City council questionnaire 2010

As part of the process to decide our grades for the city council report card, we got council members to fill out questionnaires asking them how they thought they did this year, what they thought the biggest issues were, and where their priorities for the future lay.

Illustrations by Elling Lien.
Questionnaire by Andrew Harvey, Sarah Smellie and Elling Lien.

What you see below is unedited.

 

Dennis O’Keefe

Mayor

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
I would leave that to the judgement of the residents of St. John’s.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
Top three in no particular order:
– Fiscal and budgetary responsibility/development
– Affordable housing and housing affordability
– Infrastructure maintenance and renewal

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
To re-tender the Recycling Facility operation. It saved taxpayers about $ 750,000 annually for the life of the contract.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
Reviewing the Municipal Plan is very important. It is our opportunity to realistically plan for and meet development pressures the city will face in the next five or more years. It is equally important that this plan be in line with the provincial Regional Plan.

City funding for the arts
The City has always been and should continue to be a great supporter of arts and culture. Such support is an investment in the in the city and its future as a vibrant Canadian capital city.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
We should continue to cooperate with each other and share services. That will lead us to the inevitable……….. unification of the metro area taking in St. John’s, Mt.Pearl and the urban part of Paradise.

Decorum in council
Council after all is a political chamber and sparks will fly from time to time in heated debate. However, all should be within the rules of procedure and decorum.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Different magazines from time to time from municipal issues to religion to family magazines.

 

Shannie Duff

Deputy Mayor

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
This has been a very busy and exciting year. It has been challenging at times but think I have performed well.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
The three top priorities for the city are .
1. To ensure that we have the fiscal capacity going into the future to address the infrastructure needs as well as our core programs and services.
2. To manage the changes that are inevitable in the immediate future so that our rush to
prosperity does not overshadow the social needs of our citizens and destroy the special qualities that make St. John’s a unique, beautiful and liveable place to live and work.
3.To operate a transparent and accountable government and to promote good communications
and initiatives that will give our citizens the information they need to make informed decisions and support meaningful citizen engagement.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
A review of the City’s Municipal Plan is overdue and urgent. I do not agree that waiting for the completion of the North East Avalon Plan was necessary. Our present plan is a good document but very few people are familiar with the underlying policies in this plan. Our biggest problem is the process of constant amendments has made it somewhat meaningless. We need to review it, and either affirm the present planning policy directions, or change them and adopt a new vision for the city. We need, more than ever before to have clear planning direction for the future and to bring some consistency and stability to the process.

And speaking of process, it is as important as the product. I hope a Municipal Review will include really meaningful citizen engagement in developing our collective vision for the future of our City. Hopefully we will get a start on this in 2011

City funding for the arts
I have always supported Municipal Finding for the Arts. The arts are a very important component of our quality of life and contribute greatly to our ability to attract and retain new businesses and workers. We focus our support on local community benefits and consider our participation as an investment in an important local industry.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
This region is so interdependent form both an economic and a servicing point of view that
cooperation is essential. Most of the essential services already have a regional component and regional committees so regional cooperation is well underway.

Decorum in council
It certainly has improved but it may never be perfect because common sense and common
courtesy can ‘t be legislated.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
Lot’s of them. I like cities that are liveable, beautiful and interesting. I likethem to have a human scale and good amenities, When cities are good custodians of their natural and heritage assets it is an added plus for me. I spent some time this summer in the Scandinavian Capitals and all these cities fit the bill for me but there are many others I like as well.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
The Newfoundland Quarterly,
This Week,
The Economist,
The Atlantic Magazine.
Heritage Canada Magazine.

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
If I were Mayor, I would probably support much the same issues that I do as Deputy Mayor. I
would on building consensus within Council on key issues as a Mayor does not have any executive ability to act independent of Council.

