Tonight’s city council meeting — the first real meeting for this new council* — ended on a surprise motion from Mayor Fougere who rose to have Regina dubbed, “No Fun City,” in response to the pathetic turnout at Friday’s Metric/Stars show.
During the discussion of his motion, there was grumbling among some on council who couldn’t attend the show but all seemed to agree that a Metric/Stars double bill was a generational opportunity for Regina to show the world that our city is “with it.”
An opportunity we sadly let slip away.
“Not since the Rolling Stones have we been so musically blessed,” said Councillor O’Donnell, “I only wish the good citizens of Regina could have torn themselves away from watching Walking Dead on Netflix for a few minutes so they could bask in Miss Emily Haines’ silvery tones.”
Councillor Murray even went so far as to comment, “Before Friday, I would have said, I wish we could welcome The Metrics and Stars into a new, open air, roof-ready stadium. But now — this is just shameful. I’m thinking maybe we should rethink this whole stadium project.”
While being grilled by Councillor Bryce on the feasibility of adding “No Fun City” to all city documents and webpages, deputy city manager, Dorian Wandzura, pointed out that staff are very busy at present and wouldn’t be able to devote many resources to the project. He then wondered aloud if this was really an issue worth obsessing over, saying maybe staff’s time would be better spent finding ways to support local cultural institutions such as the Lingerie Lunch Buffet at the Gaslight Saloon.
Bryce responded by saying, “I think this motion is completely reasonable and to suggest otherwise is outrageous. Look, you’ve just made Councillor Hincks cry.”
Later, I swear I heard city manager, Glen Davies, mutter, “How long do they plan to go on about bloody Metric? The minutes for this meeting are going to read like the fucking Dog Blog.”
The motion was carried eight votes to two.
Welcome to No Fun City.
Of course, none of that happened.
And for the record, I was at home watching Walking Dead on Netflix on Friday night. I regret nothing.
In reality, tonight’s meeting was a pretty quiet, civilized, Metric-free affair. This despite the fact that it began with the return of the stadium issue and of bad-boy delegation, Chad “There Are More Fake Me’s On Twitter Than There Are Fiaccos In Italy” Novak.
Yes, tonight was the night the stadium petition was finally brought to council. Maybe you’ve heard of it? 9,899 signatures from people who believe there ought to be a referendum on whether or not public money should be used to pay for the replacement of Mosaic.
But, according to city bylaws, to force a referendum on a subject, a petition has to contain a number of signatures equal to 10 per cent of the population. That means there would have to be 20,000 on their list.
So this petition fell pretty significantly short.
Still, looking at it another way, you could say the signatures represent 19 per cent of the people who actually voted in the October election. That’s something. Right? **
Council, however, didn’t see it that way. The bulk of their comments suggested that there isn’t an overwhelming uprising against the stadium — the failure of the petition to hit the magic 20,000 number being evidence of that, not to mention the election of the pro-stadium Mayor Fougere‡ and so many incumbents. And, several councillors noted that what they were hearing on the doorsteps while out campaigning was that people in Regina are by and large okay with the stadium plan.
Only Shawn Fraser of Ward 3 expressed a divergent note when he mentioned that his experience while campaigning was different, having heard a lot of discontent over the stadium. He argued that having concerns about the stadium deal is not a fringe position.
He also mused that perhaps the petition threshold needed to force a referendum — that 10 per cent of the city’s entire population — might be too high. Be interesting to see if anything comes of that notion.
Ultimately, though, the question before council was whether or not to do something with the petition and as it didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the bylaw, the decision was to receive and file it.
And with that, the last chance for public engagement with the stadium project has passed for 2012 (I don’t think anything new is supposed to come up at council’s December meeting — but I could be wrong). But something has been nagging at me this whole time and last night it hit me what exactly it is. But the screed that this flash of insight has inspired is pretty long winded and tedious so if you’re getting tired of discussions of the stadium — as the two remaining fake-chad-novaks following council developments on Twitter seem to be — then you should just skip the rest of this post.
Okay… you’ve been warned….
Back at the May 14 council meeting, when an update on the funding situation for the Regina Revitalization Initiative came forward, only Chad Novak showed up to speak against it. In response, Councillor O’Donnell talked about how he hoped that, as further details about the RRI and the stadium deal were known, more people would come out so that council could hear what they think on the subject.
So, all these waves of people who have been coming to express their concerns were invited — explicitly — to come out and have their say.
And council’s response has been to say that they’re listening to the delegations but they will be going forward with the stadium plan regardless. And some on council have done so rather testily. (And by “some” here, I mean primarily one councillor in particular who I’ll leave nameless because he seems pretty testy.)
And if I had to guess I think what might be rubbing some people the wrong way is how uncompromising council has been on this. (One wishes they could have demonstrated this sort of steely resolve on the recycling file.) They say they’re listening to the various delegations but nothing about the process or the deal ever seems to change in response.
Well, except maybe the way the city is “messaging” the public. They’ve definitely stepped up the “we’re doing this for housing” rhetoric ever since this large, vocal opposition to the stadium deal revealed itself.
