My small stock of signs, all produced in 2014 (thank you Tony Green), are again planted courtesy of my pals Ross Reid and Koshin Moonfist. Below you'll find the typo-free, zero-waste version of my brochure, printed by Sooke Copy Centre on recycled stock for door-to-door delivery by campaign manager/helpmate/beloved Carolyn and myself over the next 10 days. (Two hundred of them will feature a single black-ink correction that decommissions Major Tait and returns her formal title Sigh! My fault entirely, humbly and hopefully humorously acknowledged at council's closing meeting the other night in recognition that I've been council's unofficial typo hawk when it comes to District minutes.)
I've also launched my refreshed campaign website here. I go on at predictable length about what I believe has been accomplished by council and District staff in collaboration with council's half-dozen committees, one task force and assorted consultants (Urban Systems, DIALOG, Stantec, Urbanics, CitySpaces, Keycorp) and service-agreement partners.
It's a substantial track record, I think, and yet relatively early days on some longer-term fronts apart from the all-action progress on the active Transportation Master Plan (including design for the bypass route and build-out of car/bike/sidewalk town-centre routes on Otter Point, Church and, next, Charters). Sooke's increasingly well-designed and info-packed annual reports for 2019, 2020 and 2021 capture the considerable ongoing work in detail.
Bright visions, smart recommendations and proposed action plans galore -- underway to a degree but in routine need of ongoing attention, care, advocacy, stewardship and funding (grants, taxes, reserves and staff time) as we move forward in these unpredictable inflationary times. The current 5.5% year-to-year jump in prices (but much more in some sectors, construction costs in particular) means, as i say at the website, that we can't lose sight of the District's primary responsibility to deliver the mandated local government basics (public safety, operations, parks, wastewater, bylaws, corporate services) first and above all else.
Back to the point of this post: To share what I've already shared elsewhere in recent weeks.
1. Text of my address at Saturday's EMCS candidates event
2. Capital Daily
3. Sooke News Mirror
4. Livable Greater Victoria
5. Times Colonist
I will add more as I file them. (There are MANY requests for feedback, and I confess i find them a bit overwhelming while still hoping to meet their various deadlines. As co-chair of the Sooke Homelessness Coalition, for instance, I regret missing a chance to weigh in on the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness survey with its too-early-for-Covid-dazed-me deadline. Only Anna Russell and Susan Belford replied from Sooke.)
Council candidates' platform session, EMCS Community Theatre
High-five to the Sooke Chamber and the Sooke Multi-Belief Initiative for organizing another in its series of purposefully non-confrontational dialogues in recent years (federal, provincial, now municipal). All but two of the candidates attended. As I wrote after-the-fact on Facebook: "Mayor Tait absolutely shone during her 40 minutes (no surprise whatsoever) and every last candidate who stepped to the mic presented themselves well. Credit and thanks to everyone, especially the 200 or so who sat in the shadowy (but comfy with those new seats) confines of the Community Theatre on a glorious end-of-summer day." Video replay.
Here's my text which I abbreviated a little to beat the two-minute stoplight operated by the gentleman from Sooke Toastmasters.
"Good afternoon everyone. I’m Jeff Bateman, and I’m running for re-election on October 15.
These last years have been incredibly eventful for all of us. I avoided Covid until recently and am happy to report I’m on the far side of it … while maintaining a persistent cough that I fear will interrupt this speech … but I’ll carry on regardless.
And that’s my theme today: I want to carry on to see through the directions that the current council and staff team have initiated since 2018.
You will find those directions captured explicitly in the new master plans and reports we’ve endorsed:
- Parks & Trails
- Community Development
- Climate Action
- Housing Needs
And, of course, our pending Official Community Plan – which will be in the hands of the next council for what I trust will be a final round of public and expert stakeholder input.
I rate the OCP as exceptionally good document that reinforces themes found in all our other plans dating back 50 years.
I want to paraphrase what the Advisory Committee said they heard from YOU the public …
1. The strong desire to maintain and enhance Sooke’s unique character.
2. Environmental Protection
3. Focused Town Centre growth
4. Good relations with the T’Sou-ke Nation
5. Improved road networks to deal with our growing traffic jams
6. United community support for climate action.
So yes, let’s address all these things – with planning, patience, persistence, fiscal responsibility, advocacy and action.
No question: There are huge challenges ahead. The main one, for me, is to find the sweet spot for our population capacity. Our mostly two-lane highway is a very real limit to growth. We must deal with this hard fact before we wind up in our worst gridlock nightmare.
