Cities in the 21st Century: Lunch Time Lectures at City Hall

I’m sitting in the Imagine Café in James Bay, watching a man and child toss a Frisbee in Fisherman’s Wharf park on this blustery late February Sunday morning. I came here for inspiration, to help me imagine better.

Sometimes here in Victoria we have trouble imagining our long-term future. What will Victoria be like in 2041 when our current Official Community Plan (OCP) expires? How do we meet the OCP vision of Victoria being an urban sustainability leader by then? How do we build for that city now?

Collectively, we can’t imagine. We have a hard time sometimes seeing beyond what we know, what our individual experiences are. I suppose in part this is human nature; we stick within our comfort zones to stay safe. But as humans we’re also intensely curious beings.

To help us all imagine more concretely, City Manager Jason Johnson and I are hosting Cities in the 21st Century: Lunch Time Lectures at City Hall. And we invite you to join us! What does Victoria look like in 30 to 40 years? How do we get there? The Lunch Time Lectures will provide doses of inspiration from near and far. We will examine how, together, city hall, residents and businesses can seize the opportunities and challenges of being a leading-edge city in the 21st century.

The first lecture is Monday March 6, 12-1pm at City Hall. “Inspired to Lead: Climate Action at the City and Beyond,” is presented by Fraser Work, the City’s Director of Engineering and Public Works.

Fraser Work has been with the City for 16 months. He’s leading the Climate Action and Sustainability renewal programs at the City, and is part of an integrated and interdisciplinary team that is developing the strategy and implementing projects to significantly improve community and corporate greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental performance.

The lectures are free and open to the public. Bring your lunch; we’ll provide the tea and coffee!

All lectures are 12-1 at City Hall. Have topics or speakers you’d like to see? Email Here’s what’s upcoming in the series. Save the dates! Please head here for more info.

Monday April 3
21st Century Leadership, Dan Pontefract, Author, Speaker, Thinker

Monday May 1
The Death and Life of the Single-Family House, Nathanael Lauster, University of British Columbia

Monday June 5
Bikes Mean Business, Elly Blue, Portland Oregon

Monday July 10

Monday August 14

Monday September 11
Building Child-Friendly Public Spaces, Diana Studer, Victoria

Monday October 2

Monday November 6

Monday December 4



Megaphone – Change that works, one newspaper at a time

Last week I had the pleasure of standing with Megaphone vendors during their annual “Big Sell” event in downtown Victoria. I joined the vendors on Douglas Street and saw first hand how hard they work and how vulnerable you have to make yourself in a business like street vending.

“Can we interest you in a Megaphone by donation?” I’d call out. Most people would just simply keep walking, sometimes without even acknowledging that we’d addressed them.  I wonder how it feels to experience this day in day out?  It felt so good when someone would stop and buy a paper and offer a kind word and a smile. Participating in the Big Sell event gave me a deep appreciation of the courage and tenacity of Megaphone vendors.

Megaphone is a magazine sold on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria by homeless and low-income people. Vendors buy the magazine for 75 cents and sell it for $2, keeping the profit and earning a sense of pride and dignity.  To start a business as a Megaphone vendor, low-income and homeless individuals need to complete a sales training session and are then provided with 10 complimentary magazines and the necessary gear to get started. Megaphone staff provide any necessary support to ensure vendors run a successful business.

Vendor Week


The Big Sell event was part of the International Network of Street Papers Vendor Week celebration. It’s an is an annual celebration of the 10,000 street paper vendors around the world. Each one of these men and women – in 35 countries – is using their local street paper as a way to work themselves out of poverty.

During the first week in February, the international program of events, activities and social media action pays tribute to their hard work, as well as challenging perceptions of poverty and homelessness.

You can find out where Megaphone vendors sell in Victoria by using the mobile vendor finder app Please support them!


Affordable Home Ownership Key Priority


I’ve received emails recently asking for Victoria City Council to implement a 15% foreign buyers tax. Council cannot do this. What seems to be missing from public understanding is that the foreign buyers tax was implemented by the Provincial government for all of Metro Vancouver. And that it’s Provincial legislation. The City cannot enact the tax.

