Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Mayor’s message: How to resolve the divide between Victorians

Last month I wrote about a divide between folks who want Victoria to move into the 21st century and others who want to preserve Victoria

Last month I wrote about a divide between folks who want Victoria to move into the 21st century and others who want to preserve Victoria as it has been, between those who see Victoria as a small town and want to keep it that way and those who want Victoria to come into its own as a big city, but not one like Vancouver where you can no longer see the sky.

We can resolve these tensions in three ways.

First we need to take the fears and worries of the preservationists seriously. Hidden in fear of change is a strong passion for the greatness of the past. It’s because of the passion of those who stood strong in the 1960s and 1970s that Old Town is one of the most intact heritage districts in the country and that Victoria has leading edge heritage preservation and restoration programs.

These voices must not be dismissed as stifling change. They must be lauded for preserving what makes Victoria Victoria. When we hosted 25 investors from across North America for “A Capital Mission” last spring, our guests remarked on Old Town and Chinatown as elements of what made downtown pleasing to walk through and investment worthy.

Second, council’s strategic plan goal says we must embrace the future and build on the past. There are many examples of how we’re working towards this. Here are two.

The tech sector is helping to drive reinvestment and redevelopment downtown. There are a myriad of tech companies operating in refurbished heritage and other older buildings. Leading edge, 21st century technological innovation is being developed in 19th and 20th century buildings.

Past, present and future, Victoria is a human scale city; this is something most Victorians cherish no matter which side of the so-called divide they find themselves on. Victoria was built around a streetcar network that linked village centres to each other and to the downtown core. Built on the streetcar network of the past, is 21st century infrastructure like Biketoria — an all ages and abilities cycling network that will connect village centres with each other and with the downtown.

Third, we need to focus efforts as a community on connection and belonging. This week, Victoria Foundation released its annual Vital Signs report with a feature article, “What does it mean to belong?” The answer: feeling like an accepted, contributing part of a well-functioning whole.

The ‘whole’ is sometimes our own street, our child’s school community, or even the city. In 2015, as a community we got a B in Belonging and Engagement. This year we got a B-. A focus on fostering connections and belonging will allow us to see that even as we struggle over competing visions for Victoria’s future, there is more than connects us with each other than divides us. And that it’s those connections that matter.

Sound fluffy? Be sure to read the November edition of this column to learn more about how connection, belonging and inclusion can be a matter of life or death.

 

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