In the weeks leading up to last week’s public hearing, I’ve heard some misleading statements …
- That the new OCP will clear-cut Sooke and turn us into Langford.
- That the District wants to ban wood-burning stoves
- That our Climate Action Plan will cost millions.
I can only advise you to do your own research, get the facts and please trust me on this ... In my direct experience, District staff and your current Mayor and council have this community’s very best interests at heart.
All of us – and I’m sure I can say this for everyone on this stage – want to be of sincere service to the Sooke we seek to serve.
Capital Daily Questionnaire
There were word-count limits on most of the questions, but not those related to climate change and housing needs, so i went longer with those answers while cramming things tight elsewhere. See the e-publication's full Candidate Database here. Seven of Sooke's 23 candidates have responded to date. No deadline on this one, so I urge others to jump in. Such a good opportunity to stake out a unique position based on fixed answers from the likes of me, Anna, Susan, Britt, Lorien, Nick and Maja.
Transportation Issues: Solution to Sooke's traffic congestion: Recognition of community's population capacity when served by a two-lane highway + focus on town-centre bypass route + job creation and telework advocacy + improved transit service + regionally: RapidBus expansion and future service via Island Rail Corridor
What are the three most pressing issues in your community that council has the power to change? 1. Growth pressures to be managed through implementation of short-term, complete-community priorities in Sooke's new masterplans. 2. Traffic congestion (see previous answer under Transportation). 3. Advocacy for improved health care facilities and affordable housing.
How would you better address them?* As part of the existing council, I believe we are responding smartly and strategically in managing accelerated growth. No magic fixes possible, so we must stay focused on our modernized plans and find ways to advance their short/medium-term priorities.
Police in my community need...* "Additional officers as we work towards the goal of 24/7 policing and more routine local speed enforcement. Funding for two more officers is identified in the 2022-2026 Financial Plan and will bring us near the provincial per-capita average for police detachments."
Young people in my community are...* "Our best hope for a challenging future, of course. Sooke has an excellent K-12 system, specialized trades, robotics and food-security training, and ever-expanding recreational facilities. See: https://www.jeffbateman.ca/blog/state-of-sookes-youth-nation-2021."
If I could ask the province for one thing for my community, it would be...* "Funding for a primary health care centre in Sooke akin to Langford's Westshore Urgent Primary Care Centre, already the busiest in BC. (Urgent care drop-in hours in Sooke are currently afternoons-only Monday-to-Friday)." [Major Tait has been lobbying hard for this for eight years now; I joined her for an advocacy meeting with Health Minister Dix during UBCM in Whistler last month.]
Council's ability to respond to climate change is...* "Significant at a local level in collaboration with staff, citizens, the business community, non-profits and CRD, provincial and federal partners. This council has endorsed Sooke's first Climate Action Plan and its companion Community Economic Development Strategy. Both are realistic, made-in-Sooke approaches that promote local quality of life while pursuing cuts in building and transportation emissions (the main sources of community GHG). Council can prioritize actions within these and Sooke's updated master plans to value natural assets and speed the evolution of a more walkable, rideable smart-growth community via safe-routes-to-schools, "complete streets" road development (serving pedestrians, cyclists and cars), park acquisition, an urban forest strategy, local job creation and more. The District can lead by example and encourage citizens to act independently (a prime focus of the Climate Action Plan with its call to re-evaluate how we all move, grow, build and relate.)"
I will work to fix the housing crisis by...* "Continuing focus on priorities in Sooke's Housing Needs Report. These include: i) Densification with market-rate and affordable homes and rentals in the town centre (600+ such units now approved); ii) "Gentle densification" with multiplexes and other affordable housing types (as recommended by Small Housing BC) elsewhere in the sewer-specified area; iii) Development of seniors-oriented town-centre units to allow downsizing; iv) Support for homeowners wishing to add secondary units; v) Encouragement for new cooperative housing and manufactured home parks; and vi) Advocacy for BC Building Code revisions to permit tiny homes. Re-establishment of Sooke's Affordable Housing Committee is required."
Families in my community need...* "1. Accommodation options across the housing spectrum. 2. Robust health care services. 3. Ready access to shops, services, recreation, artistic activities, public library, playgrounds and green spaces via trails, safe streets and public transit. 4. An excellent K-12 school system. 5. Responsive policing and fire services. 6. All-ages employment opportunities. 7. Multi-generational gathering place. 8. Age-Friendly BC planning to allow older adults to remain active, engaged, healthy, independent and involved. 9. A sense of neighbourhood identity and community pride."
