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    Leslie Campbell

    Bridge design flaw hidden for a year

    David Broadland’s article on the Johnson Street Bridge design flaw—and on the City’s failure to openly disclose it—displays an uncanny level of diligence and public-spirited curiosity, unmatched by anyone in Victoria.

    Incidentally, the City’s FOI web page contains links to information on the Johnson Street Bridge site. But on January 9, shortly after publication of the Focus story, the links all reveal nothing but error messages. For instance, clicking on the main bridge site link yields the following: “Our site www.johnsonstreetbridge.com is temporarily unavailable due to maintenance.”

    Did someone at City Hall discover weakness or fatigue in the bridge website as well? Perhaps, as we speak, City Hall staff are furiously bolting steel plates over those website weaknesses as a temporary fix. All under cover of darkness, to be sure.

    There are two flaws here: the first is in the bridge design; the second is the way the City dealt with the first. Mr Broadland raises some essential questions regarding who knew what, and when. It is simply not credible that none of the councillors were told of the problem shortly after the December 9, 2016 non-compliance report.

    When they were told—likely no later than December 10, 2016—one has to wonder who advised them that the better path was to keep it undercover and hope that nobody noticed. Fortunately, Mr. Broadland did. And I bet that, upon hearing of the flaw, more than one city councillor uttered two words: the first would have been “oh,” the second starts with “s.”

    Russ Francis


    Excellent article by David Broadland on the Victoria Bridge. A wonderful piece of well-researched journalism, highlighting a major problem which will certainly promote rapid corrosion of that structure. After 40 years in the structural steel industry, I have never seen such an appalling patch—which definitely needs a thorough third-party review by an independent engineer, NOT by the engineer of record! Congratulations on a job very well done.

    Martin Bache


    I was very interested in David Broadland’s article on the new bridge. Some time ago, an engineer who had been given a thorough tour of the existing Blue Bridge told me that it could be fixed up for about a million dollars and then be good for another 50 years. Here we are, looking at a project riddled with flaws and unnecessary expenditures. Why is it that as soon as people are elected to City council (or any government position) they lose all fiscal responsibility, as well as their common sense? Einstein was right when he said that human stupidity is infinite.

    Terry J. Waller


    Bravo on continued attention to the JSB project. Like Ross Crockford, I predicted cost overruns, and as I was enrolled—concurrent to the protest and beginning of the design phase—in the Master’s Certificate in Project Management (UVic Gustavson/Schlich), I saw parallels in examples of failures in the larger world. Once the Sydney Opera House construction got to 100 percent above estimates, there was no turning back. It eventually reached over 1400 percent cost overruns.

    The bridge requires movement, and was sold to the public as both a seismic event survival essential—as well as a sculptural engineering civic element of pride. I speculate that like the Montreal Olympic Stadium, we will be seeing maintenance and challenges that will bring on unfortunate financial woe now and in the future.

    How will it cope with wind, and what will be its eventual lifespan? The tale of who knew what, how scope changes were not reported, and the hidden decisions, is ready for the casebook of all studying project management.

    Keep up the investigative reporting, as no one at City Hall seems to have the big picture—nor public purse—truly in mind.

    Hugh Kruzel


    Why isn’t the mainstream media picking up on the scandalous way the City of Victoria has handled the Johnson Street Bridge Replacement Project, as outlined in Focus (Jan/Feb 2018)? David Broadland provides a chronology of the scandalous cost overruns, City council cover-ups, engineering problems, and City staff incompetence.

    Originally estimated at $40 million, the current estimate is $110 million with the final price tag yet to be determined. To make matters worse, design changes were made to reduce costs, including no budget for “bumpers” or landscaping, reduction in required life span specifications, reduced earthquake resistance, removal of the rail component, etc. Since these amenities and more were part of the original design, the cost overrun is really even more significant. In effect, the City originally budgeted $40 million to buy a Cadillac, and ended up paying $110 million-plus for a motorcycle that may or may not do the basic job.

    In particular, why isn’t the media outraged at how the City has resisted, thwarted and lied in response to repeated FOI requests by Focus over the past five years? Mainstream media should be ashamed that they have stood by silently, while a small independent bimonthly publication has been left to bear the financial burden necessary to conduct a thorough investigative journalism report on such an important issue. It’s time now for the mainstream media to amplify the message, so it is heard by everyone, not just the subscribers to an independent local, but exemplary, magazine.

    John Amon


    I am no engineer, nor a bridge-builder, but when I see patchwork, I can recognize future trouble. As an old-fashioned woman who still does some mending if needed, I know that any worthwhile patching is done in support of the material around it. A hole beside a hole spells danger that one or the other will break away—zip into the one beside it—and the tearing process begins.

