Do as he says, not as he does

Brian Jones bjones@thetelegram.com
Published on January 29, 2016
Brian Jones

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.

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 bjones@thetelegram.com.