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City Council, February 23

Mayor gets his way over role of proposed Green Plan Committee
No statue of Philip Simmons in Cannon Park

Marc Knapp

It was a long meeting. Two items took up most of the time - the Green Plan and a petition for a memorial statue of Philip Simmons. The Mayor was resolute in his defense of the Green Plan but turned cartwheels to avoid offending any the petitioners. Pity, their cause was lost and the length of time spent on discussion was a waste.

Not surprisingly, there was a large turnout to hear the discussion on the Green Plan. Fire marshals were limiting access to City Hall and at one time there were 20 people or so waiting outside the building to be allowed in. There was no public hearing and the only time for comment was in Citizens’ Participation. However, by that time, the Green Plan has been discussed and dealt with. Most folk had left and only 2 attendees spoke of the Plan, both critical.

Some boos and laughter
How many came to oppose or support the plan is conjectural. But there clearly was a large number still opposed when jeers, boos and laughter followed on the Mayor’s comment about the need to address the problem of global warming.

As he did when he introduced the Plan in December, the Mayor waxed enthusiastically about it and the people of the Green Committee. He also noted that he and others had listened to the concerns of citizens and Council members, and the Green Committee had made a number of amendments to the Plan. He again emphatically stated that the Green Plan was just that – a Plan. It was a guide to shaping future ordinances. But no ordinance could be created without the approval of City Council.

Agrees to create an ad hoc Sustainability Committee…
In a letter to Council members he said that Council member Blake Hallman “had suggested that I create an “ad hoc Sustainability Committee to work with City staff and the community to create and consider such ordinances and recommend them to full Council for consideration”. He said he was agreeable to this suggestion.

This was not enough for Council members Alexander and White. They wanted to go further and the ad hoc committee to be informed of any initiative of the staff and the administration that fell under the recommendations of the Green Plan. Both Council members spoke of the benefits of a green plan but still were concerned about many of the objectives of the Plan before them.

…… but not with the powers sought by some Council members
The Mayor would have none of this. He claimed that agreeing to this request would undermine his authority and ability to manage the City. He spoke of efforts to achieve energy savings, something that would under his normal responsibilities but which also is included in the Green Plan.

Council member Gregorie supported the Mayor as did Council member Gallant and Lewis. But interestingly, Council members Gregorie, White and Alexander were the only members to seriously discuss the issue. And as he is wont to do, the Mayor pushed his cause at every opportunity which was generally after each Council member spoke.

“Semantics”?
The Mayor commented that maybe the differences between what he felt appropriate and what Council members Alexander and White proposed were “semantics”. There was a suggestion that the consideration of the Green Plan be deferred to allow suitable language be drawn up that would embrace both the Mayors and the Council members concerns. But thius was nit approved

The final vote was interesting with 8 Council members voting for and 5 against the final proposal – to adopt the original suggestion of Council member Hallman and supported by the Mayor. The dissenting members were Wilson, White, Alexander, Mallard, and Reigal. The Mayor may have got his way but as a frequent attendee of Council meetings observed, Council is no longer seems his rubber stamp.

We have some sympathy for the Mayor’s position but would generally side with Council member Alexander. We don’t feel comfortable in giving the Mayor free rein in pursuing Green Plan initiatives. Some language we feel sure could have been crafted to satisfy the Mayor and all Council members.

To see the Green Plan on the City web site Press here

Philip Simmons would not want a statue!
It was late into the proceedings and after2 hours, the chair seats were getting harder. The petitioners for a statue of ironsmith Philip Simmons at Cannon Park were confronting a worn Council with still a lot of business to complete. Could they make the presentation brief? No, it was in Power point and would take 20 minutes. She could not shorten it!

So she duly proceeded with a wide ranging and mostly irrelevant presentation. After some further comments, a spokesperson for the Philip Simmons Foundation rose to speak. It was long and covered the accomplishments of Philip Simmons but also contained the statement that Philip Simmons did not want a statue of himself anywhere. He wanted his works to be his memorial. Shock and dismay of the petitioners!

It was not City Council’s business
Council member Seekings who has some knowledge of these matters, stated that if the Foundation did not want a statue, that was it. It was no business of the City. End of statement - but not the end of the discussion. We had a lengthy description of the workings of the Philip Simmons museum and the lengthy apology and explanation by the Mayor as to why it was none of the City’s business.

And then the rest of the business of Council was quickly dispensed with. Council members and others departed with shaking heads.

We ask why so much time was spent on the Philip Simmons statue. We applaud the works of Philip Simmons and the Foundation. But there was no necessity for last night’s presentation, or at least its length. Council members do not have unlimited endurance. Too often it happens that when meetings are long, the items at the end of the agenda are barely considered and are voted on with little or no discussion. It should not be so.

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