Help plan the future of UVic

Come help plan the future of UVic over the next two weeks at two different weeks. First up, on March 17th, is BC Transit’s open house on a new campus plan. It runs in the Michele Pujol room of the SUB between 11am-2pm and 4pm-6pm. See the poster (PDF) for the full details.

On the 21st UVic will be Oak Bay Council meeting for a presentation of the new UVic strategic plan, currently in the planning stages. This is part of a committee of the whole meeting so it will fairly informal as these things go. Join UVic and Oak Bay Council at 7:30pm in the council chambers of the municipal hall. See the ad for the full details.

Community Initiatives Committee for the win

Active transportation and a new plan for Oak Bay Ave. Formerly homeless, these ideas are now part of the expanded role of the Community Initiatives Committee. To fit the expanded role, council added Councilor Nils Jensen and put out a call for interested members of the general public. As of today, that includes me. No date yet for the next meeting.

That Oak Bay Lodge resolution

As has been reported elsewhere, Oak Bay Council passed a resolution on Monday night that essentially tells private developers that they aren’t going to get that land rezoned. Unfortunately, the Times Colonist didn’t see fit to include any of the resolution, so here it is:

That the Minister of Health and VIHA be advised that Oak Bay Council supports:

(1)     the retention in public ownership of land, such as the Oak Bay Lodge site, which is currently zoned and used for the provision of long term complex care under the auspices of the provincial government;

(2)     the upgrading, expanding, enhancing or renewal of the community of care facility on the publicly owned Oak Bay lodge site to serve seniors in the Municipality and surrounding areas, maintaining or increasing the number of complex care beds and incorporating additional subsidized units, with an appropriate transition plan for existing residents.

The whole council was pretty clear in their discussion that they don’t see why VIHA is selling the land and that any such sales would be “short-sighted”, as Pam Copley said.  The RFP has already closed but the winner bidder hasn’t been announced and it is doubtful that VIHA fully reviewed all of them anyway, so this resolution comes at the perfect time. Now that both Saanich and Oak Bay councils have spoken so clearly, what happens next should be interesting, to say the least.

Wall of Fame and Community Initiatives Committee looking for people

The Wall of Fame selection committee is looking for people to add to the wall in 2010. The Wall of Fame is:

a means to honour individuals who have been instrumental in the development of Oak Bay’s parks, facilities, and programs and who have exercised extraordinary commitment to the community of Oak Bay or performed voluntary services deemed to have been of great importance to the community.

The nomination form (PDF) must be submitted to Director of Parks & Recreation, currently Lorna Curtis, by Februrary 28th of this year. Winners will have their photo and information posted on the wall in the Social Lounge at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

Also looking for people is the newly expanded Community Initiatives Committee. The committee has not only gained new responsibilities, such as creating an Oak Bay Village plan and active transportation initiatives, but also a new councillor, Nils Jensen. As I mentioned previously, the next meeting of the committee is the 5th of February (see the calendar in the sidebar for more details), so with the closing date of February 16th for nominations there will be at least one more meeting of the old committee. Details about nominations can be found in the announcement (PDF).

Want to help lead Oak Bay? New Chief Administrative Officer sought

With the pending retirement of Oak Bay’s Chief Administrative Officer William Cochrane, Oak Bay Council now has the task of finding somebody to fill his rather large shoes. Bill, who has worked for the municipality for 30 years, 18 of them as Chief Administrative Officer, has been a major factor in how the municipality has operated over those 18 years, given his longevity.

The posting on CivicJobs contains this interesting phrase:

Candidates must have demonstrated an exceptional ability to provide measured, well-considered advice under pressure in a public setting.

I think this sentence quite neatly sums up what is the likely the most challenging part of the job: providing advice to council at committee of the whole and council meetings. The number of times I have seen council ask Bill a tough question in the past year must number in the dozens and while I have been frustrated with the compromises he comes with, he never fails to give a reasoned answer.

So I wish the Mayor and Councillors Jensen and Herbert (Update: Braithwaite will be sitting on this committee, not Herbert) luck in finding somebody to fill Bill’s shoes. They don’t have much time, as these things are counted, as Bill plans to retire in May after the budget comes down.

Chief Administrative Officer Bill Cochrane to retire

Yesterday evening the mayor announced that in a few months, shortly after the budget, Bill Cochrane, the CAO for the Municipality of Oak Bay for the past 10 years will retire. It isn’t clear to me how long he has worked for the municipality, but 10 years is the lowest number. Recent shakeups in the past year at Victoria and Vancouver city halls senior levels have caused changes in culture, especially in Vancouver, so what effect it has on a smaller municipality should be interesting to watch. Councillor’s Jensen and Herbert (Update: Braithwaite will be sitting on this committee, not Herbert) with the Mayor will be leading the search for a replacement.

