Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Managing expectations

Students of local municipal politics! Given that CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke seems to be pretty obviously running for a third term (despite announcing on election night in 2016 that he would do no such thing) I invite you to compare and contrast the following items:

Exhibit A

A 4 June 2014 CBC article:

“Cecil Clarke vows to resign if economic growth doesn’t improve”

[SPOILER ALERT: He didn’t actually resign.]

The mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality says he’ll resign if he hasn’t seen positive community development in a year amid questions about the amount of travel expenses he’s been claiming. [Note: he had racked up $40,000 in travel expenses in the 2013/14 fiscal year — ed.].

Cecil Clarke said it’s necessary for him to travel and speak with members of other levels of government to raise funding for important projects and grow Cape Breton’s economy.

“If you’re going to be in the business of trying to create business, if you’re going to want to try and fill the potholes that are there, you’ve got to have economic growth,” he said.

“As far as the overarching aspects of port and overall community economic development, I’m very clear. I’ll be judged by what the outcomes are and the amount of money that is invested will have to be balanced by the outcomes that have been achieved and how much we’ve been able to deliver for the community.”

Exhibit B

An article from the 14 July 2020 edition of the Cape Breton Post:

“Dog park coming to Sydney Mines”

District 1 Councilor Clarence Prince, Mayor Cecil Clarke, District 2 Councilor Earlene MacMullin

Original CB Post caption: “Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke, centre, Dist. 1 Coun. Clarence Prince and Dist. 2 Coun. Earlene MacMullin at the Nicole Meany Memorial Ballfield on Pitt Street in Sydney Mines, where a new dog park will be built this summer.” (Photo by Sharon Montgomery-Dupe, 14 July 2020.

Sample quote:

“Clarke said Northside residents have been asking for a dog park for quite some time. The park will be located where the former Sydney Mines volunteer fire hall was once situated, which is near the boardwalk area and the recreational complex…

Originally the facility was expected to cost upwards of $35,000. However, costs have been reduced significantly, in particular because the area selected for the park is flat and as a result the new estimated cost is $10,000.”

You have to hand it to him, to go from promising to improve the local economy — largely by landing a $1.5 billion ultra-large container vessel terminal in Sydney harbor — to delivering a $10,000 dog run in Sydney Mines with a straight face is no mean feat.

And let’s not forget, he won in 2016 with even less to boast about.


Silence, please

Barry Sheehy, one half of our port promoter Sydney Harbour Investments Partners (the other half being Albert Barbusci), popped up recently in the Savannah Morning News to add his two cents’ worth to the ongoing debate over Confederate monuments in the United States.

His focus was a statue known as “Silence,” a robed woman who stands at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah overlooking the graves of 750 Confederate soldiers who died at the Battle of Gettysburg. “Silence” was recently vandalized by protesters who spray-painted “Silence No More” on her plinth and knocked one of her hands off.

Sheehy characterizes the statue as:

…a remarkable work of art sculpted in the 1870s by Robert Reid of the Montreal Marble Works…

Reid was contracted in 1873 by the Ladies Memorial Association in Savannah to design a monument to the “common” Confederate soldier. Wikipedia says the ladies — who raised the money for the monument through “bake sales” among other fundraisers — chose Reid, a Welshman living in Canada, because they didn’t want to employ an architect from the Northern states.

Nor did they want any Northern materials going into the thing, which is why it was carved from Nova Scotia sandstone. (I can’t believe the Mining of Association of Nova Scotia Twitter account hasn’t treated us to a 25-part thread on this yet.)

They didn’t even want the monument to travel across the North to reach Savannah, opting instead to have it shipped from Canada by a British schooner.

The original monument, unveiled in Savannah’s Forsyth Park to great fanfare in 1875, consisted of:

…a 48 foot (15 m) shaft on top of a 6 foot (1.8 m) earthen base. On top of this pedestal was a life-sized statue of a woman in a robe named Silence, and at the base of the monument was another statue of a woman called Judgment.

It was not a success:

Despite the fanfare that had accompanied the monument’s dedication, public opinion soon soured towards the monument. Many felt the statue was too ornate to represent the common soldier. Writing about the monument several decades after its unveiling, Savannah mayor and historian Thomas Gamble called the monument “a distinct disappointment” that was “too symbolic” and “lacking in charm.

In 1878, the city fathers decided to place a statue of a Confederate soldier atop the existing monument and in 1879, they did so, at the same time removing “Judgement” to Thompsonville, Georgia and “Silence” to Laurel Grove.

Sheehy appeared on C-Span in 2011, discussing the Forsyth Park monument:

I will leave it to you to decide the value of Sheehy’s contribution to this debate, I would simply like to note that in the piece, the Montreal native and sometime Gabarus resident provides an interesting piece of autobiographical information:

This beautiful and historically unique statue played an important role in the writing of my books about Montreal, including “Montreal: City of Secrets,” which documented the close ties between Montreal and the Confederacy during the Civil War and Savannah. “Savannah: Immortal City” and the second book “Savannah: Brokers, Bankers and Bay Lane” provided the most thorough analysis to date of the inner workings of Savannah’s slave trade.

