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By Gene Miller, December 2012

City Hall seems tone-deaf to the urgency of looming fiscal concerns.

Remember when Langford and Colwood—now backbones of the recently re-branded “Westshore”—were known as Dogpatch?

Seems like that page turned.

Now there’s an embedded impression that you can have a house and small yard in Langford for the price of a condo in Victoria; and in spite of the occasional rumblings in the national media about a coming major correction in real estate prices, nobody who’s selling in pricey Fairfield, James Bay, or the other central area blue-chip neighbourhoods has received the memo.

By Amy Reiswig, December 2012

Reality and imagination collide in Lorna Crozier’s latest book.

Dictionary: object of such adoration that a woman wraps her legs around it wishing she could say “My son, the dictionary.” Maintainer of comforting, “unbudgeable order,” it makes you younger, like a kid again, yet can also help one on to death like “the double-volumed Oxford that suicidal lexicographers rope around their waists before they walk into the ocean.” 

By Aaren Madden, December 2012

Sandra Richardson believes knowing our vital signs makes us stronger.

There’s a young woman in Victoria who used to have a great fashion job in New York City. She was living the life. But then she started abusing drugs and developed a serious addiction. She ended up back in Victoria, her hometown—homeless. Eventually, with some support from her family, a counsellor and a program at the Victoria Cool Aid Society, she was able to turn things around: she started walking, then running—and now she’s in medical school. 

By Chris Creighton-Kelly, December 2012

We all need a sanctuary from commercial interests.

A few weeks ago… I am seeing Red. And I am looking forward to it. Red, John Logan’s celebrated play about the American abstract painter Mark Rothko is playing at the Belfry. This Tony award-winning two-hander hones in on the relationship between Rothko and his assistant, Ken—just Ken, he is never given a last name. The pair verbally dance around the studio; around art ideas and issues; around, finally, the very philosophy of art practice itself.

A play about art practice—yeah! Kudos to Artistic Director Michael Shamata for bringing it to Victoria. His tight, unadorned, focus-on-the-actors direction is entirely appropriate for Logan’s script—the characters never leave Rothko’s confining art studio.

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, December 2012

The quest for peace begins at home.

For many people, the wish for world peace has become almost reflexive, a clichéd afterthought on our more palpable list of longings. And it’s a hopeless wish anyway, as out of reach as the top rung of a giant ladder when all the other rungs are missing. We might as well be wishing for the moon. 

Still, despair doesn’t sit well with us either, and in this coming season of hope, many people again find themselves daring to believe that we could make our browbeaten world a better place, if only we knew where to start. Well, take heart: it turns out our town is full of people committed to building rungs for that ladder. Here they share their insight and suggestions.

Posted by David Broadland, November 15, 2012

Three researchers, including Focus writer Rob Wipond, say they are encouraged by the findings of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham's investigation into Victoria Police Department's use of an Automatic License Plate Recognition system.

Following publication of two articles in Focus by Rob Wipond (see here and here), which included research assistance from Christopher Parsons and Kevin McArthur, Parsons presented a brief to BC Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham on the use of ALPR in BC. In late July Denham announced her office would investigate. Her findings were released November 15.

In response, Wipond, Parsons and McArthur released the following statement:

By David Broadland, November 2012

Is freedom of information already roadkill on the City of Victoria’s shiny new misinformation highway?

On October 9—my birthday—the City of Victoria withdrew its Section 43 application to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). Some gift. With only hours left on the clock for the City to produce whatever evidence it had to support its claim that Focus and JohnsonStreetBridge.org director Ross Crockford were working in concert to crash the Johnson Street Bridge project headlong into the City’s FOI office, it chickened out.

By Leslie Campbell, November 2012

In BC, pipelines have become a moral and spiritual issue.

