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October 2016 Mayor's Column

It has been a difficult few weeks in our community and across the province. There have been heart-breaking and shocking events that have reaffirmed to all of us just how precious life is and how quickly our world can change.   

At this time last week we were learning of the sudden loss of former Premier Jim Prentice. I am personally thankful to have known Mr. Prentice, and grateful for the contributions he made to our province.  As a dedicated public servant, Mr. Prentice enriched Alberta with his leadership and passion. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife Karen and the Prentice family during this very difficult time.

Much of our community's focus recently has been on the violent attack on a young woman in our city. This shocking incident has stirred up many emotions throughout Lethbridge – both good and bad. Police Chief Rob Davis wrote an excellent Herald article on this topic earlier this week. I want to echo his message. Our community stands together with the Blood Tribe and the Lethbridge Police Service in asking all residents to be respectful and caring towards one another. Social media should be used responsibly, not to inflame sensitive situations.

It is reassuring to see compassion and unity at events like the vigil I attended last weekend and to see others organizing events to support those impacted. This is the positive energy and hope this young woman and her family need, and I encourage everyone to remain on the road of acceptance and understanding.

At our council meeting on Monday we heard an update from City administration on work they have been doing over that last 18 months to make the City of Lethbridge an inclusive employer. I am pleased to see the City taking a leadership role in this area by promoting an accepting and respectful workplace. The values of inclusion and diversity extend past the workplace into a safe and caring community – one of the strategic goals of our City Council.

I was honoured to accept an invitation from the leaders of the Blood Tribe last Friday to visit Standoff for a very special visit from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Being a part of this event speaks to the commitment of both the City and the Blood Tribe to support each other and be good neighbours. The City of Lethbridge is on traditional Blackfoot land. Building trust and respect with our Indigenous community is a vital link to the success of our community. That understanding is another step in building an inclusive city.

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Lethbridge County is another important stakeholder in building a better Lethbridge. I am very pleased to say that City Council this week approved a new Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) that will help guide this relationship. Many, many hours of collaboration have gone into updating this plan and will ensure both the City and County are working together on important issues like land use and the environment. Thanks to all who contributed to this process for the past five years.

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I've talked at length over the last year about Lethbridge's diverse economy and our ability to ride-out the economic downturn being felt in much of our province. The new construction numbers for our city are another indication of Lethbridge's continued growth.

Commercial, residential and institutional construction are all showing positive numbers. Our latest reports show building permits have been issued for $265.1 million which is up from $191 million at this time last year. Commercial projects make the bulk of this figure which includes the redevelopment of Centre Village Mall, the Crossings shopping complex and the Richardson Oilseeds and Fritolay expansions.

Large-scale projects at the University and College contribute to the $55 million in construction spending in the government and institutional sector. The housing market with about $72 million spent so far this year has a huge impact on our economic growth.

I am very encouraged by these statistics. Lethbridge's continued construction growth secures jobs and stimulates other economic development in our community.

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Thank you to the hundreds of Lethbridge residents who stopped by 100K day at City Hall October 12. This was a great opportunity for City staff to engage with the community and chat about important projects and future planning. We are getting closer to becoming a city of 100,000 people. This 100K milestone is a time to reflect on what we will need in the next 10, 20 or even 30 years.

If you didn't get a chance to stop in, please take a few minutes to review the materials online and take a survey so your voice can be heard. You can visit www.lethbridge.ca/100K+ for more information.

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I and other Council members attended the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference last week. The message from our provincial government was that we should not be expecting any new money. That message was made clear again with Premier Notley's state of the province address earlier this week. On Monday, Finance Committee will begin to hear about potential Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects. Our CIP will be debated and decided on by Council next spring. With very limited funds in our upcoming CIP budget and no new money anticipated, some tough choices will have to be made to get the best value for the resources we have. An excellent short video has been created that explains the CIP and why it matters to all of us, and it's available at: www.lethbridge.ca/CIP

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One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is when I get to celebrate the amazing people who live in our community. Last week, our Community Heroes program introduced us all to a group of extraordinary residents. These individuals were recognized by our Fire and EMS staff for their bravery and compassion in times of need. From stopping to help on the scene of a car crash to taking lifesaving steps to help a co-worker in medical distress, these people are true heroes and well deserving of this recognition.  Congratulations and thank you to these wonderful Lethbridge citizens.