Council could lobby for the tax to be implemented here, but where exactly is here? The Finance Minister created the tax for Metro Vancouver not the City of Vancouver. If the Province implemented a foreign buyers tax here it would be for the entire Capital Regional District.

That fact changes the nature of the City’s lobbying efforts. At a recent meeting, Council postponed until April a motion to ask local governments from across the region, and the CRD itself, to request the Province to introduce legislation mirroring that passed for Metro Vancouver in the summer – a 15% foreign buyers tax and vacancy taxation authority.

If we have any hope of a foreign buyers tax in the Capital Regional District, the request has to come from the CRD Board.  And, in order for CRD directors to consider such a request they’ll likely need a bit more data. By April, we’ll have eight months of data since the tax was implemented in Metro Vancouver.

If implementing a foreign buyers tax is beyond municipal and regional authority, what can we do to address affordable home ownership?

The City of Victoria recently held a workshop on affordable home ownership programs from Calgary, Canmore, and BC Housing. The Canmore Community Housing Corporation delivers one to four bedroom townhomes and condos from between $145,000 and $400,000. That is affordable home ownership. Calgary has a similar program, as does Toronto. And BC Housing provides low-cost financing to developers to help with affordability. The workshop was packed by both for profit and non-profit housing developers wanting to be part of the solution.

The good news is that when faced with a crisis, the regional government can respond swiftly. Last year, the CRD acted quickly to set up the $60 million Regional Housing First Program to build affordable workforce rental housing and supportive housing for those who are chronically homeless.

We must now act quickly as a region on affordable home ownership. We need to look at what’s working elsewhere and design a made-in-the-CRD solution to address local market conditions. The affordable home ownership solution we implement must not further burden already burdened taxpayers.

And then we need to implement quickly. What’s at stake if we don’t make affordable home ownership a top priority? The wellbeing of our citizens and the economic prosperity this region is currently experiencing. In order to keep the economy strong, working people and their families must be able to afford to live here.

Originally published in the Victoria News.


City of Victoria Council Highlights – January 26, 2017


Council Highlights provide a snapshot of the progress made on City programs, initiatives and on Council decision-making. For more information on each initiative, please visit the accompanying link where noted. We welcome anyone who would like to receive Council Highlights to email us at

Dockside Green Rezoning Application
Following a public hearing, Council adopted amendments to the Official Community Plan and Zoning Amendment Bylaws for Dockside Green, approving the Dockside Green Updated Neighbourhood Plan.

The approved plan allows for additional uses within the proposed Sub-Areas including:
•       brewery (not more than one facility, maximum manufacturing area is 500m2)
•       distillery (not more than one facility, maximum manufacturing area is 500m2)
•       liquor retail store, as an accessory use to a distillery or a brewery (not more than two stores that shall not exceed 100m2 each in floor area)
•       kindergarten (daycare)
•       parks
•       seniors’ housing – assisted living
•       seniors’ housing – independent living
•       cultural facility
More details

Clover Point Pump Station Rezoning Application
Council moved forward to Public Hearing a rezoning application which would permit the Capital Regional District to expand the existing Clover Point Pump Station, install a conveyance pipe along Dallas Road and permit public realm improvements such as interpretive signage, benches, bike racks and more. No date set for the hearing yet.
More details

Royal McPherson Theatre Society Partner’s Project Group
The City has endorsed a work plan for the Theatre Society that will encourage more municipal participation in the project group. In addition, Council has requested that the CRD Board lift a funding freeze on capital funds for 2017.

VicPD Mental Health Strategy
The Victoria Police Department will receive $204,900 from the City for a pilot project intended to support vulnerable populations as outlined in their Mental Health Strategy. The Council motion supporting this funding noted the following conditions:

Fund first year of police support for vulnerable population pilot project, $204,900 from 2016 surplus.

Subject to a report from police with regard to pilot project, to the satisfaction of the majority of Council, fund second year of pilot project, $204,900 from 2017 surplus
That the Mayor write to Island Health and ask for them to consider funding one of the Assertive Community Treatment officers in the future

That VicPD work with a cross section of community partners drawn from groups such as the downtown service providers, and Social Inclusion Advisory Committee in developing an evaluation framework for the pilot project
Accessibility Improvements
Two new pilot projects have been approved aimed at improving accessibility in Victoria. Truncated domes, also known as curb cuts, as well as accessible pedestrian signals each received $30,000 to pilot the improvements. Council also approved that reports to Council include accessibility impacts.

