Smart Mobility Manifesto and Our Transportation Future

smart mobility manifesto.png

Last week I posted a story to Twitter about Oslo becoming a car-free city centre this year. There were some typical social media responses: “I think you should move to Oslo. You would like it there. I have a car not a bike.”

But there were also many thoughtful comments:

We need better public transportation systems for this to happen. More bus routes, timely buses, and it needs to be much more affordable.

“Lisa, what about providing access for EV vehicles? What about advocating for a Light Rail transit system that gives easy access to the downtown core for people who live in communities further afield?

Ok, but let’s improve bus service so I or my daughter or other women or men don’t have to walk in the dark 90 minutes before a 7 am shift to get to essential services at Vic General Hospital via bus. Does Oslo have rapid transit in place? For those of us raising or who’ve raised children (myself 4), I couldn’t just hop on a bike and drive in 4 directions then head to work. Let’s have some common sense solutions for all!

Yes, let’s!

Right now, in our region, there is an unprecedented opportunity to solve the transportation issues now and for the future. It’s an exciting time, with the Capital Regional District, the Province, local governments and the private sector all coming together to address transportation in the region in a meaningful and comprehensive way.

The South Island Prosperity Project, on behalf of its 10 municipal members, has been short listed for a $10 million Smart Cities Challenge prize from the federal government. This is a big deal. There were 200 applications and our region is among the 20 shortlisted. The focus of the Smart South Island Plan is to use data, technology and innovative approaches to improve transportation convenience, affordability and sustainability for residents of the region. We’re committed to this whether we win or not. And we need your help.

Do you believe in affordable, easy and convenient transportation? Do you believe in transportation options for the entire region? Do you believe in creating a better world for future generations? Please sign the Smart Mobility Manifesto. And please don’t stop there. Please take this short survey (less than five minutes!) and share your transportation needs and priorities.

It is transformation that is required in our transportation system in the region, not tinkering. I am often accused of waging a “war on the car;” and certainly those sentiments were shared in response to my Oslo post. I generally reject military metaphors, but if we’re doing anything, it’s waging a war for the future where all modes of transportation can work, together.

We need to act as if it’s wartime and mobilize extraordinary willpower and resources to combat climate change, the greatest challenge of our time. And with transportation accounting for 50% of the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, a smart mobility future is one we need to create. What’s best of all, is that study after study shows that changing the way we move to a multi-modal transportation network, is more affordable, convenient and makes us happier and healthier at the same time.

For people interested in the City of Victoria’s transportation future specifically, please join us for the launch of “Go Victoria, Our Mobility Future.” It’s a free and exciting event at the Victoria Conference Centre on Thursday January 24th doors at 6pm, event at 7pm. Space is limited; please RSVP here.

 

 

Do we really love our children well? #climatestrike

Anyone concerned about the climate and looking for hope and inspiration has probably already seen this video. It’s Greta Thunberg, the Swedish girl speaking to the UN at the most recent Climate Conference in Poland. Since September, she has been walking out of class each Friday to draw attention to the climate crisis and the fact that adults, who should know better, are not taking the kind of action that a crisis demands. She has inspired other children around the world to strike with her.

She tells those gathered at the UN, “You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their eyes … Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope … We have come to let you know that change is coming whether you like it or not.”

When people tell her that she should be in school, studying to be a climate scientist to develop solutions she says, “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

Her call to action has resonated around the world including here on Vancouver Island. A group of local students, organized by 12-year-old Rebecca Wolf Gage, spent the first Friday of December on a climate strike on the steps of the BC Legislature. They will strike the first Friday of every month to get us adults to pay attention and take action.

They have my attention. On Friday January 4th – not even a school day! – they organized a day-long education session for themselves to learn more about climate change and the actions they can take. Their program included guests from UVic Earth and Ocean Sciences, MLAs, and community organizers. I was lucky enough to join them.

ClimateStrikers1

I was so inspired to spend time with such a motivated, knowledgeable, and organized group of  young people from all over southern Vancouver Island. I brought them each a copy of the City’s Climate Leadership Plan and walked them through it. We spent the most time on page 17 (pictured below) where we went through the impact of each climate action.

They were enthusiastic to know that the biggest impact comes from reducing car use and converting to walking, cycling and transit. Fully 18% of emissions will be reduced if we make half our trips by walking and cycling and a quarter of our trips by transit. Why did they like this? Because they can take direct action! They will leave removing oil tanks and insulating their homes (also big emissions reduction impacts) to their parents.

