July 18th, 2024

Mayor Hyggen sees positives in past year


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on December 27, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Mayor Blaine Hyggen says he has seen a lot of positives in the city over the past year.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Every year has its highs and lows and in 2023, Lethbridge mayor Blaine Hyggen saw a lot of positives.

“It’s been a really good year,” said Hyggen in a year-end interview recently.

The first two years in review of this council’s term have been positive, said the mayor.

“It’s a good reminder of how good things are in the community,” he said of City Manager Lloyd Brierley’s report to council recently.

“You always the hear the negatives but you don’t get the pat on the back for the positives sometimes,” added the mayor.

One big positive of late is the expansion of the shelter space here, said the mayor.

“We heard loud and clear and talked with the province that they didn’t want to have anybody freezing during the winter time obviously, and although it’s out of our lane if you will – it’s the province – we were able to help out with that and make that come to pass.

“Everybody’s got a place to go to if they want… you can’t force anybody to go but there is space if they want it,” added the mayor, referring to a $1 million investment by the province in 50 temporary winter shelter spaces here.

One of the first resolutions done by council was to direct administration to deal with the issue of encampments this year.

The mayor said when encampments are entrenched, there is more criminal activity which is a reality council recognized so funding was made available to a strategy.

“And it was extremely successful. We didn’t have the near the amount of encampments, in fact a minimal amount of encampments because as soon as they were up, they were taken care of.”

Hyggen noted that services were offered to people in the camps.

“We don’t just rip down people’s homes, their tents or whatever. We make sure that the services are there to help them” deal with mental health, addictions or other issues, added the mayor.

“It went through very well last year with this encampment strategy. It was good the Blood Tribe Department of Health was in support as well,” said the mayor noting that organization took over operations of the city shelter in January.

The encampment strategy has a budget of $500,000 per year for 2023 through 2026 and one-time funding of $250,000 for other resources and outreach services.

Festival Square was another highlight in 2023 with more than 140 events there since it opened last year.

“There was always something happening in Festival Square and many people that were not in favour of that transformation have reached out since” with different opinions.

“It removes some of that other activity you may see in the downtown area so it’s been great. Businesses have really boosted their sales,” said the mayor, and a record number of new businesses – nearly 30 in total – have been established in the downtown core.

“This is exactly what the revitalization of the downtown looks like.”

Hyggen said downtown revitalization comes up every election and “all you can do is do the best to make it better than what it is, make it more safe – that was heard loud and clear, safety in the downtown area,” said Hyggen.

He said Lethbridge police have been amazing and noted the work that will be done by the new task force on downtown lawlessness.

“We want to go in the same way we did with the encampment strategy – be compassionate through this. Help people through this and help the people who are struggling with addictions or mental health issues. But the lawlessness can’t continue,” an opinion felt by many businesses downtown, he said.

When the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone approached the City about dealing with the problems, the main players were brought to the table to begin tackling problems, he said.

Hyggen said the City has heard from a lot of people asking how they can be part of the solution, rather than be someone to just complain.

“This makes me happy to see that there are people who want to be part of the solution and not just sit behind a keyboard” and complain about problems downtown, said Hyggen.

In November of 2022, council approved four years of property tax hikes and the mayor noted that with the pandemic and inflation, the City had a double issue to deal with it because it hadn’t raised those taxes for three years then raised them by 5.1 per cent per year.

“If you’re sitting at zero, obviously we’ve got costs and inflation going up so we’re trying to remain sustainable but there’s a time that the taxes did have to have an increase. It’s not sustainable at zero per cent,” said the mayor.

Communities are seeing the struggles from the results of inflation and COVID, said the mayor, and “it’s been tough,” noting while he despises using COVID as a reason, it has impacted the community.

“Living in Lethbridge, if you put all the costs together, if it’s the convenience of getting to work quicker, if it’s less time in your vehicle, if it’s the different amenities we have here, small city feel. We have two post secondary institutions – a university and a college – so look at all of this and I think there’s many benefits to be in Lethbridge. If we’re not the lowest taxed, we’re still I think reasonable,” added the mayor.

