Visit my blog to read six years' worth of observations, reflections and deep dives about Sooke and its governance.
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(thanks for your votes, now let the work begin)
2018 Campaign Home Page Content
The Sooke that my wife Carolyn and I arrived in 15 years ago is inevitably growing as fresh waves of newcomers discover what we've always recognized to be one of Vancouver Island's best-kept secrets. Yet the pace of development following the lean years of 2008-14 has been just a bit too rapid for our tastes and those of many here in Vancouver Island's second fastest-growing municipality. If elected, I will lobby for a more patient, considered and strategic evolution for our imperfectly perfect-as-it-is-yet-ready-to-blossom seaside village and the District's sections of wilderness, waterfront, ALR and rural property.
With a rewrite of our Official Community Plan as the essential next step, let's stay focused on the town centre, stop mowing down nature for satellite housing developments and retain the character and charm that drew us all here in the first place. In an OCP-certified hashtag: #SookeSmartGrowth.
Since missing out on a council seat by a slim 24 votes in 2014, I've deepened my knowledge of municipal affairs by regularly attending council meetings, chairing the District's Climate Change Action Committee and serving as a member of the Community Centre Advisory Committee. I've led delegations for Transition Sooke, Zero Waste Sooke and Wild Wise Sooke, while also occupying the council mic repeatedly during public comment periods.
I'd now like to continue my apprenticeship by again seeking one of your six (maximum) votes for council. If elected, I pledge to buckle down, do the homework, listen attentively, ask questions and vote responsibly while seeking consensus with my council colleagues. And if I'm again on the sidelines after Oct. 20, well, I intend to continue on the same path: attending meetings, booking presentations, and ensuring that my voice and those I represent is heard.
I trust this website will give you a sense of who I am and where I stand. I post frequently on my campaign Facebook page (partial content displayed at right), so please visit it and scroll back for my thoughts and opinions on all manner of local issues since 2014. For another reflection on my worldview, visit the Transition Sooke Facebook page and website, which I've managed since their inception. (I also produce FB content for Sooke Region Food CHIand the EMCS Society, among others.)
In brief, my vision matches that of the international Transition Town movement and its recognition that our brightest future lies in resilient, self-sufficient, engaged and co-caring communities that value local people, strengths and solutions. Climate change, urban sprawl, financial insecurity and social issues triggered by a rapidly growing population are absolutely, uncontestably real. Transition Towns aspire to turn back the clock to the best, common-sense practices of our forebears while also capitalizing on the miracles and wonders of the 21st century.
The mission: To create happy, healthy, truly localized communities. That may sound naive or idealistic, yet in many ways T'Sou-ke/Sooke has been exactly that for millennia. Issues and opportunities under Transition's big tent include:
* Smart Growth civic planning
* Local jobs, independent business and the circular economy
* Public/private/non-profit collaboration
* Waste reduction, recycling and reuse
* Green energy
* Affordable, alternative and Net Zero housing
* Reskilling education
* Regional food security
* Voluntary simplicity
* Raising our Index of Happiness
I look forward to meeting you in person on the campaign trail and perhaps earning your vote for council on Oct. 20.
2022 election website refreshed on Sept. 10, 2022
Refreshed website launched on Sept. 11, 2018
Original website launched on Sept. 15, 2014
I believe I have the energy, interest, patience, positivity and commitment to continue making a meaningful contribution. I better understand the fundamentals of local government and council procedure to some significant if certainly incomplete and often humbling degree. It took awhile, but I've grown skilled at absorbing multi-hundred-page agendas released 96-hours before meetings. I remain an active listener yet have also grown less reserved at the council table and am quicker to express myself in sparking what I intend to be productive debate.
Overall, I trust I merit your vote based on my work ethic and abiding commitment to common-sense, ideally consensus decisions rooted in whole-of-organization teamwork, public input and the chapter-and-verse of Sooke's master plans and reports, the Community Charter and the Local Government Act.
Much has been accomplished and/or set in motion by the current council and District staff these last four eventful years. Click on this link to see my take on these actions and initiatives. You'll also find a summary of my own direct contributions. (Scan further down this page for what I believe should be prioritized by the new council.) No, it has not been perfect. Yes, it's an everafter work-in-progress.
My voting record reflects what I've campaigned for twice before: Retention and enhancement of our postcard small-town charm, character and community spirit as we undergo what ideally should (and must in this climate-changing world) be strategic smart-growth, town-centre evolution here in one of the most desirable and privileged places on this planet of nearly eight billion.
Yes, I called last time for a "pause" on Sooke's rapid development until we had updated our master plans and, King Canute-style, failed to slow the tide. I voted at several opportunities against upzoning and sprawl outside the town centre, however there's no denying we're the second-fastest growing community on Vancouver Island. That fact is seen most readily in traffic volume on Hwy #14, all the busier still as Covid-era travel patterns lead more day trippers our way.
