It was standing room only in council chambers Monday evening as Saskatonians listened to a variety of presentations on how the city can become a future-ready metropolis.
Mayor Charlie Clark and his council colleagues listened to 10 different perspectives, from transportation to the environment, that will help them prepare their strategic plan for Saskatoon.
Presenters were given five minutes each, only providing the opportunity to hammer down on one or two topics in great detail.
Carl Kuhnke, managing director of the Saskatchewan Centre of Excellence for Transportation and Infrastructure, encouraged the city to prepare for driverless vehicles.
“Adults between 18 and 35 would rather have a phone than drive,” he said, suggesting automated driving will explode in popularity in the near future.
Kuhnke said in order to welcome driverless technology, the city would need to ensure clearing roads of snow happens within 24 to 48 hours, or “the cars will avoid our roads.”
Ryan Walker, urban planning professor with the University of Saskatchewan, echoed Mayor Clark’s election campaign by staying focused on the need to grow the city inwards and service already-existing neighbourhoods.
To go along with the sustainable development route, environmental presenters Kathleen Aitkens and David McGrane suggested retrofitting homes and businesses to become more energy efficient.
They also suggested expanding the city’s solar power network.
“The biggest long-term impact we can make… is to invest in energy efficiency and retrofitting,” McGrane said. “One of the most important things we can give to our children of the future is a clean environment.”
With the tight timelines on speakers, many were unable to expand on their ideas during the session.
In fact getting as close to the speaking time limit became somewhat of a sport throughout the night, with Colliers International’s Tom McClocklin drawing cheers when he finished his points as the buzzer went.
McClocklin touted the strength of Saskatoon’s downtown core, but brought up the spectre of a downtown arena as a way to improve.
“Look at Edmonton, look at Winnipeg. Look at the investment they have driven with their arenas,” he said.
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Following the quick-fire presentations, council invited the public to a meet-and-greet session with councillors in the main lobby of city hall.
Several attendees were impressed with the proposals.
“It’s a really good step in the right direction,” said Freddy McDougall. “These are ideas the city really needs to look toward.”
Some younger members of the audience said while the presentations were progressive, they didn’t go far enough.
“A lot of lip service was being paid to innovative ideas you don’t really see in practice,” said Savannah Wilson.
“I don’t think there’s enough conversation being generated around what can be done to alleviate systemic pressures on those with less privilege in this city.”
City council is set to take in all of the conversations from Monday into consideration for their strategic priorities throughout their term from 2017 to 2020.