Saskatoon Speaks is a community initiative designed to promote discussion between City Council, city planners and residents regarding Saskatoon’s future. Its $400,000 budget was reallocated from the Transportation Infrastructure Expansion Reserve — a reserve specifically purposed for the assessment and planning of changes to public transit.
“The transportation branch wanted to do an overall transportation plan for the city — they hadn’t done one since 1991 — and the one that they had was assuming that people would get around [predominantly] in single occupant vehicles,” said Laura Hartney of Saskatoon Speaks.
“Our engineers — instead of just rerunning that model — wanted to see what the community needs and priorities were; and at the same time, we were working on a review of our planning bylaws.” Therefore, she added, City Council recommended a community visioning process using the funds from the TIER.
Catherine Gryba, the city’s strategic and business planning manager, said that the “entire project is certainly more than $400,000” but that, right now, the money helps provide a good opportunity for citizens to speak and for consulting firms to assess future plans.
“Part of the money was used to pay for Prairieland Park and to bring in the guest speaker when we hosted the city summit from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2,” she said.
They also hired a consulting firm called Urban Strategies Incorporated.
“Based on their experience and expertise they are assisting to lead us through this process,” said Gryba.
The Nov. 8 discussion was one of the last opportunities for citizens to present their visions for Saskatoon before Saskatoon Speaks moves into more focused visioning workshops, which will still be open to the public.
It was not very well attended, however, with approximately nine students present.
Ryan Walker, assistant professor for the department of geography and planning at the U of S, was embarrassed by the small amount of students who attended.
“When the city of Saskatoon offered to come to our campus to hear from students and to provide them with the opportunity to discuss these issues with their peers, a turnout of nine students is shameful,” he said. “If this is any indication of the future of civics in Saskatoon, we’re in trouble.”
Nevertheless, the few voices that were present expressed diverse concerns including immigration, transit and bicycling, recycling and composting, food accessibility, nature and even indoor skateparks.
More specific visioning workshops will take place Nov. 30 to Dec. 3. Details are available at SaskatoonSpeaks.com
image: Luke Stempien/Flickr