Scott Fair of Chemainus finished the marathon at 5:14:44, and crossed the line while puffing a cigar. Gunnar Freyr Steinsson photo

Last weekend, I ran my first half-marathon race in the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. The only race I’d done before was the TC 10K in March. Both times I was nervous.
For work, I was asked to write an article with recommendations from runners on how those magnificent people who line the track can help the racers by cheering. One runner I know hates it when, a few kilometres from the finish line, cheerers scream, “You’re almost there!” Because as a runner, those last few kilometres are the toughest and to him, the last thing he wants to hear are those words.
Elite runners like Rob Reid, who is now the race director, often don’t care what those fans are screaming. Frankly, a lot of them are delirious, especially for marathoners who are beyond the 32-kilometre mark. Only 10 km to go.
In both races, I was extremely grateful to those thousands (about 4,000 were estimated for last weekend’s marathon) who cheer for not only their loved ones, but for complete strangers.
Among the most memorable for me were the family on Crescent Road who played “Chariots of Fire” over and over – that’s the slow-mo running song you’d hear in a movie if people were running through some bright field, their hair blowing in the wind. And the lone woman on Irving Street, I believe, dressed in a bear suit and socks, who jumped up and down, yelling, “You look good! And you look good!” and pointing to runners as they passed her.
Another complete stranger yelled, “Way to go, blue shoes!” at me.
Running 21 kilometres, never mind 42.2, would be a whole lot tougher without those wonderful souls who cheer, sing, bang instruments and hold sings from the sidewalks along the way.
You were the real heroes of race weekend, in my eyes.
Many thanks.


Check out the results here. No, you won’t see my name on the leaders board.

I’m tired, and cranky, and slightly irritable this morning. And I blame UVic for it.
Because they felt they didn’t need to conduct what’s considered “meaningful consultation” with Saanich residents who are concerned about a seven-level parkade being built on McKenzie Avenue, I (and about a hundred interested citizens) sat through a six-hour council meeting last night that ended just before 1:30 a.m.
So UVic, let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: nobody objects to the athletics facility that you’re proposing. The benefits of that part of the project are immense and obvious to all. Nobody needs to be sold on that idea.
But it’s clear, after having sat through multiple presentations from you guys, that you don’t understand this.
Your insistence to focus on the benefits of the athletics facility, rather than addressing neighbours’ concerns about the parkade (which is the only reason this project is stalling), gives the impression that either you think the objections are against the sports complex (which is not true) or you’re brushing neighbours off because the athletics portion does so much good it outweighs any perceived negatives.
I’ve sat in many a council meeting and there’s one recurrence that I see more than anything else. If you don’t consult with the neighbours, your project won’t be approved. It’s that simple.
When Saanich council postponed their decision on this project back in August, it was because they felt neighbours’ concerns were great enough that more public consultation was needed.
But consultation means many things to many people (as we learned last night). And consultation and information session are two different things.
On September 9, UVic obliged council’s wishes and held an open house. But consultation is a two-way street, and that’s not what the UVic provided.
It was an information session where UVic told residents, “These are our plans, thank you for coming.” There was no opportunity to have open discussions and address the white elephants that everyone in attendance wanted to address.
Instead, people were asked to fill out surveys based on their impressions of the project.
The reality of planning for new development – especially one of this size – is that it is a long, slow process. But UVic has timelines they want to stick to, and they apparently rushed through things.
Two months passed between the August and October council meetings, which isn’t nearly enough time to thoroughly address concerns.
Instead, UVic decided to hang some vines and artwork from the side of the concrete parkade and say, “This is what the community was concerned about, we fixed it, let’s get this thing approved!”
But Saanich councillors nixed that idea, postponing their decision, once again, to give UVic another chance at getting it right to appease their neighbours.
And it looks like getting it right is going to mean a huge diversion from the plan they’ve twice presented to council.
“If it comes back again as seven storeys in the same location, it’ll have the same (postponement) vote from me,” Coun. Paul Gerrard told UVic. “It’s still the wrong building in the wrong place, and it’s too massive.”
I understand that the university is getting desperate for parking stalls – they’ve lost more than a thousand in the last decade through either parking variances or building on top of existing parking lots.
UVic projects they’ll need 800 new stalls by 2018 to accommodate growing traffic demands. This proposed parkade only brings 269 of those new ones, so the university must have plans to build more over the next seven years.
That’s likely why council is making sure they get it right the first time.
And that’s also likely why the community realizes the discussion is important.
I can only anticipate that UVic will make significant changes to the project before we see it come before council again – it only behooves them to do so.
Poor public consultation wastes everybody’s time – it also wastes more money the more times you’re sent back to the drawing board.
This is where municipal politics are much more collaborative – and more important – than provincial or federal political processes. Your councillors want you to have a say in the future of your community.
I understand you can’t please everyone on every project, but compromise is key. If that’s not achieved, all you’re left with is hundreds of people showing up in council chambers for a six-hour meeting. That does no good for anyone.
If meaningful consultation is conducted, your application should have little objection when it comes before council. Those six-hour, jam-packed meetings can always be avoided.
UVic, please get on with this proper consultation. Talk to the community. Work together to find a win-win situation.
No one wants to sit through another meeting that ends at 1:30 a.m. (myself included). It’s in your hands to engage residents to find something that works.

