Here is the video and text of my inaugural address to the citizens and council of Victoria:
“I would like to recognize the four MLA’s in attendance: Maureen Karagianis, Dr. Andrew Weaver, Rob Fleming and Carole James. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to bear witness to this very important moment in our City.
I would like to begin by celebrating that we are the Capital City of British Columbia and, as many of our Councillors have said over the past few weeks of getting to know each other, we’d like to make this Capital City shine.
I also want to begin by acknowledging the hard work of Mayor Fortin and the previous Council; a lot of good work was done here in these Chambers and out in the community in the last three years. It is a really, really great foundation for us to build on, I am deeply grateful for that work.
Elder Mary Ann Thomas and I were together at an open house for Dockside Green in the summertime and she began by addressing the crowd. I then spoke to the group after her. Mary Ann’s first words to the crowd were: “I love you, I care about you, and I respect you” . When I got up to speak I said, “What if as elected officials this is how we address the public in significant moments? So in this Inaugural Address I would like to begin by saying “I love you, I care about you, and I respect you.”
“For me, this really sets the tone for our relationship for the next four years. We won’t always agree, and I welcome that, but with a basis of love, care and respect we can begin to change the tone of us and them, to us, all of us, in this Chamber and far beyond, working to build the City together.
This deep respect and desire to work together differently leads into the core of my remarks that I would like to make this morning.
I just want to tell you a little bit about how this speech was crafted. Your Council has already been hard at work in orientation sessions for the last few weeks, learning the ropes, learning about what all the departments are working on, having tours and even going out on the fire boat. We are going to post everything we learned on the City’s website so you can learn it too. At the end of the day yesterday, I asked the Council, “I’ve got some time tomorrow in my opening remarks, what would you like me to say?” so the core of the speech is really by all nine of us.
I would like to talk about three things that the Council brought to my attention yesterday. The first is meaningful public participation, the second is collaboration, and the third is affordability and prosperity.
Meaningful public participation.
An underlining value of this Council is openness and ongoing opportunities for you to participate. We want to continue to transform this relationship between City Hall and the community, so, as I said earlier, we are all part of the us. This means that we are going to be asking for your input early on large projects, and sewage treatment comes to mind.
It means that we are going to work with you on a regular basis on neighbourhood transportation planning, placemaking, fostering and supporting initiatives that come to us from our small business community; fostering and supporting resident-led citizen driven initiatives. All of us up here know that you have the wisdom that we need to run the City.
Third, and this is really important, we are going to reach beyond those who regularly engage, we saw a 41% increase in voter turnout in the last election, that is more than 7,000 people coming out to vote who haven’t voted before, or haven’t voted in a while. And our job, the job of the nine of us up here, is to keep those 7,000 people, and all of you, engaged; and not just every four years, but throughout the next four years. It is really important to us to make sure that we are reaching beyond, extending our hands and using techniques that work for the younger generation and for people who don’t normally come into this hall. Our job is to go out and extend the reach of this local government and invite more people in.
Second, collaboration, or as Elder Mary Ann Thomas said, “walking together.” I think is a little bit of a new era in the region, and it already feels a little bit different. There is already talk among municipalities on how can we work together on economic development, housing, transportation and policing. Nils Jensen has called the proposal to get all the mayors together, Mayors without Borders. He said, Lisa, “Will you credit me?” and I said, “Nils, absolutely I will.”
In addition to informal collaboration, working together and walking together, the public has spoken very clearly on the question of amalgamation. So, we need to do two things in this regard. We need to continue to make room for people to be part of the conversation. And, there is movement afoot to create something called “The Greater Greatest Victoria Conversation Project. look forward to hearing more about that. And, we need to work together across the region to explore options for, and studies about, amalgamation. And, I am really optimistic that we can cooperate on better cooperation!
Third piece of collaboration is our relationship with our provincial and federal governments. I think we need to reset our relationship with the provincial government. The first call I made on the Monday morning after being elected, was to the Premier’s Office to extend a hand and invite that conversation to begin. And, I think all of us up here, look forward to working with the Premier, and her Ministers and with all of our MLA’s to say “What is it that you want to accomplish in our region in the next few years and how can we support you in your work?”
The fourth point of closer collaboration, walking together, is with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. Mayor Lowe started a close protocol relationship. The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations are on fire right now in many, many ways, particularly with regard to economic development and we need to support, partner and collaborate with them as they continue on their journey.
And finally, on collaboration, and this was raised by many of the Councillors around the table when I asked yesterday, the collaboration between Council and staff. If we can do that well, we can do anything. We have amazing, amazing staff at the City of Victoria and it has been my honour for the last three years as a Councillor to work with them, and, to me, this is where everything begins. If we can get the relationship between staff and Council right, respectful, and if we all do what we are supposed to do and stay out of each other’s ways when we are not supposed to be there, role clarity, keeping governance governance and operations operations, I think we are off to great places. I had the pleasure of speaking briefly at our Quarterly Staff Forum, and what I said to staff was: “You are creative and innovative and we are going to continually look to you for your solutions and for your ideas. We are going to stay out our your way, so that you can do your job. And, most importantly, we have your back.”
Finally, affordability and prosperity. One of the first letters that I received in my mailbox after being elected, and it said the following:
“Hello Lisa, Please be sure that property taxes don’t increase, decrease would be better. I’m still paying with post-dated cheques for the last property tax. I am 83 years old and I find it very, very hard.”
So, our job as Council is to take this letter and the many other letters we’ve received very seriously. We need to continue to work on affordable housing absolutely, but we need to broaden the conversation about what affordability means and for who. We need to keep working to deliver public services, and for all our workers out there, I emphasize the word public, how we can deliver public services in a more effective way.
And, again, I look to, and I ask our staff, to look to the workers for their creative and innovative ideas on the front lines to find cost-savings; they have those ideas because I hear them all the time informally. So we need to look to our workers to make the services we deliver more affordable. And we need to break down silos in the organization and embrace our new City Manager’s (and I guess I can call him that until he has been here for a year in February) One City approach where everybody understands the work of everybody else. That is good for morale, but it is also good for effective and cost effective delivery of services. I really look forward to seeing us working so this 83 year old woman and the 25 year olds and everybody in this City can have and affordable life.
The second piece or the second-and-a-half piece of affordability is economic development. We need to create local prosperity and grow the economy. We are going to get our four-year strategic plan in place by the end of February and I look forward to that process. For me, a key priority in this plan, and the legacy that I’d like to see this Council leave, is that Victoria becomes a place where there is always an opportunity for everyone to prosper; where City Hall is a partner in the creation of local wealth and prosperity and this means, and this is really important, to me, it’s not community versus business, it is community and business, together. Two different sides of the same coin.
My final word is to my Council. When we were elected three years ago, those of us who were here were told: say good-bye to your families you are not going to see them for the next three years. And, what I say to you is take the time you need with your families to be loved, and nurtured and held, because it’s that kind of love and nurturing and holding that will allow all of us to do a good job together.
That was my final word to my Council, but I have one final word for all of you. This comes from our Director of Planning, Deb Day, who is retiring tomorrow. Deb said to me: Lisa, you and the Council have an enormous responsibility when you think about planning and when you think about the City. Of course you are here to serve, listen to work hard for all of the people who are alive and here today. But your higher purpose, your longer term goal is to make decisions for people who aren’t even born yet. And that is a hard thing to do, to cast our views thirty to forty years down the road. So I challenge us all, and I challenge you all to help us in the next four years to take a broad and long-term approach to every decision that we make together.
Thank you very much, and it is truly my honour to be your Mayor.”