May 21 GPC Summary & Observations

It was a fairly lengthy meeting this morning despite the relatively short agenda. Issues like the  Urban Forest Management Plan, community mailboxes and a simple advocacy motion for a PTSD presumptive clause in WCB legislation (like they have in Alberta) all took a fair bit of time to work through. Of note is that the meeting started off with removal of the 1st quarter financial update from the agenda – apparently it will come back with the 1st quarter departmental reports once they come available. In June maybe?

So what happened today?

Victoria Airport Authority

It was a pretty interesting presentation. The VAA CEO & President Geoff Dickson is a very quick talking intelligent sounding man. He provided a brief run through of 2014 accomplishments at the airport and also provided an overview of upcoming capital plans (as likely outlined in their Master Plan). One item of note from this morning is that it would appear as though some lobbying is needed to get better bus service to the airport.

Mr. Dickson indicated that the trouble is needing to line up the #72 bus which stops frequently  throughout the day at the McTavish exchange with the much less frequent #88 bus which runs to and from Sidney and the Airport. Apparently  2011 service levels are no longer adequate because month over month there are record passenger levels at the airport. Mayor Helps suggested that Mr. Dickson write a letter to the Minister of Transportation requesting better bus service.

Because it was just a report for information, it was received by Council with no commitment to any actions from their end.

Action Plan for Housing & Supports for Street Homeless People

The Director of Legislative & Regulatory Services spoke briefly to this item, a short report that just says a full report will be coming forward. Apparently staff are still working through how to incorporate all lessons learned from Dignity Village in Oregon and that a  full report on housing options will be provided to Council.

Councillor Isitt made a specific request to involve some sub-group who has broke away from the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness (the formal city mechanism for homeless stuff as far as I know) in Action Planning and the City manager made some vague comment about a city commitment to supporting the need for a “champion”.

For who or for what I don’t know.

The report was received for information.

Growing in the City

This  report from the Director of Parks and Recreation regarding Urban Food Production & Boulevard Gardening in the City of Victoria was well received and frequently praised for how thorough and well organized it is. Councillors then shared their various experiences with gardening in the city and everybody agreed that local food production is good. Thornton-Joe asked if an educational urban bee keeping component could be added to the discussion and Madoff reminded everyone that the deer issue will probably have to be dealt with sooner than later.

More urban food = more deer.

The one thought that I had while observing this discussion is just again, that Council loves it when you form a group and come forward with a need. Once you do this, they’ll play ball. The group that was talked about today is the Victoria Urban Food Table group, which apparently has 40 some odd members.

Of note is that apparently the new City Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture starts work next week.

Urban Forest Master Plan

As I predicted yesterday in my Early Thoughts, this issue (an update report) got a whole lot of table time today. Mostly because of Councillor Isitt – Councillor Young also had a number of things to say.  At the root of Isitt’s concerns was a worry that the City is not replacing trees at the rate they remove them (see 2014 street tree inventory for context) while Young just really wants to see local people consulted about what sort of trees they want in their neighbourhoods.

There was a bit of an awkward moment when Isitt tried to go against a prior decision by Committee Chair Helps by continuing to push for “surgical enhancements” to the City’s tree preservation bylaw. His reasons for doing so is that everyone (especially him) talk frequently of the many weaknesses of this bylaw, especially during PLUC meetings when trees get removed. Instead of just continuing to complain about the bylaw, Isitt wants to fix it.

Isitt wasn’t really getting anywhere this morning though because staff had already revealed in response to question from Alto that a review of the Tree Preservation Bylaw is still a few years out “due to resources”. Similarly, staff indicated that the tree replacement schedule is running behind because staff are trying to “work within resources”. Responding to this general theme the City Manager  spoke up at one point in his quintessential non-answer style of answering  to remind Council that an Operational Plan (building from the approved budget & strategic plan) will be coming forward to Council shortly (at the next GPC I think). Helps also spoke about how she and  Madoff will be bringing forward guidance for how Council can amend their strategic plan going forward.

It’s all very backwards.

Strategic Plans should be at the top.

Budgets should reflect strategic Plans.

Operational plans should incorporate budgets & strategic plan.

