Focussed on the Future: Council Visits Crystal Pool

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.

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Mayor's Community Drop In

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.

 

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What Does A Mayor Do?

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.

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2015: Pathway to Prosperity

 

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.

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Reflections on the Oath of Office

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.

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Inaugural Address

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.”

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Open Letter to Victorians

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.

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Strong Local Economy

Starting a new business or expanding an existing one is hard work, in and of itself.

When the guys at Wheelies Motorcycles on Rock Bay went to City Hall to get their idea off the ground, they got stuck in so much red tape that they asked me, as a councillor, to help them out. While I was glad to lend a hand, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to personally help every business person in need. City Hall needs to do a better job of delivering its services to citizens and entrepreneurs alike.

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Affordable Community and my Homelessness Action Plan

As you see from watching the above video, I prefer talking about what I will do going forward rather than looking backwards, but it has come to my attention that throughout this election campaign my commitment to poverty prevention and affordable housing is being called into question.

Today, before tonight's Our Place Mayoral candidates' debate, I want to correct this misinformation by outlining my history of work on these issues. With that done, I can then share my concrete plans for the future.

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Whole Hearted Politics

 

On Saturday morning I was honoured to participate with Barb Desjardins and Cairine Green in a women and politics panel at Weaving Connections: Leadership, Creativity & Social Change, organized by the friends of St. Ann’s Academy. The panel was a welcome reprieve from the campaign trail and an opportunity for sharing ideas and experiences about the challenges and opportunities of being women in leadership positions.

With one week left to go in a very heated campaign for City of Victoria mayor, I chose to focus my talk on whole-hearted politics. While spoken talks don’t always translate well into the written word, I think the remarks are well worth sharing for the many of us interested in transforming politics from a blood sport to a collaborative whole-hearted practice. Local politics is an ideal place to start this transformation.

Competition and Collaboration
If the 20th century was the century of competition, the 21st century is the century of collaboration.  The 20th century saw many large-scale wars. It saw the rise of mass consumerism, with companies competing viciously with each other for your every dollar. It saw the race to extract natural resources as quickly and ‘cheaply’ as possible without considering the consequences. And, in the latter years of the 20th century, the globalization of everything ramped up this spirit of competition far beyond national borders.

The 21st century is already shaping up to be different. It’s the century of collaboration. We see this in the private sector where the companies that are great places to work, are also the most profitable – they share data, resources and ideas with their competitors, raising the bar for everyone. We see this in the non-profit sector with organizations co-locating, sharing resources, working together to serve their communities. We see this globally and locally with people developing local solutions to climate change, poverty prevention, economic development, to name a few, and sharing these solutions globally.

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