Festival Improvement Grants
The City has approved $169,000 cash and $115,500 in-kind in Festival Investment Grants. The 32 festivals and celebrations that were approved for funding will add to Victoria’s vitality, vibrancy and diversity. The list of successful applicants can be found here.

Short Term Vacation Rentals
Staff will be reporting back to Council on the implications of pro-actively enforcing existing bylaws where short-term vacation rentals are allowed and require a business licence. The City will also consider pro-actively enforcing bylaws where they are not allowed including condos without transient zoning and single-family dwellings (including homes and suites). The City is considering allowing owner-occupied dwellings to offer short-term vacation rentals on a temporary basis. The City is continuing to research ways to limit short-term vacation rentals, where appropriate, in order to increase rental housing stock. An enforcement strategy is under development. Read the staff report here.

2016 Regional Growth Strategy
City Council agreed to advise the Capital Regional District (CRD) Board that the City of Victoria accepts CRD Bylaw No. 4017 to enact the 2016 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) for the Capital Region. The Strategy is a planning document that sets out a renewed vision for the future of the region until the year 2038 through policies and objectives such as updated population projections, renewed climate change policies, a new section on food systems, a new criteria-based water servicing policy, and refined land use designations. Learn more.

Advisory Bodies to Council
Staff were directed to bring forward policy options to address process enhancements for advisory bodies to Council. Examples of advisory bodies include citizen-based advisory committees, task forces and working groups that assist the City of Victoria and provide recommendations to Council. Learn more.

We stand together in love, against Islamophobia

imamspeaking1Thousands gathered today on the steps of Victoria City Hall and into the street to come together in solidarity with Victoria’s Muslim community after the horrific events in Quebec City on Sunday evening.

Ismail Mohamed Nur, the imam for Victoria’s Masjid Al-Iman mosque spoke courageously about the rise of Islamophobia around the world and in Canada. He said, “We live in a time when people try so very hard to divide us, but it only brings us closer and makes us stronger.” CHEK News covers his moving remarks.

To our Muslim friends, neighbours, sisters and brothers: We love you. We support you. We stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder with you. You belong here. We are your community. And now, more than ever, it is important to stand here together, to say this and affirm this publicly, loudly and clearly.


In these uncertain times with the volatility that is happening in the United States, in Canada and around the world and with the rise of Islamophobia which Imam Ishmail spoke so courageously about today, we all have a big responsibility. Yes we can protest. And that is important. But we can and must also take a lesson from those at Standing Rock North Dakota who have declared that they are not protestors, they are protectors.

We have a responsibility, each of us, to protect our democracy, to protect our community and the values of difference, diversity and inclusiveness that define us.

But most of all, in these uncertain times, the most important thing we can do, the greatest responsibility we have is to treat each other with kindness and love each other well even when, and especially when it feels hard.

For those of you who asked at today’s gathering, “What’s next?” Here’s one workshop,
Anti-Racism & Anti-Hate Initiatives – Supporting the Integration of Refugees in Our Communities coming up that is now open for registration. There will be more opportunities to get involved, take action, and move from standing on the steps at City Hall to continued solidarity and connection building. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook page and I’ll share information as it is shared with me.

Thank you Victoria.

Local News Coverage of Today’s Gathering
I have proof my community loves me, says Muslim solidarity rally participant
Victoria sends Muslims message of hope with vigil at city hall – Times Colonist
Victoria holds public vigil in honour of Quebec mosque victims – CTV News
Thousands at Victoria vigil after mosque shooting –
Thousands show support for Victoria’s Muslim community – CHEK News


Where to Park in our Downtown


From the Downtown Victoria Business Association


Last week, the complexities of transportation editorial launched what the DVBA is currently partnered and working on. The initial 28 action items have now grown to 31 and we are working diligently to bring some or all of the ideas to fruition.

