20 Questions: St. John's City Coun. Dave Lane

Andrew Robinson
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Dave Lane was at St. John’s city hall on election night in September, waiting alongside his campaign manager for the results to come in for the councillor at large race.
That wait lasted two hours, as it took longer than expected for the final results to be compiled.

“I didn’t really start to get fidgety until about an hour and a half in,” laughed Lane, seated in his office on the fourth floor of city hall.

He remembers taking a ride home in a taxi after learning he garnered the third most votes amongst 13 candidates, making him one of the four elected councillors at large in St. John’s.

“First of all, on the way I think it was (Telegram reporter) Daniel MacEachern interviewed me on the phone in the cab, and the cabbie was going on about how horrible everything was in the city.”

No doubt, Lane can expect to hear from many residents over the next four years on any number of issues relevant to council.

But given his background as the founding chairman of Happy City St. John’s and a development partner for local marketing firm DC Design, talking with people is not something he shies away from.

Getting elected shocked Lane initially, though he did feel going into the election that there was a chance he could make it.

“I felt confident. In a way, I had been working at it for so long through the work with Happy City.”

Happy City St. John’s was formed as a volunteer organization to help engage the public on civic issues by organizing forums and facilitating online discussions.

He is pleased to see the city has been giving more attention in recent years to engaging the public on matters before council.

“I’m really honoured actually that I can be coming on board just as that’s happening and then help to guide that, given my experience.”


Twitter: @TeleAndrew

What is your full name?

David Edward Lane.

Where and when were you born?

I was born July 1982, in St. John’s.

What’s your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is actually in my bedroom, and mom is hanging up one of my shirts ... it’s on a hanger that has a picture of a tiger. The reason I think that remains my earliest memory is because at some point I realized that was my earliest memory, and decided I wanted to keep it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished rereading a book called “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman. What it is is a geopolitical view of the future. This guy does a lot of geopolitical analysis of current events — what’s happening in the world, be it the Middle East, Asia, or America — and given his view of how geography affects history, he thinks he can make general predictions about the next 100 years. I love that stuff.

What’s your favourite place in St. John’s?

There’s so many. I would have to say it’s Masonic Terrace, cause I live very close to it and I often walk through there on the way to work or the gym. The nice thing about it is it’s this little hidden place. All the neighbours take a lot of pride in it. It gives you a chance to see Signal Hill, to see trees, to hear birds, to interact with a few kids that live in the area, and basically just have that one 60-second moment of peace in your day. I think the city has a bunch of them, especially downtown.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during your first few weeks on council?

I’ve learned that we have such a long history of not really having a strong economy. Now that we have a strong economy, we have a lot of leverage as a city, especially with regards to people who are looking to develop or invest in the city. What I’ve learned due to that is we don’t really know what to ask for in return as we’re deciding whether to go ahead. One of the things I’m actually focusing on when I interact with my fellow councillors is helping to define what our values are. What is it we want to achieve? Because we can start asking for it now. We just need to know how. That’s where public engagement comes in big time, because we can just say to the community, ‘What’s of value?’ The nice thing is, we’ve already come up with a set of nine principles through our municipal plan. Those exist today, and they’re on our website. I think that if we look at those, we can make some pretty good decisions and negotiate better with developers and businesses as we decide how we’re going to build our city.

What’s your favourite website?

I read Atlantic Cities everyday (www.theatlanticcities.com). That’s The Atlantic magazine. ... There’s all kinds of articles about how cities are managing their daily jobs. How do you deal with congestion? How do you improve walkability? How do you deal with housing affordability? These are problems that are being dealt with all over the world. You’ll actually see in my Twitter feed, that’s where I get a lot of the articles I’ll share with people, just to generate discussion. It’s great writing, it’s international, and there’s a lot of excellent ideas we can look to as a city.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I’m a pretty good whistler. I’m a very good whistler, actually (laughs).

What’s your favourite meal?

My girlfriend cooks a really good salmon dinner. It has goat cheese and I think soy sauce on top of a bed of spinach, raspberries and red onions.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Location is always changing, because I always learn of a new, cool city. I was recently in Chicago and loved that, but I was only there for one day. I think I would like to go to Hong Kong, because it’s a huge city with a very rich and crazy history, but it’s also — in the photos I’ve seen — got great architecture and a lot of trees. It’s got a beautiful cityscape.

Name one thing you’d like to see happen as a council member in the next four years.

I would really like to see a meaningful improvement to public transit. So what I mean is, I think I’d like to see us switch our focus away from the fact that ‘no one rides the bus’ to ‘let’s enable and encourage people to use the bus.’ That means more frequent routes and more convenient stops. I think it’s going to take the four years to really see meaningful change, because it is a cultural change both inside and outside of city hall. But we’re ready. It also involves some logistical, interdepartmental work.