To me, reconciliation means...* "Life-long listening and learning (respectfully, compassionately) while locally addressing the TRC's Calls to Action where and when possible. Reviving and acting on a largely inert 2007 Memorandum of Understanding with the T'Sou-ke is one of the current council's leading achievements."
Sooke News Mirror Questions
Understandably short-and-sweet (100 word maximum; I delivered 99) given that our print weekly must dedicate space to answers from 33 (!) candidates when school trustees are factored in.
Top Three Issues
- Population Capacity
- Traffic Congestion
- Affordable Housing
"I’m seeking re-election to continue the work of the last four years. I’ve grown more comfortable with the heavy workload and the process. I believe we’re on the right track. We must adopt the new OCP, then create a new Zoning Bylaw and Town Centre Plan. In inflationary times, we must deliver municipal essentials first (roads, wastewater, police, fire, etc.) and proceed where possible with short-term actions identified in our master plans. Recognizing Sooke’s population limits given our largely two-lane highway, building out the bypass, advocating for better health care and creating affordable housing is critical. More at www.jeff4sooke.com." (My attempt to be clever and push readers to my website failed when the editor removed my weblink, leaving my final word count at 95 in the published version.)
Answers to "Four Big Ideas" Raised by Livable Victoria
Livable Victoria is "a diverse group of professionals and community members who share a passion for making our region a more sustainable, vibrant, healthy, and inclusive place to live. Together, we aim to provide a balanced perspective and help foster more thoughtful dialogue, advocate for positive change, and encourage bold leadership during this year's municipal election.Our Big Ideas are focused on Greater Victoria’s built environment, reflecting our areas of expertise and the jurisdiction of local governments, while recognizing that many important subjects are not covered by our recommendations (e.g. social policy)."
Big Idea #1: Scale-up and facilitate the rapid development of social housing across the region
- Removing barriers, incentivizing, and/or expediting approval processes for social housing (such as pre-zoning, allowing for higher levels of density, waiving development fees, and providing property tax breaks)?
- Using existing public lands and/or acquiring new public lands for social housing?
"Sooke's pending Official Community Plan (now through the public hearing stage as steered by the current council of which I'm a part) captures this to a significant degree in its Housing Policies and Action section (pp. 135-141).
- "Continue to enhance rental supply through the creative use of municipal incentives, density bonus, selective DCC discounts, reduced parking requirements, and other programs."
- "Consider using District of Sooke land for future development that supports realization of housing objectives."
- "Explore tax exemptions, Development Cost Charge reductions, and other funding mechanisms to support housing affordability."
- "Rezone large lot parcels for smaller parcel sizes and subdivisions as well as cooperative ownership structures."
Pre-zoning will be possible when Sooke adopts a new Zoning Bylaw following OCP adoption. I agree with utilization of public lands, however resist indicating "strongly" since Sooke has a modest stock of such land and five-year plan budget priorities are focused on build-out of active transportation corridors in our town centre. We continue to support advocacy efforts with BC Housing for 75 seniors affordable rental units above our planned intergenerational community centrein our town centre Lot A (in addition to the 250 units of BC Housing subsidized and below-market accommodation set to open in 2023.)"
Big Idea #2: Build an abundance of housing and implement policies to promote affordability
- Updating zoning bylaws to allow townhouses, houseplexes, and low-rise apartments in residential neighbourhoods?
- IIncentivizing purpose-built rental housing (such as pre-zoning areas and allowing for greater densities compared to strata ownership housing)?
"The pending OCP reaffirms Sooke's long-standing desire for a complete, compact community with density focused in our town centre. It also promotes "gentle density" (townhouses and micro-units in multi-family zones) in TBD site-specific spots within our sewer-specified area west of the Sooke River. Secondary suites have been allowed in all Sooke zones for more than a decade. The OCP calls for the District to assist homeowners and the building trade with workshops to increase the stock of such suites."
Big Idea #3: Plan neighbourhoods for sustainability and human well-being.
- Encouraging the development of commercial village centres so all residents are within a 15-minute walk of daily goods and services?
- Removing minimum parking requirements for new housing?
"1. Walkability is a guiding principle of the new OCP and Sooke's town centre planning. A limited number of small-scale neighbourhood commercial nodes (Sunriver, Kaltasin, Broom Hill, Whiffin Spit) are also required to serve those living outside the town centre and will be identified through Neighbourhood Area Plan community engagement.
2. Removing minimum parking requirements would speed uptake of affordable and social housing, however market-rate housing requires continued minimums here in the penturbia where the average household has 1.9 cars (CRD, 2017). Developers need to ensure necessary off-street parking, including garages used as such rather than as storage spaces. I would appreciate reading further staff reports on the subject."
