THE BIG NEWS
I will admit I was a skeptic. I thought it couldn’t happen. Today, Council—for the first time in recent memory—saw Cllr. Wally Collins successfully use his video feed. It happened at least an hour after they voted (9 to 1) NOT to rescind their approval of the Park Hotel development atop Atlantic Place Garage (aka The Big Yellow Box: BYB).
For those of you hoping that vote would have gone differently, I honestly do not know what to tell yo— YES I DO. Read your local news media regularly and next time you will have at least a year’s lead time to be suddenly shocked and angry at the last minute. Read this column. Subscribe to The Indy. Subscribe to The Telegram and (bonus!) you can ignore your kid every. single. morning. over breakfast.
I know you all hate a walled-off harbourfront, but: how about a walled-off personal space over your coffee? It is why men in nuclear families in the 1950s had it so damn good. The daily morning paper is SO important that no one in your house can complain and interrupt. But it’s not just for ye olde white men! It is for YOU. “I’m doing my god-damned civic duty, Karen. The dishes can friggin wait until I see what my democratically-elected representatives are up to.”
The BYB has been moving along, with announcements in The Telegram (as well as online) since 2018. Almost half your council voted against it. Possibly because almost half of the people who voted for council are opposed to it. The other (majority of) people do not seem to be opposed to it. If you like democracy (I don’t really, I am horrified that I should have to abide by what most people think is “good” and “right”), then lump democracy too. You should absolutely make petitions and speak loud and get all scream-y about things you did not pay attention to, but with getting to vote comes getting out-voted. This time. Your councillors are still available to take your calls and emails on everything that hasn’t happened yet. Unless you are a racist.
Cllr Ian Froude apologized in the Go-Round that he had, in the past, not called out the 0.1% of calls that he said were “based on racism and stereotypes.” He vowed not to let those go unremarked in the future. Many of the Councillors took time to explicitly state their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Which is, to push back against my perpetual skepticism, a great example of getting scream-y proving quite effective even well after the super racist horses with flak jackets and guns have left the barn.
Deputy Mayor O’Leary tabled the petition to stop the BYB and moved that the vote “for” be rescinded. She was alone. The councillors who had previously voted against the BYB, who now voted “nay” to rescind, were best represented by Cllr Burton who took vast swaths of time these past weeks to carefully document and assemble the history of the council’s decisions about the BYB to help everyone understand the history of the process—i.e. before you all started paying attention after it was complete.
Cllr Burton’s main point—and most of council agreed—was: though she was totally opposed to the development, she had lost fair and square and it would undermine public confidence in future council decisions if, after following procedure, they changed their vote because some people said so very loudly. There were somewhere in the range of 2,500 residents of St John’s who signed the NO-BYB petition (though Cllr Hanlon lobbed a little mini-grenade when she said that was not counting “all the double and triple signatures”). But people listing themselves “opposed” is not “new information” necessary to invoke a rescission.
Burton pointed out that in addition to undermining public confidence in council votes, changing a decision like this has legal ramifications. (Which she did not get into… but, apparently there are. Please MUN get that Law School up and running so more of us can chime in with letters after our names. Pretty please.)
Cllr Jamieson emphasized, to those who say the public were not allowed sufficient engagement, that the city received 137 pages of public input. Doesn’t mean all the councillors gave a shit, but the opportunity to write to them in hopes that they gave a shit was duly proffered.
Proving Jamieson’s point, Cllr Froude said he was initially “open to” the development but changed his mind after hearing from the public over the past year+. So your words were heard, just not by all the councillors—or, as insane as this sounds (because yellow really is weird in such quantities), other people’s words who thought differently than you were also being heard.
Wait, why am writing this like the “NO-BYB” crowd is my audience? I don’t even know! I guess your screaming did get my attention.
Cllr Froude said that he would not vote for rescission because, as a former entrepreneur, he knows first hand how frustrating it is to be “yanked about” by government and “uncertain rules.” Cllr Burton asked us to imagine an amazing development, one everyone agreed on (a permanent slip n’ slide down the south side hills into a contained heated pool floating in the harbour, with heritage corbels—for example), and then asked us to imagine why in the hell someone would put in the years and money to try to get it approved, after seeing that even final approval doesn’t mean finality.
Cllr Collins said “Yeah, I won’t be going for the motion. I went for it the first time, the second time, every ti—[very loud noises like a mic being dropped down stairs covered in tinfoil roses and then silence].”
Cllr Hanlon said, “This is the third council I’ve been on and I’ve never been on one that’s been so engaging with the public.” Which does not mean exactly what I think she wanted it to mean but does say a lot about our councils, past and present.
Korab let his Hail-Fellow-Well-Met exterior slip a little and showed a shade of ex-councillor Jonathan Galgay when, instead of saying why he would vote “nay,” he used his time to be “shocked” and “surprised” in a sniping maybe-I-want-to-run-against-you-for-mayor-someday tone at Deputy Mayor O’Leary for daring to bring the petition (and the move to rescind) forward.
O’Leary, picking up on his tone-gauntlet as she closed debate, said—as the lone vote to rescind—“good governance is good representation.” She addressed Korab directly saying “I am here to serve the public and over 2000 residents of this city asked this of me.” Which was pretty badass, and the closest to a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington moment I’ve seen at council this year.
Other things happened too. But why cover them if no one listens until it is too late anyway?
Just kidding! I don’t care about teaching you a lesson.
Miscellaneous in Briefs:
- The New Hilton Hotel at 150 New Gower St can have an outdoor Garden Cafe.
- Some Residential and Commercial building permit fees will be waived in an effort to encourage people to get outside and to help small businesses (sheds! decks! fences!). Cllr Collins wants fees for new home construction waived too.
- 5 Church Hill is getting a roof deck!! I know I may not ever experience the romance of painting “plein air” landscapes of the Metropark from the back of the Peter Lewis Gallery, but roof decks are exciting. And council getting all “yes”-y for roof decks in a heritage zone is very exciting.
- Also, if you thought this council hated harbour views, council-of-olde—back in the 1990s—put a moratorium on roof decks. Current Council asked staff to formally define “roof deck” and to research the history and reasons for the moratorium. They will also be reporting on “wha?” and “who hated fun?”
- $440 was spent on duck feed. Shut your complain-hole, that is adorable.
- 20 Gower St (heritage building) is allowed to replace front windows with single hung vinyls as long as they restore the stained glass portions.
And, for your patience and perseverance—and maybe to help mend some of your broken-hearts over the BYB or to celebrate your BYB victory if you like it—here is a screenshot of Cllr Wally Collins, moments after accidentally turning on his video while trying to un-mute himself. Please note Mayor Dan’s absolutely delighted face in the lower right corner. Though everyone was muted, you could see them shaking with laughter and you could hear their laughter in your heart.
Laugh. Love. Live. Lobster season.
Top photo by Graham Kennedy.
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