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

Battle Bots

Welcome back to Deputy Mayor Ellsworth. He is back in the game, better, stronger, faster. He is also using his recovery after surgery to check on how accessible city council really is and where it can improve.

Both the Six Million Dollar Ellsworth (SMDEll) and Cllr. Galgay (Gal-bot) where slated to attend Monday’s council meeting virtually, using the cutting edge technology of WebEx and speaker phone. But I guess that speaker wasn’t big enough for the both of them. And, though the “teleconference” phone was in Gal-bot’s seat it was SMDEll’s slightly muffled velvet tones that graced us. What happened to Gal-bot, Marconi only knows.

Canada Games 1977 to 2017

Young athletes and their coach’s were on hand for Canada Games Flag Relay Week. Mayor O’Keefe asked for a show of hands on “how many of you remember 1977?” and the halcyon days when The Canada Games were held in St John’s. “If memory serves, that was one of the hottest weeks we had. It was beautiful, and my daughter was one year old. She’s not one anymore.”

The proclamation was read and after Cllr Hickman gave a little pep talk, O’Keefe let these young stars know exactly what they are in for, “you will go as winners and you will come back as winners. You will make a lot of memories and make a lot of friends.”

Moving on to approving the agenda and last week’s minutes and Mayor O’Keefe says, “Getting my energy back now!” The audio is all echo again like last week so we are in full stadium re-union tour mode now. Yee-haw.

Developments

Galway, Mmm-mm … That’s Good Sprawl

The Galway Development (aka Dannistan) was approved to re-shuffle some of the commercial zoning areas and add some residential high density (vs medium/low density) in the as-yet-unbuilt development.

As the sole entity who wrote-in about the Dannistan re-zoning, Mt. Pearl will be working with St. john’s city staff on our neighbour’s concerns regarding “overall traffic, stormwater detention, rodent control, and other development issues,” according to Planning and Development Committee report.

Cllr. Lane stood up to note that although Dannistan has been, “so far as development goes … well managed. It is sprawl, and … it is incumbent upon us … to recognize that.” Cllr. Collins is keeping an eye on the traffic.

19 Browne Crescent

19 Browne Crescent was approved as a home business to produce dog treats. There would only be one employee and no customers would be coming to the site. This carried with no discussion. Which is an interesting parallel to the one man savoury packing operation at 180 Hamilton Ave from last week which did not pass after Gal-bot objected to it.

Maybe the parking at Brown Crescent is a couple of feet longer? Or perhaps Cllr. Tilley doesn’t have as strong a sense of connection and particular interest in Browne Crescent that Gal-bot seems to have for Hamilton along Victoria Park.

Not to hammer on a done no-deal, but that one just stuck out last week when all councillors, except Cllr Lane, were swayed to vote against a small business with very low impact in a site that had already housed a previous business, on a vague one-galgay survey of the block as not really the right place for it. But who am I to question the vagaries of the municipal elite… eff it. I’m alternative media. Consider that decision questioned.

615 Empire Avenue

Jiffy Cabs wants to buy this already operational garage as a holding/parking area for their taxis and add a dispatcher on site. Staff explained that to add a dispatcher they would have to amend the Development Regulations and the City’s Taxi By-law, which would take a while. Staff suggested Jiffy should go ahead and buy the property as just a garage and then later apply for the amendments to add the dispatcher. Jiffy held fast so this will take a while.

Fireworks

Temporary vendors who sell fireworks will, from now on, be restricted to operating in areas zoned commercial or industrial. No more boom-boom for dosh in residential hoods like there had been up near the Mews Centre.

Standing Committees Re-Org Delayed!

Council is looking to re-jig the current standing committees.

  • Housing would move from “Community Services and Housing” to its own stand a lone Standing Committee. Everyone seemed on board with this as “affordable housing and homelessness” is the new orange across all levels of government and all municipalities Canada-wide this year.
  • Public Engagement would move from “Economic Development, Tourism, and Public Engagement” to the “Audit and Accountability Committee.” The reasons for this have something to do with “manag[ing] the city’s engagement function.” With phrasing like that, I’d guess the city’s engagement function is low. But maybe I am just projecting on all the empty seats here at the council meeting each week.
  • Arts and Culture would move from “Dept of Community Services & Housing Committee” to, obviously, merge with its rightful pimps: Economic Development and Tourism. It would be given third billing in the new EDTC power(jellybeanrow)house. The city just had to add “Culture” into a title somewhere since the province threatened to remove it. The city seems pretty sure the public’s affection is a zero sum game between them and the province.

All these revolutionary efficiencies will have to wait though, as the SMDEll moved to refer this back to the committees themselves for further clarification/discussion before going back to council for a vote. This engendered the longest discussion of the evening which even Cllr O’Leary’s accidental pronunciation of “referral” as “reefer” couldn’t save from my cutting room floor. Suffice it to say, it is reefer-ed for now.

Go-Round

Cllr. Collins has traced the long and storied history of that stupid left turn-only lane heading into Kilbride and has proposed a solution that he suggests could lessen the bottle neck there. This issue is reefer-ed to the staff and committees.

Cllr. O’Leary re-asserted her wish to have the nomenclature committee find an appropriate something or other to name for Katarina Roxon, who just broke two more records. She also emphasized the “male” in the phrase “…as we do with other male athletes.”

We need more women on council before O’Leary breaks under the weight of solo-repping for half the population on top of her regular ward.

Happy City is hosting Municipal Election Summit 2017 this Saturday April 1 from 9 to 4. If you want to run or just vote, check out happycity.ca for schedule and registration.

The (annual) Great Big Book Sale is happening this week! Tuesday – Thursday at the Arts and Culture Centre. Cash only. See you there, mon! Seriously. It’s amazing. and no tax on these babies.

Cllr. Breen asks staff to look into whether meters being yellow-bagged downtown can be added to the parking alerts sent out by the city.

At his request, council approved a one week extension on both seasonal snow clearing crews and on the Parking Ban outside of downtown so the city can deal with the predicted 60 cm of snow coming up this week. Both extensions go until April 7th. I think Franky the weather man would approve these measures. He might also recommend you get some pizza and chips.

Cllr. Lane urged everyone to run for council if they are interested and, in speaking of a rookie councillor who ran and won recently in Halifax he used the term “African Canadian” which, I realized is the first time I have ever heard that in the seven years I have lived here. Weird. Lets get some some more candidates of all colours and sizes and sexes please!

Starting in May, some vacant buildings downtown will get historic photos put up in their windows.
Uhhhhhh…. how about we just do away with the vacancy exemption for municipal property taxes and actually lower that vacancy rate instead of papering over it?

Six Million Dollar Ellsworth points out the city has work to do on their technology since he couldn’t hear the mayor speak most of the time.

I hope he heard Doc say “adjourned.”

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