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

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Refugee Photo Exhibit:
You Missed the Best Drop of Well-Being all Year
 

Tuesday, July 11th was the last day of the City Hall exhibit “Home is Where the Heart Feels” of photographs taken by citizens of St. John’s who came to Canada as refugees. 

If you missed it, you missed laughing and crying in public. Check out one example at the Newfoundland Quarterly’s new online magazine. I was tearing up, and I discovered the down side of hanging art up and down a massive stairwell: foggy eyes, tumbling feet. Still worth it. 

The world is a mess right now, or the world is the same as always, but the news is a mess. Either way, these photos helped. My huge and sincere thanks to the photographers. I am so glad you are here! 

Now on to council… full bench today. No one absent. Everyone sort of edgy.

Pension Tension Release 

St. John’s has completed negotiations with the Regional Fire Department Union. The city, retroactively as of 2015, has moved from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined pension plan. Apparently we are the only municipality in Newfoundland to have now totally eschewed the defined benefit pension plan. 

Doc says we are one of the very few in Canada. The City Manager, raining on Doc’s regatta, “Yes, but there are others in Canada.” Doc re-declares, “but not many.”

Development, Heritage, and Taxi Takedowns 

Seven properties around town will be codified in by-laws as “heritage”: 68 St Clare Ave., 90 Pleasant St., 355 Southside rd., 3 and 3-A Forest Rd., 27 and 29 Henry St.. So don’t say they never did nothing for it. Now let’s just bide our time and see how enforcement goes.

There has been a saga down at 615 Empire Ave. It was a neighbourhood mechanic. And Jiffy Cab bought it and wanted it to be a taxicab mechanic. Fine. But then they wanted it to be a dispatch office as well, but only from 8am-4:30pm. So far, so good, a little Steve MacDonald from Corrie in a little room calling out taxis over the CB radio and eating biscuits; nothing wrong with that. Council was even going to change their by-laws to allow this to be.

But then the little garage began to morph into a full fledged taxi stand with residents saying they didn’t want cabs coming and going through the night. Finally Jiffy asked permission to operate the dispatch 24/7… and that was too much. The residents rebelled. Or 44 signed a petition (but maybe 41 because 4 of the “signatures” are in the exact same handwriting). And Council said, “no more.” They turned on that taxi stand like bad milk.

In contrast, each councillor went out of their way to stand up and individually scratch a new project at 55 Rennies Mill Rd behind the ear. Cllr. Lane was almost giddy when he said “adaptive re-use” describing this discretionary use application. This large heritage house is to be divided into three residential units and one office for Deacon Investments. The office will house 5 employees.

Neither damned like the taxi stand, nor raptured like Deacon, a new church wanting to move into 81 Elizabeth Ave will have to resign itself to limbo as their application is referred back to the parking and traffic committee. Apparently the other business owners on that corner are already at max annoyance with current parking issues due mostly to the Blue on Water food truck on site. Though a food truck is always manna from heaven in my good book.

I’d vote yes for the church just for its name alone, The redeemed Christian Church of God, Mount Zion Parish. Anything to break the stranglehold of the dead-boring Catholic-Angelicans.

Neighbourhoods vs the World:
In My Opinion (but also it’s true)
 

The Winter Avenue residents “have come together” to bend the works of our city to, on a trial basis, restrict traffic from entering their street from Kingsbridge Rd. They have been complaining about speeding on their street for a while. Though so has everyone on every street. But their street is very pretty.

Traffic flow is already majorly restricted on the two streets parallel (Empire and Circular) and making even less redundancies for flow through a city makes little sense overall. But what is more important than even one stupid new traffic complication in an already mangled city is the trend towards neighbourhoods, blocks really, saying of a street, “this is ours.” Because it isn’t.

On Barnes Rd., the city just approved a survey to see if residents want to move to resident permit parking only. I live on Barnes and I can tell you it is not needed. But, like the Monkstown and William Street surveys last season, residents will flock to say it is needed because everyone feels they own the street in front of their home.

There is always parking here. I have never had to walk more than a quarter block in 5 years. There is a direct line from those people who leave crazed and angry notes on a car that is parked “in their spot” on a public street to directing traffic so as to cut off non-residents.

My neighbourhood isn’t mine. I live there. I can participate in the community (or not), but I own my house, not the damn streets. We share the streets. Sharing is messy and annoying and you will never get your own way. People you don’t like will cut through your neighbourhood, and they will cut through it all wrong.

But if you let those streets that are already paved with gold and good intentions, start enacting barriers, our city will lose the chaotic and egalitarian blood-flow that makes it not suck like other cities.

By all means, work on some traffic calming, add those weird pink sidewalk bulges or speed humps (or anything “humps” because “humps” is funny), or ticket the hell out of the reckless. But stop kicking everyone from the next block off “your” precious stretch of sidewalk.

