An article in today’s Times Colonist outlines Councillor Ben Isitt’s vision for Crystal Pool. Tonight he’s bringing his vision to Council in a motion calling on city council to affirm the “public ownership and operation” of any Crystal Pool replacement. His touchstone is a motion made by the previous council in October 2011 that “supports retention of a public pool and fitness centre in Victoria.”
Here’s my take. I support the retention of a public pool and fitness centre in Victoria. And, to be perfectly clear, I support this facility being operated by the City and staffed by our terrific, competent and very capable workers. I’ve spent hours at Crystal Pool over the years. The most fun I’ve had is with a now ten-year-old. We’d be jumping and playing with those wonderful big mats and then all of a sudden she’d be interested in joining the seniors in their aquafit class so we’d join in, just like that and be welcomed by the instructor!
What is really really important to me as the City goes out to the public in the new year to do a comprehensive public engagement process with regard to Crystal Pool is that we keep our options (and our ears) open with regard to ownership of the facility should we decide to rebuild not to refurbish.
As noted in the video in my last blog post, the City has three key underfunded projects to tend to over the next five years: Firehall Number 1, the Crystal Pool and the Bay Street bridge. In addition to applying to upper levels of governments for grants, we’ve got to be creative and think outside the box and about new possibilities and options for funding these projects.
In the 1980s when times were tough, the Province partnered with a developer to build new office buildings. The developer retained ownership of the buildings and leased them back to the province which then operated the buildings/used them publicly, for government purposes. And, a key part of the deal was that if the developer was ever going to sell the buildings, the Province had the right of first refusal.
I’m not saying this is the way to go with Crystal Pool. I am saying that City Council needs to be open to a number of options with regard to ownership of the pool should we determine that building a new pool is necessary. And, as we go out to the public to do public engagement with regard to the pool this winter, we need to be open to the creative, innovative ideas that come to us through the public engagement process. As I see it, passing Councillor Isitt’s motion tonight closes down, rather than opens up possibilities for having a public pool in the City of Victoria.