Read the news story here.

Colwood Mayor Dave Saunders is requesting a public apology from View Royal councillor and mayoral-candidate Andrew Britton who last week told the Gazette: “We need to be proactive, so we don’t wind up broke — like Colwood.” (Read the full article here)

In an email to Britton, on which he copied the Gazette, Saunders wrote:

“Colwood has gone to great lengths to build and support our relationship with View Royal and the comments in the article are completely inexcusable!”

Britton responded with an apology, again copying the Gazette, and clarified the intent of his comment:

“When I was talking about Colwood it was in the context of the difficult time they are having. I did not fully explain that Colwood had difficulty due to the Assessments of some high profile properties such as the Rock Quarry and how they lost money because of this and it falls on the taxpayers where there is only one place municipalities get their operating funds and that is through taxes.”

But Saunders’ message back to Britton suggested the two are still far apart on the issue:

“Any statement made should be a full apology to Colwood and correction of the inaccurate information that Colwood is broke. Your wording and intent of the correction is not even remotely accurate.”

Saunders has requested a meeting with Britton to resolve their conflict.

The undead have monstrous timing

Nine-year-olds Gonzalo Pardo-Figueroa, Djuna Nagasaki and birthday girl Chelsea Seaby Bruno join the Zombie Walk on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Unwittingly, I watched the incredibly hilarious movie Zombieland on Friday night. You know the one, with the opening credits which include gallons of theatre-quality spurting blood and one woman’s Achilles tendon being eaten by an undead gentleman.
I have a feeling I wasn’t the only one.

Until my smartphone reminded me on Saturday morning that it was the day of the Zombie Walk in Victoria, I’d forgotten all about the event.
I’d say my forgetfulness had a lot to do with the fact that it was still 30 days away from Halloween.
Who the heck wants to do the zombie thing so far away from Halloween, really?
Hundreds of people roamed the streets, hucking fake blood and vomit at business windows as they dragged their undead carcasses from Centennial Square to Government Street on Saturday, moaning, groaning and harassing frightened tourists and delighting others. The pack of flesh-eating horrors was boosted by a birthday party. That’s right. Zombie kids. They were nine years old.

What I’m trying to get at is that event should be held far closer to Halloween, when people are actually interested in participating in the spooky spirit. I’ve never done the Zombie Walk and never will if it’s so far from All Hallows Eve.
Hopefully, the organizers (who do an amazing job, by the way – I’m not harping on the event, just the date) can move next year’s zombie walk to the weekend before Halloween.
They might just boost their zombie posse numbers.

Mmmmm... Robert Middlemiss has a snack before the start of the Zombie Walk on Douglas Street. Approximately 1,500 of the undead shuffled from Centennial Square through the downtown streets to the Legislature searching for brains bringing smiles from most passerbys.

Brad Pejril and Tyler Komjati catch up on the news from the land of the living.

Give a crap about council

I don’t know why council meetings get such a bad reputation. I’ll be the first to admit that prior to being named “council reporter” at the Saanich News, I had zero interest in municipal politics.

I had to sit in on a meeting once as part of an assignment in journalism school and – I kid you not – one of the councillors stopped the meeting to ask if I was there for any particular reason because I’d nodded off.

Municipal politicians don’t make decisions like the province or feds. They discuss land-use issues: roads and developments, rezoning applications and parking variances. And sometimes, on a good night, a councillor will drop a bombshell with the mention of an urban ungulates strategy or setting build-green standards.

Okay – these topics don’t have the sex appeal or headline-grabbing gravitas that the politics at the Leg or in Ottawa deal with, but trust me, these issues are important.

