Tales of an Accidental Mayor


My first public council meeting as Acting mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, November 9, 2015

My first public council meeting as Acting mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, November 9, 2015

As my term as Acting Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc drew to a close I sat down to ponder this unique experience.

Cote Saint-Luc follows a tradition typical in many municipalities by having each of its councillors alternate as Acting Mayor should the duly elected mayor be unable to fulfill his or her functions. My latest turn in the eight-person rotation covered the last three months of 2015 so with the resignation of Mayor Anthony Housefather on November 4, 2015 subsequent to his election as Member of Parliament for Mount Royal I immediately and seamlessly assumed the role of Mayor of the City of Cote Saint-Luc.

What a time of year to take over! We went straight into intensive planning for the next year’s budget which has ramifications for all residents and taxpayers, for employees and contractors. Presiding over such meetings is no easy feat as passions flare, opinions clash and nerves get frayed. Thankfully, our City Council functions quite harmoniously.

Public Council meeting November 2015

Public Council meeting November 2015

In planning for the $67 million budget and much more in the triennial capital expenditures we needed to consider services to residents, infrastructure upgrade and maintenance, staffing, fleet acquisition, service contracts for snow clearing to name some of the major issues. There was also the little matter of requesting a ministerial extension on the prescribed election period in order to allow enough time for the majority of our snowbirds to be back home in time to vote for our next mayor.

Dealing with human resource issues is never an easy topic. With personnel expenses reaching 70% of our operating budget it’s not possible to look at trimming budgets in difficult years without affecting staff. This was the sad reality that we had to confront.  Decisions were made based upon business plans and economic factors despite the inevitable emotional tone.

I dealt with many emails and inquiries on the change in library opening hours and wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Suburban Newspaper.  Several emails praised the city for its superb handling of the first snow storm of the season. I was updated on two late night major house fires as well as an early morning bank robbery with suspects at large. A ride up in the city’s “cherry-picker” to light the Chanukah Menorah and greeting residents in four languages was quite special. I also attended a Russian holiday festivity and caroled outdoors to welcome Christmas while lighting the tree in front of City Hall.

High above the crowd, Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen prepares to light the giant Chanukah Menorah and sing the prayers

High above the crowd, Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen prepares to light the giant Chanukah Menorah and sing the prayers

Back inside I presided over several public meetings, keeping decorum, steering the agenda and fielding questions from the public and media. Most inquiries were rather pleasant and positive. Unfortunately, some were downright aggressive and nasty. I presented the Annual Report of the Mayor, a lengthy speech about the city’s performance over the past year and predictions of financial intentions and plans for the next year. The “In-Committee” meetings go on for hours and hours, usually to midnight, sometimes beyond.

All this takes place after hours, as mayors and councillors in all but the largest cities typically have careers that are the mainstay of their livelihood. So, for those of us with families, young children and responsibilities at home this means lots and lots of time away. I cannot thank my wife, Judy, enough for constantly supporting my political activity and managing an extremely busy household alongside her own 24/7 practice. My children, Jeremy, Nathalie and Nicole are usually rather forgiving having experienced (since birth) that daddy is constantly checking emails, taking calls and out at meetings and events, missing dinner, playtime and unfortunately some special moments. This harrowing routine continues late into the night and into the weekends. It follows you on vacation. It’s never-ending.

A very happy Nasen family receives the election results at City Hall, November 2013

A very happy Nashen family receives the election results at City Hall, November 2013

On the whole, serving as Acting Mayor has been an immense privilege and honour, an experience that was both personally and professionally rewarding. Thank you Allan, Dida, Mike, Mitch, Steven, Ruth, Sam, Nadia and Anthony too! Although it only lasted eight weeks I must say it was one of the most interesting periods in my 25 years since being elected. The demands are unending and thanks to the support of council and a truly dedicated administration the job is manageable and incredibly interesting.

I pass the torch to Councillor Dida Berku for the next three months. Council and management will continue to be there to back her up and keep the city on course until the elections when we choose our next mayor.
Cote Saint-Luc City Council: Nov. 2015 to April 2016

Cote Saint-Luc City Council: Nov. 2015 to April 2016

And thanks to all of you who wrote, called, asked questions and engaged your elected representatives in the best interest of our wonderful city. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. I look forward to getting this chance again some day, preferably not by accident.

