May 6th, 2021

Business and helping the vulnerable not an ‘either/or’


By Letter to the Editor on April 30, 2021.

Editor: Last month’s decision by Lethbridge City Council to reject the Mustard Seed’s application to allow the approval of a sober drop-in centre and soup kitchen on 13th Street and 1st Avenue South demonstrated two things:
One, the development-approvals process (under our land use bylaw) worked as it is supposed to work;
and two, this development-approvals system has significant shortcomings at least when it comes to controversial developments like this.
 Lethbridge has a serious problem with how it presents development proposals to the community.
This needs to be fixed.
Unless we do so, we will continue to divide our community, continue to alienate business owners, and continue to fall behind in providing necessary services to disadvantaged or vulnerable residents.
 We have seen this recently in different locations, but mostly in or near the downtown.
All have prompted significant opposition from some residents. Most have made adjacent business owners feel trapped; social-services developments which are intended to help vulnerable residents have put business owners in the no-win position of risking their life’s work and livelihood (if they don’t oppose the development), or risking being vilified as uncaring and selfish (if they do oppose it).
Many business owners are – rightly – angered at being put in that position, because in fact they can and do care deeply about their business and still care about their community and its vulnerable residents.
 Unfortunately our approach to our development-approval process leads consistently to the same outcome: the loudest negative voices force the abandonment of the project without a path forward to the needed solutions being found, and Lethbridge suffers.
Each time, “it’s like déjà vu all over again,” in the words of the ever-quotable Yogi Berra.
Yogi also said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” The quote speaks to the dangers of not having a plan or roadmap, and having to accept where you arrive at without one.
Lethbridge continues to “wind up someplace else”, to our detriment.
As a growing city of 100,000 people, we will continue to face the problems that small cities face if we do not have necessary resources and facilities to help us deal with them effectively.
At the same time, we very much need our business community and citizenry to feel safe and supported.
 I’m committed to fixing this problem. It will require a lot of collaborative work and some measure of courage from council. Whether the recently-approved task force (under the Community Wellbeing and Safety Strategy) will have any impact on this process remains to be seen – and could take some time.
Until then, we will need to dedicate ourselves to having more proactive discussions with our community leaders and those who are directly impacted by a development.
It will require us to get buy-in from stakeholders, especially business owners and nearby residents.
This effort will not (and cannot) supplant the development-approvals process, but it will allow the development system to function more responsively to our community’s needs.
 Like most changes in governance, success here will happen in a series of small steps, but it is achievable.
Our city needs essential services and facilities for our marginalised populations, and they have to be accessible to those in need. We cannot hide our heads in the sand on this.
Equally important, the livelihoods of our business owners and their employees must also be protected.
We can and must do both. The approval of necessary developments like these must start with that goal in mind, and we need to work with developers and stakeholders to find the path that gets us to that goal. And we need to bring the community along in those conversations.
Stephen Mogdan
Lethbridge

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phlushie

May be you should have started this: Dear editor, I am running for Mayor and this is what I want to do!!!!

Last edited 5 days ago by phlushie
Montreal13

I A plan is what we all want.

