Cote Saint-Luc mayoral race shaping up to be a battle between Mitchell Brownstein and Robert Libman

Leave a comment

0
Côte-St-Luc, Que., Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, surrounded by supporters, makes his re-election bid official on June 9. JANICE ARNOLD PHOTO

He hasn’t yet decided whether he would try to get his old job back as mayor of Côte-St-Luc, Que., but Robert Libman has come out swinging against incumbent Mitchell Brownstein, for his and his supporters’ criticism of how Libman handled the municipal demerger issue more than a decade ago.

Libman suggests that federal partisan politics are motivating the “attack.”

At a press conference held at a kosher restaurant on June 9, Brownstein officially announced that he is seeking re-election in November. A longtime councillor, Brownstein was acclaimed mayor in March 2016, following the resignation of Anthony Housefather, who was elected as the federal Liberal MP for Mount Royal the previous fall.

Housefather, who had been mayor for 10 years, was on hand to endorse Brownstein’s candidacy. Friends for more than 20 years, Housefather said Brownstein is “probably the person I have asked advice of more than any other.”

He and Brownstein were leaders of the Côte-St-Luc demerger campaign from 2002 to 2004.

Also present were Peter Trent, former mayor of Westmount, Que., and former chair of the Association of Suburban Mayors, and Lawrence Bergman, who was an MNA for the riding of D’Arcy-McGee for 19 years.

READ: PROPOSED NEW SHUL DIVIDES LARGELY JEWISH MONTREAL SUBURB

Both praised Brownstein for, as Bergman put it, his “blue-chip integrity.”

Brownstein, 56, has also received the endorsement of all eight councillors, each of whom will be seeking re-election.

The decision by residents of Côte-St-Luc to fight the forced creation of the island-wide city of Montreal, which was finally achieved through a referendum in 2004, has proven to be the right one, Housefather said.

“I’ve not heard one person say, ‘Why did we not stay in Montreal? What a terrible decision we made’.”

Then Housefather turned his sights on Libman, the former provincial Equality Party leader and MNA, who was acclaimed Côte-St-Luc mayor in 1998 and then borough mayor of Côte-St-Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West in 2001.

At the time, he was named to the Montreal Executive Committee, which is responsible for urban planning, and supported continuing as part of the megacity (with some nuances). He quit municipal politics in 2005.

In the 2015 federal election, he ran unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in Mount Royal against Housefather.

Housefather, a borough councillor at the time, said winning on the demerger issue was a hard struggle, and Libman a tough opponent.

A blue ribbon became the symbol of the demerger campaign, he recalled. “Libman called them shmatte and ordered the ribbons taken down from public property, where they were legally, and from private property.

“Mitchell reacted calmly and simply said ‘put them back up,’ which we did over one weekend.”

Libman, 56, responded with a statement: “I haven’t even decided yet if I am running … yet the current mayor and other local politicians decided to come out and attack me … with falsehoods and exaggerations. This odd spectacle was bizarre and over the top, but I’ve always been up against this Liberal establishment mentality that is so condescending towards our community and which constantly takes us for granted and tells us how we have to vote.

“Their comments about demerger were disingenuous. About half of the current Côte-St-Luc council supported the same position that I did at time.…It was an intellectual debate about municipal structures and taxation. I wasn’t against true demerger, but opposed the (Quebec) government’s Bill 9 … the so-called demerger legislation was a ‘dog’s breakfast’ allowing former suburbs to supposedly demerge according to a controversial voting formula but also stripped them of any clout and political power and forcing them into a ‘taxation without representation’ straitjacket.”

A lawyer by profession, Brownstein said he would continue to be a full-time mayor, if re-elected.

“Our finances have never been better,” he said. “This year, we had a surplus of over $1 million and we will be paying $2.4 million less to the Montreal agglomeration council over the next three years for island-wide services.”

Libman begs to differ. “Côte-St-Luc is a great community in which to live, but we can do much better with stronger leadership,” he said. “We have the second-highest tax rate of all 35 cities and boroughs on the island of Montreal. This was unheard of when I was mayor.”

Brownstein, first elected to council in 1990, was also praised as a “consensus” builder.

Sidney Benizri, the city’s first francophone Sephardic councillor, who was elected in a byelection last year, said, “I was immediately welcomed by Mayor Brownstein as part of the team. I appreciate his openness to all communities.… Mitchell has a capacity for united people and this characterizes his strong leadership skills.”

PROPOSED NEW SHUL DIVIDES LARGELY JEWISH MONTREAL SUBURB

Leave a comment

This architect’s drawing of the proposed synagogue of the Sephardic Kollel Avrechim Foundation has been submitted to the City of Côte St. Luc.

Côte-St-Luc, Que. will open a register on June 15, which will allow eligible residents to have their say on whether to force a referendum on the proposed construction of a new synagogue in their neighbourhood.