CSL Public Library is still an oasis


Nearly every day I am reminded that we, Cote Saint-Luc residents, are so fortunate to live in one of the best cities. The drive to maintain this stature and to constantly strive to make improvements, large and small, is a primary focus of the City Council and Administration. Afterall, a responsible administration should be motivated by continuous quality improvement in order to provide excellent services and experiences to its citizenry. It should engage in management techniques to ensure that taxpayers are receiving a strong return on their investment. These dividends are paid out in recreational, leisure, sports and cultural offerings – baseball fields, tennis courts, arenas, pools, parks and libraries. It is the first responder that rushes to your home when someone falls ill. It is a smooth and clean street, it’s the employee who picks up your garbage and recycling and it’s efficient snow removal. It is the full civic gamut of facilities, infrastructure, services and personnel.


We live in a society with finite resources. We make choices every day as to where to allocate our limited funds. It would be easy to wave a magic wand and spend like there’s no tomorrow, currying favour with each interest group: the baseball players, the swimmers, the skaters, those who stroll in the park, those who never recycle or compost and much prefer twice-a-week garbage pickup, the kid next door who’d rather leave his car in front of your house all night long and the library patron who’d like the facility to stay open late every night even though very few others may be around at those hours.


These idealistic exaggerations are very real. City Councils are faced with such decisions daily: how to please most constituents, most of the time, at the lowest cost possible? And such is the reality in Cote Saint-Luc departments and programs, including the Public Library. Traditionally open twelve hours each and every day of the year this gem of an institution cost taxpayers nearly three million dollars in 2015. Faced with the reality of administering a $67 million municipal budget, the need to protect our aging infrastructure, respecting the elderly homeowner living on a fixed budget with diminishing personal investments and the annual exercise to keep any tax increase in line with the rate of inflation, all directors are tasked with reviewing each budget line.


In preparing for the 2016 budget for our city the library came up with about $250,000 in compressions. Half of this, about $125,000, is directly attributed to shortening the hours of operation during very quiet periods on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Our counts show that as few as 10-15 patrons are typically present in the later hours. Therefore, we agreed to close at 6:00 p.m. on the weekend. The unfortunate reality is that such decisions also affect employees, in this case 10 on-call auxiliary staff.


The library continues to stay open to 10:00 p.m. on all other nights, longer hours than all other public libraries on the Island of Montreal. We stay open throughout the holidays when many others close completely. We are literally open 24 hours a day with our virtual library of downloadable books and magazines. Our Library Lounge at the Aquatic and Community Centre will remain open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. most nights, as a place to read and relax, to pick up and drop off a book for free.


As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this incredible public library, I am reminded of my many visits to its original location upstairs at the Cote Saint-Luc Shopping Centre and to hundreds of other visits through the years. It is a place that has and will continue to make Cote Saint-Luc the envy of many other residents across the region and still is an oasis for its thousands of patrons.


Glenn J. Nashen

Acting Mayor

Cote Saint-Luc


Read more:

Readers incensed over reduced library hours (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 24, 2015))

For decades, Côte-St-Luc’s public library has been the envy of Montreal residents because of its numerous services and famously long opening hours — its doors are open 365 days of the year, 12 hours a day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of holidays when the opening hours are shortened. It is free of charge to Côte-St-Luc residents.

ALLEN MCINNIS/MONTREAL GAZETTEThe Eleanor London Library is “a sanctuary from the madness of the streets,” one supporter wrote.But starting Jan. 5, the municipality has decided to close the library at 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, saying few people use it then and the city needs to trim its budgets to offset escalating costs.

The changes are not going over well with some in the community who fear it will lead to further cuts. The outcry there echoes dissatisfaction voiced elsewhere in Montreal about limited library hours, particularly during the holidays.

“To its patrons (the Eleanor London Library) was, and is, far more than a library,” wrote Côte-St-Luc resident Sharon Zajdman in an open letter to the community. “It is an oasis and a sanctuary from the madness of the streets. For those with nowhere to go and no family to be with, especially at holiday time, the library is a lifeline.”

In several Montreal boroughs, municipal libraries are closed for the majority of the holidays, starting Dec. 24 and running until Jan. 2. All four libraries of the city’s most populous borough, Côte-desNeiges — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, home to 165,000 residents, will be closed for eight of 10 days during the holidays, shutting from Dec. 24 to 28 and again from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2.

“This is a time of year when children and their parents can take full advantage of our public community libraries,” a borough resident who asked not to be named wrote in a letter to the Montreal Gazette. “Libraries also provide a valuable community resource open for the elderly and isolated adults who don’t have a family to share the holidays with.”

