10 February 2010

Kiss it all good bye

Anyone hear any comments by the current St. John’s city councillors at how proud they were of the way the city looked in CBC’s Republic of Doyle?

Well, here’s what some of them told reporters, as presented in the Telegram:

“Republic of Doyle," a TV series that aired on CBC last week, received rave reviews from St. John's city councillors Monday.

"I didn't realize what a city I lived in, how beautiful it was," Coun. Gerry Colbert said. "When I look back on when I was a young fellow watching Magnum P. I., I used to say, 'God, I'd love to visit Hawaii, look at the shots of Hawaii, ' but I mean these shots, forget about the acting for a while, the shots that were taken were absolutely incredible."

Colbert said the show has gained popularity on the Internet and can be found on YouTube.

"We couldn't buy, in a million years, what that show gave us in one night," he said.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe agreed that the city wouldn't be able to buy that kind of profile.

Coun. Debbie Hanlon and Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary also praised the show.

"It was fabulous, St. John's certainly looked gorgeous in it," Hanlon said.

"I was delighted," O'Leary said. "It was just fantastic."

Bet your last dollar that every single one of those councillors – except for Sheilagh O’Leary – is already sold on the idea of demolishing the downtown portion of St. John’s that provides much of the backdrop for the show.

You see every single city councillor – save O’Leary and maybe two others – is already on board with a plan by Fortis Properties to smash the existing municipal development plan and stick a 15 story high-rise on prime real estate on the waterfront.

It’s hard to imagine otherwise when you hear the mayor say absolutely asinine things like his line to local businessmen and women at a Rotary club that without development like Fortis is proposing, the city will have to rely on taxes to get its money.  

And if you listen to other councillors, it’s hard to imagine any of them standing in the way either.  There’ll be lots more talk about listening to the other side and about the need for development and progress.

That’s all just code for “I’ve already decided to vote for Fortis”. 

The crew at City Hall and their backers know how to talk out the clock.  They would like nothing better than an endless series of meetings and all sorts of hot air.  At the end, they’ll just vote the way they know right now that they will vote:  with Stan Marshall and his crowd.

Just remember what they did to people over the stadium, right down to the appeals farce.

Once the Fortis gig is done, then someone will file a proposal for the empty lot across Prescott Street from the current Fortis property.  This time they won’t try and conform to the old by-law like they sort-of did last time.  This time they’ll shoot for the stars.

And they’ll get that too.

Not long after there’ll be other plans. Other old buildings will be torn down because they are…well…old.

In place of these icky old things will rise the sort of architecture you see not in New York or Paris but in the true centres of modern civilization and culture.

Places like Mississauga or maybe Burlington.

Now this is not a lost cause by any stretch.  St. John’s city councillors are notoriously a pretty weak-kneed bunch. That’s why a few guys with imaginations as limited as their pockets are deep can win them over so easily.

But it’s going to take way more than a conversation or two in order to stop this proposal in its tracks.

Public meetings and letter writing won’t work much on them either. 

If people really don’t want to see the downtown turned into a carbon copy of a million other eyesores on the planet then they have to make it clear to each councillor that there is a huge political and maybe even a social or business price to be paid for what they are going to do. 

You see that’s the sort of stuff that is helping persuade them to vote with Fortis.  They are siding with their peeps.

So if you want them to shift positions, then sticking with their pals has to become painful.

Opponents of the plan need to consider some frank talk, some plain language.

Otherwise, kiss the whole of the downtown good bye and say hello to a cheap imitation of Scarborough.