate to do what I said I’ll do. I won’t “Monsef” away my promises as it were.
I believe in action. I’m not going to lie, and say I don’t like to talk. I like to talk. I can talk at length about a lot of things, but again, for those that know me you’ll know that I talk at most length about nothing in particular. But when I want something done, I get up and do it. I don’t sit around and talk about it. In the wise words of Shia Labouef:
Don’t let your dreams be dreams! Yesterday, you said tomorrow, so:
When I determined my neighbourhood wasn't safe to walk around, when I felt unsafe walking around. I didn't just sit and complain.
I went out and hit every door and I talked to everyone that would talk to me and I found out that 72% of you agree with me, and that's not a number that can be ignored, and that's not a number that city council will ignore if I have anything to say about it.
What can you expect from me? That's a good question.
Well, a lot of talk if you’re unlucky enough to get caught in my crosshairs at an event without an escape plan. But you can expect a lot of action as well. Now I know that my role on council will be part of a whole. I can’t promise you what the other councillors will do - I can't promise who they'll be or if they’ll agree with me. But what I can promise is what you'll see from me.
So If you’ll permit me, I’d like to talk about three initiatives:
As Dan mentioned, this is something that is hugely important to both of us.
Transparency of the city administration, that's important, but even more important is transparency of your councillor. He's all of your senses in City Hall; if he's not transparent with you, you're walking around blind.
When a councillor makes a decision, you need to know it was made based on citizen feedback and good decision making, not the influence of special interests.
That’s why I’m proud to announce that my campaign will not be accepting any union or corporate donations throughout it's life.
It's time to get union and corporate money out of politics.
We've done it provincially, and it's time to do it municipally as well.
I also believe that every piece of data in the city’s possession belongs to all of us. When the City hides information from us through FOIP, as it happens a lot of the time (Thanks, Notley). When we have this award-winning open data catalogue and we’ve committed as a city to opening up every piece of data by default - where is it? Most of our data in the city is not in the open data catalogue, it's hidden in a bureaucracy somewhere and there are no public plans detailing how to make it available.
As your city councillor, if we make it through my term without a single skeleton coming out of the closet and the public seeing it, making us look bad, then I haven’t done my job. I will be asking the hard questions of every department in the city. For each piece of data you own, why is it not public, and what is the strategy for making it public, and why aren't you telling the public about the timelines.
We have a right to know what our city is doing. If we’re not uncomfortable in this process, then we’re not growing.
The system has lost the trust of the public, that is unarguable.
Now to be clear, I am not up here campaigning on eliminating photo radar completely, I don't think we should do that. It’s an important tool in our enforcement toolbox. But when you have prominent city columnists getting front-page op-eds calling Photo Radar a "cash cow", when a person receives a ticket do you think they say "Hm, I better change my behaviour" or do you think they say "darn, those greedy politicians"? I believe it's the latter, and that's what we have to change.
So, the onus is on us. We need to prove that the photo radar program is only being used responsibly - and in doing so, we'll ensure that it is being used responsibly.
Enough surprises in transition zones, we need to draft policy that photo radar will be located 200m after a digital speedboard.
When a driver is told, in the moment, you are speeding and they choose not to slow down... they should get a ticket. That's how enforcement works.
All enforcement data, it needs to be in the open data catalogue. In order to earn the trust back from the population, any citizen must be able to fully audit the photo radar records. That's how we earn the public trust back.
For those that don't know, Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to traffic safety that we've adopted in Edmonton. It says that no loss of life in traffic is acceptable. And it purports that humans will make mistakes, that's unavoidable. But the road system should not fail those people. The road system should account for any mistake and make those mistakes non-fatal.
Now we say we're a Vision Zero city in Edmonton, and I don't believe that.
We need real infrastructure changes to say we're Vision Zero. For example, Whyte Ave, that's not a place where it’s appropriate for a pedestrian to die in a crosswalk. It's a pedestrian hub. That's where people walk. We need extended curbs on those pedestrian thoroughfares and we need better lighting for people who walk and we need them yesterday.
Importantly about Vision Zero, this is an initiative where the words matter. And they matter a lot.
We suggest that people need to wear reflective strips if they want to leave their home less they be smitten by the giant metal beasts that roam the earth.
We say never jaywalk, while people freeze on street corners so that others can cruise by in their heated metal cages without stopping.
We say pedestrian and cyclist when we actually mean people.
Our media releases say a pedestrian was struck by an SUV and died.
No! A person walking died, when a driver failed to yield in a crosswalk.
The words matter.
And only when we’re ready to treat all people moving with the respect and dignity they deserve, when we’re ready to make the hard infrastructure changes required to make everyone safe, when we’re ready to stop paying lip service for political points. Only then, can we call ourselves a Vision Zero city.
Our city is changing. We’re the fastest growing city in Canada and we show no signs of stopping. With growth comes both challenges, and new opportunities. I’m ready to tackle to the challenges, yes, but even more importantly, I'm looking to those new opportunities with a lustful longing, I'm waiting with baited breath to push Edmonton forward. Where politics in the south, and even in our own province, has taken a negative turn, full of regressive cynicism, fear, and hatred, I’m looking to the horizon and I see opportunities abound.
The next four years will marked by a government whose actions show their openness and willingness to collaborate. It will be marked by policy shaped through data and rational decision making. It will be marked by a government that says “no! no loss of life in traffic is acceptable!”.
Edmonton is on the cusp of something truly great, and I believe with the right leadership we can get there.
My name is Troy Pavlek, and I’m running to be your next City Councillor in Ward 11.