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Ross Crockford

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Everything posted by Ross Crockford

  1. A coronavirus testing laboratory in Leeds, UK (Credit: HM Treasury) Some doctors say we must test widely to find all carriers of the coronavirus. British Columbia isn’t doing that. ON MARCH 16, as many countries rapidly expanded their social-distancing measures to combat spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the associated disease COVID-19, the director-general of the World Health Organization told them that they needed to do more. “The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate,”
  2. The April 4 by-election puts the City of Victoria’s youthful electoral organization to the test. LIKE MOST VICTORIANS, the residents of Avebury Avenue have issues. Bike lanes, poor transit service, affordability, property taxes, homelessness — I heard earfuls about all of them one recent Saturday afternoon, tagging along with Together Victoria candidate Stefanie Hardman as she knocked on doors in the Oaklands neighbourhood. A middle-aged guy in wool-felt slippers told Hardman he had to put a down payment on the house he’s in because he was exhausted by the instability of renti
  3. To satisfy the Millennials’ need for housing, Victoria’s mayor aims to permit fourplexes “as of right” on single-family lots. DOWNTOWN HAD SEEN MANY BIG PROJECTS over the past decade, but nothing like this. On December 3, Starlight Developments revealed its plans for a block and a half of Harris Green — replacing the existing Market on Yates, London Drugs and other businesses with 100,000 square feet of new retail space, topped by five towers up to 25 storeys tall and containing some 1,500 rental apartments. The unveiling took place at a land-use meeting run by the Downtown Re
  4. Victorians should welcome the prospect of a new arts centre in the old Bastion Square courthouse. A NEW BLACK-BOX THEATRE, a recital hall, artists’ studios, media labs, classrooms, a work-oriented gastropub—all these amenities and more could sprout up and thrive under one roof Downtown, if the Province advances its plans to revive the old courthouse building in Bastion Square. On November 15, the Province received five submissions to its “request for information” for possible uses of the 1889-built courthouse, a national historic site. One pitch was for a commercial developmen
  5. Residents take the City of Victoria to court for overriding its Official Community Plan. (UPDATE: On November 22, the BC Supreme Court rendered its decision in this case. See the note at the end of this story.) “I’M NOT AN ACTIVIST KIND OF GUY,” John Wells says. By day, he develops instrumentation for the high-tech sector. But this autumn, he put his name on a court action that could change how developments get approved by the City of Victoria, and potentially every other municipality in British Columbia. “I’ve never done anything like this before.” In his case, the devel
  6. The Johnson Street Bridge undergoes one safety review after another. THE JOHNSON STREET BRIDGE is an attractive structure, especially in the evening. Resembling a giant bird’s skull, awash in the glow of blue floodlights, it’s easily the most distinctive landmark on the harbour. Lately, however, the bridge has been drawing the wrong kind of attention. At 11:40 pm on Saturday, October 19, a man fell over a railing near the southwest corner of the bridge and hit the shore, ending up in hospital with serious injuries. “Incidents like this serve as a good opportunity to remind peo
  7. You're welcome, and thank you for being publicly engaged! The RMTS's report to its April 30 AGM said that in 2018 capital funds were spent on lobby-area roof repairs, replacing balcony carpets and drapes, a modern fire curtain, new usher jump-seats, more washers and dryers, a video projector and screen, hearing assist upgrades, and improved signage. The survey has been controversial — notably, the RMTS commissioned it only after getting pushback on the changes to the booking policy — but I do agree with the respondents who said that the theatres are well-maintained.
  8. You're welcome, and thank you for being publicly engaged! The RMTS's report to its April 30 AGM said that in 2018 capital funds were spent on lobby-area roof repairs, replacing balcony carpets and drapes, a modern fire curtain, new usher jump-seats, more washers and dryers, a video projector and screen, hearing assist upgrades, and improved signage. The survey has been controversial — notably, the RMTS commissioned it only after getting pushback on the changes to the booking policy — but I do agree with the respondents who said that the theatres are well-maintained.
