Thursday, May 31, 2012

Damn you, Blair Tapper - From Motherblogger



I read this today on a blog written by Vicki Combden Murphy called Motherblogger. I thought that she had captured Blair's essence so well that I thought I also would like to share it. I asked her was it on and so here it is.


After I read it I couldn't help but think about Blair and his children. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have 4 of their kids staying at our house the last couple of weekends and I can tell you it is not easy having 6 kids around including our 2. Even when my wife and I are there to handle it there is hardly a free minute. I think it is a testament to Blair and Kelly Ann that they always managed to find time for their children. I know Blair treasured his little ones and I only hope that I can help out as much as I can now that he is gone. 


The last year has been a tough time for Blair and those of us who were part of his family and friends. Now that his battle has come to an end it is time for the rest of us who have been touched by him some way to keep his memory alive for his little ones.



Damn you, Blair Tapper. 

We are just a couple weeks away from Father’s Day.

Normally, right about now, I’d be doing some kind of woeful “happy fatherless day to me” countdown.

Some kind of tear-jerking tribute to the late Jim Combden.

Some ode to that salty Barr’d Island blood from whence I bubbled.

But instead, I write about someone else’s daddy.

Today, I write about Blair Tapper.

I first saw him in the big family portrait at the house of what would one day be my in-laws. 17 grandchildren. Blair was one of the older ones in the back. The one with the craaaaaazy eyes.

My husband’s first cousin and a few years his senior, I didn’t know Blair very well. But from a few brief encounters I learned one thing for certain – he was damn funny. Sarcastic and seemingly crooked, his mission in life was to get under your skin. He got under mine, but for another reason altogether.

Just the look of him was side-splitting. Big menacing eyes topped with thick eyebrows. You’d think he was mad if not for the gem just a couple inches below: a perpetual beaming smile.

To me, he looked like a child, forever surprised or perplexed by the world. Probably one of the reasons he was so good with kids – because he was one. Another reason? Practice. He was dad to six. Yes, you heard me right. Six.

Blair was salt of the earth. No bullshit. No pretense. A roofer for 15 years, he also cleared snow and did small engine repair. Many locals probably remember him pumping gas at Tappers Gas Bar as a teenager. He worked harder in his 38 years than most do their entire lives. Yes, you heard me right. 38.

He lived just one street over from us in the Torbay countryside we both called home, where streets are not really streets but cow paths and lovers lanes. There are cows all over these parts, and I reckon Blair and Kelly’s driveway was Lovers Lane. And not just because of the multitude of munchkins pouring out of their humble abode.

I’d often see Blair at the grocery store nearby, picking up a few things for Kelly to cook for supper. Mushrooms. Hot dog buns. Occasionally, on the way back he’d pop into the house for a beer with my husband, who happens to be his cousin. Kelly would text him, wondering what the heck was taking him so long. He’d chuckle mischievously as he texted her back. He spoke her name with love. I could see it, hear it. They’d be making another baby before the wieners were warm.

When I took Max for a walk or tricycle ride, Blair would often zip by in his ol’ white minivan. Even the way he looked and waved was a performance.

He was at our house a couple of months ago, when he was feeling good. His head was as smooth as a baby’s arse, but he looked well, eyes wide and full of hope. Andrew was helping him with his passport application; he was thinking about going somewhere, maybe Mexico, for some kind of treatment unavailable here in St. John’s. He showed me the two passport photos he had to choose from – one where he was bald from the chemo, one where he had a bit of hair, both photos with those crazy-ass eyes. He asked which one was best, so I said, “Either way, they probably don’t let psychos on the plane.” He laughed. He could give it, and I knew he could take it too, cancer or no cancer. I rubbed his head and said it was cute. It was.

I recall that night clearly. I was doing my usual song and dance to try and get Mister Max to go to sleep. His little voice was calling out to me from his bedroom, begging me to lie down with him again. “Mommy, lie down. Mommy, lie down.” The soundtrack of my sleepless life. I rolled my eyes and sighed. “This happens every night,” I said. To which Blair replied something like, “Go in with him, b’y. I loves lying down with the youngsters at bedtime. One of my favourite things.”

