Issues

Fiscal Responsibility and Risk Management

Oak Bay relies almost entirely on resident taxpayers for funds to run our municipality. Residents expect:

√   fiscal responsibility

√   robust finances

√   infrastructure planning

√   forethought and vision

All of these are needed to ensure our community is well-resourced; there are a lot of challenges in the next few years. I’m entirely committed to the development of a financial plan that will guide Oak Bay into the future.

We need:

√   common sense

√   short and long term financial plans

Without these fundamentals, our efforts will continue to be reactive and fraught with uncertainty.

As taxpayers, we rely on municipal staff and council to research, establish and develop strong fiscal policy. Without a fiscally responsible plan for our current and future financial needs, we are left without guidance. We are exposing our community to excessive tax increases … the certainty of financial risk. A major failure of our very, very old infrastructure, complete lack of a plan to address it, puts the municipality in a very difficult fiscal situation.

I have extensive experience in 1) fiscally responsible financial planning 2) large project development and 3) risk management. I know Oak Bay will not be on solid financial footing without the comprehensive plans, necessary funds and the mitigation of risk needed to ensure we successfully addresses our infrastructure and fiscal challenges.

My career was spent bringing million dollar projects to fruition, on time, on budget.  I know I can work successfully with future council colleagues to ensure Oak Bay is both fiscally responsible and, we’re protected from unfunded/underfunded costs.

Infrastructure

This is the most pressing issue facing Oak Bay. For too long, successive councils have taken an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to our aging infrastructure. We cannot continue to ignore the looming threat to our financial stability and quality of life that is our aging sewer, water and storm drain systems. Regardless of the past inaction of successive councils, going back decades, we must address this problem now.

Decades have passed since the municipality should have created an up-to-date asset management report and an asset management plan. Developing a plan, backed by reserve funds that can be leveraged with other levels of government for grants and infrastructure funding, is essential to address our infrastructure requirements.

As part of a larger Community Development Plan, an Infrastructure Replacement and Revitalization Plan will be essential to guide our community development and collective futures. Every aspect of a community relies on quality infrastructure. Solid infrastructure supports all other activities within Oak Bay.

As our infrastructure deficits approach $253M, we have to ensure every effort to address infrastructure replacement is prioritized. Development Cost Charges (DCC) and Community Amenity Contributions (CAC) from large scale development and residential subdivisions must be enacted immediately to ensure Oak Bay does not continue to miss out on these financial resources that assist in addressing our infrastructure needs.

Pipes, sewers, storm drains, roads, potholes, crosswalk paint and other items may not be as visible in our collective minds on a day to day basis, but, when any of these fail, the costs, both human and financial can be catastrophic.

Participatory Planning and Budgeting

Local government has the most effect on our day-to-day lives; residents must be involved in the process, more often than just voting every four years. Community involvement is essential to Oak Bay’s well-being.

Oak Bay has one of the most educated populations in Canada. Currently, there’s little opportunity for our willing, experienced and knowledgeable residents to be actively involved in strategic planning and budgeting. Our residents want to be involved in the processes that define our community. And I want these voices at the planning and budgeting tables.

Other municipalities in the CRD have opportunities for the public to provide input into budgets, plans and practices that define their communities. Without this public involvement, we’re not only missing out on the wisdom and acumen residents can contribute to our community, we’re limiting views that can assist with better plans, better policies, best practices.

I want a participatory model that brings community input into  processes and plans that effect us all. I want to establish a process that prioritizes resident input, not reaction to policies and plans developed with minimal consultation. By establishing a ‘do with’ process, efficiencies are maximized …. we’re creating, not reacting, to plans, polices, processes of others.

Finally, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. There are many examples of consultative policies, planning and practices in other municipalities that, with resident and municipal staff input, only require adaptation to our specific needs. (https://www.vicnews.com/news/census-2016-oak-bay-one-of-most-highly-educated-populations-in-world/)

Regional Governance and Service Integration

Oak Bay is not an island. Like other municipalities, we feel pressures of all sorts, from contributing to regional initiatives to the challenges of funding services.  Integration of projects, procurement and service delivery reduces costs. It’s absolutely key we seek answers to the following questions:

√ How can we work more cooperatively with neighbouring municipalities?

√ How can we work more collaboratively with our educational institutions?

√ Why are we missing out on regional, provincial, national funding?

√ Is it time to re-evaluate our role within the CRD?

√ Are there capital resources available in the CRD we’re not accessing?

√ Are their non-capital resources available in the CRD we’re not accessing?

√ Are there joint CRD purchasing and service delivery agreements?

√ Are the CRD expectations of Oak Bay reasonable?

√ Should the CRD expect all municipalities to do exactly the same thing?

√ Should the CRD do exactly the same thing for all municipalities?

√ As part of the CRD, what can OB do better to be more cost effective?

Transparency and Community Engagement

Residents of any municipality deserve accurate information about budgets, planning and other issues important to them. When these items aren’t developed, aren’t readily accessible or only accessible to insiders, elected government is doing a great disservice to us all.

