Speeding “hasn’t been an issue” in Victoria. That’s what Mayor Dean Fortin admitted in August, as he tried to defend the expenditure of nearly $90,000 of our money, to combat a problem that doesn’t exist.
As I detailed back in July, several months ago the paid professionals of our city staff concluded that there was “no technical data to support the reduction in speed limits.” Council decided to ignore the facts in spite of the scientific evidence, opposition from the Victoria Police Department, the recommendations of their employed experts, and overall common sense. While a majority of those members of the public who spoke at the July 17th council meeting appeared to be in favour of lowering speed limits, the amount of correspondence received by City Hall in opposition to the reduction far outweighed the proponents. Apparently the current council finds it far easier to ignore a stack of letters and emails than a few out-spoken advocates in council chambers, and this is precisely the problem. While some had expressed hesitance or opposition to the proposal beforehand, they all caved and voted in favour during the session. In short, the “City Hall Bubble” got to them.
Those who wrote to City Hall in great numbers were the average citizens, caught off guard by the likelihood that a backwards policy flying in the face of all evidence was going to pass in our municipality. These were Victorians with families and friends to be with on a beautiful summer evening, not sweating in the humid council chambers that particular Thursday night. It’s not council’s fault that three hour long July committee meetings are not particularly engaging to the general public. However, it is their fault when they fail to realize that those who do attend are not representative of your average Victorian. With most of our current council having served multiple terms, it is easy to see how the “City Hall Bubble” had them thinking that the majority of citizens are in favour of a reduction in speed limits. After all, they need only consider the many passionate complaints voiced at that very meeting to see there is general dissatisfaction, right? As any pollster worth his or her salt will tell you, those who regularly attend committee meetings are not a representative sample of the populace. Yet, our council seems to have forgotten this basic fact. Politics, not ignorance, is why they unanimously supported the motion over the facts. They believed that with such great support in the chamber right in front of them, going against it could cost them their jobs in the upcoming November election.
Fast-forward to mid-August and it became obvious that their political calculations had failed. Your average Victorian was unhappy with the decision and even more unhappy that it was going to cost $90,000 of their tax dollars to implement. Further boggling the mind was the nearly $10,000 designated for an information campaign, as if we would fail to comprehend what any of the 295 newly posted speed limit signs truly mean. However, it would appear that after weeks of complaints and the retirement announcement of the policy’s architect, Councillor Shellie Gudgeon, council finally blinked last Thursday. They opted to drastically reduce the number of signs posted in the downtown core, far from the number necessary for proper implementation and enforcement of their policy, in order to save money.
Finally the truth was out, but they’re proceeding anyhow, albeit with significantly fewer signs posted because, to our current council, admitting they were wrong and being labelled “flip-floppers” is apparently far worse than wasting taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, we have massive cost overruns on the Johnson Street Bridge and several inevitable major infrastructure projects on the near horizon that are going to put a significant dent in municipal finances. Victoria City Council needs to readjust its priorities and take on the big issues facing our city for the sake of the entire population, rather than micro-managing and dealing with minor trivialities for the sake of those within the City Hall Bubble. Those diligent committee meeting attendees don’t represent us citizens, and neither will Council if they continue putting politics above what’s practical.