The borough has closed its libraries for most of the holidays for the last few years to allow staff time off during a period when the libraries are less utilized, said Sophie Paquet, a communications officer for the borough. She suggested there are other city-run resources, like the Biodôme and the planetarium open during the holidays, for citizens to use.

Cutting evening hours at CôteSt-Luc’s library will save the municipality $125,000 a year, by reducing the work hours of 10 on-call auxiliary workers, interim mayor Glenn J. Nashen said. In total, the city is looking at cutting $200,000 to $300,000 from the library budget, in part by laying off staff members in 2016.

“We are looking to trim our budgets wherever possible to keep our taxes in check,” without sacrificing services to citizens, Nashen said. “After 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, there are only about 10 people left in the library. I think there are still a lot of positives there. We are open more than virtually any library in Montreal, 365 days a year, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday.”

Nashen said he and his city councillors have received only six complaints about the reduced hours from citizens. With a limited tax base and limited resources, the city is looking at every department to find savings, he said.

Zajdman said the city should find others areas in which to cut costs, such as to its $18-million aquatic centre instead of a beloved cultural institution that will turn 50 in 2016.

“We get that you need to save money, but why here, where are your values,” she said.

“Don’t do it at the expense of our library. Don’t play with our money …

“You either rescue the library or you lose my vote.”

Côte-St-Luc is holding a byelection in early April to elect a new mayor to replace Anthony Housefather, who was elected as a member of Parliament for Mount Royal in the October federal election.

Online comment by Shirley Nadell:

The Eleanor London Library is a gem! If the City needs to save some funds to perpetuate the wonderful services it provides then that decision must be made.

I think the judgement to reduce library accessibility for but 12 hours in an 84 hour week is both reasonable and acceptable. The determination of the closings at 6pm (instead of 10pm) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the evenings which have the least number of citizens in attendance, will provide substantial savings.


Letters: Cutting CSL Library hours is fine (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 26, 2015)

Re: “Readers incensed over reduced library hours” (Montreal Gazette, Dec. 24)

I beg to disagree with those complaining about the reduced hours at Eleanor London Côte-St-Luc Public Library. The services we are getting at this library are beyond efficient — they are extraordinary — with a huge range of reading at one’s disposal.

I believe that keeping the doors open until 10 p.m. daily is unnecessary, as a significant percentage of the inhabitants of Côte-St-Luc are elderly and not given to gallivanting at night.

Daytime is perfectly sufficient, and yes, if that helps to cut costs, why not?

Selma Menezes, Côte-St-Luc


Open letter to CSL: “Save the Eleanor London Library”

  • By Sharon Zajdman, Special to The Suburban, Dec 23, 2015
  • 0

I am a Cote St. Luc resident and a patron of its library. This week I was shocked and dismayed to discover that, not only will hours during the upcoming holidays be truncated, but also, beginning January 5, evening hours for half the week will be permanently axed, and several services are being eliminated. When I inquired further, I learned that staff members have been “terminated” without warning—a week before Christmas. Their duties will be divided among library employees who have survived the purge, and will now have to work harder, while receiving less.

For many years this borough was blessed with a great mayor. His ambitions reached beyond this neighbourhood so, unselfishly, his constituents gave him what he wanted, and voted him into Parliament. That was two months ago. A good deed never goes unpunished. It appears we are now being led by a rudderless bunch of bean counters whose first official independent act has been to attack our library.

The Eleanor London Library is a 50-year-old institution that began life in an upstairs corner of the Cote St. Luc shopping center. It was called The Cote St. Luc Library, then. It was the visionary librarian Eleanor London who nurtured and steered a tiny establishment into a treasure chest of literature, film, music, and cultural programming. The Eleanor London Library developed into the envy of every other borough. It was open 12 hours a day, seven days of the week, for every single day of the year. To its patrons it was, and is, far more than a library. It is an oasis and a sanctuary from the madness of the streets. For those with nowhere to go and no family to be with, especially at holiday time, the library is a lifeline.

Ten years ago, when Montreal’s City Hall forced its boroughs to merge while simultaneously axing a $300,000 dollar grant to the Eleanor London, library patrons were offered a choice; accept truncated hours and lose programs, or accept new fees. Without hesitation nor resentment, patrons opted to pay out of pocket in order to keep the library open and running fully and full-time.

In the past five years, while library patrons continued to pay for what had once been subsidized, and library hours were cut on legal holidays anyway, a $22 million dollar state-of-the-art community and aquatic center was built, opened, and has been maintained.

