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

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.

Proclamations: Families and Flags 

November 1st through the 7th is Down syndrome awareness week.

Families from the Newfoundland and Labrador Down Syndrome Society (NLDSS) were on hand and get major kudos for being the ONLY people at the meeting in costume (besides Lois Lane here). The little boy dressed as a dinosaur was not only on point but graciously provided Mayor O’Keefe with his regularly scheduled affable “oh, these young people” moment of the day.

O’Keefe: kermit the frog?

Dinosaur: No. Dinosaur.

Then dinosaur and his friend in the skeleton suit both shared the mayoral throne with O’Keefe while another representative from the NLDSS read the proclamation. Props to O’Keefe where props are due. Huggy-bear-heart-throb Trudeau could not have handled these heart warming shenanigans better, complete with kids banging gavel on mayoral desk and on mayor himself. A few of the older members of the NLDSS spoke along with Cllr O’Leary.

NLDSS is hosting a pancake breakfast open to the public on Sunday, November 6th at the Paradise Rotary from 9:30 to noon with family entertainment at no charge.

We were all invited to take a time machine back a couple days to celebrate Turkish Republic Day on Oct 29, 2016. The Turkish flag went up Saturday morning. O’Keefe “met several very tiny turkish Newfoundlanders” at that flag raising and was clear that they are a very welcomed part of the generation of new Newfoundlanders.

To offset his unexpectedly appropriate eloquence, O’Keefe added to one of the women on hand for the proclamation, “As I said to you Saturday morning, I hope you have more and more and more children.” I couldn’t hear the woman’s response but from the reaction it was clearly some form  of “no thanks.” There seems to exist not a single space in which people think twice before offering opinions on a woman’s family choices.

Moving Along:
By-gone Mummers, Noise Exemptions, New House for Circular Rd.
 

Apparently referring to young ‘uns dressing up for Halloween, O’Keefe (non)segued with “No one knows what you mean when you say mummering these days.” Perhaps if he said it in context they would be more obliging.

To avoid more bad segues here are the next items, unadorned:

It will be late and loud with a noise exemption passed for construction at the corner of Elizabeth Ave and Allandale Rd on November 26th and 27th at/near/for/by the Bell Alliant building at 48 Allandale Rd. Bell has posted notice for the neighbourhood but Cllr. O’leary requested that the city’s Communications Department also get the message out for anyone who may be disrupted. Considering that an exemption means noise between 11pm and 7 am, expect disruption.

Cllr Breen recapped the public meeting that was held about the re-zoning of 72 Circular Rd. The lot will be subdivided to allow a new house built facing Empire ave. Six people showed up for the public meeting and raised issues: height requirements, future uses (like a possible daycare), parking, general concerns regarding rezoning in general. All the immediately abutting neighbours were supportive.

re-zoning carried unanimously and it is now flying through the air to Municipal Affairs.

Public Works Committee Report: Rivers, Parks,  Garbage and Recycling

Breen covered the five main topics:

  1. Clarifying Watershed and Municipal boundaries between St John’s and Portugal Cove-St Phillips on the one side and Mt Pearl on the other. As technology improves the watershed delineations improve. Committee recommends adopting the newly “clarified” modifications to SJ boundaries and then join forces with its neighbours so they can all unite like a two headed Master Blaster who specializes in municipal paperwork and submit the changes to the Province (Auntie Entity).
  1. Biweekly garbage collection? No.

The investigation into garbage pick up every other week ended with a deferment until the city surpasses 50% waste diversion rates and/or have introduced regular organics collection (city composting). Cllrs Puddister, Tilley, Hickman all made separate interchangeable statements supporting the current weekly pick-up.

Hickman added that his daughter’s friends do not recycle and he was “devastated” that the five 20-30 year olds he knows don’t take recycling seriously. His family only puts out 1/2 a bag of garbage most weeks. He emphasized that, in the year 2016, we as a city are “way behind”

O’Keefe took up that thrown gauntlet, “I don’t think we are as far behind as Cllr Hickman has suggested.” He asked a staffer to back up his perpetually rosy view with facts to which the staffer replied, like a politician, that there was room for improvement but they had come a long way since 2009 [when recycling was first introduced]. O’Keefe saw that hedged as “half-full” and was content he had defended his fair City’s good name.

  1. Condominiums will be allowed unlimited number of recycling bags on collection day. City Staff will put together an implementation plan. There will have to be a “contact person” designated for each condo building. This person will inevitably go mad with their moderate amount of power. I will leave you all to guess whether Cllr O’Leary stood to add extra verbal support for this unchallenged, environmentally friendly matter.
  1. Puddister spoke about opening up some of the culvert-ed portions of our rivers. O’Leary and O’Keefe both waxed poetic about the idea of these concrete storm drains becoming freed ripples of ecosystem and beauty once more. All agreed that studies would be needed for each instance to assess flooding risks. O’Keefe spoke wistfully and with a tinge of hope about the former “Cascades” in Victoria Park. Cllr. Galgay dried that parade right up pointing out that it would flood.

