I wish more people on Edmonton City Council were like Coun. Michael Oshry.
Oshry and I don't agree on everything, but I sure value his contrarian nature and willingness to engage people to talk issues. What makes me wish more were like him, though, is that Oshry has decided not to ride out his seat on city council for as long as he can, which is something of a known and unfortunate behaviour councillors have tended to exhibit in this city.
Instead, Oshry announced on Wednesday he's not running in this fall's election. This will allow someone else, with a refreshed agenda, competency or pet project, to take over in Edmonton's Ward 5.
Some I spoke with about Oshry's announcement yesterday said it was "strange" to be a one-term councillor. And, in some ways, they have a point: It takes a long time to achieve a larger agenda in our city, and politics can be seen as a profession just like, say, accounting or nursing.
But there's another way to look at Oshry's decision. Given how Edmonton voters routinely send incumbent councillors back to council up and until the councillor themselves decides to call time, Oshry stepping aside promises more of what we need on council.
It was 1998 when Ward 9 voted Coun. Bryan Anderson to council, and it was 2001 when Coun. Ed Gibbons was first elected in Ward 4. Both have announced they're not running again in 2017, and respectfully to them, I think it's the right decision. In the time between 1998 and today, Edmonton has transformed.
Back then, Edmonton was a city of about 625,000 people, most of whom lived in suburbs and worked in a sleepy downtown of offices, pedways and parkades. In 2017, Edmonton is a city of close to one million, with a nascent urban bike grid, a soon-to-launch rethink on transit and a new LRT line on the way, mixed with an impossibly spaced out inner ring of first-generation suburbs and some very entrenched NIMBYism. Oh, and Blatchford and The Quarters and bridges that are years behind schedule.
The next council will have to make bold, perhaps even unpopular decisions, in order to make Edmonton work well for those outside the Baby Boomer demographic.
To do this, I think our council needs to be younger, more diverse, more reflective of who we are and what we want the city to be in the future. (As an aside, the fact Coun. Bev Esslinger is the lone woman on council in a city of our size and ambition is unacceptable.)
That's why I think Oshry's decision is exciting and why I respect his decision so much.
Still, while Oshry, Anderson and Gibbons' departure opens the possibility of more reflective candidates entering council, incumbent power could possibly feature in the 2017 vote. Ward 7 councillor Tony Caterina, who was first elected in 2007, is running again. His son, Rocco, will likely run for Gibbons' vacated seat.