 

Danny Breen

Ward One

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
I feel my first year on Council has been a very good one. My goal coming in was to represent my constituents to the best of my ability, be responsive and to learn about the inner workings of the City. I feel I have been responsive to the needs of my constituents and I have consulted with them in issues that directly impacted them. I have attended practically all Standing Committee Meetings and sit on several regional boards as well as the board of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment. The only true rating of my performance will occur in the next election so I will leave that to the residents of Ward 1 to decide.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
The City’s three main priorities for me are taxation, infrastructure and regionalization of services. Residents are concerned over taxation levels, particularly seniors. The city has a major infrastructure deficit that needs to be addressed. I believe there are many advantages to regionalizing services with neighboring municipalities that need to be explored.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
I pay a great detail of attention to all Council votes. Although not all directly impact the residents of Ward 1 or may not be high profile issues, each vote affects someone and it’s my responsibility that I understand the issues around each vote so that it is given the attention it deserves. As for one vote that was most important, I would say my vote against the 2010 budget, as it affected everyone in the city.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
We will begin the process of reviewing our Municipal Plan this year. For me, communications is the most important part of this process. We need to ensure that we have a communication plan in place that encourages input from the public. This has to go beyond the usual public meeting and letter writing approach. We have to use mediums that people want to express their opinion, whether it be social networking tools, storefront or kiosks, etc. I will be planning several initiatives in Ward 1 to encourage and facilitate input.

City funding for the arts
The City has contributed significantly to the Arts over the years. We have to ensure that taxes are kept as low as possible while addressing our infrastructure needs, municipal services and support for Community groups, such as the Arts. Our challenge will be finding a way to find the necessary balance amongst these needs.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
I think further regionalization of services on the Northeast Avalon is in the tax payers best interest. I am a supporter of amalgamation.

Decorum in council
I don’t have any issues with the decorum, or lack thereof, in Council meetings.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
My other favourite city is Fredericton, New Brunswick. It’s a smaller city, very beautiful and pays a lot of attention to family centered activities.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Unfortunately, outside of professional journals, I don’t get much chance now to read magazines. I used to read Sports Illustrated and Newsweek but not so much in the past year. I usually do have a book to read. I recently finished Bill Rowe’s book about Danny Williams War with Ottawa, and now I am reading Rick Hilliers book, A Soldier First.

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
If I was Mayor I would ensure the lowest possible taxation levels through effective fiscal management coupled with responsible growth and development.

 

Frank Galgay

Ward Two

This is my 4th term having been elected in 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009. It has always been the most contested ward in the city.

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
I would rate my performance as VERY GOOD.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
1.Provide public services such as: water, recycling-garbage collection, fire protection services, sidewalk and street construction and repairs, street and sidewalk snow clearing, and a clean city.
2. Provide parks and recreation and cultural activities.
3. Provide parking and traffic control in general in the city but more specifically in the downtown which is a challenge.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
My most important vote was for the passing of the City of St. John’s Budget.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
The biggest issue will be balancing the pressures coming from increased development because of the spin offs from offshore oil and gas revenues and the need to retain our distinctive heritage character. There has to be a balance somewhere between these two forces.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
I believe the Municipal Plan should be reviewed. I voted to do so. Council has agreed to place a budgetary amount for consideration and discussion in the present budget discussions for 2011.

City funding for the arts
There is a need to support the arts. The city does fund individuals and groups. In the past it has given capital support to the Resource Center For The Arts and the Anna Templeton Building but to name a few.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
There is ongoing cooperation between towns and cities with regular meetings. We presently have regional cooperation on water, fire services, sewage treatment plant, transportation and Robin Hood Bay.

Decorum in council
I am pleased with the decorum demonstrated with the present council.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
Yes, Quebec City

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Yes
Canada’s History
Newfoundland Quarterly
Newfoundland and Labrador Studies
The Downhome

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
I would bring my own style and personality on the office.

 

Bruce Tilley

Ward Three

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
I have worked extremely hard for my constituents, however, my constituents are the judges.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
To bring development to St. John’s that will enhance the tax base and will provide no tax increases to constituents and the general public at large; to initiate programs that will provide citizens less fortunate with affordable housing; to have an effective Municipal and Regional plan completed that will provide the vision and the structure for the future of St. John’s.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
No tax increase.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?

