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Notes From the Rafters: 28 September 2020

in Featured/Notes From the Rafters by

Hi Ho! 

I was late to the live video feed of the council meeting today and now, 6 hours later, the recorded video is still not posted, but my life goes on, so I am relying heavily on the written agenda and Happy City SJ’s twitter thread as my source material. You may say “that is not journalism!” but, HA! If corralling second-hand accounts into sassy takes isn’t journalism then what do you call those listicles at zergnet.com

The council is back off of Zoom and into chambers (maybe that is why they have not posted the video yet?), though the public and media are still outlawed. The councillors all have plexiglass walls separating themselves from each other like they are bank tellers or lined up at the phones in a prison visitor’s room from a movie. 

Short recap of miscellaneous things [read this in hyper-fast auctioneer’s voice]:

  • Psychologist’s home office OK’d at 8 Rodney St. 
  • Symes Bridge across the Waterford River closed to vehicle traffic (but not foot traffic, I believe that was the plan) for safety. 
  • 138 Ladysmith Dr is rezoned for higher density (ie townhouses). 
  • Re-zoning 42-52 Diamond Marsh Dr. from “open space” to low density residential (subdivision) is up for public comment so watch this space to see me post (with barely a whisper of irony) all the emails from the newly built low density residential owners across the street saying their views from their low density residential houses should not be sullied by low density residential houses. 
  • If you live on Freshwater Rd, Spencer St, Circular Rd, Empire Ave, Harlow Place, or Cornwall Heights, check the city website for scheduled road closures and check your attic for ghosts. They may be  filming “The Surrealtor” on your block in the next 2 weeks.

Sidewalks—Psych! 

Most of Council refuses to put any muscle (money) into improving sidewalk clearing. Froude, O’Leary and Burton still pushed for it but the rest say “nay” or at least “not this year, gotta wait til budget time to crack the cold, icy, dangerous nut that forces whole segments of the population into isolation for months of the year.”

At least Cllr Collins does not even pretend he cares about sidewalk clearing. The faux concern and no votes is way more of a “fuck you” than an honest “meh, not my problem; don’t care.” Cllr Collins went so far as to be the sole “no” vote on the most popular piecemeal sidewalk resolution that basically just said “the city will try to do a bit better without putting anything in writing or spending any money.”

Cllr Stapleton (according to Happy City’s thread re-cap) said the city “values the input” of the inclusion committee… but clearly not their actual quality of life. Cllr Hickman, that perpetually moustachioed optimist, says it is going to be better already anyway [via… miracle?]. Everyone except Cllr Froude, Deputy Mayor O’Leary, and Cllr Burton [who was out sick] voted for the second resolution which was, literally, to “maintain status quo” while, I guess, also trying to do better, as per the first resolution? The last of the trifecta of sidewalk clearing resolutions was to consider all of this over again as part of the 2021-2022 budget process over the winter.

So, just to be clear: the city spent money on an engagement process that came back with extremely consistent results showing that both residents and businesses think the winter luge-walks are utter garbage and that the dream of walkable sidewalks in winter is one of residents’ highest priorities. The city heard from seniors and those with disabilities stating the dire consequences of lack of sidewalk clearing on their quality of life and ability to lead their lives. Then, the city completely wasted all the money spent on engagement by promptly ignoring what they learned and voting how they were all going to vote anyway by explaining they just can’t justify spending money in a year like this.

They did all agree to change the “Non-Profit Housing” division of the city to the “Housing Division,” so, pat on the back all around there.  

Ward 2 By-Election Update

There are now eight candidates in the race and that is that. Greg Smith, Ophelia Ravencroft, Shawn Skinner, Matt Howse, Wallace Ryan, Lorne Loder, Greg Noseworthy, and Carol Anne Furlong. No more may enter; seven must fall.

The Social Justice Coop of NL, along with the Food Policy Council, held a Facebook Live town hall style Q&A with the candidates. Well, all the candidates except Carol Anne Furlong, who declined the invitation and (according to the hosts) did not respond to their follow-up to send in written replies. I watched the (roughly) 1.5 hours of it and tried to get drunk throughout but it wasn’t working. So I don’t know why my notes are so sloppy.

The links to the videos are here and here. If you are voting in this election, this is a good chance to passively soak up an impression of your options. You don’t have to be into Social Justice or Co-ops (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t admit to either) to appreciate a chance to hear your potential representatives speak in a controlled setting for easy comparison.

My take-aways as I tried (and failed) to get hilariously tipsy and ribald were sadly basic:

1. This is a progressive slate of candidates. Loder sounded the least progressive as he talked about his “friends with electric cars” but that was only in contrast. Compared to the current council he sounds like he would fall right around a Sandy Hickman, but this Ward 2 slate seems to skew more into a condensed Hope Jamieson spectrum (which makes sense seeing as it is her seat they are replacing). I expected the odd man out to be Shawn Skinner, because ageism. In fact, both Loder and Skinner did have the most pure “old man” moments in parallel when they each talked about installing heat pumps as a response to the current climate emergency. It was very Saltwire-column-about-home-renos: decent, practical, vanilla. [To be clear, they are not really old… they just… had a certain way of discussing personal home renovation projects.] Of the other candidates, Noseworthy glows full keener-at-a-conference vibes, a go-getter who knows how to use the term “impactful.” I don’t mean to pick on only a few, but there are too many of them to do each one… and honestly, they all love public transit and higher density and walkability. They were all pretty decent and very similar in their answers.

2. They all biffed the question about food security by waxing silly about more people growing their own food. Even Howse, though he at least also touched on the more likely culprit of entrenched poverty. To them all I say: Yes, the new Tessier Park is pretty cool, but I spent God-knows how many days of my life this year on a swath of tomato plants and I do not now have a cupboard full of well-sealed jars of sustainable healthy tomato paste. I have one brown paper bag full of tiny green tomatoes from a plant that felled itself in the last windstorm despite it’s designated tomato cage, and eight more plants just sitting in the yard in the waning autumnal light absolutely grotty w more itty-bitty hard green bulbs. Those—along with the five that ripened early which I ate with my daughter one lunch time and they were OK but sort of mealy—are not going to solve the chronic lack of food for people with way less time and resources and friends-who-grew-up-on-farms-and-patiently-explain-what-and-why-tomato-cages than I inexplicably have at my disposal. This experience, and an entire world of achievements based on the societal division of labour, tells me that “more raised beds in those unsightly empty lots on your block” are not the way to pull our city out of its woeful hunger crisis.

Oh. Maybe I did get drunk after all. #bless.

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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