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Letters April 3: A family can get along without a car; let's have fewer city halls; citizens should have more say

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Cyclists wait for the Johnson Street Bridge to come down. TIMES COLONIST

It’s easy to get along without a vehicle

Re: “Saanich parking plans will cause problems,” letter, March 30.

The letter suggested Saanich will be less family friendly if it eliminates parking minimums, but we are living that reality and loving it.

We are a family of four who live car-free in Saanich. There are many other families like ours.

Our home has 1,300 square feet of main-floor living space, with a similar amount of not-quite-finished basement, and unused parking spaces for eight vehicles (1,440 square feet).

Councillor Zac de Vries said “we’re in a housing crisis, not a parking crisis,” and from our perspective this is certainly true.

We have no trouble biking or walking to work, school, and activities (right now that’s dance and swimming), getting groceries, visiting friends and doing the normal things that families do together.

We cycle in all weather, and are grateful for the recent additions of protected bike lanes in our neighbourhood and across the city that allow us to travel safely while getting a little exercise and leaving no pollution behind in the atmosphere.

Let’s not let a lack of imagination prevent us from designing for the future. Requiring abundant free parking by municipal decree has been a disaster that we should be grateful to leave behind in the 20th century.

The market should decide how much parking should be built — not municipal bylaws.

Organizations like the Parking Reform Network are doing great work educating the public about the over-abundance of parking in our society, and their work should be required reading for all citizens.

Ben Cowie

Saanich

Family biking is healthier and faster

Re: “Saanich parking plans will cause problems,” letter, March 30.

The letter asked whether parents could imagine getting groceries and taking children to school and activities without using a car.

I don’t have to imagine, because it’s a daily reality for my family of four.

Thanks to infrastructure improvements and our trusty cargo bike, our 30-minute each way preschool commute and various kiddo activities are achieved by bike.

Like many busy families, we sometimes get groceries delivered, but often as not we’re happily loading panniers with the week’s essentials. We don’t have a car, but we do have good rain pants and waterproof gloves.

Perhaps we could all stretch our imaginations a little further. For us, family biking is more fun, healthier, cheaper, and often faster than getting around by car.

Maggie Knight

Oak Bay

Thanks to Oak Bay for curbing bike lanes

When wins are hard to come by, you have to be thankful for the small ones. Such is the case in Oak Bay council’s decision to put the brakes on the bike lane ideology that has been such a debacle in Victoria and Saanich.

Maybe if they use the delay to take a peek at the counterproductive projects on Tillicum Road and Fort Street, they might realize that the “active transportation” model does not translate into efficient transportation, however pleasing it may be to its authors.

So thank you, Oak Bay council, for this small victory for sanity in a world colonized by every variety of madness. Could it be the start of something?

Michel Murray

Saanich

Get rid of a bunch of our city halls

Tired of the bickering? Let’s go for it: Have a referendum before the next elections, and downsize from 13 municipalities to one as been suggested before.

Be able to elect one well-paid mayor, council and support staff. Think of the money saved — plus the benefits of amalgamated police, fire, parks department, etc. Serious issues could be tackled with comprehensive goals in mind: public transportation connected areawide; building and maintaining infrastructure systems geared to mitigate climate change and inevitable earthquakes.

Homelessness could be seriously tackled based, for instance, on Finland’s “housing first concept.”

Perhaps we could even venture into architectural standards and incentives, public art and culture. The possibilities are endless with all the extra money in the coffers!

Maybe even grow a contingency fund for future unforeseen economic downturns or events.

There will be disappointments, arguments, missteps, goofs but at least Southern Vancouver Island would have an areawide vision, hopefully unencumbered by a “not in my backyard” mentality.

There would be an inevitable upheavals initially but a united solution in the long run. Even empty city halls to be repurposed!

Nicola Ferdinando

Victoria

Get everyone involved in community decisions

Victoria taxpayers were surprised to learn that five council members spearheaded a 25 per cent pay hike motion with Mayor Marianne Alto ruling it in order, despite no prior review or scrutiny normally given to motions at council meetings.

There was no public input sought for this irresponsible action in light of constituents coping with the third highest cost of living expenses in Canada.

I find it an ironic plan for Alto to recently announce that Victoria residents will now have the opportunity to “offer their thoughts on safety” to the mayor’s 10-member task force via surveys and focus groups.

Why was this kind of proper governance and transparency not applied with regard to the outrageous pay increase? There are 12 active neighbourhood associations, with one council member in attendance at each month’s meetings.

Why are the city’s elected officials not using these organizations with high numbers of well-informed and involved community citizens to optimize communication between council and local citizens?

If this type of meaningful and direct involvement was used and citizens trusted that their input was acknowledged in the final decision-making process, community members would feel more encouraged to participate in civic affairs.

These extra additional task forces and focus groups with hand-picked committee members just add to the trend of governing bodies ignoring, stonewalling, and discouraging authentic constituent participation at the municipal level.

Elizabeth Kozak

Victoria

The cost of a councillor? Just 60 cents a month

You have to wonder what all the fuss is about with councillor salaries in Victoria. A previous letter-writer worked out some math showing the cost per resident of Victoria to have eight councillors paid to oversee and direct a budget of over $325 million in 2024.

The figure the letter writer arrived at was $7.25 a year — or to put things into perspective 60 cents per month per resident.

You would think with all the negative letters printed that this was a priority of Victoria residents or at least something simple for some to grumble about or perhaps it’s an editorial bias that thinks 60 cents a month (two cents a day) is too much to support Victoria’s democracy.

It’s a tough job to wade through volumes of material before each council meeting, to meet with residents and to respond to their real concerns.

I challenge anyone who thinks 60 cents a month is too much to pay for a local government’s elected officials to run for office and see what the workload and responsibility entails.

Phil Le Good

Cobble Hill

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• Email: letters@timescolonist.com

• Mail: Letters to the editor, Times Colonist, 201-655 Tyee Rd., ­Victoria, B.C. V9A 6X5

• Aim for no more than 250 words; subject to editing for length and clarity.