The new council — unlike the last post-election all-male council — is closer to gender-balanced and filled with new and openly progressive candidates.
There is a new mayor (Danny Breen), a new deputy mayor (Sheilagh O’Leary) and six new councillors. The new faces are Maggie Burton, Deanne Stapleton, Hope Jamieson, Jamie Korab, Ian Froude and Debbie Hanlon (who returns to council after a four-year absence).
Only three incumbents, Wally Collins in the Goulds, and Dave Lane and Sandy Hickman as councillors at large, were able to retain their seats.
The new council is considerably younger — and their election sends a strong message that business as usual is not an acceptable option.
But if there’s one piece of advice the new council should consider, it’s that they should pick their battles and weigh their decisions carefully.
There will be a clear temptation to quickly make the point that there is a new sheriff in town. You could imagine, for example, that a new council might revisit the past council’s decisions on things like moving to demolish the fire-damaged Waterford Manor, if for no other reason than to emphasize a new direction with regard to protecting heritage properties.
While that might be good optics, the new council should have a careful look at the actual state of the property. Some things can be fixed, but others cannot.
Past councils have earned their reputations as being constant cheerleaders for development, sometimes seeming to value new construction above anything else. A council that values sensible growth, instead of all growth, would be a welcome change. It’s a goal that the new council could set its sights on — but we should all keep in mind that it’s certainly not a change that will, or should, happen overnight.
This is a critical time for St. John’s. The costs of running the city rose considerably over the term of the last council; something a healthy economy could help smooth over.
But those heady economic times have gone south, and the higher costs remain.
House prices have dipped, and before too long, assessments will likely do the same.
City budgeting will be tough, and the honeymoon is likely to be a short one.
The new councillors have promised change, and we expect them to deliver on that — in time. Not on the first day or on the second, but at a reasonable pace.
Governance is a four-year marathon, not a sprint.
But here’s to new beginnings, new leadership and new ideas.
It’s certainly something to look forward to.