Thursday, August 12, 2010

City of Victoria votes to go forward with a new bridge

Just in, the council voted 8-1 to build a new bridge and not to refurbish the existing bridge.  Only Geoff Young voted against the new bridge.

What I do not know is what the information looked like that the council considered.

I think that this decision is a dangerous one for council because I am not convinced that they can pass this in the referendum in November.   I do not think there is much hope in passing the borrowing referendum this fall.  Honestly I can not see the scenariop in whihc that would happen.   If council members say "you must pass it or your taxes will rise dramatically." they will get a lot of push back.

Council should have received the message from the public in the counter petition process that they needed to move in the direction of refurbishing the existing bridge.  To ignore that input and go forward with the replacement when there has been virtually no public support for that idea is foolhardy and irresponsible.   The councilors have a fiduciary obligation to manage the finances of the City to the best of their ability.   Putting something to referendum that they can be certain will fail is not meeting their obligation.

  • Will council members be actively campaigning for the borrowing?
  • Who will head the Yes to borrowing side of the debate?
  • What is council going to do if they get a No in November?

My prediction is that we will have general gridlock with respect to City governance will the election 2011 and at that point we will see an almost completely new council elected.

Update at 2 pm

Seems there was a poll that showed close to 2/3s of Victoria residents favour replacement.   Maybe they can win the referendum......

Here is their press release:

Council Proceeds to Referendum to Replace Johnson Street Bridge
Date: Thursday, August 12, 2010 For Immediate Release
VICTORIA, BC — Victoria City Council has decided to proceed to a referendum on borrowing up to $49.2 million to replace the 86-year old Johnson Street Bridge.

“I am pleased that so many people from our community took the time to provide their thoughts and opinions on this important project,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “The community has provided us with a clear preference for replacement, and now it is my hope we can move forward towards a successful referendum for borrowing in the Fall.”

Informed by extensive public input, from more than 2,600 Victoria households, and a representative Ipsos-Reid telephone survey of residents and businesses, a clear preference for replacement was indicated. The results of the Ipsos-Reid survey indicated 64% of Victoria residents preferred replacement compared to 29% for rehabilitation. A survey of business returned a preference of over 3:1 for replacement over rehabilitation.

The total project cost for a replacement bridge is estimated at $77 million and has a federal contribution commitment for $21 million. The City has reprioritized other budgetary expenditures to take advantage of the bridge construction period, which further reduces the funds needed to borrow.

The new bridge includes on-road bicycle lanes, a multi-use path, a dedicated pedestrian walkway on the south side, improved road approaches, a connection to a future harbour pathway, widened marine channel, and improved connections to the Galloping Goose and E&N trails.

A borrowing bylaw will be given three readings at a special Council meeting tomorrow, Friday, August 13 at 2:30 p.m. Subject to approval by the Inspector of Municipalities, the borrowing bylaw will be taken to a referendum on Saturday, November 20, 2010.
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