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Dennis Bremner

“This makes me happy to see that there are people who want to be part of the solution and not just sit behind a keyboard” and complain about problems downtown, said Hyggen.

Perhaps you think I am one of those who sits behind a keyboard, I don’t know?
I submitted a proposal to Council 3 years ago. I was not given an opportunity to present it, Council refused to accept it, and when I asked for “why” in writing, I was ignored.
I have spent countless hours liazing with Elders of Blood, spent thousands of my own money commuting to meetings, or supporting indigenous treatment.
I have been critical of the chosen path for drug treatment because its the same ole, same ole. Spins do not get results, radical change does.
The “Alberta plan” heralded by our now Chief of Staff to the Premier is spin and as soon as the novelty of that spin yields no discernable results, we will look for another spin.
Lethbridge Housing Authority is also participating in “the spin” in pursuit of housing “all the homeless”! I produced a chart that is just as valid at this moment as it was when I presented it to SACPA. It clearly shows 80% of addicts die behind closed doors with no one around, yet we want them in apartments?
My concern is those 80% are predominantly indigenous and the predominantly white population of UCP or NDP who govern proceed under the guise they know better, how is that working so far?
Keyboard warriors have been trying to get ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE to produce data that supports ANY of this spin. So what was the result of the previous spin (people recovered and remained sober 3 years later) How is the existing spin progressing? Where are the numbers? Simple question that is NEVER answered under ANY previous spin!
There are indicators that the existing spin will fail, has anyone looked into them before signing up to this latest spin? Here are some obvious questions and statement;
1) If Beds (the huen cry of the nonprofits) was the solution then why are people dieing where beds are available?
2) If “treatment” is the answer and all we have to do is keep people alive long enough for them to make that choice, why are people losing legs, arms and or dieing from open sores from Crocodil and Tranq. When they lost their first arm, to rot and infection, were we still waiting for them to decide to rehab?
3) While the limb was falling off, and a bed was available, what were we waiting for next? Lethbridge will be confronted with this shortly.
4) This mentality runs rampant in our downtown but because religious organizations feel all they need to see is God’s light, we spin, and spin.
5) Now that beds are available there is a new spin appearing everywhere. Legalization, babysitting (SCS/OPS) and Safe Supply. Why, because the new “Alberta Plan” has been tried in various stages in other countries and guess what, it fails at a huge level like other spins.
6) So as beds are available and not used, or used for a week or two to “take a break” we must add another spin so we never have to confront the facts. What are the facts? Well, over 25 years no one has ever reported how many stayed sober on ANY previous spin, no one! So we have no record of what might work or does not work. Which only works for those doing the treatment and receiving buckets of money, not so much for those doing the dying!
7) Thats why nonprofits have a different answer to the question “Whats a life worth” than I have. Their answer is to spend spend spend, convert, convert, convert and hopefully the addict sees God’s light and seeks recovery. So far, it would appear the bulb is burnt out, or its a bad theory. My answer is simple!
8) Get indigenous lives away from our system ASAP. Get Indigenous to treat their own. Why is that different, well if Council had read my proposal, I proposed we remove the addict from the Dealer. For decades we have successfully failed in removing the Dealer from the Addict because one pops up as quickly as you jail or shoot the other.
9) Summary at this point. If an addict will let his own arm rot off rather than seek recovery, one has to take an equally aggressive and opposite approach. Unless of course the objective is to keep the addict alive long enough to consume as many BioPharma drugs as possible? The more Naloxone HydroMorph, Percocet etc. consummed the more the Pharma makes, right?
10) Marshal Smith ( Chief of Staff) who came up with the “Alberta Plan” has come up with nothing radical or brilliant, it just allows a “spin” to create time for everyone that cannot think of a better idea. If you are doing something then you can say, you are trying, when you really are not, but it gets you threw your 4 years.
11) As I age, I realize I will not be around much longer because of “past abuses”. But, if I live for another 5 years I should see at least 2-3 more spins after seeing more and more indigenous die for one reason only. We were all to chickenchit to take the only step that has a chance of working and that is remove the addict from the influences of downtown, remove him from the dealer, and put him/her in a position that requires excessive WORK to get their daily dosages of their favorite limb/brain rotter.
12) The idea no one has bothered to table https://lethccc.com So the real answer to Whats a life worth is, “The human right to decay your own body, consume drugs uncontrolled,( while not of sound mind ), deprive your fellow human being of his property, is worth far more than anyone preventing you from taking your own life!
13) Why is there Lawlessness in the Downtown? Not a difficult question, here is the answer. I am a drug addict, I get my hit, I go loonie toons and decide to bash in a few windows or set a few fires. I sober up, rob someone of their personal property, sell it to my “fence” buy my next hit and go loonie toons……………
14) Solution to Lawlessness in the downtown? Too easy, you aren’t going to solve it, you are going to distribute it. They will be sent South, North in an LHA provided apartment, then you can say, see, “Lawlessness dropped in the downtown!” but South is up another 20%, North up another 10% , (can’t wait to see what LHA has in store for West?)
15) So, am I one of those people that sits behind a keyboard, I will let you decide.