Big Idea #4: Invest in pedestrian, bike-and-roll, and transit infrastructure
- Expanding the all-ages-and-abilities bike-and-roll network to ensure all residences have convenient access to the network?
- Collaborating with BC Transit to accelerate the implementation of the Victoria Transit Future Plan?
"Enacting recommendations Sooke's Transportation Master Plan -- an active transportation plan with a user hierarchy topped by pedestrians -- is a short-term priority for Sooke and has begun with rebuilds of the town-centre corridors on Otter Point, Church Rd. and now hopefully Charters pending receipt of provincial grant funding to be announced in 2023. All Ages & Abilities public trail connectivity and wayfinding has progressed in association with the Juan de Fuca Community Trails Society with development of the Stickleback and Seawalk trails The transportation plan prioritizes safe-routes to schools and transit corridors with next-build sidewalk/bike lane routes identified on Rhodenite, Beaton/Pyrite, Charters and on Phillips Rd. near SEAPARC.
Sooke's interim Climate Action Coordinator is now employed with the CRD Climate Action team as a micro-mobility specialist, and she will be advancing regional initiatives applicable in Sooke. Our TMP calls for e-bike charging stations in the town centre.
BC Transit's Sooke Local Area Transit Plan (adopted 2020) has been delayed by Covid impacts, however Major Tait continues to push for its implementation through her role with the Victoria Regional Transit System. Sooke already has region-high per-capita ridership, and increased frequency of regional routes and introduction of new local routes will increase it further (especially if the introduction of local Sooke service was to be incentivized with time-limited reduced rates or free-transit for youth and means-tested adults.)
A RapidBus hub in Langford will be welcome. Sooke council has joined other CRD municipalities in lobbying the province and federal government to fund the Island Rail Corridor; its proposed Victoria Commuter Train 1 and 2 rush-hour and mid-day service from Westhills Station to Victoria would serve Sooke commuters well."
Tell us about your previous elected and/or community experience. (80-100 words)
I was elected in 2018 following a near-miss in 2014. As a councillor, I've served with the Capital Regional District (Alternate Director), the Vancouver Island Regional Library board and the Sooke Homelessness Coalition (co-chair). Pre-election, I regularly attended council meetings on behalf of Transition Sooke, for whom I served as president for four years. I was also a two-term president of the Edward Milne Community School Society; a co-founder of Zero Waste Sooke, the Sooke Multi-Belief Initiative and the Sooke Farmland Trust Society; and a public appointee to the District's Climate Action Committee (chair) and Community Centre Advisory Committee.
Why are you running? What's your motivation? (80-100 words)
I'm seeking re-election to continue the work initiated by our current council led by Mayor Maja Tait. This includes adoption of the pending Official Community Plan and enactment of short-term priorities within Sooke's new set of master plans and strategies -- Community Economic Development, Climate Action, Transportation, Parks & Trails and Housing Needs. Major development is coming to Sooke's town centre, and I'd like to work with council and staff to ensure it aligns with the community vision.
What are your top three issues? (80-100 words)
1. Protection of rural character while also developing a "Sooke Smart Growth" waterfront town centre that places shops, services, amenities, office space and health care amidst moderately dense housing.
2. The critical need to recognize that Sooke has a finite population capacity given the reality of an increasingly congested two-lane (mostly) Highway 14.
3. Traffic volume and flow, which can be addressed to a degree through local job creation, land-use decisions that avoid sprawl, teleworking initiatives, implementation of BC Transit's Local Area Plan, and construction of the Throup/Grant Road bypass route.
What's your vision for your community in 25 years? (100-125 words)
My vision echoes that of Sooke’s pending OCP, which in turn aligns with local plans dating back a half century at least. By 2048, we will be a fully resilient, emergency-prepared, climate-and-energy smart community. Our harbourside village centre will feature commercial/residential low-rises, independent shops, restaurants, cultural amenities, pocket parks and extended oceanfront walkway. We identified our population maximum and have lobbied the province to add an additional lane to Sooke Road to lessen rush-hour impacts each way. The Troupe/Grant active transportation bypass route and an expanded, well-utilized trail network are complete. The sewer system has been installed east to Kaltasin Rd., guaranteeing renewed shellfish harvesting and sparking light-industrial enterprise at the point where the T’Sou-ke Nation meets Sooke. Our rural character outside the town centre remains beautifully intact and the leading reason we are a food secure, age-friendly community.