The November meeting of Galway City council was held last Monday and once again we did not get through the agenda. As a result I proposed a motion that we meet again next Monday at 11am for a special sitting of council and continue on until we clear the agenda. This was passed with a narrow margin.
I believe we spend far too long debating the minutes. Again this month we seemed to spend too much time on the minutes which to my mind is a waste of productive time. Focusing on records of past events or statements can only impede time spent working on current issues and I hope to expedite the efficiency of meetings by ensuring we spend as little time as possible on such an ultimately fruitless exercise.
November is budget time of year and all eyes are on the draft budget which was presented to us this week This will be voted on next week. It is a sad fact that not everybody or everything that demands funding can or will be accommodated. We are constrained as to what we can finance as our revenues are stagnant. Commercial rates, household charges and ancillary income have stayed largely the same for the past few years yet financial demands have risen.
Budget time means other issues are often postponed until a later date and this time was no different. Many agenda items were postponed, noted or deferred and will be dealt with next week at the special sitting. Budget week often gives rise to conflict as different councillors lobby, cajole and actively vie for scarce funds. I will report back next week with the outcome of a hard week of negotiation.
We also successfully dealt with the leasehold of Galway Airport which was granted to Galway Flying Club for another year following a long debate over the future use of the Galway Airport site.
Traffic as always was to the forefront of the agenda and the City Chief Executive gave a comprehensive overview of the measures taken to combat the long delays experienced by motorists in our city. The truth is that we can only tinker around the edges as our road network is at full capacity. We need our ring-road urgently in tandem with increasing the frequency and use of public transport and the provision of safe cycle lanes within the city itself.
An interesting presentation was made by representatives of Galway 2020 and I was delighted to preside over this good news story. The 2020 team will have some really great events to announce in the near future. Being European City of Culture 2020 is certainly an exciting time to be Mayor of Galway. Lucky me.
Recently we agreed to send the busking bye-laws out on public consultation. My own view is that busking is a precious resource in Galway and it adds character and variety to our streetscape. However I do not agree with amplification as this serves only to dominate our streets and drown out competition. Spare a thought for the poor unfortunate shopkeeper forced to listen to an out of tune rendition of Yellow Submarine amplified beyond recognition, again, again and again. Circle acts should also be allowed only at Spanish Arch or Eyre Square as they impede people making their way up and down shop street.
Personally I had two motions passed this week relating to civic matters.
Firstly I was delighted to successfully propose the motion to honour Martin J Walsh, Mayor of Boston with the freedom of Galway City. This is the highest honour we in Galway City Council can bestow on anybody. It is richly deserved in recognition of his being returned as Mayor of Boston with a comprehensive majority and most importantly for his commitment to inclusivity and diversity. He has taken a very public stand against Presidents Trumps policies on immigration when many chose to remain silent. This will in time have positive repercussions for many Irish in America.
It was also agreed to honour soon-to-be President Emeritus of NUIG Dr Jim Browne with a Civic Reception in recognition of the success of the University during his term as President. Amongst his other achievements he presided over NUIG becoming one of the top one percent of Universities on the planet. He also drove a building agenda where the University benefitted from over €500,000,000 of an immense building programme that will serve the college well for decades to come. Bear in mind this was achieved during the greatest financial recession in history. No mean feat in itself.
So all in all, this was a relatively quiet week in Galway City Council. However this may not be the case next week as we vote on the budget. This will decide what happens throughout the city next year and is sure to be a divisive meeting. Watch this space next week. I will keep you posted!