A local citizen has started a petition that ultimately asks for a municipal election, citing several growing problems in the city such as cost of living and disorder in the downtown core. MHN FILE PHOTO

A petition was started on Thursday by a local citizen over feelings of a lack of accountability and transparency on city council.

“My hope is that they see it and address it – without hiding behind PR and marketing,” says Nicole Frey, creator of the petition and founder of the Animal Food Bank.

“I can’t sit here and do nothing. Medicine Hat is in a crisis. A city not growing is a city dying.”

The petition states that too many excuses are being made in regards to addressing many of the issues affecting the city. The issues the petition cites include increased homelessness and drug use, safety, the state of the downtown core, a “Responsible animal ownership” bylaw for TNR (tag, neuter and release) and higher costs of utilities, energy and groceries.

“We appreciate the engaged citizens of our city and value their opinions,” Deputy Mayor Shila Sharps said in a statement provided by corporate communications specialist Terra Petryshyn. “As a council, we understand that people have varying sentiments, and can appreciate that constructive disagreement can lead to great decisions. We respect the democratic process and encourage citizens to voice their perspectives. ”

In an interview with the News, Sharps acknowledges that cost of living is a difficult problem not just for the local community but across the country, but that the power to handle such matters comes from other levels of government. “Regulated rates are set by the province,” says Sharps in regards to higher costs on utilities, energy and groceries. “That isn’t a Medicine Hat decision.”

She says citizens are getting the wrong impression about the TNR bylaw that would address the issue of feral cats, and that it has not been defeated and still has to go to third reading. She says council is also exploring ways to address ongoing drug use and rising overdoses.

The released statement provides a link where citizens are able to apply to join a city committee, commission, or board that engages directly with administration to provide guidance on important matters in the community, as well as advice on funding distributions, community initiatives and more. The link, however, leads to a website suggesting such application deadlines were Feb. 7, 2023.

“That’s no solution,” says Frey. “Their statement was pretty much a shining example of everything I called them out in my petition write-up.”

Sharps emphasizes that council itself does not write city bylaws.

“The administration writes bylaws, council approves (or disapproves them),” explains Sharps. She adds that council members are abiding by the MGA (Municipal Government Act).

The petition claims council members are showing an inability or unwillingness to properly research issues affecting the local community, yet still voting on such matters. The petition also emphasizes an unwillingness to speak and answer to the constituents directly.

“I respond to every email,” says Sharps in response to accusations that she is hiding, adding that she is willing to meet directly with whomever wishes to do so. She feels it’s a matter of some people not liking her direct responses or being unwilling to be civil while resorting to name calling.

The petition message written by Frey states that, “Being in the public eye comes with criticism and nasty messages.” However, the petition also holds that this should not be about how the council feels people are speaking to them but rather about the issues people are upset about.

Ultimately the petition claims to be pushing for a municipal election.

“We have no where else to go,” says Grey. “We can’t fire them, we can’t recall them (and) they don’t listen to us privately.”

Council session videos that refer to these matters are available to view on YouTube. Sharps emphasizes that people should go and watch the videos before making accusations or judgments.

“They actually don’t have to take anybody’s word for it.” says Sharps. “It blows my mind that it’s all on video and nobody wants to go watch it.”

As of this writing the petition stands at 311 signatures and can be found at http://www.change.org/p/call-a-municipal-election-city-of-medicine-hat. Sharps says she is also willing to return calls and emails to anyone who inquires.

By FERNANDO MORENO-PRADO, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 08, 2023 at 08:07

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta
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