St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe took direct aim Monday evening at the head of the Grand Concourse Authority (GCA), calling his remarks “abominable” and demanding his resignation.
Addison Bown told CBC earlier Monday that the city’s cuts to the authority’s funding are “a stab in the back” to founder Paul Johnson.
“If he weren’t cremated, I’d say he’s turning over in his grave.”
Grand Concourse says it’s in jeopardy due to city funding cuts
O’Keefe said Bown’s “abominable” remarks have no place in public discourse, and that the discussions of funding changes have been ongoing for the past two years.
“All and sundry were quite aware of the fact that this change would take place on Jan. 1, 2016. That’s been known by Mr. Bown and others for two years, so it should have been no surprise,” he said, adding that Bown’s remarks about Johnson — who O’Keefe called “probably the most generous benefactor” the city has ever had — were particularly reprehensible.
“To say that it was like ‘a stab in the back’ to Mr. Johnson, and, worse again, worse again, to say that if Mr. Johnson had not been cremated, he would roll over in his grave — remarks like that have, aside from being abominable, they have no place in discussing policy,” he said. “They are totally out of line, totally reprehensible, totally abominable, and I have to say that Mr. Bown should do the honourable thing. He should resign his position as executive authority of the Grand Concourse Authority, or the board of directors of the Grand Concourse Authority should remove him from that position.”
Reached at home Monday evening, Bown said he has no intention of stepping down unless the board asks him to.
“If they were to put to a vote whether I should step down or he step down, I’m sure that he would get the most votes, with what’s been happening down at the city in the last few months,” he said.
Bown also said it isn’t true he and others with the authority knew cuts were coming in the most recent city budget.
“I don’t want to step down because there are 30-plus employees up there who are depending on me to make sure that things are run the way they should be, and I think I’ve got a lot of respect from my employees, and I respect that and I’m staying and doing the best that I can.”
David Johnson, son of authority founder Paul Johnson, issued a statement Monday that said he is “shocked and dismayed that the city has decided to let our hard-won trail system fall into decay,” and urged the city to reconsider.
“Cancelling the funding for the Grand Concourse is not just St. John’s failing to honour the contract with the GCA, it is also failing to honour its own citizens.”
City council stuck to its guns Monday night on cuts to the authority’s grant. O’Keefe said the city is still providing $550,000 for maintenance of trails within the city but has cut about $439,000 from the authority’s usual funding.
“That will take away from the Grand Concourse Authority the maintenance of the trail system in Pippy Park, which is a provincial responsibility,” said O’Keefe. “It will remove from the Grand Concourse Authority the care of monuments in the city, which will now be maintained under public tender, and it will remove from the Grand Concourse Authority the landscaping around city buildings, and that will be done in-house.”
Maintenance of city trails under winter conditions is currently under review by the city’s department of public works, said the mayor, and the city will begin maintaining them itself.