Climate Leadership Plan Wedge

To help us bring our Climate Leadership Plan to life and to harness their energy, I invited them – for the first hour of their strike each month – to come to City Hall and meet with me. They said yes! We’ll work together to determine which actions they’d like to focus on in the coming month and how I can support them. I’ll be sure to report out what they come up with. We laughed together as I said to them, “I can see the headlines now, ‘Mayor encourages kids to skip school.'”

I hope the headlines will read, “Mayor encourages adults to listen to these kids.” “Mayor encourages all of us to take bold action.” Because that’s what’s necessary to ensure that when these kids are our age they look back at us, adults worldwide, and say, “They really did mean it when they said, ‘I love you.'”

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we build the city we all want?

Home Together_Sacks

NB If you want to skip the theory and go right to the call to action, join us Saturday January 19th to ‘Give a Day to Your City!’ and help shape the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

In the past few years, there’s been a growing body of literature published that outlines the degraded state of civil society and what we can do about it. I’m reading as many of these books and articles as I can in order to understand my role as mayor and the role of local government in addressing some of the problems facing us today. I’m also reading them because it’s a pleasure and an inspiring journey!

In a magnificently argued book, The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society, drawing on a political reading of the Hebrew bible, British Rabbi Jonathan Sacks makes a strong case for the reinvigoration of civil society. He talks about the need for a “covenant” among people with different religions, ethnicities, sexualities, points of view, etc. This will allow us to create a shared understanding and work across difference recognizing each difference as a gift that can be contributed to the common good.

“Liberal democracy,” he writes, “has tended to concentrate on the individual and one particular power, the power to choose. Courtesy of the market, I can choose what to buy. Thanks to the liberal state, I can choose how to live. Surely everyone gains in such a situation. True, but only up to a point. We gain as individuals; we lose as a society. There are, we feel, things so important to human dignity that they should be available to all, not just those with wealth or power. That is when the concept of covenant comes into play: the idea that all of us must come together to ensure the dignity of each of us. Covenant is the politics of the common good.” 1

The main argument of the book is that the common good can best be stewarded through civil society. In other words, we have a profound responsibility as human beings to take care of each other and not only to rely on the government and the market to do so.

Since last January in my 2018 New Year’s blog post, and throughout the year, I’ve been talking about, calling for, and striving to demonstrate with my own actions the importance of a more civil public dialogue. Sacks suggests that it’s more complex than this; listening deeply even when we disagree is important, but just talking and listening is not enough for us to rebuild society together.

Citing research from 1954, in a strong and moving revelation, he asserts that the key to remaking civil society and a strong social fabric is not dialogue; it is doing or building things together. It “is a paradigm-shifting insight,” he says. “Side by side works better than face to face.” 2

This is key wisdom for all of us involved and invested in building cities, neighbourhoods and public spaces together. While not abandoning a more civil way of speaking with each other, and working through issues – particularly as different perspectives and strong differences of opinion arise – we need to do much more. As individuals and as a community we must make a renewed commitment to the common good and work – side by side – to build it.

And we can start right now with the next four years. On Saturday January 19th we’re asking people to give a day to their city and to work, side by side, with fellow Victorians, Council and staff on the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan. From 10:00am – 3:30pm at the Victoria Conference Centre we’re hosting an interactive workshop on the draft strategic plan. You can roll up your sleeves and dive deeply into the proposed objectives and actions. Our plan is ambitious and far-reaching. It takes seriously the multiple issues facing Victoria and many other cities across the globe: climate change, affordability, economic prosperity and inclusion, and reconciliation. You can sign up here.

Beyond creating a strategic plan together, there’s wisdom in Sack’s approach more generally. As mayor I’ll be looking for opportunities over the next four years, as we bring the strategic plan to life, to build the city together whether it’s neighbourhood plans, improving a public space, or developing housing policy. We have a huge opportunity to address the significant challenges ahead by working together in this new way.

Who should pay for climate adaptation? Victoria’s Climate Accountability Letters

Screenshot 2018-12-27 11.41.49

In July 2018, the City of Victoria adopted a Climate Leadership Plan to guide us to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and to reduce carbon emissions 80% over 2007 levels by 2050 as well. Arguably, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October 2018, Victoria and other cities and regions are going to need to move much faster.

But in the meantime, even as we work to mitigate climate change, there are real costs to cities now because of a changing climate and there will be increasing costs to cities in the future as the impacts of climate change accelerate. That is why the City of Victoria joined other cities in British Columbia to write to fossil fuel producers around the world to ask them to contribute a tiny fraction of their profits to offset the costs our residents our residents will have to bear through property taxes. Much has been written in the media about this approach, and it’s a much milder approach than others are taking, launching lawsuits to secure damages.

