I'll get started here with my replies to the Victoria Times Colonist survey of Capital Regional District candidates. You'll find the full report here (though, as I type in the dark on this wet early October morning, there is no link to the long-form replies from District of Sooke candidates). The T/C's Sooke overview page is here.
For what it's worth, here are my unedited, within the legal (100 words max per answer) limit, answers to questions sent my way by the paper's Jack Knox and Jeff Bell.
Why are you running? What's your motivation?
Since the start of Mayor Milne’s administration in 2011, I’ve attended dozens of council meetings as part of a self-directed apprenticeship in municipal governance that sprang from my work with Transition Sooke. I ran for council in 2014 and missed a seat by 24 votes. Since then, I’ve become increasingly engaged through committee positions and delegation presentations. Now semi-retired, I figure a term or ideally two in public office would be a meaningful way to be of productive hometown service prior to my sunset years.
What are your top three issues?
1. Completion of new planning documents that refine Sooke’s long-standing masterplan: i) Modestly dense harbour village centre; ii) Light industrial activity east of Sooke River Rd.; iii) A commercial node in Saseenos; and iv) Preservation of wilderness and rural character elsewhere.
2. The recruitment of a gifted new Chief Administrative Officer to empower District staff and woo the right mix of targetted developers, independent gap businesses and new residents to town.
3. Sooke’s people are our most valuable resource. We must do better job of tapping local expertise with a dramatically expanded range of select, standing and advisory committees.
Tell us about your previous elected and/or community experience.
Community volunteer positions: President of the Sooke Transition Town Society (2013-18); president of the Edward Milne Community School Society (2015-18); founding board member with the Sooke Farmland Trust Society (2014-17); chair of the District of Sooke’s Climate Change Action Committee (2015-16); member of the District of Sooke’s Community Centre Advisory Committee (2015-16); co-founder of Zero Waste Sooke, Save Our Coast Sooke and the Sooke Region Multi-Belief Initiative; co-organizer of the Sooke Ecohome Tours (2016-18), the Sooke Region Earth Day Celebrations (2018) and the Sooke Slow Food Cycle (2011/12).
Rank your spending priorities (1 is most important, 4 is least important)
Transportation …. 1
Policing …. 2
Homelessness … 4
Parks and recreation … 3
Tell us more ... I’ve chosen this ranking based on municipal responsibilities.
1. I define ‘transportation’ to include the local road network, sidewalks and trails. Sooke must also continue advocating with BC Transit and the BC Ministry of Transportation by consistently sharing ideas and potential solutions. An alternative emergency route, perhaps via the Butler Main logging road to south Shawnigan Lake, might be considered as a rough gated bypass during Hwy #14 and Malahat closures.
2. We now cover 75 percent of the costs of local policing, and this will rise to 90 percent when we reach official city status (15,000 people, possibly as early as the 2021 census). We need more consistent speed enforcement and must address the two-hour daily gap in local policing.
3. The CRD’s SEAPARC recreation centre has made great strides with its ongoing expansion (with an activity room and all-season sports/lacrosse box to come). The District must reopen traditional waterfront access points and better utilize our prime green spaces at John Phillips Memorial Park and Ed Macgregor Park.
4. Homelessness is not a spending issue at the municipal level yet the District can work creatively with responsible BC ministries. Idea: Let's be proactive in finding land for a social-services hub that would include a shelter and new homes for the Sooke Food Bank and the Sooke Crisis & Referral Centre.
This is a chance to share your positions on some of key issues facing communities and how you hope to address them. There is a limit of 500 characters on each of these answers, which is roughly 80 to 100 words.
Amalgamation ~ I’m interested to see how the Victoria/Saanich vote unfolds. In 2014, Sooke council expressed zero interest in full-scale south island amalgamation. There is a growing appetite here, however, to explore West Shore options and good-neighbour policies with the City of Langford and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area. Within Sooke itself, we must respectfully approach the T’Sou-ke Nation and discuss how it might take the lead in a partnership that would expand its thriving solar, Net Zero housing and aquaculture initiatives to the rest of town.
Transportation ~ Highway 14 can be regarded as either a “chokehold” or a “limit to growth.” The latter definition aligns with the wishes of community plans dating back at least 40 years. These have called for a modestly dense seaside town centre, light industrial activity east of the Sooke River and a commercial node in Sasseenos. Elsewhere we're to retain our rural and wilderness character. Continued improvements (wider shoulders, slow-vehicle pullovers, realignment, improved paint lines and street lighting, and gated emergency detour routes) will make the winding road home safer and more efficient.
Affordability ~ Sooke has traditionally been the least expensive market on the south Island and so it remains. Yet costs are soaring here as elsewhere; some 28 percent of residents are paying more than 50 percent of their gross income on housing. We must tap into the revolution in fresh, relatively inexpensive alternatives to single-family homes. Mixed-use commercial/residential condo and townhouse development in the core will help with housing supply. Tiny homes as secondary suites on residential properties would boost the rental stock. Low-impact micro-housing projects and farm villages might be possible on fallow ALR land.
Homelessness ~ This is a provincial matter, however the District is playing a key role this year in facilitating meetings of local stakeholders through the Sooke Region Community Health Network. We have a relatively small population of homeless youth and adults, and this makes us a ideal community in which to test creative new solutions to a growing national crisis. Dorm-style, long-stay shelters matched with on-site health workers and employment opportunities would stabilize many lives. Seed funding through Ottawa’s National Housing Strategy and the shelter portion of BC Employment & Assistance programs could underwrite costs.
Taxes ~ Sooke was incorporated in 1999 with the promise of low property taxation. Successive administrations have mostly held firm to this principal. Over the last seven years, the tax increases have been zero (2012), 1.59% (2013), 0.2 % (2014), zero (2015), 0.85% (2016), 5.58% (2017) and 2.79% (2018). District staff have noted that our reserve funds are lower than they should be and that a tax increase of 4.5 percent would have been ideal this year. Business tax rates, meanwhile, are a challenge along with commercial property lease fees and the lack of retail and light industrial space in Sooke.
What's your vision for your community in 25 years?
My vision, both personally and through the lens of Transition Sooke, is rooted squarely in Sooke’s Official Community Plan. By 2043, we’ll have a built-out, modestly sized and age-friendly harbourside village centre with an attractive mix of commercial/residential low-rises, shops, restaurants, pocket parks and harbour viewpoints. The Troupe/Grant Rd. bypass is complete for EV traffic. There is expanded express BC Transit service to job sites in town and, 20 minutes away, in Langford; telecommuting work has grown and there is less need for government employees to travel to Victoria's Inner Harbour. Sewers have expanded east to Kaltasin, guaranteeing a clean ocean and sparking light-industrial enterprise at the point where the T’Sou-ke Nation meets Sooke. Hwy #14 is straightened from Connie to Harbourview roads, thus allowing Sasseenos to become a prime tourist destination. Residents are fully prepared for the Great Quake (touch wood that it hasn't happened before then).