Productive community engagement starts with the availability of accurate information and transparency in process. As a community member, it shouldn’t be difficult to be informed and involved, to make good decisions about what happens in our community. Information about what is planned, what transpires, must be accurate and timely, formalized and forthcoming.

Over the past four years the number of residents complaining about lack of transparency and lack of public engagement has been steadily increasing. Unfortunately Oak Bay’s public hearing process tends to polarize residents, dividing opinion and discouraging many residents who believe their comments will have no impact on decisions. Too often reports or other relevant information is withheld, or provided with very short notice, making it difficult for residents to submit comments.

Communities flourish when residents are engaged. Positive change can only be successfully achieved with collaboration and support. Where legislation permits, Council needs to consider methods adopted by other communities to give all residents a voice.

I am committed to transparency in municipal matters and robust and frequent community engagement. There are many tools based on which meaningful and effective participation can be achieved.

Planned Community Development

The Official Community Plan is a visionary document; opinions are widely varied on interpretation, intent and level of importance of many topics. Based on the 2011 Census, and intended as a ‘living document’, the OCP has not been updated to reflect changes affecting the community today. Issues like speculative investments and short term rentals were not considered.  The OCP is a good reference document, particularly on important issues to residents like community character and protecting the natural environment. We will need to source current Provincial and Regional information to find a solution that works in this community.

While many aspects of the community vision are present in the OCP,  the hard work of turning these into a formalized work plan– bylaws, regulations, rules, guidelines –has not happened. This has left Oak Bay vulnerable to ad hoc decision making, uncertainty for residents, developers and business alike. For many of us, there’s more uncertainty around the development, land use, infrastructure requirements that shapes Oak Bay than we would like.

A strong Community Development Plan allows for certainty around land use, development, finances, infrastructure, community amenities. It helps define who we are, and what we want to be. Strong stewardship of our built and natural environments, continuing protection for our community heritage and a plan that accurately reflects the needs, wants and aspirations of our residents is essential to ensure Oak Bay thrives.

Immediate priorities need to focus on developing policies other communities already have in place: development cost charges, community amenity contributions, contributions to reserve funds, municipal guidelines for the approving officer. This will guarantee benefits to the community are considered for all development applications. We can also develop checklists to ensure fair and equitable evaluation of proposals as a stop gap until a housing strategy, zoning and bylaws are adopted for development.

My knowledge and experience will bring new insights to the Council table. Frequent submissions to Council and media have successfully achieved greater transparency of information and broader discussion at Council, an indication that my contributions have value. Oak Bay is the community I have chosen for my home – it’s time to step up and have a role in planning the future.

Arts, Culture and Heritage

Much work has been done over the years to make Oak Bay an attractive arts and culture destination. Public artworks, our annual Tea Party, artist studio tours, adding small venues to the Rec Center and the Dave Dunnet Theater, enhance our cultural visibility. Continued efforts to support our cultural treasures means Oak Bay builds on our reputation as a vibrant cultural hub in the CRD. A vibrancy that adds to our lives, and of our visitors.

We all admire the beauty of our natural and built environments. Our architectural heritage is a valuable asset. It draws potential residents and visitors to our corner of the world. These natural, social and cultural assets have to be stewarded with care if we’re to retain the beauty and quality of the life we love. Walkable neighborhoods, greens spaces, our tree canopy, our foreshore and ocean environments, the character of our community are what draw people to Oak Bay. We need adequate planning, within a larger Community Development Plan, to ensure we move into the future with informed, thoughtful intention.

Parks, Green Space, The Urban Forest and our Natural Environment

If you’ve welcomed an out-of-town visitor to Oak Bay, you’ve likely been told “how fortunate” you are to live in such a beautiful area, surrounded by greenery, magnificent Garry Oaks, the sea, the marvels of our natural environment. A quick check of municipal agendas reveals a lot of organizations want to stage events here, for this very reason. I know how precious our relationship to the natural world is. Simply put, the stunning beauty of Oak Bay is irreplaceable.

With this gift comes a special responsibility. In the Greater Victoria area, we’re losing our urban tree canopy at an alarming rate. Our foreshore areas are at risk from erosion and ill-considered development.

It’s difficult to quantify the value of these treasures but we must continue to look at the positive effects the natural world has on our collective well being.  Stewarding our environment needs to be attended to. The OCP is very clear in reflecting the value the community places on the natural environment. As part of the Community Plan, we need bylaws, policies and rules, developed from the OCP and the Urban Forest Management Strategy, to ensure what draws people here, what residents love about Oak Bay, doesn’t disappear.

Some of my recent Op-Eds and Articles

https://www.oakbaynews.com/opinion/letter-oak-bay-official-community-plan-needs-updating/

https://www.oakbaynews.com/opinion/letter-residential-infill-the-great-distraction/

https://www.oakbaynews.com/opinion/letter-get-informed-about-infrastructure-costs/

http://www.timescolonist.com/opinion/letters/oak-bay-needs-housing-strategy-1.20380682