Notes from the Rafters: St. John’s City Council Meeting, November 28, 2016

Every week, we give Emily a pen, a pad of paper, and a mission to recap this week’s city council meeting in a readably entertaining manner. Here are her notes on this week’s meeting.

Every week, we give Emily a pen, a pad of paper, and a mission to recap this week’s city council meeting in a readably entertaining manner. Here are her notes on this week’s meeting.

Cllr Puddister absent. And Cllr. Hann, was Hann there? If he was, he never made a peep. Meeting started a few minutes late.

Proclamations:
Accessible city(?), Brier Patch, Student ‘ships

1.) December 3rd, 2016 is proclaimed International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Mayor O’Keefe loves his throne so much he insists on sharing it at each meeting, this week he guided a man with vision impairment to the grand seat for the proclamation preamble. It’s like when I got my new sofa from SAM Design, every person who stops by is still forced to “try it! no, really sit. Lean back, can you believe how deep it is? Feel that velvet.”

Though Doc touts St John’s like a doting grandparent spinning their mannerless grandchild as “precocious,” Deputy Mayor Ellsworth countered the mayor’s rosy view of our city’s accessibility with the more realistic, and more helpful, view that “we have to get away from minimum standards. Even in [the city’s] convention centre we [only] met minimum standards. If we want businesses to get away from it, we have to get away from it.”

For resources on living with a disability in St john’s check out EmpowerNL.

2.) Tim Horton’s Brier Fridays

The Brier will be held in St John’s March 4-12 at Mile One. It is the Canada Men’s Curling Championship and if you rent out rooms and were wondering why that week got booked months ago, you already missed your best chance to price gouge CFAs this decade. Brier Fridays is a chance to wear a black t-shirt each Friday to work that says “Fridays Rock.” There are prize draws for participating work places. But you have to wear the t-shirt, so it’s like uniform casual dress Fridays.

3.) Scholarships for Children of City Employees

Two young academics were awarded scholarships by the city. When asked what they would spend the money on, there was a wonderful awkward pause as the whole room thought back to when they were 19 and full of academic rigour and hope for the future. “Beer,” whispers Josh Smee from Happy City, as we sit up in the rafters and dream the collegiate dreams once more.

Arts in the City and Heritage (ACH!)

As the City’s re-instating of full funding for the arts made the news this week, it seems timely to shout out to the Legislative Assistant and the City Clerk who sit to the Mayor’s right each week. Though it is not fashionable (for good reason) to call attention to what women are wearing while reporting on their work, Fashion is an art and these two right hand women exercise it beautifully and, in the otherwise uniformly drab palette of council, I look forward to both of their brilliant colour combinations each week. Thanks for the turquoise and coral cheer yesterday! Sporting art in support of art.

Cllr. O’Leary filed a notice of motion to have a representative from Council on the Built Heritage Experts Panel. According to O’Leary, an elected representative of the people should be a part of the broader heritage discussions. Given how much the public likes to freak out about local building and how little real communication or solid information is circulated for these freak-outs to morph into meaningful public discourse, I have to call out my own bias and say that I agree that a more direct link between panel discussions and the public is a good idea. A transparent, not a glass, house is in order.

Dep. Mayor Ellsworth moved that a vote on adding a representative to the panel be postponed until after Council gets a report from Staff on the results of an upcoming forum which annually reviews all committees. The forum is on December 6th and the City Manager confirmed the report would not be ready until the new year.

The deferral carried 5 to 4.

The Swift Hand of Development Recommendation Approvals, and (I am hereby starting the rumour of a) New Eatery on Water Street?

Planning and Development applications: two building top antennas and an application for “Fetch Quest ltd. operating as Escape Quest” to do what they have already been doing with past permission at their current spot on 126 Duckworth St. Perhaps their new “Escape” game involves time machines and they took one back to before their original paperwork was filed and were just doing due relativity diligence?

All approved regardless of that fact that one made no sense, and the other two do not fall under city control.

The Development Committee report minutes from any meetings held in Sept, October, November are not up on the city’s website as of today (November 29th), though you can find a copy of the minutes through October if you look at the agendas for each following month’s meeting.

But the report provided in the council agenda had all relevant information. All were carried unanimously as recommended.

Not everyone loves a meeting as much as I do, and small, uncontroversial developments on private land and some land grants must be dealt with routinely and do not require banter, posturing, or even always discussion at council level. But, at a minimum, posting the minutes for the public in a timely manner gives at least translucency.

Of note in the permits list: an application for “eating establishment” at 187 Water Street (where Water Street intersects with Baird’s Cove) which has been the site of more than a few restaurants in the past few years. Here’s hoping the next will have more staying power, and will serve spicy ma po.