  9. Thank you for the kind comments. I'm not an accountant, so I can't speak to how the RMTS breaks down its financial statements, but it did state in its presentations to the three owner municipalities that it receives $580,000 annually from them, via the CRD — $480,000 for capital expenses, and $100,000 for its operating budget. See, for example, the second slide in its April 25 presentation to Victoria councillors, at https://pub-victoria.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=36544 A part of the problem may be that this amount of funding has not increased since 1998, when it was est
  10. Thank you for the kind comments. I'm not an accountant, so I can't speak to how the RMTS breaks down its financial statements, but it did state in its presentations to the three owner municipalities that it receives $580,000 annually from them, via the CRD — $480,000 for capital expenses, and $100,000 for its operating budget. See, for example, the second slide in its April 25 presentation to Victoria councillors, at https://pub-victoria.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=36544 A part of the problem may be that this amount of funding has not increased since 1998, when it was est
  11. The society running the Royal Theatre aims to make it the region’s hub for commercial live performance. But Langford may soon have a venue of its own. IT'S A SUNDAY AFTERNOON, and folks are streaming into the Royal Theatre to see the Broadway musical Jersey Boys. Many came from up-Island: Courtenay, Cowichan, Mill Bay. One woman tells me she attended her high-school grad ceremony at the Royal in 1965; now she lives in Nanaimo. “We were in Vegas and we just missed the Jersey Boys,” she says. “Then we found out they’re playing in little old Victoria! So we came down.” Such a rem
  12. Is recycling enough, or should we ban some plastics completely? YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK HARD, but you do have to look. To the dog walkers and strolling families, Willows Beach appears pristine. Start hunting for garbage, though, and you’ll find lots of it in a few minutes. Drink-box straws, candy wrappers, globs of styrofoam, cling wrap, bits of broken toys, zip ties — all plastic, tangled in the wood and seaweed left at high tide. “For many people, plastic is just a matter of convenience,” Anastasia Castro tells me, gathering bits from the sand. “They don’t see the real impact
  13. What has Victoria learned in the 10 years since it first discussed replacing the Johnson Street Bridge? The engineers said it would cost $35 million to $40 million. But that was for a standard structure, they warned. An “iconic,” “architecturally significant” bridge would cost more. Nearly all the councillors wanted to replace the old bridge anyway. “While we are losing a piece of existing heritage,” said John Luton, leading the motion for replacement, “it is an opportunity to create something that is art as well as architecture that will become classic, or new heritage years
  14. Downtown residents question the $34-million deal for a new fire hall. CRITICS HAVE ISSUED THEIR LISTS of the best TV shows of the past year. For high stakes and dramatic twists, though, it has been hard to beat the live stream of recent City of Victoria council meetings. “We have one of the most difficult decisions we will probably have all term in front of us today,” mayor Lisa Helps told councillors on November 15. For nearly three hours they debated sites for a new Crystal Pool, before voting 7-2 to keep it in the southwest corner of Central Park, the location City staff ha
  15. What will close the divisions laid bare by Victoria’s election? THE LINE OF VOTERS at Margaret Jenkins Elementary ran along the wall of an entire hallway, and then back on the other side. Upon seeing it, one guy groaned aloud: “How long do we have to wait to get Lisa Helps out of office?” The queue for the single vote-reading machine in the gymnasium took over an hour, and during the wait I heard more grousing. “She probably planned this, to keep us from voting,” muttered one woman. When asked why she distrusted the mayor, the woman replied, “She won’t clean the streets!”