2011 Budget

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
This should be done in accordance with the Regional plan.

City funding for the arts
should be based on needs through the grants program with a complete financial statement.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
Everyone work together for the common good.

Decorum in council
Decorum should always maintain decorum and we should always have the opportunity to express individual opinions. I thought the past year we worked well together.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
There is no other.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Canadian Business, MacLeans.

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
enhance opportunities for job creation through development and reducing taxes for seniors.

 

Debbie Hanlon

Ward Four

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
Well, my mother thinks I’m doing an absolutely amazing job, and me, I’m one of those people who tries to do their best at everything they do

What are/should be the city’s top 3 priorities?
#1: the Strategic Economic Roadmap which will be guiding our economy for the next 10 years. Without this in place our city simply will not be ready for the success that’s coming. Let’s face it, if you don’t have a map it’s hard to tell where you’re going and, just as importantly, remember where you came from.

#2: fostering culture, tourism and the arts. This goes hand in hand with the Strategic Economic Roadmap. As our city experiences an influx of companies and people, we have to stay grounded. We can’t forget what makes this place so special and that’s its people and their unique talents. After all, it’s no good to be financially rich and culturally and artistically poor.

#3: controlled, conscientious development. This applies to the downtown area where we can’t sell our past to buy our future, but it also applies just as importantly to affordable housing. Through controlled development we can raise revenues and use part of those revenues to tackle the growing problem of affordable housing for people who need it.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
My vote against the proposed Fortis development which, for me, was a vote for preserving the historical qualities of our downtown core.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
The biggest issue will be, without doubt, increased pressure for development to provide class A space downtown. Right now our city has no class A space available and that’s what companies coming here expect and demand. How we handle that pressure and control the development so it doesn’t completely change the face of our city is a challenge all of council has to work on together.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
Before moving ahead with the Municipal Plan, we first need to finalize the Regional Plan. That’s just the order things have to proceed in, you don’t buy a couch until you know what colour the walls are going to be. So the first step is regional and that will certainly help shape parts of the Municipal Plan.

City funding for the arts
I have always been a strong advocate for city funding for the arts.I would like to see the funding continued and even increased but in more defined atmosphere. I’ve personally given to the LSPU Hall for years now and from owning and running Jesperson Publishing I’m very aware of the need for that funding. In fact I think that along with city funding we should start exploring other avenues such as the companies that have set up shop here. Why not lobby them to put money into an arts pool? I’m sure they’d be agreeable seeing how it fits their good corporate citizen mandate. One last point is the use of the money, I believe a portion needs to be allocated for management of the artistic community. We have people who can produce amazing works but seem to be lacking in the
next level of that which is marketing it and getting it out there.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
The North-East Avalon is going to continue to grow, it’s in migration to the city, not oil, that is the main driving economic force . So basically there’s going to be a lot more of us sharing the same space so cooperation is a must. That begins with talking and our council needs to meet regularly with the other councils and discuss issues, both mutual and different and start working together for the good of the entire area.

Decorum in council
didn’t think there was any. Just kidding. Any time you get a diverse group of people in the same room and add cameras and
microphones it’s going to turn into a bit of a reality TV show. That means at times, grand standing, soap box singing and talking to simply be heard talking. It’s a tough problem to fix because there are so many personalities involved and I feel the best thing all of us can do is be aware of our job as a council, not as individual councillors needing votes and all that.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favorite city?
Oui! Next to St. John’s, my favorite city in Canada is Montreal, it’s got a similar street vibe to here. In the world I’d have to say Paris and New York are pretty even but every city has got things in it that make it unique and worth seeing.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
The only magazine I subscribe to at the moment is The New Yorker. It’s an amazing collection of writings on a really wide range of topics. Where else could you find a piece on the history of knife making next to an insider’s view of the political situation in Afghanistan? One thing I read in it really helped shape my political philosophy; one writer observed that there are two types of politicians: those who want to be something and those who want to do something. I’ve always tried to be the second type,

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
..go down in history as the Mayor with the best shoe collection. Seriously though, I would do what I’m doing now as Ward 4 councillor and that is do the best I can every day. It would be a different title but with the same work ethic, preparation and
professionalism I bring to my role as councillor

 


Wally Collins

Ward Five
Councillor Collins did not respond to our questionnaire.