Last edited 6 months ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

There has been some great things happen downtown and there have been some mistakes. I hope we have learned from the mistakes.
I appreciate the hard work needed to deploy the encampment strategy this year, which in my mind worked well.
I am optimistic in the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force and look forward to hearing some of the actions been taken.
I would caution that we do not make some mistakes we have already tried and look at the issues, which are complex and in one respect, by looking back at what was done years ago.
Streets Alive is under attack unfairly at this time by the city, and I would caution them that they are not the ’cause’ of the issues downtown.
Decades ago, when Streets Alive had their shelter on the 1st avenue block about where the Bank of Nova Scotia/Belanger Accounting is, we had many issues from their clients, around downtown businesses and Galt Gardens of drunkeness, urintating/defecating around businesses and the park and the city council at that point thought it would be a great idea to move the shelter across the RR tracks to it’s current location and took the shelter away from Streets Alive, while increasing the occupancy space available, believing it would solve all the issues downtown and people would stay on that side of the tracks.
It didn’t . . . instead the numbers of people using the shelter increased and they all came downtown . . . still! The issues magnified!
Now, let’s come back to 2023: The fact that Streets Alive is downtown in it’s current location is not what is causing all the issues downtown!
The cause is the lack of law enforcement for exising laws for loitering, public urination/defecation, open drug use, property damage/graffiti, sleeping around business entrances, etc. while leaving huge messes and damage where ever they hang! Example – Petro Canada on 6 ave and 6 street has had graffiti, property damage (the most recent was their large sign being smashed), assaults and that block having multiple break-ins, fires and other damages by these groups who are not the truly homeless, but those who refuse to be housed so they can commit crimes all night and day downtown.
The only way to stop this is to get them off the streets and law enforcement needs to enforce the laws. It is complex! Police have faced many issues trying to enforce the laws, from the justice/penal systems to an understaffed force and have many dedicated members who are willing, but face roadblocks.
You must understand that downtown is these criminals area of operations, where they have been allowed to embed for years to sell drugs/prostitution services, steal so they can support their addictions, causing property damage and causing grief to the downtown business community. It has nothing to do with Streets Alive!
This is where these criminals do their business and there are less than 50 of them on the streets downtown at one time during winter doing this. They are the ones on the roofs of downtown businesses, or breaking into vacant buildings and squatting there, causing fires that often burn down those buildings. They are not the truly homeless, but the criminals who are involved in the drug trade, human trafficking, stolen goods trade, and these people are supported by the increasingly organized criminal organizations who are thriving in this city, who make their money in many other illegal trades, including illegal weapons sales, child pornography/human trafficking, and other dispictable illegal actions.
We have allowed this grow by turning a blind eye to the illegal activities/drug use/prostitution that unfolds on our streets, and it has spread to other areas of the city! Downtown is the epi-center, but it has spread to other areas.
We have to focus on the real issues here and stop attacking those who are helping those same people on our streets such as Streets Alive, by washing their feet which often have open wounds, bandaging the wounds, clothing them, feeding them, counselling them, showing them humanity as other organizations only enable them to slowly kill themselves by providing all the drug paraphernalia they need to do the drugs that cause those open wounds, destroy their bodies so they walk like senior citizens at 20 to 30 years old and kill them!
I support the actions the city is taking with the task force and applaud the encampment strategy, but stop attacking an organization that has helped show kindess and provided support to those who are dying on our streets because of the failed harm reduction policies the federal and BC governments promote.
I support Streets Alive financially and spiritually and going after them will not solve any of the issues downtown! No other organization can boast for all the positive things they have done in this city! They are trying to relocate on their own, but the property they purchased will not be available, from what I understand, until the fall of 2024! When they move, it will not change the issues downtown . . . enforcing the laws will be the only way!

