I am writing in response to the letters in the March 25 Oak Bay News that were very critical of community activism. Activism has nothing to do with the right of our elected officials to make decisions as they see fit. Instead, activism reflects how much more mature and engaged we have become as a community.
In a democratic society, people have the right to openly agree or disagree with each other and with council. We do so by electing candidates whose ideals we share.
Since we are not all the same, we also elect people with different points of view, interests and commitment with their constituency. That is, of course, the reason why councillors are also entitled to agree or disagree among themselves.
This recently occurred, for example, when the community provided their many concerns about the process that was to be used to implement the new Official Community Plan. This implementation can substantially impact our land use and zoning. Community input and activism is called democracy. Nothing new about it.
On the other hand, it is up to us community members to hold our elected officials accountable at all times. This is what “checks and balances” are all about. These checks and balances allow council to make sure that things are on track and ethical decisions are being made. Transparency is of the utmost importance.
Oak Bay Watch and other community groups are formed by people who believe that each and every one of us has an important role to play in shaping our future. They show up, share information, advocate for transparency and, above all, make concrete contributions to council in a proactive and respectful way.
OBW makes sure that our Official Community Plan is implemented legally, protects our residents and is unbiased. This is a good example of what Oak Bay Watch stands for. The bottom line is: getting off the couch to make their opinions heard is what responsible citizens are supposed to do. Yes it’s much easier to just lay down and watch a hockey game; however, the development industry devotes a lot of resources and expense (activism) to lobbying councils for their development goals.
Therefore, council needs to hear from existing residents who have to bare a lot of the taxation, infrastructure and additional service costs – as well as all the other impacts. Council needs our input to balance their ability to make informed decisions that protect our interests – not just those of the development community. It is important to understand not to provide our perspectives would be incredibly unfair to our council and our community.