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March 2016 Mayor's Column

​Springing Forward

The recent time change and beautiful weather across Southern Alberta are both sure signs spring is here. As a community, Lethbridge is embracing spring with new growth, new citizens and encouraging new talks with our provincial government.

I had the chance to meet with Premier Notley here in Lethbridge last month when she announced flood protection funding for our water treatment plant. I also recently visited Edmonton to talk further with the Premier and cabinet ministers on important issues for Lethbridge. I advocated for affordable housing and further support for our Syrian refugee families and I will continue to push these issues forward.  As a City Council, we have developed a list of infrastructure priorities and these have also been communicated to our provincial government.

I was very proud of the recent CNN feature on Lethbridge's efforts to welcome Syrian refugees. I have seen first-hand how well everyone has rallied around this important initiative and it's wonderful to see those efforts showcased on an international stage. If you haven't seen this great segment, visit the CNN website and search "Lethbridge". This truly is a community effort.

Another important thing to remember at this time of year is the needs of our local food banks. Often we focus heavily on donating during the Christmas season, but the demand is year-round. More than ever, our food banks are feeling pressure and I ask everyone to consider helping out for the benefit of everyone in our community.

For many residents, it's time to dust off the pedal bike and hit the amazing Lethbridge trails. The City recently held a community engagement session around cycling as we work on developing a new Cycling Master Plan. The goal of this plan is to make is easy and safe to choose biking as a mode of transportation in Lethbridge. One of the strategic goals of our Council is to be connected and engaged with our community and these types of events are an excellent way to make sure your ideas and thoughts are heard.  If you missed the engagement session, you can still give your feedback online through, and more face-to-face events will happen over the next several months.

Spring also means new growth. We see the trees budding and grass growing and of course construction season gearing up. Preparation work, including underground utilities, roads and new sports fields in the Waterbridge community got council's approval earlier this month. This is an exciting new development because it will soon be home to a much needed new middle school slated to open in September 2018. It will also connect the communities of SunRidge and Mountain Heights. This will be great for improving traffic flow and linking our transit routes.

You may wonder how we decide where and when to grow Lethbridge. Council has dedicated significant time recently to understanding community growth principles - important concepts as we look at the future of our city.

Like any new venture, community development has start-up costs. Long before any new houses or businesses are built, the City needs to put in things like utilities and roads to make sure we can meet the needs of the people who will live and work there. This infrastructure comes with a significant price tag so we need to understand how to do this in the most strategic way.

There are many different community growth principles we can look at to make sure we can continue to move forward. A major challenge for Lethbridge is the fact that we are growing in many directions at the same time. We need to explore how to do this more efficiently and what types of housing developments residents need.

Overall, I want to reassure the public that council is well versed on the topic. We have had, and will continue to have presentations from our administration to help us gather information and make sound decisions on how to successfully grow our community.

At our last council meeting we heard from the Mayor and administration from the Town of Taber. They are looking into the possibility of building a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that would sort recyclable materials for all of southern Alberta including Medicine Hat, Brooks and possibly Lethbridge. City Council approved supporting Taber in their efforts to get grant funding to study the feasibility of this initiative. We have not committed to sending our recyclable materials to such a facility at this point but it is something that could be explored in the future. Doing so could help us implement new ways to achieve the goals outlined in our waste diversion policy. We have a five-year target of a 30-per-cent overall per-capita waste disposal reduction by 2021 and a 15-year target of 50 per cent by 2030.

Our Cheers 4 Lethbridge campaign is building steam. We are encouraging citizens to do four positive things for our community and to share that to help inspire others. Be sure to visit the website to see what's happening and to get all of the details.

What's the most exciting part of spring for most Canadians? Hockey playoffs of course. We have been blessed with some outstanding play from our Lethbridge Hurricanes this season and I look forward to a great playoff run. I encourage everyone to get out and support our team and enjoy the last bit of quality time at the rink before we gear up for summer activities.