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January 2022 Mayor's Column

​Welcome to the first Mayor's Column of 2022 and thank you for continuing to read this monthly update from City Hall!

Earlier this week, Lethbridge City Council this had its first full formal meeting of the year – and we had a big item to share. Council approved its Gateway to Opportunity 2022 Action Plan – which outlines the initiatives we have identified as priorities for the next 12 months.

Our residents can expect a new approach for Council in 2022 – one that clearly articulates priorities, creates transparency, reports performance and builds community trust.

Some of the key work identified for immediate attention in 2022 includes:

  • Supporting provincial partners in health care with family physician recruitment and retention
  • Establishing a Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy Task
  • A review of the cityLINK transit system
  • Enabling support and examining opportunities for an emergency shelter
  • Establishing a Regional Economic Development and Tourism Strategy
  • Establishing an Indigenous Resource Hub

We as Council are planning, reporting and engaging differently. We are excited to work together on the important priorities needed to grow and support Lethbridge. The Gateway to Opportunity 2022 Action Plan was created using the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) as the strategic guiding document. It also takes into consideration the concerns heard from the election campaign, balancing both immediate needs and longer-term aspirations.

We know we've got challenges and change ahead of us but in times of change, it's important and reassuring to have a plan. This Action Plan give us the clear roadmap to get to the work we've identified as being most important to our community.

During this four-year term, Council will develop annual Action Plans and are committed to report progress back to the community every three months. We also intentionally updated the language to move away from the term strategic plan to action plan – which showcases that this will be a results-based living document. A further detailed look at the Action Plan is available at www.lethbridge.ca/2022ActionPlan.

Council this week also voted to a new Airport Incentive Framework to discuss potential agreements with airlines regarding future options for passengers flying in and out of the Lethbridge Airport. This project touches on several key items outlined in Council's Action Plan for 2022, including the airport performance and governance evolution which will help us achieve the strategic goal of economic prosperity. Read more on the decision here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/Pages/Council-endorses-new-Airport-Incentive-Framework.aspx

I have recently had productive conversations with Health Minister Jason Copping, as well as Mike Ellis, Associate Minister of Mental Health & Addictions, regarding on working together to support the challenges our city faces. It truly takes a community effort and I hope to have further updates in the near future.

Members of the Civic Works Standing Policy Committee recently voted unanimously to postpone the potential approval of the cityLINK Network Redesign Results in order to gather more public feedback before proceeding with any further decisions and direction.

The recommendation presented is for cityLINK to become permanent, with quarterly adjustments made to reflect feedback, changing travel patterns and metric indicators. The potential alternatives presented are: to restore budget under cityLINK, to further improve efficiency and effectiveness of the system, or return to the previous system, at a cost of $352,000 annually with a $150,000 one-time cost.

Residents can provide feedback on the cityLINK network by calling 311. Alternatively, feedback can be submitted to the Civic Works SPC directly via written letter, online or by registering to speak at the February 3 meeting.  Notices for the February 3 meeting have been up on the City's website and social media – as well as with posters places on buses and at Transit hubs – in attempts for messaging to reach Transit users directly.

I am happy to again congratulate Greg Adair, who was recently named Lethbridge's new Chief of Fire and Emergency Services. We have great confidence in him to lead this crucial asset of our city.

I want to thank Fire Chief Marc Rathwell. Chief Rathwell has been instrumental in his role, showing exceptional leadership especially in the past couple of years while dealing with the ongoing drug crisis and pandemic impacts, as well as with issues such as EMS dispatch. All the best in your coming retirement!

An early welcome to Lethbridge to Gerald Grobmeier, who will become the Deputy Chief of Police with the Lethbridge Police Service in March. We are looking forward to your arrival!

Council recently received a resignation notice from City Manager Craig Dalton, who began work in Lethbridge in May 2020 and had been tasked with the difficult job of leading our City through a global pandemic while ensuring the continuity of services for our residents. I want to thank Craig for his hard work and for the building blocks and systems he has put in place for us to continue to grow and improve our community.

City Manager is a very important position, but we also have a strong workforce of dedicated public servants who love Lethbridge. We have a very strong Executive Leadership Team that will continue to guide the organization. Council is currently working together on a plan for the hiring of a new City Manager and we will be sharing that with the community as soon as we have the details available. All the best, Craig!

The 2022 Mayor's State of the City address, to be hosted virtually by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, is set for next week. I will be providing on an overview on how the new Council will operate differently, our top priorities, the pandemic response, business support, major projects, Reconciliation efforts, finances and next steps. If you can't make that event, the presentation will be posted online afterwards.

I am also looking forward to 'freezin' for a reason' for the fifth time in the coming Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) polar plunge event, which raises awareness and funds for Special Olympics athletes. The virtual plunge season is from January 30 to March 12, with fundraising open until March 20.

My fundraising link is here: https://soa.crowdchange.ca/2180/team/1571/page/6569