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Dave Lane

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Dave Lane is Councillor at Large in St. John’s, focused on economic development, public engagement, supporting startups and small businesses, improving cycling, strengthening arts support, and protecting built heritage. Outside of Council, Dave leads a project in partnership with Common Ground Coworking to adapt historic downtown buildings into a “creative innovation hub” for entrepreneurs, artists and other self-starters. Prior to Council, Dave chaired Happy City St. John’s, a group of dedicated volunteers focused on public engagement at the municipal level. He is a musician, most notably being a long-time member of Quintessential Vocal Ensemble and the first drummer for Hey Rosetta! Dave lives with his wife Hedi and their three pets.

Contact Information

Survey Responses

What is your full name?
Dave Lane
 
What role are you running for? If it's a ward councillor position, please specify which ward.
Councillor at Large
 
If you are currently on council, or have served previously, how many years in total have you served?
Four years, or one term
 
Why did you decide to run for office?
First and foremost, I love our city. The green hills, the scraggly coast with its stunning views and accessible trails, the hilarious and loving people, and the deep and fascinating history all tug at my heartstrings and make me want to be a little more embedded in the culture and do something to edge us toward the incredible potential we all know is stirring but not quite boiling.More specifically, I probably realized I wanted to be on Council after I built the campaign website for Shannie Duff in 2005. It plugged me into the scene and connected me to the possibility that if a strong vision is shared amongst a group of people, then incredible things can happen. But the real drive for me was after I helped a group organize against a proposed 15-storey build on Water St. in 2010. At the time it felt like “just another heritage battle,” but something was different: Facebook was now a thing and there were pretty good discussions going on that weren’t just “pro heritage versus pro development.” In fact, most people seemed to be saying “I like both, just do it smartly.” That resonated with me and I sat down with a couple of new friends I’d met during the organizing. We decided to continue the discussion online using a website previously used by another group advocating smart planning versus urban sprawl called www.happycity.ca. Happy City was born and I spent the next few years chairing the organization as we organized online and in person civic engagement. Ultimately I realized that public engagement requires a strong relationship with City Hall, so I took the advice of my family and friends and took a run at Councillor at Large in 2013.
 
What do you think makes St. John's unique or special?
I used to say that so many people tell me St. John’s is amazing, I’m afraid to go anywhere else, because I’ll be disappointed! But after living here for my 35 years on Earth, and talking to lots of people about what makes our place special, here’s what I think.

Somehow, thanks to our geographic location, our geology, and our place in global history, the people in St. John’s have developed a strong capacity to love and trust one another. This sense that we give people the “benefit of the doubt” and are more curious than concerned when we meet someone new is ultimately what makes this place so special. Yeah, we have amazing natural beauty here, but that’s secondary to how we can just go out and have a laugh whenever we want to hear incredible music and witness great art. All of this between bouts of starting unique little business ventures and working alongside happy people who at the end of the day just want to have a good time with whoever’s up for it.

 
If you were elected, do you plan to hold another paid job while serving on Council? If so, what would it be and how will you divide your time?
Yes. I am currently Project Lead for an exploration of how to convert up to five buildings on Water Street — the same that were going to be torn down in 2010 — into a dynamic creative industries complex. This is in partnership with Common Ground Coworking. My hope is that the project is determined to be feasible and I can continue with that. If not, I will look for other employ that is similarly community-focused and continue to spend about half my effort to that, the other half to Council.
 
What changes or initiatives would you advocate for at Council?
To date I’ve focused primarily on economic development through support of small business, preservation and modern use of our built heritage, and public amenities like our Bike Master Plan. In my next term I would like to focus more on Public Transit and improving the experience residents and businesses have with our Planning and Development department.
 
What, to you, is the most important kind of decision City Council makes?
The most important decisions are the ones that have long-term implications. In other words, any decisions we make about policy direction. So, for example, our Municipal Plan is an extremely important document because it dictates and influences how our land is developed and used for potentially decades. Equally as important are decisions that impact individuals directly, for example when a developer wants to build something next door or a neighbour is not maintaining their property. These can be the most challenging because they are influenced by various levels of legislation (laws), conflicting interests of those impacted, and the sensitivities of people privacy and dignity. But it is Council’s role to ensure that residents are being heard and dealt with respectfully and fairly.
 
Questions for at large councillors...
Increasing density and mixed uses are priorities in the new municipal plan. Where would you like to see more density in St. John’s?
I think there’s more space in our downtown for development, but not necessarily new development. We need to use the buildings and lots we have available, and that means adaptive reuse of older buildings, more promotion of the possibilities for upper-story development in our 3- to 4-storey commercial buildings, and encouragement to develop in “brownfields.” Our Planning and Development department have to continue their work to have clearer processes and improve their approach of “how can I help make this happen” rather than “let me find what’s wrong or tell you why it’s not allowed.”
 
Without a ward responsibility, at-large councilors have more space to focus on specific issues. Do you have one issue you would like to prioritize?
I’d like to prioritize Public Transit. I’m hoping to get on the Transportation Commission next term
 
Have you been out canvassing? If so, what are the priorities you’re hearing most loudly?
A lot of folks are telling me they were shocked and disappointed by the tax hikes in the 2016 budget. I voted against that budget, but I think the public lost a lot of trust in Council. Another issue I hear is that they feel that Council is not very transparent. I can say with complete sincerity that nothing untoward or hidden is happening, but we absolutely have to make our decision making more visible and accessible. I’ll note my ideas for this in a later answer.
 