 

Sheilagh O’Leary

At Large

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
Excellent! I have worked extremely hard and tackled many of the issues I said I would including working towards a pesticide ban, supporting recycling in the City, tackling the garbage situation in the City, advocating responsible development (no to Fortis’ proposal and Murphy’s Lane sub-division on Signal Hill) yes to MANY other appropriate developments, and basically being one on one responsive to constituents.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
Review of Municipal Plan (overdue by 3 years)
Recycling/waste management
Affordable Housing

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
It’s a tie….
To vote to instate a curbside recycling program for the City of St. John’s and to vote against the Fortis Tower development proposal.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
Development all over the City, especially in the downtown, heritage core.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
Absolutely necessary and long overdue. There is a pressing need to review the City’s plan in lieu of the economic boom that St. John’s economy is experiencing and the increase in development issues all over the City.

City funding for the arts
With the support of the Arts Advisory Committee, VANL and ACI, I have requested an increase in grants to artists from $1 to $2 per capita in the 2011 budget. I AM an artist and I strongly support an increased investment in our vibrant and economically beneficial cultural community.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
Communities working together is a must, as we share water and waste disposal services, roads and other resource. The City’s infrastructure benefits many communities outside the City limits and all must work together to create an equal opportunity to benefit as well as a responsibility to share in its cost.

Decorum in council
Despite differing opinions, respect is an absolute essential. Council has to work together in an optimal fashion in order to make real improvements in our City.

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
In Canada…. it’s Montreal.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Aperture, National Geographic

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
My 3 priorities: Review of municipal plan, recycling/waste management, affordable housing.
Hire more city enforcement for litter and property upkeep violations.
Lobby the provincial government for the necessary legislation to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides in the City.
Ongoing replacement of aging infrastructure.
Strengthen the legislation around heritage guidelines.

 

Sandy Hickman

At Large

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
Consistent with past performance – less flash, more dash! i’m not one to enunciate the obvious; I give credit to the public for their interest and understanding of issues and will speak out when it is important that I make my position clear and when i feel i need to push for a certain resolution to an issue. i prefer to do my work at committee level and one-on-onel.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
– financial control – curtail spending where possible but continue to fund the important services the city provides as well as those provided by third parties.
– the environment – the city (and region) has moved light years recently in this area and will continue to do so as curbside recycling gets underway.
– infrastructure – it has become more and more obvious that the City is unable to sustain it’s own growth in infrastructure needs. we have the oldest infrastructure in the province and need to be developing more as the City grows. we need increased support from the provincial and federal governments to have any chance of catching up.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
– to initiate the curb-side recycling program. This will bring us up to par with most of the world but with the advantage of modern technology and best practices learned from other cities.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
– finances and infrastructure – these will always be the two biggest issues, in my opinion; but,at the same time, we must continue to enhance all public services somehow.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
Should have been done 5 years after the previous review. we also should have undertaken a seperate study,in the interim, of the downtown because of it’s transitional state and the pressure on development.

City funding for the arts
City funding for the arts – must be enhanced. I am leading study into the infrstructure needs of the arts in the city and this has to be addressed very soon.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon – a given. thisa must. but I firmly believe that Paradise and mt. pearl should be subsumed by St. John’s, mostly, but smaller portions by CBS and portugal cove-St. phillips

Decorum in council
Decorum in council – feel it is important that all councillors have respect for the people of the city and the office they hold

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
Outside of NL – Montreal, although I dearly miss the Expos!

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
Macleans

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
If I were Mayor, I would encourage council to co-operate as a team and work towards solutions for our pressing financial problems. We have been elected to make tough decisions and we have such in front of us right now.