Staff will complete an analysis so Council can vote on a pilot project to open one river to then assess risks and costs of doing more.

  1. Trace Planning and Design (lead consultants on the city’s Parks and Open Spaces Master Plan final report from 2014) is currently working on a plan for Century Park space in Georgestown which currently has a green space, basketball courts, and parking across from The Georgestown Pub on Hayward Ave. That plan should be released to the public once it is brought to committee. Work may commence as early as this coming Spring (2017).

Managing to point out both of his assets (youth and nepotism) in one breath, Galgay began by saying that although the re-design of this space had begun well before his time on council it was on his uncle’s watch. The original plans were a part of The Grand Concourse and, according to Galgay, were “extreme” in design and expense.

The new incarnation is supposed to be cheaper and will be funded from “Capitol out of revenue if funds permit and otherwise out of the Open Space Reserve Fund” according to the committee report provided in the agenda.

Tenders, Permits and Dannystan

The Committee reports ended on a literal mic drop. Hann helpfully went to pick it up and Breen yelled, “Give us a song Tom!” At which point everything in the universe would have shifted in delight if Cllr Hann had broken into “These Eyes.” In my heart that is what happened. In a parallel – a better – St John’s, this was the meeting you all missed.

Instead, Council approved the development permit for a storm water retention dry pond at “50 Danny Drive.” If you haven’t yet heard that the Galway Development of former Premier (current demi-god) Danny Williams includes a street by this name, enjoy. Sometimes you don’t even have to make stuff up.

Two tenders were then approved and Breen noted that the city chose the highest tender for playground equipment because the equipment from the other two companies who submitted wasn’t certifiable to safety standards. Think of the children!

Tilley mentioned that though building permits “are down” they are “not bad” considering how the economy “has been going.” Sure. Those are good numbers.

Wrap-up/Round Robin 

O’Keefe – is going trick or treating.

Collins  – congratulated someone or something on their/its 40th anniversary and said Seamus O’Reagan was good.

O’Leary  – is hosting the final “City Days” open house for ward 4 this Thursday, Nov 3rd from 5:30 – 8pm at Gonzaga High School. Drop by and meet councillors and city staff.

There is an environmental initiative put forward for proposals to develop “clean” economic growth through clean technology. With a deadline of March 31, 2017 I should have enough time to figure out whose initiative this is to pass on to you, the public. Whoever it is from, O’Leary made mention of many millions of dollars coming from/out of it and suggested the Environmental  Advisory Committee and the Economic Development Committees get involved.

“The Weir,” a play coming up at the LSPU hall, is a fundraiser for Haiti relief. O’Keefe reminded us that the city participated in a “major project” giving fifty thousand dollars towards an orphanage and school after the earthquake.

A constituent of O’Leary’s requested the Council meetings have closed captioning. O’Keefe explained that decision is the broadcaster’s.

Tilley – was briefed by Ellsworth that staff are still working diligently on the traffic issues on Waterford Bridge Road.

Breen – brought up the now annual problem the food banks are having with increased demand and decreased supply. The City’s food drive will take place November 14th – 18th with the workers of local 569. The social media blitz for this campaign will begin right away.

Puddister – double and triple checked that he is now free and clear to tell the lady on Whitlow Street that she can, as of this very Tuesday morning now park in the bicycle lane in front of her house as they are officially moot for the winter season. (Correction: there is no Whitlow Street but I searched the city’s bike lane map and found no street names that sounded remotely like “Whitlow” and “a lady on some street” just has no ring to it so I’ve left it as I heard it).

The city is hiring back more lawyers after downsizing last year. As the province is no longer processing/prosecuting tickets, it now falls on the city so more hands are needed and the cost of hiring and salary should be covered by the increase in ticket revenue.

Hickman – congratulated Park staff because we got “four balloons out of five” for something. cleanliness? The tree-planting grant the city applied for from the Canada 150 fund was approved and we got twenty five thousand dollars for street planting around the new Reynold’s Centre.

Hann – was “going to be quiet but” he followed up on Puddister’s comments about hiring more legal staff. He emphasized that we need new municipal bylaws to move on the new municipal plan that came out of “extensive consultation” a few years ago.

Hann also wanted a definite date on when The Wells Report, would come out from legal. The report, about ethical conduct legislation, was written last September (2015). Though it was leaked before it ever got to chamber (the irony of which Hann pointed out). It is now a year later and, seemingly, still being digested by the possibly understaffed legal department. The City Solicitor told Hann that it would come forward before the end of this year but that the city would need to enact changes to follow the report’s recommendations. Hann said, yes, but to do that they would actually need the report first. Touché

I think Hann wins this week’s meeting. And, yes, it is partly because he sang “These Eyes” in a parallel universe earlier in the meeting.

Ellsworth – The Catalyst Fund had “great uptake on applications.”

Over 300 landlords filled out the city’s Landlord survey online.

Offered condolences on behalf of the council to “Bob” Innes, an active member of the local business community.

O’Keefe concluded the meeting by recalling the “flow and ferocity” of the water in Bowring Park Monday morning.

Oh St John’s, so much to love and so much to… contemplate.

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