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Council Candidate Vesna Higham on 5 Pillars of Her Election Platform

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I’m running for City Council in the upcoming municipal election because I care about this community that has been our home for over 23 years. I care about what happens to our city, and believe I have the accumulated experience, skill set, vision, and leadership to make a difference on Council.

I’m a retired lawyer, committed wife & mother, experienced appeal board adjudicator (both locally, regionally, and provincially), former high school basketball referee for 14 years (in Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto), engaged community volunteer over many years, and former Red Deer City Councillor (2001-2004).

My husband Doug and I have been proud to raise our 5 children in this wonderful community that has blessed our family with marvelous opportunities to enjoy an active lifestyle in a visually attractive, park and trails inspiring, diverse, and peaceful community. Throughout the years, I’ve tried to balance a busy family life with meaningful community service and connection. After our youngest was born in September 2004, I took a break from public life, but always contemplated a return bid when the timing felt right for our family.

What I stand for …
? Approachable, Accountable, Transparent stewardship at City Hall – Councillors SERVE, not rule.
? I’m a FISCAL CONSERVATIVE who believes in balanced restraint and a common sense approach to spending your hard earned tax dollars.
? The freedoms, rights, and privileges we enjoy in this country were secured at a high price, and can only be maintained at the cost of an informed and engaged citizenry. “Where much is given, much is expected” … I believe is a true adage.

The 5 Pillars of my Election Platform are:

1. COMMUNITY SAFETY & SECURITY – Top Priority

My vision for addressing CRIME in our community is that we need to direct K-Division and local resources to identified, targeted needs: so YES, more officers on our streets, but also more police VISIBILITY & PRESENCE, and more police interface with ordinary citizens & community groups to engage and inform. Utilize “Notify Red Deer” as a tool to interface with citizens as needed.

? Citizens benefit by personal police connection to direct how we can become part of the solution (ie: report ALL crime, Neighbourhood Watch, Citzens on Patrol, regular meetings with neighbours (attended by police) to be each other’s eyes and ears on the streets, etc).

? Transfer some of the bureaucratic & paperwork burden from trained officers to increased clerical staff (at significantly less expense), to free up officers to maintain a greater police presence on our streets.

? More focus on innovative crime fighting strategies like ALERT, or Project Pinpoint – so that we work smarter, in addition to working harder. Speaking of which …

? COMPSTAT: Over a period of 8 years, Mayor Rudy Giuliani utilized the highly successful COMPSTAT program in New York City, to reduce murders in that city by nearly 70% and overall crime by about 65%! The impact of Compstat was immediate and revolutionary: major crimes fell 12.3% from 1993 to 1994. Murders and robberies dropped 17.9% and 15.5% respectively over that same initial first year.

The principle behind Compstat is simple: collect and analyze crime stats DAILY to identify patterns and potential problems. Transmit that data to a map of the city that shows geographical concentrations of criminal activity and sorts them out by hour of the day, type of crime, and day of the week. Produce weekly summaries to reflect trends over time, and THEN assign officers and resources to the targeted areas in a proactive manner. Other cities throughout the States have since implemented Compstat with similar results.

So, what can we learn from this?

I believe we should absolutely look to implement the simple, but rigorous tenets of Compstat to address crime in our community, rather than looking to reinvent the wheel – or merely “throwing more officers at the problem.” It may take some organizational effort and considerable “buy in” on several levels to bring our current operations on board, but if we’re serious about fighting crime, we have to be willing to do some things differently.

? MUNICIPAL POLICE FORCE: I also believe we should examine the future viability of a “hybrid” police service, consisting of a primary Municipal force, with an ongoing RCMP contract to address certain types of crime (drug trade and organized crime, etc.). There are significant benefits to having a municipal force, including local officers who stay long term in the city and are deeply rooted and vested in the community, as well as the flexibility to directly hire, train, oversee and govern the force without having to answer to a federal body. However, with the current state of crime in in our community, I don’t believe that now is the time to make a switch over to a new policing model.

At the moment, we need to be able to increase capacity and efficiency in our policing model, and the simple fact is the RCMP is considerably less expensive to operate per officer than a municipal force – not to mention the infrastructure and assets (fleet, equipment, uniforms, weapons, etc) we would have to fund on our own were we to set up a municipal force. Not that it can’t or shouldn’t be done – the timing is just not right at the present time.

Right now, we need the FOCUS, CAPACITY, and FLEXIBILITY of our existing model to swiftly address the crime spike in our community – then we can examine phasing into a “hybrid” service once we’ve achieved manifest results on that front.

2. FISCAL & ECONOMIC STEWARDSHIP – For most of the past 23 years, my husband and I have raised our 5 children on a single household income. So I understand the challenges of competing interests on a FIXED budget, and I would apply the same principles that guide our family budget to the City’s operations.

3. CORE COMMUNITY SERVICES – We need to look for efficiencies in the delivery of our public services. Easy to say, but MUCH harder to do, I understand; however, there are things that we can and MUST carefully review and weigh out in order to identify ways in which to realize the priority objectives this community demands and deserves. Here are some of my platform objectives under Core Community Services:

– Run dedicated bus routes up and down Gaetz Avenue for greater ease of access and to bolster daily commuter patrons.

– Synchronize traffic lights along key corridors to move traffic more efficiently throughout our community.

– Standardizing traffic circles so people can acclimate to one pattern of traffic movement throughout the city.

– Review the City’s Snow & Ice Removal policy. I believe the City has made significant improvements in this area over the past term (4 years), but people do still approach me with concerns about this issue. For your review, here’s a link to the current snow removal policy, as found on the City’s website:

http://www.reddeer.ca/city-services/roads/snow-and-ice-program/

In my conversations with the public, people are generally more focused on addressing crime than snow removal, because we have the 2nd highest Crime Severity Index in the nation, and because the City has made laudable improvements in this area.

