Elect Sim for Ward 10

Friday 29 September 2017

Why should you vote for me?

September 29, 2017
Why should you vote for me?
Earlier today I joined several candidates on the Ryan Jesperson show to make a two minute pitch for why Ward 10 residents should vote for me.

I wanted to take the time to elaborate on some of the reasons in a blog post so Ward 10 residents can get to know me and what kind of a Councillor I would be a little better.

Unlike most of the candidates running for City Council this election year, I have NOT lived in Edmonton all my life. I moved to Edmonton a little over 6 years ago. Edmonton is the 9th city in the 5th country I have lived (and worked) in. I am not even counting the ones I have traveled to. I came to Edmonton for a visit back in 2005. It took me just 4 days in the city to see how much potential our city had and soon after I left I was already telling people around me, they should move to Edmonton. Over the years, I looked for a job specifically in Edmonton, and moved here when I got my position at the U of A as an Educational Developer.

Why should it matter to you that I have lived in other cities (the likes of New York City, Istanbul, Prague, and others ranging in population of 40,000 people to 20 million people)? It matters because when our next Council is faced with problems to address and solutions to choose from in the upcoming term, I will have first hand experiences as a Councillor to highlight the things that worked for people where similar solutions were implemented, and the challenges they faced.

That unique exposure, combined with by background in budget administration, IT and HR management, as well as extensive community volunteer experience makes me an ideal candidate for Council. I will be there to ask the tough questions, and challenge the proposed solutions.

I believe the current residents of a neighbourhood must have the ultimate say in shaping the future of their communities. I won’t be one of those Councillors who go out doorknocking only during campaign periods. I will be there at every opportunity to hear your concerns and your vision for your community.

And I will of course be the independent voice to advocate for your vision. My campaign is solely financed by individual donations, and my own funds. I have not received and will not accept donations from developers, or any other corporation that does business with the City of Edmonton. Running a campaign with individual donations means I can maintain my impartiality at the Council table, and that I won't be afraid to demand more from the developers as they set their sights to build new suburban communities. As things stand now, Ward 10 residents living in the newer communities in Ward 10 are dealing with roads never built (to accommodate the full load of the communities) and are in constant fundraising mode to try to build a playground, or a community hall. We can and should be demanding more from the developers. If there are legislative barriers preventing us from demanding more, it is our job as Councillors to work with the Province to change that.

There is clear discrepancy between how well current Councillors think the City has been engaging with their citizens and how Edmonton residents perceive that public engagement. Clearly, citizens don't feel like they have been heard when it comes to the failed infill experience that has been pitting neighbours against neighbours, or the traffic problems caused by the LRT. They are frustrated and want to be heard.

Edmonton has a strong history and culture of community leagues and is blessed to have engaged citizens who are willing to spend hundreds of hours of their time trying to tell the city what will and will not work in their community. I am ready and committed to tap the potential of those great volunteers, and concerned community leaders who know "what's best" for their communities. I will make sure the plan for the future of our city is built on their, on your vision.

On October 16th, please vote for me, Sim Senol. I would love to be your next Ward 10 Councillor.
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Tuesday 5 September 2017

What do I mean by Smart/Responsible Densification?

September 05, 2017
What do I mean by Smart/Responsible Densification?
We all agree continuous growth of Edmonton outward is not sustainable in the long run. Resources required to maintain the quality of city services would mean further increases in taxes, or a general trend of deteriorating service levels. Though increasing density in the mature neighbourhoods appear to be a common goal majority of Edmontonians share, we increasingly feel like City Hall is telling us what our communities should look like, rather than asking us what we want for our communities.

I don't see opposition in many of our mature neighbourhoods to lot splitting and infill as NIMBYism*.  There are many reasons why residents are frustrated.

They see that the type of infill being built, at the price ranges they are built are not bringing the type of young families with young children to their older neighbourhoods. After all, how many young families can afford a $600K duplex and would want to buy one in a mature neighbourhood when they can buy a house in the suburbs for $450K?

