Comment: Victoria council is doing what it was elected to do

A commentary on behalf of Together Victoria’s board of directors.

As a group of people who worked tirelessly to help Sarah Potts, Sharmarke Dubow and Laurel Collins get elected to Victoria council, Together Victoria would like to respond to the July 10 editorial titled “Municipal council needs to be reined in,” which falsely suggests that council members are not doing the job they were elected to do.

The Grumpy Taxpayer$ claim that people are angry. We agree that people are angry. They are angry that this ongoing narrative against council is undermining the democratic process and standing in the way of the vision council was elected on.

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The editorial suggests that people are disengaged because they don’t hear a voice at the table that represents their views. It claims that council needs to be “reined in” because they are chasing their own agendas.

The irony of these statements, if they were not so harmful to our democracy, is that council better represents the diversity of our city than ever before. And in the first nine months they have already achieved many of the things they campaigned on.

Together Victoria has seen a marked increase in civic engagement from groups of people who are less likely to be engaged in the political process, including younger people, lower-income earners and renters.

We know these groups were compelled to vote in the municipal election — some for the first time ever — because they saw their perspectives well-represented by Potts, Dubow and Collins, who are all under 40 years old and renters themselves.

This may have been why the 2018 election had the highest voter turnout in decades.

We know that incumbency is one of the strongest factors in a municipal election, which makes their success as first-time candidates an even more amazing feat. Victoria did not vote for the same old status quo. Victoria voted for a strong platform that focused on affordability, inclusion, climate leadership and more.

This platform set a path for the next four years, with many of the items making their way into the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan. In the first nine months, council has already followed through with many platform promises.

Since being elected, council has made several important changes to the housing strategy to deal with the housing crisis, including incentivizing the creation of family-appropriate units and developing a strategy to acquire land for non-market housing.

Council members successfully passed an inclusionary housing policy that incentivizes the building of affordable rental units and have moved to adopt a more appropriate definition of “affordability” to ensure they are truly meeting the housing needs of residents.

Housing isn’t the only platform issue they have focused on. Council, led by Potts, recently voted to strike a peer-informed task force to develop a municipal strategy to deal with addictions and mental health challenges.

The platform also promised free transportation for youth under the age of 18 as one tool to combat climate change and tackle affordability challenges for families.

This policy will become reality in the fall, after the motion was approved by council, brought forward to the Victoria Regional Transit Committee by Dubow and adopted in June.

Finally, Together Victoria’s councillors promised to make city hall and its consultation processes more accessible.

Council approved a motion to secure child-minding at council meetings and engagements to ensure parents and families could better participate in civic democracy. Council struck advisory committees to include more traditionally marginalized voices, including an LGBTQI2s Advisory Committee and a Renters’ Advisory Committee.

Council did this while keeping one of the lowest property tax increases in the region.

Victoria is no longer the “newly-wed or nearly-dead” city that it used to be. We elected new members to council that represent the values of the majority of people who live here.

And as these council members continue to work through the agenda that was given to them by the electorate, we will continue to push back against anti-democratic narratives that suggest otherwise.

Some people say that council should stick to fixing potholes, but we believe you can fix potholes and do advocacy at the same time.

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