Monday, March 14, 2005

Edmontonians: Helpless in the Face of Overwhelming Prosperity

This is an urgent appeal from the Minister to anyone that cares. Who will come and save Edmontonians from themselves? Last week at a public school board meeting, it was decided that four schools in the city’s centre should be closed down. Enrolments were on a relentless decline and the board, thanks to a draconian utilization formula imposed by the province, had to somehow free up some money in order to build new schools in our ever-sprawling suburbs. The Edmonton Journal reported that in face of the constraints, the school board took the most sensible course of action.

It is indeed the best of times and the worst of times.

What are we going to do about our unparalleled prosperity? What a nightmare! Our economy is growing; the city is eating up the prairie, parents are flocking to the city’s periphery to live in mini-mansions; to get anywhere people feel obliged to drive an SUV that retails for $40,000 or more; and now these damn school closures? What does it all mean? The city core, despite small attempts to revitalize it, continues to fall into decline. Central neighbourhoods are increasingly places only for seniors, natives, single mothers and others who can’t afford to live elsewhere. And these are the only neighbourhoods in Edmonton with any character! The only places that actually have trees – not weeds – but trees, and brick buildings, and a proximity to our green and shady river valley. These are the only places not yet raped by developers with their multiplexes and malls and box stores.

Who will save Edmontonians from giving in entirely to barbarity? Soon we will all be worshipping at the temple of Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, the faintly-flickering heart of this city will fade to silence. What on earth is city council doing? Why are they sitting on their hands while historic schools are shutting their doors? If these neighbourhoods are seen as undesirable now, just wait until there is nowhere for your kids to get a decent education. What was city council doing for the last three decades as families flocked to the suburbs and abandoned Strathearn and Beverly and Norwood? Oh right, council was selling off land cheap to development companies, that’s what.

The city is inevitably going to become what they call a “donut”: just a sprawling fatty mess with a gaping hole on the inside. It’s nauseating that we can see this fate coming but are still stampeding towards it like bison going over the brink of Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump.

This toxic city is killing itself. Will anyone intervene? Or must those of us that want to stay sane simply flee the cesspool while we still can?

In other news:

The Minister indulged his fondness for new music this weekend and bought the album “Funeral” by Arcade Fire. The album soothed a sometimes conflicted soul, and the Minister enjoyed brief moments of perfect bliss. This Montreal band must surely have a glittering future ahead of them. Read the review by clicking on the Media Barn link.

In other developments, the Minister is also shocked to find that he has started referring to himself in the third person. This wasn’t supposed to happen. From now on, unless otherwise noted, I will be speaking in the first person.