Part one was to produce an interactive map of every possible parking lot/structure and on-street parking space in the Downtown core that we will continue to update. Some of these facilities are privately owned and some are city owned. We have broken them up by parking type and added whether they are monthly, hourly, or weekly.

When you use our map you can click on the pins to get full details, including the number of spots, location and who manages the lot. We have also included how much it costs to park in each facility as well as the hours of operation where applicable and whether there is a waitlist or not for monthly parking. When you click the on-street parking lines, the map will zoom you into the streets themselves so you can conveniently see where the best parking areas are for your daily needs. This map is available in both a digital and pdf version on our website that you can print and carry with you as well.

The digital link will live on our website, so you can access it at any time – with the legend outlining the different kinds of parking on the parking home page.  Most people are unaware there are 16 parkades, nine customer parking lots, more than 40 surface parking lots, and over 1,000 on-street parking spaces in or within a short walk of Downtown Victoria.

Most people are also unaware of the fact Modo Co-operative is in three of our downtown parkades for use when you sign up with their program.

We are continuing to work behind the scenes to bring more private lots online as they become available and continuing talks with developers for public parking within their new buildings.

It is this kind of incremental change and information sharing that keeps the public up to date on where to go and how to get there.

We know how valuable your time is and we want to make it as easy as possible to continue to come downtown to work, shop and play. Our vibrant downtown economy is continuing to grow and we are here to support the businesses throughout the changes.

Parking is only ONE piece of our complex transportation system, but if we can make it one step easier to locate for consumers, shop owners, commuters and residents than it is one step forward in a positive and productive way.

Where to park in Downtown Victoria:


Media Contact

Kerri Milton
Executive Director
Downtown Victoria Business Association

Task Force Seeks Input on Draft Action Plan: Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community

Screenshot 2017-01-19 12.45.08.png

Date:  Thursday, January 19, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — The Mayor’s Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement is seeking input to help shape its draft action plan, Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community, which will be introduced at the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Victoria mixer tonight from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority at Ogden Point.

The actions in the plan are meant to help people who are out of the workforce get to work, and to grow a strong, inclusive economy at the same time. The plan identifies three sets of recommendations that will strengthen the City’s procurement practices to maximize community benefit as well as support small business and social enterprise sectors. Using an ecosystem-based approach to community economic development, the draft action plan focuses to a large degree on efforts to get the unemployed, underemployed and marginalized into employment.

“The Task Force members believe that in order to truly build a sustainable economy, we must create an inclusive economy which provides opportunities for everyone to succeed, including those who are often left behind such as youth, First Nations people, those with mental health and addictions challenges, those without homes or with disabilities, and people released from prison,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.

The draft recommendations include: Leading Economic Change – make the mainstream economy more inclusive to ensure there is always an opportunity for everyone to prosper; Community Benefit Procurement – purchases should be leveraged to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being
of the community; and Social Enterprise Development – strengthen and grow businesses already doing business with community benefit in mind and grow the social enterprise sector.

Each of the three recommendations has a set of actions and tasks to be implemented over the next five years
to achieve prescribed outcomes. Leads and supports in the community to help achieve these outcomes are also proposed and include the City of Victoria, local organizations, agencies and business.

The Good Jobs + Good Business = Better Community draft action plan is available at

There are a variety of ways for the community to provide feedback, including completing an online survey, emailing input to or tweeting to @CityofVictoria #EconomicChangeVic by Sunday, February 12, 2017. Public input will help inform the draft action plan that will be presented to City Council for consideration in March.

The Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement was a recommendation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development and Prosperity, which with input from the community, developed the City’s economic action plan, Making Victoria: Unleashing Potential in 2015. The economic action plan identifies six engines to drive economic prosperity, generate jobs and raise household incomes. One engine that encompasses the rest is entrepreneurship and social enterprise.

