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July 2021 Mayor's Column

Mayor Spearman July 29.jpg

Thank you to everyone who has taken the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, 75 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose of vaccine through Alberta Health Services, community pharmacies and physician clinics. Also, 64 per cent are now fully immunized with both doses. In Lethbridge, our active case numbers dropped to as low as four on July 13.

But that number has now gone up to 19 active cases as of Wednesday. We have recently seen rising case numbers in other areas of the world and especially in the United States, so we need further encouragement now more than ever to get vaccinated. We need to do everything we can to protect each other and having two doses of vaccine has never been more important.

Since July 1, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says 95 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Alberta were among individuals who were not fully vaccinated. Vaccines will protect you and those around you. I implore you to help strengthen the protection in our city by making your vaccine appointment with AHS or at a participating pharmacy/physician's office today. Visit Alberta.ca/vaccine. Nobody wants to go backwards.

At our meeting this week, City Council voted to add a question to the Municipal Election ballot on October 18 that will read: "Do you agree that city council should approve plans to construct a 3rd bridge prior to 2030 as a municipal capital project priority?"

Council is acutely aware that a third bridge has been a major topic of discussion in the community for many years. By placing this question on the election ballot in a non-binding manner, the next Council will have some new and informative resident-driven data to analyze moving forward. As part of the approved resolution, Council also directed Administration to provide objective and neutral information on the City website. More information here.

On July 13, Council voted to also place a question on the ballot that reads: "Do you support using a ward system to elect City Councillors starting with the 2025 municipal election?" More information here.

A new citizen portal, improved e-commerce experience and a website transformation with expanded online services to improve customer service, will be among the areas of improvement through the new Digital Customer Service (DiCE) Program coming to our residents in the next 18 months, after a Council decision Tuesday. More information here.

On Wednesday, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce hosted Premier Jason Kenney, as well as Finance Minister Travis Toews, to address the local business community. The Premier spoke about Alberta's culture of enterprise and resilience coming out of the pandemic. It is always encouraging when the Premier visits our city and we hope to continue our productive work together moving forward.

In regards to the Crime Severity Index report issued this week, there are several items to note for context. First off, constantly referring to Lethbridge as the No. 1 crime city is false and it does us no good in terms of our reputation. There are half a dozen cities in Alberta that have higher crime rates than Lethbridge, but they're policed by the RCMP whereas the report focuses on cities with municipal police forces.

The downward crime trend is also a positive for Lethbridge and area. I am pleased with the new initiatives introduced by the Lethbridge Police Service under the leadership of Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh, including being innovative in looking for new ways to address crime. The significant reduction in crime in the first half of 2021 is promising.

A number of recent funding announcement have taken place in the region – all of which are promising for a variety of reasons.

A pair of important housing projects had groundbreaking events last week. The Governments of Canada and Alberta contributed $3.4 million to the Coulee Creek seniors' housing facility, which will have 64 mixed-income units. The project is expected to create 91 jobs in the city. Also, about $3.4 million in funding from provincial government's Indigenous Housing Capital Program, which is federally supported through the National Housing Strategy, will be spent to add 14 safe and stable transitional housing units for Blackfoot women and their children who are relocating from the Kainai, Siksika and Piikani reserves through the Blackfoot Family Lodge Society.

Our Downtown is also set to welcome several events in the coming weeks, through financial support from the new Re-Imagine Downtown Activation Grant. Announced in late May, the grant money aims to support businesses, entrepreneurs, organizations and community-minded individuals in implementing initiatives, events, and/or programs that seek to activate vacant, under-utilized and under programmed private and public spaces and places within Downtown Lethbridge. See here for a full list of the all recipients.

Congratulations to Exhibition Park on their recent announcement to stage Whoop-Up Days from September 2-5 this year. It is always one of the best events of the year in our city.

Best of luck to all of our local and regional connections at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics. For a city of our size, the number of athletes, coaches and broadcast members we have sent to the Olympics over the years is something to be very proud of. I encourage you to visit the Lethbridge Sport Council's website here to view a comprehensive list of local connections to the Olympics and Paralympics going back decades.

Lethbridge City Council is thrilled to cheer on our local connections. Best of luck to all of our athletes competing on the world's biggest stage. Go Canada Go! Go Lethbridge Go!

Finally, I wish everyone a safe and happy long weekend! Happy Heritage Day!