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.

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: Take a Moment to Appreciate that the Mayor’s Throne Has a Carved Dog on Each Arm Rest 

I know I’ve mentioned this before but in case you all are not reading every word every week, I am going to say it again, the mayor starts each meeting with a two man parade as he follows a golden torch bearer into the room, wears a huge gold necklace, and sits in a massive carved wood throne.

A throne which he again, the perpetual school teacher, shared with local elementary school kids. This time to proclaim National Child’s Day. One of the kids who shared the throne wants to be mayor in 20 years and one wants to be a fashion designer. Maybe she can design some more modern Mayoral bling. Sliver Jumpsuits are the new Livery Collars. And if you are still wondering, “Yeah, why aren’t we all in jumpsuits yet?” then you don’t have a vagina and have never tried to pee in a public restroom completely naked with a jumpsuit around your ankles. 

Televisions and Trilbys 

Am I getting off track? Sorry, my home country just elected a gold filigreed torture chastity belt for president so it’s still hard to care about municipal politics one week on. On the bright side, Fiona Pollock (or something close to that, Mayor O’Keefe had a hard time with her handwriting) won the 40” TV and wireless headphones for having her name pulled out of a hat from one of all the names that attended the “My City Days” ward sessions these last two months.

And it was literally pulled out of a hat. A charcoal grey, felt, short-brimmed fedora and, you guessed it, O’Keefe made his “old days” joke here, “Councillor Tilley will tell you they were in style for young people in the 1950s.” So Doc has a gold necklace and a Trilby. Which makes him one fifth of a boy band.

Business Arising from the Minutes:
79 Old Petty Harbour Rd, Too Wet to Re-zone? Just Wet Enough?
 

After Cllr. Collins stopped what had looked to be an easy rezoning last week (R1 to R2 to allow a five townhouse development) with strong talk of water issues (the words “hip boots” were invoked), he got the whole council to come around and roundly reject the committee recommendation to rezone.

Apparently, the hydrologist requested by Deputy Mayor Ellsworth and Cllr Puddister at the last meeting inspected the site and took a video of the water run off.  Additionally, Collins reiterated that there are lots of properties for rent and for sale in the area, so more infill development is not a necessity.

Galgay said he would reject the rezoning because he trusted Cllr Collins’s opinion since he has spent time there in person. Even Cllr (and likely future mayoral candidate) Breen, who chaired the public hearing and had put the original proposal forward to accept rezoning, changed his tune, not because of the water issue, but because “five town houses is … too much.”

Hickman used visuals (that no one could see because they were on a small ipad) and pointed at something on the screen (presumably a google map satellite view but possibly David Attenborough having a laugh with a gorilla) and said that though there is already increased density just behind this lot, (for some still unarticulated reason) the new development doesn’t “fit with the area.”

Puddister said simply, “I initially supported it but now support Collins… there is mud in the area.”

This is a fascinating (used liberally) example of how the council functions. When no councillor takes on some detail personally, Staff are pretty well in charge and their recommendations are ratified without much examination. But then, on occasion, with minimal debate and no thorough presentation of new facts being entered into evidence, one Councillor can sway the rest.

The hydrologist did apparently “take a video” but there was no substantial explanation or discussion of any findings. It leaves this observer feeling like the public meetings are a small tip of the discussions, and if you want something done get your ward councillor’s ear (I hear going on VOCM works).

A Bridge Not That Far and Just a Bit Sooner 

Breen made it clear that the big bad buzz on social media about the O’Leary bridge deal had got it all wrong. But to verify that I would have to find that “discussion” and “misunderstanding” he referred to and since, this week, the thought of seeking out more half-informed outrage is making my butt fall three inches and my heart throw up into my lungs, I will just assume he is exaggerating.

The bridge just above da mall was identified in the city’s 2014 catchment zone report as requiring replacement eventually due to increased run-off. Ellsworth clarified that “Kenmount Terrace did it.” Now Crombie, owners of the mall and winners of the “scroogiest name” contest, have offered to cover part of the cost of replacement if the bridge is replaced sooner (2017) rather than later (some other year). They will pay 425 thousand which leaves 1.175 million left for the city.

O’Keefe, adding optimism even when all are already in optimistic accord, pointed out that it would be a great opportunity to replace the old ductile sewer and water pipe from half a century ago and so may save the city from another pipe burst (it happened further up O’Leary before).

This whole issue was so non-contentious and pro-efficient planning that I thought maybe I was dreaming and would wake up any minute to an adopted city in chaos and my home country basking in the glow of our first woman president. Goddamn it. I would sacrifice you, St. John’s, like a lamb on a spit, it if would abolish the electoral college.

Anyway, the bridge thing carried unanimously. Lots of accord on Tuesday.

Beothuk Antenna 

The Beothuk building at 20 Crosbie place is building an antenna for Eastlink on their roof. Cllr O’Leary pointed out that the “attached submission” was not actually anywhere in the paper copy of the agenda and that it would be nice to read it before voting on it. In theory.Deputy City Man with Plan, Sinyard, reminded everyone that this public process was purely for show anyway as the decision here rested with the federal government.

Development Committee: Sod Off, and More Collins vs Water 

Two Crown leases for agricultural sod production on Northern Pond Road were approved.

