I once wrote a newspaper column in which I replaced every mention of the word infrastructure with the phrase naughty bits.
In retrospect, it was a bit indelicate of me. In my defense, I was merely attempting to draw greater attention to the ‘dreary’ realm of civic government.
Dreary? In my experience, that’s the popular belief about City Hall and its relatively mundane machinations.
Me? I quite enjoy the thrust-and-parry of a good infrastructure discussion. I thrill to the intricacies of a general tax reassessment.
Don’t even get me started on rezoning. OMG, I love a good rezoning.
I spent 15 years — roughly half — of my journalism career reporting and commenting on civic government. Such things burrow their way into you over time. Like a tick in your ear.
So yes, I’m feverish about this opportunity to again write about civic government. Mind you, this time I’ll be doing it on behalf of civic government.
My title: Blogger in Residence.
Sadly, Poet Laureate was already taken. As was Mayor, City Manager and apparently any job handling cash, machinery or fragile civic assets. Sigh.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You think I gave up my journalistic integrity and sold my talents to big, bad government.
Really? You think I’m talented? Gosh, that’s so nice.
So why did I take this position, knowing full well I’d get the furry eyeball for it? Let me count the ways:
  1. I get to live at City Hall.
  2. Check that. The “in residence” thing doesn’t mean what I thought it did.
  3. I get an office, parking spot and free access to all civic facilities and events.
  4. Really? None of that, either?
So why did I take this job? In all honesty, because it’s a privilege. I love my hometown.
And I truly believe civic government fills a crucial and under-appreciated role in the quality of our lives.
Unfortunately, citizens get a skewed view of City Hall from the news. News, by its very nature, narrowly focuses on tension and novelty.
For example: Edmontonians safely walk across streets millions of times each day. It’s only news when they don’t make it safely.
Not because reporters are bloodsucking sadists. Not at all. It’s because a pedestrian mishap is relatively rare — and because we as people care about other people.
Now, take City Hall. It’s vast network of services and facilities run pretty efficiently for the most part. Buses arrive. Streets are plowed. Facilities open on time.
Then a major snowstorm hits, or a pothole epidemic breaks out, and we’re all cursing the bungling bureaucrats.
When I wrote my civic affairs column for The Edmonton Journal I almost never used the term bureaucrat. The term is loaded — a sneering slur of people who I witnessed working with commitment and care for the city.
That sounds like I’m sucking up. So be it. My experience tells me that Edmonton’s civic politicians, managers and frontline staff work hard to serve this community. No, not all of them. Not all of the time. Certainly not at levels of perfection.
They are just folks, like us, after all. As we all know, there are malingerers and incompetents in the private sector, too.
As Blogger in Residence, I’m not here to tell you that up is down, or mediocre is fantastic. The job, as I see it, is to shed light on things rarely seen. To explain how this humongous corporation works on the inside.
To explaining the intricacies of tax reassessments, or the infrastructure debt, in ways we can all understand and appreciate.
And I promise. No naughty bits.

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About the Author
Scott McKeen
The City of Edmonton's first-ever blogger in residence is long-time city writer and journalist Scott McKeen. McKeen is best known for his stint as The Edmonton Journal's civic affairs columnist, a position he held from 2002 - 2010. He won a number of awards during his 24 years at The Journal, including an international writing prize for his investigative work on a growing Edmonton cult. McKeen left the paper in 2010 for a shot at politics. He came out of that experience, he says, with much greater humility and respect for those who run for public office. McKeen is now a freelance writer and communications consultant. His hobbies include guitar, photography and napping.
38 Comments
  1. 4 years ago

    I think that some balanced, unbiased reporting from someone on the inside of the pyramid can only lead to a more engaged Edmonton. And based on your introduction, I can tell this is going to be an interesting time!

    Welcome!

  2. Sam
    4 years ago

    Good to read you again.

    Speaking of infrastructure, what are your thoughts on the High Level? It’s rusting out and I think more in need of repainting than a light show or new name.

    That being said, glad you’re keeping it fun.

  3. Jane Batty
    4 years ago

    Congratulations Scott. I look forward with great delight to reading your blog.

  4. 4 years ago

    Scott it’s great to see you are going to be the person with the inside scoop, and that Edmonton is so forward thinking to have a resident blogger! I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with, and people getting involved!

  5. Sean Woods
    4 years ago

    Scott, it is great to have you writing about civic afairs again. Welcome back!

  6. Garth Norris
    4 years ago

    Congratulations on the new gig Scott! I have missed your writings on civic government here in Edmonton so look forward to reading your blogs. I am sure they will be interesting.

  7. 4 years ago

    It will be great to hear your “voice” again. I’ve missed your work from your past life, and I look forward to your take on City Hall.

  8. Ellie Shuster
    4 years ago

    Welcome back to City Hall, Scott! I’ve really missed your perspective and humour under the pyramids. Will be reading with interest.

  9. 4 years ago

    Great stuff sir. A gifted writer with an unwavering passion for this great city can only mean one thing – a look inside communicated outside, in a manner never done before. At the risk of repeating myself, Great Stuff.

  10. Erik Soderstrom
    4 years ago

    Fantastic! I couldn’t agree more. as the level of goverment that affects us most on a day to day basis, i’m all for more discussion!!

  11. Anna
    4 years ago

    Ignorance is not bliss but it can be, at the worst, dangerous, and at the least apathetic so anything you can do to shed light on the inner workings that keep this great city humming is much appreciated!

  12. JayBee
    4 years ago

    Nice to see you in a new medium, sir.

    Looking forward to you actually writing about something. 😉

  13. Alan Schietzsch
    4 years ago

    Thank you for taking on this valuable and important role. As more people learn that public service workers are ‘just like them’, with fun to be had, work to be done, challenges to balance, and no magic bullets, the better this city will be. I look forward to your writing!

  14. […] and react to the first post of the blogger-in-residence. Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterPrintLinkedInTumblrPinterestGoogle […]

  15. Renee
    4 years ago

    Scott, the city chose the best person for the job. I look forward to being enlightened and engaged in what is happening in the city.

  16. ChristyN
    4 years ago

    Yay! Some education about municipal administration and operations! I don’t think taxpayers understand the value they get for their taxes. One year’s taxes is one night stay in a super luxury hotel, yet some folks want that level of service 365 days. Also, bureaucrat should be a positive word: someone who makes order out of chaos.

  17. […] The City of Edmonton has a new blogger in residence: former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen. […]

  18. […] Former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen is the City of Edmonton’s first ever blogger-in-residence. Though he is allowed to tackle political issues if he wishes, McKeen will focus on the way the City Administration works, or in his words, “shed light on things rarely seen.” You can check out his first entry here. […]

  19. […] and will spend six months writing stories unique to the city on the “Transforming Edmonton” […]

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