Dennis Bremner

I think you confuse three different issues. I do not believe that anyone is going after streets alive. I think if you intend to use your faith as a reason to stretch the law, then I think someone is mixing church and state and as soon as that bridge is built I will create my own religion to get what I want out of bylaws.
Streets Alive is also a family BUSINESS. Father and Son Mom and I believe daughter all work there. So what makes Streets Alive a Business that should flourish wherever it wants, while causing great hardship for other businesses. In both cases everyone derives income from their business. Who gets to determine who survives and who doesn’t? Is it StreetsAlive?

The third confusion is the premise that downtowns are made to accomodate this. Religion insists you go where the needy are. I only have issue with this when the needy are creating (if I dare say) “Lawlessness” in everyone elses business or residential area. Do you really think a move from “Downtown” to Eldorado is a move or in 5 years it will be seen for what it is, Downtown to Downtown?
So the relief you see coming with Eldorado is a nightmare for North Residents, once again not some welcome move!
Name one City that houses all their addicts (not homeless) in the downtown that does not experience Lawlessness? Name any community that moved them into residential neighborhoods who then did not suffer what the downtown is experiencing?
So the issue, is not that a Nonprofit business that employs its entire family as a family business is bad. Its not that the same business, is doing poorly helping the addicts. Its where they are, where they are going, and the total lack of concern everyone seems to have for either northside residents or the downtown, cuz its God’s work.
Show me a passage where sacrificial lambs must be sacrificed to accomodate those who do not help themselves!
I note we are ammending good books at a fast rate nowadays, I have a few ammendments I would like, whom do I pass them on to? God no longer appears in that picture!
Addiction flies in the face of everything, everyone suggests they believe. Addicts contribute nothing, take everything, and then the nonprofits think Downtown is a great place for that combination. The Mayor suggests 30 businesses have opened up downtown, I wonder how many are Addiction support services who operate a nonprofit, who then attracts more addicts to the city because of the services! Are those the businesses we want to attract to our downtown, are they?
The law has little to nothing to do with this. We tried harsh measures for years and imprisoned people, nothing changed. There are only two ways to solve this problem. Seperate the Addict from the Dealer or the Dealer from the Addict. When we seperated the Dealer by imprisoning all we did was create a prison that was based on drugs, so when the Addict got there, he continued. So Clean up prisons or move addicts out of the Dealer area are the only choices left and yes it will violate some human rights and/or free speech, but that happens everyday. I cannot J walk without threat of fine, or express sympathy for a Palestinan Child without being acused of Anti-Semitism, if I express sympathy for a Jewish Child I am Islamaphobic. It can’t be that people should not kill each other, the woke put me in one of the “anti” categories so they can continue there stupidity!
The God I used to know never suggests you kill someone, something, to save someone, something else. That goes for lives, businesses, or residents and society. Perhaps the “New Improved Woke Rev2 God” now says it, the one I used to know NEVER did!