Who inspires you?

There’s two people that really inspire me the most. One is Barack Obama. I think that he is a very hardworking, persistent, well-rounded politician who can inspire people and also bring people together. I look to him to really guide how I do some of my political things. The other person who really inspires me is my grandmother (Alice Ricketts). She’s 96 years old (in December). She is very active, very kind, always happy, has a great set of habits that I think have led her to live so long, and that includes eating well, walking whenever possible, making new friends all the time, always learning new things, and just being a loving person. She inspires me to adopt some of those habits.

What music are you listening to these days?

I listen to Songza a lot, the iPhone app. It curates music. It gives you a set of moods or activities you might be on right now, and it just provides options for that type of music. So if I’m at the gym working out, I’ll choose something that’s for working out, and if I’m working I might choose something that’s more for helping you focus. The thing is, I have a very long arts background mostly in music (Note: Lane was the original drummer for Hey Rosetta!), but I don’t collect music, and I’m very poor at remembering names of bands or musicians. So having a curated radio is very helpful, because I love music, but I need to leave it to others to tell me what to listen to.

If you could travel through time, where would you go?

I think that I would go to the turn of the century, from 1899 to 1900, and live my life during that span. I feel that they were in a similar state of rapid change (in St. John’s) as we are now, and there’s so many things that we absolutely take for granted that weren’t even conceived of back then. ... I think, too, I’d want to come back to (the present), because I absolutely love the time I’m living in, but I think that would give me some perspective to the challenges we face now, and the lack of challenges we face.

We really have a good life now, and you can say even people who are struggling to get by often have access to certain things that are much higher in quality of life than back then. When I look to a society 120 years ago, there are no social safety nets ... and I think that a lot of disease, mental illness and (psychological issues) were just completely misunderstood. ... I think that our society, though often misguided, treats people better today than it did 100 years ago.

What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t really treasure material possessions too much, but I do feel a bit of anxiety when I don’t have my smartphone on me. I would have to say I’ve begun to rely on it a bit too much.

What do you think is St. John’s biggest strength?

We have a lot of strengths, so to pick one is difficult. I honestly would say our history. ... We emerged as a very early colony on a new land, and there’s still signs of that today. We were a port, which means we have a very diverse history. A lot of different people from all over the world were coming here, and that influenced how we grew. Also, when you look at the design of our city, the way it emerged as human scale and vibrant, a lot of urban planners consider that to be good urban design. Finally, I think we have such a rich culture. My second strength would be the arts, because that is a representation of our culture, and that is what’s going to help us persevere through the challenges and also attract people to live and work here, which is going to be very important to sustain our economy.

Where is your favourite place to visit in Newfoundland and Labrador outside St. John’s?

I think going to New Perlican. I like that because mom and dad have a little tiny — we’ll call it a cabin, but it’s really a house with no amenities. It’s just a chance to get away, and my cellphone doesn’t work out there. Beautiful people, beautiful scenery, and it’s very peaceful.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

Be patient. That’s kind of my motto now, because it means patience with yourself, patience with others, and just patience with reality, because you might want all kinds of things to happen. You think there’s a lot of things that can change, but it takes time, and if you’re not patient you start becoming cynical or frustrated and angry. I’m not great at it and I’m always working at it. It’s good just to remember to chill.

What’s your favourite Christmas memory?

We still do it today, but when I was young my family would all come together at my aunt’s house .... even people who didn’t live in St. John’s would come in. I just remember it being really warm, loud, funny and fun. It’s something I always looked forward to. We still do it, just in a different way now. I’ll come and go as I please.

Outside of council, who would you say is St. John’s greatest ambassador?

Honestly, I think Bruce Templeton is a really good ambassador for St. John’s. He does so much work with Santa Claus for so many kids around the world. He’s also a great business advocate to have. Large companies have headquarters here, and I think that helps sustain an economy and also encourages investment in our community. Whenever I meet him, he’s always positive and upbeat and standing up for what he believes in, which is a vibrant, happy community.

Organizations: Happy City

Geographic location: Middle East, Asia, America Signal Hill Chicago Hong Kong Newfoundland and Labrador New Perlican

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    December 09, 2013 - 07:41

    I like this guy. He's intelligent, well-read, wants to know the best way of doing things, wants to find ways to make St. John's the best it can be. This is vision stuff. We need more Councilors to start reading about the best, new ways of doing things, instead of just mouthing off. An well-informed opinion is valuable. An opinion based on ideology, whether pro-development or anti-development, is harmful to the city.