To hear some veteran St. John’s councillors speak last week, you’d think they’d been stabbed in the heart.
“I’ll give you a fight on that,” Mayor Dennis O’Keefe snorted, when newbie councillor Jonathan Galgay rose during the weekly meeting and suggested the old council may have made a poor decision.
One by one, O’Keefe went around the chamber, allowing other incumbents to take similar offence.
“I resent the intimation that the previous council made a mistake,” said Coun. Tom Hann.
O’Keefe prevented Galgay from uttering a single other word until all who so desired had castigated him.
He had talked to residents of Quidi Vidi
Village and discovered several were plagued with illegal parking by patrons of the new restaurant at Mallard Cottage. The previous council had exempted the business from requirements to provide sufficient spaces.
O’Keefe even questioned whether Galgay had his facts right. Maybe it was just one or two troublemakers. Who knows? Galgay apparently hadn’t talked to city staff, or to restaurant co-owner Todd Perrin.
Well, it turns out there was a problem. And it came to light this week, when about 50 people, including Perrin, attended the public meeting.
One by one, Quidi Vidi residents described frequent struggles keeping restaurant patrons out of their driveways. Rude comments and gestures have been exchanged and police have been called. It wasn’t some made-up controversy after all.
There’s another side to this story.
The previous council was eager to facilitate the conversion of Mallard Cottage. It’s a treasured heritage building, and Perrin’s vision of a restaurant gave it renewed life and was worth supporting. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that.
Perrin was asked by a couple of people at this week’s meeting to apologize. He refused, and he had every reason to. He was given the all-clear for his establishment and had no reason to think anything was amiss. And, he says, no one had ever brought the parking problem to his attention.
But the previous council was wrong to
cavalierly kick the can down the road when
such parking woes were inevitable.
It’s true Galgay may have jumped the gun to criticize council first — even if his assessment was right. O’Keefe lectured him like a headmaster at the time: “If there is an issue revolving around parking, what we need to do first is find out, one, if there is a serious issue; two, if there is, how extensive is it; and three, once we know that, then we can deal with it sensibly and properly.”
But the umbrage-taking in the chambers last week was just a little rich. Heaven forbid anyone question the wisdom of previous councils.
After all, nothing’s ever gone wrong in this city, has it?