Report on the Annual Report
Change is happening in Oak Bay – from housing teardowns to failing pipes and crumbling roads. Oak Bay needs to proactively address the issues facing us or we will pay a high price for looking away. Under the current Mayor, we are just looking away.
At the July 9th Council meeting, the 2017 Annual Report was presented to Council and the public, normally a routine document simply received by Council. This year it barely passed by a 4-3 split vote. There were no concerns about the 98% of the report written by staff and detailing the workings of the municipality, but rather on the two pages of political spin by the Mayor.
100% of the public submissions and speakers addressed the same concerns: the Mayor’s summary ignored the roads, sidewalks, underground pipes, lack of housing options, aging buildings, village parking, and numerous other issues facing the community. The report is intended to lay out the accomplishments, objectives, and goals of the municipality in an open pubic discussion, but is also intended to inform the priorities of Council in the year to come. But setting priorities requires honesty: it requires us to say “let’s celebrate the accomplishments, but let’s also acknowledge the issues still facing us so we can work on addressing them.”
The “Message from the Mayor” failed to do this, citing 2018 events in the 2017 report, claiming success where none existed, and generally putting forth an image of Oak Bay that is so wonderful nothing needs to be done. It’s a great election platform, but terrible management.
An example was the following statement: “Council’s ongoing commitment to sound fiscal management was evident throughout 2017 as the District moved forward with the necessary renewal and maintenance of roads, parks, facilities and sewer and water systems.” But 2017 is the year that Council underfunded roads by $2,450,000, refused staff’s request to put 1% of taxes into infrastructure, put no additional funds towards the $3,000,000 identified need for underground infrastructure replacement, put no money towards building replacement funds, and at the last minute the Mayor pulled $220,000 out of infrastructure reserves to artificially reduce the tax rate. Sound like sound fiscal management? It's worth noting that there was also not a single mention of housing or development in the Mayor’s report, as apparently housing and development are not issues facing Oak Bay.
But things DO need to be done, and done now. Opportunities exist. Every inactive day costs taxpayers as grant opportunities are missed, emergency repairs draw down the budget, and we watch housing innovation and funding drift away. It’s time to be honest with our community: we have significant issues that need addressing, and they can be addressed only with honest assessment, hard work, and hard decisions. It’s time to get on with the work, not writing tall tales.
It’s too bad we aren’t literally sticking our head in the ground – we would see the failing pipes and have to face the problem head on.