They see houses built that pay no regard to height, architectural form, or front setback of their streets. A few bad examples are enough to make people very frustrated. They see these infill houses popping up not in areas in close proximity to transit but wherever builders can find a house they can knock down and make the most profit. Parking becomes an issue on the streets. The more profit opportunity builders see in the community, the more you see houses with multiple bids. Prices rise faster even for older homes in neighbourhoods where infill is proving to be a "good business".

In general they feel like the infill they are seeing built is nowhere near what was promised to them.

I believe there is a different, a better way to approach the issue of increasing density in the core neighbourhoods. This starts by understanding that you can't have a cookie cutter approach to every neighbourhood in the city. It starts by understanding that the current residents of a community bought in that specific area with certain expectations of a life style and that they deserve to have a say in how they want their neighbourhood to evolve.

That's why I will push for "true and sincere" consultation with residents of mature neighbourhoods, if elected to council. Rather than giant infill houses, or skinny's popping up everywhere randomly it is possible to work with communities to build a long term vision about where it makes sense to build medium density housing, where they would want to see senior housing etc. I propose establishing (or working with existing) non-profit development organizations, that will have the capacity to transform a whole block, rather than piece-meal projects. In my home country of Turkey, there are projects where owners of whole substandard buildings, or apartment complexes move out of 60-70 units. They live in rentals for a year or two. A whole new complex is built with increased density, and they all move in to their new apartments in the same neighbourhood they left in a couple years. They get a brand new apartment out of the process, don't have to pay for the rental unit while their new apartment is being built, and the builders still make money out of this. All that was done was legislation that a certain (high) majority of the neighbours would agree to this.

The Turkish model may not work in Edmonton, but it can still give us an idea about how we can approach densification in the mature neighbourhoods. If elected to council, I will work hard to re-ignite the community consultations. Through these consultations we can identify neighbourhoods that are willing and that would benefit from renewal and transformation.True public engagement is more than residents being given two options to choose from. And true public engagement can do wonders for creating win-win solutions for (those) mature neighbourhoods that can benefit from densification.

*NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard

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Sunday 25 June 2017

Edmonton's New Transit Strategy: Sim's take and perspective

June 25, 2017
Edmonton's New Transit Strategy: Sim's take and perspective
Earlier this week, Mr. Marcelo Figueira, an urban designer and manager at Pario Plan Inc. asked me and the other Ward 10 City Council candidates, what we thought about Edmonton's Transit Strategy that was announced earlier this week.  I didn't want to write a quick 140 character response  on Twitter to answer Marcelo's question before I had a chance to at least skim through the whole 86 page strategy document (which can be found here). 

First I would like to thank him for engaging with me as a Ward 10 constituent (and also for being patient and waiting until now to read my response). I look forward to posting detailed answers to any other future question that's near and dear to the hearts of our Ward 10 (and #yeg) residents. I believe that will help you better understand my priorities as a Council candidate, and make it easier for you to decide on whether I can represent your values and priorities at the City Council.

As I was reading through the Strategy document in between prior commitments over the weekend, there have been a couple new developments related to the new transit strategy, that's worth mentioning. On Saturday, June 24th bus drivers from ATU Local 569 came together to rally against the new transit strategy. Progress Alberta, an independent, non-profit group dedicated to building a more progressive Alberta, also came out on Friday, with a detailed review of the transit strategy. Although they appear to be much more supportive of the new plan than the local bus drivers union, they also expressed concerns about one major area of the plan: i.e. privatization of the local/low ridership routes.

