When I say “Rock Bay” you think, Ellis Recycle? Rock Bay Landing Shelter? Heavy industry? Down and out? Think again.
Last Tuesday I had the delight of having my socks knocked off during a tour of Rock Bay Square with owner Bob Skene, his daughter Carolyn, and John Juricic, local entrepreneur and economic development keener.
Rock Bay Square is located at 2612–2630 Bridge Street. It was originally built in the early 1920s; the three original buildings have been made into one, and recently renovated. It was once part of a mill, with lumber floating up from the inner harbour. And now? It’s a hub for artisans, light manufacturing, tech, coffee roasting, local honey, and more. It’s a beacon of Victoria’s entrepreneurial future.Read more
My office was jam packed last Friday. Over the course of the two-hour Community Drop In about 40 people came through. Most stayed for the whole time. I was wowed, as I have been since I started doing these drop ins, by the wisdom, compassion, generosity and hard work of Victorians.
Here’s how it goes: People pile in, pour themselves a cup of coffee or tea, slap on a name tag and find a seat. First thing I do is ask, “What’s the agenda?” the agenda is set by the people who come. Here’s the agenda from last Friday.
Everyone introduces themselves and says why they came, then we go through the agenda. I keep things moving so every topic gets covered. I track action items so nothing gets dropped and I can do the follow up work I say I’ll do. People share ideas and ways to get connected on the whiteboard.
At 1pm promptly I run off to wherever I’m going next and people stay as long as they need to exchange information and connect with each other.Read more
A strategic plan is not a wish list or a to do list. It's not a simple list of priorities. It's not a list of tactics or actions. A strategic plan is a 'living document' set by a board of directors – in this case Council – to guide the strategic focus of the organization for a set period of time.
A strategic plan allows us, as the people you've elected to govern the City, to be proactive, future-focused, and action-ready. We start by setting a high-level strategic goal, deciding the strategic objectives we need to pursue to achieve that goal, and then determining high-level actions that we direct our staff to implement in order to achieve these objectives.
If this sounds a bit ungrounded right now, not to worry. As we determine the goal, objectives and actions we'll share them with you before adopting the plan. We want to make sure we're creating the kind of city you elected us to and doing it in such a way that is inclusive, bold and forward-looking.
In our last term of office, it took Mayor and Council 11 months to complete a strategic planning process. This meant that staff went nearly a year without direction from Council as to what our strategic focus and priorities would be for the term. This time, we've committed to completing our Strategic Plan within the first quarter of 2015. This way we can give clear direction to, and empower, our staff as early in the term as possible so we're not wasting time.
At the beginning of the strategic planning process, I presented the following report and recommendation to Council. In the interests of transparency and inclusiveness, even though the first two meetings were held in closed session, Council chose to rise and report on the entire report and strategic planning agenda. I share it here in its entirety. Feel free to join us in person at City Hall or online here as we set to work creating a high-level strategic plan for our four year term.
Governance and Priorities Report, January 26th 2015
That Council adopt the following strategic planning process.
The objective of the strategic planning process is to end up with a concrete strategic plan that will guide the decisions of Council and the work of staff for the next four years. Once in place, Council will review the plan on a regular basis and update it according to emerging priorities and the will of Council.
In order to have a plan with concrete outcomes that reflects the will of council and the aspirations of the public, we need to do three things. First, we need everyone on council to feel good about the strategic planning process and to feel like there is room for everyone’s ideas to be considered. Second, we need to focus the discussion on concrete problems and concrete solutions. Third, we need to share the plan with the public and ask for high-level input before we adopt it.Read more
Council had a tour of Crystal Pool today. I worked with the City Manager to arrange this for today because I thought it was a good idea for Council to tour the facility in advance of having a discussion about it at Thursday’s meeting. And Council held the New Year’s Levy there this year, in part, to send a signal to the public that this is an important community facility that deserves and requires Council’s attention.
Like many of you, I value the facility and use it regularly. If it makes most financial long-term sense to reinvest in and refurbish the current facility, I would support this. As tomorrow's report to the Governance and Priorities Committee shows, we still need more information to determine if this is possible and if there is long-term financial benefit to refurbishment.Read more
Join me this Friday 8-10am, Mayor's Office
In Community: The Structure of Belonging Peter Block writes that “the leader is held to three tasks: to shift the context in which people gather, to name the debate through powerful questions, and to listen rather than advocate, defend or provide answers.” This is the spirit in which I’m piloting a new format of the mayor’s regular time with the public.
As Mayor, I want members of the public to have the opportunity to drop in and see me. It’s also important for me that people have an opportunity to meet others, engage in conversation, and share thoughts, ideas and concerns, and to build community and a sense of belonging.
To this end, I’m going to pilot my regular time with the public every two weeks as a community conversation rather than a series of 10 minute one-on-one meetings, as has been done in the past. This will allow me to hear your hopes, ideas and concerns for our city, but not in a vacuum. Others can chime in too. My experience is that the public has lots of wisdom, the ability to make connections, and to help come up with solutions. I’ll take notes and make sure that if you do have something that needs to be passed along to one of our operational departments or to Council for consideration, that’ll happen.