    Besides all the money spent, the time overrun, and the folly of the whole design to begin with, whenever (!) this new bridge opens up for usage, I will hopefully no longer live in Esquimalt and need to cross it on a regular basis. I am a strong swimmer, but I would not like to go down with a bunch of metal on top of me.

    Gundra Kucy


    Bravo for Times Colonist editor-in-chief Dave Obee’s commitment to provide “context and analysis about news events” (1/28/18). Unfortunately, it’s been sadly lacking since the two repair patches bolted onto the new bridge came to the public’s attention in early December. Since then, the TC’s reporting on this project reads like public service announcements: “Existing Johnson Street span to close Saturday, open Sunday about 5 p.m. if all goes well.” Obviously, all has not gone well. Where’s the context and analysis offering insight into how and why Victorians got stuck with a brand-new $115 million bridge whose signature feature—the rings—is defaced?

    In contrast to the TC’s unfulfilled promise is David Broadland’s initial article on the patches, later supplemented online by a second article, with Mayor Lisa Helps’ criteria for trustworthy journalism—hard conversations, good reporting, relationship-building, and serving the public good rather than the journalist’s interests. The criterion of serving the public good coincidentally addresses a problem noted by the mayor in her TC re-election interview (1/1/18). “We come to conversations with our minds already made up and our positions already established. So there’s not room to change our minds.” For me, the public is best served by journalism that opens a person’s mind on an issue and triggers critical reflection on the thinking and assumptions behind his/her position. The outcome may be a changed mind or, equally important, an unchanged but more insightful and considered position. It’s the process behind this outcome that’s important. Agreement or disagreement with the journalist is irrelevant.

    As for the criterion of hard conversations, was the Victoria News interview with JSB project manager Jonathan Huggett (1/31/2018) a hard conversation? No. Was the TC’s interview with Mayor Helps on her re-election campaign a hard conversation? No. Was Broadland’s piece the beginning of a hard conversation? Yes.

    On good reporting, all would agree with the mayor that the foundation is the absence of serious factual errors or inaccuracies. Unfortunately, she has provided no examples to support her claim that David’s article was deficient in this way.

    On the criterion of relationship-building, would a journalist making numerous FOI requests on contentious City issues lose points? In proportion to the resources available at their respective organizations, I wonder what the track record is on making FOI requests for the Times Colonist or other journalists in comparison to Focus journalists.

    The mayor’s score, based on these criteria: David untrustworthy, and all other Victoria journalists trustworthy. Possibly because I place weight on the criteria differently, my score was different. The one that I undoubtedly value the same as Mayor Helps, and all other readers, is the absence of serious factual errors or inaccuracies. So let’s start there. My ask of the mayor is for her to provide the examples of inaccuracies, to allow David to make any necessary corrections. Then, with an open mind, engage in the hard conversation of how and why Victorians got stuck with a brand-new $115-million bridge where its signature feature—the rings—is defaced?

    John Farquharson


    What’s in a name? I have recently heard discussions concerning what to name Victoria’s new bridge. To me it will always be the “Blew Budget Bridge.”

    Steen Petersen


    Will “sunshine” finally come to BC?

    Alan Cassels’ article makes some cogent points, which are unfortunately diluted by a prominent error. The drug referenced in the central anecdote of the story, Prolia or denosumab, is referred to wrongly as a bisphosphonate drug. Then the link between bisphosphonates and osteonecrosis of the jaw and other risks is played up, and the patient’s prescription of denosumab/Prolia accordingly questioned.

    The other drugs mentioned (Fosamax, Actonel, Zometa) are indeed bisphosphonates. Denosumab, however, as is handily made obvious by its “-mab” suffix, is a monoclonal antibody, a very large multi-protein-chain biologic drug, a wildly different class of molecule than the bisphosphonates which, as their name implies, are fairly simple, double-phosphonate-containing, small molecules.

    It turns out the difference is not great in incidence of osteonecrosis of the jaw in both denosumab and the bisphosphonates (at about 1 to 2 percent, with no statistically significant difference between them). However, it’s absolutely essential in critiquing pharmaceuticals and medicine that we avoid inaccurate generalizations.

