On May 3, councillor Ben Isitt proposed that the City appoint an oversight monitor to review the replacement of the Johnson Street Bridge. Isitt later withdrew his motion — which Mayor Dean Fortin suggested put the project at risk of “political interference.” Fortin’s words are disappointing, because independent oversight has been sorely lacking from this project, and is exactly what it needs.
We are facing a Johnson Street Bridge replacement that started out at $64 million, then increased to $77 million, and has now hit almost $93 million. What happens in June if the tenders come back with more cost increases, or further compromises to the project? The City needs to develop a backup plan. Otherwise, council is exposing citizens to far too much financial risk.
All election campaigns run on money. In the City of Victoria, the amounts that candidates spend to become mayor or councillor total several hundred thousand dollars. That may be peanuts compared to a US presidential race — but it’s just as important for citizens to know where the money is coming from, and who backs a candidate with cash. Under provincial law, municipal candidates are required to file a campaign finance statement within 120 days after an election. We won’t know the amounts spent in the 2011 election until next spring. But it is possible to report what successful candidates received and spent in 2008 — numbers that have not been fully disclosed to the public until now.
It seems we won’t have to wait until after the November 19 election for frightening and expensive surprises concerning the state of Victoria’s infrastructure. Today, the City of Victoria finally posted a report that we have been demanding for months – and the financial implications are terrifying. The report calls for at least $6.5 million in seismic upgrades to Fire Hall #1, or replacing the building altogether, for $16.5 million – and recommends either closing and decommissioning Crystal Pool, or replacing it for approximately $58 million. And what have our mayor and councillors been worrying about instead?
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