The line-up of speakers for the October 22 “Defend our Coast” protest at the BC Legislature against pipelines was impressive. It included environmental leaders like Tzeporah Berman, Maude Barlow, Greenpeace executive director Bruce Cox, cofounder of Greenpeace International Rex Wyler (now heading Tanker Free BC), and Green Party leader MP Elizabeth May. Labour unions and the NDP were also well represented.

But all of them followed, and most gave credit to, the real stars of the day and these times: the First Nation leaders who have been in the forefront of the fight against pipelines and tankers for seven years now. About 15 First Nations were represented and their chiefs spoke to the 3500-strong crowd with eloquence—about their connection to the land and their absolute clarity that no pipelines will cross it. For any amount of money.

By David Broadland, November 2012

Dramatic last-minute changes to the bridge project’s Request For Proposals may overturn the design approved by referendum.

City Hall’s eerie, self-imposed four-month silence surrounding the Johnson Street Bridge project procurement process will likely be broken this month. Bids for a replacement bridge are expected to be delivered October 30 by the three companies negotiating with the City for a construction contract. That delivery date had been extended three times, leading to speculation that the competing companies were having trouble meeting the City’s expectations on design and cost. The process is intended to produce price-competitive bidding and so an information blackout has been in effect while negotiations continue.

By Aaren Madden, November 2012

MLA Rob Fleming thinks LRT would tame sprawl in the West Shore and attract business investment.

The late 1980s were volatile times politically, here in BC, on the world stage, and particularly in the Fleming household. Rob Fleming’s older sister had strong, left-leaning opinions that she impressed upon him. Their father stood decidedly to the right; Mom was a “Trudeau Liberal.” (Pierre, that is. He’s not sure where she stands on Justin yet.) Imagine the lively dinner conversation on the day when, in “grade nine or ten,” young Fleming announced he had joined the NDP. 

“MLAs come from all walks of life; there is no one path. It’s not like everybody in the legislature was on the debating club in high school—I just happened to be,” quips Fleming, now the Environment Critic and NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.

By Dr. Perry Kendall, November 2012

BC’s Provincial Officer of Health responds to last month’s Focus article.

I am writing in response to Alan Cassels’ article “Will a flu shot keep you healthy?” Science advances by asking tough questions and challenging accepted “truths.” It is thus essential to have skeptical thinkers like Alan Cassels, Dr Jim Wright and Dr Tom Jefferson active in the field. Our endeavours are all the richer for the questions and concerns they raise.

And I would like to assure your readers that in fact the issues raised by Alan and others are not new to those in public health who, like me, continue to support influenza vaccination as one of the more effective ways of preventing influenza. Nor have we ignored those issues or those criticisms. There are some very compelling reasons why we continue to promote influenza vaccination and I hope to make that case in the following paragraphs.

By Amy Reiswig, November 2012

Poet and self-identified gay writer John Barton.

The very first line—“I’ve let you in.”— in John Barton’s new collection welcomes us into a poetic and personal world about broken boundaries, where the poet is vulnerable yet generous, blunt yet welcoming, and where he encourages us to see into ourselves while simultaneously taking us out of ourselves. 

By Aaren Madden, November 2012

Ira Hoffecker’s paintings are inspired by the tension, energy and history of cities.

Before moving to Victoria with her family eight years ago, artist Ira Hoffecker had always lived in large cities: Paris, Lima, Cusco, Berlin, Hamburg. She studied French and Economics in Munich, then in 1984-5, worked as a translator near Paris. Every weekend she was in the city visiting galleries and museums, reading Camus, Proust, Zola, de Beauvoir. “It was my pivotal year,” she says. 

By Gene Miller, November 2012

A gentle meditation on various collisions between natural law and community standards.

Stuck in the welter of uninvited emails about penis enlargement and how to hypnotize girls into having sex was one with the provocative and totemic subject line, “PMA.” Po-Mo Abstractionism? Prime Minister Abdicates? Pre-Menstrual Abandon? Post-Midi d’un Antilope? My neurons fired endless possibilities. Poor me again!