Damn you, Blair Tapper. Now, every single night when Max calls out to me, as much as I want to tell him to “go the hell to sleep, maggot!,” I just can’t. I hear Blair’s voice in my head, I take a deep breath, and into the room I march. Again. To savour the moment that tomorrow does not guarantee.

Despite the toll cancer took on his body these last few months, Blair was strong, optimistic, and matter of fact. But once when Andrew bumped into him and asked how things were going, Blair showed a softer side. He said things were not great, but spoke with assurance as usual. Then he welled up as he confessed the one thought he could not bear – the thought of being too sick to pick up Victoria, his six-year-old little girl, from the bus stop.

He could stare cancer in the face and say, “fuck you, I will take you down,” but the thought of his little girl waiting for him, and daddy never showing up… It’s enough to make the Incredible Hulk break down and sob.

Despite a grim prognosis, Blair never gave up. Several times, I saw him scuffing from the store to his minivan, grocery bags in hand, bent over, pale, and broken. But dammit, he was bringing home those groceries.

Two weeks ago, he even ventured to Denmark for a last chance treatment – to buy some time, to change his fate. Maybe he was looking for a miracle. Maybe he was an old dog going off into the woods to lie down. Either way, it took a heap of courage. It was the first time his wife Kelly had ever been on a plane. Blair died there in a suburb of Copenhagen, three days ago, on May 28th.

***

I lost my dad too early, too. I guess any time is too early when you’re talking about your father. But at least I had my dad for a good spell. Long enough for him to prepare me for a world without him in it. While I’m busy hating the world and the dummies who’ve yet to cure cancer, I am thankful I had my foolish father as long as I did, short as it was.

But this, this is too bloody early. Excruciatingly early. The Tapper kids ages: 16, 14, 12, six, two and one. Some of them won’t even remember him. Does sadness go any deeper than this?

This is where we must take a lesson from Blair himself:

HOPE.

We have to hope that he is not lost to his kids at all, that they will grow up with a strong sense of who he was, instilled in them by everyone who knew and loved their daddy.

And sweet, sweet genetics: do your thang, work your magic. Make those kids inherit his humour, perseverance, humility and lively disposition. In a few years, make us all drop our jaws and say, “My God, you turned out just like your father.”

Though he won’t tuck them in anymore, or pick them up from the bus stop, what he was to his children is still a very powerful thing. The knowledge of who he was and how he lived will inspire them long after he’s gone. Who knows, maybe he’ll mean even more to the kids who can only imagine what he was like. Love works in mysterious ways.

They will know he worked his ass off to keep them safe and warm and happy. Just before Christmas, despite the raging lymphoma, he still insisted on working – “to buy a few more gifts for the kids,” he told Andrew.

They will know he was strong. He laughed in the face of cancer and fought it to the bitter end.

They will know he never gave up. He tried everything he could to stay by their side.

They will know he was courageous. We will tell them. Like an epic tragedy, on Monday morning, the hero from Torbay laid down his sword in the land of Hamlet.

With all this knowledge wrapped around their hearts, his children can grow up in the warm glow of his shadow, proud as punch to say Blair Tapper was their dad.

***

When you’re saluting the death of a clown, you must end with humour.

So I’d like to conclude with a message to Blair:

How the fuck am I supposed to get the roof done now?!

And don’t worry about anyone forgetting you, buddy. Those menacing eyes will haunt me for eternity.



Blair’s funeral will be held on Monday, June 4th at Holy Trinity in Torbay. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a trust fund for the Tapper children

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 East Coast Trail Association Tely Hike

I received the following from the Torbay Environment and Trails Committee and decided to pass it along as it is a great cause and something that we should all support.





2012 East Coast Trail Association Tely Hike, June 2, Pouch Cove

For the second year in a row, the TorbayEnvironment and Trails Committee is entering a team in the ECTA Tely Hike taking place in Pouch Cove on June 2, 2012.  The Tely Hike helps raise much-needed funds to take care of the trail.   The name of our team is the 'TETC Coyotes'.  