For the Record, Cllr Puddister was the only one to add “reluctant” to a unanimously supported motion for Winter Ave. He mentioned that the previous restrictions on Empire and Circular have caused this issue and speculated that more restrictions will just make matters worse somewhere else. Preach. Its like a throbbing finger in a cartoon, squeeze it and some other body part will just pop out.

Oh wait. Galgay did complain about this motion too, but only, he explained, because no one listened back when he wanted to restrict access to Quidi Vidi. If he had to get resident surveys documented for that cause, where were they for this, huh guys?

Kenmount Terrace: Again and Forever 

Kenmount Terrace is basically a dumpster fire. Lets just call it. Open Line must have a designated bat phone just for this subdivision’s residents. Their promised school and stores and amenities were re-zoned out from under them, and now it seems they live with more rubble piles than trees.

Council is reminding developers that they may not keep “materials and debris” on lots adjacent to residential areas for “long periods of time.” Cllr O’Leary is frustrated on her ward residents’ behalf and hopes someday they can see a “grand finale” to the developments.

Development Regulations: Are We Too Dense for Them? 

The city’s staff has been developing development regulations to codify the original Envision St John’s municipal plan. Discussion at Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t about the regulations themselves but about whether there should be an additional public information session this summer to help people understand the new rules since they are wide reaching and comprehensive. 

Cllr Puddister suggested the session. Everyone, except Cllr. Galgay and Mayor O’Keefe, agreed it would be helpful, even if it would take more time and cause a little delay.

Cllr Breen summed up the majority of council’s feelings well, explaining that though “[he doesn’t]have the technical knowledge for this it gives people a chance to understand it more. [It can] give a better understanding to those who are interested and then they will give a better understanding to the general public.” 

Galgay and O’Keefe, in their paraphrased words, said that since they didn’t have the “background or competence” (Galgay) to understand this “technical and complicated” (O’Keefe) document they feared we didn’t/wouldn’t either so what’s the use in trying when it would do no good and cause unnecessary delays.

O’Leary Wants to fix One Litter Pile,
O’Keefe Wants to Force Feed Her the Whole Litter Pie

Cllr O’Leary requested city support to problem solve the issue of cigarette butt litter along Long Pond Trail. With Eastern Health’s non-flexible no-smoking-nowhere-ever-even-in-your-own-car policy, their employees have had to take their butts just beyond the boundary onto the long pond trail of Pippy Park. 

O’Leary maintained that smoking is not the issue here and said, “People have addictions and rights, smokers are people.” It is the resulting litter that is the problem. “For heaven’s sake, I’d build a kiosk myself [for them]if I had a place to put it!” She is hoping to work with Eastern Health CEO Diamond, and Pippy Park Commission and Cllr Breen to come up with a solution.

The mayor then, adamantly and brusquely, insisted that this would have to be a city-wide solution and implied she would get no support if she didn’t also come up with a solution that could be applied to the area between The Waterford and Bowring Park.

I am not going to lie, even for this testy council, it was a weird moment. He was super rude and really pissed off right away. When she respectfully disagreed and said she wanted to be realistic and tackle this one specific issue at a time, he kept cutting her off and getting really strong-armish about it. 

Cllr Breen took on the role of acting actually mayoral and said some empty but nice things about everyone working it out and being sure he and O’Leary could tackle this problem to the satisfaction of all. 

It was god-damned tense for a minute there. Made me want a smoke just to clear the air.

Our Cruise Ship Really Has Come In

Whatever was making Doc go agro (could it really have been O’Leary wanting to pick up cigarette butts?) this will hopefully soothe his savage soul. His beloved cruise ship industry has been vindicated. Cllr Lane reported that there is a 5.7 million dollar impact downtown from cruise ships. 1.2 million from the crew and the rest from passengers. Halifax sees 9 million but, Lane assures us, they have a bigger port.

Happy Summer Days, Don’t be a Dick!

And everyone was reminded to please be responsible about your summer backyard fires, burn clean wood and for the love of god if you are going to try to snitch on your neighbour, council begs you to read the by-laws first before calling 3-1-1 to make sure they really are breaking the rules. Don’t waste everyone’s time and fun. Take a breathe, maybe ask if you can roast a wienie.

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4 Comments

  1. the only reason why Winter Ave has anything close to a traffic problem is that no left exit was provided to Dominion, and all that traffic has no efficient, legal way to head towards downtown. could be fixed if this city wasn’t run and operated by meatheads. this fall, stop voting for meatheads.

    • Safe travels on

      People do have the option of travelling lake ave, to Carnell Dr, to the Blvd and then make the left onto Kings Bridge, much safer and on 3/4 of a kilometer. This avoids a lot of congestion at the entrance to dominion.

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