Is Strong Towns the same as 15-minute cities?

    No. This program has absolutely nothing to do with 15-minute cities. A 15-minute city is simply one where the amenities our residents need daily, like a grocery store, schools, parks, and health care offices are located within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from their home. That describes most areas of Medicine Hat today, but is unrelated to the Strong Towns Community Action Lab.

    To learn more, take this free online course:

    Strong Towns 101

    Who is Strong Towns?

    Strong Towns was established in 2011 as a registered non-profit urban planning advocacy group. Their platform is dedicated to providing education on making communities financially strong and resilient. They host a vast library of thousands of free articlespodcasts, and videos. They also have a “Strong Towns Academy” where they offer courses to dive into specific topics.   

    Strong Towns was established by Charles or “Chuck” Marohn, a Civil Engineer and City Planner, and author of several popular books. In addition to guiding us through this Community Action Lab, Chuck will also be presenting live at public events in Medicine Hat in 2023.

    The next free public presentation will be:
    Tuesday, November 28, 2023
    7:00-9:00 pm
    Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre - Main Theatre

    Sign up now

    What is the Community Action Lab?

    The Community Action Lab is 2-year program the City of Medicine Hat is participating in with Strong TownsThis program will help introduce Strong Towns ideas on growth, development, and public investment in Medicine Hat. Strong Towns has selected 4 cities across North America to partner with and provide education and guidance over a 2-year intensive learning program.

    Medicine Hat Community Action Lab

    What is taking place over the 2-year Community Action Lab?

    The Community Action Lab consists of two phasesIn the first year Strong Towns will be educating and coaching 16 City staff members on various topics from their library.  Action Team members have agreed to take on this opportunity to learn from case studies from all over the world.  

    The second year of the Community Action Lab is the “Implementation phaseDuring this period, Strong Towns will provide the opportunity to begin implementing principles learned during the previous year. They will guide staff and provide additional resources when needed.  

    Throughout the Community Action Lab, Strong Towns will regularly brief a Leadership Team on progress throughout the program. 

    Strong Towns is also hosting in-person events throughout 2023. Over 500 local people participated in the kick-off event in February 2023. 

    Who is on the "Action Team"?

    16 City staffers, mostly Senior staffcomprise the Action Team.  This team includes Planning and Development Services, Parks & Recreation, City Assets, Fire & Emergency Services, Community Development, Environment Land & Government RelationsLand & Properties, Business Transformation Office, Assessment, and Transit. 

    Who is on the "Leadership Team"?

    The Strong Towns Leadership Team is made up of over 60 prominent local people representing the various facets of our community. Members come from backgrounds in housing, tourism, education & health, economic development, environmentalism, social services, and many more. 

    Members of the Leadership Team will meet on-line with Strong Towns every 2 months. The goal of these meetings is to keep our decision makers informed on progress through this program, provide them an opportunity for questions, and to encourage these leaders to begin thinking about how they can be involved throughout this initiative. 

    Why is the City of Medicine Hat participating in the Community Action Lab?

    A large part of the Strong Towns approach is to consider the financial implications of our current development patterns. Specifically, that the way we are growing as a city is financially unsustainable. In 2022, the City of Medicine Hat had a municipal budget of $80M, and spent $89M. This has been the case for several years. 

    We have made great strides towards rendering our City more financially resilient through policies from our Municipal Development Plan. Participating in this program will help accelerate the implementation of these policies and help identify where we can make further strides towards financial solvency. 

    What’s the problem with the way the City of Medicine Hat and other cities are growing?

    Around the mid-century, the way North American cities grew changed in a very fundamental way. This was the first time a land developer would sub-divide a large portion of land, build all the infrastructure (the roads, sidewalks, sewers, and electric lines) and then sell individual parcels for development. Once built, the responsibility of maintaining this infrastructure was handed over to the town or city. 

    The City of Medicine Hat does not collect enough tax revenue to fix and maintain our residential neighborhoods in their current state as these areas age over timeAdditionally, all the infrastructure in these large areas was built at once, meaning it will all need to be completely replaced at roughly the same time. This is a very large financial burden to face, and must be addressed if the City is to remain financially solvent. 

    Historically, cities grew much more incrementallySmall parcels would be developed and would evolve to accommodate changing needs. It’s much more financially manageable to maintain this type of growth, because it doesn’t involve huge liabilities that then become the City’s responsibility to maintain forever.

    To learn more, take this free online course:

    Strong Towns 101

    What will be the outcome of participating in this Community Action Lab?

    The result of this program will be the City’s capacity to make more informed decisions towards our long-term financial sustainability. Things will not change overnight from participating in this program. As our Municipal Development Plan is a 30-year plan for the City, this too will result in long-term changes that may take years to fully realize.  

    If supported by City Council, any directional shifts that are recommended by the Action Team through their Strong Towns training would take place gradually over many years. This is part of our long-term evolution as a financially strong city 

    We’re already on the right track to financial resiliency, and participating in this partnership with Strong Towns will help us identify even more tools that we can use to our advantage. 

    Is Strong Towns about more than financial resiliency?

    Strong Towns is about more than just the financial implications of our development patterns. It’s also about grassroots solutions that are brought forth by residents 

    Check out our quick-start guide called “5 Steps to Becoming a Strong Community Citizen” where we share tips and resources. We include information on creating community associations, and details on Community Vibrancy grants and micro grants which are available in Medicine Hat.

    There is also a link to “Local Conversations” on the Strong Towns platform where residents can link up with other locals who want to make a change in our city. 

    Can I find more answers to frequently asked questions?

    In February 2023, an "Ask Me Anything" online Q&A was hosted on Reddit by a City of Medicine Hat Senior Planner. Answers to posted questions can be viewed below:

    See Reddit conversation here