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Geoff Young won't seek re-election to Victoria council

Geoff Young was first elected to a council seat in 1983.
City of Victoria councillor Geoff Young at his home. Young says he will not be running for re-election. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria city council is losing its elder statesman and the council chamber will have a very different look and feel after the next election with news Thursday that Coun. Geoff Young will not seek re-election.

Young, who was first elected to a council seat in 1983, served 34 years, taking a six-year break between 1999 and 2006.

He said having to make the decision was bittersweet.

“I do hear from people who say that they value my opinions and the fact that I am able to express them, even though it would seem they don’t usually carry the day at the city council,” he said. “Obviously I would prefer it if my opinions were in the majority more often, but I do think there is some value in at least expressing a different point of view — so that just to get on record that there’s more than one way to look at some of these problems.”

Young is often the lone dissenting voice in council votes, but it’s always with sound reason and after thoughtful analysis.

“The community owes a great deal of thanks to Geoff for his decades of service to both the city and the region,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Although we were sometimes on different sides of issues, as a colleague he is thoughtful, collegial and brought a valuable point of view to the council table.”

Young said frustration was starting to creep into the chamber with the feeling that the outcome of most debates was known before it began.

“That can be frustrating. One of my colleagues said it’s just not fun anymore,” he said.

Young, an economist who recently retired from his practice, said what drew him to public service was his interest in the quality of life in the city. He said it’s an affliction he shares with many of his colleagues — vacations looking at how other cities go about their business in case there are some new ideas to borrow.

“I will do things like peering into the recycling bins to see if people are actually recycling or how public squares and public parking works and which public art pieces are successful and which aren’t,” he said.

Young also served for years on the Capital Regional District board, and was chair of it for seven years.

Looking back, he said he is proud of the role he played in introduction of the 911 emergency response system, conversion of the abandoned CN Rail right of way into the Galloping Goose regional trail and pushing to ensure an equitable tax burden between homeowners and business and industry.

He said future councils will have to grapple with frustration being expressed about the state of the city, as Victoria has taken more than its share of the region’s social issues.

“I’ve expressed my frustration at some of the council decisions that I feel have led to us shouldering more than our share of the burden of supportive housing and supportive services,” he said. “It’s my strong feeling some of these issues are not being dealt with as health issues and even as criminal justice issues as they should be, instead they are looked at too much as purely housing issues.”

Young joins the ranks of councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Sharmarke Dubow in deciding not to run, while Helps long ago said she would not seek a third term as mayor of the city.

Long-term Coun. Marianne Alto and newcomer Coun. Stephen Andrew are both running for the mayor’s chair, meaning at least one of them won’t be at the council table any longer.

That means there will be at least five new faces at council after Oct. 15.

“There will now be quite a few vacancies at the table, with potentially more to come,” said Helps.

“This will make for a very interesting campaign with fewer incumbents than Victoria has seen in probably decades.”

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