After years of the Johnson Street Bridge project generating headlines, controversy and political ammunition, it’s probably the last thing I want to talk about this week (even though it did just win an M Award for Best Newsmaker of the Year). What I want to talk about is accountability and good old common sense, and it just so happens that the bridge is a perfect example of what not to do if you think either of these things is important.
I’m not going to get into the gritty details, but suffice it to say that the recent history of the Blue Bridge does not make the City of Victoria look good. Far from accountability and common sense, the bridge replacement seems driven by the base motivators of politics and vanity; while everything that can go wrong seems to do just that, those committed to the new bridge are all too ready to throw caution to the wind and surge ahead despite rising costs and mounting doubt as to the viability of the project.
It’s hard to place blame for the countless little mistakes that add up to this one big blue problem. The city’s Vote Yes campaign and resulting accusations of public misinformation, the rising cost of a replacement originally billed as the cheapest available option, the design that seems to change with each new day, and a thousand other problems that only grow more numerous the closer you look, add up to something bigger than one poorly managed project.
It’s the culture of city hall — the attitude that says it’s okay to place politics before people, form before function and expedience before effectiveness — that has people like Victoria City Councillor Shellie Gudgeon worried.
“Accountability needs to be built into the City of Victoria. We’re running a corporation and spending citizens’ money, we need to be accountable about what we’re doing with taxpayer dollars.”
The capital is facing an infrastructure deficit of $500 million, with an extra $175 million worth of capital projects in store for the near future; we have a crisis of affordable housing and homelessness; our local economy relies on a collapsing tourism industry; our region struggles with the environmental impacts of unchecked development.
Instead of focusing on the bigger picture, the current culture creates and nurtures the problems it then works so hard to solve. M