What I would want to do before proposing any change to the current policy is to hear from the community by way of invitation to submit comments online – which could be managed by a quick request sent out on NOTIFY RED DEER to registered residents. By the way, are you registered for this wonderful communication tool? If not, sign up using this link:

http://www.reddeer.ca/whats-happening/notify-red-deer/

Also, we could easily consult with people by advertising in the paper, online, or with a quick, postcard like mailer that could go out in with the next city bill. I would like to hear from residents about what they need and want in respect of this program, because on my street up in Kentwood, the current policy seems sufficient.

– Maintain annual contributions to a Capital Savings Fund to spread these costs over time and plan wisely for ongoing & future capital investment.

– Find cost savings in projects or operations currently “approved in principle” – like the 100 million dollar Aquatics Center project which ought to be revisited and adapted to the pressing needs of the entire community at the present time. We know, for example, that we need more money to fight crime in the upcoming 2018 budget, so rather than increase taxes to fund policing, let’s look for ways to balance out funding pressures by either scaling back the Aquatics Center project, or by encouraging community fundraising or corporate sponsorship to fund a substantial part of the project.

4. SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – While Homelessness is currently down slightly over recent years, the IMPACT of their plight is more pronounced due to the growing opiate addiction crisis in our community. The province’s plan to install a Safe Injection Site in Red Deer merely hacks at the leaves without tackling the ROOT of the problem: addiction. We desperately need an Addiction Treatment Center in Red Deer to address the blight of addiction – both to give people back their lives, and to ameliorate the impact of drugs and crime on our entire community.

We also need to lobby the province for additional funding to address the CRITICAL need for hospital expansion, as well as lobby the province and feds for funding to bring vulnerable souls off the streets with more warming shelters and soup kitchen facilities in our city.

5. THE ENVIRONMENT – We ought to review and embrace trusted technologies to convert our WASTEWATER into ELECTRICITY with an Electric Co-Generation process that is both green smart and economically beneficial.

Also, around 40% of average household garbage in Red Deer can actually be composted, thus diverting organic material from our quickly depleting landfill. We should take the lead in advocating for a Regional Compositing Facility, to both extend the limited life of our landfill and to generate long term cost savings by involving participating partners in a pro-rated schedule of capital and operational expenses per municipality. It would be a win-win for all involved, and would evidence true environmental stewardship across our region.

Three words that define my candidacy are: INTEGRITY, EXPERIENCE, and COMMON SENSE. During my term on Council, I worked hard to bring the perspectives of ordinary working individuals and families to the council table, and to advocate for a common sense approach to municipal governance.

I have lots of ideas to address the pressing issues of this campaign on my VoteVesna Facebook page, whereon I post regularly on various issues. Or, please contact me at 403-505-1172 for a campaign brochure or modest car magnet (a lower-cost, drivable “lawn” sign!).

I believe that INTEGRITY matters.

I bring COMMON SENSE and real-life EXPERIENCE as a former City Councillor, and I would be honoured by your vote on October 16th. Thank you.

#VoteVesna
#Integrity #Experience #CommonSense

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Strategies to Manage Persistent Pain, September 16th

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Strategies to Manage Persistent Pain Thursday, September 16, 2021 1:00-2:00 pm
Red Deer Public Library Facebook Live

Come learn more about persistent (chronic) pain from our team at Red Deer PCN. You will learn about different types of pain, medication to manage ongoing pain, the effects and benefits of opioids, and the importance of non-medication strategies to help manage your pain.

Presented by Red Deer PCN’s Dr. Myburgh G.P, Jennifer Howe, Pharmacist & Jennifer Wallin, Psychologist.

Tune into Facebook Live at Red Deer Public Library Facebook page for this program.

This is one of a series of health-related programs co-sponsored by the Red Deer PCN and the Red Deer Library.
Watch for others in the series!

Read more stories from the Red Deer Primary Care Network.

 

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Community

Getting My Blood Glucose Back in the Normal Range Gave Me Tears of Joy

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Diabetes runs in my family; my mom has it and my grandma did too. Well before Christmas 2019, at a routine physical my doctor told me that I have diabetes. I tried to bring it down for the next 3 months, but I was not successful, in fact it got worse. At this time, the doctor referred me to the PCN Family Nurse. I started seeing her and we made plans for how I could get through the Christmas season. However, I did very poorly as I love sweets. Getting poor readings, feeling exhausted and worrying who would look after my daughter if something were to happen to me left me very lethargic and depressed.

The nurse was patient and very encouraging. She helped me to change my mindset. I decided to take up the challenge to improve my blood glucose. The nurse and I talked about the rice in my diet and portion sizes of rice. I am from an island nation and rice is our staple. I did some testing of my blood glucose after consuming some of my favorite foods and I notice that amount of rice I was consuming did increase my blood glucose significantly. I thought I could never have a meal without it being mostly rice but I have learned now that I can do this quite easily. Even though I have a puppy, I would only walk her for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.

Since my mindset change, I worked to build up my activity. I started with 5-minute stints and pushed myself forward until now I am at one-hour stints. I take the dog for nice long walks and we both enjoy it. People comment on how good I look and how much more energetic I am. I feel really good now, both physically and mentally. The nurse helped to give me the confidence to tackle diabetes. I had tears of joy when I learned my blood glucose is back to the normal range.

To learn more about the RDPCN programs, visit www.reddeerpcn.com

Lesley’s story: I Have the Tools I Need

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