April 21st, 2024

SPC report addresses lawlessness task force issues


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The terms of reference and other matters regarding the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force will be addressed by the Governance Standing Policy committee of Lethbridge city council this afternoon.

The SPC meets at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers and consists of councillors Belinda Crowson, Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, Rajko Dodic and acting mayor John Middleton-Hope.

The SPC will deal with a report to be presented by Director of Legal Services Brian Loewen which was made in response to a resolution passed on Feb. 22 by the SPC that requested him to review the task force terms of reference.

The recommendation Loewen will make is to direct City administration to establish the task force.

The review was prompted after two citizens, Yale Belanger and Stephen Graham, brought up concerns that two members had potential conflicts of interest. Hunter Heggie and Matthew McHugh are members of both the task force and the Lethbridge Police Commmission. Heggie is also on the board of the Downtown Revitalization Zone as are task force members Kendal Hachkowski and Sheri Kain.

“There’s nothing inherently non-compliant between the terms of reference for the DLR and the procedure bylaw, however, as currently structured, council must have considered that the matter is both urgent and time limited. While the determination that this matter is urgent may be inferred from the Council resolution and debate, a better practice in the future would be to include that determination in the resolution creating the committee. The resolution did include the end date of December 31, 2024,” states Loewen’s report.

“If council doesn’t view these issues as urgent and/or temporary, then establishing a more permanent committee through a bylaw is necessary,” the report adds.

The report notes that the definition of public member in the city’s procedure bylaw isn’t consistent with the Municipal Government Act or other applicable legislation, the key being the definition requires council to appoint a member.

By definition, the report states, provincially appointed members of the police commission would not be “public members” according to the procedure bylaw definition.

“If there was a conflict or inconsistency between a bylaw and provincial legislation, s. 13 of the MGA renders the conflicting/inconsistent bylaw of no force or effect, but only to the extent of the conflict or inconsistency. Pursuant to our procedure bylaw, a public member can only sit on one board or commission unless council makes the determination that conditions warrant the additional BCC appointment (s. 48(b) of the procedure bylaw),” says the report.

It also notes that while council has the authority to create the Business Improvement Area, it does not have power to appoint members. So therefore the BIA isn’t a board, commission or committee under the procedure bylaw “and does not count towards an appointment of a public member.”

The report states the LRTF is established under a section of the procedure bylaw that allows city council by resolution to set up urgent, short-term committees as long as it has a sunset clause.

“In practice, this avenue is intended for urgent, short-lived needs that would

make a bylaw impractical and is ideally limited to advisory bodies only. .. .If there is a desire for the Lawlessness Reduction Task Force to continue beyond the short term,it must be created by bylaw, pursuant to s. 21 of the Procedure Bylaw.”

Loewen’s report has lists four recommendations and options council could consider depending upon the vote by the SPC. Those include:

1. Do nothing. This temporary, advisory body may continue without any changes as it has no independent authority unless its decisions are ratified by council.

2. If council, wished to grant any decision-making authority to the DLR it must by created by bylaw. Alternatively, if the issue isn’t temporary, then it should be created by bylaw as well. Direct Administration to draft bylaw to establish a decision-making body to consider these matters.

3. As many of the issues affecting the Downtown could fall into the jurisdiction of the Police Commission, accordingly, council could request that the Commission consider creating a subcommittee with this mandate.

4. Lastly, this could be constituted as an administrative advisory body in which case council should not appoint members rather that would fall to the City Manager or delegate.

