Do as he says, not as he does

Brian Jones
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Anyone who subscribes to the cliché that irony is dead need only observe the goings on at St. John’s City Hall to realize the error of that once-popular motif.

Brian Jones

It was disproven yet again this week when Mayor Dennis O’Keefe called upon someone else to resign.

Not only that, but His Worship declared the fellow “should do the honourable thing.”

It was like a one-two combo in a standup routine, with a setup and punch line that made you wonder whether Mark Critch is moonlighting as a city hall speechwriter.

Ironically, the words “O’Keefe” and “resign” are fairly prominent these days in public discourse, online and otherwise. If you Google “resign O’Keefe,” you get 212,000 results. Granted, there are other O’Keefes in the world whom people are urging to resign, but the point stands.

The No. 1 reason cited for the St. John’s O’Keefe to resign is the city’s recent 2016 budget and its horrendous, indefensible, outrageous tax grab that may yet prompt a dazed citizenry to arise from their slumber.

O’Keefe and his tax-grabbing gang around the semi-round table at city hall don’t recognize the folly of their grabbiness.

The extent of their gall can be gauged from the fact that residents and businessmen (and businesswomen) alike are equally enraged. Usually, one group or the other might be a mite miffed about an issue, but when both are angry at the same time, it’s a sign something significant is afoot.

City hall’s tacky tax grab garners corpulent cash from residents and businesses. Homeowners in St. John’s will see their municipal taxes increase an average of 11.7 per cent, while business operators will pay an average of 21.2 per cent more in taxes.

The mind reels … first, at the audacity of a city council that would raise taxes by such amounts when it is obvious the economy is headed into a substantial recession, and, second, at the likelihood city hall will get away with it and go unpunished due to St. John’s residents’ legendary docility.

Ironically — there’s that word again — city taxpayers’ best hope for deliverance lies with the business crowd. Councillors can ignore the concerns and troubles of the docile electorate and still get re-elected, but manhandling men with money is a more dangerous deed.


Trails turmoil

But back to doing the honourable thing, in O’Keefe’s estimation.

The mayor was referring to Grand Concourse Authority (GCA) director Addison Bown’s comment about GCA founder Paul Johnson and city hall’s funding cuts to the trails organization.

“If he weren’t cremated, I’d say he’s turning over in his grave,” Bown told media Monday.

O’Keefe was reportedly aghast, and called Bown’s comments “totally reprehensible, totally abominable.”

He forgot colourful, descriptive, justified and probably accurate.

Bown was referring to the $439,000 city hall has cut from its funding to the GCA.

Ironically — that concept keeps popping up — the amount cut from the GCA’s funding is fairly close to the amount city hall spent on a fence to keep the citizenry away from the city’s harbourfront. The city’s portion of that bill came in at $425,000, which makes a mockery of council’s claim to be astute and responsible re the budget.

(Refresher: the fence was ostensibly about safety; too dangerous for residents to wander the wharf; but perfectly OK for cruise ship passengers to do so.)

Some of the GCA’s former duties will be contracted out. Private business will do a better job for a lesser cost, according to the mayor, who, despite lamenting the burdensome cost of the public sector and championing the superiority of the private sector, nevertheless spent a career teaching in publicly supported schools and collects a pension from the public trough, in addition to his taxpayer-supported salary as mayor.

Irony. You just can’t escape it these days.


Brian Jones is a copyeditor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Grand Concourse Authority, Google, The Telegram

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Recent comments

  • Christopher
    January 30, 2016 - 12:20

    I don't only blame the mayor for the mess this city is in, I blame residents as well (well some of them). Like it or not we can not survive in the 21st Century while having 18th century mentality. We need to have a long hard and frank discussion on what must be done to attract more industries to our city which would in turn bring more tax paying people to our city, or we can simply sit on our collective backsides and do nothing but whine about tax increases. At the end of the day St. John's needs to realize that the tourists alone will not keep this city afloat.

  • james
    January 30, 2016 - 11:12

    Seniors get more in newfoundland than any other province

  • Brian Francis
    January 29, 2016 - 19:54

    DOK also says if the Grand Concourse can maintain the trails for $550,000 last year then why can't they do it this year. Well the same goes for you DOK. If you can run the city for this much money last year then why can't you do it this year. Do the honourable thing DOK - resign...

  • Glenn Stockley
    January 29, 2016 - 19:26

    totally lacking in courage though..not gonna see anything ballsy in the SMellogram...

  • Glenn Stockley
    January 29, 2016 - 19:00

    best writing i've seen on the Telegram in ages....blessing and respect :)

  • Ian
    January 29, 2016 - 13:56

    Andy Wells.....not looking too bad now huh. His problem was his tongue sometimes got off its leash but he always voted in the citizens best interest and never backtracked on a decision even when receiving heat. Part of the problem here is lack of thoughtful decision making . We know that there will be things we disagree with but the general consensus seems to be a lack of leadership...especially from the top.

