I write concerning the letter “Columnist missed some salient points,” Oct. 12, from Emir Andrews — a number of clarifications are in order. With regard to the 2005-09 Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s council, that council was declared dysfunctional by the minister of the day.
It was also a divided council with two on one side and five on the other. In fact, one of the two was dismissed for voting on an agenda on which an item pertaining to his business had been removed. Just imagine!
That council, in a motion, approved frontage of 21 metres for one subdivision and also designated a natural vegetation buffer (intended 20 feet) between new subdivisions and older residences. But the council never went the next step and made the necessary regulation amendments to make these applicable to all subdivisions. The buffer was never acted on.
The 2009-13 council was also a divided council, three on one side and four on the other.
The three wrote a letter to the minister with accusations against the mayor and deputy mayor. They attempted to take control of appointments on committees. They pushed to table a letter from a lawyer who was upset that I (while mayor) expressed my concern to him that he had lost two appeal cases of the town on technicalities. I then felt attacked in an article in The Telegram.
I was the one who constantly spoke out on the amount of money paid to lawyers and the fact that the town has no guidelines for hiring or monitoring the work of lawyers. I proposed a set of guidelines in 2011 but they were not adopted. The group of three also maintained I was in conflict of interest with a housing development, although they could not show how I was in violation of the three conditions for conflict of interest.
One of them in an email argued I should vacate my seat for potential conflict of interest — the only problem, potential conflict of interest does not exist.
Interestingly, one of these three has been elected mayor — Telegram columnist Brian Jones should take note, not all of the previous council were turfed out.
In spite of a divided council and all the energy that consumed, there were many accomplishments.
To give residents voice, council set up a town hall meeting after each council meeting where residents could ask questions and make comments. I called three public meetings for residents. Council provided a property tax exemption of 20 per cent to Guaranteed Income Supplement recipients and then again raised it by another five per cent.
There were the swimming area on Neary’s Pond, the Emma Churchill Dawson Seniors’ Memorial Park, West Point Cemetery historical site, planning for the recreational use of St. Philip’s marina, a state-of-the-art recreational complex at Rainbow Gully, the addition of 100 acres of Crown Land to Voisey’s Brook Park for trails and environmental conservation, money provided to extend the East Coast Trail from Bauline to Portugal Cove Harbour, an Our Town: Clean Town committee with resident members, considerable financial support for the Heritage Committee, hiring a fire chief, and considerable financial investment in the volunteer fire department, including engaging back-up service from St. John’s, liaison with the Harbour Authority, and the Legion War Memorial Committee, and there were some good decisions concerning development. Some I raised concerns about or voted against. As liaison to Beachy Cove School Council, I worked hard with that council to get a middle school for the town.
The town has acquired over $5 million in capital funds since 2011 but the reason this money is not spent lay not with council but with Municipal Affairs, where there is a bottleneck in approving client service agreements to allow these projects to go to tender. I understand the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s is not alone in being caught in the Municipal Affairs bottleneck.
Perhaps, the MHA can explain why! While the writer refers to the election campaign signs in 2009, and residents generally knew what group was behind them, she fails to mention an anonymous flyer that was distributed on election day 2013. This was the lowest in politics.
A key factor for voters and non-voters is having accurate information. The town hall and the media have a significant role here. Without that, democracy is limited and choices may be flawed!
William Fagan writes from
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.