Maybe — and I’m really just guessing here — some of this anger could be alleviated if council directed staff to conduct some public consultation. You know, go out into the community and compile a list things people want to see in a finished stadium, then bring those to the firms who are entering the design competition. Maybe staff could even find a way to get people directly involved in choosing the winner of that design competition. *** And to make sure this doesn’t jeopardize staff’s project schedule, they could hire a consultant to handle all this. I mean, when you’re taking on a generational debt load, what’s another $20,000 here and there?
Or maybe they could beat the bushes more and finally get some of that once-anticipated private sector investment for their stadium. At the very least, instead of venting their spleen on the delegations that come out to council (and here, again, by “their spleen” I’m referring mainly to the spleen of one councillor in particular) they could save some of their challenging questions and strong language for those private corporations which have so far left the city high and dry in this whole stadium adventure — corporations who are choosing instead to bide their time, waiting for when all is said and done so they can swoop in and for a few million buy the naming rights to the place. Then, in their annual shareholders report, they can say, “Look at us. We have a stadium. That’s our name there. We basically own that. We can go in and throw champagne and capitalism orgies any time we like,” when really it’s you and me who have more on the line where the success or failure of the Sirius Cybernetics Stadium is concerned.
Or maybe I’m wrong and the opposition to the stadium is completely intractable and there is nothing that can be done to mollify them. In that case, the best thing to do is just plow forward and trust that in a few years the opposition will fade away once everyone sees their wicked awesome new roof-ready stadium.
You know, like how things went with the City Square Plaza.
I will say this though… when the results of their housing policy project come back from the consultants in 2013 and we see the conclusions reached through Mayor Fougere’s promised housing summit — and note how where the housing crisis is concerned we’re spending years on research and consultations to make sure we get the solution just right while on the subject of a multi-million dollar stadium we have to move with blinding speed so as not to miss our window of opportunity — once all that work on the housing file is complete, city hall had better come up with a seriously freaking genius, innovative housing strategy — a housing strategy for the generations, as it were — or they aren’t going to do anything to dispel the idea that they’ve got some seriously screwed-up priorities.
And with that I’m done talking about the stadium until 2013. I swear. Even if some big news breaks at some point over the next six weeks, I’m handing it off to G-Beat or J-Brot or Beardo or somebody. I’m through.
Also on the agenda last night was a motion that, among other things, would direct city admin to send a letter to the province saying we do not approve of plans by the Rural Municipality of Sherwood to allow commercial and industrial developments on the edge of the city.
The actual motion that was finally passed by council was a compromise. It said that we’d assent to a proposed commercial development in the eastern part of the city. But as for a proposed tire plant on the western edge of the city — just outside of the planned border of Harbour Landing — council decided that instead of just saying “no” it’d refer this back to city staff for a month to allow time for Mayor Fougere to discuss the issue with the Reeve of the RM, Kevin Eberle. (Who we interviewed not too long ago.)
When speaking to media after the meeting, Fougere indicated that relations between the RM and the City have improved somewhat since the summer when the RM opted to dissolve the joint planning district. He said that he’s confident that with the lines of communication open the two municipalities will be able to reach a conclusion.
He suggested, for instance, that perhaps a better place for this tire plant would be in the vicinity of the Global Transportation Hub, which is an industrial zone and already serviced with appropriate infrastructure.
Now, while this may be good news to all those people who think it’s important for there to be civilized relations between different municipalities, personally, I’m not liking this conciliatory attitude. I mean, this is a tire plant. The only thing I know about tire plants is what I’ve seen on the news when one catches fire. So, if it was me making the decisions, my response to a proposed tire plant would be a rousing “Fuck, no.” Which is why I can never be mayor of anything. The list of Fuck-no’s I’d issue on my first day in office would be as long as my arm.
Anyway, Fougere is planning to meet with Sherwood’s Reeve later this week and we can expect to hear about the resolution of this conflict in the December executive committee meeting.
And that’s it for this week at city hall. You can read all the relevant reports and even watch a video of last night’s meeting on the city’s website.
* And this will be the last time I refer to them as a new council. From here on out, they are expected to perform like veterans.
** 9,899 signatures divided by 51,440 votes cast. Staff’s report, though, points out that they didn’t check to make sure that everyone who signed the petition was an eligible Regina voter. So problems with some signatures might have become apparent after more scrutiny was applied to the list. Plus, the report also mentions that after a cursory check, 1,540 names would be considered invalid because some part of their signature was incomplete. And it also looks like a lot of the signatures were gathered either before or after the petition’s window of opportunity. In other words, there are problems with the petition beyond the 10,101 signature shortfall. I get that. I’m just pointing out that the number of signatures collected is not insignificant. Not that it was necessarily adequate to force a referendum.
‡ The anti-stadium Fougere has a goatee and exists in a parallel quasi-dimension that can only be accessed by slingshotting an H2 counterclockwise around the Hill Towers’ gravity well.
*** For those just joining us, admin have so far said there isn’t time to hold any kind of meaningful public consultation on the stadium. When picking the winner of the design competition, they say “stakeholders” will be involved — where “stakeholders” means city hall, the Riders, the provincial government and Regina Exhibition Association Ltd.