To repeat and renew, broken-record fashion, my view: We must question and challenge growth projections for Sooke given the reality of our congested two-lane highway, our capacity as a population centre and our (pending) OCP-certified desire to remain "a small town with a big heart." Growth was intended to flow along Van Isle's eastern seaboard, not out our way, and we can simply only accommodate so much before our quality of life suffers irreparably.
Some claim it's already too late. As a 20-year resident, I empathize with that view while still disagreeing. As much as it may feel like it on days we don't stray far from #14, Sooke is not becoming an extension of Langford. Have a look out the front doors of the new Sooke library or scan the horizon from the Sunriver sports court box, then please convince me I'm wrong. Mistakes, in my opinion, have been made (a horizon-scan from the Spit captures several). Yet Sooke remains a very special place indeed and we can make it all the more so while still accommodating modest growth.
The good news, I'll argue, is that the District did, in fact, pause to study, gather public input and rework, refresh and modernize its foundational master plans and reports -- Transportation, Parks & Trails, Housing Needs, Child Care and Economic Analysis included. A series of bylaws were overhauled, chief among them long-overdue Development Cost Charge legislation to ensure new development pays its proper share of Sooke infrastructure costs.
Council, staff and committees also developed a pair of complimentary firsts for Sooke: A bold, progressive yet realistic Climate Action Plan and an exciting, actionable Community Economic Development Strategy. If and when implemented patiently over time with dedicated work by Sooke's Community Economic Development Officer and, ideally, a Climate Change Coordinator, then these plans will begin delivering the right kind of sustainable development while also reducing community carbon emissions.
We're also close to the finish line with what I rate as an excellent new Official Community Plan, the master document that guides them all. (I suggest you click on all these blue links and read their executive summaries and action plans. They set the stage for Sooke's next chapter in clear detail as we navigate these unpredictable inflationary times and act where possible given available staff and financial resources. No, this is not light reading but all are accessible even to those who don't aspire to be municipal rocket scientists.)
Priorities for a Potential Next Term
If I'm re-elected, I'd naturally like to see continuity from the new council in honouring the short-term and longer-game directions identified in Sooke's new master plans, service level reviews and the Five-Year Financial Plan. Subject to tweaks and revisions, of course, but largely consistent with the good governance we and previous councils have demonstrated.
At the outset, I'd participate with the new team in crafting a 2023-27 Council Strategic Plan that renews (in as many words) the current council's three big-picture objectives, namely: "build a reputable organization; demonstrate leadership in climate action; and manage long-term growth while enhancing community identity, vitality and safety." The fine detailed actions we identify would again be subject to the "now," "next" and "later" six-month Strat Plan implementation and tracking criteria introduced by CAO McInnis. This is another first for Sooke and is the mark of a maturing municipality.
Sooke's people and their expertise remain an invaluable resource. A key will be to create a refreshed set of public committees, notably a revival of the Community Economic Development and Land Use & Development committees. Upon adoption, we would be wise to form an Official Community Plan Advisory Committee (as per a never-realized recommendation of the 2010 OCP). A new edition of the Affordable Housing Committee also makes good sense given the accommodation crisis. And a recommendation from this term's Climate Action Committee for a Climate Education Advisory Group to work with District staff in launching the Sooke 2030 citizen engagement campaign is an essential one.
* Fiscal responsibility in unpredictable inflationary times to safeguard and deliver municipal basics (fire services, policing, wastewater services, road and parks maintenance, etc.) above all else.
* Capital plan priorities: Annual road paving, sidewalk, line painting and patch-and-pave programs; police and emergency services; street lights and transit stop improvements; Municipal Hall maintenance; trailheads and parks department equipment.
* Update Subdivision and Development Standards Bylaw with new standards for complete street design, sanitary sewers, rainwater management, trails, street trees and playground design.
* Transportation Master Plan implementation with sidewalk and bike lane construction ensuring safe routes to schools (priorities: Rhodonite, Charters, Philips, Beaton/Pyrite); traffic calming measures; continued design and construction of the Throup/Grant Road West bypass route (including roundabouts); bus stop improvements; and town centre road network development.
* Continuing Highway 14 improvement advocacy and Memorandum of Understanding collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
* Parks & Trails Master Plan implementation with planning processes for Whiffin Spit and John Philips Memorial Park; park acquisition; dog management bylaw; spray park at SEAPARC; replace playgrounds; prepare an urban forest strategy to improve tree canopy.