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ewingbt

What is missing in this article and in the Agenda Minutes is the attempt, once again to bring down the task force, change the membership and place it under administration. The motion was brought forth by Councillor Jenn Smidt-Remple and supported by Councillor Belinda Crowson, but failed to pass at 2 out of 4 vote.
It is well within the Committee members rights to make such a motion and part of our democracy, but I have to question why they want to re-organize a task force, bring further away from the public’s eye, with less openness and less public input. I also question those who appear to lobbying for this, since they do not live in the area in question, they do not own a business in the area, and do not seem to want to end the carnage on our streets that has taken so many lives and cost the taxpayers millions annually.
The current task force has the right people on it who have first hand knowledge of the issues, many having to deal with these issues daily, while the ones who oppose it, have little first hand knowledge of the issues and want to turn it into another committee that is away from the public’s eye.
No other committee has focused on the issues downtown that have stolen the peace and security of downtown, cost some businesses their livelihood, destroyed a venue that many once went to enjoy events, cost our city its reputation of once being a beautiful clean city many wanted to retire in, or work in, and pushed away many consumers who used to shop in the area but now refuse to come downtown.
Living downtown used to be great with events to attend at Galt Gardens without wading through groups of addicts, or being vigilant not to step on bio-hazards or needles, enjoying long strolls and stopping in for coffee or a beer, not hearing loud alarms going off that businesses have installed to push the groups of drug users away from their business with security concerns for their staff and clients or the almost constant sirens by fire/EMS responding to another overdose which is almost constant at the end of the month when the addicts get their cheques, calling EMS for another overdose, or walking down the street and not be assaulted by one of the people who now believe they own the streets. Not having your vehicle broke into, in a secured parkade that was breached the the addicts/gangs, not having your windows broken, brick walls covered in graffiti with offensive words or gang tags or a dumpster fire that has caused damage to your business, garage or shed or your wood fence torn apart for the addicts to burn or just to gain access.
Why would anyone not want to end all of this along with the senseless loss of life? That is what I just do not understand and I have to admit, I got so frustrated at this meeting I displayed more of an angry outburst when the time came for the public to comment in this Governance SPC meeting.
What still frustrates me is they can bring forth another motion, as their right, to bring down this task force again and again and again,
These actions by themselves negatively impact those sitting on this task force, as was witnessed in the first DLR Task Force meeting of this month and impede the process as many question why they are there when some Council and a few public members who won’t be happy unless we have another large SCS here along with all the non-profits needed to deal with the impacts, with the results of our streets looking like Vancouver DTES.
That first meeting this month clearly showed they were rattled by those who wanted it shut down.
As someone who lives downtown, worked downtown, walks downtown and conducts business downtown and has been fully engaged in trying to end the carnage on our streets for the past 7 years, this task force was the best idea and ‘committee’ we could have hoped for, with the best engagement by those representing the businesses downtown, those dealing with the issues downtown, those in city administration to advise and with police, fire/EMS input that has brought forth some positive results, just by the information that was brought forth, information that was acknowledged and in most cases, assisted agencies involved.
Sharing this information with public is vital in gaining a better perspective and finding solutions.
This task force cannot govern, make changes . . . it can only make recommendations to the SPC and the SPC then sends it to Council. BUT the information sharing from this task force, gives valuable information to the members who are not aware and can come up with their plans for their agencies to find resolutions for issues. There is no illegal bypassing of policies and the task force is operating within its designated guidelines, but achieving good resutls. There is no cost, to this task force, no budget, as stated in the meeting!
Why have a few, chosen to make this their mission to bring this down?
We need to pray for our Council and our committee members and we need to express our concerns, but not send them angry, threatening or disrespectful messages. Those silent downtown residents and businesses need to speak out, respectfully, but make your voices heard, or else the norms and values of society will change and we will be stuck with the current issues and it will just become normal.
I respect the Council members who brought forth this motion, it is their right, but hold no malice or hate against them. Am I frustrated . . . Yes!

R.U.Serious

Much thanks to you ewingbt for your commitment and time, and keeping us informed.
Your rundown of issues was precise. As you probably are aware, I own a business in the downtowntown and value endeavors such as this Task Force to determine the issues that have cost our own business more than $50,000 and made us decrease staffing.
The supervised illegal drug consumption site crushed a significant number of us downtown and cost numerous their livelihoods.
The Chamber of Commerce did nothing and even appeared to support the drug site! The NDP just amplified the issues, while the committees failed to help businesses, except allow us to have token amounts of subsidizing to better secure our businesses, which obviously the citizen had to pay for.
In light of my business hours and pre-opening preparations, I can’t go to the Task Force meetings, however I support it 100 percent and it has given a few of us some expectations of finally seeing some change. I acknowledge that the opposers of this Task Force are playing politics and not zeroing in on the issues. Some of us aware of where this is coming from.
Kindly keep on standing up for us! Come and see me in the event that you need anything. I lost your contact details!



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