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.

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 Monday the 19th’s meeting.

Pomp and Action: The Grand Entrance

Let me assure you that the mayor, Dennis “Doc” O’Keefe, does enter chambers behind a man in white gloves bearing a golden sceptre. And he does, indeed, wear Flavor Flav quality bling around his neck throughout. This is only my third council meeting in the 6 years I have lived here, and the first one where the mayor was in attendance.

Lucky for me I had Josh Smee of Happy City sitting in the peanut gallery near me to help translate the pre-ambles and point out that the deputy city manager of Planning Development and Engineering looks just like British badass antihero Jason Statham. And just like that, it had begun.

Because “Arbor day” is Too American and Our Mayor Likes Sexy Poems

Not only is National Tree Day nearly upon us (Wednesday, Sept 21), but O’Keefe called on Councillors Hickman and Hann to confirm that “in their day” school children used to be able to recite Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.” Doc barely refrained from a chorus of “a tree whose hungry mouth is prest/ Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.”

In response to Doc waxing rhapsodic, Councillor O’Leary played her thankless role of perpetual “committee-nudger” and reminded Council that “tree development regulations” have “been on the burner” and should be… taken off the burner? firmly planted on an upcoming agenda? Something to that effect, though I could not see the forest of the motion for the “whereas” trees (though points for using “efficacious,” there’s more than one poet on the floor here today!). Kenmount Terrace was, as always, the cautionary tale, and the Planning Committee is now well and proper nudged.

Then…ZING! Boom! Swoosh! Completely stealing O’Leary’s environmental hero thunder, Councillor Hickman announced that the city had submitted an application to a Canada 150 program to get $25,000 in pure glorious tree money for the city, which would then be matched by the city “in trees and labour.”

If you, the people, want to celebrate a tree, “upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain” then head to Victoria Park this Wednesday at 11am for tree planting and a BBQ. Hopefully it is a gas bbq as charcoal would be unduly funereal under the circumstances.

The Wasteland, I’m Sorry, I Meant “Our Government at Work”

Councillor Hann mumbled something about removing a freedom of information bylaw which conflicts with mumble mumble requests for information mumble mumble. Though everyone’s reaction was muted enough to assure me this was a mere bureaucratic straightener, I still expected Planning Department “Statham” to jump up and take out muppet-movie-bad-guy-Hann in the name of “Freedom!”

In yet another epically pre-ambled motion, O’Leary took us on a fly-over around our damaged globe pointing out the plastics in the ocean and the birds and asked the city to join other municipalities in their efforts to ban one-use plastic bags at retail shops by telling the provincial government that St john’s would support a Province wide ban. I think. Again, much “Whereas” and my ear is not yet attuned to councilese.

Property Reports! Paralympians! Parking Tickets! 

After a brief mic grab from Councillor Collins, where he said he would check in on the cabot bridge next week (white knuckle here guys! Tune in next week same bat time, same bat place), O’Leary was back with more committee nudges asking when the comprehensive development report for Kenmount Hill property above the 190 contour would come forward from the Planning and Development committee. Come on guys! don’t make us wait for it to come out on Netflix!

She also suggesting the nomenclature committee (which Bruce Tilley is not responsible for) consider Katarina Roxon, winner of the 100-m breast stroke at the 2016 paralympics. I am in favour, and not just because I am pretty sure “The highway Roxon” is a lost blue oyster cult song.

Galway and Breen then put on record that the residents of Mullock street do not read their emails and demanded justice for those folks who skim headlines/subject lines only and so moved their cars for street cleaning on the wrong night. This was the only thread that seemed to grab O’Keefe through the whole meeting and he nodded vigorously and voiced assent. Those tickets SHOULD get a second look! By golly the pure unmitigated  injustice of it! Why WASN’T there a follow up email Sunday night to ask if the people were SURE they understood that cars must be moved?!

A Silver Lining-City-Coffers to the Province’s IJ Samson Raincloud?

Puddister, in his role as this year’s “I can’t believe that guy is the voice of reason. Which guy? That one, with the pink skin and white hair and fulsome dinner belly and suit man clothing? Which one? It doesn’t really matter,” inquired how and when the city could do an assessment of the IJ Samson school property.

That one the provincial government sold for 189,000 to a company who is now trying to sell it for 1.89 million (which, to be fair, includes demolition and any necessary remediation). Some discussion followed about how soon an assessment could be done for city tax purposes. Haha province, you failed! But Puddister will get ours for the city yet!

Galgay promptly rained on the one-sunny-way-to-look-at-the-city-tax-hikes by listing the reasons the property would assess for nearer the 189k than the cool 1.89 mil. One reason was that the present zoning was “institutional” which isn’t a big money maker, though he didn’t explain a comment from a few seconds earlier that any buyer would likely apply for re-zoning. Either way, Galgay maintained his virulent political ambivalence, strengthened by reading excerpts from a “memo.”

To help move on from the bummer, Councillor Lane noted for the record that he is still the hipster of the group with a reminder that Jeremy Charles and other people with less iconic beard-sweater combos would be speaking about “H2O” for a Walrus talk that evening at The Rooms.

The Fast and the Furious-about-Road-Work

Deputy mayor Ellsworth wrapped things up speaking about efforts to curb speeding in town which are not working since (truth bomb in 3…2…1), “the driving public thinks the rules only apply to everyone else, not to them”. Zing! Kapow! Ongoing talks with the RNC as the city wants a separate traffic unit but that is not going to happen. Despite the recent confirmation that Super Troopers 2 has now been cast.

Those same speeders, I assume, are also complaining about the ongoing road work on multiple major thoroughfares which impedes all sorts of speeding. Ellsworth called for better scheduling of road maintenance and better signage coming into road work areas. Though what could possibly be better than that baby on a yellow sign juggling balls on a unicycle I cannot imagine.

The Final Couplet

And then it was done. And ol’ Dog Doc adjourned after barely 30 minutes. I think that I shall never see, a council meeting brief as ye.

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