Fence protesters shut down city council meeting

Bonnie Belec
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It was hard for people to contain their emotions Monday during debate on the proposal to construct a security fence on the harbourfront at the regular meeting of St. John’s City Council.

Mayor Dennis O’Keefe told spectators in the gallery, most of whom are against the project by the St. John’s Port Authority which is co-funded by the city, to be quiet or they would have to leave.

About an hour after debate on a motion by Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary the mayor had had enough. He called for the commissioner to remove the people from the gallery and adjourned the meeting.

As they were putting on their coats they were yelling “shame, shame,” and making statments about the fate of democracy.

O’Leary made the motion to rescind council’s decision of Sept. 4 to approve a 50 per cent contribution towards the cost to a maximum of $425,000 towards the construction of a new fence on Harbour Drive in partnership with the St. John’s Port Authority, and that city officials have equal input on the final design of the fence. Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff seconded the motion, but it was defeated 7-2.

Organizations: Port Authority

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Recent comments

  • Keith
    December 18, 2012 - 08:38

    This is obviously a hot issue, and I haven't really taken a side (though I lean against it), but in any case I cannot condone the interruption of the democratic process by unelected protesters. For only an hour or two a week council convenes to make the decisions they were elected to make. Protesters have no right to stand up and begin speaking out of turn (especially rejected former mayoral candidates, who were expressly NOT given permission to speak for the citizens). O'Leary is a councillor opposing the fence and she is doing a good job voicing opposition. She does not need, nor is she entitled to, help from the dissenting minority during meetings. They have a popular petition and plenty of media coverage. Shame on them for not letting the citizens, through their representatives, have their say too.

  • David Wilson
    December 18, 2012 - 08:14

    2013 is an electrion year. It is simple. If your opposed to Councils decision, stand-up and vote them out of office.

    • Happily Retired
      December 18, 2012 - 08:57

      Before we start the name calling, can we consider these questions: Was there any due diligence completed before council allocateed $450,000.00 to a fence which Transport Canada says we don't need? Does City Council have a Program which allocates huge sums of money to Corporations which are making sizable profits. If there is, please let everybody know about it. I'm sure that every business in town would love to be able to avail of cost shared grants to improve their properties. Is there a Program which approves funding requests without any criteria or due diligence? Did anybody at Council think to ask Transport Canada for its position before approving such a large sum of money? My main concern with this project is that it seems that Council approved it based on a whim, or a blink of the eye between the mayor and Hanrahan. There seems to have been no due diligence or criteria used. Do you get money from Council because you know the right people, or are funding decisions made based upon proper guidelines? Council has just paid a large sum of money to a profitable corporation for a fence which we have learned is unnecessary. It just does not pass the smell test. Having no authority to stop them is not the same as paying to get it done. If, indeed, the waterfront is not in the municipalities jurisdiction, that is just another reason not to pay for it. Are we now going to start paying for infrastructure in Ottawa? After all, that's FEDERAL PROPERTY

  • Christopher Chafe
    December 18, 2012 - 07:41

    I really wish that the immature brats out there would have enough knowledge to understand that the apron of the waterfront is NOT municipal property. It is FEDERAL PROPERTY, therefore council has NO AUTHORITY to stop them from building the fence.

  • Tom Baird
    December 18, 2012 - 07:03

    One of the reasons people were outraged enough to speak up was that O'Keefe tried to use the Connecticut shooting to justify closing public access to the harbour. If not for that I doubt there would have been much heckling. You can get the full story on what happened that night here: http://www.occupynl.ca/2012/12/council-meeting-fireworks.html

  • Chris Caddigan
    December 17, 2012 - 22:50

    It amazes me how an elected council would vote on something as drastic and permanent as a fence on the waterfront without first reading the proposal and second understanding what they were looking at.Since this council was elected it seems time and time again their decisions have completely went against the people who elected them.I just think that this mayor and these coucillors are obviously inept at running this city.Lousy snowclearing,inadequate roads,no sidewalks half the year,no incentives for senior citizens which make up the majority of citizens in the city,building permits being issued that clearly violates your own bylaws, and on and on.If a company was run the way you people run our city everyone would be out of a job.Mr Mayor,coucillors you don't seem to understand,you work for US the people,if we say no then it's no!

