The Governance and Priorities Committee meeting of Thursday February 16 began at 10am and ended at 6pm. Here’s my take on some of what we covered in those eight hours.

Animal Control Bylaw Amendments occupied the first bit our our time. ‘The deer problem’ as it’s come to be known seemed like the key motivating factor for a recommended bylaw change that would see a $350 fine for feeding deer, squirrels, racoons, feral rabbits, pigeons, crows or gulls. The feeding of ducks (perhaps because this is a tourist activity?) remained legal.

Recognizing the ‘pleasure factor’ of feeding gulls pieces of leftover sandwiches during a picnic at Dallas Rd for example, but also the nuisance that gulls and other birds cause to downtown businesses, I suggested that the feeding of birds be illegal downtown but not otherwise. The whole discussion left me with a sour taste in my mouth because while I understand the importance of wildlife control within city limits, I wonder at the thought of bylaw officers roaming around fining and ticketing people for an age-old pass time of feeding the birds.

An angry voter called me soon after to say how could I be so out of it and did I not know the salt content and bad ingredients in the bread people feed to pigeons and seagulls and that there is enough good food in nature for them to eat. The caller claimed that my stand on this was way ‘off track.’ I appreciate the feedback and input. At the same time, my aim is to make sure that taxpayers dollars are well spent. I think we need a balance between the perhaps necessary policing of citizen interaction with wildlife on one hand, especially in the case of deer, and the best possible allocation of the city’s limited bylaw enforcement personnel.

The Department of Engineering and CUPE 50, respectively, both presented once again to GPC to try and resolve the garbage stalemate. Councillor Gudgeon – previously advocating a compromise – came to the table with one in hand: That Council direct staff and the union to come to a solution that would entail weekly garbage and kitchen scraps collection and sideyard pickup. Sideyard pickup was not included as as an option in any of the choices in the City’s December 2011 survey. Councillor Gudgeon’s motion was replaced with Councillor Alto’s “Option B” motion which includes backyard biweekly kitchen scraps and garbage pickup with a savings to users of $41 per year from the current status quo. The motion passed with Councillors Coleman, Young and the mayor opposed.

The garbage debate revolved around whether we were bound by choosing the top option that survey respondents chose Option C – curbside pick up (48%) – or some combination of Option B – backyard pick up biweekly (35%) – and option A – backyard pickup weekly (13%). Councillors at the table at the time of the survey felt they’d promised to implement whatever survey respondents choose. Councillor Gudgeon pointed out that councillors are elected because of our ability to see shades of grey. We are elected to make complex decisions. In this case, what to do when 48% say they want curbside pick up and 48% say they want backyard pick up. 

And finally, to rail on the Johnson Street Bridge. Councillor Isitt put forward a motion that he and other councillors including myself had helped craft. The motion was, in essence, to ask for a simpler more cost effective, ‘bridge for the future’, that would be built to engineering standards to accommodate rail. The motion was defeated with Councillors Alto, Coleman, Young, Thornton-Joe, Madoff and the Mayor opposing it. Councillors Gudgeon, Isitt and myself voted in favour.

In the interest of keeping the bridge project on time and on budget as it proceeds, I made the following motion, which was also crafted with a number of councillors and which passed unanimously:

Be it resolved that staff present to Council a status report on the Project Charter timeline, indicating the progress of each item on the timeline by March 15th, in a format similar to the Corporate Strategic Plan reports that are given quarterly;

Be it further resolved that staff present to Council information with regard to the ‘Unit Price for Steel’ as outlined in the Project Charter to be completed as of Fall 2011 by March 15th;

Be it further resolved that staff present to Council a total detailed project budget including details regarding the cost of building the bascule portion of the bridge at the March 15th meeting;

Be it further resolved that staff present to Council a risk matrix and risk management plan which takes into consideration the External Dependencies and Assumptions outlined in the Project Charter, specific plans made to manage them, and an assessment of the ‘residual’ risks that can’t be managed away.