To my knowledge, the full text of the letter sent by the City of Victoria has not been released. I share here a sample letter that the City sent to a number of fossil fuel companies around the world. Each letter is specific in that it calculates what share of global emissions each company has generated and asks for that share of the City’s climate adaptation costs to be paid by that company.

A full list of companies the city wrote to is below.

November 28, 2017

Attn. CEO of Conoco Phillips

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:

As Mayor and Council of the City of Victoria, in British Columbia, we are writing to secure your commitment to pay your fair share of the costs of climate change that face our community. Climate change is the direct result of pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, including from your products.

We are beginning to see the impacts of climate change directly affect our region and the infrastructure and services that we provide as a local government to our residents (detailed below). It would be financially irresponsible of us to assume that our taxpayers will bear the full costs of these impacts of fossil fuel pollution, while your shareholders continue to benefit financially from the sale of fossil fuels.

We know that individual consumers, and our community members, use fossil fuels.  However, your industry has played a large role in creating the risks and costs that we now face as a community. Your company has made many billions of dollars from products that you presumably knew would harm our communities.[1] You have had the power to move your company towards a more sustainable business model since you first became aware of the impacts of climate change, decades ago, but have not done so. You cannot make billions of dollars selling your product, knowing that it is causing significant financial harm to communities around the world, and not expect to pay for at least some of that harm.

When James Douglas of the Hudson’s Bay Company selected the southern tip of Vancouver Island as the site of Fort Victoria, the region’s Garry Oak meadows reminded him of the cultivated fields of England. He didn’t realize at the time that this unique ecosystem had been managed for thousands of years by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, who harvested Camas bulbs from the meadows as an important food source.

The Garry Oak Meadow ecosystem – although unfortunately much diminished and one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world – remains a central feature of the City of Victoria, and we take seriously our responsibility to pass it on to future residents. Numerous studies have shown that that climate change will put that goal at risk[2] – and that our work to ensure that the ecosystem can survive shifts in our regional climate is urgent.[3]

Of course, climate change brings with it other, direct impacts on our infrastructure and services, and on our residents.  We offer the example of the Garry Oak Meadow ecosystem to illustrate an important climate impact, and associated costs, that are unique to our region.

In addition, like other coastal communities in BC and around the world, sea-level rise is a serious concern.  Our Inner Harbour, a central feature of our downtown, is the point of arrival for many tourists and a source of pride for our residents. For this business and tourism district, higher sea-levels, especially when combined with storm-surge events, will mean huge economic cost.  It has been estimated that 1 metre of sea level rise in combination with a storm surge would result potential business disruption losses of Cdn $415,557 per day (based on annual averages).[4]

Outside of the downtown, much of our coastline is characterized by cliffs, much of it soft and vulnerable to increased coastal erosion. The needed protection efforts will likely result in significant costs to our community.

Drought and increased winter storms associated with climate change are also predicted for our region.

Planning, building and maintaining local infrastructure is made more costly by climate change. Victoria is in the process of developing a Climate Leadership Plan to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, buildings and waste.  The City is also investing in our own infrastructure to ensure we are able to maintain resilience and adapt to the changing climate and the impacts to our operations, utilities and services.  At present we are only beginning to understand the potential magnitude of increased local costs for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. We know that cities didn’t cause the climate problem on their own and we can’t solve it on our own. And we know that costs will increase as climate change impacts worsen.

As a community Victoria has committed to work towards 100% renewable energy by 2050.  We recognize that everyone is going to need to do their part to address climate change. We are asking you to take responsibility for the harm caused by your products and to take action to move to a more sustainable business model.

The peer-reviewed research of Richard Heede reveals that 1.12% of the greenhouse gas emissions already in the global atmosphere originate from your company’s operations and products.[5]  In our view, this represents your fair share of the costs facing Victoria.  Will you confirm that you are willing to pay 1.12% of Victoria’s climate-related costs going forward?

Sincerely,
Lisa Helps
Victoria Mayor

Notes
[1]       https://www.smokeandfumes.org/fumes, last accessed 23 September 2016.

[2]       Pellatt MG, Goring SJ, Bodtker KM, Cannon AJ (2012) Using a Down-Scaled Bioclimate Envelope Model to Determine Long-Term Temporal Connectivity of Garry oak (Quercus garryana) Habitat in Western North America: Implications for Protected Area Planning. Environ Manage 49:802–815; Bachelet D, Johnson BR, Bridgham SD, Dunn PV, Anderson HE, Rogers BM (2011) Climate Change Impacts on Western Pacific Northwest Prairies and Savannas. Northwest Sci 85:411–429.

