Notes from the Rafters: This Week’s City Council Meeting Recap

A quick meeting this week, of goodbye speeches and words of wisdom for the new incoming council.

“ Work twenty years and they’ll take care of you
They’ll buy you a diamond, They’ll send you on a cruise.
Give it all your money, give it all your time
Then wake up one morning and wonder why”
-Tom Petty

Doc’s Farewell

“Well the time has come,” says Mayor O’Keefe. “Twenty years ago this month, I walked in as a neophyte fresh from a thirty year teaching career. Six elections, three mayoral elections, the time has come to hand the reins over to a new team.”

The end of the Doc O’Keefe era. It was a kinder gentler era from that which came before it. Though the mayor did not stop himself from landing a few jabs in his closing words, signalling that his love of the throne was finally over-ridden by his weariness of it.

He emphasized the accomplishments of the last three terms with what he declared “the most productive councils this city has ever seen at any time,” while exhorting the incoming council to listen to positive criticism.

Though he also urged them to “not be unduly influenced” by the “loud minority” or by the bullying and insults that, he assured them, they would face. Bullying “by people who will not approach you but will hide behind the keyboard.”

Mayor O’Keefe stood by the controversial 2016 budget and emphasized that the anonymous bullies — but really not that anonymous because he told a whole super specific story about seeing his particular nemesis on a sunny day down on Water St “in front of his business establishment” with his “very amiable” business partner before said bully “scurried,” according to O’Keefe, inside so as to avoid any face to face confrontation — would never put their names on a ballot and make those hard decisions.

They “won’t be in a position as we were with the correct 2016 budget. We made the decision because, as the economist at Memorial reported, ‘they got it right.’”

O’Keefe said the same thing happened with “the purported runaway salary increases … No one paid attention that we got a handle on pension liability … the province is still wrestling with that. We’re not. We got it done.”

Other accomplishments he mentioned were the city’s “international profile,” the fiscal improvements including the 3-year budgeting cycle, ten-year capital works program, new/revitalized parks and recreation facilities (Bannerman, Bowring, Paul Reynolds, the planned Mews, and the “new Kenmount Park that will materialize”), program review, Municipal Plan, Strategic Plan, infrastructure renewal, and a “talented, articulate senior staff team poised to carry the city into the next two generations.”

Councillors-elect Maggie Burton, Hope Jamieson, Jamie Korab and Ian Froude were all up in the rafters sitting together and watching council farewells. They will be sworn in tomorrow.

Proclamations:

– Breastfeeding Week
– Seniors’ Week (“You’ll like this one, Bruce! You and I are the only ones, well, Art is getting up there! … Pretty soon we [seniors] are going to take over … and that is going to be a challenge for society in coming years.” -Doc (Amen, brother.)
– Fire Prevention Week: Every second counts; plan two ways out.
– Insurance Awareness Week: Our province pays more than others.
– 125th anniversary for CLB: they pledge to “keep Cllr Tilley busy over the next few years so don’t worry.”

Changing of the Guards:
Councillor Shout Outs & Goodbyes

Each Councillor stood to thank their fellow councillors, voters, staff, the mayor, etc and to wish the new council luck.

Cllr. Collins said it was “humbling to get elected for a fourth time … I’ve made a lot of friends … Back to work tomorrow.”

Deputy Mayor Elect O’Leary thanked Cllr. Tilley and the mayor for their mentorship and gave a “shout out to Cllr. Galgay because he was very helpful to me when I came in from the Ward 4 by-election.”

Out-going Cllr. Tilley said “senior management on the [city] staff teams are the most competent I’ve ever worked with in 50 years.”

Out-going Cllr. Galgay took the initiative to steer our collective memories of his term, “The city is better off than it was four years ago … If there is only one thing this city will remember me for it should be the revitalization of Victoria Park … I would like to call it my legacy project.” He then “urged” the new council “to use humility,” and declared “my future is just beginning.”

Mayor Elect Breen said that being voted in for mayor was a “humbling experience” and thanked all the out-going councillors.

Out-going Cllr. Puddister thanked the “citizens of St John’s” along with his family and campaign team. He also thanked Cllr. Tilley for his “mentorship and support since we met at the board of trade.” And  he said he would have time now to get fish and chips with Cllr. Collins.

He told the new councillors who were watching (he named all of them individually except for Burton, who was the one who displaced him At-Large) to “call me anytime if I can help!”

Cllr Lane called it “a bittersweet day,” and thanked the current council as “the folks who reared me up and helped me every step of the way.”

Cllr Hickman meant well, but sounded a bit funereal with his declaration, “Today is about the six that won’t be here with us.”

Out-going Cllr. Hann was philosophical, “Sometimes we didn’t get it right, and people let us know, and that’s the democratic process. I’m proud of my part in it.”

Ellsworth congratulated the incoming councillors who were in attendance and told them, “Please don’t look at it as a job. It’s an honourable opportunity to serve your community. If it becomes a job it’s … no good.” He talked about his accomplishments with the city on affordable housing and inclusion and accessibility.

Mayor O’Keefe told the incoming freshmen councillors, “You are going to have a great time, you are going to have a good time, and you are going to have some hard times.”

Sounds like lyrics worthy of an NL rock ballad.

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