Feehan Aims to Bring Social Work to City Hall | By Kevin Pinkoski

To be a city councilor, as Richard Feehan sees it, would be a lot like being a social worker. With 35 years experience in the field, Feehan aims to apply the mentality of his past employment to the work of a city councillor.  A candidate in Ward 10 for Edmonton’s 2013 municipal election, he draws the comparison out of his belief that the right way to administer a city is so that everyone benefits.

“As a social worker, I saw that when the basic structures of the community everyone would benefit,” explains Feehan. “Cities have a big part in this.”

For Feehan, a city that invests in its people not only serves to benefit its population. It is by investing in its people that a city can set itselfapart, stand out, and is unique. This is includes more than investment in social services, but investment in infrastructure, culture, and development.

“Public services are what set cities apart. Most cities today are facing very similar issues. Not matter where we look, there are people who want and don’t want certain services. It is by building the social structures to implement the necessary services that a city can set itself apart.”

Edmonton has, as Feehan discusses, began some very unique changes. Its downtown is becoming more and more attractive, and more and more livable. Feehan sees this as a change that requires the necessary structures to support it, and maximize the benefit of it.

“For the first time in a long while, Edmonton’s downtown is turning into a place to live. It is a place of community. These big changes downtown are very exciting, and they make it so people not only want to live downtown, but also be able to visit. Because of this, it only makes sense to expand our LRT in many directions.”

As for Ward 10, Feehan explains that the different communities in the ward experience some very different issues. Around the University area, citizens seem concerned that the U of A could develop plans for the area that do not offer adequate consolation to the community. The south of the ward, citizens are concerned that the city is going to build on and redevelop their green space and school lands. In the middle of the ward, citizens  want the city to implement a safe bike lane policy, that has to no consequences on traffic.

“The big thing that ties all these perspectives together, is that this is all about consultation. Citizens needs to be included in the processes of making these decisions. People, especially in Ward 10, see a lot of things happening that will change their lives and they they live. These people just want to be consulted about what is going on around them.”

For Feehan, this is where is experience as a social worker comes in. As a social worker, Feehan had to learn to connect with communities and individuals, to be certain the work he was doing was having the right effects.

“This is the basic social worker training. You have to be process oriented, find a way to get out their and keep in touch with people. If I was elected to city council, I would want to meeting with people and communities on a regular basis, checking in to be certain I am taking as many accounts into consideration as I can.”

Kevin Pinkoski is a student at The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. He is interning in the Transportation Section at The Embassy of Canada. He is rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series and currently using an Areopress to make coffee. 

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