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LETTER – APRIL 14, 2017
Letter as submitted by Marsha Moore of Sooke
WHEN WE VOTE WE ARE HONORING THE SACRIFICE OF SOLDIERS
We have a provincial election May 9 giving us an opportunity to vote for who we would like to manage BC for the next four years.
This right to vote was paid for with a very high price. Our Canadian men and women volunteered to go to war to keep Canada free.
The white crosses in many rows in Flanders Fields have their names and ages. Others came home with health issues.
When we vote we are honoring the sacrifice they paid for us. ~ Martha Moore, Sooke
LETTER – MARCH 10, 2017
Letter as sent to media by Jeff Bateman of Sooke, – LETTER AS SUBMITTED to District of Sooke Mayor and Council
JEFF BATEMAN REFUTES THAT HE WAS ‘BULLYING’ at DECEMBER 2015 COUNCIL MEETING“It’s taken awhile, but after a friend laughingly accused me of bullying not long after Pink Shirt Day last week, I was advised to watch Councillor Kerrie Reay’s Feb. 14 council address and listen for my name. I did so for the first time this afternoon, at least up until the point where the councillor states that, at the meeting of Dec. 14, 2015, I accused her of conflict of interest in her role as chair of the council committee that hired CAO Sullivan. Yikes! Did I flat-out accuse her of this? Memories can be tricky, mine definitely included. I’d intended to ask, in the public interest, for further clarity about Ms. Sullivan’s hiring. But maybe in my shambolic fashion I’d gone too far.
So I went back to the video replay of said meeting. It was a rare full house in council chambers. Arts supporters had turned out in numbers regarding the Community Grant process. The shock waves and sadness over Bonnie Sprinkling’s sudden departure were in the air. It was also CAO Sullivan’s first meeting. Acting Mayor Pearson had to quiet the crowd a few times, noting “there’s passion in the room.”
I’ve now revisited my turn at the mic that night 15 months ago. Here’s what I said in closing, verbatim: “Welcome to our new CAO Teresa Sullivan. Welcome and best wishes in the position. My one concern regards the hiring process. Councillor Reay, who leads the hiring committee, is past president of the Conservative Party of Canada’s riding association in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke. Ms. Sullivan was most recently campaign manager for (ESS) Conservative party candidate Shari Lukens.” I then acknowledge that I was an ABC (Anything But Conservative) voter in the federal election of a mere seven weeks earlier and incoherently come to a stop before getting to the point: “It strikes me as a potential conflict of interest and I’d appreciate some clarification and perhaps some simple transparency about how the process of hiring our town’s top civil servant took place.”
Good, that’s a relief then: I did not directly accuse Councillor Reay of wrongdoing. I asked a question in what I believed then (and still do) is the public interest and which I think qualifies as fair comment. Of course, I never received an answer and long ago learned that I shouldn’t expect one. Facts: The hiring was an in-camera decision made by a designated council committee (Reay, Kasper and Pearson). Due diligence was apparently done in seeking capable and suitable candidates. The Mayor and council later approved the hiring. All was done by the book and is, frankly, none of the public’s business.
In fact, I was quick to say as much, as per this letter sent a year ago and published in the Sooke News Mirror. It reads in part:
“Like many, I’m curious about the political ties linking Councillor Reay (former Conservative Party riding association president) and CAO Teresa Sullivan (campaign manager for CPC candidate Shari Lukens). As one of the 82.3 percent of Esquimalt Saanich Sooke voters who cast ballots for other parties, I never imagined a rising Conservative tide might conceivably be lapping on our shores.
I’d also have been compelled to seek clarity if a hiring scenario like this was conjured by senior campaigners affiliated with any federal party. To me, it’s simply not cricket, no matter how gifted the hiree nor how theoretically little political worldviews impact on bricks/mortar municipal governance.
