The Suburban Newspaper

By Joel Goldenberg, June 19th, 2013

When I have referred to “council regulars” in my numerous stories on council meetings in the west end in the past 24 years, those identified should wear the designation as a badge of honour.

People like Irving Itman and Dr. Bernard Tonchin in Côte St. Luc; Rachel Genziuk, Lisa Hollinger and Lorne Gold in Hampstead; Daniel Markuze in Montreal West; and Sofia Vriniotis and Charles Benchimol in St. Laurent not only bring up issues of interest and concern to the wider community, they also obviously keep up with the latest news in the local press.

They say knowledge is power, and in local politics, that means knowing about important projects and initiatives, such as the attempt to build a high-rise condo in Hampstead, the planned compost facility in St. Laurent, the housing development on the Cavendish Mall site in Côte St. Luc and the Pharmaprix project in Montreal West, among many others. In all of these cases, many residents intervened on these and other issues at council meetings and public consultations.

But the latest opposition from some residents to a new McDonald’s restaurant planned for the Côte St. Luc Centre’s parking lot is a negative development – and this is not a reference to the argument as to whether there should be an outlet in that location or not.

I’m referring to a growing tendency – in many of the communities I cover – for residents to express opposition to a project, after it has already been approved. This is part of an unfortunate growing tendency of shrinking attendance at some council meetings in the past year, especially in Côte St. Luc and even the once very lively Hampstead. I’m hearing on numerous occasions, especially in Côte St. Luc and St. Laurent, that residents opposed to a project had the opportunity to participate in sometimes as many as two consultation meetings held months before.

“Well, I didn’t know,” I hear too many times.

Residents who want to be informed of what’s happening in their community should look at their local newspapers, not only for the stories from council meetings (we reported on the plans for a drive-thru restaurant on the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre last July), but also the public notices posted by municipalities. They contain announcements of important bylaws, and information on signing a register to spur a referendum on a potential project. Valuable information can also be seen on the websites of all of the municipalities and boroughs. And on many occasions, invitations for important local gatherings are sent to residents’ homes.

Be informed, before it’s “too late.” Apathy is not the way to go.

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In my opinion:  Joel Goldenberg is right on in his message. As residents of our city we need to be informed and participate in our collective future. I personally attended public council meetings regularly for 10 years before running for office. I’ve also created this blog to inform my constituents and all residents and neighbours interested in matters concerning our civic administration and local issues. Get informed. Ask questions. Offer opinions. It’s our city – together!