 

Gerry Colbert

At Large

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
Difficult to rate your own performance. I guess the only rating that counts is the one from the voter.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
Provision of core services- water, sewer, garbage, snowclearing etc
Prudent financial management – watch the nickels and dimes… the dollars will look out for themselves.
Safe, family oriented city …. recreation, arts, open spaces etc

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
Reducing the mill rate after the civic assessments were done … perhaps could have been a little lower but services would have been affected

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY!!!! We are going to continually face tough years ahead in light of water and infrastructure requirements.

PLEASE STATE YOUR OPINIONS/MUSINGS ON THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPAL ISSUES:

Reviewing the Municipal Plan
We should have started our own municipal plan regardless of the larger Regional Plan. Some municipalities have already started theirs. When you think about a Regional Plan aren’t we REALLY talking about St. John’s? We are the Regional Plan! It’s becoming the Regional PAIN.

City funding for the arts
We presently fund the arts at a reasonable level considering our other pressing needs. Yes, we may be able to do a little more but someting else will have to be sacrificed or taxes go up.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
I believe we have reasonable cooperation, but notwithstanding that, there really should be one super city, one council.

Decorum in council
We have very good council deorum. One might even say its “Sleepy Hallow”! YAWN!

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
Montreal, and Tofino.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
No

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
If I were Mayor I’d take all the councillors to dinner every three months…. on my nickel.

 

Tom Hann

At Large

How would you rate your performance during the past year on council?
I have performed to the best of my ability and fel I have been effective.

What are/should be the city’s top three priorities?
three top priorities, control spending and invest more in the core services required by taxpayers. Review of the Municiple Plan with input from ALL interest groups and citizens. A move toward more regional services and more regional co operation.

What was the most important vote you made this past year?
All my votes are important and I think them through before making my decision, given the information provided.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the city will face in the coming year?
The biggest issue is the budget. We are facing a deficit with increased demands for services, increased costs. How to avoid a tax increase while maintaining services.

City funding for the arts
My position is that the Arts are imposrtant to the life of the city as it defines who we are, and it is also an important economic generator so it’s important that the city, along with the province, and the federal government invest in the arts. The question always is at what level can the city afford with all the other pressures placed upon it. The city needs to take a closer look at how we spend out budget to ensure that the funding is spent to the best advantage of the arts community.

Cooperation between towns and cities in the North-East Avalon
As stated, regional co operation is of the utmost importance, especially in the North East Avalon where there is strong growth. We should investigate where there can be more regional co operation, just as we agree on the regional fire dept, regional water supply etc. there are many more regional issues we can be discussing which would ultimately ensure additonal financial efficiencies. Amalgamation in some form is inevitable eventually.

Decorum in council
It has become quieter in the chamber but the old games continue. The protocol has been reviewed and that Mayor is enforcing the rules

Other than St. John’s, do you have a favourite city?
Other than St. JOhn’s I have two favourite cities, Venice and old Montreal.

Do you subscribe to any magazines? If so, which ones?
My reading habits are wide and varied, especially in news and public affairs, while Macleans and Time are important, newspapers and electronic media are my main sources of information.

If I were Mayor, I would _________.
At this point in time I am not looking at becoming Mayor, but things can change.

 

Click here to read our city council report card for 2010.

6 comments

  1. Jordan · January 10, 2011

    What was the most important vote you made this past year?

    Debbie Hanlon said: My vote against the proposed Fortis development which, for me, was a vote for preserving the historical qualities of our downtown core.

    When was there a vote for this development? Fortis withdrew it before it went before council so how exactly did she vote against it?

  2. Jordan · January 10, 2011

    O’Leary said the same thing. When was this voted on?

  3. Dave Lane · January 10, 2011

    Good point. There wasn’t a vote on this; it never made it to Council.

  4. Andrew E · January 10, 2011

    The council sure loves Quebec cities ;)

  5. JD · January 10, 2011

    When these jokers start behaving like responsible politicians who can manage St. John’s like a real city then amalgamation will happen. I guess that’s a long way off…..

Comments are closed.