I read with interest Mayor Nils Jensen’s “to do” list in the December 7th Times Colonist profile on his election win. While many of the priorities sounded familiar to me (part of my own campaign platform), the following is a more complete list of what I believe Oak Bay’s Mayor should focus on during the first six to twelve months of this new Council term:
- work cooperatively on a proactive action plan with Mayors Helps and Atwell, for an Eastside sewage solution (resource recovery/waste to energy, latest technologies, better environmental protection and reasonable costs for taxpayers), sooner rather than later, and attend ALL CRD sewage committee meetings.
- develop a comprehensive traffic management plan in and around our local schools, villages and adjacent neighbourhoods that deal with safety, parking and traffic volume.
- launch a safety review of Oak Bay’s major transportation corridors, including speed limits and intersections, focusing on the needs of cyclists, pedestrians, motor vehicles, mobility vehicles and alternate forms of transportation.
- engage and inform all Council members on a regular basis, on all CRD Board topics and decisions (“CRD Report as a standing agenda item).
- develop a cost-effective action plan to address Oak Bay’s aging infrastructure.
- monitor actively the CRD’s kitchen waste program for costs and continue to evaluate regional benefits of environmental protection and local recycling.
- review all municipal commissions and committees for effectiveness and efficiency and make changes where necessary.
- increase dialogue and cooperation with local business and tourism so that the municipality can better understand their needs.
- develop a comprehensive housing strategy for people of all ages to meet their changing needs (and quickly identify for the public the implementation plan (timelines too) for the 2014 Official Community Plan).
- evaluate, implement and monitor the Floor Area Ratio Committee (FAR) recommendations to address residents’ concerns about house size, lot size, green space and neighbourhood streetscapes.
- create new housing demolition policy to conserve heritage homes and smaller bungalows and provide greater environmental protection.
- revise Oak Bay’s land use policy to recoup infrastructure and service costs from developers when new development occurs.
- implement ongoing improvements to parks and recreation and to protection of natural habitats, green spaces, tree canopies and other natural landscapes.
- make improvements to open up local government, provide to the public all Council and Committee of the Whole meeting materials in a timely fashion (online) and improve community engagement through regularly scheduled neighbourhood meetings every year.
The challenges ahead for Oak Bay are many but it seems that the deer problem remains the Mayor’s first priority. While important, it is only one issue and is still fraught with uncertainty. Rather than being treated as a wildlife management issue, as it should have been some years ago in Oak Bay, unfortunately, it was politicized and became one of the defining campaign issues in the November 2014 election. I now believe that the deer problem will create negative fall-out for Oak Bay and for this Mayor and Council, whether or not the cull goes ahead. High political stakes tend to raise high public expectations and unless this issue is well managed, well…
I have recently learned that costs for a cull appear to be escalating and there is still no confirmation from the Ministry of Environment that the permit Oak Bay applied for on October 21, 2014, in the middle of an election campaign, will be issued. It is also worth noting that the female deer are now pregnant following the end of rutting season late this fall. A January cull, as the Mayor promised during his election campaign, may not sit well with some of the public and animal protection advocates and organizations when they learn that the does are pregnant. I believe that Oak Bay is now in an unenviable position. As I said during the election, without cooperation from other municipalities such as Saanich and Victoria, it’s doubtful that culling 25 deer in isolation will be effective and satisfy a frustrated Oak Bay public.
One idea I had was to explore a partnership with the University of Victoria and Saanich, to cost-share fencing the migratory corridor above Mystic Vale (the dog walk park). I understand that deer fencing could effectively deter the deer from moving through Mystic Vale and the dog park, across Cedar Hill X Road and into Uplands Golf Course. Cutting off this natural pathway would certainly decrease numbers and easily exceed the 25 proposed for the Oak Bay cull. Isn’t this worthy of consideration, perhaps on a trial basis? The cost of fencing I suspect will be a lot less for Oak Bay taxpayers to carry than the Mayor’s new plan for an annual cull, as alluded to in the Times Colonist. The “buck” should stop at the Mayor’s desk shouldn’t it?
Nils Jensen was elected today as the new CRD Board Chair. Will he really have the time to be the Mayor of Oak Bay and ensure that the needs of residents, stakeholders and partners are addressed in a timely, responsive fashion? Stay tuned and please attend Council meetings.