LETTER: Bike lanes budget angers cyclist (Dec. 12); CRD fails 96 per cent of us (Dec. 18)
A $14.5-million price tag for a project initially tagged at $7.75 million? And Mayor Lisa Helps plays her semantic games by calling that number money originally allocated, not a budget. How on earth did council pass an expenditure like this without a budget? Sounds like fiscal gaming to me.
We are now looking at a project that is close to 100 per cent over “budget,” no matter what you choose to call it. And this is just Phase 1. How is it that projects like this, that will only be used by between 1.5 and five per cent of the population (depending on whose numbers you trust) are funded by 100 per cent of the taxpayers without being put to a referendum? But then our mayor is not a taxpayer, but a renter, and she cannot make the case that she effectively pays taxes via her rent, as her landlord expenses 100 per cent of his taxes against income, come tax time.
She enjoys 100 per cent of the usage of the Pandora protected bike lanes from her home in Fernwood to her office at City Hall, without paying a single cent directly towards it. Talk about a free ride.
The next day it comes to pass, that council okays an extra $3-million expenditure and Mayor Helps justifies it by saying it will come out of the Gas Tax allocation. An expenditure like that needs to be targeted at a more broad-based usage, such as transit or infrastructure maintenance, not towards a narrowly focused group like cyclists.
Clearly things are out of control and we need a new council that will re-discover common sense and a system of priorities. And by the way, I am also a cyclist who spent 25 years cycle commuting in Victoria, and didn’t need any protected bike lanes to survive.
RE Comment: Just being grumpy doesn’t fix regional challengers, Dec 3, 2017, Gary Holman
Gary Holman makes some valid points on the services that the CRD provides to the unorganized electoral areas of Juan de Fuca, Southern Gulf Islands, and Salt Spring Island. These are areas for which the CRD is the only local government and each member is directly elected by voters in those areas. Their population comprises 4% of the total CRD.
Where the CRD fails is with the other 96% of us in Greater Victoria’s 13 municipalities. The Local Government legislation is very clear: Municipal members are appointed to the CRD Board to represent the interests of their municipality. And while voters in Victoria and Saanich can state their preference for Board appointment during municipal elections, the mayors of those municipalities have no legal responsibility to respect that preference. And if the candidate is not elected to those councils, the whole exercise is moot.
CRD members are simply not elected by voters region-wide, and are ineffective at tackling major regional issues.
Consider the past actions of the CRD Board, where, 5 years ago, the CRD secretly purchased a $17 million property on Viewfield Road in Esquimalt to process sludge from sewage treatment, much to the well-deserved outrage from local residents. With the current Local Government Act legislation, this type of CRD folly could easily, and legally, be repeated. Then we have upwards of $75 million wasted by municipal squabbling over the sewage treatment site, where the Province finally had to wrest the project from parochial gridlock. Currently the Province is forced to mediate dissent on the legally-required Regional Growth Strategy, and local municipalities are fighting against a regional transportation authority.
To imply that all is well in the CRD is to deny current impasses and the history of wasted public funds by a group of appointed, unaccountable politicians. There is discord on every major file: sewage treatment, transportation, regional growth (impacting piped water, urban sprawl), and on critical emergency services such as 911 fire dispatch.
What is required is governance reform, including a study of the current municipal configuration of Greater Victoria, as well as for CRD members to be duly elected region-wide by voters who pay for the services.