Sunday, November 22, 2009

Former Saanich mayor calls for amalgamated policing

Mel Couvelier has an op-ed piece in the Times Colonist calling for amalgamated policing. As he puts it, "The need to seriously consider amalgamating municipal policing services is inching ever closer."

Mr. Couvelier is a former Saanich mayor and provincial finance minister. He ran for mayor of Sidney in the 2008 municipal elections.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Issues on Traffic

Saanich Snarl worse than crawl, mayor says

With multiple municipalities, it seems necessary for Mayor’s to deflect critical terms from their area to others, hence the Colwood Mayor referring to the "Saanich Snarl" instead of the “Colwood Crawl”. This of course is an entire waste of dialoged, as the people know that the traffic slow down starts at least at the hospital and affects mainly those going to Colwood/Langford. Trying to change the name of the problem is plain silly.

This came to light while Colwood council, one of the 13 municipalities was considering the proposed Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project route.

In that review they support, a rapid-transit line to Colwood Corners rather than down Wale Road to Langford. Now we will have to see what Langford says. They might be right of course. It may also be appropriate to consider these meetings as “community input” which is certainly required. Would it not be better though to have community input, but have the final decision placed upon one elected body for the region? Right now that will never happen.

On a related note, Colwood council does not seem to support Victoria's request to the CRD for gas-tax funds to offset the rail component cost of the Johnson Street Bridge replacement project. Colwood Coun. Brian Tucknott is quoted as saying: "The rail does not come anywhere near Colwood. Very few of our citizens would use it”. This is such an insular, unhelpful and narrow view of life in our city. No wonder little gets done in an effective way. Few citizens of Victoria will use the rail at all. They all live close to downtown. Yet they will clearly pay. If a rail line has benefits for the overall community, we should all pay. If it does not, then we should not build it. Whatever the decision, it would be best made by a city council representing all of us and our interests in a way that could reasonably debate the issue and vote on it.

Interestingly, Langford Coun. Lanny Seaton is quoted as saying: "This is a rare opportunity for Langford to support Victoria.” How sad that it is considered rare, for one neighbor (or perhaps the better analogy is, resident in the same house) to support the other.

Victoria police pulling out of regional expenses

The Victoria Police department is asking for a $2.35 million increase to their budget. They are also considering dropping out of the CREST radio system. They cite cost as the reason to pull out of the Regional Crime Unit. They also have to pay more for the computer access to share information between police departments.
So what is wrong with this?

First, if the police were amalgamated CREST, a separate agency put in place to manage the new radio system would not even exist. Thus while it could still have problems, it would be the police department that would be accountable for the problems, as they would have implemented what they felt was needed (or should have) in the first place. At a minimum the duplication and delay from having yet another level of management might have been avoided.

Second, if we have one police department protecting us in the area, no one would be pulling out of a Regional Crime Unit. The one department we should have for our region would hopefully be managing its resources to fight crime all over the city. They might change how they do that from time to time, but no one would be pulling out of sharing resources, knowledge and crime fighting.

Third, I cannot say that there would be a cost savings if all the departments regionally were one and thus already sharing information between departments, but one has to wonder if there are significant cost savings to be had through the use of the same technology in a larger department. Certainly the cost of soft ware licenses often gets cheaper as the number of units increases. Thus it is possible that cost savings might be found through a larger purchasing power.

Victoria alone makes Beacon Hill a heritage site

Victoria councilors agreed to designate Beacon Hill Park as a heritage site. No input was obtained by the majority of the region’s population.

Victoria of course does not have to consult, ask or even follow the direction of the majority of the region. It can do what it likes regardless of the fact that it is controlling an assets used and which benefits the entire region.

It may be that they are doing the right thing, if so that is lucky. The problem is that Beacon Hill, the inner harbour, the Blue Bridge, the Blackball Ferry terminal, and so many other key components of downtown are not areas in which only Victoria’s have an interest. These are key components of the entire city and it is wrong and unfair to allow a minority to dictate what will happen to them.

The region is entitled to input and control over these regional assets and that will only occur in an amalgamated city. The situation right now is grossly unfair. Obviously with control comes responsibility which the region should readily embrace. Better planning will come from the input of the entire region. Without question, an amalgamated city would have a better chance of getting the top people into office who could spend the time and effort to make the best decisions while considering the interests of the entire region.

Victoria considers giving Quadra a HOV lane (up to Sannich)

Victoria is looking at the "big-city" idea of making one of the lanes of Quadra into a HOV lane to encourage people to use the bus or car-pool.

Yet there was no indication that Saanich is even being considered in this. Recognizing that Victoria only controls Quadra Street up to Tolmie Avenue, it would be pointless to have an HOV lane only halfway up the street.

The fact that only one city is looking at ideas like this, or even that one city has to then convince another city that they should also cooperate, results in poor government.

If an HOV lane is a good idea, we should have one government considering it and deciding if it should be implemented.

Good government is one unified government which would consider issues like this, in the best interests of us all. That is something we do not have.