Victoria city council ranks initiative priorities for term

Housing strategies out, austerity in for next term

Faced with roughly 100 initiatives, Victoria council sharpened their pencils Monday and gave each item a score of one to five.

Those with the most points will form the priorities for the next three years – and the ranking tells the story of a more prudent council.

Three years ago, council touted affordable housing as its top priority, resulting in the purchase of two Traveller’s Inns.

While the new council is still committed to completing these motel conversions, the word housing appears nowhere near the top of the new priority list. “Update the comprehensive housing strategy” ranks below 30 other initiatives.

“As you go through times of austerity, you need to remember what’s important and what needs to be preserved … and what it is that we no longer need to be doing,” said Mayor Dean Fortin. “We have to live within our means and our means are very meagre.”

Tied for first place are two initiatives: develop a budget-reduction strategy – with an eye to keeping property tax increases in check – and examine public transportation options, such as bus-only lanes.

Other high-ranking priorities focus on finding ways to increase city revenue, plus encourage business and economic development.

Monday’s meeting was opened up to the public thanks largely to Coun. Lisa Helps, who voted down a motion to close the meeting and urged her colleagues to do the same.

A previous priorities-setting meeting in May was closed to the public so council could discuss potential staff layoffs.

Next up, staff will add a dose of reality to council’s new wish list. Cost estimates for the top-ranked initiatives will ground the next discussion, not only in terms of what’s wanted, but what the city can afford.

The final list will be determined at the council table.

See for yourself

Want to see the rankings for yourself? Coun. Lisa Helps has linked it from her latest blog posting about the meeting: www.lisahelpsvictoria.ca/city_hall.html

Museums fall to the bottom

Establishing a city museum, firefighters’ truck museum and children’s museum received little support from council. The three proposed initiatives were ranked last in a list of roughly 100.

rholmen@vicnews.com