Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Today's email to Mayor and Council in advance of their stategic priorities session this afternoon.  Hope that some have time to give it a quick look.

Quick thoughts for Victoria Strategy:

As a citizen I would focus on many issues; as an advocate focusing on particular issues I’ll be more brief.

·         Protect, if not grow investments in and work on pedestrian, cycling and greenways facilities.

The city’s vision statement celebrates our “world class” status.  When it comes to livability and economic vitality, our advantage is in support for healthy lifestyles, active transportation and a green, environmentally friendly city.  Attract and retaining sustainable businesses will require more investment in supporting new generations of workers who will walk, cycle, or take transit for transportation.  North American trends show a significant decline in driving and Victoria will lose if we don’t keep ahead of that curve.  Reducing auto dependence also allows us to provide housing more cheaply, allowing people who work here to also live here.

·         Keep investing in parks, trees and our green-space.  It builds the kind of environment we will want to live in, and supports walking and cycling – an attractive environment and clean air to breathe support active lifestyles.

These initiatives would also help the city advance sustainability objectives and commitments to reducing carbon emissions and our contribution to global climate change.

·         Restore public advisory committees

Last term several committees were collapsed into super-committees where agendas were too broad to attract enough interest or enough focus on key issues facing the city to be effective.  The lack of connection to departmental staff and the absence of council liaisons deprived citizens of meaningful engagement and council of useful feedback on policy and projects undertaken by the city.

For many services and projects (and for the interests I represent), this gap undermined efforts to respond to key needs in the community for more and better walking and cycling facilities.  Losing the cycling committee and the transportation committee distanced citizens from a useful forum in which the decision to choose a new bridge over refurbishment could have been more effectively communicated, gaining more early support and capturing positive ideas on details of design – an opportunity that can still be useful on road approaches on either side of the new bridge, and particularly on improvements to the walking and cycling environment.

This too would help the city improve citizen engagement, another key objective in your Corporate Strategic Plan.  A good model exists in Saanich where, for example, a bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, chaired by a member of council, provides a very useful forum in which to review plan priorities and design details.  Better committees would be useful in other areas where citizen engagement is withering.  We need stronger connections between council and citizens.

·         Take leadership on transit issues

Take a cue from Waterloo, where the high tech industry is speaking in unison in support of their LRT plan.  Building a stronger economy and attracting the kinds of businesses that Victoria is suited to will not be in catering to more roads and parking lots.  LRT is the best tool for addressing key public transportation challenges; it can aid in the development of more density and living space in downtown and along the Douglas corridor; and it will help meet many other objectives in building a sustainable community at all levels.

There are many other issues and responsibilities that the city needs to take on to renew our aging infrastructure and build an economic model that supports dynamic and sustainable growth to maintain our “world class” status.  It will not be advanced by cutting investments in arts and culture, active transportation and other green initiatives and key services the city provides.  We can’t build a better city if our focus is on cutting more of what makes our city “world class”.

No comments:

Post a Comment