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: Shall I elide local kudos?

TL;DR : Every week organizations from the city sign proclamations with the mayor about this or that day/week for this or that group and everyone thanks everyone. 

Do we need a recap of this? Do we need reminding, in a dark time of year in a dark period for western democracy, that people are good and that our one small city nods to these good people? The proclamations are the only parts of the council meeting that are ever well attended. Like a recital, the beaming parents pack up their well fluffed young virtuosos and quietly leave the community theatre before the other sets begin.

But look! My neighbour is there. In the proclamation chairs. And I like her for her tireless commitment to walking her dog no matter the weather. This is the human interest. This is what interests humans. So, since that self-interest is firmly manifest and needs no tending I should skip it from now on. Or not, at my discretion.

Besides, I fear the jovial nature of these proceedings plays so well into the Mayor’s jovial strengths that following them too closely builds staunch bias for his basic human decency, and shining that light too brightly makes the more mundane and more impactful sections of the council meeting harder to see without blindspots.

Like neurologist/author Oliver Sack’s patients who had specific brain damage that made half of a particular group of them only able to hear tone and so were straightaway cognizant of the most sensitive angling and manipulations of political speeches without understanding the message, while the other half could hear only words devoid of nuance and so saw through all glad handing. So now I split my brain and will see humour in the tones and due my duty towards the facts.

Though I’ve just said I will not report on this, I here repeat the most truly poetic and bizarre quote of the council to date. O’Keefe, seating himself a few minutes after everyone else had already arrived, “I apologize for the delay. Somebody gave me candy so i guess that’s a symbol [symptom?] of my sorrow.” Whether I misheard I cannot say, but it was solemn and mysterious and could not be denied.

Other highlights:

– Labatt re-uses their bottles up to 20 times.

– Former Mayor Andy Wells (sitting, once again, below his own portrait in the nosebleed seats) can’t figure out how to turn the sound of his phone off and some podcast is suddenly blaring as he fumbles with it.

andy-wells-under-andy-wells

And then, the proclamations done, everyone files out and the meeting proceeds with only myself, Happy City, the local media and Mr. Wells in attendance.

To make up for the long musing intro, here is much of the rest of the meeting in small, internet sized bullet points:

  • New meter designs and increased fines for parking and street cleaning violations all carried into bylaw.
  • Flood Plane Buffer Zones: The city has a 15 meter buffer zone where building is “not allowed by right but is discretionary.” Collins wishes this wasn’t so and opines that, “you can [build right up to the flood plain boundary] in Bay Bulls or Carbonear.” Staff explains, once again, that the buffer exists for both safety and to ensure water quality.
  • The City Arts Study from 2012 is finally brought to council. This looks at the idea of the city and other stakeholders building and renting out a state of the art muti-use arts’ space that would then be rented out to local artists and organizations. Everyone points out that the study is now out-dated and would need an updated business plan. Everyone worries that updating it will cost money and that adopted some future plan would cost yet more money. But since it took four years for the first commissioned study to see the light of day, at least any plan suggesting we spend money will be outdated again before we have to worry about it. Spending money on studies every 5 years remains cheaper than moving on any recommendation of the study.
  • The Bike Committee Strikes Back. Cllr Lane “clarifies” why the bicycle survey is only coming out of the task force now instead of when it began a year ago (looks like we have a reader of the column after all! Hi Dave! Thanks for reading!). They have the report well in hand without it since the task force is connected to the biking community [that they know of] and they have heard from the city dwellers through the ward councillors and also “through facebook.” If anyone doubts the force of true labour behind the bike task force (I’m afraid my hand is raised), they can check it our for themselves at bikestjohns.ca. where you will find a list of agendas through August where both group rides and discussion of parking in bike lanes were not neglected. Though I still could not find the minutes (Dave? help a sister out and pop a link in the comments?).
  • Cllr O’Leary having “productive” meetings with the Owners/developers of the Avalon Mall about future reinvigoration and development plans.
  • A local website (guidetothegood.ca) is making it “easy to pick local and green” according to Cllr. O’Leary.
  • Paratransit is dealing with users who are persistent and repeated “no-shows.” Everyone else is good.
  • A new mural is up on the stairs at the East end of George Street. Hickman admits it is not just art for art’s sake but also “somewhat to deter graffiti.” And the city thanks the Benjamin Moore paint shop for their paint…. (Hmmm not Templeton’s?)

new-mural

  • O’Keefe says: Everyone loves Santa! Streets lined “double deep with youngsters and oldsters” for the parade last Sunday, “Accolades!” And, somehow forgetting the hail storm, “thank god we had a beautiful day.” O’Keefe was also “sure there was an economic boom”  for the businesses downtown that day, though I have heard, anecdotally, from some business owners that the opposite has been true in years past. This would actually be a useful metric to measure for the city one way or another.
  • City Advisory Committee Review process is this week. So next week’s council meeting will have a budget drop and ALL the shake out. Come watch it with me, and let’s toast with cilantro margaritas afterward to both the holiday break and the budget.
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