I look forward to welcoming you on the comfy couches in the Mayor’s office and to making you a cup of tea.
Dates here for the rest of the year if you can't join me this Friday.
I had a group of kids visit me at City Hall a few weeks ago – home learners taking a Civics 101 class. About 20 of them sat down around a table with me, and peppered me with questions. The first question they asked, “What does a mayor do?” I’ve been asked this question a lot since taking office and from a wide variety of people.
What does a mayor do? And what is this mayor going to do?
The roles and responsibilities of the mayor are very clearly outlined in the Community Charter, which is the provincial legislation through which municipalities get their power. Bear with me and check out the relevant section of the Community Charter. Then – before your eyes glaze over from legal speak – I’ll tell you what I think is most important and what I’d like to focus on as your mayor for the next four years.
Responsibilities of Mayor
116 (1) The mayor is the head and chief executive officer of the municipality.
(2) In addition to the mayor's responsibilities as a member of council, the mayor has the following responsibilities:
(a) to provide leadership to the council, including by recommending bylaws, resolutions and other measures that, in the mayor's opinion, may assist the peace, order and good government of the municipality;
(b) to communicate information to the council;
(c) to preside at council meetings when in attendance;
(d) to provide, on behalf of the council, general direction to municipal officers respecting implementation of municipal policies, programs and other directions of the council;
(e) to establish standing committees in accordance with section 141;
(f) to suspend municipal officers and employees in accordance with section 151;
(g) to reflect the will of council and to carry out other duties on behalf of the council;
(h) to carry out other duties assigned under this or any other Act.
Leadership. Communication. Direction.
These are the words that resonate. Let’s focus on leadership. To me, providing leadership to the Council doesn’t just mean chairing meetings, representing the Council at public events, or being the spokesperson on Council decisions. These things are easy to do.
A recent and very well done Times Colonist series by Sarah Petrescu documented the economic hardships of many people in the region, from single moms to seniors. I’ve heard from these people.
Two days after I was elected a long-unemployed woman sent me three different versions of her resume asking, now that I was mayor, could I help her find a job. Not long after, a short, hand-written letter arrived in the mail: "Hello Lisa, Please be sure that property taxes don’t increase, decrease would be better. I’m still paying with post-dated cheques for the last property tax. I am 83 years old and I find it very, very hard."
During the election last fall, and since taking office, I’ve also heard from countless small business owners who are struggling. I’ve spoken too with downtown building owners who offer new tenants two to three months free rent and still can’t fill their vacancies because of the high rents they have to charge to cover property taxes. I’m also continually reminded by small business and building owners that it still takes a long time wading through City processes to get a small business open.
How can we make 2015 a pathway to prosperity for residents and our small business community in the City and the region?
Concrete Stepping Stones
I will make two commitments to you as we move forward. First, we’ll actually do stuff. We’ll move from idea generation, to concrete plan with timelines for change, to implementation, to regularly measuring our successes and failure and improving accordingly.
We’ll fail sometimes. And when we do hopefully the failures will be early and fast so we can learn and improve before we’ve wasted your time and money. Be patient with us. And give us feedback. My second commitment is that I’ll listen to it.Read more
Listen to my interview this morning on the CFAX Al Ferraby show, where we talk about the Oath of Office, why I didn't say the Oath of Allegiance and the reaction from the public it has received.
Here is the video and text of my inaugural address to the citizens and council of Victoria:
"I would like to recognize the four MLA’s in attendance: Maureen Karagianis, Dr. Andrew Weaver, Rob Fleming and Carole James. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to bear witness to this very important moment in our City.
I would like to begin by celebrating that we are the Capital City of British Columbia and, as many of our Councillors have said over the past few weeks of getting to know each other, we’d like to make this Capital City shine.
I also want to begin by acknowledging the hard work of Mayor Fortin and the previous Council; a lot of good work was done here in these Chambers and out in the community in the last three years. It is a really, really great foundation for us to build on, I am deeply grateful for that work.
Elder Mary Ann Thomas and I were together at an open house for Dockside Green in the summertime and she began by addressing the crowd. I then spoke to the group after her. Mary Ann’s first words to the crowd were: “I love you, I care about you, and I respect you” . When I got up to speak I said, “What if as elected officials this is how we address the public in significant moments? So in this Inaugural Address I would like to begin by saying “I love you, I care about you, and I respect you.”Read more
Last Saturday night I was elected Mayor of Victoria. It didn’t take long to sink in. And, as the Times Colonist reported, I was already hard at work first thing Monday morning.
What has taken longer is for me to sit down and write this letter to you all, reflecting on the state of politics in our city and on how we won the election.
First, I want to thank everyone who came out to vote on November 15th. Whether you voted Helps or someone else, Victoria’s voter turnout increased by 41% over 2011. This means that over 7000 more people made their way to their local polling station to cast a vote. This is good for democracy. Thanks for voting. And thanks for electing me as your mayor. It’s my honour and I look forward to building this city, with you, for the next four years.Read more