Councillor Ben Henderson confirms he will not be running for reelection in October

I am confirming today that I will not be running for reelection to Edmonton City Council in the fall. After fourteen years I feel it is time to step aside and make room for new energy on Council. I have greatly enjoyed my time serving the people of Edmonton and residents of the old ward four, and since 2010 ward eight, but the time has come to explore new pursuits.

It is always an interesting exercise to look back over a period like this and, although at times it feels like just yesterday that I was arriving at City Hall, I look back on what has changed in the ensuing years and I realize that our city has travelled a great distance.

When I arrived the LRT stopped at Health Sciences, the bike grid was a few painted lines faded with time, neighbourhood renewal was creeping along at a snail’s pace and our city’s infrastructure was in woeful shape. Any work we did on roads just replaced what we had and there was little thought to use the opportunity of renewal to improve our City. Transportation safety was largely focused on the movement of vehicles with secondary thought to the pedestrian and the cyclist. The City was regularly tearing itself apart debating the future of the municipal airport and no recreation centres had been built in decades.

There are some very specific endeavours that I take great pride in. My work leading the winter city initiative led to the creation of our Winter City Strategy which has transformed the way we enjoy our city in winter and has won us international recognition. Our city sees just as many festivals now in winter as in summer and thousands of people now enjoy Zoominescence, Deep Freeze, Ice on Whyte, Le Canoe Volant, and the substantially expanded Silver Skate. They are joined by numerous community events across our City. Our parks and outdoor spaces are now fully supported and operational in the winter with increased opportunities for nordic ski, skating or just enjoying a walk or a run along our multi-use trails. As we continue to build our City the Winter City Design Guidelines are now a key document in ensuring our public spaces, streets and building are inviting and enjoyable in all seasons. And you can now enjoy that latte or brew on a patio all year round.

I also spearheaded the City’s innovative review of its public engagement practice which has led to our internationally recognized Public Engagement Strategy. Although it will always be and must continue to be an exercise in continuous improvement, it is now well imbedded in the way we connect with citizens and ensure that our projects truly understand and support the communities they serve.

As a determined advocate for active transportation I am also proud of the huge strides we have made in creating safe and convenient infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The significant increase in those making the choice to travel by active means is directly attributable to the significant separated grid that we have solidly established in the core of our city and are now expanding outwards for all Edmontonians.

And finally, I also take pride in initiating and championing the work that created End Poverty Edmonton, our commitment to end poverty in a generation in our city. Although it is still an uphill battle, the commitment to deal with the root causes of intergenerational poverty, rather than just to apply bandaids to the wounds of poverty, gives us a real shot at making a difference in an age-old challenge.

There are other small things that I look back on with joy, such as pushing for the programming of Churchill Square that allowed us to truly benefit from the investment made in the rebuilding of the square; leading the charge to close the road that bisected the square and allowed City Hall and its fountain and ice rink to connect with the rest of the square; finally getting the green light for the multi-use trail that uses the old rail right-of-way to connect Old Strathcona with the High Level Bridge; standing up for the building of the funicular that means that citizens of all abilities can access the river valley without the need of a car; and being a stubborn voice to ensure that the new Walterdale Bridge would rise above the mundane design of its predecessors.

Some of my work is incomplete although we are poised to make huge strides, such as our ongoing leadership meeting the challenge of climate change and the energy transition that will be necessary. But much as I would like to continue to push the City forward from my seat on Council on areas like these it is time for someone else to take on those challenges, and I have every belief that a decade and a half from now they will be able to look back with just as much satisfaction for what they have accomplished in continuing to move our City forward.

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