As is their right under the Government Act, the hiring committee has revealed nothing about the CAO recruitment process. I’m relieved, however, to hear Councillor Reay announce that she has kept Mayor Tait apprised of all developments. If indeed it’s okay by the individual we overwhelmingly elected to lead Sooke forward, then that’s a vote of confidence I accept and celebrate. Viva Sooke/T’Sou-ke – ancient, old, new, emergent.
I’m actually pretty chilled these days by this subject. Done deal, case closed, let’s move on. I wish the knowledgeable and skilled (from all reports I’ve heard) Ms. Sullivan the best in working with Council and our returning Mayor as they tackle the minutiae of municipal business.”
Postscript: Okay, now that I’ve set the record somewhat straight about myself in this context, I’ve gone ahead and listened to the rest of Councillor Reay’s speech. Like many, I regret that she’s had to take this decision. As she says, some people have gone WAY too far, especially (as I’ve said before on this page) those who threaten staff or (as I’ve now learned) council members at their homes. (The incident with Councillor Reay’s dog is truly mean-spirited and cruel – whoever did that, shame on you, what kind of brute are you?). As for those relative few who drop unthinking, gossipy, egregious, borderline litigious bombs into otherwise interesting, engaging and well-intentioned comment threads on social or online media, please STOP, keep your reactivity to yourself, and save us all from having to process your juvenile views and opinions.”
LETTER – MARCH 8, 2017
Letter submitted by Carol Pinalski, President, Sooke Seniors Drop In Centre
STILL PITCHING FOR A SOOKE SENIORS DROP-IN CENTRE
Wednesday, March 8. The Sooke Seniors Group has released a letter today about their long sought-after Sooke Seniors Drop in Center. Here is the full text:
“The Center referred to as SSDIC has been without a permanent home since 2010. We have been seeking assistance from the last three administrations for assistance to obtain a building in which we can operate five days a week to support seniors in their daily lives with a place to socialize, get involved in activities and have a support system that helps maintain their physical and mental health.
Ironically the period in which we have the fewest friends is one in which strong ties become particularly important. The benefits associated with socializing read like a healthy aging wish list: friendships can protect older adults from depression and cognitive decline. Social participation can shield us from low self esteem, maintain our immune systems and boost heart health. People with sturdy social connections tend to eat healthier diets, exercise more and sleep better. Unfortunately social circles shrink as we age.
Our population has grown substantially and I find it inconceivable that Sooke is the only community to my knowledge that is without a Center for the Seniors. Our youth have a skate board park, bike park, ball fields, soccer fields, SEAPARC pool and rink. The Seniors have nothing. I am aware some seniors enjoy travelling in their retirement, however, there comes a time that is no longer an option, and there are those who simply cannot afford to travel as they are on very fixed incomes.
This seems to me to be the time to step up and get serious about getting a facility built for the seniors, it is Canada’s 150th. There is money available from both levels of Government for senior health incentives, and interest rates are at an all time low. I fear this will be like the Sewer project fiasco in Victoria that has gone on for a decade and they are right back where they started, but at almost double the cost.
Looking at the Vision Document we put together in 2013, three of our board members featured on the cover have since passed away, I pray that we will see a Center come to fruition before the rest of us on the board have also passed with out ever seeing a Center built.”
LETTER – DECEMBER 2, 2016
Letter submitted by Todd Powell, Vice Principal, Edward Milne Community School, SD62
EMCS STUDENTS TOP THEIR GOAL FOR FOOD BANK DONATIONS
EMCS’s 10,000 Tonight food drive was last night, and our school was able to collect 11,007 non-perishable food items. In only our second year, this amazing group of young people surpassed our goal of 10,000 in one night. ColdStar Solutions contributed a large delivery truck AND 2100 non-perishable food items!!
As one of the Leadership teachers, I couldn’t be prouder of this incredible group of young adults. They showed drive, passion, energy, and most importantly, a recognition of the needs of their community. At the end of the night, instead of trudging off to their beds for a much-needed sleep, 20 of them went to the food bank to unload and sort. The entire time, they had smiles on their faces.