Please help us raise money for the East Coast Trail and help TETC Coyotes reach our fundraising goal. 

The support of the community helped the 2011 TETC team raise the most money of all the teams last year, reaching an outstanding $3,452. One of our team members also had the highest personal fundraising amount, collecting $1500 in pledges.   With your help, we hope to be able to repeat this feat again this year.  The competition is tough this year though, as you can see if you check out the 2012 Tely Hike fundraising page on the ECTA's web site http://www.eastcoasttrail.ca.

The members of our team will be out canvassing the community between now and June 2. Please help us help the East Coast Trail! 

If you prefer, you may make your pledge on line on the 2012 Tely Hike online by accessing the ECTA web site and following these simple steps:  

(1) click 'Tely Hike 2012'
(2) scroll down the text and click "Register as a Team or Individual"
(3) click 'Sponsor a Participant" box at the top
(4) in the 'Participant Name' box, enter 'TETC Coyotes' and hit 'Search'
(5) click on the name of the team member you would like to support to access their personal fundraising page and then,
(6) click 'Sponsor Me' and follow the directions to make a donation.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

The TETC COYOTES


Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Happened to The Great Torbay Pick Me Up?

Obviously I must have missed something because I was at the town hall yesterday at 2:00 for the "Celebrate Beautiful Torbay" BBQ. There was supposed to be a community BBQ and prize give away at the town hall yesterday and I had my truck full of kids who were excited to go over.

We sat in the parking lot until 2:10 but it was pretty obvious that there was nothing going on. I thought I must have got the date or time wrong but no I had the day and time right.

Then I figured it must be cancelled and I didn't hear about it. I went and looked at the notices on the town website and there was noting there to say it was cancelled of postponed.

This is the type of thing that really pisses me off. Why didn't I know it was cancelled and why was there no notice on the website? Is this the lack of respect that the town shows it's residents that people keep telling me about?

The town just spent thousands of dollars to add a french translation to the website and we can't even be told in plain English what the hell is going on. Don't get me started on the Town website because it has to be one of the worst designed websites I have ever seen. It looks nice on the surface but for a new user to the site it is very difficult to navigate. It is difficult to find stuff on it, and the menus are very vague, maybe that is by design so that people can't find stuff that way they wan't ask questions.

Any way, that is it for now, I had to wait until today to write this because I was frigging off my head yesterday and the post would have been filled with swear words.

I got to load the truck up with kids now to head to mass, I suppose that is not cancelled.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Residents Appeal Decision on Motion Estates Phase III

On Friday May 11, 2012, representing concerned residents of Torbay, Derek Staubitzer submitted an appeal to the Regional Appeals Board in relation to Council's recent decision on Motion Drive Estates Phase III. On April 30, 2012 at the last public council meeting members of council voted 4-3 in favor of taking a sum of cash from the developer in lieu of a parcel of land for green space. This has been a very contentious issue it has been on some people's radar for a long time and especially in the past few months as the decision got closer.

Donated Application Fee of  $113 including taxes
Details of the Appeal as follows:
 
Summary of Grounds for Appeal
Authority: Town of Torbay
Appealing Group: Concerned Citizens of Torbay

Decision Being Appealed: Acceptance of “an amount of money in lieu of land” as a condition of approving Phase III of the “Motion Development”

Summary of Grounds for Appeal:

By accepting “an amount of money in lieu of land” for open space use as a condition of approving Phase III of the “Motion Development”, the Town of Torbay violated its land use planning directions and requirements for the Motion area as established within its Open Space Management Strategy. By direction of Council, the Open Space Management Strategy is meant to be a single source of guiding policy for open space management in the Town.

Furthermore, through a motion of Council and a specific directive in the Letter of Approval to the developer, the Town vested the authority and responsibility for determining the “open space requirements” for Phase III of this development with the Town’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Committee. The recommendation of this Committee to obtain land for open space use as per the Open Space Management Strategy was not accepted by Council.

