The next Saanich Police Board meeting is December 10th at
3pm 1pm in the Kirby Room at the Saanich Police Department.
Update: the new time is 1pm. Also, here is the agenda.
This afternoon I went to my first Saanich Police Board meeting.
The police board is chaired by Mayor Frank Leonard. I didn’t really want to go to the meeting, but this particular police board is one of the least transparent in the province. It is one of only two municipal police boards in British Columbia that refuse to publish meeting minutes or agendas online. This is contrary to the recommendations (on page 119) of a substantial report from the Justice Institute on police governance. As a result if you want to find out anything about what the Saanich Police Board is doing, you have to go there in person.
The meeting itself highlighted a lot of amazing, innovative work done by Saanich police officers. This is why it’s surprising that the police board won’t put the minutes of these meetings online. It is a real disservice to those officers.
I also learned a few interesting tidbits. The Saanich Police Department is restarting its Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) program after a year-long privacy review. They are also cancelling police camp. Apparently it costs too much and not enough kids were actually from the District of Saanich. (According to the 2012 numbers: 24 youth attending police camp were from Saanich, the other 25 youth were from neighbouring municipalities.)
I’m glad I went to this meeting, particularly since I live in Saanich, but my original point remains: the Saanich Police Board should be posting its minutes and agendas online. This kind of basic transparency is a reasonable expectation of Saanich residents (who collectively pay more than $31 million in policing costs each year).
This is a well-written essay by Deputy Chief Ducker. Even if you disagree with police regionalization, it raises some interesting facts and anecdotes that many people throughout the CRD probably did not know about or may not have considered:
It’s no secret to VicPD members that many of the region’s hardcore drug dealers, organized criminals and party crowd live in the outlying areas, which most certainly includes Saanich.
The criminal element of these groups ply their trade on the streets of our downtown core and often retire to the bedroom communities, where not enough attention is paid to them. After 34 years I could fill a police notebook with instances where outlying agencies have either declined outright or simply don’t have the true capacity to deal with serious criminal elements living in their communities, leaving it to VicPD to handle or simply allow the problem to be ignored.
This is Jessica Van der Veen’s third effort to win Oak Bay-Gordon Head. This is not unusual and it isn’t something that should be held against her.
In the CRD, there are lots of examples of politicians who were not successful with their first attempt at elected office. Look at Randall Garrison, who is now the Member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. It took him three tries before he was elected. Look at Chris Coleman, who is serving his fifth term as a councillor for the City of Victoria. It took him a few tries to get elected. Ben Isitt ran for mayor twice, took a break from politics, then he was elected as a city councillor (and CRD director) in 2012. In Oak Bay, Michelle Kirby ran once (twice?) before getting onto council.
Winning an election is often difficult. My main point in this post is that no one should discount Van der Veen because she has tried a couple of times and not succeeded. If anything, it proves something important: She doesn’t give up. She is tenacious, patient, hard working and, above all, committed to the folks who live in this riding.
The Greater Victoria Public Library is planning to move the Emily Carr branch from its current location to Uptown. I visit this branch on a regular basis with my two year old son. We visit a variety of branches but we live in Saanich and Emily Carr is the closest. We have never had any problems finding this library or finding a parking spot. We can usually park within twenty to thirty feet of the library entrance.
The current location for the Emily Carr branch is great and I see no reason for it to move. It is close to many existing shops and restaurants; these businesses would be harmed if the library did move. The current location is owned by Saanich; there is no mortgage to pay. If the branch moved, the Greater Victoria Library would have to lease the new space from Morguard. The lease rate has not been made public. Also of note is that the Municipality of Saanich has not said what it plans to do with the old Emily Carr location.
Apparently one reason for the proposed move is that the bathrooms are in the basement and therefore inaccessible to some patrons. The GVPL’s reasoning here is confusing, particularly as they describe the facility as being fully accessible on the Emily Carr branch web page:
Why can’t the GVPL spend a small amount of money to add bathrooms to the main floor of the current location? The current space has 8600 square feet but the GVPL claims that only 6000 sq. ft. can be used for public space. The new space would have a total of 5575 square feet (this includes non-publc space). This means the GVPL could install two 200 sq. “super bathrooms” on the main floor of the current branch and still come out ahead.
The feedback survey from the GVPL is skewed towards relocation. I do not consider it genuine public engagement at all. For example, one of the questions was, “What other physical features of a library branch are most important to you? Please indicate all that apply.” I would have clicked “bright, clean modern facility” but I feel like that would have been interpreted as favouring a relocation to Uptown. I think the current library is just fine. To me, it is a “bright clean, modern facility” with “comfortable areas for reading” and “easy to reach book shelves” and “lots of natural light”. Honestly, who designed this survey? It is obviously skewed towards getting results that will favour a move.
For the record, I am not one of those people who thinks Uptown is a monstrosity. I like it a lot and I want it to succeed. Its Aboriginal tile fountain is (in my view) the best piece of public art in the CRD. The development as a whole is far better than the old Town & Country strip mall. That said, Uptown has a lot of unleased space. Morguard needs to lower its lease rates if it is having difficulty attracting businesses. It is not the job of Saanich or the Greater Victoria Public Library to subsidize a struggling commercial development.
This relocation plan does not seem beneficial to taxpayers or library patrons. That said, whether you are for or against the library move, please take a moment to fill out the survey. They are collecting feedback until March 18th. You can also email Saanich council at firstname.lastname@example.org.