Turns out it was a pitch for Positive Mental Attitude. I was advised to create an “abundance mentality” by reading and watching personal development material and success stories; to leave behind—to forcibly reject, actually—everything that held me back; and to cultivate a win-win life strategy. The page also informed me that my shopping cart was empty—a problem I could remedy with just one click.

Cli.... No, maybe not.

by Chris Creighton-Kelly, November 2012

Do the arts in Victoria need a kick in the butt?

I am sitting across from them—a woman and a man. We are eating lunch and we have now reached a point past the small talk. We are, after all, trying to cut a deal. 

I tell them that I would like to write for Focus magazine. They tell me that they would like that too. We talk briefly about details such as deadlines, contracts, money, copyright. But then, they—editor Leslie Campbell and publisher David Broadland—launch into a spirited explanation of why they create and publish Focus month after month: For the critical issues, for their writers to speak, for the arts in the CRD, for a kind of “disappearing” local, investigative reporting. And for the intelligence and curiosity of their readers.

By Craig Spence, November 2012

Deep roots in Victoria and a love of life have blessed both Joyce Clearihue and this city.

If Joyce Clearihue were going to have a family motto tacked to the door of her summer home on Patricia Bay, it would say: “The head rules the heart.” And right under the main statement would be a subtext proclaiming: “No regrets.”

At 85, Joyce is “easing up” a bit. She has decided she can relax, and spend more time meditating in her “favourite place in the whole world”—the beach in front of her “Summertrees” property. But you get the feeling it isn’t so much a case of the sun setting on her golden years, as her giving it leave to glow on a horizon of her choosing. The sense of realism, determination and purpose that have always been central to her personality still rule. 

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, November 2012

A department of peace could help reframe our approach to conflict.

For almost a century the red poppy has been the prevailing international symbol for remembering the war dead and their ultimate sacrifice. It’s a very effective badge, a bright stain of blood that will be pinned onto the lapels of a few million Canadians every year at this time. Some will take time to ponder the little flower’s burden; others will wear it out of unparsed habit or the primordial desire to stay in step with the crowd. Mine compels me to try visualizing the 117,000 Canadian soldiers who’ve been killed in all battles to date (according to the Royal Canadian Legion’s website). The image both boggles and numbs my mind.

By Rob Wipond, October 2012

At the same time as their associations channel public resources into private political lobbying, they claim immunity from BC’s laws governing public access to their records.

They’re the two most prominent and influential policing organizations in British Columbia, appearing frequently in public promoting their strong positions on criminal justice reform, use of tasers, drug laws, or expanding police powers. But little else is widely known about the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and its smaller sister, the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP). 

By Leslie Campbell, October 2012

Victoria City Hall wants to limit your access to information.

How ironic was it that during “Right to Know Week” (Sept 24-28) we learned how our own right to know—and thereby keep readers informed—was being severely curtailed? 

 In August, the City applied to the BC Office of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) under Section 43 to put restrictions on Focus publisher/writer David Broadland and myself (as well as Ross Crockford of JohnsonStreetBridge.org). Section 43 appears to be a little-used clause reserved for extreme cases of abuse of the provisions under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. As far as we can tell, it has never before been used against journalists. And until adjudicated by the OIPC, our Freedom of Information requests with the City of Victoria have been “frozen.” 

By Leslie Campbell, October 2012

Longtime Focus journalist is a finalist for 3 Jack Webster Awards.

 

Each year, the Jack Webster Foundation sends out notification by email to the three finalists in each of the 12 categories of Jack Webster Awards. When I saw the first one announcing Rob Wipond was a finalist in the Community Reporting category for two pieces he wrote on the RCMP’s and VicPD’s Automatic Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) programs, I wasn’t surprised. The stories, written earlier this year, garnered tremendous attention on our website from all over the planet. And after Rob, Christopher Parsons and Kevin McArthur took the research done for the story and presented it as a brief to Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, she launched an investigation into the way the program is operating here in Victoria. It was great that the Websters had noticed.