“Creating Prosperity Through Economic Development” is a key objective of the City of Victoria 2015-2018 Strategic Plan for focus and investment. Appointed by City Council last April, the Task Force on Social Enterprise and Social Procurement is chaired by Mayor Lisa Helps and includes Councillor Marianne Alto and First Nations representatives, as well as leaders in social enterprise, community and economic development, and business. For more information, visit:

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 For More Information:
Mayor Lisa Helps
Chair, Mayor’s Task Force on
Social Enterprise and Social Procurement


Council Highlights – January 12, 2017


Council Highlights provide a snapshot of the progress made on City programs, initiatives and on Council decision-making. For more information on each initiative, please visit the accompanying link where noted. We welcome anyone who would like to receive Council Highlights to email us at

2035 Stanley Avenue Rezoning Application
Following a public hearing, Council declined a rezoning application at 2035 Stanley Avenue.

721 Government Street
Council approved a heritage alteration permit with variance for 721 Government Street. This permit will allow for a covered front entrance at the Empress Hotel.
More details

Dockside Green Rezoning Application
A date for Public Hearing has been set for January 26 regarding the rezoning application at the undeveloped lands at Dockside Green (Easterly 300 Block of Tyee Road and Westerly 300 Block of Harbour Road). This rezoning would involve an amendment to the Official Community Plan, the Zoning Regulation Bylaw, Land Use Procedures Bylaw and Dockside Green Master Development Agreement.

The proposed amendment allows for additional uses within the proposed Sub-Areas including:
•        brewery (not more than one facility, maximum manufacturing area is 500m2)
•        distillery (not more than one facility, maximum manufacturing area is 500m2)
•        liquor retail store, as an accessory use to a distillery or a brewery (not more than two stores that shall not exceed 100m2 each in floor area)
•        kindergarten (daycare)
•        parks
•        seniors’ housing – assisted living
•        seniors’ housing – independent living
•        cultural facility
More details

727 Johnson Street Rezoning and Development Permit Application
This development was moved to public hearing; no date set yet. The application would allow construction of a 2 storey addition to the existing building and converting the office building to ground floor retail and residential above.
More details

Strategic Plan Amendments
City Council ratified amendments to the City of Victoria’s Strategic Plan 2015-2018. The Strategic Plan is a road map for Council’s decision-making and includes 13 objectives and associated actions and outcomes to guide the City’s work. An amended version of the Strategic Plan will be available on the City’s website soon.

Approval for the 2017 Financial Plan
Council has approved the 2017 Financial Plan. As presented in the plan, and combined with utility fees, the overall costs to homeowners would result in a 2.91% increase from 2016 and a 2.98% increase for businesses.

On January 26, Council will discuss one remaining supplementary request from the Victoria Police Department, $240,200 to fund police support for a vulnerable population pilot project.
More details

913-929 Burdett Avenue and 914-924 McClure Street Heritage Alteration Permit
This heritage alteration permit request has been sent to the joint Advisory Design Panel and Heritage Advisory Panel for further comments.
More details

8 and 10 Philippa Place Rezoning Application
A rezoning application for 8 and 10 Philippa Place has been moved to Public Hearing, with no date set yet. This application proposes to strata title the existing non-conforming duplex.
More details

Development Permits with Variances
The following proposed development permits with variances have been moved forward to a hearing with public input.
·        1040 Alston Street – to rebuild and extend a second storey balcony at the rear and to construct new stairs from the balcony to grade.
·        1961 Douglas Street – for addition of one new transient suite

Parking Rates
City staff will work with the Downtown Victoria Business Association, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Residents’ Association to bring forward recommendations on short term parking solutions for the downtown core.

90-92 Dallas Road Rezoning and Development Permit with Variance
Council moved this proposed rezoning and development permit with variance application to Public Hearing on February 9. The proposed application would allow for the construction of a new duplex.
More details

Heritage Property Protection and Land Use Procedures Amendment Bylaws
Council approved changes to the Heritage Property Protection and Land Use Procedures Amendment Bylaws that will provide more protection to Heritage Registered and Heritage Designated homes regarding demolition.

Editorial: The complexities of transportation


GUEST AUTHOR: Kerri Milton, Executive Director, Downtown Victoria Business Association  (DVBA)

Transportation is a complex and complicated issue in any urban centre. Add in construction demands, increased shopping, increased densification and a city that is growing from a smaller city to a larger Capital City and you have a difficult situation to navigate.

