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

What Went Down This Week at the St. John's City Council Meeting?

Tim’s Coffee [cup] is Garbage [clean-up trophy]

The most ironic-iconic trophy, the Clean St John’s Councillor Challenge – shaped like that icon of garbage, a Timmie’s cup – was awarded to Deputy Mayor O’Leary, once again, for doing the most to organize and promote and participate in neighbourhood clean-ups this year. 

The Santa Parade is for Everyone

December 3rd is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Cllr Jamieson says “everything we do at the city needs to have that lens … [of the] dignity rights and well being [of everyone] applied.” With that in mind, she pointed out that both the re-scheduled Santa Parade and the Festival of Lights in Bowring Park next weekend both have accessible viewing areas. 

Maxin’ Relaxin’ and Taxin’

Cllr. Korab moves acceptance of September 12-23, 2018 for next year’s Iceberg Alley concert series. It was a success this, its first year, and with great success comes great complaint.

Cllr. Hanlon brought up the concerns she had heard from the public during the election about “all that noise.” She requested there be adequate public engagement over the issue.

Mayor Breen said that, as ward councillor, Jamieson will deal with those complaints, I mean, “engagements.” Lord love the ward councillors.

Hickman mentioned that people around Bannerman have come to accept the Folkfest every year and look forward to it, but he also concedes Folkfest is three days, Iceberg Alley is stretched over 10 days. 

Cllr Hickman moved to amend the accommodation tax by-law to “reflect the current … rate” and to align collection dates to other administrative processes for the city. Just “housekeeping” according to Hickman.

Jamieson Didn’t Cave to Dwelling Policy Change Critics After-all

Cllr Jamieson moves that the changes to city-owned housing policy that made news this fall will stay in place. Residents will be income tested annually (instead of never) after they move in.There will be a set rent or the tenant will pay 25% of their pay, whichever is greater. But after going back to the Committee of the Whole (COTW), council did agree that tenants who test out of city housing will have 6 months to move out now instead of 3, which was the minimum given the landlord tenancies act.

Cllr Hanlon says this extra few months leeway “puts a human face on the council,” while admitting it doesn’t help those waiting for housing.

No. More. Stupid. Garbage. Nets. … Almost. So. Close.

Everyone is in support of automated garbage going froward with the “medium” bins (240litre) and with costs for the bins coming out of regular taxation, rather than through direct billing. It sounded like this has already been budgeted for, so it should be allocated in Capital Works (I think).

There are still some implementation issues to work out, like how the city will accommodate those with mobility issues and some seniors who may need help moving their bins. Cllr Froude and staff are on it. Feel the Engagement!

Breen says good riddance to the nets and blankets now used to cover trash bags. The city will repeal that by-law once the bins are rolled out. Since the downtown core isn’t getting automated garbage, will the nets be repealed for us too? Because, as Breen says, “the critters have figured them out.”

There’s a New Heritage Committee in town,
and St. John’s is Plenty Old Enough for the Both of Them.

85 Military Rd is recommended for heritage status by the Built Heritage Experts Panel (BHEP).
245 Duckworth St (the big new condos going up just down from The Sprout) can have their large illuminated sign as long as it doesn’t “change in intensity/brightness and colour more frequently than once per day, and […] is non-animated.” Which seems like a huge missed opportunity given that the city lost the Nickel(odeon) years ago and the Paramount movie house even before that. A nice animated screen could be up to all sorts with the right operator.

Speaking of the BHEP, they are so totally awesome and no one is saying they aren’t, certainly not the councillors who think the world of the BHEP buttttt, apparently they were formed during a change a while back, to try to move the city beyond just policing window dressings to something more comprehensive; a city-wide outlook on heritage into the future. Now they are basically just approving (or disapproving of) corbels, aka window dressings (and illuminated signs).

Which is so great, oh yes, it is, and they are so great, oh yes, they are, buttttt, the council is now moving forward with approving another committee that will answer directly to Planning and Development, not the BHEP.

This new heritage policy sub-committee will take on the “big picture” stuff that is, according to Cllr Lane, more stalled than unscratched. He says there is a heritage bylaw drafted, heritage assessment voted on, financial incentives policy “in place” and a construction policy “that we have staff working on.” This new policy committee will take all of these initiatives and “get them out in the blue sky.”

Lane was, if I recall, supportive of this idea last year as well when then-Cllr O’Leary brought it up and, except for Lane, was basically ignored with a side of eye-rolls. So kudos to Deputy Mayor O’Leary for persisting. It’s a thankless job, but at least no one is openly making faces when you suggest stuff this year. Progress!

Some issues Cllr Burton hopes the policy committee will tackle are: demolition orders, demolition by neglect, and salvage of architectural features when demolition is necessary. It’s like Burton is writing a procedural metal song, “DESTRUCTION! … and corbels.”