Compared to some other parts of Edmonton, Ward 10 residents have been somewhat luckier when it comes to public transit. After all LRT went right through our old Ward boundaries in the south side and we've benefited from having a relatively wide network of feeder routes to the LRT. However, the new communities added to our Ward reaching all the way to Allard and 41 Ave. SW pose new challenges, when it comes to transit service. They don't have the convenient and frequent bus services connecting them to the LRT, nor do they have sufficient/affordable park & ride options. We also had some routes with low ridership numbers, some of which have already been cancelled (or had their frequency reduced even further) earlier this month. (i.e. list of routes impacted can be found here)

As someone who lived (and commuted to work every morning) in cities like New York City, Istanbul, Prague, Poznan, Ankara, Bursa, Antalya, as well as small North American cities like Arroyo Grande, (CA) and West Lafayette (IN) I am well aware of the differences and challenges of providing service in a city like Edmonton. A lot of European cities have the advantage of much higher population density. They are walkable cities with established "centres" that are main "destinations". In a city like Edmonton, with such high percentages of "single houses" compared to some of cities I mentioned above, and the additional challenge of the harsh/long winters, we need to be realistic about what's achievable within a certain budget.

From that perspective, I fully support the fundamental principles outlined in the new strategy. Establishing core service areas, with frequent bus service can also guide our future urban planning efforts. It will make perfect sense to encourage the type of "development" to increase population density on these routes.  The routes will enjoy more ridership, and the city will easily be able to increase bus frequency on those routes if demand further increases in the future. In time (just like it happened in the many cities I lived before) certain areas of the city will emerge as natural locations appealing to a certain type of city resident (i.e. those who prefer to use public transportation). Similarly, offering "express service" to main transit centres or other "high demand attractions" from the outer suburbs will offer a more viable alternative to other residents who prefer to live in the new neighborhoods but could easily be convinced to leave the car at home if there was a viable alternative that could get them to their work faster and cheaper than driving themselves. OK may be not exactly faster (but at least in a comparable commute).

I am not as concerned about the "privatization" option as the Progressive Alberta group, although I sincerely hope the council doesn't automatically think of "Uber" as the potential and only solution for this. There are alternative private solutions. In my native country of Turkey, we have a long history of utilizing what we call "dollmush". These are ride share solutions with established routes. I believe in socially responsible decision making. There are serious allegations and controversies surrounding Uber, so I wouldn't particularly be ready to jump on board to partner with them but I would be open to looking at other alternatives. We shouldn't be dismissing the bus drivers' concerns completely. They are the front line people interacting with the transit users. Hence, I think it's the responsibility of the "planners" to at least engage with them in a meaningful way to understand and hopefully address their concerns.

Change is never easy, and never perfect. There will always be some growing pains, and adjustments along the way to fine tune a process, but overall I support the new plan. I encourage Ward 10 and other city residents to leave comments on my blog page. I would be happy to hear what you think.
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Tuesday 20 June 2017

And the journey begins!

June 20, 2017
And the journey begins!
Greetings! On June 19th I have submitted my Notice of Intent to run for the Edmonton City Council.  Between now and the election day on October 16, I will be reaching out to the great residents of Ward 10 to ask for their support. Through this page, but most importantly through our informal conversations at your doorstep or a local soccer field, I hope to hear what your concerns and priorities are for your community and for our city. Also, through this page I will try to explain where I stand on the issues Ward 10 faces specifically, and our city faces in general. I would love to be your new voice at the City Council.

My campaign is all about finding ways to Tap the Potential.

Tapping the potential means not only identifying the right projects to focus on, but doing/implementing them RIGHT. Tapping the potential means finding creative ways to stretch the resources we already have and that starts with tapping the potential of the people who make this city great. Tapping the potential means focusing on the journey/process, so everyone involved in it can grow and learn from it. My campaign will especially focus on women and the newcomers, because I believe they represent two major group of constituents whose engagement in municipal politics is absolutely critical for us to realize our city's full potential. Please check out the Tap the Potential section of my website to learn more about how I hope to engage more women and newcomers, not only in my campaign but more specifically in shaping the future of Edmonton.

Edmonton is already a great city, but together we can make it even a better one!

If you have ideas to help us realize Edmonton's and Ward 10's full potential, please consider joining my campaign.
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