Cote St. Luc is a financially comfortable neighbourhood. While the rest of this province descended into Comic Opera Land, there were still signs of intelligent life in this neighbourhood. They seem to be disappearing. Firing employees a week before Christmas is the act of a ruthless and brutal factory owner, not the action of a civilized suburban administration. Gouging the guts out of a cultural institution that has proven itself a beacon of light in the darkness is the act of philistines. A cultured community is a civilized community.

I ask Cote St. Luc residents who care about culture and the civility it represents to contact City Hall and make their voices heard. If fighting for our values cannot reverse this cynical decision, then I urge the community to purge City Hall in the same manner as City Hall has purged our library, and vote the current administration out of office.



A reality check on the CSL library

I have just read the open letter from Sharon Zajdman and would take this opportunity to spell out a few facts of life for her.

The Cote Saint-Luc Library stands out among city libraries and it is supported almost entirely by taxpayers as a place to borrow and obtain books, records and films for use in our homes. And even after what I feel are minor changes, the Library is an example of a prime service.

Every so often, as is the case in most well-administered communities, services must be reviewed and updates implemented as necessary.

For those of us who use the library, and I take out an average of 3 books a week when in Cote Saint Luc, the cutting off of a few hours on week-ends, particularly in the evening when very few citizens but many staff could be found on hand, the decision to curtail some hours was no surprise. I would have thought it should have been done several years ago.

Ms. Zajdman feels that the library is for people with nowhere to go. That is not the object of a library. Regretably, there may be the odd person who has spent the week-end evening sitting around at the library, but at what cost?

Additionally, Ms. Zajdman errs when she refers to the A.C.C. as having cost $22 million when in fact the total was less than $17 million, of which the City paid only one-third.

If a person has nowhere to go on Saturday or Sunday evening, he/she could always go to the A.C.C. to sit around in the unattended library reading room there, or maybe catch swimmers or basketball players in action.

As for those who have been laid off, yes, it is unfortunate and the timing might not be the best, but they were temporary workers and had to know there was always the possibility that their positions would be eliminated.

I have made some inquiries and learned that the anticipated saving is about a quarter of a million dollars and that other necessary compressions have also taken place in other municipal government areas. Hopefully none should adversely affect the terrific public service rendered by Cote Saint-Luc’s managers, staff and elected officials.

At a time when many costs are rising and revenues are not necessarily keeping up with the times, even with some cuts, a mild increase in our property taxes had to be implemented.

Would Ms. Zajdman have preferred that all our residents pay more in their property taxes instead of acting responsibly as they did?

Sidney Margles




Côte Saint-Luc adopts 2016 budget: city spending stays flat, average residential property tax increase of 2.3 percent

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc has adopted an operating budget for 2016 that kept spending flat and saw the property tax of 2.3 percent for an average single-family home in the city, which is in line with what the Conference Board of Canada has forecast as the inflation rate for the greater Montreal region.
“We made every effort to keep property taxes as low as possible while maintaining the highest quality services,” Acting Mayor Glenn J. Nashen said. “We continue to operate as efficiently as possible to help ensure that Côte Saint-Luc remains to be one of the best places to live.”
The Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted the $67 million operating budget on December 14, 2015. About 42 percent of all taxes collected by Côte Saint-Luc are transferred to the Agglomeration of Montreal, which is the island-wide regional government that funds services such as police, fire, and public transit.
The property tax bills will be sent to homes by the last week of January. The deadline to pay property taxes has been set at February 26 for the first installment and May 27 for the second installment.
“We understand that the public entrusts us with their money and we take that responsibility seriously,” said Councillor Steven Erdelyi, the council member responsible for finances. “As the father of two young children, my family uses many of our municipal services. I’m keenly aware of how important they are to our residents, while also understanding the need to keep property taxes as low as possible.”
Budget and tax highlights include the following:
  • Average increase in taxes for single-family home valued at $572,300: 2.3 percent (or $142)
  • Decrease in water, residential and non-residential tax rates
  • Increase in revenues from taxation: 2.39 percent
  • Revenues from property taxes: 86.7 percent
  • Revenues from compensation in lieu of taxes: 1.9 percent
  • Other revenues (eg, program fees, memberships, etc.): 11.2 percent
The three-year capital expenditures plan was also adopted on December 14. Approximately $10.5 million in capital expenses is anticipated in 2016. It will be used for projects such as enhancements to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park, improvements and repairs to the Westminster and Cavendish underpasses, repairs to municipal buildings including the Bernard Lang Civic Centre building envelope, repairs to roads and sidewalks and more.