Transportation encompasses all modes of transport, from bikes, to cars, to pedestrians and of course, public transit.  Fixing any one thing in this complex matrix will not solve the problems, but will continue to compound current issues.  Picking apart any one of these pillars is simple to do and not productive for anyone.

The DVBA has been working hard behind the scenes in partnership with other organizations and developers to look at what our businesses need.

What they need is a multi-faceted, complex transportation plan to combat some of the ongoing problems.  Recently, the DVBA sat with the Mayor and key city employees to come up with 28 action items to start sorting out this growing issue. Some action items will take time as we work through the intricacies and develop partnerships with key officials and stakeholders while others are simple.

One of the easiest and most effective solutions is communication. Hence the start of the ongoing conversation you will hear from the DVBA.

·         The DVBA will be producing a map available for public use with all the current parking structures, lots and street parking spaces.
·         We are working on a parking lot which will be “park and ride” for commuters with a short shuttle ride into downtown.
·         We are working with Modo CarShare to produce a program that will work for businesses and help market that Modo is in three of four Downtown parkades.  Interestingly, most people do not know Modo is even here!
·         We are adding traffic counters to bike lanes, yes bike lanes, not the devil, just another mode of transportation for the thousands of new condos, townhouses and homes which are currently under development.
·         We are working with key developers to add public parking space in their new developments and to include things like car share, monthly parking and public parking.
·         We are advocating for better and more effective transit, where applicable, and trying for a faster way into downtown.
Not any one of these items will fix our City’s transportation issues; however, a combination of actions will alleviate the stress some business owners and customers feel when they come Downtown.

Statistics show parkade usage has increased by 47% by those parking for three hours or less. Those are our shoppers, restaurant goers and errand runners and yes they are very much coming into our Downtown.  What an amazing problem to have, that so many people want to come Downtown and be part of the vibrancy of this City.

One final fact, according to the latest Colliers report, retail vacancy has gone from 11% at the end of 2015 to 5.45% at the end of 2016! Our Downtown vacancy rate reduced by half in just one year!

We will continue to strive to help fill those vacancies and in turn find ways for consumers, residents, business owners, commuters and tourists to all live, work and play in our Capital City’s Downtown.

Do 3 Things for Canada to Celebrate our Country’s Birthday!

Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
For Immediate Release

VICTORIA, BC — Imagine if every Canadian did three things for their neighbourhood, their nation, and their world this year. This would equate to more than 100 million acts of community building. To celebrate Canada’s 150th, Canadians are invited to give a gift of three things — three acts of service, large or small, to help their community. The City of Victoria is joining the 3 Things for Canada initiative to mark Canada’s 150th birthday this year.

“We are honoured and excited to be participating in a national campaign that inspires acts of community service to mark Canada’s 150th,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “We invite Victoria citizens to do three things to support or improve their neighbourhood in 2017 and inspire others to do the same.”

3 Things for Canada is a national campaign created by the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee of The City of Calgary after a challenge from Mayor Naheed Nenshi to get all Canadians to become more involved in their communities.

“I am thrilled Victoria is joining us in our birthday gift to the nation,” said Mayor Nenshi. “If everyone just thinks about what they are passionate about and what they can do to help and then does just three acts of service, we can change the world.”

Examples of what people may choose to do include holding a neighbourhood BBQ or block party, getting to know neighbours at a coffee gathering, initiating a little library on a local street, volunteering for a non-profit organization, bringing a hot lunch to a senior in need, and more. Citizens are encouraged to be creative as they do these acts of service for their neighbourhood, their nation, or the world.

In addition to doing three acts of service, citizens are asked to share these good deeds and spread the word, whether it’s posting a photo, video or comment on the 3 Things for Canada Facebook page, using the hashtag #3ThingsforCanada on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or sending a digital postcard to a friend.

In October 2016, Mayor Naheed Nenshi visited Victoria to participate in the Victoria Foundation-led panel discussion Wellness Matters: A Dialogue on Connection, Belonging and the Power of Well-being, moderated by Mayor Helps at the Victoria Conference Centre. At the event, Mayor Nenshi spoke of the success of his 3 Things for Calgary volunteer-based campaign, on which the 3 Things for Canada national initiative is based.

For more information, visit: and

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For More Information:
Mayor Lisa Helps