Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Candidates continue to talk about "forced" increases in the budget for the Johnson St. Bridge. Like other "new" information, the facts present a rather different picture, and one that has been available readily enough in the public realm.
For most of the term of the current council, I've been attending meetings where project teams have been reporting on progress of the project or bringing scope change requests to the table. Some of the changes have indeed, added to the cost of finishing the bridge. None, however, have been force fed to those making choices, though those who have lost those votes might believe otherwise. Certainly those candidates who have their own agenda, and who have, if at all, observed from a distance, will likewise represent good decisions as a road to ruin.
A case in point, and there are a few big ticket items that are similarly missing from the spin cycle, is those new features that could not have been anticipated when we chose to opt for replacement over a more risky, if not futile, attempt at refurbishment of the existing bridge.
Sometime after our referendum the federal government announced a new shipbuilding program. It will bring new work and bigger vessels to a variety of yards on the west coast, and our own Point Hope will take on some of the projects and leverage new investments in their operations. A new graving dock with 250 new jobs attached to it has been in their plans and, with the new contracts and a new, more secure tenure on their property (another story that needs sharing), they are planning to add value to Victoria's marine industrial economy.
The prospect of larger vessels sailing through the channel between the bridge piers demanded some substantial changes to elements of design, not the least of which will be fendering to offer protection of the asset should a larger vessel encounter troubled waters or otherwise get a little too familiar with the bridge. Engineers recommended, and a majority of council agreed, that adding fenders to the piers would be useful, if not essential, to protecting the city's investment from harm. Those who imagine themselves as opposition, rather than just a minority voice at council may continue to simply say no to anything associated with the new bridge, but that would be foolhardy, to say the least. A more skeptical observer might even suggest that in so doing, the critics misread their role on council and, instead of paying attention to getting the city's work done, continued to fight a referendum long ago lost.
Council could have chosen to ignore the advice. No one was forced to adopt any of the changes. But that would have been foolhardy, if not irresponsible. Those new costs were added to the budget, in public, after a full debate and follow the vote of the majority of those elected. Nothing forced, nothing hidden, nothing resembling an overrun. Just a clear choice made to protect assets and ensure the city's investment would enjoy the same protection any business or homeowner would want for the durable goods or operating equipment they need to run the show. Truth be told, those costs will be covered well enough by the new assessments and new jobs being brought into the city.
Had I been at the table, and I'm always paying attention, I would have made the same choice. Don't trust your city with those who would sell you short to look good on paper. It's penny wise and pound foolish.