  • Get a clue
    January 29, 2016 - 13:48

    Redgrave, maybe seniors where you come from are well off and bored, and can afford to be world travellers, but our seniors are occupied with trying to make ends meet on small pensions and small fixed incomes.

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 29, 2016 - 13:00

    Have you ever taken a trip to France, or England? I have, many times, and from simple observation--every park, walway, and drystone walls that cover the countryside are maintained to perfection. A great portion of the work is done by elderly volunteers. This is something we can't get away with in Canada due to the 'bogus' threat of "liability" claims on our cities and their by laws. Nevertheless, I'm sure there would be a lineup of retired persons willing to jump on a lawn mower, or take a weed trimmer in hand to help keep the parks as beautiful as they are intended to be. It would offer a sense of self worth to the thousands of men and women who have retired--some far too early, and early enough to create boredom. A way to fill the void as in Europe, and the UK. All the men I saw working the London UK parks looked to be well into their seventies. I'm sure they were not paid to be doing the job. And if they were, it would be a meager amount, like, free beer tickets at the local pub, or a firm handshake from the community centre, or local Legion.

    • Jenny
      January 30, 2016 - 23:35

      How about the young healthy people collecting welfare 'volunteer', it's the least, and I do mean very least, they could do to make themselves feel better about the free handouts and who knows, it may lead to learning a new skill and perhaps networking to, I don't know, getting an actual job. Our seniors have done their time, they've earned this time for themselves, leave them alone.

  • Samuel J.
    January 29, 2016 - 12:55

    When Sean Penn interviewed the elusive El Chapo, real journalists were quick to lament his failure to challenge the evil drug lord's self-serving diatribe. The art of the follow-up question, as CNN put it, seemed lost on the delusional Penn who thought he had magically morphed from celebrated actor to seasoned journalist. And while they are worlds apart, I couldn't help think of Penn's performance when I watched interviews with Mayor O'Keefe on both CBC and NTV. It was after the mayor’s outburst - his indignant demand that Bown resign. An added warning to the Grand Concourse was that the City might have to review its relationship with the charity altogether. The implication was plain - either his masters throw Bown under a city bus, or Council might turn the screws on the Authority some more. It was immediately clear public sentiment wasn't with O'keefe but with the Grand Concourse. In their evening newscasts, the CBC and NTV gave O'Keefe free rein to explain why, in his mind at least, the Authority shouldn't have been upset and why they should have seen this coming. O'Keefe said his piece - this time absent any reference to Bown resigning. I waited patiently for the obvious follow-up. ‘Do you still stand by your insistence, Mayor, that Bown should resign?’ ‘What do you say, Mayor, to Bown’s many defenders on social media who characterize your comments as intemperate and suggest that if anyone should resign - it should be you?" But to my surprise, there was no follow-up. The media had been Trumped and it reflects badly on them. It exemplifies the growing, inexplicable tendency of local reporters to pull back when conducting interviews on contentious issues. Brian Jones' commentary doesn't lessen or explain that shortcoming (he's a columnist, not a reporter) but it does a great job of capturing the public’s anger at City Hall. And it underscores the disdain for politicians, like O'Keefe, who deflect attention from their own deficiencies by attacking others. Good show!

    • steve
      January 30, 2016 - 04:59

      Well said Samuel and well written Brian. It boggles the mind to think we are allowing this robbery to continue. The city has 5 or 6 employees to the tune of 600,000.00 in its communications dept when any 14 yr old with a i phone could do it from their bedroom, its so stupid its sad.And 1200 employees on a payroll for 65 to 70 000 residents.Absurd. And 20 percent pay increases this day and age is unheard of. PLease Doc go on a long cruise for 20 or so yrs so we can try and stop the bleeding.But I digress its the provinces fault.

  • Bob Hallett
    January 29, 2016 - 11:55

    The Mayor gets away with this hypocritical nonsense because Council allows it. Although the media, residents and business have united against this budget, Councillors Breen, Ellsworth, Tilley, Hann, and Collins have not said one word in public about it. Hickman, Lane and Puddester voted against it, but otherwise have done nothing in public to fight against it. Our only hope is Municipal Affairs, and given the state of the Provincial government, there is not much hope there. The whole works are completely useless.

    • Paul
      January 29, 2016 - 13:24

      They don't say a word because many politicians have figured out the best way to get re-elected is follow the line, keep quiet, don't stand out, promise little or nothing and do the same. I mean, look at the last provincial election. The liberals didn't really say anything with any value and people bought it. It's the same with municipal politics. Asking questions will almost always get the 'political' answer because they don't want to be 'held' to it come election time. It's all about job security and who can blame them. It's how the system is designed.

