By Tim Kalinowski on September 29, 2021.
Former Lethbridge mayor Rajko Dodic is seeking a fourth term on city council, (this time as a councillor), after a period of time away from local politics.
“I really enjoyed the work of being an elected official, dealing with the nuts and bolts of City operations,” he says. “One of the reasons I am running again is on the infrastructure needs and maintenance front, because I have noticed I feel like I am driving off road most of the time when I am driving on city streets. The potholes are amazing.”
Dodic says he is also concerned about the state of local parks, boulevards and green spaces. He feels too much money has been spent on building new things in the community and not enough on paying for the proper maintenance of the things we already have.
“Touching everything is what you can afford, and what you can pay,” he states. “One of the concerns I had is the pay-as-you-go plan that Mayor Carpenter had introduced decades ago dealt specifically with community projects. The example I use is the westside leisure centre (ATB). The council I was on approved three out of the four phases because we had the money to pay for them, which means we didn’t have to go to Alberta Capital Finance to borrow money and then have to repay them together with interest. We followed that plan, as did the former Mayor Tarleck. But the council in 2013 onwards decided on the full build out, which now means going from zero tax-supported debt in 2013, to now we have $55 million in tax-supported debt (for that).”
And while all these projects, such as the ATB Centre or the Exhibition Park expansion, are popular in the community, Dodic feels the City has carried too much of the cost burden for them.
“With the Lethbridge Exhibition there was a resolution our council had put in place that said: ‘Yes, we will fund this if you can get one third of the money from the federal government, one third of the money from the provincial government, and the City would put in one third.’ What happened is the federal government put in zero, the provincial government put in a third, and the rest came from the City.”
Dodic gives the example of when his council approved the Casa build to illustrate what he means.
“The capital costs were paid for by the province, by the feds, and contributed to by the University of Lethbridge,” he says. “The City on that $21 million project contributed $200,000.”
Besides the increasing debt, another thing that has changed since Dodic was mayor is the escalating social impacts of the drug crisis in Lethbridge.
“Sometimes there are problems that may not have a solution, and certainly not a solution that a municipality on their own can deal with,” Dodic states. “This is a health issue, and that is a provincial matter to a great degree.”
And while the most severe impacts are local, Dodic says there is little a city council can do except deal with the secondary consequences, such as crime, as best it can. That’s why he says it baffles him the current city council chose to cut the police budget as it did.
Dodic says another decision that baffles him is the approval of the blue bin program, particularly when there already was such high uptake on the City’s three existing recycling depots (85 per cent) which his council had established. While the blue bin “horse has already left the barn,” Dodic acknowledges, the green bin proposal is a horse of a different colour.
“Absolutely I would revisit it (if elected),” he says.
While it has been nearly a decade since he sat in public office, Dodic is hoping Lethbridge voters give him another opportunity to work on their behalf.
“I want to thank the electorate for giving me three terms on council,” he says. “I am asking for a fourth term as a councillor, and I would be honoured and proud if they would give me that opportunity. And if given that opportunity, I would do the best that I can to address the very diverse issues that we all have. We can’t agree all the time, but all you can ask of a person is that they do their best. And I promise to do that.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter