Letters June 6: Government Street; addressing homelessness; Victoria council

Elect councillors with business experience

Re: “Local businesses bear brunt of social problems,” comment, June 4.

Thank you to Eric Findlay for his raw and realistic commentary on current realities that businesses face in Victoria.

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So many of us who have risked it all in building a business, continually hope we could carry on and succeed to serve the community and create employment without the ongoing lack of judgment by certain councillors at City Hall.

It is time that a more balanced approach be taken. It is time that voters realize we need experienced long-term thinkers around the table in deciding what is fair and equitable.

Our future relies on councillors who are not sitting on the fringe, unravelling a Victoria that they say that they are bringing together.

It could be time to bring experienced business-based builders to City Hall.

Rob Reid

Community-based business owner

Business owners should have a vote

Re: “Local businesses bear brunt of social problems,” June 4.

What is wrong with this picture? You own a business in the city of Victoria, but live outside the city so you do not get a business vote. You do, however, get all the social problems, as described recently by the president of Splashes Bath & Kitchen on Hillside Avenue: a man barging into his showroom and defecating in a display toilet, weekly scrubbing of graffiti, daily picking up of syringes and the leftovers from the sex trade. You know something about the homeless and the mentally ill because you eyeball them every day.

Your voice would be useful, but you have no voice, no vote as a business owner because you live outside the city.

Contrast that, if you will, to our city council, where half of the councillors live outside the city, yet get to spend our tax money and even set the tax rate. Councillors Jeremy Loveday and Sharmarke Dubow live in Esquimalt, and councillors Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto live in Saanich. Contrast that with both Saanich and Oak Bay, where all the councillors live where they hold office.

What is wrong with this picture? Everything.

Bill Mitchell

City shows leadership on homelessness

Re: “Local businesses bear brunt of social problems,” June 4.

Eric Findlay, president of Splashes Bath & Kitchen on Hillside Avenue, asks us to think about the horror his staff and customers felt when witnessing a person experiencing homelessness going “number two” in his bathroom-fixtures store. Imagine for a moment the horror one would feel having to go “number two” with no home and no access to a public washroom.

Findlay suggests that there is no leadership in the municipal and provincial governments.

Some facts: In the past three weeks, the provincial government has invested $33.5 million to purchase two hotels to immediately house people, properties that will be redeveloped as more affordable housing in the near future.

In comparison, the federal government has spent $1.3 million in its COVID-19 strategy for people who are homeless in our region.

In Victoria, taxpayers elected representatives who rezone land for affordable housing, steward a housing reserve fund, contribute to the regional housing trust fund, purchase land and exercise leadership. The CRD Regional Housing First Program was spearheaded by Victoria city councillors in 2015.

If you are frustrated with the growing number of people who are experiencing homelessness, ask your own municipal leadership what they are doing to address this. You don’t need to vote in Victoria to make a difference.

Nicole Chaland

Closing part of street won’t hurt business

I want to support and congratulate Victoria’s mayor and council on their plan to close a section of Government Street to motor traffic.

I grew up in Victoria, although I now live on Galiano. I have for a long time, since travelling in European cities, been a proponent of closing a section of Government Street. The pedestrian-only streets throughout Europe are a delight, and in no way seem to diminish business for the shops. Quite the opposite: These streets are very busy and lively, and the mix of shops and outdoor cafés is street life as it should be in an urban environment. We gravitate there on our travels, and consider those streets the centre of a town or city.

I believe the fear of business loss is completely unwarranted. Vehicle traffic has ruined so many neighbourhoods and streets. I am delighted to hear you will reclaim this lovely part of our city for residents and visitors. It is long overdue.

Jennifer Margison
Galiano Island

Closure of Government Street is not bold

Mayor Lisa Helps claims that the plan to close one block of Government Street from Fort to View Street is a bold move in spades. I suggest she needs to see the great pedestrian plazas of Europe (Munich, Prague, Vienna, Rome) and smaller cities such as Bergen, Norway, or simply Grafton Street, Halifax, and the Old Port of Montreal to see what is truly possible when the local government really wants to make liveable spaces.

Being truly bold means making Government Street from Belleville to Yates, and Broad Street from View to Pandora, totally pedestrian (including no bikes) and allowing the stores, cafés, pubs and restaurants to spill out into the space.

Alan Humphries
James Bay

There is better health care in Alberta

B.C. has lot to learn from Alberta’s health-care system, especially for the elderly with dementia.

We lived in Brentwood Bay for 30 years, and when my wife was diagnosed with dementia, I was shocked to find doctors in Victoria knew little about the disease. Every time we went to the ER, we had to wait nine to 10 hours to see a doctor, both at Royal Jubilee Hospital and Victoria General Hospital. And then we’d be told there is nothing they can do.

Well, after moving to Alberta, things changed very quickly. She was admitted to the hospital and assessed, taken off the old medication and put on a new one. She started eating and sleeping again — back to the baseline. It’s like night and day, the difference. So Mr. Premier, don’t be so smug about your health-care system. Alberta beats you, hands down.

Isaac Nercessian
Beaumont, Alta.

There could be unknown virus cases

Re: “Last Island COVID-19 patient released from hospital,” June 4.

The first sentence of the story states: “The last person known to have COVID-19 on Vancouver Island has recovered and been released from hospital.” The key word that should be emphasized here is “known.” Otherwise, we are all under an illusion and will base our behaviour on a false sense of security.

The unknowns, which should have been pointed out in this story, are the asymptomatic cases; the untested population; the carriers of the virus from the now ever-increasing number of visiting tourists on the Island who are here today, gone tomorrow; and, of course, the great majority with slight symptoms but who have never been tested.

Kate Hanley

We need what little silverware remains

Re: “How will councils deal with the cash crunch?” comment, June 5.

Costs to municipalities, and most everybody else, are going up. Economies are being sought. The suggestion that mayors and councillors en masse vote themselves a pay reduction, even a symbolic reduction, would help send the message that they are trying. Any savings to the overall budget will amount to petty cash, even if they reduced their stipends to symbolic amounts.

The suggestion that municipalities sell their “silverware” should be shelved instantly. When the early steamboats burned their furniture to try to make it to port, those that made it also ended up derelicts. Society did not miss those ships. Society will miss the loss of the public assets of municipalities. We peasants do not look forward to being the serfs of the entitled. Two world wars reduced the influence of the entitled, and globalization has put the entitled back into the driver’s seats.

Our municipal assets are public assets, and we peasants have few enough as it is. Do not sell the silverware and leave us destitute in the future.

Steve Cooley
Campbell River

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