LETHRBIDGE: The steady schedule of all-candidate forums and copious
numbers of survey questions served up to those vying for positions on the next
City Council, hasn't yet put a dent in the number of inquiring minds. After a week of various forums, another
event Wednesday night was again standing-room only.
The Downtown B-R-Z forum, co-hosted by the Public Library in
its Theatre Gallery, saw roughly 200 residents in attendance to hear from the
four Mayoral candidates and 28 of the 29 candidates seeking one of the eight
Councillor seats (James Suge was the lone candidate not attending). With the large number of candidates running for election on October 21st, residents are making every effort to choose wisely.
There was a general consensus among the candidates that the
Downtown BRZ and the "Heart of the City" project is accomplishing the
task of revitalizing the downtown and re-creating the area as a destination
location. A new community arts centre, improved features added to Galt Gardens,
unique businesses setting up shop and attention paid to refurbishing older
buildings have all aided in improved aesthetics and the general attitude and
'vibe' that can be felt in the downtown core. However, there was also agreement that the work
needs to be on-going.
The main areas of concern for the candidates continue to be
some of the same elements which have plagued the heart of Lethbridge for decades,
including improved parking. Incumbent
Councillor Joe Mauro referred to a solution he had seen in a U.S. which set up
centralized parking locations and utilized a shuttle service to shopping and
entertainment locations. Mauro
acknowledged a change in mind-set would be needed to have people walk a couple blocks
from one business or shop to another, rather than driving from block to bock.
Other concerns revolved around attempts to save heritage
structures, as well as increased arts and entertainment features. The main solution, in order to make the
downtown less of a 9-to-5 location, is to increase a variety of residential
opportunities in the core, which would include all elements from affordable
housing to luxury condos, possibly in high rise structures.
When it comes to dealing with the negative aspects of the
downtown area, such as panhandling, candidate Wade Galloway noted, "Feet
on the street" is the ultimate solution to the problem. It was a sentiment
echoed by several candidates who felt more people living downtown will actually
add to the area's safety.
Among other ideas the crowd showed interest in would be the
addition of food trucks and more live entertainment, including buskers.