November 2023 Mayor's Column
It’s been a busy few weeks around City Hall and around Lethbridge.
Last week, Lethbridge City Council met for three days, as our Economic and Finance Standing Policy Committee, for an overview of the current economic conditions and the impact they have on the City’s financial position and resources. We discussed economic conditions; taxation pressures; utility pressure; Operating and Capital pressures; and impact on reserves.
Lethbridge is certainly not alone in dealing with inflationary pressures and changing interest rates. I want to thank Darrell Mathews, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, and his team for their efforts in providing clear information to Council and the public last week.
Mathews presented the 2023 September Operating Forecast, which showcases operating budget variance for 2023, as well as preliminary year-end projections. He also provided a summary report of the 2023-2026 Operating Budget Initiatives and a summary report of the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) which both include their respective budget, actuals, performance measurements and the results achieved as of August 31, 2023.
This information is all geared toward being transparent with our taxpayers.
In 2021, City Council approved the streamlining of the Operating and Capital budgets to achieve an aligned four-year CIP and Operating Budget cycle. As part of the change, Council will start ongoing annual reviews of the Operating and Capital budgets.
This updated process will help provide greater budgetary oversight, better connect the Capital and Operating budgets and help Council strategically focus on revenues and expenditures. It will also give Council more opportunities to review budgets during their term.
All recommendations from the SPC meeting last week will be forwarded to City Council for potential approval at a regular meeting. You can read a full recap and find links to each item here.
In the past several weeks (including my trip to Edmonton for the Premier’s Throne Speech), members of City Council and City Administration have had significant conversations with several Provincial Ministers including Mike Ellis, Nate Horner, Nathan Neudorf and Jason Nixon.
One of the biggest announcements stemming from Council’s continued advocacy to the Province was last week when they provided details on the new Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit in Lethbridge.
The Alberta Sheriffs work with other law enforcement agencies to shut down properties being used for illegal activities such as drug dealing. The SCAN Act gives sheriffs the authority to target problem properties through legal sanctions and court orders.
On behalf of City Council, I would like to thank Minister Ellis, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services. Our council has been advocating for increased resources to prioritize community safety, so having a dedicated force focusing on southern Alberta will certainly be a welcome addition. Read the full news release here.
Following Council’s direction last month to establish cross-functional task force on lawlessness, I am pleased to say that the initial meeting of the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction (DLR) Task Force was held on November 8. In attendance were delegates from the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope and myself, as well as representatives from the following City departments: Lethbridge Police Services; Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services; Community Social Development; Regulatory Services; Opportunity Lethbridge; Communications and Engagement; and Administration.
During the facilitated session, the components of a draft Terms of Reference were consensually outlined. They will be presented to City Council on December 12.
With that December 12 meeting and the coming November 28 meeting, Council only has two meetings left in 2023. Find agenda information here.
That also means Christmas is right around the corner.
As we approach this holiday season, I’d encourage our residents to think about those in need. Please keep a look out for information and help if you can so we can ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.
Six local non-profit organizations (the Lethbridge Food Bank, Interfaith Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Lethbridge Family Services Angel Tree, MyCityCare Shop of Wonders and Volunteer Lethbridge) have started this year’s Christmas Hope campaign. The collaborative campaign works to assist roughly 3,500 adults and 6,500 kids during the holidays by providing gifts for kids and food hampers.
There are donation bins set up across the city, including at City Hall. More information can be found on the Christmas Hope website.
A Charity Checkstop will be taking place on Saturday, December 2, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the west parking lot of Park Place Shopping Centre. Officers will be on site to collect unwrapped toys, food and funds to help Christmas Hope.
I’m sure the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown BRZ will have some further information to share in the days and weeks ahead, but I would also encourage people to think and shop local and support our array of amazing local businesses across the city this holiday season.
Another big recent announcement is that the inaugural Western Slam NCAA basketball tournament will be coming to the ENMAX Centre and Lethbridge College in November 2024. As fans will be able to witness NCAA basketball at its finest, this event promises to be a monumental occasion for both the basketball community and for southern Alberta.
The Western Slam event stands as the only NCAA Division I event of its kind in the Western region, marking a significant milestone for both the event and for Lethbridge. The event – which will feature four teams competing in six games across three days, as well as featuring skill-building clinics and engaging programs – promises not only an electrifying sports spectacle but also a substantial economic boost for the community. More information is here.
One event that will not be taking place at its usual spot in the calendar this year is the Mayor’s Hockey Challenge. I have enjoyed hosting and playing in this the last couple of years and I am thankful for all the support it has received. I look forward to exploring some new ideas and potentially hosting some other Mayor’s Challenges in 2024, so please stay tuned.
As always, please be safe and kind to one another.