Edmonton mayoral candidate Cheryll Watson made her first policy commitment Monday morning as she officially opened her downtown campaign headquarters.
Watson, a born and raised Edmontonian, announced her intention to run for mayor late last year. On Monday morning, she said her first policy commitment is to establish an accountability officer who would be independent of city administration. This person would “rapidly vet and inform any motions or work directed by city council.”
“This experienced city builder will advise council of previous explorations on the topic, how other cities have tackled that problem, whether it aligns with Edmonton’s vision and values and whether it serves to strengthen our partnerships,” Watson said.
“This will keep us focused on the bold action we need to take to recover from COVID-19 and align with our city plan to address our city’s biggest challenges, such as houselessness and to continue building a city that retrains and attracts the world’s best talent.”
Watson said this move is a “direct action” she can take right away as mayor, as part of her commitment to create an effective and impactful city council. She said currently, too much time and money is being spent on exploring ideas that other cities have already researched and implemented.
“We need to embrace their learnings. The feeling that we spin our wheels wasting time on unnecessary pilot projects or chasing ideas that lack common sense is something that I’ve heard time and again from the hundreds of conversations that I’ve had with Edmontonians since I announced my mayoral intentions last year,” she said.
“I think many of us have seen council meetings where we see countless city employees sitting, waiting, talking about issues that are in the range of $30,000 or $40,000 and we’re wasting tens of thousands of hours.
“We’re not inventing the wheel on how transit signally system works, on what bike lanes in winter cities look like — you see it daily and I’m hearing more and more the language of pilot projects when we know that other cities have done this work.
“We’re not the first city to implement transportation systems, to use technology to be more efficient. We see this all around the world and so we shouldn’t be uncomfortable with stealing best practices from others.”
Watson grew up in the Beverly neighbourhood and is a self-proclaimed “proud northside girl.” She and her husband Geoff have four adult children. She said she would bring 20 years of leadership to the mayor’s chair and believes what the city needs now more than ever is external perspective.
“One that comes in without bias and loyalty to any particular programs. I also have inside knowledge, though, of how the system works. I spent four years as the head of Innovate Edmonton where I attended council meetings, worked directly with city councillors to move forward policies and initiatives that benefited the innovation ecosystem.”
Watson is one of three official candidates who have filed paperwork to run for mayor in the upcoming fall election. The seat will be left vacant after Mayor Don Iveson announced in November he will not seek a third term.
Watson said her campaign vision is to build a city that works.
“From the basics like being able to tap your phone or a card to ride transit to the aspirational — a smart city leading in technology and innovation,” she said.
“A city can work for you — like easy commutes and 15-minute neighbourhoods. A city can work with you — like enabling our local small businesses to sell to our municipality. A city can work functionally — like integrating our transportation systems and regionalizing our transit. A city can work for all of us like coming from a place of yes.”
Watson’s campaign office is located on Jasper Avenue at 101 Street. She said she welcomes Edmontonians to stop by for a visit once public health restrictions permit.
Current city councillor Mike Nickel and former city councillor Kim Krushell are also running for mayor.
Edmonton’s municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 18.