    • observer
      January 29, 2016 - 22:08

      Your only hope is Municipal Affairs? No. Hope rests with the people themselves when they vote the whole lot of them out in the next election. None of them deserves to be re-elected, least of all the absentee mayor. My guess is he has no plans to run again anyway if his current indifference to the job and total lack of leadership is any indication. Keep up the pressure...good on you, Bob.

  • Frank
    January 29, 2016 - 11:21

    All residents should only submit the same taxes as last year and let these idiots sue us all for the egregious increases that they arbitrarily saddled us with. It almost seem like they are trying to force people out of their homes. Shameful..

    • Frank Holden
      January 30, 2016 - 18:03

      Very good idea, Frank. Just what I'm thinking of doing. Us franciscans will have to lead the way.

  • Kenda
    January 29, 2016 - 11:05

    Ahh, typical Liberal ways, Gut, cut and tax the living crap out of everything to pay for their fat cat arrogant ways. Nothing new here, move along.

    • Ummm
      January 29, 2016 - 12:17

      Municipal politics is not partisan.

  • muggins
    January 29, 2016 - 10:40

    Looking at this from the outside, Dok is certainly no leader. I expect he wouldn't be able to lead his way out of a wet paper bag....with a pair of scissors! When I look at that harbour fence I wonder why there is not one in other jurisdictions like Halifax or Barrie Ont. When I see the taxpayers subsidizing a multimillionaire with his hockey team, or when I see the taxpayers footing the bill for a pumping station to a private subdivision, I scratch my head & wonder how can Council get away with this & why do they do it? Then it dawned on me...they do it because they can.

  • Jayne
    January 29, 2016 - 10:16

    Great article....keep the heat on. O'Keefe also offered a veiled threat to the GCA, when he said the City will review all aspects of their funding.....this was after his tirade of being aghast at Mr. Bown's comments. You can't put honourable and Council in the same sentence.....they should all resign.

  • Errol
    January 29, 2016 - 08:44

    Well said Brian! There truly is something wrong with the St. John's citizenry...who continually accept things from council that are egregious, and plainly stupid. The incompetence abounds. We need to pour cash every year into a stadium that can't support itself. On top of that, we have these fools making back room deals to support William's for-profit hockey business. Yes, and the famous Harbour fence for cruise ship 'security'. What hogwash...only in St. John's would a docile bunch of sheep fail to rise up and demand these hypocritical incompetents resign. They are just like the Spaniards bay crowd...totally incompetent, and a complete embarrassment to any thinking person. Resignation is too good for O'Keefe. Tar and feathers more appropriate! Resign you leech, resign!

    January 29, 2016 - 07:22

    O'Keefe should resign and join the provincial PC's they are both of the same mindset, spend spend , spend, we can always milk the gravy train, us the taxpayers.

    • John Smith
      January 29, 2016 - 08:08

      Actually, it was the PCs, under Mr. Williams that successfully brought down our tax rate over their first two budgets until it was the lowest in Atlantic Canada, Mr. Williams government also removed the 2% from the HST, and removed the provincial portion of tax from home heating..... The reason why the PCs spent is because the needs and wants were so incredibly high....and the province still needs a Waterford, a CB hospital, a prison a courthouse and on and on and on....but don't worry Jerome....we will soon all learn about the Liberals and what they will do to take money from people's wallets to fix the downturn in the economy...after all ...that's what they do...Right?

    • Jim A.
      January 29, 2016 - 09:21

      Well good on Williams for lowering the tax rate to the lowest in Atlantic Canada. Now we don't have any money! See how that works?

    • Paul
      January 29, 2016 - 13:12

      Jim A.....There's money. Problem is too much of it is spent on non-essential services and even the essential should be pared back. The city needs to 'live within it's means'. That means reducing the public service to a manageable level and using only the most essential services. It's poor times and most households know that in those times you need budgets with good fiscal management and cut back where you can. Yes, taxes are necessary. However, it needs proper management.

    • Jerome
      January 29, 2016 - 19:48

      John Smith , yes, Williams did some good, but with the oil windfall he should have paid down the provincial debt, so we wouldn't have had to pay those yearly debt servicing charges, but he increased the civil service by 20% , creating an artificial housing boom. Should I talk about Muskrat Falls, the legacy that will doom us all. I could see the price of oil falling as soon as I heard about fracking , with the price of natural gas falling like a stone, I knew there would be no market for our electricity other than ourselves, and John don't mention what we are giving Nova Scotia for the next 35 yrs

  • steve
    January 29, 2016 - 06:10

    Keep writing about this legal theft Brian, thats about the size of it anyway and lets see if the rate payers don,t rise up and send these jokers packing next time round. And demand the rates be rolled back to reflect reality not The MILE ONE club down at city hall. Next meeting the citizens should block the chamber wall to wall with bodies and demand these incompetant fools get out. Especially the mayor .ABD Anyone but Doc.

  • Anna
    January 29, 2016 - 04:43

    So well said, sir! Bravo!