Sewage, Oak Bay Lodge and more at tonight’s council

Tonight’s council agenda (PDF) is very full and with the dual contentious issues of Uplands sewage and Oak Bay Lodge, it should be interesting. First up is VIHA with a presentation on what happens with Oak Bay Lodge, which is likely to be followed by some interesting debate amongst council members, who haven’t yet stated any formal positions on the matter.

This is also the night for deciding on Uplands sewage, after last Wednesday’s marathon until almost midnight. Councillor Cassidy has already stated his position on supported a gravity feed system over a low-pressure one, but none of the other councillors or the mayor have been that explicit. The choice is a tough one, because the gravity system likely requires a tax increase, ballparked in the neighbourhood of 10% per household for the entire of Oak Bay but the low-pressure system is nearly universally opposed by Uplands residents and requires ongoing maintenance.

Also up on the agenda are the transportation priorities committee, which Councillor Jensen has proposed, the usual host of property bylaw variances, a request from the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club for financial assisstance (something not likely to meet favour with Councillor Braithwaite, who feels Oak Bay gives enough to the club already, given it’s membership), and the potential of hiring a consultant to work with the school district on the Oak Bay High replacement project.

I suspect that it might just be a little busy tonight, so if you want to come, make certain you arrive early to get your seat.

Happenings this week

Lots of interesting things happening this week, including UVic (and thus me) heading into the spring term on Monday. Other events include:

Funeral procession for Lt. Nutall, from McCall Brothers to Christ Church Cathedral. Starts between 11:45 and12:15. Further details in TC story.

Special Oak Bay Council session on the Uplands Sewer Project. Full Agenda here (PDF). 6:30pm in the Garry Oak Room in Monterey Centre (by the library)

All Week:
IIHF Hockey Championship in Saskatchewan. Full Schedule.

Health, active transportation and the city

That walking and biking both makes people healthier and helps with climate change isn’t exactly a shocker, but when The Lancet, a well respected medical journal, publishes a paper to that effect, suddenly it becomes news.  The paper, entitled Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions: urban land transport, is part of series in the Lancet on climate change and public health. All of the papers and the accompanying commentary are actually available online, which is rare for an academic journal. Kudos to them.

Ironically, this paper comes mere days after the Oak Bay Council passed a watered-down motion to set priorities for funding various transportation options which explicitly mentions public health in its preamble:

WHEREAS climate change is an issue of vital local, national and global importance and local initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouses gases will contribute to protecting air quality and public health;

The original motion(PDF) was brought forward by Nils Jensen, always a strong supporter of active transportation, who is trying to get the municipality to set priorties in transportation planning. It also directed staff to see where the 2010 budget, already in drafting, could be changed to reflect those priorities and a report for the 2011 budget. Sadly this was too much “the cart before the horse”, as Councillor Cassidy, put it for some, so the motion was amended to merely list the four types of road users with no specific priority. Hopefully the staff report, which will likely be out sometime in mid-2010, will have some information to help sway council members.

Within the planning community, links between climate change and active transportation are already fairly well understood, with the Canadian Institute of Planning’s Climate Change Program, and the message from scientists to planners is that it is time to step up. We in BC are ahead of the pack in terms of planning healthy communities, with the Provincial Health Services Authority’s Healthy Built Environment program, something that caught the eye of the federal Public Health Agency in a report not too long ago. There are also dollars coming down the pipeline from the provincial government’s LocalMotion, which partially funded the Henderson Road bike lane project, and BikeBC programs.

Now that the links between climate change, health and active transportation are getting better known, the last thing we need is a reputable organization showing how having healthier, active and climate conscious communities can save governments money and keep tax increases in check to help sway those last few not yet convinced by the mounting evidence.

Legalese shows true intent behind climate change policy

Oak Bay is changing it’s antiquated Official Community Plan (PDF) to include some new verbiage about climate change. On Dec 7th, the public will have a chance to speak to council about the issue (PDF). All of this is driven by an agreement between the Province and Union of BC Municipalities and their members regarding combating climate change. This is quite laudable but the actual agreement between the various parties is very neatly undermined by the final section of the agreement (PDF), which reads:

This Charter is not intended to be legally binding or impose legal obligations on any Party and will have no legal effect.

So much for that. More information about the actual amendment as I get it.