[3]       Pellatt, M.G. & Gedalof, Z. Biodivers Conserv (2014) 23: 2053. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0703-9.

[4]       AECOM. Capital Regional District: Coastal Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment (Victoria, BC: Capital Regional District, 2015), p. 36.

[5]       Heede, R. Climatic Change (2014) 122: 229. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0986-y; See also http://climateaccountability.org/carbon_majors_update.html.

Here is a full list of companies that the City wrote to:

  • BHP Billiton Limited
  • BP p.l.c
  • Chevron
  • Coal India Limited
  • Conoco Philips
  • CONSOL Energy Inc
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Gazprom
  • Iraq National Oil Company
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corp
  • Murray Engery Corporation
  • National Iranian Oil Company
  • Peabody Energy
  • PEMEX
  • PetroChina (CNPC)
  • Petroelos de Venezuala
  • Royal Dutch Shell plc
  • Saudi Aramco
  • Sonatrach
  • Total SA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Vote in the PR Referendum – The Future Is In Our Hands

We’re in a really exciting month in British Columbia’s history. We get to chose our future! How we vote in this referendum will determine how representative our government will be of the diversity of British Columbians.

Today I filled out my ballot. In this video I walk you through the process – and I show you how I voted.  Please join me in voting, whichever way you lean. And mail in your ballot before the end of November. Let’s use democracy to choose democracy! For a very helpful video that explains the three different proportional representation systems, watch the video below mine.

 

 

Thank you for choosing the future with me

Dear Victorians,

We did it! Love, connection and a shared vision for our future triumphed over fear and anger. Maybe they always do. But the way the rest of the world is going right now, we weren’t so sure. Our collective win on Saturday night is a testimony to the power of people standing together with hope and optimism.

It’s been an honour to serve as your mayor for the past four years. And now, with a strongly renewed mandate, I have the honour of serving you again. In my platform I’ve committed to bold and courageous leadership on affordability, well-being and prosperity and sustainability. As I move forward with my new council and as we take bold action for the future, we’re going to continue to need your support – the changes needed won’t be easy.

The next four years are critically important for making Victoria more affordable, keeping our economy strong, and tackling climate change. So when we take bold action, please stand up and support us: in letters to the editor, on social media, and most importantly, in good old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations – this is how we truly build understanding.

My commitment to you is to do what I say I will do, to listen and correct course as needed, and to keep our children’s and grandchildren’s future in mind with every decision we make.

With love and gratitude,

Lisa

Pandora Street Businesses Celebrate Bike Lanes and Endorse Lisa Helps

The owners of three popular businesses on the 500-block of Pandora in Downtown Victoria have endorsed Lisa Helps for re-election. They say that bike lanes are good for business.

They submitted this joint statement to our campaign:

“As established small business owners working downtown, we hear a lot of discussion about bike lanes, and, occasionally, about how they are bad for our city. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bike lanes and their added bike parking have been nothing but positive for our businesses and we have seen firsthand how they’ve elevated the health of our community.

We feel Mayor Helps is the right choice for the future of our city. We’ve been in business for over a decade, and in the last four years we’ve been thriving in the climate conscious and business-forward Victoria that Mayor Helps is working to create. We believe in, trust, and support the direction Mayor Helps is taking Victoria.”

Shane Devereaux, Owner, Habit Coffee
Josh Miller Owner, Mo:Le Restaurant
Joe Cunliffe & Heather Benning Owners, Bliss Cafe

“I’m so thankful that these business leaders are choosing to speak up,” says Helps. “The benefits of active transportation that their businesses are experiencing are not unique to Victoria. The correlation between bike lanes, better walkability, and increased customer foot traffic to storefront businesses are tried and true in cities across Canada and around the world.”

Helps Campaign Announces Annual Urban Tree Planting Festival

Building on the City’s tree planting efforts over the past few years and responding to the urgent climate crisis, Mayor Lisa Helps announces the creation of an annual urban tree planting festival in the city.

“Even though it’s a core value in our community, climate change and climate action have not been getting much attention during this campaign,” said Mayor Helps. “The Annual Urban Tree Planting festival responds to calls from the community to plant more trees everywhere in the city. New trees are a great investment as the climate continues to change.”

Last Sunday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a startling report that revealed we only have 12 years to take bold action and get the climate crisis under control. The IPCC report outlines reforestation as a key strategy in climate mitigation and carbon dioxide removal.

