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Nothing strange or startling on the menu for the St. John’s City Council meeting this week; a combination of summer vacations and a council term winding down its final weeks means that the agenda was mostly administrative items without a whole lot of excitement until the end. We’ll get to that in a second. Meanwhile, dear readers, let us recap the thrilling stuff of City business for these two weeks.

Escribe, Council’s electronic voting software, was down this week, which means we got the treat of listening to Mayor Breen say, “All those in favor? Cont’ry?” in his charming townie lilt throughout the meeting, a reasonable consolation in lieu of not being able to see who was voting for what. 

Broad Strokes on a Broad Cove Subdivision

Speaking of which, council accidentally voted on the development of a subdivision in the Broad Cove river watershed back in July—but shouldn’t have. No such application had yet been submitted to the town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s or subsequently referred to the City.

What?

Well, the City has the power to decide what developments may or may not happen in the watershed of the Broad Cove River, according to the City of St. John’s Act, which is extremely specific in this instance:

However, the subdivision of land, not mentioned in the Act, is under the authority of the town of PCSP. Turns out, the application council voted on was not about development, just about subdividing the land. So councillors voted unanimously to rescind the vote to, presumably, vote again another day.

A waxing bar in Galway, called Fuzz, gets its parking requirements set at 13 spaces. Bonus points for excellent name choice.

Hot Unvaccinated Singles in Your Area

Cllr Skinner introduces a motion to approve a plan for this year’s George Street Festival for one of two identified weeks in late August or early September. Skinner details the COVID mitigation plan, indicating attendees will be “forced to stay in the section that they’re in, they wouldn’t be able to roam freely. Well, there’s still a bit of roaming that would happen.” 

Which leads one to pause in gratitude for even limited roaming after a year and a half of this damn pandemic.

The decision note casts shade on “single or unvaccinated individuals” (?) for causing outbreaks in other areas and suggests requiring GSF implement the Covid mitigation plan presented. Perhaps the assumption is that by allowing only limited roaming, unvaccinated single hotties will not become vectors of our next pandemic wave. Here’s hoping.

Trending Tenders

The RFP was awarded for the development of a playground in Galway. Cllr Burton noted that the west end is identified as underserved by the Open Space Master Plan and that this is in line with the Plan’s commitment to fewer, larger parks to keep maintenance costs down. Mills and Wright won the bid for just over $223,000.

Nobody seemed too interested in the liturgy of tenders that followed, including one opaquely worded for “unit turnover,” which read, “The purpose of this Limited Call is for renovations required due to severe damages caused by fire and the need for vacancy units in this area.”

To which I again say, what? I presume this is for the City’s housing units. But really, who could be sure?

The City will sell a strip of land behind a home in Dartmouth Place to the property owner, who has it fenced off anyway. Turns out asking for forgiveness rather than permission really does work.

Last on the agenda, the Railway Coastal Museum hasn’t had the uptake post-lockdown that they had hoped for and is therefore asking for 5000 extra dollars for their operating grant. Council agrees.

The Mayor offers props to Karen Chafe, the new City Clerk, assuming the role following the retirement of Elaine Henley. Both Chafe and Henley have worked for decades at City Hall—far outlasting most politicians, working behind the scenes, collecting and collating resident feedback with grace and composure. Council offers a round of applause to welcome Ms. Chafe to her new role.

Wally Collins, We Hardly Knew Ye

Speaking of the endings of eras, Cllr Collins mentions during the go-round that “I’m handing in my iPad,” as he will not be seeking re-election.

Collins has served 16 years on council—the lifespan of an 11th-grader. Despite disagreeing with Cllr Collins on—well, most things, it is evident (and deeply admirable) how utterly razor-focused the man is on the needs of his constituents. This is the councillor who would literally show up and plow you out himself if you called to complain about a road not being cleared. Collins has been the kind of councillor St. John’s wants, if not what it needs: deeply in the weeds, not especially worried about high-level policy matters as long as his constituents get what they want. He would often use his time in the go-round during council meetings to ask about infrastructure improvements—I recall he was particularly pleased with the reflective “cats eyes” on Blackhead Road—or let constituents know he was “looking into” the issues of the day.

Years ago, before my time on council, Cllr Collins was interviewed about some residents being surprised by a bit of road work in their neighbourhood. The reporter asked Collins if he had been aware that the work was about to happen. Without missing a beat, he responded: “D’you know everything what goes on down to that radio station?” This sums up his style perfectly: irreverent, unfiltered, unbothered. It’s not clear who will replace him on council, but it’s no doubt the unpolished Gouligan will be impossible to replicate.

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Hope Jamieson is a municipal correspondent with The Independent, covering city council meetings in the weekly column, So Moved, St. John's. She served as Ward 2 Councillor from 2017 to 2020. Hope works in the affordable housing sector, and is dedicated to poverty reduction, social equity, and inclusion. She lives in St. John's with her partner and their three children.