I want you to know that, as impressive as the total is, it’s how the students got there that is more important to me.
LETTER – NOVEMBER 26, 2016
LETTER submitted by Carol Pinalski, president, Sooke Seniors
SOOKE SENIORS DROP-IN CENTER HAS CLOSED
“It is after much soul searching, sadness and regret that we have decided to close the door of the Sooke Seniors Drop in Center until we have a home of our own. A home that is what the name implies… A DROP IN CENTER … a center where the doors are open at least 5 days a week, a Center where we can offer activities such as daily lunches, hot meals on a regular basis, yoga, Tai Chi, exercises, card room, scrabble, computer instruction,pool table, shuffleboard and or table tennis, bingo twice a week, the possibilities are endless.
There is not a week goes by I do not get an inquiry as to what there is to offer Seniors in Sooke. Sadly the answer is nothing, unlike every other community in the Province. Even small communities like Lake Cowichan and Chemainus have vibrant Senior Centers.
We have been begging for a center for six years, through three administrations, since we lost our home in 2010. But it seems we are not rated very highly on their agenda. We have been shuffled from pillar to post, three years at the Firefighters Lounge, and we thank them for that, but they needed the space and we had been there far longer than had been anticipated. Then to the Community Hall. Since then we have only been open two days a week, and can only offer Bingo with lunch and a monthly hot meal.
Not every Senior is interested in Bingo. The volunteers can no longer cope at the Hall, setting up and taking down tables and chairs is beyond them physically. Working in the kitchen is also physically demanding. None of the supplies are in the kitchen, every pot and pan,, item of food, urns, utensils are scattered in cupboards, freezers and fridges around the basement, meaning many trips up and down steps to retrieve to set up and then repeat at closing. The volunteers are all working through bad hips, knees, back injuries and cannot manage under these conditions, we lost some of our volunteers simply because they could not manage at the Hall. Parking is also a huge issue, some members have come to Hot Meals only to go back home because there was no place reasonably close to park
Three years ago the Seniors held a rally in front of Municipal hall. Councillor Rick Kasper addressed the crowd and promised $50,000 was being put aside for a Seniors Center. He attended the first Hot Meal we served at the Community Hall, spoke again and confirmed that promise. That is wonderful, and would certainly be needed to help with the cost of a Seniors Center, but just putting it aside is not moving toward attaining a Center.
At this time Provincial and Federal Governments are advocating for Seniors, and for keeping Seniors home longer. I would suggest it is a great time for the local municipal Government to get on board while this type of grant money could be available.
We have so many Seniors in Sooke who have no family here and no relatives, Senior isolation is a huge social problem. These Seniors need a comfortable place to socialize, to be on the radar for us to look out for them. A place to drop in and visit with peers, reminisce, and have something to look forward to and occupy their time.
It is my understanding the Lions are interested in a parcel of land on the Wadams Way property the District has acquired, in exchange for property they have in the center of town. They are interested in the Seniors sharing a building with them. My question to Mayor and Council is why this is not moving forward? iI seems to me a very viable solution for getting a Seniors Center before another six years have passed.”
LETTER – JULY 22, 2016
SIGN NEEDED ON A CURVY STRETCH OF HIGHWAY
Our neighbour was in an accident a couple of weeks ago due to a longstanding
signage problem at Sooke Rd and Manzer Rd. Below is a copy of a letter I have sent to departments that could do something about it (including BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, ICBC, and the District of Sooke). A sign now may save a life tomorrow.
“I am writing to inform you about a dangerous turn off Sooke Highway at Manzer
Road. The situation could be made a bit more safe by posting a sign saying “NO PASSING ON RIGHT”.
More than one accident has happened due to vehicles passing the one turning left and vehicles following not able to stop in time. The car that did not stop but just passed on the right is long gone before the other vehicle rear ends the turning vehicle.