What would you like to see included in the new Regional Plan?
A well-planned, future looking, collaboratively conceived transportation network. Also green belts to encourage density where appropriate as well as incentives and supports for agriculture of all kinds.
 
What, if anything, would you want done to establish better communications between citizens and developers before development is proposed?
We need to establish clear and reasonable principles for development that are based on public input and realities faced by developers. And we should direct staff and Council to adhere to these principles.
 
How would you use the Engage! process and system?
I’m proud to have chaired the Engage! Task Force of 25 residents who researched and wrote this new engagement framework. Three years on, we have begun the slow but steady process of changing the way we make decisions at City Hall. Staff have been trained in the “public engagement spectrum” so they can understand how, when, and with whom to engage on issues big and small. We’ve had 25 “campaigns” that each involved multiple formats of accepting and discussing input and ideas — including the engagestjohns.ca online portal — that ultimately shaped how the City proceeded on an issue. There’s lot of work to be done, but we’re opening up City Hall and I’ll continue to support this work. Councillors are individually fairly engaged with residents for one-on-one issues, but with respect to Council’s engagement with residents as a group, we can improve that in a number of ways. For example, by promoting our standing committee meetings, which are open to the public but not well attended, and holding them in the Public Chamber for easier access. We should broadcast our meetings online so anyone can watch them. And we should better promote when agendas and minutes from meetings are posted online. A heavier lift, but something worth pursuing, is to replace our outdated “Robert’s Rules” approach to the weekly public meeting. This approach gives councillors only one, five minute slot to speak to an issue with no real “debate” taking place. We are forced to walk into the meetings with prepared statements and resist any dialogue lest we be told we’re out of order.
 
In your opinion, what are the three best decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
1) Approval of the findings of our Bike Task Force which will lead to safer cycling by: striking a new, permanent Cycling Advisory Committee; retaining existing bike lanes while we review and update the Bike Plan; hiring expert support to enhance and finalize our Bike Plan with extensive public input.
2) Directing staff to do a full “Program Review” in the wake of the 2016 Budget. This led to: significant ongoing savings for taxpayers; enhanced and regular internal financial reporting and analysis; elimination of waste streamlining of some processes; and the creating of a position who drives continuous improvement at City Hall.
3) Approval of a new Engage! Framework that is enhancing the way City Hall informs and interacts with the public. We are beginning to develop more responsive policies and a “culture of engagement” at City Hall which is so important if we are to build trust.
 
In your opinion, what are the three worst decisions the outgoing Council has made, and why?
1) We approved a budget for 2016 that had shocking tax hikes and service cuts. I voted against this because it did not properly involve or prepare those it impacted.
2) We abruptly removed our City Manager in early 2014. Whether or not it was the right decision, the approach was wrong and it led to uncertainty and confusion.
3) My colleagues gave into pressure of a former mayor and voted against Electric Vehicle infrastructure. Now we’re unprepared for the coming tidal wave of EVs and it will be more expensive.
 
Quick response questions! In 100 characters or less, what is your position on...
Creating a regional government
We have to focus on cooperating and coordinating. Regional gov has merit, but not just yet for YYT
Amalgamation with surrounding municipalities
See above. Let’s learn to cooperate on as many shared issues as possible first
Making City Council a full-time job
I’d love to focus 100% on Council but probably want to do other stuff anyway. So I’m ok w/the salary
The mail-in ballot system
Before mail-in, participation 32%. After: 54%. Online not secure yet. Mail-in it is.
The new Municipal Plan
Almost done but taking way too long. We need more creativity and engagement in the regs.
Grants to community and arts organizations
Community grants policy is working well now. Arts grants: double them, minimum.
City employee salaries
They’re high enough for the foreseeable future thanks to our deal for future-saving pension change
Creating more bicycle infrastructure
Proud to get Council approval for Plan funding and a new, permanent Cycling Advisory Committee
Increasing public transit service
Have to do this faster. Things are happening, but way too slowly and quietly
Corporate and union donations to candidates
I understand the concern, but we have limits and candidates should stick to promises, not who paid
 
How often do you use the following ways to get to work or errands?
Walking: Almost everyday
Riding the bus: Never
Biking: Never
Driving: Almost everyday
 
Please rank the level of attention you think council should pay to each of these transportation modes in the coming term (1 = most important, 5 = least).
1. Public transit
2. Cycling
3. Walking
4. Driving
 
What could the City government do to make St. John’s a healthier place to live?
Following through on a truly safe and interconnected cycling network would do wonders. We also have to make road design decisions that are “people-focused” rather than focused on cars and snow-clearing only. Continued work on our Parks and Open Space Master Plan will create a network of recreation and activity. Planning with kids and seniors in mind or to Universal Design standards. And we need to put more focus on food policy to ensure everyone has access to healthy, delicious food.
 
What changes need to happen to have more diversity in age, gender, race, and life experience on Council?
We need to identify if there are any barriers or perceptions that are discouraging diverse community members from running for Council. We should encourage diversity on our advisory committees and working groups, and better connect our efforts on inclusion to the public so we all begin to feel like everyone’s a part of our story.