OAK BAY WATCH: ALL CANDIDATES MEETING REPORT
“What you are told and the facts should always add up”
The Oak Bay Watch All Candidates Meeting was highly successful and attended by a packed, standing room only audience on Sept 22, 2018. The meeting can be viewed online (See link Appendix #1). Also available is an online edition article at oakbaynews.com. See Appendix #2 for Guiding Principles for Council Members that Oak Bay Watch highlighted at our meeting.
We urge residents to watch the Oak Bay News Video and closely analyze what Council Candidates had to say. At the meeting, Mayor Jensen painted a glowing picture of what good shape we are in and outlined his plans and initiatives for Oak Bay’s future. So let’s start there:
The Mayor continued to hang his hat on his resident satisfaction survey that he says shows 99% of Oak Bay residents are satisfied with the District’s current situation. While one could certainly interpret the Survey this way, this is not all that it showed. It clearly identified that the number one resident concern (35%) by far was development and infrastructure. Councillors Zhelka and Braithwaite and Candidate Esther Paterson, in their presentations, also identified these and other serious problems and said that, if elected, they will commit to solving them. What did Mayor Jenson leave out or omit in his presentations and answers to residents? Let’s take a look:
- The fact there is a serious rift in Council this term. The same Councillor 3 - 3 voting pattern on budget, spending, development issues and priorities, has been repeated. The Mayor has not attempted conciliation but has always voted to break the tie by favoring the same 3 Councillors who support his development and spending priorities.
- That he has had seven years to strengthen the tree bylaw but he is just, perhaps, getting to it now. The Urban Forest Strategy Consultant Report was completed early last year (20 months ago) and the tree protection it recommended is nowhere in sight. Hundreds of mature trees have been lost to development.
- The Mayor completely avoided answering a resident’s question that he has had seven years to implement, charging developers for the infrastructure and service impacts their developments cause: he obviously indicated then that, if elected, he’s happy with having existing residents continue to pick up the tab.
- That his vote has approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant contract costs during his two terms and, there have been limited or no outcomes.
- Although the Mayor did refer to a plan to improve our infrastructure, he did not explain why he is just getting to it now, at this late date. He also plans to spend most of the Capital Reserve funds (collected from all owners) for the Uplands Sewer Renewal Project, neglecting the rest of Oak Bay where most of the development has occurred.
The Mayor said he now intends to borrow infrastructure funding but, may not be aware that it would have been smarter to borrow much earlier in his two terms when interest rates were at rock bottom. After all, the state of the infrastructure, its under-funding and the infrastructure deficit have been identified in Council reports for a number of years now. These facts have been raised by residents at Council. Concerns about the District’s questionable infrastructure and financial positions are clearly explained by an Oak Bay Resident in Victoria’s Focus magazine published this month (see Appendix #3)
The following resident question summarized a number of concerns raised by residents and council candidates during the meeting.
"So we've heard a lot about some pillars, some themes like engagement, financial responsibility, development and things like that I am not going to get into all of those again, I can't, but one theme that consistently has come through to me over the past seven years is leadership style and I have to tell you that I am not thrilled with what I see. I am a public servant as well, I understand the role of public servant in being a good steward, it is a privilege to be elected and to be representing constituents, so my question to you is going forward, are you going to commit to being in the true spirit of a public servant, and elected official, commit to engagement, commit to transparency and commit to vote independently, according to your conscience and according to the will and the feedback you get from your community, Because what I have observed over the last seven years is an apparent pattern of block voting. That basically takes away half the votes on council, so I do not need to hear words, a show of hands that you commit to this approach. (all ten candidates raised their hands). Thank you for publicly doing that".
(The Audience response indicated it appreciated this question being asked)
Let’s hope the leadership issue comes up in the next two All Candidates Meetings. Wednesday, September 26th starting at 7:00 pm. This will be held at the Emmanuel Baptist Church at the corner of Henderson and Cedar Hill X Road. Details of the 2nd All Candidates Meetings in October will be announced closer to the date.
Use your votes in the October 20, Municipal Election to ensure our leadership protects the public interest:
Appendix # 1
GUIDING PRINCIPLES for OAK BAY
City Council must respect the general good and protect the public interest and not act in concert with their personal agendas or give undue support to outside interests.
Decisions should be made Development should reflect this uniqueness. Oak Bay has evidence, facts basedOak Bay has a unique look and feel. Development should reflect this uniqueness. Decisions should be made and expert advice and a reflection of the balanced needs and requirements of the entire community and, not outside interests. Development must be self-sustaining, gradual and controlled. Community character, green space, and livability for all citizens must be the priority.
Municipal governments should focus on core services. Spending on projects outside of core services or in the jurisdiction of other levels of government should be limited. Oak Bay needs to refocus its spending priorities and keep property tax increases in check. Long-term capital expenditures must be adequately funded and stay on budget.
Election campaigning by stealth in Oak Bay
I opened my 2018 Oak Bay property tax notice and, in the information insert, I noticed a blatant misrepresentation of a presentation given to Oak Bay Council by the Municipal Finance Authority. The offending statement reads: “A recent presentation from the Municipal Finance Authority (MFA) confirmed the District’s strong financial position and low debt...”
I attended this particular Council Committee of the Whole meeting and have reviewed the archived webcast. At no time did the representative from the MFA confirm “the District’s strong financial position.” During the follow-up question and answer, the Municipal Finance Authority representative seemed to be going out of her way to stick to the facts and stay apolitical. So, the author of this statement is making an inferential leap.
I was curious; who writes and/or guides these district-wide communications? As people are not allowed to ask Oak Bay Mayor and Council questions and get answers in any public forum, I was able to deduce that the statement was in fact written by our current Mayor, Nils Jensen. How do I know? This exact statement appears in the “Message from the Mayor” in the Oak Bay 2017 Annual Report. yes, Oak Bay has low debt, but massive infrastructure bills are looming ($283 Million).
Can Mayor Jensen honestly say that we are in a “strong financial position” when we owe little money now, but are ill-prepared for future costs? I have not contacted the Municipal Finance Authority, but think they may be interested to know that their apolitical information presentations are being spun into political propaganda. With a municipal election coming up, I find this type of misrepresentation galling and, to top it off, this campaigning by stealth was paid for with my and my fellow citizen’s municipal tax dollars.
Oak Bay Resident