I would like to ask that a sign be put up on Sooke Highway 14 at the Manzer Road
intersection stating “NO PASSING ON RIGHT”. ~ Linda Gordon, Sooke
OPINION-EDITORIAL – JULY 7, 2016
OPINION-EDITORIAL ~ submitted by Mary Polak, BC Minister of Environment
IMPROVING ACCESS TO PROVINCIAL CAMPGROUNDS
“I completely understand the frustration people feel when they are unable to reserve a campsite in one of our provincial parks. You’ve booked some vacation time, or maybe have simply left work early on a Friday to get a jump on the weekend. You would like to kick back with friends or family away from the bustle of the city, but your favourite campground you’ve visited over the years is full.
The very features we all love about provincial parks, namely spectacular wilderness close to where we live, is also causing a problem for some people and families. There are simply too many people chasing too few campsites. There are fewer than 6,000 reservable campsites in BC.
The ultimate solution is to increase the supply of campsites, but that will take some time. Availability of land in high-demand areas is one challenge but, as well, for everyone who wants to see expanded campsites for recreational purposes, you have another person who says, “No, I don’t want you to cut down more trees.”
We will address that, but in the meantime, we are also making sure the campsite reservation system is doing its job as effectively and efficiently as possible. We know British Columbians want a reservation system that is fair, that they have just as good a chance of securing a campsite as the next person. Every year we make changes to improve the Discover Camping system to ensure it is fair and every year some people find new ways to circumvent the system. We are working closely with our reservation service provider to determine what changes can be made for next year to close loopholes.
While our main challenge centres around supply and demand, we take any allegations of unfair reservation practices very seriously. Of the 131,000 reservations made so far this year, the public has informed us of only a couple dozen incidents of people attempting to re-sell reservations. We followed up on all of those to make sure all ads have been removed or reservations cancelled. BC Parks also monitors social media sites for advertisements about re-selling reservations.
For the last five years, about three-quarters of reservations through Discover Camping have been made by British Columbians. No one, including commercial operators, is given preferential treatment to reserve campsites and the system does not allow block campsite reservations.
Last year, fewer than 800 reservations, or well under 1% of the more than 158,000 bookings, were made by commercial operators. And for the most part, these companies booked short stays of two days or less, with the majority occurring Sunday through Thursday.
Some ideas we are considering to improve the reservation system include: adjusting the reservation opening dates; lengthening the three-month rolling reservation window; and shortening the maximum stay in high-demand parks from 14 days to seven days, in order to provide more camping opportunities.
All options will be carefully considered to make sure we don’t negatively impact the majority of our users, while trying to solve a problem that is only being abused by a handful of reservation holders.
We are working hard to ensure everyone has fair and transparent access to our coveted camping opportunities across British Columbia and positive camping experiences in BC Parks.”
LETTER – JUNE 23, 2016 – In remembrance of a local homeless man, by Herb Haldane.