Furthermore, by accepting an amount of money equal to the “assessed raw land value”, the Town violated its Municipal Plan which stipulates that if the Town should chose to accept money in lieu of land, the amount “must be equal to the fair market value of the land”. This amount would be significantly more than the “assessed raw land value” which has been specified by the Town.


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Anyone wishing to be part of this appeal can either sign a paper copy of the form or they can send an email stating that they wish to be part of the appeal. For more information on either option please send an email to Madeleine Florent at the following email address madeleine.florent@nf.sympatico.ca

Many people feel that the Town of Torbay is neglecting it's responsibility to protect our green spaces and to get the most from developments for residents. Research done and posted online by Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant shows that over the past 10 years there have been over 450 building lots developed and only around 10.8 acres of land has been acquired by the town under the green space management strategy. It is also interesting to note that 6.8 of those were acquired last year. So for the other 9 years we only requested a total of 4 acres of land, on the surface that seems like a pittance. To take a look at the Deputy Mayor's research and conclusions you can follow this link Case for Open Space. There is a lot of information included in those pages and it is an interesting read.

Since the vote both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor have done interviews with CBC regarding the vote and the issue of land vs cash in general. I listened to both interviews and was struck by a couple of differences in what both men were saying. Here are a few examples.

The Mayor contends that there was already enough green space in that area and plans for a coastal park. The Deputy Mayor says that although there is a park planned for that area the town does not own the land and we will have to buy it in the future.

The Mayor says that according to regulations in the Urban and Rural Planning Act that the town has a choice of 10% land or equivalent cash amount of the raw or assessed land value, which in this case is around 35,000 dollars.  He also mentioned in the last edition of the North East Avalon Times that it would be illegal to take the land then sell it for a higher price after.

The Deputy Mayor says that both of these statements are wrong. He can't find anywhere in the Urban and Rural Planning Act where it says we must interpret the value of the land as "raw value", in fact he says our own town plan says "Fair Market Value". He also can't find any reference as to why taking the land and then selling it later would be illegal.

Another thing of interest is the fact that the Deputy Mayor sad that the Parks and Rec Committee voted in favor of taking the land and passed that recommendation on to council but they basically ignored it. However the Mayor said that in fact the Parks and Rec Committee actually voted 2-1 and the staff member voting in favor of taking the cash basically made it a split vote. This part is confusing because as far as I know from the research I have done that only Councillors vote in committee, not staff. I looked in the Municipalities Act and could not find an instance where staff is allowed to vote on anything in a Committee of Council.

With these inconsistencies in mind and all of the information provided to me in the past with regards to the regulations surrounding Land vs Cash issue it makes me wonder what the hell is going on? How can the same provincial regulations be interpreted so differently by people serving on the same Council? How does the Mayor and the Planning and Land Use Development Committee come up with an interpretation of the rules and other members of council come up with a completely opposing view?

I understand Councillors disagreeing on matters of personal belief and political tendencies but there is no reason why we should be getting multiple sides to Provincial Regulations. There is also no reason why we should get different explanations of votes in committees, this stuff should be in black and white with no room for misunderstanding. The fact that all of these things are out there in the media makes our town look like we don't know what we are doing or that we don't understand the provincial acts governing municipalities.

I have known the Mayor pretty much my entire life and know him to be honest and straight forward. Mayor Codner always makes himself available to me if I have questions and I don't recall him ever avoiding a question or not giving me an answer. I have also gotten to know the Deputy Mayor a little bit over the past couple of years and he also presents himself to be honest and hardworking. He is an advocate for open dialogue between council and residents and seems to have the towns best interest in mind. For these reasons I am confident that there must be a reasonable explanation for such a difference of opinion on this particular matter.

Also it should be noted that this is not an issue that is isolated to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. They just happen to be the people who have made public statements and explained the other sides position. This is a matter that involves the entire council as was evident by the narrow 4-3 vote on this motion last meeting.