Last edited 6 months ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

I am not going to get into a debate with someone on social media over what the Bible states Christians should do or not do Dennis. You already know I am not happy with you organizing a public meeting under the guise of discussing is Lethbridge Dying, when you actually planned on pushing your failed plan on a camp outside Lethbridge at Kipp, in which you didn’t even have a plan for water or sewage! You just won’t let that plan go and attack anyone who has better plans!
You fail to acknowledge that your camp plan will not get the troublemakers off the streets who commit the crimes at night and even in the daytime, because it is where they conduct their illegal activities.
You have tunnel vision, still stuck on a plan will not get the people doing the most damage off the streets, blaming everyone else!
I would suggest you read the Herald news report on the Stop Order council has issued to Streets Alive!
https://lethbridgeherald.com/news/lethbridge-news/2023/12/20/streets-alive-on-a-mission-to-help-the-needy-organization-to-appeal-stop-order-issued-by-city/
I am far from just a person that sits behind a keyboard as well! I am surprised that you missed the ‘stop order’ meeting at city hall!

Dennis Bremner

I didn’t miss it, I know exactly what the stop order is about. I could not attend because of tests I am undergoing.
My failed plan, was designed for the Indigenous, not Lethbridge. It would , as a result of Elder benevolance have benefited Lethbridge significantly.
But, it has failed because Lethbridge is now a Marshal Smith “Alberta Plan” Pilot Project. Marshal Smith refused to fund my project just prior to launching his Alberta Plan. My project does not fit into his Alberta Plan so I see why it was not considered.
I think that things like the tent/encampments situation have improved immensely. So some of ths is getting better. but a facility between Stand Off and Lethbridge may have prevented some of the addictions of 12-14 year olds, as well as deaths, they are now experiencing. We will never know!
We will no doubt continue to agree to disagree, I think Policing will not solve the problem. If it did, then Police Forces that have amazing successes would be showcased.
I am unaware of any, so until the judicial system changes policing will not be effective.My opinion only.
Water and sewer was covered in the plan, if you had actually read it?

Last edited 6 months ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

We do agree on some things at least. But I have showed you evidence of a Targeted Community Crime Reduction program in southern US that did achieve success and had a 78% success rate in treatment through that program which included drug courts and 12-18 month treatment programs, which by the way were faith based.
Faith based treatment programs are the most successful, proven in many ‘respected’ researches preformed which were not biased.
I wish you well Dennis, I don’t hate anyone, including you and hope that if you are going through some serious health issues, you find peace with God. I want to clarify something . . . I only support Streets Alive, as I do the Food Bank and have nothing to do with the operations. I met Ken Kissick decades ago and lost touch for many years and only know them to say hi during the rare chance meetings.
Yes, I am a Christian, but still very much a work in progress, and I have only read the Bible front to back 8 times. I do not believe I am better than anyone else, and as you are, I am tired of seeing people die on our streets.
Many of the overdoses in the last year were these people who hang out all night, and they are driven to be there by organized crime. If you save the ones there currently, then organized crime will only bring in more from other communities. I have seen this happen many times!
I do believe law enforcement is needed to stop this and have a better understanding than many, after working the streets and witnessing many overdoses and fatals.
Law enforcement alone will not solve it! You need it backed up by drug courts and ‘effective’ treatment programs!
There were a fraction of the deaths when there was anti-drug policing, and I remember heroine, PCP, MDA being prevalent on the streets in the 1970’s. Firm policing saved many lives.
Harm reduction policies push for no law enforcement and allowing the addict to make their own decisions on treatment.
BC is the best example, tangible proof it is a failure after 20 years.
Increased law enforcement that are anti-drug, along with drug courts and effective treament programs are not the same as before, and HAS proven to be effective.
I wish you well Dennis . . . truly!

ewingbt

I should add that Lethbridge should brace for an influx on our Lethbridge streets from those who live rough so they can commit crimes, as Edmonton moves to shut down encampments.
As always, some will end up on our streets down here and we should be prepared to re-act to the increase before they also embed themselves on our streets.
When Calgary gets their increase of officers to target street crimes there, you will also see some come here, thinking they can conduct their illegal trades here easier. We should be prepared!
With that comes confrontations as they maneuver for their own territory on our streets.

Last edited 6 months ago by ewingbt
Chmie

Council lives in its own bubble. Complaints r not accepted. Ideas are not accepted. There r many keyboard warriors out here with great ideas that should be considered. Remember council is elected not appointed and should be working for the tax payer not just the special interests with questionable recommendations.