To me and many I've spoken with (audience members and candidates alike), it was a great evening with many solid, noteworthy statements from the candidates that demonstrate all of us care deeply about this town and recognize its bright future.
Okay, here's what I had to say last night as prepared beforehand. I needed to edit as I went, and still didn't reach the end of either as intended, yet I feel good about it a day later. A video shot by Harbourside Cohousing's Frank Antonsen and Dal Little will be ready in a few days, and I'll update this post with the link.
Opening Comment (two minutes)
Good evening everyone, I'm Jeff Bateman and I'm here at this table just as I was four years ago. Back then, to quote Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, "Missed it by .... (hand gesture) that much."
24 votes, in fact. In retrospect, it was a good thing. It gave me four more years to continue an apprenticeship that began in 2011 when I first got interested in what I've long called the Best Monday Night Entertainment in Town.
In the interim, I've attended many council meetings ... occupying the mic during public comment periods ... often hanging in until the late-night end. Overall, I now have a better idea of what the job of being a people's representative entails.
With my career as a journalist winding down, I've spent the last decade as an active volunteer... just like many of you here in the Volunteer Capital of Canada ~ thank you for that boast, Elida Peers, it fits.
It's been rewarding work and a lot of fun with Transition Sooke, the EMCS Society and other local groups. The best of it for me has been the people ~ old, new and in-between Sooke~ that I've met along the way.
Like them, Carolyn and I sincerely love this town. We landed here 15 years ago because we found a dream home we could afford. Other places on Vancouver Island were certainly more appealing from the outside looking in. Yet we soon discovered, as you all know so well, that Sooke offers so much more than what can be seen on drive-bys along the main road.
~ Our best assets are camouflaged ... our most beautiful waterfront face is hidden ... our special places are off the beaten track and, happily, not so far away.
I believe it's time for Sooke ~ aged 18 as a municipality ~ to leave home and choose a college major. We'll do it by getting back to basics:
1. We need to hire a super-talented Chief Administrative Officer
2. We must refocus our long-time vision in a refreshed Official Community Plan.
3. We must be patient, cautious and realistic as we address our traffic and zoning issues ... and deal maturely with our unexpected teenage growth spurt.
Please take home my brochure. Once you've read it ... your Zero Waste candidate respectfully asks that you recyle it on the next possible Blue Box Monday.
Thanks to the Chamber for hosting this evening, well wishes to all the candidates, and I look forward to the debate.
Closing Comments (three minutes)
I've prepared some talking points ahead of time, however first I'd like to answer some of the questions I didn't get a chance to reply to earlier tonight .... (the following are, I believe, approximations of what I said ...)
* "Growth" in Sooke should not be defined by market forces and developers, it is to be defined by the community vision as expressed in our Official Community Plan.
* Sooke Country Market ~ its organizers have formally requested consideration for a spot in the District-owned Lot A in proximity to the new library and seniors/youth centre. Tony St-Pierre's point about a waterfront location is a good one, however. [John Phillips Memorial Park or the barn at Woodside Farm (should it ever be purchased by the District) are other options, but i wasn't quick enough to think of that in the moment]
* Sooke's Climate Energy & Emissions Plan points to a wide range of local ways in which we can address climate change.
* The Co-Existing with Carnivores Alliance in association with UBC and Sooke's Project HOWL is using trailcams to identify established wildlife corridors in the Sooke region; this mapping should be respected by Sooke planners as they make future zoning decisions.
(now back to my prepared notes)
'A Pause that Refreshes' is my campaign slogan.
My thinking is that Sooke is in danger of losing its effervescenceand turning flatnow that we've become Vancouver Island's 2nd fastest growing municipality.
The joys of living here are in plain sight ... the place, the people, the volunteer spirit, the independent businesses, our Wild By Nature character ... and the wonderful characters you'll find around every corner.
That said, we're at a crossroads: Either we continue allowing upzoning outside the town centre .... in the process, reinforcing our Motor City status with unsafe secondary roads and too much volume on Hwy #14.
Or -- and here's where my slogan kicks in -- we press PAUSE as best we can ....
... we recognize that there are already several thousand pre-approved building lots in town that have yet to break ground and which equate to at least 4,000 new residents
... we REFRESH the vision of this and past generations embedded in our OCP.
... and only then move forward with renewed masterplan.
As I see it, there are four main threads in area plans dating back to at least 1980:
i) A modestly dense harbourside village centre
ii) Light industrial activity east of Sooke River Road
iii) A commercial node in Saseenos, and
iv) Preservation of our wilderness and rural lands elsewhere
If elected, I'd push for these three immediate priorities ...
* A new CAO... Let's headhunt the ideal candidates and get it rightthis time.
* OCP refresh-- let's bring it home in creative, inclusive fashion along with renewed Transportation, Parks & Trails, Liquid Waste Water and Town Centre plans.
* #3 ... Tap citizen expertisewith an expanded range of select, standing and advisory committees.We need YOUR input, expertise and energy.
I fancy myself a mediator with a quick mind and good communication skills. I'm an active listener who likes to patiently explore options and seek consensus.
My desire now is to be part of a strong, coordinated team led by a truly capable and connected Mayor. I sincerely look forward to working with the community and everyone who gathers at City Hall for the next four years of Monday night marathons.
I'll end by formally asking that you vote for Jeff Bateman on October 20. Thank you.