The Downtown Victoria Business Association is seeking an increase in funding, but some city councillors believe the association should be doing more with their money.
Along with a five-year renewal, the DVBA is asking council to approve a two per cent increase in funding to reflect cost of living. Though the city contributes to individual projects, this money would be collected from DVBA members. A total of $5.2 million would be collected before the next renewal process in 2019.
Currently, disapproving members can sign a counter-petition, which would disband the DVBA should it be signed by 50 per cent of the membership.
During the last renewal process in 2009, the DVBA received a funding increase of 2.5 per cent, with the counter-petition being signed by only one of the 710 members. However, councillor Ben Isitt want to see more input from businesses before the DVBA is renewed.
“The counter-petition doesn’t say a lot, and it would be good to know more about how well the DVBA is serving (business owners),” Isitt said.
“Even receiving letters from downtown businesses, expressing what changes they want to see, would help. I don’t know whether or not that sort of information exists; it hasn’t been gathered yet.”
“For something like that to happen, council has to pull the trigger,” DVBA general manager Ken Kelly responded. “They can initiate a formal process where property owners can say ‘we’re in’ or ‘we’re out.’ We’re great partners with the city, and the city sees the value in that, but some councilors have chosen another route.”
Isitt admitted that it made sense to have an organization to help downtown Victoria remain the commercial centre of Vancouver Island, though he was critical of the DVBA’s lack of “progressive outlook” and “compassion to the city’s vulnerable residents,” namely the homeless.
“DVBA members are some of the most politically influential people in the community,” Isitt said. “They have connections to the federal and provincial parties that council doesn’t have. (The DVBA) has indicated that they’re advocates for housing and harm reduction, but what we’re seeing them implement most is bylaw enforcement—putting up trespassing and busking bylaw signs.”
Kelly disagreed, and said the DVBA had shown its commitment to the issue through its involvement in the city’s homelessness task force.
“We’re a small little organization, we’re doing the most to make a difference in downtown and at a very good cost to our members,” he said.