My political reporting prof tried to convince my class that if we ever worked at a community newspaper, we’d have to go to council meetings. (I scoffed. Yeah right – I can pawn that boredom off on someone else.) He also tried to convince us why municipal politics matter: because they make the decisions that impact your day-to-day life.

After sitting through a year and a half’s worth of Saanich council meetings, I tell you: there is nothing truer.

The smooth roads on which you drive every day; that peaceful quality of life you enjoy in your backyard; the fact that there isn’t a 20-storey apartment building blocking your view of Mount Doug – you have your council to thank for that. Your eight councillors and mayor have more power to ruin your day-to-day life than probably any other politician you elect.

But nobody cares about council meetings. You should, though.

I’m a convert – I love ‘em now. I look forward to meetings where there are contentious issues on the agenda, I look forward to budget meetings to find out how my tax dollars (and yours too) are being spent, and I look forward to chatting up the politicians to justify every decision they make, ensuring that their residents remain their top priority.

Elections happen in just under two months (November 19) and I urge you to inform yourself. Go to a council meeting, talk to the candidates, learn just what exactly municipal government rules and how that affects you.

You’ll be surprised at how easily you’ll get pulled into enjoyment that is municipal politics.

Photo Gallery – Sunday

Hip-hop lyricist Blackalicious performs on the main stage at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday for the last day of the Rifflandia festival.


People get their fingers in the air for the Blackalicious show at Rifflandia on Sunday, on the main stage at Royal Athletic Park.


Party people put their hands up for De La Soul, the last show of the Rifflandia festival, on Sunday evening.


Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer) of De La Soul performs on the main stage Sunday night. De La was the last show of the Rifflandia festival.


Peter DiStefano, guitarist with electro remix band Lance Herbstrong performs with DJs Kamal Soliman, centre, and Bill Sarver during the group's daytime show on the side stage of Rifflandia at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday.


DJs Kamal Soliman, left, and Bill Sarver perform

Kamal Soliman bangs out some tunes

A young girl gets her hands in the air during the Lance Herbstrong show

Dishing up the Foo

Cold War Kids, main stage, Saturday

Rifflandia TV mega ultra superstar Christopher Vickers. Did anyone see him change his outfit? Ever?

The Besnard Lakes, Metro Theatre, Friday

Ear muffs, baby


Olenka, Metro Theatre, Saturday

Mindil Beach Markets, side stage, Saturday

Jets Overhead, main stage, Saturday

Faces of the beer gardens

Balloons overhead at AWOL Nation, main stage, Saturday

Orange Man crowd surfing at AWOL

Blackalicious wasn’t the only surprise epic-performer of the day. Little-known electronic remixers Lance Herbstrong garnered a dedicated crowd that came out to see them churn out beats from a pair of Macs, a guitar strapped to Peter DiStefano and percussion additions. Even a curly haired blonde kid who couldn’t have been older than 10 couldn’t help but get her hands up and jump around in the front row with the best of ‘em.
Following Lance Herbstrong came the Knocks, a pair of DJs that increased the jump-around factor of the crowd on the side stage, who were then beat out by Felix Cartal, who hopped the pond from Vancouver to send electro music chills up the spines of hundreds of grooving bodies.
Fair to say, the festival ended on a high note.

He opened with Alphabet Aerobics. Later came Chemical Calisthenics. The man’s mouth moves so fast, it’s hard to tell he’s saying real English words. Then, you realize he’s a master of his craft, seasoned from how many years?
Blackalicious was without a doubt the highlight of the lineup on Sunday, the (unfortunately) last day of one hell of a Rifflandia festival.
Friends commented they thought De La Soul, also old skool hip-hoppers, would have put on a better show, but for me, Black’s beats and play with the audience were unmatched all day. He had both sides of the audience calling insults at each other: “Party over here; f**k y’all over there,” fist pumping to the sky and jumping around like the show was in Brooklyn, forget Victoria.

Sunhawk started off the park festivities on Saturday with a non-stop, high energy show, where a small smattering of people grew into quite the crowd, dancers and all, by its midway point.
All three guys in this local group really gave it their all, in what was just a lot of fun, really. Special kudos to drummer Keenan Murray, whose charged performance grounded their well-crafted, poptastic tunes. Ben and Matt from the band had told me in a previous interview just how polished Murray’s skills were. They didn’t let me down.
For the cover-lovers: Sunhawk turned out a very solid version of Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” to an appreciative audience.