    The remaining thrust of the article (on conflicts of interest arising from pharmaceutical industry payments to doctors) needn’t be damaged by the error. However, the Canadian initiative mentioned (openpharma.ca), and similar efforts to shine light on physician payments, while laudable in principle, are arguably far less useful for fixing medicine than the initiative AllTrials (http://www.alltrials.net/), which aims to have all clinical trials reported and their data made available. Achieving this would largely obviate the need to report every muffin given or speaking fee paid to a doctor, since the science could be independently verified on whether the drugs truly work. For a superlative backgrounder on the rationale for AllTrials by one of its founders, Ben Goldacre, read his excellent book Bad Pharma.

    Samuel Mercer


    Alan Cassels responds:

    Mr Mercer is totally right in pointing out that I was incorrect when I said that denosumab is a bisphosphonate. It isn’t, and while much of my article talks of bisphosphonates like Fosamax, Actonel or Zometa, it does appear that denosmuab has some of the same adverse effects of the bisphosphonates. I apologize if I have confused my readers. I applaud Mr Mercer for mentioning openpharma.ca and AllTrials, both very good initiatives that will hopefully make our access to independently verified drug research much easier and bring more transparency to physician-pharmaceutical industry relations.


    One less thing to worry about for BC grizzlies

    When I came back from the holidays and picked up my copy of Focus, I could not believe my eyes, so I had to read the whole article just to make sure. I was ecstatic about the decision of the NDP government to ban the grizzly trophy hunt. It was obviously the right decision, which was long overdue. However, what disturbs me the most about the whole debate are the motivations pro or against that I read in the newspapers and hear on the news. The only two criteria that are usually considered in the discussions, at least from the government side, are always based on the science and the economy.

    I am a scientist myself, so I always welcome scientific arguments in support of any decision-making. However, in this particular case, I strongly feel that these are irrelevant. The trophy hunt is ethically immoral above all other considerations. The fact that the government, or the outfitters legally operating in the province, have been accepting big money from individuals coming to BC to shoot an innocent animal from a safe distance, giving it no chance to defend itself, for the sole purpose of taking home a trophy, is, in my opinion, highly unethical.

    Moreover, at least 80 percent of British Columbians have been consistently and vigorously opposing the hunt for many years, while the Liberal government allowed this shameful activity, undemocratically ignoring the position of the vast majority of the people.

    In my opinion, ethics and the will of the people are the only criteria which should have been applied to the case of the grizzly bear trophy hunt, regardless of any other scientific or economic argument. I applaud the decision of the NDP government to finally ban the grizzly bear trophy hunt, even though I still doubt that it was made for the right reasons.

    Nabhraj Spogliarich


    Victoria’s new policy on short-term rentals

    Pamela Roth’s article on Victoria’s short-term rentals dilemma (January/February 2018) presents a balanced view of this controversial topic; however, it fails to consider why STRs appear to be exacerbating the housing crisis in every major city around the globe. The new internet-based, unregulated “sharing-economy” business model lies at the heart of the issue. Few governments have been able to exercise their regulatory control or taxation authority over this online lodging-booking platform. The massive expansion of the deregulated global economy over the past two decades, proliferation of off-shore tax-free safe havens, and the rampant growth of investment in a highly speculative asset class such as real estate, has concentrated wealth in fewer and fewer hands. This has eliminated the possibility of earning the decent living required to put a roof over one’s head without assuming intolerable debt levels.

    Before Airbnb, (the premier “online marketplace and hospitality service” established in 2008), all bed-and-breakfast operators in the City of Victoria were required to obtain a commercial business license to operate as a lodging supplier, and pay appropriate taxes, as hoteliers do. The disruptive digital technology home-sharing enterprise said their business model was simply an intermediary tool to link property owners willing to rent unused space to guests interested in alternative if not cheaper accommodations than those provided by hotels. The crux of their argument is this: data on host properties and transactions is confidential information which cannot be shared with any regulatory agency. Consequently, if said authorities wish to exercise control over the home-sharing economy, they must assume the costs of regulating and monitoring the property owners and housing units listed.

    New technology offers the means to book temporary use of a room or a home offered by property owners to guests at a suitable price. This, together with the rapid growth of new high-end condos Downtown, serves the interests of developers who sell the units as income-generators. Prospective owners stand to benefit, especially those who seek a financial investment property for part-time personal use. To suggest that City council, which approved the Downtown development permits over the past decade, were unaware that the new units were being used for this purpose, is at best a red herring. Or perhaps just another excuse, like the Johnson Street Bridge fiasco, to remind everyone of their incompetence.

    Victoria Adams


    On the frontlines of the opioid crisis

    The opioid crisis is heart-breaking. The 19-year-old son of a colleague of mine died in his sleep at home in his own bed from an accidental overdose a year ago. The family is still shattered, and likely will be for years. I have a daughter the same age; it could just as easily have been me who lost her child. I feel for all the families whose loved ones have died or are struggling.

