Letters Aug. 1: Things went right at city hall; the finances of lawyers; too much astroturf

What went right at city hall this week

All too often — and I include myself in this group — we are quick to point out shortcomings at city hall. We forget to applaud good work when we see it.

In the hope of making small amends, I offer my dealings with the tax department these past days.

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First, I admit to an error in checking off the wrong entitlement box on my tax bill. Shortly thereafter, I received a polite phone call suggesting I might have made a mistake. Indeed, I had and the clerk happily corrected it for me.

Two days ago, I received a second call from the same official, this one for my sister-in-law, now in the United States, saying that her property tax cheque to the city was dated Aug. 5, one day beyond the deadline of Aug. 4. We managed to get that corrected, so there will not be a large penalty for missing the filing deadline.

Again, a pleasant, melodious voice from city hall had made everything right.

My guess is this same person, who twice helped me, has helped many others this tax season.

So, may I, on behalf of everyone assisted, give a generous “shout out” to a person I know only by the name Elaine in city taxation.

Bill Mitchell

Lots of work, not much money for lawyers

Re: “Money for lawyers, not children,” letter, July 30.

There are complexities involved in a lawsuit that takes two years to get to settlement.

The case had already been turned down twice, which makes it an uphill battle from the beginning. Lawyers would easily spend an average of two hours per week on such a case, or more.

Over two years, this makes for a conservative estimate of 200 hours of work. (That is five weeks full-time, or more, for the average person.) The lawyer gets paid nothing over those two years.

Thus, the princely sum of $85 per hour up to two years after the initial and most time-intense work is performed. From that, the lawyer must pay all overheads, including hefty Law Society fees and insurance, staff time, office rent and overheads, often filing fees, and other incidentals.

That easily takes half or more. And you expect pro bono on top of that? I would guess there were plenty of hours devoted to this case outside what was billed. And, of course, had the lawyers not been successful, they would be paid nothing at all.

Perhaps it comes down to the question as to whether the adult children are better off with 83.125 per cent of $100,000 or 100 per cent of nothing.

Elizabeth Hanan
Retired lawyer

Why astroturf in a world with too much plastic?

Re: “Oak Bay High back in the green,” July 31.

Am I missing something here? Does this new plastic turf have some magical way to prevent bits of plastic from breaking off under the onslaught of running shoes pounding around on it?

What’s wrong with real grass? Is it just too much trouble to plant, fertilize and mow it? The whole world is infested with plastic. We should do better.

Brian Hudson

Carriage-horse protesters do not harass staff

As a participant in protests against horse carriages, I can say firsthand that there are no video cameras following every move the staff make, no organized drive-bys of cars, no videos of horses being slaughtered.

The only video shown is the Victoria accident in which two trolley horses fell and were in, as B.C. SPCA CEO Craig Danneill said, “significant stress for more than five minutes.”

There is no safety issue for staff or the horses created by the protesters, several of whom have extensive knowledge and experience with horses. The opposite is true.

The only harassment I have seen is by the staff, yelling at us to move back (when we are already well behind the needed distance) and calling the police for made-up violations.

Indeed, every time the police have been called, they have told us that we are doing nothing wrong. What a waste of taxpayers’ money!

We are there for one reason — to allow the public to see an alternative point of view to the exploitative practice of horse-drawn carriages, a business which the B.C. SPCA has criticized and which has been banned in many cities around the world, including Paris, London, Beijing, Delhi, Toronto and Montreal.

It is time for Victoria to wake up to the inherent cruelty of this industry.

Susan M’Gonigle

Police street checks are not random

As a retired Calgary police officer with 30 years of experience, I have been following the argument regarding police street checks, both pro and con, that is taking place in the letters section.

In a previous letter, I said that these checks are an invaluable tool in identifying and preventing criminal behaviour in our neighbourhoods. What I didn’t mention or explain, though, is that these checks, when properly executed by an experienced police officer, are not random nor capricious.

As a uniformed patrol officer, you are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal events, and often the pre-commission behaviours of those who commit these crimes.

Unless you are incredibly bad at your job, this data and experience leads to the development of some predictive “software” that you then use in future contacts with people as a means to ensure your own safety and that of the public we serve.

Any experienced police officer is able to tell the difference between those harmless folks who are out at 3 a.m. and those who are intent on doing us, our families and our property harm.

I also submit that the vast majority of people reading this will agree that they would much rather have the police check on the strange man standing by their car or house at 3 a.m. than be prohibited by the uninformed opinions of a few from doing so.

Len Dafoe
Nanoose Bay

Coal has no role in our future

Re: “Giant job brings in more customers,” July 28.

The article profiled a Victoria company that has just finished building a giant piece of equipment to expedite coal exports from Vancouver ports. The massive coal stacker-reclaimer will be installed at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver.

Vancouver is the leading exporter of coal in North America. An increasing portion of these exports, the dirtiest coal of all, is so-called thermal coal. The thermal coal is mined in Trump’s America but blocked from access to Asian markets by the state governments of California, Oregon and Washington.

These states have recognized that building infrastructure for exporting thermal coal has no future in a world concerned about climate change.

Victoria has a tremendous opportunity in the rebuilding of the post-pandemic economy. We have tremendous advantages that we should not fritter away on pipe dreams that risk destroying the planet.

First, Victorians are very nice people. We say hello to strangers, we smile at one another.

We take care of each other in times of crisis, be it the great snowstorm of 1996 or the great pandemic of 2020. We have large peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

These assets attract and retain well educated young people, eager to work in the tech industry and other innovative and sustainable initiatives that look to the future.

Chris Allnutt
Oak Bay

Never, ever to return to Victoria

Victoria, once my favourite city and the only city I thought I could live in, is now the city I don’t want to ever visit again.

Beyond the pandemic issues, the lack of the ability to handle the homeless/crime issues has made Victoria a place I don’t ever want to visit.

I’ll hold the memories with my children at Beacon Hill Park, feeding the ducks, the petting zoo, the museum, the Imax, the harbour walk and great stays at the Grand Pacific and Laurel Point.

Victoria, I guess, is a thing of the past and sadly missed.

Once a Victoria promoter, but no longer.

Bryan Erickson
Campbell River

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