This Week At City Hall: Screw It, Let’s Talk About Metric Some More

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.

This Week at City HallTonight’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.

[deeeeeep breath]

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.

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FOOTNOTES
* 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.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

13 thoughts on “This Week At City Hall: Screw It, Let’s Talk About Metric Some More”

  1. Thanks, Paul. In re: the proposed tire plant,I once lived across a narrow field, a road, and another narrow field from a tire plant for nearly 9 years, without any problems of noise, smell (and we were downwind) or fire.

    With all due respect to Dawn Thomas and her supporters, they bear a good deal of responsibility for their petition’s failure. They drafted a petition statement that had to be withdrawn and redrafted several weeks into their campaign, to clear up confusion as to their intentions. That necessitated starting all over again to gather signatures, and they were under a deadline. From start to finish, the petitioners were not unanimous in their purpose: some were still dead set against a new stadium under any circumstances, and this undercut the credibility of the new petition statement. Dawn Thomas’s decision to run for City Council, while good for publicity purposes, also served to divert to her campaign some of the energy that should have been put into gathering signatures. Finally, there just weren’t enough people working long or hard enough to get the job done.

    If you compare this petition campaign with the Friends of the Library petition years ago, to reverse branch-closure decisions made by the RPL Board, you’ll see that the Friends had a clear and consistent intention from the get-go, expressed on the petition itself and in their pitch to potential supporters; they established their priorities, and stuck to them; they gained credible supporters; and they worked hard every day, in every weather, early and late. One of the leading organizers lost 30 lbs in the course of the campaign, but the outcome was a halt to the proposed branch closures. No, the required number of signatures to force a referendum is not too low; people just have to be willing to work hard and singlemindedly towards their goal.

  2. Okay. I’ll concede that maybe the threat of fire isn’t the best reason to say no to a tire plant. But I can’t imagine they’re terribly attractive things to look at.

    And I think the best argument against putting the plant where the RM has proposed is the infrastructure one. There are better places to put an industrial site — near the GTH as Fougere indicated or in the north industrial lands as Colin Stewart, a delegation, suggested. Putting it in the middle of nowhere in the west just seems messy to me. And, once you have the infrastructure out to there, you will have set the precedent that this can become another industrial park. And that may not fit with the city’s growth plans.

  3. I forget the exact number, but after last night’s meeting, Jim Elliot mentioned that the FRPL gathered over 26,000 names on their petition. Pretty frickin’ astounding.

    Maybe the stadium petition suffered from disorganization. But I’m not sure it was a total failure.

    It seemed to provide a focus for media and kept their attention on the dissenting voices. And it gave a solid pretext to hold press conferences. Also, I think it may have helped keep the energies of the stadium skeptics focused. Would there have been so many delegations going before council for such a sustained period of time if they weren’t all engaged in a collaborative project in between meetings?

    I wasn’t here for the library debate so have only heard about the council turnouts during those times. But since this petition really got going, there have been delegation lists ranging between like five and 14 turning out to speak against the stadium. In my experience with Regina’s city hall, that’s unprecedented.

    Even at the height of the condo conversion controversy you maybe had one meeting with a turnout comparable to what we’ve seen here.

    And I think it’s worth noting that in the absence of an actual public consultation process — something city hall has said they just don’t have time for — we’re going to have to settle for delegations going before council and stating their beefs.

  4. Oh, another advantage of the petition process was that all these people who had issues with the stadium went out into the community and listened to what other people had to say on the subject.

    So, many of the delegations that came out last night weren’t simply restating their own list of grievances. They were saying, “I’ve gone out and talked to hundreds of people around Regina and here’s what they had to say.”

    That was a subtlety that seemed to be lost on some testier elements on council.

  5. Oh shit. I’ve just been tricked into writing about the stadium again, haven’t I?

    Okay. NOW I’m through!

  6. Oh, I agree that the RM’s proposal isn’t the best idea they’ve ever had, and yes, even a well-kept tire plant isn’t a thing of beauty. There’s nothing wrong with delaying a flat “no” so that discussions can take place; however, if the RM persists, at least the city can say to the province “we tried to be reasonable”.

    On the topic of RMs, in its recent Throne Speech, the Manitoba government laid out its plan to require RMs with fewer than 1000 residents to amalgamate with others. Of nearly 200 RMs in MB, 92 don’t meet that population level. The RMs have a year to work out voluntary mergers; if they don’t or won’t, the province will step in. Food for thought.

  7. @5: Actually, we were discussing the petition.
    OK, last word: the goal of the petition was to force a referendum. It fell short, and cannot be counted as a success. Delegations are fine, and the raising of consciousness is good, but in the end, the petition itself should have been the priority, because it would have gotten something done.

  8. People shouldn’t overlook Metric 2007’s re-release, Grow Up and Blow Away. It’s more pop & trip-hoppy Metric. I like it.

  9. Just a quick note here about the petition while it’s fresh on my mind, the reason it had to be rewritten and started over, Barb, was because the original petition was based off what limited information was publicly available at the time. Intentionally, or not, there was brand new information released, conveniently, in mid-July, after the deadline of June 30 to put it on October’s ballot.

    I will admit I was not pleased with the wording of the original petition, but the purpose it served was still the same as the new one. Simply to get a public say on the project. They’ve spent months, if not years, on the OCP, transit studies, etc. etc., why can’t they take an extra year or so to actually consult with the public on the stadium project that can literally bankrupt the City?? Not much to ask, if you ask me.

    There is more I want to say on this subject, but I have to run off. Check out my blog entry on novak2012.blogspot.com for more of my thoughts on this process. I will post more later.

  10. Two thoughts about other mechanisms that might get some input into this question or bring people out. Prince Albert’s Council has a regular once a month meeting where anyone can come forward and speak their 5 minutes to City Council, no prior registration or text required and there may be opportunities that come from this to get concerns expressed or questioned. Not sure whether this is a Saturday or not but probably should be. Not sure whether there has been solutions found for anything or issues addressed.

    The second option that Council might consider is what President Obama does. He has a petition the government website (www.petition.whitehouse.org). Anyone can start a petition to request action by their government. It does have a lower threshold. There must be 150 signatures within the 1st 30 days to stay on the website and 25,000 within the 1st 30 days to get a response from the White House. It is not binding besides that. Those only happen every four years.

  11. So any public petition is: 10% of the population of the CoR, or 10% of the CoR’s eligible voters?

    If 30-40% of Regina is too young to vote… where can the “rule” be applied as relevant ?

    Stats Canada stats anymore anyone?

  12. Do you think the Fouge “King of Turd Island” might have found that it might not be wise to piss of your neighbour RM of S “Little house on the prairie ” for future expansion of the toilet bowl might be difficult?

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