Monday, September 15, 2008

Pieta VanDyke

This is from Pieta VanDyke, who is running for Victoria City Council

I'm running for Victoria City Council

I am an experienced candidate who knows how City Hall works and is in touch with local issues.

Before I ran for Council in 1987, the city was facing a serious development challenge in the form of the (then) Eaton Centre. Prior to the election I had worked with a coalition of citizens – the Save Our City Coalition – that was concerned about a multitude of issues ranging form the loss of heritage buildings, blank streetscapes, and negative economic impact on nearby businesses. We worked effectively as a non-partisan group and were successful in pressuring the City to require a number of modifications to the proposal. Heritage shop fronts were retained, shops faced the street, and the economic impact has been positive.

I was successful in that election and was privileged to work with an effective council that left any political affiliation at the door and worked for the betterment of all citizens. During that term we opened the Victoria Conference Centre and developed plans for hosting the Commonwealth Games. In my portfolio – Parks and Recreation – we transferred responsibility of Thetis Park to the CRD, naturalized the meadows in Beacon Hill Park, started planning for the Fairfield New Horizons Centre, and established the Vic West skate park.

I have served on the city’s Advisory Planning Commission prior to 1987 and again from 2004-07. During the latter period I represented the APC on the Steering Committee for developing the new Downtown Plan.

My community involvement has been extensive, starting with a stint on Victoria Labour Council and organizing hearings for the Peoples’ Food Commission. As a Board member and Chairperson for the James Bay Community Project I helped to save the organization in 1984 when the province abolished its enabling legislation, and again in 2002 when serous funding cuts resulted in a crisis of confidence in the community. I am pleased that the Project is now financially stable and continues to provide needed services for seniors, families and youth.
My desire to run for Council was piqued by my frustration as an Advisory Planning Commission member when I saw Council neglecting to take seriously the recommendations of staff and its advisory committee on matters such as density bonusing. Downtown and neighbourhood developments have been approved with little or no consideration for established land use or planning principles. There seems to be no vision for our built environment.

While Council has done a commendable job with the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness and Mental Health, it has dropped the ball on maintaining its existing stock of rental housing. An anti-demolition by-law was referred to staff and left to linger for close to a year. Rental apartments are being converted to strata units at a rapid pace. The city’s Affordable Housing Fund sits virtually unused. There are no policies or procedures for accessing the money, which could be used for upgrading and retention of rental housing. We also need to address the barriers that developers have identified that are driving up the cost of construction in the city.

The social and economic impact of homelessness and drug addiction is of crisis proportions. The Coalition to End Homelessness will go some way to alleviating these problems, but the city is hampered by a limited social mandate and no budget for this purpose. We need to continue to push the province to amalgamate police forces, establish a Community Court and provided needed drug rehabilitation, housing, and welfare reform.

I pledge to retain parkland. While it would be great to have the art gallery and children’s museum downtown, we should not have to sacrifice parkland and greens pace. All appropriate sites should be considered.

We need an integrated transit system that includes highway development, light rail (to the western communities and over the Malahat), busways and bike paths.

We need to continue funding recreation programs for seniors and youth as well as for young families and we need to retain access currently available for low income residents.

Victoria is a great tourist destination, but Victoria needs to take responsibility for the impact of increased traffic by providing sufficient, accessible coach parking and mitigating the impact of traffic and pollution, esp. related to cruise ships.

Victoria is a very special place that people around the world come to visit. Lets ensure that it retains its charm and character and is a safe affordable place for those who live and do business here.

More information –
Pieta VanDyke
Secretary, James Bay Neighbourhood Association
Candidate, Victoria City Co
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