By Lethbridge Herald on December 30, 2016.
For Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick, 2016 was about the little things in life.
But those little things added up to some big changes in the lives of local residents.
Fitzpatrick said while the year was marked with some big-ticket infrastructure and investment announcements for the City of Lethbridge, it wasnâ€™t all about big-ticket items. Fitzpatrick was able to affect some small changes needed to make the everyday lives of her constituents better as well.
In one instance, she had heard complaints about a rail crossing on Highway 3 where the tracks were badly lifted to the point drivers were concerned about possible damage to their vehicles.
â€œI didnâ€™t know if we could do anything about that,â€ she said. â€œBut I said Iâ€™d ask and see what we could do.â€
Fitzpatrick said she made inquiries into making those repairs to the road and was told it could be done.
â€œWithin days, the traffic was blocked off, and they were fixing first one side, and then the other side,â€ she said.
After that crossing was repaired, a number of other crossings in the area were repaired.
Fitzpatrick said she is unsure if the work was initiated by the rail company or by Alberta Infrastructure.
â€œAll I know is that itâ€™s fixed, and Iâ€™m very happy that happened.â€
She was impressed with the ability of local residents to come together when the need arises.
â€œIâ€™ve always felt Lethbridge is an incredible community,â€ she said, â€œBut every time I go out to an event, I realize how much more of a wonderful place it is. There are so many people who give of their time, energy, and donate â€” right across the city. There are times when Iâ€™m blown away because I canâ€™t believe people are giving so much.
â€œThe neighbours on my street, if something happens, they all stop to see if they can help. And I love living in a neighbourhood like that.â€
Fitzpatrick said the number of committees and coalitions across the city is impressive from the top down.
â€œPeople get together with different groups if theyâ€™ve got a common goal,â€ she said. â€œWe can see that with the city, the mayor and city council.
â€œI probably talk to the mayor once a week,â€ she said.
The mayor and council sometimes have requests for Fitzpatrick to take to Edmonton. But just as often, Fitzpatrick said she is passing on concerns or requests from local residents.
â€œThe fact I can pick up the phone to talk to them about an issue or immediately be connected with somebody who can handle it is really fantastic,â€ she said.
â€œCertainly, when I talk to some of my colleagues, they donâ€™t have that kind of rapport in their communities. Thatâ€™s a shame, because when we work together, it certainly makes for a much better community.â€
The cityâ€™s plans for a transit station is good news for the city. Fitzpatrick said these smaller announcements and projects are designed to have an impact on the immediate lives of local residents.
And there are a lot of those projects.
â€œThe mayor has given me a list of what the city wants to move forward with,â€ she said. â€œI donâ€™t know if we can do everything, but there are little things we can do to move forward.
Fitzpatrick pointed to the low bankruptcy rate in Lethbridge last year coupled with increases in building permit requests as an indicator to the strength of the city as it grows, and indicates more businesses are looking at Lethbridge as a hub for development in the deep south of Alberta.
â€œWhen someone like Cavendish comes in and spends that kind of money in our community I think it speaks to the viability of Lethbridge,â€ Fitzpatrick said. â€œWeâ€™re one of the best places to open a business in the country.â€
One of the big draws for Lethbridge homeowners is the fact Lethbridge is very â€œwalkableâ€ and there is lots of available access to facilities. She said one way to grow the city while still keeping that ability to get around quickly on foot could be for the city to look at expanding upward instead of outward. Densification in some neighbourhoods could help grow the city while retaining that access.
â€œIâ€™m not about to let this go away,â€ she said. â€œI want it to happen. So Iâ€™ll keep talking about it.
â€œRight now, you have a lot of single-family units, where you could have some duplexes, or multiple family units.â€
It is not a concept that is universally accepted, however. Fitzpatrick said she has heard from some who have been unhappy with densification efforts going on the northside, for example.
â€œThe reality is all the conveniences you have, because of the densification, it means you can walk to the supermarket, your church, or the park,â€ she said. â€œSo Iâ€™m not sure people speak out against it. I live on the northside, and I love the fact I can walk to wherever I need to go.â€
â€œThere are lots of old neighbourhoods that can be densified and revitalized with very little extra effort.â€
Fitzpatrick has been busy in Edmonton with the issue of domestic violence, following the passage of the Residential Tenancies (Safer Spaces for Victims of Domestic Violence) Amendment Act, which would give the ability to renters to break a lease without a financial penalty by showing their landlord some proof.
She was surprised to learn between the time the bill was passed but before it achieved Royal Assent, that landlords were not complying with the law.
â€œI could not believe that landlords were doing that, when people were in that kind of situation. Especially after it really opened up as the issue as it is.
â€œI donâ€™t know if I was hurt or I was angry that landlords would do that,â€ she said.
â€œIâ€™d like to see more happen on this front. And it is going to happen. It just takes time. And Iâ€™m not really patient when it comes to that. Iâ€™ve been patient for 35 years. Things havenâ€™t changed very much.â€
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