The seven set to serve Oak Bay for the next four years were sworn in by Justice Geoffrey Gaul Monday night in council chambers.
Nils Jensen re-donned his mayoral chains of office as the first sworn in and was later joined by councillors Hazel Braithwaite, Tom Croft, Michelle Kirby, Kevin Murdoch, Tara Ney and Eric Zhelka.
“It’s a good time to reflect on how truly fortunate we are to have something most of the world thirsts for and many have died to achieve and that’s democracy,” Jensen said.
He took a few moments to recognize the departing councillors John Herbert, Cairine Green and Pam Copley.
“They have left a wonderful legacy, between the three of them they served Oak Bay for a remarkable 27 years,” he said, reflecting on the work council did over the last term. That included improvements in public transparency with citizen advisory groups and a new website and extensive consultation in the official community plan review.
“Since Oak Bay was first founded in 1906 there have been many reeves and mayors and councillors that have contributed to the evolution of our community. Each in succession standing on the shoulders of those who went before … [each council] had their own unique and important achievement as Oak Bay progressed from the First Nations traditional territory which we reside on now, to the farmlands, then went on to be the rural communities to what we are now – a carefully planned modern progressive community that has successfully preserved the uniqueness of its neighbourhoods,” Jensen said in his inaugural speech.
“The torch has been handed to us seven around this table now. It’s now our turn to contribute to an Oak Bay that our children, grandchildren and generations to come can be proud of. Oak Bay will continue to grow and evolve and mature. The work and challenge for us up here will be to direct change to ensure we protect and preserve our very unique community… its character and its ambiance.”
He took a moment to note they don’t do the work alone, thanking staff and community volunteers in advance.
He reflected on the past term advancing the arts with a $1 million contribution to the theatre at Oak Bay High (set to open next fall) and the appointment of the first arts laureate in Canada along with the work she did. He proposes to widen the mandate of parks and recreation to include culture in a bid to advance arts even further.
Jensen said he plans to propose web casting meetings and Monday was Oak Bay’s first night using e-agendas with council following along on tablets.
“We’ve now come into the electronic age, we’re probably not the first,” Jensen said to a roomful of chuckles. “That will continue to open up municipal hall because people will have greater access to documents in advance.”
Council will also have staff review how advisory committees could be more effective in aiding the seven around the table make decisions.
He promoted regional co-operation in his address to the standing-room-only crowd.
To address the need to meet sewage treatment obligations, he’s already met with the new mayors in Victoria, Lisa Helps, and Saanich, Richard Atwell.
“I’m very optimistic a solution will be found and will be found soon,” Jensen said, adding there are also regional co-operation options for economic development and efficient integration of services.
Oak Bay looks forward to hiring a planner to help implement the OCP installed by the previous council, with development of a housing strategy and guidelines first on the agenda.
A municipally owned property at 1531 Hampshire Rd. will get some resolution this term, he promised. Oak Bay Lodge, he noted, could take longer.
“I’m very optimistic based on my meetings with Island Health to date that a public health use will be found for the Oak Bay Lodge property. But given Island Health is in the middle of doing a major review on the future, not only of the long-term care, but Oak Bay Lodge, likely a decision on the Oak Bay Lodge will be many years away.”
Jensen noted the seven council members must make sure the water flows, refuse and recyclables are collected and dealt with and that facilities and infrastructure are maintained.
“That is a large but important task requiring our constant attention and at times some heavy lifting.”