  • A tax payer
    December 17, 2012 - 21:29

    Ok I can understand that if a security fence is needed,well put the thing up but I do not understand why the city of St,John,s is funding half of it.If this fence is needed then why are the Port Auth. Not funding the whole 100 percent.The city could put our tax dollars to better use..Also when I lived downtown some 30 years ago the harbor was pretty busy and the old tubular rail was fine what changed except for the cruise ships,I have a done a few cruises only one this year,I walked right of the ship in St Thomas and right into a flee market.I fear for my life I just wanted to shop.

  • Percy
    December 17, 2012 - 20:56

    I am totally amazed that a few people are allowed to shut down a City Council meeting. It tells me that a handful of people are just trouble makers, and if they don't get their own way, they are like little children. As we grow older, we are also suppose to be wiser. When we become a man or woman, we put aside childish behavior, and, act in a professional manner. You have a handful of people who are against every development that has been proposed, and developed in the downtown core. They think they are guaranteed a view from their present house, or if they buy a house in the downtown area. The City Of St.John's doesn't guarantee views. If that was the case, we wouldn't have any development in the downtown area whatsoever. Can anyone please tell me what you CANNOT see from the sidewalk on Harbour Drive, that you can see inside the fence? Why do you have to walk inside the fence, anyway? Just try doing that in larger cities, and you will find out that it is NOT allowed. We are living in a world today that is far different then yesteryear. There are lots of places to walk and drive in this city without having to drive next to the waters' edge. If an accident happened, then people would be crying out, and saying, why wasn't there more protection. You are damned if you do, and damned if you don't. There is NO way to please some human beings. Some people complain just for the sake of complaining. I call it unjustifiable complaints. Your world is NOT going to end just because the Port Authority is going to erect a new, and much needed fence. It will be 100% better then what is there now. Now, go take a walk in Memory Lane!

    December 17, 2012 - 19:29

    HolyyyyyCow, I never thought I would ever agree with Deputy Mayor Duff and Councillor O'Leary on any issue but with this one , I cetainly do. The citizens of St. John's should not have to pay almost 1/2 a million dollars to put up a fence that is the sole responsibility of the Harbour Authority !! 7 - 2 vote, I can't believe it !! Doc has got his choir singing from the same hymn book!!! I have to pay 3 hundred bucks extra in property tax next year , but the City is going ahead with this give away!!! Only in NFLD !!

  • Joy Hecht
    December 17, 2012 - 18:48

    It was really quite surprising the extent to which the council members refused to understand that this is an issue of access to the waterfront, not the design of a fence. And their uniform (except for Shannie and Sheilagh) bland comments about not being experts on port security, and their consequent willingness to concede all authority to the Port Authority, was just embarrassing. I'm sure these men (yes, all men) consider themselves to be intelligent people with a good understanding of public policy. No, they are not experts on port security - but surely they do understand that this issue involves tradeoff between port security and many other values, and that many different solutions are possible and should be thoroughly evaluated. Surely if they put their presumably-considerable intelligence to it, they could understand the security concerns and need (or possible lack of need) for additional secure space for the offshore activities. This isn't rocket science, folks. Surely if they wanted to, they could recognize that there may be many different ways to meet those needs, if they really exist, and closing public access to the water is not likely to be the only one, And surely they understand that if the city is ready to give the Port Authority four hundred twenty five thousand dollars, that gives us the right to considerable influence over how security concerns are addressed - not just on the design of a fence (which, in case, had already been designed in a way pleasing to the council members before they even agreed to pay for half of it). Why are they so determined to rush through this fence without even considering the possibility that other solutions could provide both the needed secure space on the waterfront AND continued public access to the water? If anyone can explain it, can you please let the rest of us know?

  • the grinch
    December 17, 2012 - 17:30

    DICTATORSHIP seems to be alive and well with st john's city council. the clowns are out in full force, it must be christmas. HUMBUG !

    • Tim Jamison
      December 18, 2012 - 10:35

      I wasn't aware that there was any sort of coup and that all voting has been indefinitely suspended. Are you going to take to the forest now and engage the forces of the new dictators in assymetrical warfare? Or just gripe and use hyperbole?