Also noted that the Year to Date comparisons for November 2016 and 2015 show a decrease in building permits and an increase in repair permits. The economic downturn maybe making us a more thrifty city #useitupwearitoutmakeitdoordowithout.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can see the City’s weekly payment vouchers (See pages 43-51 of this week’s agenda)? There has got to be a trove of conspiracy theories that could grow from good dig through it.

PARKING. It Never Ends.

Cllr. Hickman gave a heads up that he will propose amendments to parking and ticketing laws that will result in mo’ money… unless you are trying to park, or don’t feed the meter properly, then it will be less money for you, mo’ for the city…which is sort of you in a way. It’s the circle of parking money.

Passive-Aggressive-Merry-Go-Round

Mayor O’Keefe made a bold move in taking his Go-Round turn first this week for the sole purpose of going on the offended-defensive under the guise of saying a fond farewell to Templeton’s, Ballistic, and Healy’s Deli (all downtown businesses that announced they are closing this week). He admonished us all to shop locally or face The Nothing sweeping more beloved local businesses out of our good strong hands. But blaming the fickle online-shopping citizens was just step one in a three part plan, part two of which was, “knock it off Bob Hallet!” Though it is true he wasn’t mentioned by name, the self-anointed downtown gadfly who tweets and Facebooks like a tween with newly earned phone time was likely the “overly critical” (though not always critically informed) opposition. Thirdly, O’Keefe listens, dammit, through the city’s business roundtables and advisory committees. And he concluded with the promising teaser of, “so when Cllr. Galgay delivers the budget on December 12th, we hope to have good news for the business community. That’s what advocacy is all about. I’m done.”

Cllr O’Leary: Called on staff to continue to clear up the issue of how to legally deal with signs tacked up on city poles. Some poles are city owned, some are private (Bell, NL Power) and there is the issue of public expression. Is a yard sale that happened last week a freedom of speech issue? We shall find out. Shout of to Turtle Island Childcare Centre. Brought up background checks on taxi drivers. (To Be Continued with Ellsworth below).

Cllr Tilley: Speeding and traffic an issue. Still. Always. In perpetuity. Dear Dave Lane, is your task force of almost a year seriously just now sending out a survey on how people feel about all things bicycle? Lane responds (ignoring implications of his task force’s procrastination): the super awesome survey will be up for approval tomorrow (Tuesday nov 29th) and should “give us  a sense of what people are thinking on the whole issue.” The very smushiness of the survey’s stated purpose dashing any remaining hopes that the downtownie-elect had indeed started his homework before now. Though he did reiterate that the final report would still be submitted, as promised, in January.

Cllr. Galgay: The Municipal Affairs Committee are, apparently, “extremely pleased” with the approach the city has taken. Expanding and basically repeating what O’Keefe said (way to get in there first old man!), Galgay added a personal “thank you” to Templeton’s and Ballistic to make the otherwise cribbed essay of “oh what a good city we are doing” his own. He also came up with his own cliche for concluding remarks, “the only thing we haven’t been blamed for in the downtown is the weather, and I guess that is next.” hahahahaha. Or maybe just still for the increased tax rate and repeal of the vacancy allowance.

Cllr. Breen: Building bridges and continuing to build his image as the councillor (running for mayor) who works well with others, Breen sat with Lane at the lunch table mentioning their joint work on the Downtown Advisory Committee and suggesting it would be useful to meet with the owners of the closing businesses. Breen was also king of the smooth segue today as he moved from the, no requisite, statement of let’s be positive not negative about our city, to “talking about positive things, [we have] two things offshore [to look forward to].” A land sale in the Jeanne D’Arc basin, and Statoil looking into a study of development options in Bay Du Nord (though reports earlier this year showed Statoil not so keen). And with another perfectly groomed segue, Breen points out that, “one thing that is not good is snow!” And he reminds us all that the winter parking ban on downtown snow routes (clearly marked with permanent signs) is in effect as of Dec 1.

Cllr. Lane: Delayed Santa Claus Parade will be this Sunday at noon. Points out that many meetings, including some city hall committee meetings, are frequently scheduled for 2 hours, so is it possible to change the new meter limits to something slightly over the proposed 2 hour limit so we can park and get back to our car without skipping off early and without a ticket?

Ellsworth: With current taxi bylaw 1472, the city has no ability from either a regulatory or an enforcement perspective to do anything useful about background checks for taxi drivers, BUT, working with the province on a new class of license which taxi drivers would need, and would need a background check to be eligible for, could be the solution. Ellsworth and other stakeholders are working with Minister Joyce on this possibility. Any city regulation on its own, Ellsworth  contends, would create a false sense of security.

And now I will repeat O’Keefe’s winningest quote of the day (oh yes, for those keeping track, I declare the mayor wins this council meeting), “I’m done.”

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