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September 2018 Mayor Column

This week was significant for our community, as City Council announced our plans to move forward and invite our residents to help us develop positive, community-driven solutions to our current drug crisis. 

We've heard your concerns loud and clear. You love Lethbridge, you have invested your time, energy and hard-earned money to live here. You want to keep Lethbridge beautiful and safe for your family and friends and for our future generations.

I can assure you that, as your Lethbridge City Council, we want the exact same things. We truly love this community. We invest here, and our families live here. The effects of this drug crisis are troubling, frustrating, and sometimes downright maddening. At times, they leave some in our community feeling helpless.  

We, as City Council, have invested in various initiatives such as, needle clean-up efforts, but there is so much more that's needed to help those affected. How do we stop drug use in our parks?  How do we also ensure that our most vulnerable people are taken care and have ready access to supports they need to get their lives back?  How do we ensure the full continuum of supports is there for them, and how do we ensure our public spaces are safe for everyone? 

We don't have the all answers, but we know our community does: our residents, our health agencies, our social service providers and our business community.  When we receive emails and messages from our residents, they come from a place of passion. I can tell you that we need you to keep that passion alive.

This week, we announced the launch of our community response to the current crisis. Together we will develop a solutions-based substance abuse strategy that will be created by the community, driven by the community and delivered by the community in partnership with all responsible levels of government and service providers.

Together, we will face this issue and focus on the four pillars of Education & Prevention; Harm Reduction; Treatment & Recovery, and Enforcement. Each of these pillars is equally important. But with the rapidly escalating scale of the drug and overdose crisis, much energy and focus has been on harm reduction. Expanding the focus to all four pillars is a necessary and valuable part of this process.

We are launching a three-phase community consultation process that will start with listening to our community. On October 10 and 11, we'll be holding four facilitated sessions where anyone in our community can come and share how the drug crisis is affecting them. We also want people to bring ideas and be prepared to collaborate on constructive solutions with other community members from all sides of this issue.

There will be daytime and evening sessions so that everyone who wants to be heard, can be heard. You can choose from the four sessions offered:

  • Wednesday, October 10, 1-3:30 p.m. or 5:30-8 p.m.
    Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge (320 Scenic Drive South)
  • Thursday, October 11, 1-3:30 p.m. or 5:30-8 p.m.

Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge

Each session will accommodate up to 80 participants. Additional sessions may be added, if required.

What we hear from those sessions will be compiled into a report that will inform the next two phases of consultation with targeted stakeholders such as EMS, business people, social service providers, police, housing agencies, and harm reduction service providers. By mid-November, we expect to have a draft version of a community-based drug strategy with immediate and longer-term objectives as well as a clear mandate for the committee Council is establishing to lead the implementation of that plan.

We need to hear from you. We need to hear from business people, addiction specialists, parents, faith-based groups, cultural and ethnic communities, educators, medical professionals, community organizations, and enforcement and emergency responders to name a few.  We need your help to identify all the issues and challenges while creating innovative solutions that we can then work to implement with our government and community partners.

Our jurisdiction, municipally, is to provide a safe community, so our energy is focused on how we can best deal with the local challenges stemming from this crisis: vagrancy, loitering, petty crime, needle debris and public drug use. I encourage you to help the Lethbridge Police Service combat drug traffickers by reporting illegal activity you may witness, either directly to the police or anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or at www.sacrimestoppers.ca.

I want to re-emphasize that we need to hear from you at these community conversation meetings in early October. We need community input so we can build positive community solutions with our community partners. More information on the sessions is available at www.lethbridge.ca or on the City's Twitter and Facebook pages. Lethbridge is your city, and we want to hear from you.

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Ahead of Council's operating budget deliberations in November, we've been inviting residents this fall to examine City services and tell us how they compare with their own priorities. In November, Council will set a new operating budget for the next four years, and now is the time for you to let us know what you think.

There's still time until Sept. 27 to complete a brief online questionnaire about City services at www.GetInvolvedLethbridge.ca. You can also take part with other residents in interactive sessions next Wednesday, Sept. 26 at Casa, 230—8 Street South. These interactive sessions will take place from 9-11 a.m., 1:30-3:30 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m., so I hope you'll make the most of this opportunity to get involved.

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The eighth annual Word on the Street Festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 22 at the downtown branch of the Lethbridge Public Library. It's a fun way to celebrate reading and literacy by interacting with authors, enjoying music and fun activities and bustling marketplace setting. I hope you can make it out.

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Tonight, the Lethbridge Hurricanes will host the Medicine Hat Tigers to open their 2018-19 Western Hockey League season. The 'Canes have an exciting team, and I've got my fingers crossed, hoping they'll win their bid to host the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament. But in the meantime, see you at the game!

Mayor Chris Spearman
September 21, 2018