Les Elford

Mr. Mogdan; So well stated. I agree with you 150%. It is so sad, so tragic to see what is happening to these people who are somehow surviving in our coulees, back alleys etc, The homeless shelter and community soup kitchens and mobile safe injection site are all great and try to do their best every day. However they are all woefully underfunded and much like the individuals they serve are invisible to many.
I am not trying to point blame; but perhaps both of our two Provincial MLA’s and our Federal MP along with our municipal government in reality should be screaming for positive change and professional support services to be made available. To take place ” Instead; to the best of my knowledge they have remained strangely silent regarding ideas plans, proposals to help rectify this issue. ( Yes the city and NDP did try )
Politicians have many issues to address and focus their attention on currently; that is why they are paid outrageous salary along with expenses and pension plans. However the question remains in my mind are they really doing what they can to help address, rectify this issue. If they are it would be great to understand how they are doing so.
We cannot hide our heads in the sand on this.
Equally important, the livelihoods of our business owners and their employees must also be protected.
We can and must do both
And yes…… I do understand the frustration experienced and empathize with businesses. Like the owner of Greens Pop Shop,(Doug?) who had a knife pulled on him yesterday, just for protecting his business.
I agree with you so much and I too am prepared to do what ever I can to try and advocate and help implement for positive change.
There are way too many large buildings sitting empty … deteriorating, depreciating. Some have been empty for a decade or more. (North side Safeway) With a little bit of compassion, love, volunteerism, donations and negotiation; perhaps these buildings may, sold; be able to be retrofitted into safe, clean, suitable housing, vocational rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment centres all in one setting.
The corporation’s which own these buildings ( Safeway, Save-on Foods, Sobeys and many others) may be happy to somehow become involved.
My brother and I make a point of engaging with individuals on the street weekly; getting to know them and offering; food clothing, empty bottles for recycling in an open helpful non judgmental manner. These “people” should not be forced to exist in the manner they do; regardless of whether they have substance abuse issues. That should be a non issue, they are still people with a story like each and everyone of us and should be treated with dignity, respect, compassion and love.
Like; the ex- respiratory therapist who encountered difficulty with alcohol and now experiences additional medical issues, or the ex -lawyer who is schizophrenic and and alcoholic. Or the gentleman between 50 -60 years old unable to speak, but capable of hearing and communicating by writing; who was so happy to get a place to live, a bag of empty bottles to recycle, 3 pairs of jeans, and a package of necessary personal items from West Side Community Church.
“There but for the grace of GOD go I” and “Yes we are our brothers keeper.” Many are affected by this situation due to no fault of their own.
I tried (unsuccessfully) months ago ;to reach out to all three supermarket corporations with empty buildings in town to try to discuss possibilities.
I am just one person who does not have business contacts etc and so am at a loss. If anyone has good positive ideas, it would be great to hear them.
“For we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4). Perhaps we can find an appropriate solution as a community working together for a common purpose.

Respectfully,
Les Elford

biff

minus 5 when i gave this a plus…we appear, in sum, to be a city of cold, self serving, whining twits. thank you for a great follow up to the letter. it is reassuring to see there are at least some people that care about others.

prairiebreze

Last thing we need is a person that states the obvious (our city needs essential services/facilities for our maginalised populations … we need to work with developers and stakeholders” … blah blah blah. Then our wanna-be mayor goes on to say “I’m committed to fixing this problem”. BUT nowhere does he state HOW he will do it. Mr. Mogdan, you are the kind of person I hope does not get in and this letter pretty much shows why. We need a mayor who is really in touch with the problems we face and has the conviction and integrity to come up and/or support practical solutions. We also need someone who will champion the environment something you obviously will not do as you were one of the reasons the YMCA ended up being demolished.

Montreal13

Brilliantly put Prairiebreze! You bet it is the last thing we need; a two minute expert who appears at the 11th hour ,to point out what most have known for years. Calling some of the stakeholders “negative” to boot. Typical ,if you don’t agree with me ,you are being negative. Where have I heard that before? So old school that term and people don’t get shut down by it any more. Please don’t run Mr. Mogban. You are not what Lethbridge needs. We need some original thinkers. And some one with council experience. Some one who may have started out as green but who has broadened their view by listening to many stakeholders on many issues. Good experience if you want to “serve” for Lethbridge now and in the future. Do your learning curve some where else,I beg you.
No more mayors who have never served or tried their wings as a councilor first. Reread Mr. Mogdan’s letter ,this is what you get if you vote for a greenhorn.

biff

this is perhaps as far away from agreement with you as i can recall here. our council sucks, but you want someone from council to become mayor? which one?
agreed – what the candidate sees as solutions should be offered for consideration.

biff

save for the last line – which i know nothing about other than feeling the y should have stayed where it was – you appear as critical but without even one suggestion.