* Complete the wastewater treatment plant expansion and begin extending sewers to Kaltasin (grant and resident-approval dependent) to eliminate harbour pollution hotspots, permit shellfish harvesting and develop employment lands east of the Sooke River. [Regarding Whiffin Spit expansion, it is good to prepare for the inevitable, but a decade or three premature unless CRD monitoring reports of harbour water quality prove urgent need, and it seems they currently do not. The pollution hotspots cluster at mouth of Sooke River. Sooke adoption of the CRD's Septic Field Bylaw requiring inspections and pump-outs every five years is required instead ]
Planning & Permitting
* Adoption of the pending Official Community Plan followed immediately by the creation of a modernized new Zoning Bylaw
* Refreshed set of those remaining community plans that require updates: Town Centre, Wildfire Protection, Cultural, Agricultural and Emergency Response included.
* Continuing and still very much needed improvements to the building permit approvals process as currently underway and set to improve considerably more upon completion of a full-scale review of the development approvals process now underway with provincial funding. This will streamline local regulations, reduce processing times and enhance services through a new online portal.
Memorandums of Understanding
* T'Sou-ke Nation: Ongoing collaboration with the T'Sou-ke Nation through the District's strongly revitalized (2019) Memorandum of Understanding, including reconciliation initiatives and sewer extension to service IR1 and IR2.
* Sooke School District #62: Ensure the promised Sunriver Elementary School is completed this decade and that essential seismic and safety upgrades are made to Sooke Elementary, the oldest such school in B.C. and prime for a new-build itself.
Community Development (Social, Economic, Environmental)
* Consistent application of the Low Carbon Resilience co-benefits model to council decision-making and District operations as we build an emergency resilient, climate-smart community.
* Fully launch the Sooke 2030 corporate and citizen-engagement campaign to develop a more fully complete, compact and enjoyable community, reducing carbon emissions by rethinking how we all move, grow, build, lead and relate.
* Begin implementing the Community Economic Development Strategy (2021) with its focus on good-paying, low-carbon local jobs on Sooke's 70+ hectares of under-utilized commercial and industrial lands. The strategy calls for liaison with new developers to ensure the 190k sq. feet of new commercial space proposed for the town centre isn't snapped up by chain retailers. It also calls for support of our existing business community, a Sooke-branded marketing strategy, business start-up mentorship, attraction of new investment, circular economy initiatives, and the establishment of the hotel tax to optimize #Sooke destination tourism marketing.
* Start work on the short-term priorities within the Sooke Climate Action Plan (2022). Its focus areas include: natural assets management; improved infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, e-mobility and public transit users; Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to incentivize heat-pump uptake; FireSmart best practices in Sooke's wildfire risk zones; and the "Farm Hamlet Template" food security pilot project.
* Implementation of recommendations in the Sooke Fire Master Plan (2022), including hiring of additional professional firefighters for 24/7 coverage and augment the vital work of our paid on-call volunteers. Essential department upgrades with purchase of new Engine 204 and annual critical equipment replacement.
* Hiring of two additional RCMP officers over four years to meet the growing demands on community policing in the Sooke region, provide more consistent speed enforcement and bring us closer to the per-capita BC average for police staffing.
Town Centre and Other New Development
* Ensure town-centre development meets the legislated terms and community vision we demand of those who invest in Sooke. Sooke's new Development Cost Charges bylaw (2021) will ensure developers pay their fair share of road, sidewalk, drainage, sewer and parks costs.
* Further develop Lot A to match our splendid new library with the Gathering Place intergenerational centre, a public plaza and expanded health care facilities (as a product of ongoing advocacy with the Ministry of Health.)
Connected and Compassionate Community
* Continue the District's ongoing recognition of homelessness and at-risk of same in our community by providing support (modest line-item funding to start) to help the Sooke Homelessness Coalition in enacting its recently completed three-year Strategic Plan.
* Maintain, enhance and continue the District's financial support (though resident tax dollars) of our leading community organizations -- Sooke Food Bank, Sooke Family Resource Society, Chamber of Commerce, Sooke Community Association, Sooke Fine Arts Society, Sooke Region Communities Health Network, Sooke Region Museum's Visitor Information Centre and the Sooke Region Tourism Association.
* Continue supporting the cultural, social and other good work events and programs that arise annually during Community Grants program funding. Also continue dedicating portions of council's modest contingency fund to worthy organizations requesting our partial support for events and special needs. (i.e. Sooke Harmony Project).
Above all, I intend to do what I've done reliably and routinely since 2018: Attend every meeting (I missed just one in four years), read every last page of the agendas, listen mindfully to staff and citizen input, prepare what are hopefully intelligent questions (in addition to the inevitably dumb ones) and work towards consensus decisions with a respected circle of council colleagues led by Mayor Tait.
I gratefully acknowledge that I live and work on the traditional territory of the T'Sou-ke Nation