ALowe accuses Hutchinson and the NP of sensationalism. In defense of the city, ALowe says we are consistently high-ranked as a travel destination. Wow. Thanks ALowe. Why don't you just say we consistently have over-priced RE, so that means everyone wants to be here, don't you know? ALowe "continue[s] to receive feedback from many visitors who feel Victoria is a safe and beautiful city to visit;" but notice how he doesn't mention any specifics?
Victoria's Mayor Responds
Re: Disgusted In Victoria, Brian Hutchinson, Sept. 1.
When I agreed to speak with Mr. Hutchinson regarding the state of Victoria's downtown I did so with the intent of providing a frank and forthright assessment of the challenges we are facing in our urban core. In exchange, I expected a balanced reporting of the problems, and solutions we are working to advance. Sadly, and perhaps not surprisingly, sensationalism triumphed once again over thoughtful and comprehensive journalism. In particular, I challenge Mr. Hutchinson's negative and one-sided characterization of our community without any reference to our consistent ranking as one of the top international travel destinations. I continue to receive feedback from many visitors who feel Victoria is a safe and beautiful city to visit.
We have never denied that our city, like so many other urban centres across the country, is confronted with the street-level impacts of escalating addiction and homelessness. And in many cases, undiagnosed and/or untreated mental illness is creating a more complex set of social and health challenges whose consequences are becoming more visible and more acute every day. These street-level impacts are not acceptable to me or to our citizens.
What does distinguish Victoria is our genuine commitment to finding a new and better way to assist these individuals:We are eagerly awaiting the recommendations from an expert panel of medical practitioners and researchers, chaired by our provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall. The panel's recommendations will lead, I hope, to a new integrated model of service delivery that will represent a substantial shift in the way we respond to social and health challenges.
People must have access to stable housing, detox, treatment, health and social services if we want to end the downward spiral. Cities must be assisted in this endeavour by other levels of government who ultimately determine funding levels and service priorities. It is shameful that our streets have become the de facto institutions for the homeless, addicted and/or mentally ill.
Alan Lowe, mayor, city of Victoria.
ALowe could have said CondeNast Traveler Magazine, or any one of a myriad travel publications. He could have tossed some celebrity names around. But. He. Didn't. Guess what? Hutchinson did toss in some names. And big ones. Like the Auditor General. Or mention of the well known fact that this city has had big name companies cancel conferences here because of the street issue.
Hutchinson did write a balanced article. The problem in ALowe's eyes was that it was too honest. Hutchinson did editorialize on the issue for certain. But you see, he's not a bleeding heart, so therefore in direct opposition to ALowe's plans to study this issue ad naseum and at great cost to the taxpayer and still do nothing (think sewage treatment) until the provincial and the federal governments legislate action (again think sewage treatment) and commit equal money.
I won't get too political on you. Really my thoughts on this issue are irrelevant. But I will say this: for any city official, from the mayor to the city manager, to say that this city just doesn't have enough funds for extra policing and more support services (remember they wouldn't license the church basement ones) is absolutely freaking ludicrous. Property taxes have risen, both because there have been rate increases and because property values have skyrocketed. This city is swimming in cash. If they're not, then someone somewhere needs to be asked why and held to account.