Image (c) Tony O’Connell Photography
Cork City Manager Joe Gavin this week said goodbye to the city he’s taken charge of for the past ten years.
Mr Gavin leaves with a considerable list of achievements under his belt, for which he was widely applauded at Monday night’s City Council meeting.
A vox-pop of our readers carried out on Facebook and on the streets suggests that the majority of Corkonians recognise these achievements.
The regeneration of St Patrick’s Street and the Grand Parade; the inception of the (some day, hopefully realised) Docklands Development Plan; the Lapps Quay and Opera Lane developments were all mentioned at Monday’s meeting. Councillors spoke at length about the infrastructural developments I’ve mentioned above, as well as others.
Mr Gavin praised developers, including Cork’s own ‘fugitive’ Greg Coughlan, of Howard Holdings, whose vision produced the Lapps Quay and Boardwalk development.
And then he said something else that proved just how little we have learned in the two years – so far – of this recession.
There were five cranes visible on the Cork skyline when he arrived, in 2000. At the ‘peak’ of his tenure, there were 28. This is how he measured his achievements, watching the skyline from his upper-floor office in Cork City Hall.
This statement – from a man who has done so much work for the people of Cork – just proved that we have learned absolutely nothing from the past two years of crashes, revelations and toppling of pedestals.
When will we learn that progress is not about buildings, but about people?
While all of the developments mentioned above are important and welcome, creating jobs and improving the city’s appearance, they are still just buildings.
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, it was also revealed that the number of homeless shelter beds in Cork currently meet demand, for the first time.
That is a wonderful achievement, and hats off to Cork Simon and the other services that continue to fight against homelessness. No matter how badly off we are as a country, one thing we are not short of is houses, so homelessness is a particularly ironic, and unnecessary side effect of this recession.
That, to me, is a major achievement, and I’m sure it is not the only human progress made in Cork since 2000.
Cork City Council has had its share of ups and downs under Mr Gavin; the St Mary’s Road Library move, which has been the cause of some confusion among councillors as to who voted for it, and when, is one negative that will be remembered from this year; the extensive flooding another.
While it will be a long time before Mr Gavin’s legacy can be assessed accurately, and from an objective distance, the legacy of the economic crash should already be teaching us that progress is about people.
Perhaps the next City Manager, Tim Lucey, when he takes over in August, will measure progress differently, while carrying on the good work of his predecessor.