Don Iveson’s legacy
After eight years, Edmonton’s mayor
leaves behind some good … and some bad
By Peter Williams
WHEN DON IVESON announced Nov. 23 that he would not run for a third term as mayor, his announcement, like any government decision, was met with a mixed-reaction.
“Noooooooooo! This is devastating. You have done such a good job in making Edmonton a better city. Thank you. But I am so sad,” one tweet said.
And another: “This is the best news we’ve had this year! Bye bye bike lanes.”
Next October will end Iveson’s eight-year run as mayor. He won the 2013 mayoral election with 62 per cent of the vote, and upped that number to 73 per cent in 2017, focusing his campaigns on transit improvements, affordable housing and new technology.
He entered the job a fresh-faced 34-year-old, the youngest Edmonton mayor in more than a century, and exits with grey hair peppering his now-signature beard.
The city has changed (and not changed) a lot over the course of his tenure. He oversaw the construction of Rogers Place, the revitalization of the downtown area and the LRT expansion that will be bequeathed to the next mayor like an ugly family heirloom.
Iveson has always been a big believer in public transit, going all the way back to his days as a city councillor when he advocated for the universal transit pass. In addition to the forever-under-construction LRT expansion, Edmontonians have expressed concern about the safety of public transit, and even more recently the new bus routes that are set to increase commute times.
As far as legacy goes, it’s hard to say – especially when Iveson has seven months left on the calendar. In the letter he wrote to Edmontonians after announcing he would not run, he said he wanted to tackle homelessness and root out racism in city institutions before the next election: some ambitious goals to tackle on top of COVID-19.
It’s no secret that trust and satisfaction with all levels of government have been dropping during the pandemic, and now seems as good a time as any for a politician to quit while he’s ahead, and move on to greener pastures – like Iveson’s neighbour to the south, Naheed Nenshi, who in early April bowed out after 11 years as Calgary’s mayor.
Whoever is next in line will inherit a city that has been operating in survival mode for a year. The economy is down, mental health issues are up, and Edmontonians are frustrated by things in and out of the government’s control.
In his goodbye letter, Iveson wrote: “Part of the beauty of cities is that they are perpetually unfinished.”
I’d have to agree with the sentiment; the city he leaves behind is certainly unfinished.
However, in a way, politicians are a lot like baseball umpires. They can make 100 calls a day, and for the most part they’ll be right. But it’s the egregious misses, so clear to us at home, that always end up sticking out.
People say being mayor is a thankless job. So, I offer Iveson thanks. He may not have called a perfect game, but the intention was there. Iveson’s next step remains unclear, but, for now, he says he wants to spend more time with his wife and children.
Hey, maybe he can take advantage of all those bike lanes, too.