  16. Will Crystal Pool become an election issue? Candidates say “Yes.” LIKE THE REST OF US, Jeremy Loveday seemed confused. “Has council — did we decide to — not?” asked the City of Victoria councillor, at a July 19 update on the Crystal Pool replacement project. “I know we were going to do a referendum, and then we didn’t need a referendum. Did we make a council motion not to do a referendum?” The confusion was understandable. In June a letter had surfaced, from provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Selina Robinson to Mayor Lisa Helps, suggesting the City hold a referendum if i
  17. Slates are readying candidates for council jobs that few may actually want ROB REID IS NOT RUNNING. He still runs, of course. Reid operates three athletic footwear stores Downtown, he’s the race director for the annual Victoria marathon, and he jogs about 20 kilometres a week. But he’s not running for City of Victoria’s council in this autumn’s municipal elections — and his reasons for not doing so should make residents question what’s happening to our municipal governance. “It was something I wanted to step into,” Reid said over coffee recently. “But not with this process.” M
  18. The debate over density at 1201 Fort is sure to repeat itself across the City of Victoria VICTORIANS CROWDED INTO CITY HALL on April 12. They stood in hallways, craning to hear the speakers in the council chambers, or downstairs, watching a live stream of the meeting on a TV in the foyer. The agenda package was 2,311 pages long — nearly 2,000 about a proposed development for 1201 Fort Street, the site of the former Victoria Truth Centre. “This has been an emotional journey for everyone,” said Mike Miller, president of Abstract Developments. In the two years since he’d bought t
  19. We want to repair our assets. Why don’t our governments do the same? PSST. Elizabeth? John? Andrew? Got an idea. You’ve heard of hygge, that Danish word for “contented cozyness” that’s become a lifestyle, spurring the sales of hand-knitted socks and wooden furniture. Well, there’s another concept from northern Europe that’s far more important, and it’s just waiting for someone to brand it. Last January, Sweden implemented a series of tax reductions for repairing household goods. They cut sales tax in half (from 25 to 12 percent) on repairs to shoes, clothes, and bicycles. For
  20. Victoria’s council still needs to learn lessons for its next big project. THIS HAS BEEN A MIRACULOUS YEAR for the City of Victoria. Lowest unemployment in Canada. Cranes on every block Downtown. Record levels of tourism. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that our civic government has engaged in a bit of magical thinking. This is what occurred to me when I read a headline in the June 23 Times Colonist: “Victoria might not need to borrow for Crystal Pool.” The day before, City parks director Tom Soulliere delivered an update to Victoria councillors on the municipality’s
  21. How many big infrastructure projects can the City of Victoria tackle at once? CRYSTAL POOL IS A CHALLENGING PLACE to navigate if you’re disabled. You need a key to turn on a power lift to climb the eight steps from the lobby to the men’s locker room. You need another lift on a different staircase to get to the top floor’s tiny weight room, too crowded with equipment to fit a wheelchair. Anyone who’s visually impaired could smack their head on the concrete bleachers overhanging the pool deck. And if you want to get wet, you need someone to hand-winch you down into the water in a hoi
  22. Mel Bolen and Jim Munro built monuments to the written word. IN 1963, Jim Munro was managing the fabric department of an Eaton’s department store in Vancouver. A mundane job. But he had a secret dream: to own a bookshop. “He was not really a team player, and he did not play golf, so he really wasn’t going to advance very far at Eaton’s,” his daughter Sheila told the audience gathered at Jim Munro’s memorial service, held on February 20 at Alix Goolden Hall. “His friends told him he was crazy, there was no money in books, Victoria was a backwater, and so on. But it made no diff
  23. The City of Victoria wants to build a $70-million swimming pool but must first obtain consent from electors to borrow $60 million. Will they vote Yes? ON FEBRUARY 16, Victoria councillors agreed to direct City staff to draw up plans to replace Crystal Pool, at a cost of up to $69.4 million, and to hold a referendum, likely at the end of 2017, that could see the City borrowing up to $60 million — the largest amount in its history. But Victorians are going to be asking many other questions before we see the one on the referendum ballot. Do we really need a new pool? Six yea
  24. Mel Bolen and Jim Munro built monuments to the written word. IN 1963, Jim Munro was managing the fabric department of an Eaton’s department store in Vancouver. A mundane job. But he had a secret dream: to own a bookshop. “He was not really a team player, and he did not play golf, so he really wasn’t going to advance very far at Eaton’s,” his daughter Sheila told the audience gathered at Jim Munro’s memorial service, held on February 20 at Alix Goolden Hall. “His friends told him he was crazy, there was no money in books, Victoria was a backwater, and so on. But it made no diffe
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