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February 2016 Mayor's Column

​Community Spirit and Support

I hope many in our city had a chance enjoy some time with their loved ones and take in some of the excellent Family Day events happening across Lethbridge. Thank you to all the volunteers who make these events possible by giving freely of their time.

Welcome to our new Syrian families who celebrated their first ever Family Day here in Canada. Just last week I was joined at City Hall by Sarah Amies from Lethbridge Family Services and Erin Phillips with the group supporting privately sponsored refugees to update the community on the work happening to help these new families settle in Lethbridge. We continue to have outstanding community support, working as an effective and efficient team across many different agencies. That being said, I also remain focused on advocating for additional resources, particularly housing support, so we can continue helping these new residents get settled as smoothly as possible.

In the spirit of community support, have you done your four things yet? If you haven't heard about Cheers 4 Lethbridge I encourage you visit and sign up to do four simple things that will make a difference in our community. It is the selfless contribution and volunteerism from our residents that makes our city so special. This initiative is an effort to recognize this dedication that is often not acknowledged and celebrated.

Cheers 4 Lethbridge is a fun new project developed by the Lethbridge Public Library and the City of Lethbridge to engage the community and applaud everyday actions that create positive change. In today's world we see an endless stream of negative stories on the news and shared across social media every day. Cheers 4 Lethbridge is a way to celebrate, encourage and share positive actions. A little friendly competition doesn't hurt either. Sign up a team of friends, family or co-workers and challenge others to do their four things.

When you've completed your four good deeds, be sure to stop by the Library or City Hall and pick up your gold "4" pin. I look forward to seeing people all over Lethbridge wearing their pins, and I'll be watching the website closely to read about all the wonderful things happening as Cheers 4 Lethbridge takes off.

Another exciting endeavor for the City this month was the announcement of our naming sponsor for the Crossings Leisure Complex – ATB Financial. We are thrilled to be working with such a wonderful community partner as we prepare to open the doors to Phase One of this much anticipated facility. Most of the construction of Phase One is now complete and the facility start-up and staff training will soon be underway. Some limited programing is planned for this spring and it will be fully operational by fall.

One of the most important roles I fill as Mayor is advocating for our City. I had the privilege of meeting with six provincial cabinet ministers this month to share with them the opportunities that exist in Lethbridge and to discuss challenges we face. This open, face-to-face dialogue with our provincial partners is valuable because we get to talk to them about priorities for our city and our citizens. We discussed infrastructure needs, social and health issues and economic development. Given the economic downturn and struggles ahead for our province, it's even more important to be very strategic in our investments. All of the ministers were impressed and appreciative of the thoughtful planning we have in place for the future of our city.

Another big piece of work to update residents on is the progress being made towards compliance with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP). The Government of Alberta introduced the SSRP in September 2014 to set a clear vision for the region. This includes future economic growth, the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, the creation of well-planned communities, and the incorporation of Indigenous peoples in planning and decision-making.

In simple terms, the SSRP is a way to reflect on what we do, to think beyond ourselves and to consider how our actions impact our neighbours. The City of Lethbridge is required to demonstrate to the province that we are in compliance with the SSRP by September 1, 2019.

To begin this conversation and to start gathering data, the City has introduced two new projects which are closely connected to the SSRP, the Efficient Land Use Strategy and the Environment and Historic Resources Strategy.

I am pleased to say that nine community members are now part of these two projects along with many other invested stakeholders. I thank all those who stepped up to provide their insight and commit their time to these important initiatives.

It is exciting to see Lethbridge continue to grow but this growth does not come without its challenges. City Council recently had the first of three presentations from our administration on how we can plan for growth. This information is vital for council. It helps us understand the challenges we face so we can make informed, strategic decisions that help ensure sustainable community growth into the future.

The topic of curbside recycling was up for debate in January and council voted 5-4 against starting a blue cart program. I know this is disappointing to many residents, but I want to assure you that council is still committed to our approved Waste Diversion Policy. This policy sets a five-year target of a 30 per cent overall per-capita waste disposal reduction. This includes a five-year strategy that took effect in January to address waste in the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) sector but it will take a community-wide effort for us to reach our goals.

I encourage you to check out our new Waste Wizard available on the City of Lethbridge website. This handy tool lets you explore the different options currently available to help you put recyclables and waste in the right place. You can search by item name to learn if it can be recycled and if so, where it can be taken to. I thank everyone who is doing their part to help Lethbridge be more environmentally friendly. I want to reaffirm that as Council, we remain committed to exploring new ways to help our community be more successful in diverting waste.