A building at 843-845 Thorburn Road may now be demolished and rebuilt along with a new outbuilding.

Annnnnd some guy at 488 Backline Road will, with a very small margin, be able to build his shed but will NOT be able to make a driveway for it. This one provoked much discussion. So much discussion. Though just minutes before, Collins was arguing that a muddy lot was a major water issue, he was now adamantly saying that the water along buddy’s shed was not a “river system, it’s a ditch,” and therefore the city’s flood plain buffer regulations should not apply.

The vigour with which Collins argued for this person to be able to build a driveway to their shed made me think, once again, that we should not underestimate getting our ward councillor’s ear if we have some small matter of personal interest to champion.

Galgay, again, roundly supported Collins, said that in support he had even gone to the address in person. Maybe Galgay is running for mayor too? Has an allegiance been formed? Will Hann’s Stapler soon appear in a jello mould?

This discussion wins council for the day as it ended with Collins yelling, “It’s a ditch!” Hann confirming that he, “cannot support any kind of rule breaking,” and mayor O’Keefe actually yelling “out of order!” when Cllr Puddister spoke out of turn. Yes, tiny chaos!

But one man in the Goulds will not be celebrating tonight. One man’s shed will now be lawfully cut off from paved vehicle access. One man must walk from the road to his lovely little shed.

Economic Update and Travelling Men 

Participation rate in the labour force is up .9 points to 69.9%,  which still seems really low.

There were 114 new businesses approved. 61 of which were regular and the rest “home based” [and making up to 7000$ dollars a month with this simple trick!]. If you can’t make money online at home then check out the City grant applications which are now open for 2017 and due by 4pm November 30.

The quarterly travel report showed Robert Fowler, of the Regional Fire Department, got the short end of the stick with a conference in Corner Brook while Gareth Griffiths, from Assessment, got the conference in Tampa, but he still has to be an assessor instead of a fireman. Breen’s travel to Ottawa for Remembrance Day ceremonies was approved.

ROUND UP: 

Dep Mayor Ellsworth: November 22 at 8:30 there will be an affordable housing forum. It is free but you need to register. Call (709) 570-2096. He is hoping for good turnout from landlords as they will be able to meet with service support groups and others.

Cllr. Hann: Attended liberal convention in Gander with Galgay and thought O’Leary should be pleased that the party passed the motion to ban all one-use plastic bags across province. That now has to go to the legislative arm of the government and Hann urges the people to phone their MHAs to put pressure on them to get the law written.

Cllr. Galgay: Hann has a loyal following, even at 4am in Gander! [“4am in Gander” is definitely the title track on a CD sold out of a gas station along the TCH].

Big week for Victoria park. Huge. Look for big league announcements later the week about the  board and launching the “brand.” You will love it. Trust me. It’s going to be great.

Cllr. Hickman: The Arts Management Intensive weekend workshop from Business and Arts NL was “three days with 25 engaged arts leaders.” It happened in The Foran Room. Never again question whether the city supports its Arts. Don’t question it.

Cllr. Lane: Peep. Entrepreneurship.

Cllr. Puddister: Thanks in particular to Minister Foote and to the Prime Minister, now that they have re-opened the rescue centre here in St John’s. It should never have been closed and he is glad it’s open again. We should write a thank you letter.

Cllr. Breen: It is good that it is re-opened but “let’s not take our eyes off of having a 30 minute response time 24/7. Let’s include that in the letter.”

The food drive is happening this week. Remember to get your food out to the curb by 8am on garbage day.

Sewer lines are being “smoke tested” in The Goulds. It is actually vapour put through the lines to check the integrity of the system. This vapour may come up through the drains and fixtures in your house. It may also bring sewer gasses with it. This is not hazardous. But…if you see it, leave the house and call 311 or get the crews outside your house to check it out.

Cllr. Tilley: Can we get a copy of the Premier’s “Vision for the Province” so we can see what he says about St John’s?

Cllr. O’Leary: Traffic committee should know that Kenmount Terrace (the city’s evergreen whipping boy of their own making) has a speeding problem and one constituent suggested adding medians to cut the width of the streets may help.

“Caribou Legs,” aka Brad Firth of the Gwich’in First Nation, will conclude his cross country run in support of murdered and missing indigenous women on November 20th at noon on City Hall’s steps.

Harry’s place (the City Hall Cafeteria) is celebrating 25 years of service.

Cllr. Collins: The Goulds sewer and storm drain operations will be ongoing for a year or two. Not as catchy as the classic “Goulds needs sewer and water” graffiti.

Mayor O’Keefe: Thanks to MUN and the delegation from Norway here for the seminars on arctic and cold water research, Doc got to meet with the mayor of Tromso. And they found they were not so different, he and she. They discussed the similarities/issues/problems in both cities. Tromso is faced with the challenge of providing employment for its young people, similar to our challenge of keeping international students here after graduation. What struck Doc the most was the tin of natural blueberry candy she gave him. We are facing issues with fish/gas/oil but here is an industry that is based on a renewable resource that we have everywhere! We have more natural blueberries than “anyone I know of. There’s an industry.” And they have an industry based on bakeappples (they call them cloudberries).

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