REMEMBERING A HOMELESS FRIEND
A homeless man – long of Sooke – died today, his body found riddled with advanced cancer. For 12 years Gregory Wood was without a home, but was watched over by various people in the local community. This letter of remembrance has been submitted by long-time Sooke resident Herb Haldane:
“I write this letter to somehow remind myself what friendship truly means and how we an take for granted some seemingly insignificant experiences. My friend, Gregory Wood, has died today and all the years he has been part of life are now gone with him. Greg was a real friend but I can’t help but wish that I had talked more or done more. You see, Greg was homeless for the 12 years I knew him. And as much as he had struggles or disappointments, he was happy and kind to everyone around him. He lived in vans and tents as well as conditions impossible to describe because words are not enough. Greg helped me understand the human condition of homelessness firsthand and how to appreciate and tolerate people from his humble position in life. To put it simply, I miss him dearly already and can’t begin to explain the profound effects he had in my life. All I can do now is to say: “Goodbye my friend, I am much better off in this life having known you.” ~ Herb Haldane, June 23, 2016
LETTER – MAY 31, 2016 – A comment posted on West Shore Sooke Voice News FACEBOOK page, by Maureen Mitchell-Starkey
RESPONSE TO NEWS about BC EDUCATION FUNDING ‘REVERSAL’
I wish I could say I am surprised, at the announcement from the Liberal Education Minister, this is just another level of abuse to our school trustees, our administrators and staff and the worst to our teachers, students and their families….. Actually very shameful. They should have thought about all the extra work and effort and STRESS they caused all of these people. Shame on you BC LIBERALS!! ~ Maureen Mitchell-Starkey
Published by West Shore Voice News
LETTER – MAY 24, 2016 – from Teresa Sullivan, CAO, District of Sooke
District of Sooke RESPONSE TO LETTER from Terrance Martin
I am writing in response to a disturbingly misleading letter written by Terrance Martin as published in the May 20, 2016 issue of West Shore Voice News. Nearly every sentence in the letter contains what Winston Churchill would have politely called “terminological inexactitudes”.
1. Mr. Martin says the District has fired private contractors and replaced them with union staff positions. Not true. The District has not replaced a single contractor with any new union positions.
2. He failed to disclose that the private contract was his own contract to operate and maintain the municipal boat launch. He says the District is firing “contractors”. Not true. No other private contractor has been terminated.
3. He says this is bureaucratic empire building. Not true. In fact, the tasks under his former contract are being handled by existing staff with obvious cost savings to the taxpayers.
4. He says once a union position is established, the union will put the taxpayers on their knees before it will allow it to be rolled back. Not true. No new union positions have been created. As well, his comment is a disturbing indictment of our existing union staff.
5. He says the CAO “walked out of the meeting”. Not true. Everyone in the room shook hands, and the CAO walked him to the door as she does all guests.
6. The municipality is saving the costs of Mr. Martin’s contract and of a summer employee contract. In fact, the boat launch contract is not any sort of policy shift – it was simply a good decision to make in regard to a problematic contract.
In sum, the decision not to proceed with Mr. Martin’s contract was made after he took advantage of an opportunity to speak to Council about the matter, and it was the correct decision in all the circumstances.
~ Teresa Sullivan, Chief Administrative Officer, District of Sooke
Published by West Shore Voice News
LETTER – MAY 23, 2016 – from Pam (surname withheld by request), Victoria
SD 62 Budget Cuts
To: “Honourable BC Minister of Education, Mike Bernier,”
I am writing to you today with regard to the School District 62 budget cuts for the 2016-2017 school year and as a whole, the budget cuts to the public school system across BC. I am writing to you as a concerned parent and an active community member who advocates for child and youth mental health, substance use and the rights of children as a whole. My son struggles with Mental Health Issues; OCD, Anxiety, ADHD, Sensory Processing as well as Learning Disability Struggles, but yet is very, very intelligent. He attends the “Westshore Learning Centre” in SD62. My son is also receiving additional outside support that is crucial to his well being. The support he receives is of utmost importance to his learning outcome and yet, they still need more support within this school to support these vulnerable children and youth.
It appears that over the last few years our BC Government has done nothing but make cuts to the public education system here in BC. This is having a devastating effect across the province as a whole. As seen in recent years this is effecting our children in many different ways. Mental health conditions are on the rise and we as a province, cannot keep up with demand.
Reducing crucial funding within the school system has meant cutting important and crucial support staff within the schools. It has left teachers struggling with large class sizes to which they can not possibly accommodate, as well as children with multiple needs in the classroom. Counselors case loads are beyond capacity, leaving children and youth without the counselling supports they need. I have personally heard youth say they couldn’t talk to a school counsellor in a time of crisis, as well as counsellors saying they can’t even get important paperwork done as their caseloads are so high, not to mention the mental health needs and stress levels this puts on teachers and support staff within the schools as a whole. More and more students are left struggling to get the help they so desperately need and are entitled to.
