THE OAK BAY TRANSPARENCY DISCONNECT
While there were positive indications at the new Council’s November Meetings that the District’s transparency will improve, However, attention needs to be drawn to Agenda Item #6 at Council Committee of the Whole on November 19, 2018: the minutes read:
6. Citizen Satisfaction/Priorities Survey Report - Citizen Satisfaction & Priorities Survey - Director of Corporate Services, Nov. 15, 2018
The Director of Corporate Services gave a brief overview of the matter. Discussion ensued around the most effective timing to collect feedback and input from the public, given that a new Council has just taken office, particularly regarding citizen satisfaction.
MOVED and seconded: That the Committee of the Whole recommend to Council that it refer consideration of this item to approve an expenditure of $30,000 to fund a Citizen Satisfaction/Priorities Survey to a Special Committee of the Whole meeting to be held on December 3, 2018.
CARRIED With Councillors Braithwaite, Paterson and Zhelka opposed”.
What is disturbing, apart from our having already started with a 4-3 Council split vote, the minutes of this meeting do not provide anything like the disclosure required to provide the public with what individual Council member’s positions were on this item. The item involves a $30,000 taxpayer price tag and a whole lot of valuable staff time. No written report about the 15 minutes of Council discussion is included.
It is true that members of the public can sit through the 15 minute webcast account, if they have the time, initial interest and patience, in order to track the process. But they must remember or record which Council member was in favor of what and why. Even this can be inadequate as some past webcasts have very poor sound quality, Council members and presenters often do not speak directly into the microphones, and some Council meetings were not even webcast. What record is there of the discussions that were made at these sessions?
More important, Oak Bay has no written public record of Council discussion – unlike the rest of the Capitol Regional District (minus one), most Lower Mainland Municipalities, most BC Municipalities, the Provincial Government, the rest of the Country and Parliament. This was pointed out to the last Council: however the recommendation to remove all discussion and the identity of the seconder of a motion was approved and implemented immediately.
What is most disturbing about spending $ 30,000 on yet another survey is:
- We have just had a very very expensive time-consuming election and the elected Councillors stated pre-election, at All Candidates meetings and in the media, that they fully understand what the public’s priorities are (Appendix #1).
- We have been inundated with surveys, task forces, and expensive consultant contracts and reports. There have been many many resident submissions and input at Council and Committee of the Whole meetings as well as several Strategies (Urban Forest and Residential Infill) - but all this has resulted in very little action.
Action is what we are most short of along and with the hope of redirecting $30,000 taxpayer dollars to a much more important priority, it must be pointed out that there have been many indications that the Community wants: our infrastructure asset crisis addressed, over-densification addressed (see last satisfaction survey findings (Appendix #2), our finances put in order and mature trees saved.
Oak Bay Watch Perspective
There have been enough recommendations from multiple sources in recent years to begin forming some resident priority action plans and developing expedient steps to accomplish them. The Residential Infill Strategy wasted $45, 000 in Consultant fees plus the funding of an Infill Consultant Workshop, and a whole lot of staff time. This Infill Strategy was scrapped after serious resident backlash at two District meetings at the University of Victoria in 2O16. Much earlier public consultation would have saved all this taxpayer expense.
This was a good lesson that should have sent a clear message. Wouldn’t it make more sense to find out what is acceptable to residents after providing them with all of the relevant information and facts before charging off to rewrite a land-use change? After all, this is the hallmark of Community Consultation. There were many complaints about the integrity of the last Community Satisfaction Survey: let’s not repeat it.
It’s very poor planning and management to consult the public at late stages of a suggested dramatic change to Oak Bay, not to mention it’s being disrespectful. It is also poor planning to hold resident surveys and town hall meetings after priority sessions unless, of course, Council clearly intends to address what residents have clearly indicated are their concerns and priorities.
Appendix # 1
Oak Bay News October 17, 2018
On page # all members of the current Council explained that they understood what the necessary priorities were to improve how the district was governed. These ranged through: the infrastructure crisis, controlling taxes, addressing zoning issues, transparency, and public consultation. Most candidates stated that they and their supporters had gone door-to-door to listen and speak with residents. Therefore it can be can be assumed these priorities have not changed in little over a month – Why would the same Councillors want to spend $30, 000 to find out the priorities Council members have said they already know?
Appendix # 2
An Independent Resident Analysis of the District of Oak Bay’s Fall 2016 Community Satisfaction Survey
The District conducted a Random Sample Survey of 414 residents via cold call telephone interviewing. The District also permitted interested residents to respond to the survey online. 105 people responded to the survey online.
When asked, on an unaided basis to name the single most important issue facing the District of Oak Bay, 24 % of the telephone respondents mentioned sewage treatment or sewer services, 15% mentioned over-densification and 10% the infill strategy. While over-densification and the infill strategy were identified as separate items, they are more than just related. In fact infill development is a kind of densification. Taken together the over-densification and infill strategy responses totaled 25%. Viewed in this light the most pressing issue in Oak Bay according to the cold call respondents is over-densification and the infill strategy.
The online results were even more dramatic, perhaps because those respondents were concerned residents who had considered views, and who took the time to seek out and respond to the survey. 26% of the respondents mentioned the infill strategy and 21% mentioned over- densification. Taken together over-densification and the infill strategy responses totaled a whopping 47%.
Clearly the survey has shown that over-densification and the infill strategy is the most pressing issue in Oak Bay.
In a November 4, 2016 Oak Bay News item the Mayor of Oak Bay was quoted as saying that council tended to hear from individuals “but that it was important for council to move beyond that and to listen to what is often called the silent majority”
If the results of the survey are an indication of what the silent majority is saying, then it has spoken. Over-densification and the infill strategy is the most pressing issue in Oak Bay at this time.
To make a comparison with the Oak Bay Satisfaction Survey Report Results see Oak Bay District Website/type in Search Bar “Satisfaction Survey”/ click “here” in 2nd Update November 7, 2016/see pages 14,15,16 of Report.
In either analyses resident priorities are clear.
With all of the current clear cuts of lots (lot-line-to-lot-line) and all the overbuilding being approved by the District – wouldn’t it be fair to say the issues most important to residents have not changed since the end of 2016 (two years ago)?
After all, the District still has a 2010 Secondary Suite Survey on the website, the results of which were provided to the Official Community Plan (OCP) Consultant and used in 2014 (four years later) to form a basis for the OCP on that issue. The Survey was criticized by the Council of the day and by residents.
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