Dean Murdock hosting an episode of Amazing Places, his new placemaking podcast with 22 episodes that he started in July. (Dean Murdock Photo)

Dean Murdock hosting an episode of Amazing Places, his new placemaking podcast with 22 episodes that he started in July. (Dean Murdock Photo)

Pandemic podcasts emerge in Greater Victoria with policy, politics and punditry

Best Coast and Amazing Places podcasts put policy into practice

Death, innovation and a boon in podcasts might best mark 2020.

There have been dozens of startup podcasts on southern Vancouver Island since the digital format of on-demand radio became popular more than a decade ago. Students use them for school projects, while organization such as the Chamber of Commerce created Chamber Chats as a tool to connect with the community.

“I was missing conversations the I used to have all the time about community building and placemaking that were cut off by COVID-19,” said Dean Murdock, the former Saanich councillor whose new podcast Amazing Places focuses on urban placemaking. “My partner said, ‘do a podcast,’ I think, as a chance for her to get a break from me nattering about this stuff to her, but she’s right.”

Murdock’s dropped 22 Amazing Places podcasts since he started in July. His show takes a focus on placemaking, infill and density housing, the redesign of roads, and more. They come out weekly (usually on Fridays) and he’s topped 1,000 listeners.

His guests are predominantly Greater Victoria locals, such as Todd Litman of the Victoria Transit Policy Institute doing a deep dive on the real cost of free parking in urban planning, or Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan, who talked about how close the vote is in Colwood on the debate to prioritize Ocean Boulevard as a highway or close it to cars as a destination for pedestrians and cyclists. Murdock’s also had Cleveland-based road safety advocate and author Angie Schmitt on to promote her new book Right of Way. Schmitt’s profile brought an international audience with clicks coming from around the globe, as she is among the leaders in the movement to redesign roads to promote safe walking, biking and transit.

“Initially, it was about the changes in the community as a result of pandemic and it blossomed as I built a network of connections with people who I wanted to have on,” Murdock said. “When I started in July, at that point, major topics were pandemic patios, and creating public spaces, major changes during the pandemic.”

Murdock uses the Anchor software app to record and post the Amazing Places to Spotify, Google and Apple podcast apps. So do Dell and Caradonna, who have released four podcasts and have had more than 500 listeners.

Matt Dell and Jeremy Caradonna, a pair of government employees who are also musicians, missed out on the conversations they were having after evening jam sessions. To fill the gap, they started the Best Coast Political Podcast, and join the likes of the Out of Left Field as a local, politically-focused show that’s run independent of media.

What also makes them stand out is that they are completely non-profit, filling a niche for local politics and community building that all three want to hear more about. With the ongoing lockdown and the availability of the technology, it was only a matter of time, said Caradonna.

READ ALSO: Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock won’t run for re-election

“The response is way bigger and better than we thought it would be,” Caradonna said. “It’s way more than we thought we’d get, and we’re getting emails and social media messages from politicos, local politicians, that they’re listening.”

READ MORE: New book by UVic author tackles sustainable economics

Their first episode talked politics with veteran press gallery reporter Richard Zussman and their second looked at homelessness with Victoria Coun. Sarah Potts and local documentary filmmaker Krista Loughton.

“It’s meant to be the kind of conversation you would have at the pub with your friends, exploring issues and talking about things [in a safe way] you’re afraid to put on social media,” Dell said. “Jeremy and I had so many of those conversations, we would hang out and go at it, and after, we’d say, damn that was nice and cathartic.”

Online, you’re either in your own echo chamber of like-minded individuals or facing off with uncivil keyboard warriors acting without impunity, Caradonna said, but eye to eye, people will use some level of decorum and respect.

All three are actually employees of the provincial government though they don’t work together.

Murdock is a Gordon Head resident and was a three-term Saanich councillor and CRD director until 2018 and currently works in the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Communities engagement initiative. Dell is director of legislation in the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and president of the South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association. Caradonna, who is a full-time senior policy-maker with the province, is an adjunct professor with Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria (and who was running for the City of Victoria council byelection pre-COVID).

Locally, there are plenty of podcasts to check out. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is part of a podcast called the Lisa, Gene and Eric podcast, with Gene Miller and Eric Bramble. Visit this story online for more.

The number of local podcasts is long. For more local podcast content try Skaana by author Mark Leiren Young, with a focus on orcas and the environment, Check the Program (a CFUV weekly show) on the upcoming arts and entertainment calendar, or the Creative Dive by Renee Leighann (former owner of the Copper Owl), which explores the hidden gems in the stories and experiences of artists and musicians from a Victoria perspective. There’s also a 2017 series called Monorail City from local transit planner Matthew Boyd that explored planning and other regional issues. A pair of Victoria Odd Fellows members have one called the Modern Goat Riders about their charity work, and the members of the Victoria Police union also have one.

(Travis Paterson has been a guest on the Amazing Places and Best Coast Political podcasts).

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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