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

City Council
"We will be national leaders. We will provide a model for small and medium sized cities," says Maggie Burton about the City's Affordable Housing Report.

I love it when the councillors make a good colour scape. Today there is an overall palette around the tables of aqua, dusty turquoise, deep sea blues, and a couple splashes of fuschia.

Bright robins’ egg blue t-shirts were presented to council for National Child Day, and Breen says, “I wore blue today. So I gotta wear it again tomorrow? Two days in a row?”

He is really good at making awkward/ordinary sentences sound like warm banter. On paper he sounds lame, but in person his words just sound like a smile and people really like him. He may be as personable as Doc, without the folksy-corner-boy schtick.

Affordable Housing

It is National Housing Day this Thursday (that is also American Thanksgiving, aka Real Thanksgiving, aka Yanksgiving, aka the greatest day of the year).

Mayor Dan and Cllr Jamieson both highlight the city’s partnerships with community organizations and the council’s commitment to housing as a human right.

The Affordable Housing Report will be released this Thursday. A draft of this report has been available for public feedback this month.

Cllr Burton says, “It is important to recognize we will be national leaders. We will provide a model for small and medium sized cities.”

She points out that “for better or worse” the city has been involved in affordable housing for its residents in some manner for over 200 years and that “affordability” must be considered when discussing everything else: traffic, development, heritage etc.

Beginning Jan 21, 2019, if someone leaves the city’s affordable housing, they will not be eligible to re-apply within 12 months.

Mile One: Lease Agreement

The owners of The Edge and The Growlers have been working together to hammer out their lease. It is done for now but will be renegotiated before it is up at the end of June. At least 60 games will be played, if they win a lot, it could be more, and the season could possibly go into April/May.

The teams’ owners have said they may be interested in purchasing the stadium, but that would take a while for the city to consider, so leasing is on for the foreseeable.

Cllr Hickman says this agreement “make[s] sure the city and taxpayers [are] protected.” He also says the teams are protected, and if attendance is good, there may be a little more operational revenue.

I have not read the terms. Have I mentioned it is my people’s Thanksgiving this week? I have a lot of ignoring-everything-but-stuffing-and-pies to do. But I will read it eventually. And so should you. Here it is.

Hickman also said the “Growlers are working on getting their attendance up.” Which is to say, it isn’t great right now. I keep seeing people posting pics at the games saying it was fun, but in those pics the stadium is always empty. So a couple people are enjoying the games a lot.

Mayor Dan couches the agreement as “60 guaranteed nights of entertainment downtown.” And says we are the “only city east of Montreal with a professional hockey franchise.” But “professional” means paid, not necessarily worth paying for.

Committee of the Whole Catch-Up:

  • The Inclusion Committee will give each of their associated groups 5 minutes to present at the beginning of each meeting. Deputy Mayor O’Leary is “pleased” with this model and suggests other committees should follow as “some people are more outspoken than others so [this way] everyone would have an opportunity [to speak].” Looks like all those pro-introvert memes worked. Cllr Jamieson says the city will wait to complete their Inclusion Policy as the Federal and Provincial levels are working on theirs right now and the city can draw on those.
  • Stella Burry has installed temporary “bear tanks” for 18 months. I wrote this down as I was falling asleep in my mouth at the meeting. Sadly, the online agenda says what I heard was actually, “YellowBelly has installed temporary beer tanks on their patio for 18 months.” That is okay too I guess. The Built Heritage Experts Committee says this is fine (though not as cool as Burry-bear tanks) as long as the brewery agrees to fix any potential damage to the outside of the heritage building once the tanks are removed.
  • A “Street art painting” traffic calming pilot project on Tree Top Drive is cancelled as no one applied to paint anything. The city will paint a yellow line down the middle. Which will, 100% be more artistic than anything anyone on Tree Top Drive would have painted anyway.
  • Wednesday evening (Nov 21) 6:30-8pm, city hall will host a remembrance vigil/reception for those killed in road accidents.

Parking: It Never Ends

Well, at least we have a nifty new name for the loved/hated top-bopped meter spots that will now be restricted to 2 or 4 hour zones: “Timed Free Parking.” Does that help?

Cllr Hanlon explains that in early 2019 they will begin implementing their long-term parking strategy, including pay stations (which everyone keeps suggesting on social media like they were the only ones to think of it, though it has been in the publicly available city parking strategy for a while now).

BUT, until then, over the holiday season that is crucial to many businesses downtown, the city will temporarily implement a strategy where they move the unbroken meters to the most used areas (water and Duckworth) and mark the broken spaces as either 2 or 4 hr zones. It will be free to park in them, but you may be ticketed if you exceed the posted time limit.

Hanlon emphasized, again, that this is in direct response to requests from small business owners. And, again, I can confirm that many have been asking for help generating turnover in those parking spots (as they even sometimes email me about it, as if I actually do anything other than stay awake and type). She says, “We aren’t doing this for any other reason; not any reason at all other than to help these businesses.”

Cllr Jamieson confirmed that this is in direct response to requests from her constituents, “I hear about this a lot. A lot, a lot. People are staying there all day. All business owners downtown said we had to do something now. This is to help them get through this season.”

She also thanked Halon for all her hard work and urged everyone to please, for the love of all that is f*cking holy, read the paid parking strategy before you go off at the city or subject your Twitter/FB friends to any more of your “thoughts” on parking.

Though not in those words. Those are more like my words. She was diplomatically frustrated. By all means be mad or whatever about something cool like parking, but at least be informed-mad.

Cllr Jamieson requested that the blue zones be made 4 hrs instead of 2, and that Prescott St be added to the areas slated for this immediate temporary parking relief since there are a few businesses there now too.

Cllr Burton brought up a point that the broken meters have inadvertently highlighted: downtown workers are looking for cheap all day parking. Many are minimum wage earners and can’t afford a pricey monthly garage contract. So the businesses need parking turnover to survive, but their workers need full day parking.

Burton emphasizes that “free parking” is never “free” and gives a book report on “The High Cost of Free Parking” and then assigns it to us all to read. Apparently you can download it for free on Audible. She reassures the public that the city will continue to have “consultations on how to accommodate parking for workers.”

Breen says this has been discussed, and that the longer term spots are available in the “outer zones” further from the immediate shopping/entertainment areas.

Burton suggests there could be a list of where those spots are that is made readily available to the public.

Hanlon agrees that is a good idea and adds that she is meeting with parking garages as well to “see what we can do there.” Hanlon, again, suggests people read the parking strategy document as she says, “most things were in there that people were upset about. Patience is required. It is a big fix but I think we can do it. We want to help businesses, workers, and livvyers.”

Gone to the Dogs

To add insult to injury, a few blocks of parking right downtown will be rented to the film crew for the upcoming TV series, REX, (which I heard a crew member describe as “The Littlest Hobo meets Republic of Doyle”) next Monday.

What jerks. Stupid film industry with its employment opportunities and cute stunt dogs. Taking up parking spots that I wasn’t going to use anyway that day, but what if I was, huh? Then what?

Is that it? Did I do it right? Is that how you complain about parking stuff? I’m one of you now. Let’s get mad about things!

I can’t end on parking. Not when I’m in the Thanksgiving spirit. So how about we wrap up with Cllr Hanlon reminding us “The Santa Claus parade is coming [this Sunday] 12-2. Bring yer kids and hot chocolate. Well there will be hot chocolate down there. Enjoy Santa, he’s a lovely Man.”

And laying my finger aside of my nose….til next week.

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