Those works were not universally welcomed and ultimately resulted in my returning to Canada after living in Savannah for more than 20 years. [emphasis mine]

Therein lies a Barry Sheehy story I’d be interested in reading.


Drama in real life

A recent Cape Breton Post headline — “Drama in Cape Breton over out-of-province plates” — really oversold the content of the accompanying article. (The print version, which covered the front page of that day’s edition, used that as a sub-head with “Plate Debate” in that type-size once reserved for announcing we’d just declared war as the main headline.)

I HEART Drama lapel pinThis is the full extent of the “drama”:

An anonymous woman visiting from Ontario, having completed the required 14-day isolation period, had someone yell, “14 days!” at her in a Walmart parking lot. When she said she’d done her 14 days, she was told “That’s what they all say.”

That was literally the ONLY example of anyone accosting out-of-towners in an article ostensibly about people accosting out-of-towners.

Rude? Yes. (Although perhaps we should give these two volunteer Public Health officials jobs at the border, or let them make the phone calls ensuring people are actually self-isolating, apparently the province could use some help with that and these two sound dedicated.)

Dramatic? Not so much.

The other evidence presented by the Post included:

  • “someone” posting on Facebook that “a Florida man in a restaurant in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality boasted his family had not self-isolated. The person who posted the item said they phoned police.”
  • “Another woman posted that she has a decorative Florida licence plate but removed it to avoid confrontation.”
  • A guy who was approached by a staffer at a restaurant who was concerned about a customer from Ontario she felt was not self-isolating.
  • A guy who took a picture of a sign in the window of a vehicle with Massachusetts plates parked at a hiking trail stating the owner had completed their 14-day isolation.

Imagine pitching that as a dramatic new series to Netflix: “She was accosted in a Walmart parking lot but here’s the twist: SHE HAD ALREADY DONE HER 14-DAY ISOLATION!”

I get that it’s hard to give up on a story once you’ve put some effort into it, but I think if I’d set out to write about Cape Bretoners getting all up in the grills of tourists from outside the Atlantic Bubble and this was the best I could come up with (the police said they haven’t laid any COVID related charges since May and suggested you can’t judge by someone’s license plate whether they’ve self-isolated or not), I’d let it go.


HAL downsizes

Holland America Line (HAL), the Carnival Corporation subsidiary whose vessels have been cruise season fixtures at the Port of Sydney, has sold four of its ships.

The Amsterdam and the Rotterdam have been sold to UK-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines which plans to rename them Bolette and Borealis.

The Maasdam and Veendam went to an unidentified buyer. Prices were not disclosed.

The sales reduce HAL’s fleet to 10 vessels, although a new ship is scheduled for delivery in 2021.

I picked up some interesting factoids from HAL’s own announcement of the sale, like, the Maasdam and Veendam are S-Class (Signature-class) vessels while the Amsterdam and Rotterdam are R-Class (Rotterdam-class) The newest ships are Pinnacle-class.

I also learned that cruise ships are like Lassie, the film dog, in that there have been four Maasdams (the latest dating to 1993); four Veendams (the latest dating to 1996); six Rotterdams (the most recent dating to 1997); and three Amsterdams (the most recent dating to 2000).

What I didn’t pick up was much information about what, if anything, these sales means for the Port of Sydney. According to the press release:

Holland America Line will cancel cruises for the four ships’ deployments, with some select itineraries being assumed by other ships in the fleet..

Cancelled cruises will include scheduled Canada/New England [itineraries]…

MS Rotterdam of the Holland America Line docked in Sydney.

MS Rotterdam of the Holland America Line docked in Sydney.

I checked the company’s website and they are booking Canada/New England cruises that include Sydney for 2021 aboard the Zaandam. (I can’t find out what class ship she is, but I did discover her “décor is inspired by music and features musical instruments including signed guitars from Queen, Iggy Pop, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones and a Baroque-style pipe organ,” which is apparently not signed by anyone.)

Of course, the border being open to cruise ships in 2021 is not a sure thing.

This week, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officially extended the ban on cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers entering US ports to September 30. (Last month, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line, agreed to a voluntary ban on cruises entering US ports until September 15.)

But the CDC didn’t just extend the ban, it also took the opportunity to rap the cruise lines on the knuckle, according to the New York Times:

As the coronavirus pandemic raged around the world, cruise ship companies continued to allow their crews to attend social gatherings, work out at gyms and share buffet-style meals, violating basic protocols designed to stop the spread of the highly transmissible virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a scathing 20-page order, released Thursday, that extended the suspension of cruise operations until Sept. 30.

The agency said it had spent 38,000 hours managing the outbreaks on ships.

HAL gave no reason for the sales in its press release, but media outlets are making the link to the pandemic. (Here’s the opening line to a Seattle TV station’s story about it: “Seattle-based Holland America Line announced Wednesday that it has sold four ships in its fleet as the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the cruise industry.”)

The Port of Sydney has pulled the 2020 cruise schedule from its website like it never happened, which obviously, it didn’t. Watch that space for news of 2021.