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November 2016 Mayor Column

The recent US presidential election has garnered a lot of attention across the globe, including right here in Lethbridge. The outcome represents a time of change. We will closely monitor this change and respond on a local level. I value our friendship and partnerships with the US and remain committed to continuing these relationships in a positive way.

Closer to home, our Blood Tribe neighbours will be exercising their right to vote when they elect a new chief and council on November 22. With a total of 115 nominees for council and five for the position of chief, this election shows a strong level of engagement and interest in providing leadership and a dedication to community service.

On behalf of City Council I want to thank outgoing chief, Charles Weasel Head for his efforts to work with the City on the important issues that impact us all. We have made important strides in building trust and understanding and I look forward to continuing this work with the new chief and council.

Last week City Council spent an afternoon with Francis First Charger to learn more about Blackfoot culture. This training was very valuable and is an important part of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. It helps us continually grow our understanding so we can develop strategies to address our common concerns.

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Tourism will get a heightened profile in Lethbridge, thanks to the Destination Management Plan (DMP). Council approved this plan on Monday as the guiding document for the development, management and marketing of our tourism industry over the next 10 years.

I want to thank the Tourism Strategy Committee who spent many hours engaging stakeholders and the community on the development of this plan. The Committee has broad representation including: City Council, Economic Development Lethbridge, Chinook Country Tourist Association, Lethbridge Lodging Association, Lethbridge Sports Council and members of the public.

I encourage residents to visit www.lethbridge.ca/dmp to view the plan. There's lots of research, information and feedback in the pages of this document. It reveals the exciting potential of tourism in Lethbridge and I look forward to putting these recommendations into action.

To move the DMP forward, council also approved the creation of a new, stand-alone organization, solely focused on tourism in Lethbridge. City administration has now been tasked with designing an implementation strategy for this new entity by April 2017. Council is excited to see how this moves ahead in the coming months.

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You may notice construction work starting around the Yates Memorial Centre. Some fantastic enhancements will be made to this venue that will make it safer, more accessible and more comfortable for audiences and performers. Thanks to new federal funding, we will be able to do more than anticipated in a quicker time frame which is great news for the community. Visitors will notice new finishes like seating, paint, flooring and ceilings. Performers will enjoy dressing room upgrades and new audio/visual systems. Barrier free washrooms and the addition of elevators will ensure everyone can enjoy the wonderful performances that grace the Yates stage each year.

Work is underway and crews will do as much as they can without impacting the facility. When construction moves to the theatre spaces however, the Yates is anticipated to close for six months starting next fall. It will reopen to the delight of theatre goers and performers in the spring of 2018.

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I am very proud to see our Lethbridge Elder Abuse Response Network (LEARN) recognized provincially for their innovative work. LEARN recently received the Government of Alberta Inspiration Award for Leadership in Family and Community Safety. The award recognizes Albertans for their efforts to end family violence, sexual violence, child sexual abuse and bullying and this is the first time an elder abuse program has been selected as a recipient.

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City Council recognizes, and is acting on, important social issues in our City, including drug abuse. The fentanyl crisis is impacting Lethbridge as it is in communities across the province. We are working with our community partners on this and other social challenges. Information on the actions being taken will be coming before Council in the near future. I want to assure the community we are putting every effort into securing the resources needed to support our citizens.

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We recently surveyed residents on their use of the Lethbridge Airport. The survey was designed to help inform how the airport can better meet the needs of our community. Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey, the response was excellent. This information will be tabulated and shared back to residents shortly as we look at next steps for enhancing this service.

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A special thank you goes out to our local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. This year's Remembrance Day service was once again a very meaningful and appreciated event. I was particularly struck by the number of young people including families and service clubs coming together to show their appreciation and respect for our dedicated Armed Forces. It was heartwarming to see such large crowds which speaks to the compassion of our community.

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After a mild start to winter, it's hard to believe we are heading into the holiday season with company parties and family get-togethers on the horizon. It's a fun and exciting time but it can also be a busy and sometimes stressful time. I remind all of our residents to be safe and to be generous and kind to one another. Now is a great time to think about what you could do to give back to your community over the holiday season. Perhaps you can plan some volunteer activities with your family or make a donation to a charity. Giving feels good. Don't forget to visit www.cheers4lethbridge.ca to celebrate all the great things happening in our city. Another great way to get into the holiday spirit is the Bright Lights Festival. This great family event happens tonight in Galt Gardens. See you there!

Mayor Chris Spearman
November 18, 2016