Wednesday, April 25, 2007

City Could be Best in Canada - Lowe

This is a headline from page B1 of the Times Colonist today. It is the sort of sentiment that I would like to see us adopt in the Capital Region.

His focus is just on the one municipal government - Victoria. I think that it would be better if the focus was on the whole region and we developed a more unified local government so that we can think bigger and not be weighed down by parochial concerns.

Here is the article:

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City could be best in Canada: Lowe
Carolyn Heiman
Times Colonist

Mayor Alan Lowe says businesses downtown need a safe environment to ply their trade.
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist
Mayor Alan Lowe says businesses downtown need a safe environment to ply their trade.

Victoria has the potential to be the most livable city in Canada, Mayor Alan Lowe told business leaders yesterday.

"Some people think that Victoria's livability is slipping away," Lowe said. But although housing costs are high, and the city has social problems, he said, "We can turn the tide, and build on our legacy of livability."

In an upbeat presentation to members of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Lowe outlined steps the city has taken to deal with social problems, but emphasized the city needs help from senior governments for a permanent solution.

While the city needs to show compassion for the most vulnerable, it also has to create "a downtown for everyone," he said: "a downtown that is productive and a downtown that will allow the businesses to have a safe environment to continue their trade."

Lowe challenged his audience to help find solutions for chronic problems -- such as the need for a new location for the needle exchange, now on the corner of Cormorant and Blanshard streets.

Earlier this year, AIDS Vancouver Island announced it wanted to relocate its service to a facility that included a courtyard to get drug addicts off the street. The announcement alarmed some neighbourhoods, which were concerned about attendant problems, such as discarded needles. The agency has since announced it doesn't have funds to move.

Lowe said a new location is still needed for the exchange, but promised the problems would not be moved from one neighbourhood to another. "The people hanging outside with their buggies ... we want them in an enclosed area so they won't be a burden and problem to the neighbourhood. We also want more social service providers to help them."

Lowe, who is also chairman of the Victoria Police Board, said plans are being finalized with the Victoria police to deal with repeat offenders in the area, although specifics won't be announced for a few more weeks.

Lowe outlined the city's four goals -- environmental sustainability, social and cultural development, economic vitality and service and staff excellence -- identified in its recently released 2007-2009 strategic plan

He noted the city will use performance measures to determine if those goals are met. He also showcased a number of projects the city is making headway on, including:

* Redevelopment of the north end of downtown.

* Establishment of a task force to examine redevelopment of the Belleville Terminal in the Inner Harbour.

* Improvements to Centennial Square, with the removal of a pod-like wing built on the back of the McPherson Theatre to create a larger festival space.

Lowe said sweeping changes to the square are still possible once the Centennial Square parkade is replaced with underground parking and a new facility -- possibly a new library.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
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