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Council deals with library and Canada Games

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The first meeting of the newly elected Halifax council progressed with some hilarity Tuesday, as Mayor Peter Kelly unsuccessfully attempted to navigate through City Hall's perpetually broken computer system. Shiny new and no doubt expensive computers graced councillors' desks, but the software failed to record some votes, dropped speakers from the list and failed to turn on and off microphones when prompted. Maybe it's a vendor problem, but I can't help but suspecting the city has limited the talent pool of its techies by excluding curious and risk-taking drug users from employment possibilities. Just a thought. Council faced two large capital projects---hosting the 2011 Canada Games and building a new central library. I was, you'll recall, critical of Halifax's aborted attempt to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but that $2 billion production was two orders of magnitude larger than the $31 million Canada Games (HRM itself will pony up about $9 million). And, significantly, the Commonwealth Games effort was handed off to a secretive, self-appointed group of people poised to personally profit from the venture, while the Canada Games budgets and bidding processes are all open to the public. At this point, the Canada Games look clean. As for the library, council approved a staff request to explore various funding options. The approval doesn't commit the city to any money at all, except so far as staff time is involved; it'll be another six months, probably, before any hard decisions have to be made. Some councillors object to a library price tag that could reach $60 million. The devil's in the details, of course, but I'd suggest that a looming recession is exactly the right time for governments to embark on large, debt driven capital projects---they get people working when the private sector isn't producing jobs. Regardless, the only opposition came from the three Dartmouth reps and Steve Streatch, who opposes anything that might one day end up costing money. Suburban councillors appear supportive of the library effort, and the way power plays out at council, they typically get what they want.The library project might be contigent on a controversial land swap between the city and province. I'll explore that issue next week.

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xxx - Deprecated in favor of GTM, above.