10 things that happened at city council

No movement on accessible transit, Halifax chases rainbow and Cornwallis terms of reference announced. Plus where in the world is Matt Whitman?

10 things that happened at city council
A full action summary of Tuesday's meeting available here


Steve Craig is fed up with the lack of accessible transportation options in HRM. It’s been three years since the Lower Sackville councillor tried to expand the city’s door-to-door paratransit service, and now he’ll have to wait at least a few more months for an outside consultant’s strategic review of Access-a-Bus service.

“I’m disappointed in myself because I wasn’t able to get an action here to come to council to help people who absolutely need some help,” Craig said.

Aside from that review, council approved a staff report Tuesday intending to expand Access-a-Bus to full-day service and explore providing transit for those individuals travelling in support of registered users. The city also requested a staff report on options for some kind of service delivery contract with the city’s taxi operators to ensure accessible services are available 24-hours a day.

Currently, that's far from the case. Deputy mayor Craig told a story of recently coming across a resident in a wheelchair waiting for an accessible taxi outside of Wal-Mart. Their cab had broken down, and there were no other accessible taxis available in the city. Craig said he stayed with the young woman until the original car was fixed and arrived to pick her up.

“She should not have been in that position.”

click to enlarge 10 things that happened at city council
Deputy mayor Steve Craig at council.

Wheelchair accessible cabs tend to break down faster and are more expensive to fuel. But councillor Stephen Adams said there are other reasons they're often not available. According to the councillor, the majority of HRM’s 25 accessible taxi drivers are purposefully ignoring fares in wheelchairs.

“I would say, most definitely, that 15 of them have never had a wheelchair in their vehicle,” Adams said, suggesting those drivers only applied for the license in order to skip the long waitlist for a conventional taxi license. Craig later told The Coast that the licenses of those delinquent drivers should be revoked.

“If that was the premise under which you got your license, you damn well should be able to do that job,” he said. “And if you’re not doing that job, out you go.”

Rainbow crosswalks are here to stay in HRM. The municipality started painting the rainbow crosswalks two years ago for Halifax Pride, and now the colourful paint projects have been approved as a permanent part of the city’s public works budget at four predetermined intersections: Gottingen at Cornwallis; Spring Garden at South Park; Alderney at Ochterloney; and Spring Garden at Queen.

Councillors weren’t happy with the design of the road art, however. Several other cities paint their rainbows in a variety of patterns to fill the entire crosswalk, as opposed to the short blocks of six colours—no love for indigo—that HRM currently smears mid-way through the intersection.

click to enlarge 10 things that happened at city council

Staff weren’t opposed to going over new rainbow designs but noted the current format was chosen to reduce slippage and save money. The motion was ultimately amended to ask for a staff report exploring other options for safe paint applications and design guidelines.

The annual maintenance cost for the rainbows will be $20,000. Any additional rainbows on HRM streets will need to be funded by external sources before they’re approved by city hall.

St. Paul’s Church, down at the other end of Grand Parade, needs city hall’s help to repair its perimeter stone wall and cast-iron fencing. Several sections of the wall—which dates back to 1843—have crumbled and are in a poor state of repair. According to council’s staff report, there’s fear the support wall retaining Argyle Street’s sidewalk could soon fail. 

“Failure of the wall or the failure of an agreement to restore the wall would require HRM to support the sidewalk on Argyle Street with an elaborate and expensive concrete retaining wall in the right of way parallel to the existing stone wall.”

Council approved $500,000 for in-kind financial assistance towards the reconstruction work, on the condition that half the money comes from the federal government and the church enters into a heritage agreement with HRM. Under said agreement, St. Paul’s will expand public access to its gardens and not demolish or alter its property without council’s consent. The church will also offer HRM right of first refusal in the event the property is ever sold.

The municipality is gearing up for a Regional Mountain Bike Strategy. Councillor Tony Mancini requested a staff report Tuesday asking HRM to develop a strategy “similar to that of Western Australia and British Columbia.” That will include potentially establishing a mountain bike advisory committee, and identify strategic mountain bike trails and infrastructure. The goal, according to Mancini, will be to promote HRM as a “world-class destination” for mountain bike ecotourism. “People travel across North America to go mountain biking,” the Harbourview–Burnside–Dartmouth East councillor said.

Council will look at creating a pollution control study for Lake Banook and Lake Micmac. Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin called for the staff report after the Birch Cove Beach at Lake Banook closed this past summer for a record 33 days—half of the total swimming season. The number of closures has been trending up over the last several years, but it's unknown what’s causing all the bacteria growth. Though councillor Tim Outhit had one explanation.

“The phosphate levels in lakes go up because of fertilizer, because of septic field, because of development,” Outhit said. “A lot of pollution, it doesn’t just fall from the sky. It comes from development.”

Missing all the talk about cycling and rainbows was Matt Whitman. The Hammonds Plains–St. Margaret’s councillor is once again away from City Hall visiting Yinchuan, China for the Smart City InFocus conference. Last year, Whitman missed out on council’s Blue Mountain–Birch Cove Lakes wilderness park vote to attend the same three-day conference, which brings delegates in from all over the world to discuss topics such as “unleashing local data economies.”

10 things that happened at city council
The councillor's new profile pic (in case you're blocked)

A petition from eight organization was submitted to council Tuesday requesting the city reconsider its motion from June of last year to require side guards on all “contracted service provider vehicles over 4,500 kilograms on contracts awarded after April 1, 2017.” Cry me a river, tweets Ben Wedge.

Richard Zurawski will get a staff report looking at renaming the Lakeside Industrial Park, and Lakeside Park Drive, to the Beechville Industrial Park, and Beechville Park Drive, respectively. The councillor said the industrial park already exists closer to the longstanding Black community than to Lakeside, and it “behoves us to recognize the historic place Beechville.”

Lindell Smith, on behalf of Waye Mason, gave notice that at the next meeting of city council he’ll be requesting a staff report on the feasibility and options of placing the dates of the “Afghanistan conflict” on the Cenotaph in Grand Parade, “including the potential to allow space for additional dates should circumstances require it in the future.” Ominous! Canada’s combat role in the Afghanistan War officially lasted from 2001 to 2011, though forces remained in the country to continue training local personnel until 2014.

At council’s next meeting on October 4, Shawn Cleary will introduce terms of reference for the special advisory committee tasked with reviewing HRM’s commemoration of Edward Cornwallis. A deadline for that committee to report back to council could be included in the terms of reference—which so far haven’t been released—but however quickly the group presents its recommendations likely won’t be fast enough for protestors and community members, who back in July demanded the statue of Edward Cornwallis in the city’s south end be removed in time for Mi’kmaq History Month.

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