Opponent says formation should not be rushed
Tessier Place in St. John’s was recently the scene of a murder. St. John’s city council voted Tuesday to form a mayor’s advisory committee focused on crime prevention.
— Telegram file photo
Mayor Dennis O’Keefe’s plan to form an advisory committee focused on crime prevention received formal approval from fellow members of St. John’s City Council Tuesday.
“I think it’s a tremendous initiative,” said O’Keefe during a debate that preceded a vote on the motion to form the committee. He then went on to thank those who helped promote the idea of forming such a committee and singled out Jonathan Galgay, a candidate for the Ward 2 council seat in the fall election.
Galgay issued a news release
June 11 advocating for the start of a crime prevention committee.
The committee’s formation comes as several high-profile crimes have made the news, including a drive-by shooting in a St. John’s subdivision, a house fire-bombing, and a murder at a downtown home.
According to a news release issued to coincide with Tuesday’s vote, O’Keefe intends to invite the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Neighbourhood Watch, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Department of Justice, and Eastern Health to have representation on the committee. He also hopes to have representation from residents and other stakeholders.
When news of O’Keefe’s intention to form the committee was made public in a news release issued late Friday afternoon, Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary called the move a form of political opportunism in a post made on her Twitter account.
“(T)he same Mayor who said we could (do) nothing about crime on Tessier (P)lace (and) it was solely the responsibility of RNC. Election time!”
Tuesday, the fellow mayoral candidate for the fall election spoke more diplomatically about the committee, stating that “it is a really great initiative.”
However, O’Leary does not want its formation to be rushed.
“I think it’s imperative that we are very careful about how we structure it, so that it actually does have some power,” said O’Leary.
She also questioned the decision by the mayor to announce his plans to form such a committee without first discussing it with the rest of council.
“I’m not sure what our protocol is, and that’s a question I would certainly like to ask,” she said.
City manager Robert Smart said he would have to defer to the judgment of the city clerk on the matter.
The city clerk was not present at Tuesday’s council meeting, though Smart said if an advisory committee was to be formed, council chambers would be an appropriate place to discuss the issue.
O’Keefe said the process by which the advisory committee was being formed was nothing out of the ordinary.
“This is not a new invention.
“This is a mayor’s advisory committee, just like the mayor’s advisory committee on affordable housing, or the environment, or any other mayor’s advisory committee.
“Once council approval is in place ... our officials will move to put the committee in place.”
Coun. Gerry Colbert suggested a steering committee should be struck to consider how the larger committee should be structured.
Several other councillors voiced their support for Colbert’s recommendation.