“Trees are Earth’s lungs. They are critical natural assets at this time of rapid climate change. The more trees, the better,” said Rainey Hopewell and Margot Johnston, founders of the Haultain Common. “An Annual Urban Tree Planting Festival will bring the community together, allow us to take joyful action to beautify our public spaces, and mitigate climate change at the same time. What a brilliant plan. Let’s do it!”

The City manages an urban forest of approximately 33,000 trees on 300 kilometers of boulevards and in 137 parks and open spaces. In 2017 the City planted 328 new trees, removed 150 trees and inspected 760 trees. New trees have a 95% survival rate.

Working under the skilled guidance of parks staff, the Annual Urban Tree Planting festival builds on the Tree Appreciation days the City already hosts. Spread out in neighbourhoods across the City, the Festival could see upwards of 1000 trees planted in one day.

Mayor’s Economic Development and Prosperity Task Force 2.0

Today, Mayor Helps announces Making Victoria 2041, a second Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity to hit the City’s target of 10,000 new jobs in Victoria by 2041. Making Victoria 2041 will set Victoria on a path for sustainable, equitable and inclusive job growth out to mid-century.

In the last election campaign, empty storefronts downtown were a key issue. When Mayor Helps took office in 2014, the downtown retail vacancy rate was over 10%. She created the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity to tackle the problem. Comprised of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and students, under the leadership of Mayor Helps, the group created a five-year economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential.

“The most urgent recommendation of Making Victoria was to open a Business Hub at City Hall,” said task force member Jill Doucette. “In less than a month after Council adopted the plan, with no new tax dollars used, the Business Hub at City Hall opened and has been serving Victoria’s business community since December 2015.”

With the help of the Business Hub and the City’s Business Ambassador, the downtown retail vacancy rate is now below 4%. But there is more to do.

“Starting a business, or growing an existing one, requires tough decisions and risks. As a city, we need to keep identifying new ways to streamline our processes and support job creation,” says Helps. “Creating 10,000 jobs by 2041 requires collaboration and concrete action—that’s why we’re creating the Making Victoria 2041 task force.”

Making Victoria 2041 will once again draw together business leaders, entrepreneurs, students and the work of experts across the country to develop a sustainable, equitable and inclusive economic plan for the future.

References

Making Victoria Unleashing Potential 2015-2020 Economic Action Plan https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/city/mayor-council-committees/task-forces/economic-development-and-prosperity-task-force.html

 

300 New Affordable Childcare Spaces Coming to Victoria

Today, the Helps Campaign is announcing the creation of at least 300 new affordable childcare spaces in neighbourhoods across Victoria. Working with non-profit childcare providers, School District 61, and Island Health, a funding application has been submitted to the Province to fund the creation of new childcare spaces in Victoria starting in 2019.

This announcement comes after 18 months of work with an informal Childcare Solutions Working Group, led by Mayor Helps. In mid-2017, non-profit childcare providers working out of city-owned facilities came to the Mayor asking for help to create more childcare spaces. In response, Mayor Helps gathered Island Health, the provincial government, School District 61, the Chamber of Commerce and the childcare providers around one table.

Together, they developed a plan to be ready for the anticipated announcement of childcare funding in the 2018 Provincial budget.  

“We’ve worked hard together to put an initial plan to address the concern we’ve heard over and over from both parents and employers that access to affordable, high-quality childcare is a key priority for keeping life liveable in Victoria,” said Mayor Helps. “This application to the Province for 300 new spaces is a good start. We also need to develop a Childcare Solutions Action Plan so we can anticipate future demand and develop a plan to meet it.”

Last year, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce raised childcare as a key issue for its members. In Business Matters magazine, CEO Catherine Holt wrote, “The lack of affordable, government-regulated childcare spaces is having a direct impact on workers, families and our economy […] Childcare is a fundamental workforce requirement. But right now there is inadequate space and staff and it is too expensive for a working family.”

The plan for the 300 spaces is to work with School District 61 to provide modular learning units on school properties throughout the city. This will create ease for parents with a child in daycare and a child in school by creating one drop-off spot rather than two. It will also make an easier transition for young children from daycare to school.

Subject to Provincial funding, the plan is as follows:

  • Vic West Elementary School –  2019, Two units plus the gym divider (32 + 25 = 57). It could hold up to 75 new spaces depending on programming.
  • Fairfield Sir James Douglas – 2019/2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • Fernwood – George Jay – 2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • Oaklands – 2020, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • South Park – 2021, One unit (16 – 20  young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.
  • James Bay – 2021, One unit (16 – 20 young children + 25 school age) potentially 45 new spaces depending on programming and licensing.