Here in the City, the budget got built, the strategic plan got created, some monies from the budget got moved around for strategic purposes and now the City Manager suggests that clarity will be provided by an operational plan? Trouble is, as far as I see it, is that both the strategic plan and budget are insanely detailed documents and so honestly, what new information will the operational plan provide? Timelines I guess? Perhaps more structure for Council so they remember “oh crap – we already passed a budget and workplace. We should really stop adding all sorts of new work to the pile!”

Probably not.

Councillor Thornton-Joe made some practical observations this morning about the need to also consider legal claims made against the city because of urban trees (by branch/root damage etc) and the need to go through community associations for notification purposes when a decision is made to remove a diseased/damaged tree. Thornton-Joe also asked if the city has a tree memorial dedication program (similar to the memorial bench program) and was told by staff that they are looking at the memorial program and will be bringing some options forward for council.

In the end, Council “received” the update report for information.

Recreation Fees Bylaw Review

As anticipated, there was some politicking (driven by Alto) on this report from the Director of Parks and Recreation. Instead of moving Option 1 as recommended, Alto moved Option 2 which was then passed by GPC with unanimous support:

  1. That Council direct staff to amend the Recreation Fees Bylaw No. 10-036 effective September 1, 2015 as outlined in Appendix I of this report.This will result in an increase to revenues of approximately $16,700 during the period September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016.
  2. That Council direct staff to amend the Recreation Fees Bylaw No. 10-036 to reflect a 1% overall increase with exceptions as listed in the report, effective September 1, 2015.This will result in an increase to revenues of approximately $11,100 during the period September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016.

Looking forward to the 2016 request for an annual fee increase, Council asked that staff provide facility rental figures so as to provide context for consideration of rate. Staff said: Easy to do.

Community Mailboxes

Man. GPC consideration of this report from the Public Works and Engineering Department regarding the movement of Canada Post, away from home delivery and towards community mail boxes, took forever. I stopped listening after a point. It was all very political.

Councillor Loveday did some good work in exacting a commitment from City staff to make public the list of 31 possible community mailbox locations for Vic West. Isitt commented that he’d previously leaked the list on Facebook after being provided with it from a postie while the City’s spokeswoman said that she has a different more detailed list of sites and that the City would post it within the hour.

After I tweeted the City looking for clarification, I was told it is now available under the Council reports page of the City website:

Proposed List of Vic West Locations

GPC ended up passing some amended amended amended amended version of the staff recommendation which was that Council:

a) Request that staff ask representatives from Canada Post to make a presentation to Council on the community mailbox transition.
b) Request more information from Canada Post regarding plans for community consultation on proposed locations, and post that information on the City’s website, to inform residents.

Of note is that Councillor Young tried to argue, and was actually supported by Coleman, that a decision by the City to continue to lobby against the end of door to door delivery (an inevitability because have you heard of the computer? demanded Young this morning) will actually weaken their position to  negotiate with Canada post for placement and maintenance of Community mailboxes – he wasn’t successful.

Everyone but him agreed this morning to send a bunch of letters demanding that door to door service be continued, and forgive me for being a cynic but I assume this is because Community mailboxes are a super political urban issue and everyone other than Young was content to score political points. That said, they may also have some legitimate concerns but none of them were really defined in any tangible way. It was a lot of talking about talking this morning.

New Business

Continuing in the tradition of random council motions there was:

Cycling Network Implementation

The  motion from Mayor Helps and Councillor’s Loveday and Isitt was passed as written. I was somewhat surprised to then read in the TC when I got home that there is a Protected Bike Lane Open House from Noon – 7pm on Pandora in front of City Hall on Tuesday.

I don’t think this was mentioned today.

Presumptive Clause for First Responders

Councillor Young was a bit more effective in response to this  motion for advocacy by the City from Councillors Loveday, Madoff and Thornton-Joe. His argument this morning was “how am I supposed to advocate for something when I don’t know what I’m advocating for” because the actual “presumptive clause” in question was not made part of the Council motion.

Which made sense.

Issue simplified = The proposed motion on the table is to support the inclusion of some PTSD specific presumptive clause in WCB legislation, so that similar to other matters of workplace illness etc, 1st responders who get traumatized from the really horrible things (accidents etc) they see at work are offered basic workplace protections.

After a lot of back and forth about the issue this morning, everyone agreed that more information needed to be provided as part of the agenda package when this issue comes up again for formal approval at their next Council meeting.






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