The Tsunami is Back! It’s Raining Seniors

Everyone is cool with a zoning change to allow a personal care facility (aka old folks’ home) at 100 Churchill Ave in Pleasantville. Cllr Hanlon points out “we are all getting a little bit older.” Everyone in the meeting agrees that death is inevitable and, before the final void, there will be a long slow decline of physical and mental abilities as we slide forward into the nothingness. But extra here in St John’s, because of our statistically aging population.

O’Leary asked staff “out of curiosity” to clarify if these proposals need an architect or just an engineer.
Deputy City Manager Sinyard says that there is a size cut-off (I think that is what he says. I’m guessing from O’Leary’s response.)

O’Leary asks for staff to clarify and come back and enlighten council with the details: architects or no? And at what point/size? This is a good question. We don’t have much recent inspired architecture here beyond “heritage.” It would be nice to find out why.

Cllr Froude brings it all back to the meat of every issue. Parking. But this time the whole council is in agreement that it is great to waive the minimum parking requirement since the residents wont be driving much.

Mayor Breen goes so far as to suggest, since they waive this requirement for these types of facilities often, that they should “revisit the requirements” to decrease steps for approval in the future, since there will be so many more built under the shadow of the “tsunami of seniors” (trademark ex-cllr Hann).
Less red tape AND less parking? The sky will fall before we age at this point.

Pretty pretty pretty pretty … Good

The city commissioned a report on how well they do with public engagement. The take-away is, according to the mayor, “we are doing a good job but we can always do better.” That is as sharp and nuanced and exciting as the architecture of the many personal care facilities.

Too Green?

The city wrote cheques for $67.33 for “photocopies” and $15.34 for “toner cartridges” this week. Yet they have stopped putting out copies of the Council Meeting Agenda for the public. Being green is all well and good but what about when it is thrown in the ring with “Public Engagement?” So far engagement is down and paperless is winning. (Last week I complained that I couldn’t hear the councillors, and this week Cllr Burton gave me a great suggestion on how to fix it … so I figured if I keep it up, I can get the hard copies of the agenda back on the benches.)

The Marquis de St John’s Royal Regatta

Speaking of architects and engineers, the RFPs came back for the marquis building for the Regatta down at Quidi Vidi lake. It will cost ~$74,000 for the “design and illustration work.” There is no money allotted for construction yet. I hope we at least get the designs framed and hang them on the walls once it’s built. Did the RFP come from Da Vinci?

(perfect example of why we need to promote our local arts … I couldn’t think of a good local artist’s name to use for that dumb joke. I was going to go with Will Gill, but even his stuff isn’t that expensive yet. Then I thought Ned Pratt but his photos just aren’t close enough aesthetically to drawings to make it work. And now I stopped writing because I’m day dreaming about Gill’s gorgeous new work with its neon and petal pinks down at The Christina Parker Gallery … You are welcome city of SJ, that’s how you promote local art. Boom.)

Public Meeting Duty (no joke necessary because “duty” is always funny on its own)

The council discusses whether councillors should rotate chairing public meetings by month or by meeting.
Cllr. Hickman said, “many cities go meeting to meeting instead of month to month … I prefer meeting to meeting. It was brought up before and I was roundly shouted down.”

Mayor Breen replied, “I don’t think it matters, so if that’s the way you want to do it, sure.” Everyone agreed (except Collins, because “if you are signed up for October, then once you are clear of it, you are clear of it.”)

It will now go meeting to meeting.

Councillors are People – People with Children (and other tidbits from the Round-Up)

O’Leary would like the city to look into the feasibility of supplying childcare for councillors and staff during these public meetings (which often occur in the evenings after regular work hours).

In the architectural/engineering/design theme of tonight’s meeting, she had news from MUN’s engineering department. A Professor is offering his students to help create a report on the Ove Arup pedestrian Bridge at no cost to the city. O’Leary is also pleased the feds are doing remediation at the white hills garbage dump site, as reported by CBC.

She talked about other things too, and ran out her 5 minute time so Breen told her to “speed it up” which worked about as well as when I say that to my daughter getting bundled in the morning. Why doesn’t anyone hurry when we say “hurry!” They just get flustered and take longer. As a species, we suck at getting more efficient on the fly.

Cllr Burton: went to see two live theatre productions this weekend. That is a lot of live theatre for one weekend.

Cllr Lane also went to see live theatre, but just once.

Cllr Hickman saw live choral singing

Cllr Hanlon is the new cruise industry liaison on council. She is also just as excited about the Santa parade as she was last week. Though it seems her blunt force recruiting style worked on Cllr Stapleton who will now be marching with her for the SPCA.

Cllr Stapleton says Hickey’s on Torbay Rd has a new shipment of those paper yard waste bags in…

…. I’m not even going to bother to finish covering the round-up since you have all now left your computer screens anyway, in a mad scramble before the leaf bags are gone again from the east end for the year.

Written By
More from Emily Deming

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

Emily breaks down why St. John's is switching to a Committee of...
Read More