Hopefully all this stuff is cleared up as soon as possible, I have spoken to a lot of people about this and other issues lately and there seems to be strong opinions for and against how this particular council operates and makes decisions. I suspect that the more publicity issues such as Motion Drive get the stronger these opinions will become. No matter what side of the issue you fall on it has to be encouraging to see so many people take a vested interest in our municipal government.

Here are the two CBC radio interviews if you would like to listen to them.

Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant CBC Radio Interview May 2, 2012










Mayor Bob Codner CBC Radio Interview May 4, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers Day Wish

This is a mothers day greeting I gave my wife in 2004. It was on the back of a ceramic disk with my son Ryan's hand print on the front of it. I would like to send this same greeting to all the mothers in my life especially my Wife, Mom and Sister. Happy Mothers Day.

Mommy

Sometimes you get discouraged
because I am so small
and always leave my fingerprints
on furniture and walls


But every day I'm growing
I'll be grown some day
and all those tiny hand prints
will surely fade away


So here's a little hand print
just so you can recall
exactly how my fingers looked
when I was very small.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring Cleaning Is Here Again!!

It is that time of year again when we are getting to see all the crap that we need to get rid of after the snow has melted from the previous winter.

The town is again providing containers behind Town Hall for residents to get rid of those bulk items that we have hanging around. The bins will be available from Tuesday May 22 to Saturday June 2 from 8:00 am - 8:00pm Monday to Friday and 10:00am - 8:00pm. The site is not opened on Sunday.

This is also the time of the year for the annual Great Torbay Pick-Me-Up on Saturday May 26 between 10:00am and 2:00pm. This is a community participation program where residents go out and pick up trash and litter around our neighborhoods. This is a great activity to take part in with your family and an opportunity to set a good example for our kids and show then the harmful effects of littering.

You can pick up your supplies (gloves, bags and tags) at the Town Hall on May 24 and 25 from 8:30am to 4:00pm. After you pick up the garbage you just need to put a tag on the bag and leave it by the side of the road and the Town will have it picked up.

Afterwards there will be a BBQ at the town hall starting at 2:00pm so we can all get together and celebrate out beautiful and clean town. This is a great family event and something that we should be proud to take part in.

The Town of Torbay has put a tremendous amount of work into making our community greener and cleaner the past number of years and we as residents should take pride in that.

You may have noticed that some flowers have been planted along the rocks where the water falls are going up North Side Hill. It is an initiative of the Torbay Environment & Trails Committee (TETC) called The Rock Garden Project. Not only have the flowers been planted there but the entire area looks really nice with the weeds removed and the grass trimmed.

I have noticed this in the past and seen some people there working on it. I just wanted to say that they have done a very good job and every year it looks better and better. The TETC do a lot of work around our community with trails and promoting sustainable development and this is just another example of how they are committed to beautifying our town. I am told they are always looking for volunteers and new members so if you are interested in helping out on this project or other projects that may have on the go you can contact them through their website.

To get all the details about the bulk garbage drop off, the Pick-Me-Up and other aspects of the Town's waste management strategy follow this link to the Waste Management Strategy Newsletter.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Double Double of Stupidity!

A 52-year-old man is facing numerous charges, including impaired driving and refusing the breathalyzer, following a disturbance at a home in Torbay.
Police said they were called to a home in the community, but the man they wanted to speak with had driven away from the house before they arrived.
RNC officers picked him up a short time later and he was released to appear in court at a later date. A short time later, police received a complaint that the same man was making harassing phone calls related to the earlier disturbance.
Police arrested him again and put him in the lockup for the night.
He is expected to appear in court today.
============================
It never fails to amaze me the lengths people will go to just to prove how utterly stupid they are. I can understand someone getting picked up for impaired, it happens all the time. Someone has a couple of too many drinks and then drives, this is stupid enough as it is. However to get picked up and then proceed to do something else just as stupid by making harassing calls to the person who called the cops on you in the first place? Double Stupid!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Last Night at Council Land vs Cash Issue

Well it was an interesting night at council to say the least. There was a large group of residents in attendance to take in the deliberations and voting. There were several developers there that I recognized so I suspect they were there to listen to what was going to happen with this land vs cash issue when it comes to developing subdivisions.

