With the excitement of the holidays behind us and a new year looming ahead, there’s plenty of local concerns to keep Victoria’s politicians busy. Whether they’re dealing with new or ongoing disputes, the city’s leaders – and citizens – can look forward to a year of challenges and, hopefully, breakthroughs. From infrastructure development to an influx of youthful new residents, Mayor Dean Fortin predicts the issues he says will shape Victoria’s civic landscape in 2012.
The Johnson Street Bridge
It’s going to be a constant analysis, questioning step by step by step. My goal and my responsibility is to keep getting out there, keep talking to people about it, keep up to date so people feel like they’re getting information. Ultimately, as much as we want to move into operations, it’s an exciting opportunity for Victoria. We’re going to have an iconic, amazing bridge when we’re finished. We just need to make sure that we deliver it so that everybody, both those who like it and don’t like it, are going to celebrate it.
We talk the talk about economic development – do we have the ability and capacity to deliver? How much can we influence the American economy? That’s going to affect tourism, that’s going to affect foreign investment. Within the realm of a world economy, what can we do as a city to realize our own potential, and how can we do better than every other city that’s out there? We’re going to have to be nimble, we’re going to have to be flexible. That means recognizing that we’re going to really have to engage the community.
We’re going to have to get out there a lot, and often. We have to set the expectation for the community: you need to be involved. We’re going to come to you. I think that’s always been the challenge – you want to have the confidence that you’re hearing from a lot of people and starting to reflect the majority, so that means coffee shops and seniors centres, rec centres and every other place. My prediction is you’re going to see the little sandwich board that says ‘Mayor’s open door’ on the road a lot more, and that’s what I love.
The mayors in the region are saying ’what are those issues that have regional significance that we can talk about?’ What we’re trying to say is, what is going to be good for my citizens that’s also going to be good for the citizens of the region? Can we do an HOV lane on Douglas Street? Well, you need both [Victoria and Saanich] to agree on that, because otherwise you have a really good, fast time and then – boom – you hit Tolmie and everybody crashes. So it has to work together. I think that the challenge to everybody’s budgets throughout the region is making everybody say OK, how can we work together to be more efficient? Perhaps that’s the silver lining of an economic downturn.
Celebrating the City
We have an interesting downtown, we have theatres, we have fantastic restaurants, interesting events happening all over, you can go kayaking in two seconds in the Gorge, you can be on the trail. I think the larger question is, how do we celebrate the exciting and good things about Victoria? People were saying downtown’s dying, everybody’s leaving, but the evidence in front of my eyes is completely to the contrary. I think there is a demographic shift happening in Victoria that’s been subtle – Victoria is getting full of 20- and 30-somethings, and generally their nature is optimistic, my future is bright, I’m looking for exciting things to do. It’s going to fly in the face of the newlywed, nearly dead image of Victoria.
— Kate Shepherd