The year in review: talking to readers about Halifax’s newsmakers, untold stories and biggest developments.
Year-in-review columns are typically easier than this. Usually, there are one or two big stories, dramatic changes, either for better or worse, with clear causes and effects.
But it’s been a funny sort of year in Halifax. At the start of 2012, much of the buzz was around the changes that were expected: spin-offs from the shipbuilding contract, the planned new convention centre and the municipal election. The election of Mayor Mike Savage and the “new” Halifax Council (comprised mostly of incumbents, with only three new Councillors) is actually a pretty good microcosm for the kind of year it was in Halifax: great fanfare followed by lukewarm, hard-to-interpret results.
There is no evidence to suggest Savage will be a bad Mayor, or that the new Council will behave like the old one. And it still seems likely that work on the convention centre will begin…eventually. And the Canadian Navy still needs new ships—the provincial government’s aggressive PR campaign around the shipbuilding contract set expectations unrealistically high, but the ships will still come, along with the much anticipated spin-offs. I’m a cheerful sort by nature, so I choose to look at 2012 as a year for cautious optimism.
Recently, I took to social media for an informal conversation with readers about how they saw the year. Like me, you find a lot to be hopeful about in this city, offset by a lot of things that make you grind your teeth.
On the election
While the election of Mike Savage as Mayor surprised no one (except maybe whoever was doing Tom Martin’s polling), the election of 13 incumbents to Council drew puzzled disappointment. “A sad result,” reader Keith says on our blog. “Peninsula Halifax has two left-wing anti-development types, while some of the worst councillors from last time get re-elected: Dalrymple, Nicoll, Hendsbee, Walker. Add to that a slick backroom type as our new Mayor and we are in for four more years of despair.”
As is usually the case in Halifax politics, that debate quickly turned to development. “Halifax is not anti-development,” responded reader Matt. “This is a weird myth that I can assure you is untrue, especially having lived in other Canadian cities where NIMBYism is just as rampant. We have Nova Centre going up, the TD expansion, Espace, City Centre Atlantic, RBC Waterside and a host of infill condos. And there are a lot of approved developments that have simply not gotten going due to developers choosing not to build: the Roy building (though I strongly disagree with this one, since the Roy should be refurbished and preserved as-is), Twisted Sisters, and most famously, the 22-storey International Place office tower at the end of Granville (which I’d LOVE to see happen).”
Over-hyped news stories
Readers had no shortage of answers on Facebook when we asked them what they thought Halifax’s most over-hyped news stories were. “One of the several weather non-events,” says John van Gurp. Reader (and sometimes Halifax Magazine contributor) Tom Mason had a similarly succinct answer: “Titanic.” Meanwhile, Nicole Davis took exception with how media reported on the Metro Transit strike. “’They’re reaching an agreement…. they’re not reaching an agreement… they’re making a deal… they’re not making a deal… they’re still not at work….’ We got it.”
In the same discussion, reader Hayley MacPhail shared her view that Council prolonged the Metro Transit strike, and that media should have done more to scrutinize how Councillors voted on that, and other issues. “It was council’s fault for dragging it out,” she says. “I think the question should be what was the most under-reported stories in the city this year. I think the voting records of incumbents should have been reported on so we don’t have to deal with four more years of that bullshit.”
On Twitter, @stephdouglas (Stephanie Douglas), saw another key under-reported election story: “the absence of visible cultural diversity in the candidates for council as well as running for Mayor.” Reader, and occasional contributor, @ChadGALucas (Chad Lucas) agrees. “It was embarrassing we wasted more breath on a cat than the lack of diversity in the election.”
Readers may not have found many heroes on the election ballot, but the question of who Halifax’s unsung hero of 2012 was drew a couple clear, quick answers. Reader @Myaleeza (Marrilee Wilson) says “Rev Rhonda Britton *natch*”. She, and several other readers, praise the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church minister for her leadership in the fight over the St. Pat’s-Alexandra school property. Reader and journalist @bbhorne (Bethany Horne) also nominates former Halifax urban planner (see our November cover story), and current Dal prof, Andy Fillmore.
What needs to change
By far, readers had the most to say about what should change in Halifax in 2013. Reader @PaulaMinnikin (Paula Minnikin) was one of many to chime in on the hassles of getting around in this city. “Let’s paint the lines on the road: sidewalk, bike lanes, parking spots, moving traffic,” she says. “Little cost. Huge life benefits.” Reader @Myaleeza agrees, adding that transit needs improvement as well. Metro Transit is still facing some ill will from the strike, with other readers returning to that same theme. “Replace the entire Metro Transit administration,” says @EpicWebDesign (Evan d’Entremont). “They’ve proven themselves incompetent time and time again.”
Secrecy at City Hall was a recurring issue under Peter Kelly and our last Council. Reader @Ken_Donnely (Ken Donnely) thinks the best thing Halifax can do for itself in 2013 is make sure that doesn’t recur, calling for “openness and transparency at City Hall.”
What do you think? Who were Halifax’s heroes and villains this year? What’s your news story of the year? Which people don’t get the credit they deserve? What does 2013 hold? Join the discussion at Facebook.com/Halifax Magazine or Twitter.com/HalifaxMagazine, or post a comment at Halifaxmag.com.
The newest addition to the Halifax Magazine team is designer Beth Muzzerall. She art directed our cover (working with photographer Tim Richard) and will be having a big impact on the magazine in 2013, as she freshens our design. If this cover is any indication, she’ll have a dramatic and immediate effect.
And on her first cover, that’s local cocktail master Jeff Van Horne. He was a two-time winner at a recent competition, and is going on to represent the city at the nationals in Montreal on December 17. The Made With Love cocktail competition isn’t well known, but it’s very innovative, attracting accomplished mixologists who do things you just won’t see in most bars. Lizzy Hill has the fascinating story (and a drink recipe to try for the holidays) in her debut piece with us. Check it out.