Councillor Smith who is the chair of the Planning and Land Use Development Committee (PLUD) presented the motion with regards to Motion Drive Estates Phase III. She gave a brief description of the motion and how the committee came to the decision to recommend to council to accept a cash payment in lieu of land for this particular application.

Councillor Smith said that the committee didn't come to this decision lightly and weighed all the pros and cons of the proposal and in the end the decision was to take the cash. Reasons why it was deemed the better option was that in the opinion of the committee and other experts they consulted on staff there is a sufficient amount of green space in that area. Now I am just paraphrasing here and I am sure there are more detailed explanations but that is the jest of it from what I understood.

It was also noted by the members of the committee who also include Councillor Roach and Byrne that they felt that it would be unfair to the developer that has been waiting for over a year to get this application approved to go back now and demand to take the land. This indicated to me that there may have been an expectation by the developer that a cash payment was going to be sufficient for this project to proceed. I could certainly see how this would be the case when it appears that in many instances it appears to be the norm or even expected practice. With this in mind I think that the councillors may have been justified in this case to proceed as they did. I think it would be unfair to potentially "change the rules" almost at the end of the application process.

I know there is an argument out there that a developer should not have an expectation of a certain outcome with regards to compensation to the town for the right to develop land. Maybe they shouldn't but when it comes to planning and deciding to go ahead with a development they would most certainly look at decisions council has made in the past. While the options to council are clear that they have an option to take land or cash, the traditional way things have been done do set a precedent. This may invoke an expectation in both the developer and possibly even the councillors when they sit down to decide the cost of doing business. I would hope that while they are reviewing the 10 year plan they should develop clear guidelines to how we decide to take land over cash to help both the councillors and the developers to curb expectations. After all until the motion is brought to council and a vote actually takes place a developer should not assume anything.

The motion passed 4-3 and I think in this particular case with the information on hand they ultimately made the right decision. I know that there was a lot of public opinion out there that we should be taking the land and maybe we should have but each application needs to be looked at individually.

Those councillors on the PLUD Committee had all the information that the general public didn't have. This included recommendations from staff who are hired to advise council in a professional capacity. This is what they are paid for and they are considered content experts in these matters. What is the point of having a bunch of people working for the town who are there to advise council on these types of matters only to ignore what they have to say? This is where politics comes into it, yes staff make recommendations but ultimately it is up to council to make the final decision. Hopefully after all the facts have been discussed and the emotions and political gamesmanship have been removed that our councillors make decisions that are in the best interest of the community as a whole.

The three councillors who voted against the motion gave their reasons as well. Councillor Tapper read a prepared statement so that he wouldn't forget anything and stated his reasons pretty clearly. He thanked all the residents who showed up for the meeting and stated that the latest proposal from the developer didn't have green space included. He went on to say that there was overwhelming support from the community to take the land and he felt it was not recognized by the committee. Councillor Tapper also mentioned that council made a mistake in the past by rezoning that land residential but there is no going back. He also feels that over the years we have given away so much to developers as a town and received so little in return.

Councillor Gallant maintains that there were no good reasons for not following the towns guidelines. He was questioning why the town would spend $100,000 developing guidelines only to ignore them. He questions why certain things that have been approved by council are not being done like flood place analysis for example. Basically he questioned the entire decision making process and lack of following guidelines.

Councillor Whitty was a little more blunt and just said that he heard lots of people argue for taking the land but never heard a good argument for taking the cash.

There are people in our town who will say ALWAYS take the land to protect open space and preserve the rural feel and look of our town. Then there are other people who will say ALWAYS take the cash and use it to make advancements in other areas of the town where the money is dearly needed. I suspect that there is a balanced approach to be taken that uses aspects of both options. Most likely we will know we have struck this balance when everyone is complaining that we could have gotten more from that deal......that means each side got something and in the end it is the residents of the town who should be getting the benefits of our increased prosperity.