Rapport annuel du maire | Annual Report of the Mayor

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In conformity with the Cities and Towns Act, I am pleased to present the Report on the financial situation of the City of Cote Saint Luc. To begin with, I will present the results for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2014. I will then update you on the preliminary projections for the 2015 fiscal year. In closing, I will give you an overview of the operating and the three-year capital expenditure program budgets for the 2016 fiscal year.



Conformément à la Loi sur les cités et villes, c’est avec plaisir que je présente le Rapport sur la situation financière de la Ville de Côte Saint-Luc. Je présenterai d’abord les résultats pour l’année financière se terminant le 31 décembre 2014. Ensuite, je passerai en revue les prévisions préliminaires pour l’année financière 2015. Et pour terminer, je vous donnerai un aperçu du budget de fonctionnement et du programme triennal d’immobilisations pour l’année financière 2016.


Court of Appeal dismisses Meadowbrook developer’s motion

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The Quebec Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed a motion by Meadowbrook Golf Course developer Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific, regarding the latest version of a lawsuit against Côte St. Luc that has wound its way through the courts for 15 years.

Côte St. Luc was originally sued by Meadowbrook’s developer in 2000 when the city changed the zoning of its part of the golf course site from residential to recreational and commercial. Developers have been wanting to place housing on the site, half of which is in Lachine, for more than 25 years.

The original lawsuit was on the backburner for years, until Groupe Pacific changed its lawsuit to claim $32 million — $19 million of which was to force the city to basically buy the part of the land in its territory — a land swap: and $13 million for loss of profits, reduced by Quebec Superior Court from $20 million.

Quebec Superior Court found that the revised case was a “new recourse” not allowed by the Code of Procedure, and did not allow the company to pursue the $19 million claim. The court also found Groupe Pacific to be the cause of the original lawsuit being in limbo for some 12 years.

Now Groupe Pacific wants to amend its lawsuit once again, to claim another $20 million. The developer wanted the Quebec Court of Appeal to state its opinion on the merits of such a re-amendment to the Quebec Superior Court. That appeals court hearing took place Friday and lasted three minutes.

“Their appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed,” said Côte St. Luc Councillor Dida Berku. “They wanted an opinion from the Court of Appeal as to whether or not they were precluded from claiming another $20 million. The judgment states that if they want to re-amend to claim another $20 million, they have to go back to Superior Court, and the Superior Court will decide. The Court of Appeal will not decide on the merits of their re-amendment in advance.”

Berku said the Court of Appeal judgment was basically quoting Côte St. Luc’s position in this matter.


Nashen releases annual report of the mayor: Capital expenditures to hold steady

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Free Press | Nov. 24, 2015 | Click to enlarge

Free Press | Nov. 24, 2015 | Click to enlarge

CSL had $4.136 million cumulative surplus in 2014

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Nov 18, 2015

Côte St. Luc had a $4.136 million cumulative operating surplus and a cumulative pension plan surplus of more than $1.8 million by the end of 2014, Pro-Mayor Glenn Nashen read in the annual report on the city’s financial situation.

Nashen added that the pension plan surplus cannot be used by the city for “operating or capital purposes.”

As well, the city generated $119,272 in surplus for 2014 alone “due to close monitoring of the city’s taxation rates and expenses.”

Other facts from the report:

• The city limits indebtedness by ensuring it is eligible for government infrastructure grants.

“The city has benefited from obtaining the full part of a federal and provincial grant ($9.5 million) based on the gas tax and contribution from Quebec to subsidize infrastructure improvements to the city from 2010 to 2013,” the report says.

• The city used $2.8 million from “unrestricted surplus, parkland reserves, closed bylaws and the working fund” for improvements to Arthur Zygielbaum Park, Allan J. Levine Playground, replacing the roof on the public works garage, renovating library bathrooms and “improving security through the purchase and installation of cameras.”

• Côte St. Luc’s 2015-2017 three-year capital expenditures program was approved in December 2014, with $12.97 million earmarked for 2015. Approved projects included road and traffic infrastructure for $3 million, work on city buildings and properties for $4 million, parks improvements for $3 million, $2 million to upgrade vehicles and equipment and $617,000 for technology and emergency preparedness.

• The city is expecting a minimal surplus at the end of this year, “contingent on the closing of the transfer of city land to B’nai Brith Canada before the end of the fiscal year.”


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