TC editorial: Inching closer to a urinal

June 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Inching closer to a urinal

Times ColonistJune 12, 2009

It shouldn’t have taken three years, a cascade of council debates and uncounted sums of taxpayers’ money and city staff time to create a place for people to pee downtown.

The tortuous, expensive road to a decision on downtown urinals should embarrass councillors. Staff compiled lengthy reports on urinal options. The city called for tenders on high-tech, pop-up urinals that rose from the pavement at night then, like Batman, disappeared when daylight broke.

And then abandoned the idea. Portable urinals, hauled away at the end of the night, were tried, abandoned, tried again. And councillors talked and talked.

Now a decision has been made, almost, to spend $40,000 on what looks like a simple, relatively attractive way to deal with the main problem of men urinating late at night in doorways, alleys and anywhere else that takes their besotted fancies. Almost, because council still isn’t sure just where the urinals should go. Based on performance so far on this issue, that could consume another three years.

Or not. Mayor Dean Fortin and the new council have shown a welcome focus on getting things done and tackling a limited number of issues at a time.

The urinals appear useful, especially if their use is encouraged with aggressive ticketing for those who still insist on using the streets for bathrooms instead. They won’t be much help for women, but they aren’t the big problem anyway.

The solution isn’t cheap. Plan on spending $40,000 for the urinal — a semi-open affair that screens users’ bodies while leaving a clear view of heads and feet — and $40,000 in annual operating costs. That’s still reasonable compared with the alternative of dumping clean-up costs on downtown businesses and residents.

But is it reasonable that all taxpayers should be paying for the urinals? The successful experiment with portable toilets saw them used Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, a recognition that the problems resulted from crowds at downtown bars.

As this whole process limped forward in 2006, then-councillor Fortin suggested a five per cent beer tax to cover the costs. That might be unfair to responsible drinkers, but shifting the cost to bar owners would be fair — and it would be an incentive for them to look hard at ways of reducing excessive drinking and disorder.

We’ll offer congratulations to council for taking this useful step — once the urinal is in place and ready to go.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Entry filed under: City Hall, social issues.

I weigh in on public urination and the opinions flow. 900 Block Pandora GNA

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