Monday, October 04, 2010

What a City means and what a Neighbourhood means

I speak of a city I refer to an all inclusive socio-economic geographic location.   Something that is holistically complete.   This means an entity that includes where we live, work, shop and socialize.   In the context of this region it means that there is not a single local government that achieves this, the closest one is the City of Victoria, but it is limited because those of us living on the border of Victoria have much of our life outside of the municipal boundaries.

A neighbourhood is a location within a city that has some manner of social gathering place that acts as a hub.  We are city of numerous neighbourhoods, a large number of them which are in two municipalities.   The focus typically is a local shopping area, a school or park.

For the city as a whole to function at it's best, the governance of the city has to reflect the whole and not small parts.   The council of the city needs to be able to see the big picture and to be able to deal with whole neighbourhoods.  Planning needs to be done with the full city has as the focus.

Neighbourhoods have ways to govern themselves through the various neighbourhood associations and through them can address the local issues that the larger city might not be able to.

In Greater Victoria we have a problem because artificial boundaries mean that some neighbourhoods have local governments and some are not self governing.   The municipalities like Oak Bay, Esquimalt and View Royal are simply too limited to effectively govern themselves. 

As an example, Oak Bay has to rely on other municipalities for all the jobs needed and the industrial lands needed for the city to function.  People in Oak Bay have to leave the municipality to access many of the most basic things such as gasoline and car repairs.   By most measures, Oak Bay is less of a legitimate governing area than James Bay would be.

The core shopping street of Oak Bay is partially within the City of Victoria - no one stops at Foul Bay because of the artificial boundary and does not shop on the other side of the line.   The main supermarket used by people in Oak Bay is across the border in Victoria.

It is a huge error in this region to assume that individual neighbourhoods are capable of governing as if they were a whole city.   It wastes resources and it makes for shortsighted and narrow decision making.  

The current status quo in local governments in this region harms the quality of life in this region and adds costs to all of our lives.   If the model of Oak Bay is one that makes sense, then we need to divide up Saanich and Victoria into 12 to 15 smaller local governments.   If Oak Bay is not the model for the region, then we need to amalgamate.

Oak Bay is a series of neighbourhoods which flow across the municipal boundaries.   An amalgamated Victoria would not remove the neighbourhoods and would not remove the character of the neighbourhoods.   Cook Street village manages to act as a neighbourhood and it has been within the City of Victoria since the start.

If we started with a blank map, is there anyone out there that could justify creating the boundaries we currently live with?
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