By Tim Kalinowski on October 6, 2021.
Candidate Ryan Lepko promises “community driven” leadership if elected to city council.
“I am community driven,” he states. “I truly care about this city in its entirety. We are such a diverse and unique city, and I want to restore things back to the old normal instead of this new normal that we have become. I don’t like community members having to double lock their belongings. The community I grew up in; I just want to start moving it back towards that.”
Lepko, who is a probation officer by trade, says the main responsibility of council is to listen to community members and make sure it is tending to its citizens’ basic needs properly.
“My motto is government should take care of and protect you by providing emergency services and providing infrastructure: lights, roads, all the other stuff that runs the city,” he explains. “And when we go outside of that lane, we need to be really careful, and pick and choose, about why we are doing what we are doing.”
Lepko says citizens shouldn’t demand that government fix every social problem in a community.
“The government is looked to for every social problem, but I don’t believe that always needs to be the case,” he says. “Fresh Start started out of somebody’s garage. And now that has grown and been a very effective program that has helped thousands of people. Ken and Julie Kissick (Streets Alive) started out of a van, and they have developed a very good mission. They now have residential beds for their program.”
Despite these success stories, Lepko says he does not support rezoning for social housing if the surrounding community members are opposed.
“Ultimately it is about the safety of the community,” he says. “As a homeowner or business owner, when you buy a piece of property and invest in a home there is the expectation that the those types of things will not be around you.
“For the rules to change mid-course, I don’t believe that is fair for the homeowners or business owners that can be impacted. And there needs to be a strong consensus amongst the community before any rezoning should happen so that community has very clear idea of what is being proposed and exactly what it looks like, and clear avenues of recourse if that isn’t what it looks like.”
Instead of paying for big capital projects like a performing arts centre, Lepko says he would rather see that money reinvested in the community to pay for more policing and other emergency response services to deal with the crime and safety issues and improve local response times.Â
Lepko says he is also generally in favour of reconciliation efforts, but does not believe systemic racism exists in Lethbridge or in government in general. He acknowledges pockets of racism exist in Lethbridge, but feels most people are not racist.
“Who needs to do the reconciling?” he asks. “Most people are good, caring, compassionate, non-racist people. This community really is. Do people feel excluded at times? Absolutely. Do people not feel part of the larger community? Absolutely. I love the Native people. I feel some of the policies and just (the idea of) the reservations is racist in itself.
“I believe in the government getting out of their life completely, self-governship. I think that will be the ultimate reconciliation when the Native people are able to actually self-govern.”
Lepko is strongly supportive of treatment, rehabilitation and giving new opportunities to people coming out of treatment, in partnership with industry, in the forms of jobs.
“I hope to bring some new ideas and some fresh perspective just because I am involved in that (professionally),” he says. “I would like to see some partnership between City and industry to mentor some of the marginalized and homeless to bring some value, worth and dignity into their lives. I would like to partner (as a City) with faith groups. I envision the City as a focal point (for partnerships).”
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