Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saanich Civic League - news story in the local paper

Saanich News

Canvassers survey neighbours on municipal issues

As a new canvasser for the Saanich Civic League, Barb Latham sets out a card table on her front lawn inviting neighbours to chat local politics. The idea is to increase voter turnout by finding out what Saanichites need to know before casting their ballots on Nov. 15.

By the end of next week, the league hopes to have almost 400 new members polled about their values, frustrations and blind spots regarding municipal politics.

Latham became interested in civic life four years ago. At that time, her community association helped residents along Judge Place defeat an unwanted development proposal.

So far, Latham says the response from neighbours has been good.

Of the 35 who completed the survey, only two didn't sign up for civic league membership.

"Mostly everybody seems to say they feel badly they don't have enough information about the issues facing Saanich and how council votes," Latham said.

Sher Morgan, league chair, says ignorance is the most common response to the survey throughout Saanich.

"As soon as the surveyor introduces themselves at the door, eight times out of 10 there's a common response," Morgan said. "They ask, 'What does my municipal government do?' It seems like a no brainer, right?"

The answer, however is tricky, she said. Jurisdictions of authority between Saanich, the Capital Regional District and the province are blurred in people's minds.

"Of course, (responses are) really different in different neighbourhoods," Morgan qualified. "You can imagine that Ten Mile Point is totally different from Strawberry Vale."

A more detailed summary of responses will be unveiled in the civic league's next e-bulletin, to be released in two weeks.

By October, league volunteers also plan to compile a voting record for each of the councillors.

To find out more, visit

The jury speaks

Three new houses sit at the corner of Judge Place and Jury Lane, west of Cedar Hill golf course. It's an intersection whose name tells the story of how residents defeated an unwelcome development and, in the process, became a close-knit community.

It all started in 2004 when a developer proposed four new houses on a lot by Barb Latham's home.

Latham felt the project didn't fit with the large lots in the area so she enlisted the help of neighbours and the Quadra-Cedar Hill Community Association.

They were successful in convincing council to reject the application.

"(The developer) thought that he would just kind of snow us and it was great because the neighbours weren't to be snowed," Latham said.

In the end, the developer sold the property.

Davinder Gill bought the land, built three houses according to community wishes, and moved into one.

He also agreed to name the new street Jury Lane.

"We just it thought it would be fun (because) democracy was in action here," Latham said. "We were the jury."

To celebrate their achievements, the neighbours threw a party and have continued the tradition every year.

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