Mental health needs are growing substantially. The suicide rate is growing amongst our children and the substance use is growing as well. Youth are self medicating as the stress levels are rising and the resources they need aren’t accessible in a timely manner. Children are dealing with an alarming rate of anxiety. When you take away crucial elements within a classroom for a student to succeed, you take away crucial elements for even the high achieving student to succeed, never mind the ones that need extra resources to get through their daily lives.
The public education system in BC is failing our children. They deserve a proper education with proper supports in place and no child should feel they are not being accommodated.
I live in the School District 62 catchment area and our community is one of the fastest growing in BC, yet funds are still being reduced to the school district. How is that even possible? Year, after year, the government makes more cuts to public school funding which takes away crucial services provided within the school system which are a necessity when in fact, we should be gaining services and supports. BC is growing as a whole yet services are getting cut for our children left right and center.
There are children with learning disabilities and or mental health challenges that are entitled to support, help, learning aides and devices that are not currently receiving them. The lack of efficient funding is already effecting these children and others and with further funding cuts, the situation is only going to get worse.
Children with high mental health needs or learning disabilities are put into “Alternative Learning Centers” stuck in rundown buildings with little to no facilities to accommodate them, with bare minimum extra curricular activities. The school my child attends doesn’t even have a gym or proper kitchen facility on site for Home Economics/Foods Program. They have to go from portables in the rain with no cover to go use a washroom in the main building not to mention the other resources they are lacking. Are they not entitled to the same level of accommodations as the regular school students?
Why is it that a School District has to go in with a balanced budget every year or the school board trustees get fired? These board members are here to protect the rights of our children and their learning outcomes. But yet if they disagree with the funding cuts and the school district doesn’t send in a balanced budget, they get fired? Really? I think, it’s time for every school district to go in with a budget that doesn’t have to make crucial cuts and see where the real figures to a proper education stand! I bet it’s not a balanced budget. I don’t believe this is possible. I don’t believe it is the school board trustees or the school boards fault that they are underfunded.
The big picture goes right back to the Education Finance Ministry and our Premier. They say they are all about families. They are proving this isn’t the case. Maybe we should fire them and see if they are ok with it. They are the ones failing our children and ruining the future for up and coming children and youth. Pretty soon we won’t have any funds even to run a public education system. I believe this is what the premier is striving for. She says she works for the people… all she has done is benefitted herself and her family’s needs and allocated money to the private school system. Maybe we should do what Alberta does and pick which school system we want our taxes to go to.
For all of these reasons mentioned above, I support the following plea and ask for your support; that the Province of BC stop making cuts to the Public School System in BC and fund it accordingly. I ask for School Board/ Trustees of District 62 and any and all players of this decision to reject the budget cuts for 2016-2017 to our school district and support the children/ youth in the province with the adequate and respectful education they deserve.
Published by West Shore Voice News
LETTER- APRIL 28, 2016 – from Ellen Lewers, Sooke
SEAPARC land purchase referendum
“Are we an informed voter? The SEAPARC Referendum is asking taxpayers for a 15-year commitment to buy a golf course. The SEAPARC swimming pool debt of $1 million was retired in 2015 at a cost of $155.61 per average household. That means we should have reduced taxes of that amount showing on our taxes for 2016. What is being put out there is that our taxes won’t increase, but actually they will, as the debt was retired. As well, SEAPARC is looking at a facility expansion of 4,000 sqft and the pool and skating rink are in need of repairs and updates. We are already running at a $3 million deficit with managing and maintenance of the existing space. The question is, how much more are you willing to pay? Do you know the loss of revenue for 23 acres? What is the cost of maintaining the 23 acres and what will be the cost of preparing these lands for ball fields? I guess the real question is, where is the business plan so we can all make an informed decision.” ~ Ellen Lewers, Sooke
Published by West Shore Voice News.