Sign In

July 2017 Mayor Column

Long-term planning is critical to ensuring our municipal services and infrastructure continue to meet the needs of our community over the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

A new Cycling Master Plan was adopted by City Council earlier this week. The vision for this master plan is to make cycling a safer and more realistic transportation option for all ages and abilities. This long-term plan will guide future decisions on cycling routes and infrastructure with the ultimate objective of fostering an increase in cycling in Lethbridge by providing safe, well-designed and well-placed cycling routes.

The Cycling Master Plan came to City Council after 18 months of community engagement, research and planning, and I'm pleased with the strong participation of residents and the local cycling community that was involved in creating it. Please take a look at the plan, which is available on line at: www.lethbridge.ca/CyclingPlan.

If you have questions about what's in the plan, you can direct them to: transportation@lethbridge.ca

Community engagement and input were also key components in the development of a new Transit Master Plan, which was also presented this week to City Council. These consultations told us that people want a simpler, more user-friendly transit system with more direct trips that get them to their destinations faster. As a result, the master plan recommends making fundamental changes to our local transit system to make it a more attractive and viable transportation option.

You can check out the Transit Master Plan presentation online at: www.lethbridge.ca/TransitPlan.  It recommends creating a layered transit network with higher frequency routes on major east-west and north-south corridors that service major destinations. These routes would be supplemented by less-frequent local and community routes that passengers could use to reach and transfer to these high-frequency routes.

As Council, we are taking some time to review the recommendations in the Transit Master Plan, and it will be coming back to the Aug. 28 City Council meeting for discussion and consideration.

****

As discussed in my May column, opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in Alberta and in our own city in the past two years. My Council colleagues and I are increasingly hearing from residents and business owners who are concerned about the troubling rise we're seeing in public drug use and associated needle debris in public places our community.

We share residents' concerns about these public manifestations of the opioid crisis, not only the life-and-death risks to those who are addicted but also the risk that needle debris poses to the general public. That's why the City of Lethbridge continues to collaborate with more than a dozen local organizations on a coordinated community response to address opioid abuse in our city. This is not just a big-city problem.

Recently, this group, known as the Lethbridge Executive Leaders Coalition on Opioid Use, determined that Supervised Consumption Services would be an effective intervention model to reduce harm from drug use and help save lives, while helping reduce public drug-related activity.

With the full support of the Coalition, ARCHES (AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education Support) Society is preparing an application to Health Canada to establish Supervised Consumption Services in Lethbridge and plans to submit its application by the end of this month. More information on the work of the coalition is available at: www.lethbridge.ca/OpioidCoalition.

In the meantime, to help address the immediate problem of drug-related debris, City Council voted earlier this month to allocate $32,000 to enable ARCHES to significantly expand the hours and response capacity of its existing clean-up program for discarded needles and other drug-related debris.

This is a community health issue, and I have been advocating for support for our city from the provincial and federal governments.

****

Early this month, we had the pleasure of welcoming federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi to Lethbridge to announce $11.2 million in federal grant funding to support the expansion of the Sherring Business & Industrial Park. This grant money will help fund water, wastewater and stormwater capacity upgrades and will help provide for the creation of jobs and the economic diversification of our city and region.

This federal funding was obtained through advocacy and will reduce costs to Lethbridge property taxpayers.

Ultimately, this industrial park expansion will help Lethbridge attract more private investment and enhance our development as a food production hub. Having these types of infrastructure already in place will enable businesses to hit the ground running in Lethbridge and can make the difference in securing big private-sector investments when competing with communities that haven't laid the necessary groundwork for future investment.

As the marketing arm of the City of Lethbridge, Economic Development Lethbridge is actively creating strategic local partnerships to help our city continue to develop as a significant food production hub in Western Canada.

****

Lastly, I want to express what an honour it was for our city to host Her Imperial Highness Princess Ayako of Takamado from Japan on July 14-15. The Princess visited Lethbridge to help commemorate the 50th anniversaries of both the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden and the University of Lethbridge. We were also honoured to welcome Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell to Lethbridge for the occasion.

The Royal visit highlighted an array of celebrations, activities and events which were befitting this significant milestone for the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

Chris Spearman, Mayor
July 21, 2017