By Tim Kalinowski on September 30, 2021.
Incumbent city council candidate Jeff Carlson says he is proud of the work this council has done to lead the city through tough times, and fully expects more hard work lies ahead.
“I think I am most proud of the steady leadership during the pandemic, and during a lot of the social issues we had pop up in Lethbridge,” he confirmed. “Councillor Crowson, Mayor Spearman and I headed what was called the COVID Recovery Task Force, because we knew folks were experiencing challenges and issues. And we knew it was not going to be fixed overnight, and it was going to cause a lot of long term issues.”
Carlson says he is also very proud of his work with Coun. Rob Miyashiro, and other local community advocates, in bringing in an advertising ban on conversion therapy- the first bylaw of its type in the country which has now led to the potential national ban on the practice.
“I know a lot of the folks in the LGBTQ plus community,” he states. “I know it is important to them. I have friends who were forced into conversion therapy through their faith or their family. These are folks now in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and up. They still talk about the pain it caused. The trauma it inflicted, and they are still working through that.”
While that was one area where Carlson feels city council needed to take a stand on an issue nominally outside of its jurisdiction, another area Carlson feels council should have stayed in its lane was on the ARCHES-run, provincially-funded, federally sanctioned supervised consumption site.
“I was very vocal in saying, ‘This is not a City of Lethbridge issue,’ he states. “It is impacting us as a community, but the SCS was not a Lethbridge project and it was not Lethbridge-funded. It was provincial. Some of my colleagues on council tried to make it a City issue. My hope was we would stay out of this. We can’t tell the province and Alberta Health what they can or cannot legally do. They have got their legal right; so we shouldn’t be wearing it.”
“We (as council) implemented the Downtown Clean and Safe Strategy, the Watch, the community police officers, the needle clean up. Those are things we did as a City … That’s where I wanted our focus to be; on the things we could control.”
Carlson does admit to regret on how the whole SCS issue played out and greatly divided many within the city.
“While I do think it was done with the best of intentions, and with the goodness of heart, and the lofty goals of saving lives- I think (ARCHES) might have been a bit too aggressive in their approach,” he says.
Carlson says one thing he does not regret is his championing of a new performing arts centre for the City of Lethbridge.
“If we want to grow and experience new and better things, we have to have facilities for them,” he states. “It’s anywhere between a $45 million and $85 million project, which we can’t do as a city alone. The challenge is going to be finding partners, federal and provincial governments, hopefully private investment, and community-led fundraising– I think those are the ways we’ll achieve it … It’s in our (long-term capital) plan, and now we have to find a way to fund it.”
Carlson dismisses the dichotomy some other candidates have put forward about needs and wants in relation to their arguments against a performing arts centre.
“I guess it depends on how you look at what a need is,” he retorts. “If you boil it down, I guess what do humans need? Food, shelter, water. Life is much more than that. I think if people reflect on their time during the pandemic, they will realize how important the arts are to us.”
Carlson hopes voters will look at the positive qualities he has brought to council over his past four terms, and give him a mandate for another term on council after the election on Oct. 18.
“I am thoughtful, I am dedicated, I do the work, and I have got the experience,” he says. “Those are the values I will keep bringing to council. The values I bring into the chamber every day are on how to positively impact the people in Lethbridge and our community to make it the best place to live, work, play and grow.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter