Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crack pipes for free vs. none at all.

Victoria counsel will debate a proposal to distribute free crack pipes, the purpose of which is to reduce the spread of hepatitis C.

Conversely, Esquimalt is looking at ways to restrict the actual sale of glass tubes, steel wool and baking soda, all of which are used in smoking crack.

These municipalities border each other and aside from a periodic, discrete sign, no one walking around would ever know when they are in one or the other. So why would we have the possibility of such diverse situations in such a small area?

I suppose it is like allowing smoking on one floor of a building but not the other. But really, which ever is the right approach, should it not apply to the whole region?

If restricting the purchase of items is ever going to be useful in reducing crack use, it has to be region wide. Otherwise it is just a political “feel good” position (which will be pointless to crack users) and which will create useless bureaucracy, assuming it is even enforced.

If distributing free crack pipes is ever going to be useful in reducing hepatitis C, it has to be region wide. Otherwise it will have a limited effect, which while it might be useful, fails to achieve the potential benefit to the region in which we all live.

Regardless of which approach you support, would it not make sense that the approach be consistent in the region?

It could be suggested that someone could go to all 13 counsels to try and convince them to get on board with either proposal. However, that would be such a waste of energy, time and resources, compared to working with one or two effective cities.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sewage – The Outfall of which should be Amalgamation

The news again, as it will for some time, focused on the CRD and sewage. Remember that the CRD is making decisions on the biggest issue ever considered by the region and the residents of the area did not even elect these people to the CRD.

However the point is that the current proposal is for tow facilities, which will still result in raw sewage during heavy rainfall. This will be alleviated in the future when something more is built at Clover Point. This delay, “would allow the CRD to urge municipalities to fix their broken and leaky underground pipes.”

This is another ridiculous situation. Why would the CRD have to urge itself to do anything? It has to because we have 13 separate municipalities under the CRD. The fact is, whatever needs to be done, or not done, should simply be taken on or dismissed by THE city. The politicians of a city are elected to make decisions in the best interests of the citizens as a whole. We do not need the CRD to urge its own members to fix what is broken.

I also noted that the plan is now for a West Shore treatment plant in 2025. In the interim their sewage would be pumped to Esquimalt. No comment was noted from anyone in the West Shore. I take it they will be happy with this and can feel satisfied that their big stink over one large centre in Colwood was successful in eliminating that backyard. What of Esquimalt though?

Also, what of their threat to pull out all together? Perhaps the West Shore will pump sewage to Esquimalt for the next ten years and then say we will go on our own, or perhaps then the ideal land will be too developed to be used in that area.

This issue alone, should rally everyone to say that it only makes sense that a unified city or three would be best suited to undertake and manage these issues into the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

School Boards reflect similar conflicts to the Cities

While my concern is with having too many municipalities for such a small population, the news regarding the Greater Victoria school district getting a two-week spring break next year is of interest.

School trustees voted unanimously in favour of extending the 2010 break to two weeks from one. The decision applies to all schools in Greater Victoria School District 61, which includes Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal and a portion of Saanich and Highlands.

Now given that families may have children in different school districts, or at a minimum friends, cousins etc., it is illogical that children in the same Region could have different spring breaks. Private schools always did have a two-week break, but the majority of students have had the same break in all the public schools. The same week, the same length of time.

The fact students, their parents and the parents' employers, could be faced with different breaks in the same “City” suggests that not only should the cities amalgamate but so might the School Boards.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sweeping drug bust across Greater Victoria

Sounds like the police did a good job recently. They coordinated searches at the same time in Esquimalt, Victoria and the West Shore.

To do so, they had to get members of the:
1. Victoria Police,
2. The Regional Crime Unit,
3. Saanich Police,
4. Westshore RCMP,
5. RCMP Drug Section,
6. Military Police and
7. Both Emergency Response Teams from Greater Victoria.

Now while it is commendable that they were able to get all seven entities to work together in three municipalities, one has to wonder: Would this not have been easier to have been implemented with one regional police force?

Success on this endeavour is not the point. The fact that they had to call upon the resources of seven different groups raises significant possibilities of error. At a minimum it is clear that resources must have been wasted in coordinating and bringing in the different groups.

Citizens would feel much safer to have read that the Regional Police force made sweeping drug busts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Policing Continues To Be A Regional Issue That Is Not Being Addressed

We should have a regional police department and we should have it now. The issue comes up often and would clearly have been of value when Peter Lee killed his family in 2007. Typically, criminals do not keep within municipal boarders. A break and enter spree to the east of Harriett street might not be know to the police patrolling the west side of the street.

How can you really argue we would not be better off with the same computer records system, radios, knowledge base and focus on criminals throughout Greater Victoria?

The police officers themselves would prefer it. Perhaps there will not be the opportunity for as many to move up the ranks to Chief, but certainly the opportunities to all would be increased.

The fact is, the problems the police deal with cross every boarder every day and they should be one department to deal with all of it. The cost must be shared.

On May 10, 2009 a Victoria office broke his leg in a downtown melee. Arrested were three men in their mid 20s, from two from Saanich and one from Chilliwack. How can Saanich say they should not share the cost of policing downtown? How can any local municipality?

If my children or I are in downtown Victoria, which they we will be, I want to be safe. I accept that we should all share that cost. The brawl, which the Victoria police dealt with certainly put at risk people from a number of our municipalities.

If downtown is where the risks are, then that is where the region needs to put its resources. If there are problems in View Royal then a regional force will have the resources to deal with it.

The question is: do you want the best police force a city of 350,000 can have or do you want to save some money and put your children at risk when they go out at night?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

“Esquimalt, Saanich show why they need to Amalgamate”.

May 6, 2009 the TC front-page headline should have been “Esquimalt, Saanich show why they need to Amalgamate”.

Victoria went ahead to build an arena, which without question, is a regional facility. They did so with the agreement of other municipalities who agreed to provide funds for ten years.

Now some of those same municipalities, after about five years have pulled out. Esquimalt claims the City of Victoria should make an annual application to them for funding. Saanich has the gall to say our money seems to be surplus to their needs. View Royal and Oak Bay keep paying their small shares, but even those are considered to be reviewable each year.

This is wrong and reminds me of the silly issues up in Central and North Saanich when they could not agree on funding a mutual recreational facility resulting in different user fees depending on where you lived.

Clearly this was a regional facility that should be paid for regionally. To say one city needs to apply annually for funding from another city is a waste of time and simply wrong.

The Province could correct this by at least amalgamating the four core municipalities. How anyone could think we currently have good governance when this can occur, has a poor sense of what good government is.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

37-member community liaison committee needed to look at Transit

British Columbia Transit scrapped the plans to build dedicated bus lanes down Douglas Street. Now the province is paying another $800,000 for a region wide transit plan. They want to figure out how to connect downtown to the West Shore and in the future the Saanich Peninsula.

They have a 37-member community liaison committee, including representatives from municipal counsels, business, school boards etc. Nine different municipalities are separately represented. For some reason the other 28 people at the table will perhaps fail to consider the needs of these nine municipalities.

View Royal has one representative and Saanich has one representative. View Royal thus has 12 times the representation Saanich does. Twelve times.

So this is just wrong. First, no committee of 37 is likely to come up with the best plan for a city or a region. Whatever the result, likely it will either never be followed or a poor third best compromise for the region will be implemented.
One to three cities could best consider what is needed, what is affordable and what is practical.

Would it not be better to have a unified area consider our traffic and transit plans?

Mayor Fortin wants to have a commuter rail into downtown. He says “all the South Island mayors are behind this proposal” Really? Wait until they are asked to pay for it. Wait until View Royal is asked to chip in based on the distance traveled in their municipality.

Why do we need all the South Island Mayors to be behind it. The counsel should be behind it. The mayor is only one vote on each counsel anyway.
It is so frustrating to see issues such as this, which have such a major impact on all of us, being placed in the hands of so many with so many different perspectives.

Would it not be better for a committed, educated (on the issues) smaller group to gather and consider the facts, then present a proposal to one City counsel? Then that counsel could actually implement it? Or not. But at least then we could all bring them to task on the issue. As it is, if something gets derailed, by say Colwood, the rest of us can do nothing.

Emergency Preparation is for everyone not just downtown

The City of Victoria is advertising Emergency Preparedness week and things to do along with a list of items they suggest you have. These can be picked up at Victoria City municipal locations. But there is no advertising for what the residents in the other twelve municipalities should do or how they get their information.

Regardless of whether one thinks it is a good use of money to advertise the issue, you have to agree that if there is a major emergency in Victoria there will be one everywhere in the capital region. Thus, why is one of the thirteen municipalities advertising to the whole region on this issue and not the others?

Of course it would be the epitome of silliness to hear thirteen different radio ads, all with a similar but slightly different message on preparing for an earthquake. The media would certainly like the advertising revenue.

It just points out more issues (both emergency preparedness and advertising) that cross all local boarders. We should all be working on this together.