    I am also a naturopathic physician, and believe that we are missing a few pieces to the puzzle of addiction and recovery that could provide tremendous help and could be addressed quite easily.

    The use of opioid painkillers for acute and chronic pain management could be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, by refocusing pain management on non-addictive methods of treatment, including homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic. The use of arnica and hypericum as homeopathic remedies given in a specific protocol after surgeries and many injuries would have the potential to drastically lower, or even eliminate, the need for most conventional pain medication. Opioid medication after a back injury was what addicted Ms McBain’s son. Very likely a combination of homeopathy and acupuncture for the acute pain, followed by chiropractic, could have prevented his addiction and death. Physicians need to be educated to either start integrating those methods into their clinical practice, or to collaborate with other trained health care providers such as naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists and chiropractors in an open and respectful manner.

    I myself underwent a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction due to breast cancer in 2010 and only needed 2 Tylenols at the end of the first day. No other pain killers were given, although the nurses frequently asked if I wanted morphine. My pain was managed perfectly with homeopathic remedies and relaxation tapes. My daughter had three wisdom teeth removed last year, one impacted, and did not require one single painkiller; it was managed with homeopathy. To those calling this anecdotal evidence: there is a long history of clinical use of arnica, hypericum, and other homeopathic remedies for acute pain management and a small body of good, published research as well, showing effectiveness. Most studies are not done by homeopaths, unfortunately, and don’t use the right potency of the remedy and correct frequency of dosing; otherwise, results would be much better. I’m happy to teach anyone interested how to dose correctly to prevent or reduce the use of post-injury and post-surgical painkilling medications. Chronic pain can also be effectively managed with naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis and related methods.

    There must be supervised injection sites for obvious reasons. And physiological support for withdrawal symptoms at those sites and all treatment centres. Opioid agonists are an obvious helpful choice, but don’t address the neurological damage done by the drugs, and are therefore really only a stop-gap measure. Intravenous amino acids and other nutrients have been used with success in several treatment centres in the US and Mexico, as well as in a number of clinical studies. IV nutrients help deliver amino acids needed to route more neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, directly to the brain, bypassing often-damaged digestive systems. In studies, this has greatly shortened the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms from a multitude of addictions, including alcohol, cocaine and heroin. Ms McBain’s son could not shake off these physical withdrawal symptoms; this approach might have helped him.

    In addition, users should be supplied with high quality nutritional supplements, including high-dose multi-vitamins and minerals, additional chromium to help address blood sugar imbalances, lithium orotate and vitamin D to stabilize mood, and vitex agnus castus capsules to reset dopamine receptors. Clients should also be counselled on the benefits of high-protein, high-fat, low-sugar diets, and provided with food vouchers to buy such foods.

    I believe that using such an integrated strategy could greatly help alleviate the addiction crisis by preventing a large part of it in the first place, and by helping to heal the addicted brain.

    Dr Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH Sewage and science


    Did CRD staff commit fraud and/or breach of public trust?

    David Broadland is absolutely correct (November/December 2017). The fact that the enhanced sewage treatment juggernaut rolls on, with no regional opposition, is the real crime here.

    This is especially true when you consider the political sea change since the senior governments of (BC Liberal) Gordon Campbell and (Conservative) Stephen Harper forced the Capital region into an unnecessary and costly enhanced sewage treatment project. Now, BC Liberals have been relegated to official opposition, and the Capital region’s own John Horgan is premier of a New Democratic government full of south Island ministers. Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau, who campaigned in 2012 for the “anti-sewage treatment” Liberal candidate and the need for “science-based decision-making,” is now Prime Minister. It’s profoundly disappointing that neither have moved to re-examine the need for enhanced treatment ordered by the two Capital region adverse former governments.

    Perhaps even more disappointing in this new political landscape is the inaction of Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, a “star” scientist who built a career on the impact of greenhouse gases on climate change. Besides hijacking public spending, enhanced sewage treatment will needlessly increase CO2 emissions during construction and operation. But rather than using his new-found power and influence to lobby for transit improvements over enhanced sewage treatment, Mr Weaver instead tables—again—a ride-sharing bill that does little for daily commuters, but benefits American ride-sharing giants like Uber and Lyft.

    As with Site C, there should have been an independent review of the enhanced sewage treatment requirement in the Capital region. The vast amount of public funds required for this unnecessary project should instead be applied to a regional-based rail transit system. Doing so would not only benefit the region by reducing commuting time and enhancing livability, but the global environment as well by contributing to greenhouse gas reduction.