HansDad

The process worked as it was supposed to, but it doesn’t work. We really need to fix a process, because we really need certain developments but we need to listen to people who oppose the same development. It’s all going to take time and courage and heart-felt conversations, and somehow, someway (no actual idea how, and no plan to get there) it’ll get there under the writer’s committed leadership. If this isn’t fence-straddling empty campaign rhetoric, what is?
If this really is just naked campaign advertising, should the Herald publish it without labeling it so (and charging for the advertising)? Or has the editorial board of the Herald implicitly endorsed Mr. Mogdan’s candidacy?
Beyond that, I find myself very troubled by the candidate’s view that it is the City that presents developments to the public for approval. This is entirely backwards. Developers (of all stripes, whether social services or for-profit business enterprise or whatever) apply to the City for development approval. The City is NOT the advocate for a development, it is the decider! Sometimes this requires a City Council to change the zoning law (the land use bylaw), and sometimes this requires a body other than the Council (e.g. a development officer or the Municipal Planning Commission) to apply some discretion delegated them under the land use bylaw.
No councilor or mayor should ever be advocating for a development and then voting on a rezoning application for that development. It is NOT EVER the Council’s role to convince stakeholders that they should or shouldn’t support a rezoning application; it IS the Council’s role to decide whether to change the law in favour of a development after hearing from all sides of the issue. No councilor or mayor should ever be telling a DO or the MPC how they should exercise their powers under the LUB – we call this “political interference.”
If Mr. Mogdan believes the existing zones that permit shelter development provide inadequate opportunity for one, then he certainly can propose that other zones be opened to such development; that would be a legitimate general policy change to the land use bylaw (that would still require public input and spark the “conversation” I presume he’d like to have).
I suppose I can understand the candidate’s confusion about who “presents” developments for approval, considering that at rezoning applications in this City the Development Department often appears before Council to present the application and (almost always) sounds like a full-throated advocate for the development (and almost always gives its own “recommendation” on how to vote). This, I suggest, is a primary problem with our approval process. It is the Council’s job to make the decision, it is the department’s job to advise the Council whether the application conforms to the bylaw and other planning policies. It is manifestly NOT the department’s job to advocate a position or tell the Council how to exercise their discretion, yet that is often what the department appears to do.
If the candidate wants to fix a process here, I have this suggestion: he should propose that the department cease making voting recommendations, cease presenting applications for applicants, cease advocacy and stick to the advisory function that is the department’s province. I suspect that would go a long way to restoring the public’s faith in the legitimacy of the rezoning process, even in the face of “unpopular” development.

Citi Zen

There’s no real solution to the problem of the homeless and the addicts that live on our streets. The taxpayer provides multiple facilities, such as the shelter and low income housing. There are also some private, not for profits that come along periodically as well, who also fail.
You see, these street people don’t want our help. They chose to not make use of all the assistance available to them.
Therein lies the real problem. You can build it, but they dont want it, unless it provides a comfortable place to shoot up.
Let it go, there is absolutely nothing society can do for them, and you cant force them to cooperate.

biff

you just come off as loud mouthed lout. you are so entirely ignorant to what lies behind the struggles of others, there is no possibility of conversation with you on the issue. just because you are like so many, does not mean you are right. ignorance is its own community.

biff

and ditto to the bums that just go around here negging comments, but have nothing intelligent to offer.
btw – cit, not at all suggesting you are a loud mouthed lout, just that your comment echoes that mindset. whether your intent or not, your comment lumps all street people into some simple whole. as the elford comment notes, there many roads/experiences that lead to life on the street. however, if i could edit i would. another lesson for me that i best hold onto comments a little longer before posting.

Seth Anthony

In case you miss it from the other thread, I’ll repeat this here.

The site allows you to edit your posts. Move your pointer near the bottom right of your post and a gear icon will appear which will allow editing. Editing is allowed up to a certain time limit, or it’s based on how many times you can edit a post.
If you don’t see that gear icon, then something is wonky with your internet browser. It could be a popup blocker, or the browser itself. You can try disabling the popup blocker for this site, or try logging in with a different browser. In my case, Firefox stopped showing the gear icon, but it always appears when I use Google Chrome or the Opera browser.

biff

thanks again, seth.

Seth Anthony

See the other thread.



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