Saturday, June 22, 2013

TC coverage of the Amalgamation Yes Founding AGM on June 15th

Here is the TC coverage of the Amalagamation Yes founding AGM

The tone was one of optimism Saturday morning at a meeting that marked another step toward formalized support of municipal amalgamation.

About 30 people arrived for the inaugural general meeting of Amalgamation Yes, a group questioning the value of having 13 municipalities in the region.

Spokesman John Vickers said the meeting meant progress, especially for a number of Yes members who began discussing amalgamation together years ago.

“Over the course of that time, we’ve seen these different community groups come together, incorporate as a non-profit society, have a bank account and have a vision,” he said. “Today is a new beginning, and we look forward now to engaging in the community.”

Amalgamation Yes is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to bringing about a referendum on municipal amalgamation in the Capital Regional District.

It officially formed in March, with the merger of several independent groups seeking change in regional governance.

Arguing in favour of amalgamation, group members commonly cite the lack of an effective regional plan for issues such as urban growth and transportation, and lack of co-ordination in service delivery between separate bodies such as police and fire departments.

But at this point, the primary goal is to open up public discussion on the topic. That means getting a non-binding question about amalgamation on the 2014 municipal ballot.

Carole James, NDP MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill, said her constituents want public discourse.

“Whether they’re pro or con, they want to have a conversation about it,” said James, who was at the meeting as a guest speaker.

She called for research into potential forms of amalgamation.

“I think there’s still some fear and my argument is, fear is often the unknown. Well, let’s put the known on the table. Let’s have a discussion so the facts are there,” she said.

Colwood Coun. Shari Lukens said she plans to release a report June 25, with preliminary research based on talks with the provincial government, Amalgamation Yes, and examination of existing models of amalgamation.

She said her constituents identified it as a priority issue and the formation of Amalgamation Yes provided the momentum to explore it.

“It’s very hard as an individual to gain that momentum, when you’re one of 13 municipalities and 136 elected officials,” she said.

“Personally, I’m not for or against amalgamation. What I’m for is the public being involved in the process and giving us the mandate as to whether or not we can do this.”

The goal of the report is to provide municipal councils with a basis for authorizing the non-binding referendum.

“It may be 10 years down the road before we ever get to ‘Do you want amalgamation?’ and ‘With whom?’ ” Lukens said. “It’s baby steps.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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