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

Emily breaks down why St. John's is switching to a Committee of the Whole (over standing committees), and recaps this week's notably civil city council meeting.

The Committee Of The Whole:
New Blood, New Re-org

 Last week I was in Toronto, getting a breathalyzer in order to strap on a harness and walk around the outside rim of the observation deck of the CN tower (I passed), and then paying $30 for 15 minutes of a Ghostbusters virtual reality game (worth it, 100%). So you guys must have been freaking out, not knowing what happened in council.

I read the press releases and the entire “Standing Committee Review Report” with all attached appendices, because I love you guys. Here is your recap. You are welcome:

The public asked, “how does the council actually do stuff, like when do they brainstorm and discuss, and like, figure out long term policy things?”

And the Standing Committee Review Report replied, “Lo! There were Standing Committees, but they were about as awesome as ‘standing’ implies (standing in line, standing water). Hark! There will be no more Standing Committees. There will be only the ‘Committee of the Whole'” (here after and always known as COTW… except when I want to write “Committee of the Whole” because it sounds funny).

This sounds so much cooler. SO cool, that I should probably start going to them and report these back to you too. But if I don’t, meetings of Council and of the COTW are supposed to be live streamed now… just in time for legalization. And COTW are open to the public, to increase council transparency.

(Almost all) Councillors will have an area of focus that they will bring to bear at the COTW meetings.

Finance and Administration/Lead – Councillor Dave Lane
Public Works & Sustainability/Lead – Councillor Ian Froude
Community Services & Events/ Lead – Councillor Jamie Korab
Housing/Lead – Councillor Hope Jamieson
Economic Development, Tourism & Culture/Lead – Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary
Governance & Strategic Priorities/Lead – Mayor Danny Breen
Planning & Development/Lead – Councillor Maggie Burton
Transportation/Lead – Councillor Debbie Hanlon

So that leaves Cllrs Hickman, Stapleton, and Collins without a specific role in the whole. Though Hickman is still on the board of St John’s Sports and Entertainment, I believe.

The Committee Of The Whole, besides bringing a little new-age cult feel to council, will, so the hypothesis goes, allow for more transparent discussion and decision making processes, increase active participation in committee work across the whole council, and make committee work more efficient over all.

It means that every two weeks for the pilot period (there is always a pilot period) the whole council will meet Wednesdays (~9-noon) in the Foran Room, to go over committee type business. The meetings will be less formal than the weekly council meetings, and so actual back-and-forth discussion and high level, long term vision stuff can be worked on, along with the basic committee business of deciding whether to recommend variances for formal council votes on Mondays. It sounds like a really good idea. But so did Edsels and smartphones.

So far this council has had super efficient, polite, and positive council meetings. And the “lead” roles feel so well assigned that it’s like we are watching a perfectly cast horror movie. Half way through the first opening scene, we all know who is the Fred, the Velma, The Daphne, The Scruffy, the Scooby Doo and the red shirt who is just there as monster bait. But so far the music is still cheery and the blood is yet to spill.

And Now This Week: 

A few non-controversial items were voted for, everyone agreed on everything. Cllr Jamieson Votes by raising two fingers like Jesus. I like that.

What? you want in-fighting, politicking, grandstanding, and Stewart McClean stories from the Mayor’s chair? Well, vote next time.

——

Deputy Mayor O’Leary and Cllr Lane both talked about the need for the city to work on higher level heritage policy proactively, specifically on built heritage.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary and Cllr Korab will work with the Bowring Park Foundation to spruce up the concrete bridge in Bowring park that was designed by Ove Arup (Structural Engineer for the Sydney Opera House). It is the coolest thing we didn’t know existed in the city.

Cllr Burton suggests the Council should recognize World Cities Day. I suggest we form an ad hoc committee to hire a consulting firm to produce a report measuring the impact of all these proclamations every week.

Cllr Hickman reminds everyone that the deadline for the applications for the city’s Community and Arts grants is November 30. A total of ~1 million is awarded in small chunks to many non-profit organizations and individuals.

Cllr Hanlon remained silent like an enigma wrapped in a charcoal business suite.

Cllr Stapleton says the new dog park is open in Airport Heights, and reminds everyone to come to the Pumpkin Walk at Bannerman Wednesday at 6pm. I will be there dressed as Magnum PI, walking along the jack-o-lantern lit Loop with my little Wonder Woman. Bring your carved pumpkin and a re-usable mug, and get free hot chocolate and your pumpkin composted for you.

Cllr Jamieson was jazzed about attending the “healthy communities forum [Monday] at city hall.”  And then bragged about her invite to the “great party” the Tessier Park Neighbourhood association threw this weekend. Oh to be the Ward 2 Councillor!

Cllr Korab said everyone already took all his stuff he was going to say… but he said it all again anyway. And managed to remind us he is super tall too, If you “see a 6’4” Incredible Hulk roaming Cowan Heights tomorrow,” don’t be afraid! It is just Korab! **cough -Fred- cough**

While most of the councilors mentioned having a safe Halloween, Froude used his Halloween mention to “nerd out” and suggested we all use trick-or-treating as a “point of reflection.” Citing this Huff Post article by a former Chief Planner for Vancouver, he asked us to notice if our neighbourhoods are Trick-or-Treating friendly. Are the houses close together and easy to access from the road? How wide are the sidewalks? Are they tree-lined? According to the article, trick-or-treating friendly ’hoods are also likely “walkable, healthy, economically resilient communities year-round.”

Cllr Collins asked Breen whether they were following up with The Port Authority on something (a sewer outpour?) for Fort Amherst

Mayor Breen ended this civic love fest with high praise for the Benevolent Irish Society on Harvey Rd. He was impressed by how seriously they took accessibility in their recent renovations, and challenged other organizations to do the same. But I’m pretty sure it was a metaphorical challenge, not a city-wide glove slap. Sigh.

Written By
More from Emily Deming

2 Comments

  • I love the philosophy, I love the initiative, but why do we need a CotW when we have a City Council that could do the job? why can’t Council have public consultations directly?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.