    Dave Nonen


    On the relationship between theatre and memory

    Monica Prendergast’s article stated: “This generation is living longer than any prior one, and so is also suffering with diseases like Alzheimer’s at a higher rate.”

    Dr Stephen Genuis, University of Alberta, has three articles online that indisputably reveal how the current neurological disease epidemic, including Alzheimer’s, results from the massive environmentally-dispersed chemical exposures we are all immersed in. It has nothing to do with increased longevity. Just because these diseases show up later in life doesn’t mean that’s their cause. People in their 40s are often showing early signs.

    The Pesticide Action Network North America corroborates this. See “Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence.”

    Pitying the aged distracts us from the political indignation and action needed to change policy. We got angry at, even as we suffered from, asbestos, tobacco and thalidomide. We abolished or severely curtailed their use. Let’s summon up the same intelligence and passion to stop all corporate, profit-driven poisoning of our sacred biology. Let’s end this toxic exposure epidemic by our grandchildren’s generation through abolitionist policy.

    Larry Wartels


    #MeToo: what’s next?

    I think the article by Mollie Kaye (January/February 2018) is a welcome note of sanity in a highly-charged MeToo debate which seems to have replaced the real estate market as the most common dinner party conversation.

    On that note, I wanted to share with you a recent experience with CBC radio. As you know, announcers always announce a piece of music by a symphony orchestra by saying “conducted by” or “under the direction of” X. The CBC announced a piece performed by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, but did not say the conductor’s name. Since the MSO had a prolific and well-regarded recording oeuvre when Charles Dutoit was the conductor, I enquired and found out that the CBC management has issued a directive that Charles Dutoit’s name not be announced and associated with the MSO on air due to the allegations against him, the specifics of which I am not aware. For Dutoit to suddenly become a “non-person” with the CBC struck me as wrong.

    Perhaps in 30-40 years time, another Trudeau will be standing in parliament and apologizing for the injustices which occurred when people’s careers and reputations were destroyed by mere allegations.

    I will be taking the latest Focus with me to Sayulita, Mexico next week to read cover to cover.

    Tony Beckett


    First things first: Making every vote count

    The debate over proportional representation (Focus, November/December 2017 and the responding letters in the January/February 2018 edition) brought to mind the time when Sweden decided to switch from left to right side of the road driving: Högertrafikomläggningen, as it’s officially known (or H-Day to avoid this tongue-twister), took place on September 3, 1967, when Sweden switched from left side to right side of the road driving, to coordinate with its immediate neighbours, Norway and Finland. The task was monumental, expensive, and happened despite the majority of Swedes being opposed to it.

    Switching to a useable PR voting system cannot be as fraught with potential calamity as that which confronted the Swedish decision. And yes, we must get away from first-past-the-post (FPTP), as it plainly only works adequately within a two-party system where the parties are so alike as to be two sides of the same coin—or a system with no political parties if we really want to accommodate a diversity of beliefs and ideologies.

    Heck, if we really want to stay with FPTP, then we may as well pay people to vote. Berating potential voters for not voting has done nothing to encourage and increase turnout. Pay voters $100 to vote. Federally, that would come to $2.5 billion per election, or $625 million per year—less than 20 bucks a head. And make the $100 tax free.

    But if we don’t want to encourage voting in such a “mercenary” fashion, then at least let’s (as Leslie Campbell said) start by making every vote count. And let’s convince letter-writer John Amon that he too needs PR.

    Richard Weatherill


    One man’s trash: part 2

    Seems like more and more houses are just being demolished. Where does all of the stuff go to? How much is recycled, and how much goes to the landfill? I think the City should charge a heavy demolishing fee to encourage people to make good environmental choices.

    Jean Siemens


    Woodwynn Farm

    I have just been reading the letters concerning Woodwynn Farms. in the latest edition. I knew about the Creating Homefulness Society and the good work they are doing, but it wasn’t on my radar recently, so I was unaware of how much it had developed. I am appalled, but not surprised, by the blinkered and short-sighted approach of Central Saanich Council to the request for a change in zoning to house the workers at the farm. However, I would remind those concerned that initially, Saanich Council banned electric cars here, but now things have changed. Sometimes patience is needed. I wonder if an online campaign could be started on behalf of the Society which could be presented to Central Saanich Council with the hope that they might change their minds?

    Jean Margison


    Editor’s Note: The Creating Homefulness Society has had to sell the farm property to pay off its mortgage holders.

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