The register will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 5801 Cavendish Blvd., second floor, to residents of the two small municipal zones affected and the adjoining area.

A referendum would be the final word on the project. But Mayor Mitchell Brownstein made it clear that if the minimum of 17 people sign, which seems likely given the opposition expressed to the project, the city will not proceed to a referendum, as required by provincial law.

Instead, Brownstein said city council will withdraw its approval of the rezoning that would allow the Sephardic Kollel Avrechim Foundation to build on its lot on Mackle Road, next to the Quartier Cavendish shopping centre.

On May 29, Côte-St-Luc council voted 4-2 to approve the final version of a bylaw amending the zoning of the land from residential to institutional.

By the May 25 deadline, 33 of 56 eligible residents had signed a request that a register be opened, a necessary legal step in the process.

The mayor stressed that if approval is withdrawn, the city will help Kollel Avrechim find another location, to which its leadership has indicated it is open. Brownstein said several alternative sites are being considered.

“The congregation is important and deserves a home,” he said, “and we will continue to work with (it).”

Moreover, Brownstein said a referendum would cost the city at least $30,000 “for no reason.… There’s no chance of winning.”

The issue has been delicate because the Montreal suburb does not want to be seen as banning a synagogue, or any religious institution. The project’s opponents submitted a petition with about 70 signatures to city council.

The city’s population is at least 60 per cent Jewish and all nine council members are Jewish.

The final rezoning bylaw was moved by councillor Sidney Benizri and seconded by Allan Levine. The first draft of the bylaw was adopted in March and a second version earlier in May by a 5-2 vote.

Councillor Ruth Kovac, one of the two dissenters, said she voted against the rezoning bylaw “not because I am against any religious institution. This is strictly a zoning issue.”

She thinks the lot is too small, especially if the congregation expects that it will continue to grow. Kovac, who earlier noted that she is sensitive to this issue as the child of Holocaust survivors, offered to personally help the congregation find a “better location.”

She suggested they might be able to find a location that’s closer to where most of its members live.

Architectural plans submitted by the foundation are for a three-storey building. In addition to Quartier Cavendish, the site, bearing the civic address of 6790-6792 Mackle Rd., is close to the Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue.

Kollel Avrechim, led by Rabbi Yehuda Benoliel, has been operating out of a duplex on Parkhaven Avenue for almost 20 years.

Kovac said she regretted that this matter is being “dragged” out and that it is “unfair” to residents to have them for a third time affirm their disapproval (she counted the petition and the request for a register as the first two instances).

Councillor Glenn Nashen, who represents the district where the zones are located, said he would have voted for the rezoning bylaw, but was unable to attend the meeting.

He blogged that, like Kovac, he believes this issue is purely over zoning and has “nothing to do with religion or support for a synagogue.

“We are a city of many religions, languages and residents of all backgrounds, even if the majority are of the Jewish faith. Some are very religious, others somewhat and yet others traditional or secular. We all live in peace and harmony in respect of one another, which makes Côte St. Luc an incredible place to live and to raise a family. Let’s be sure to keep it this way.”

Opponents of the project have raised concerns about increased traffic, noise and parking problems. They fear a second synagogue next door would lower their property values and mean higher taxes, because religious institutions are exempt from taxation.

Quartier Cavendish has also voiced strong opposition, because it thinks that people using the synagogue, especially during special events, would park on its property.

Rabbi Benoliel has said that the congregation would be respectful of those living nearby, and that their needs were taken into account during the planning of the project. At the urging of Brownstein, the leaders met with neighbours to try to allay their worries.

Mitchell Brownstein announces plans to run for re-election

Leave a comment

Global News Montreal

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein formally announced that he will be throwing

his hat in the ring and will be running for re-election in this year’s November elections

On Friday morning, current mayor of Côte St-Luc, Mitchell Brownstein, announced that he was putting in his candidacy to run for another term as mayor of the city.

At the Elna Bistro press conference, Brownstein made the announcement with the support of six city councillors present and with statements read from two other city councillors who were unable to attend.

He was also supported by Anthony Housefather, member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Lawrence Bergman, former minister of revenue, and Peter Trent, former mayor of Westmount and former president of the Association of Suburban Mayors.

“Mitchell has the capacity of reuniting people and this characterizes his strong leadership skills,” city Coun. Sidney Benizri said.

When Trent spoke, he mentioned that he had originally written a speech that focused on Brownstein’s accomplishments but since he learned yesterday that another candidate would be running, he decided he needed to speak about Brownstein’s potential opponent.

“I didn’t want to use the L-word at that point,” Trent said.

“But then yesterday, I discovered that Mr. Robert Libman has decided to put his toe in the water to see the temperature with regard to running again as the mayor of Côte St-Luc.

And I thought it was important that I give some context to this rather strange desire on the part of Mr. Libman to come back.”

Trent said that during 2002 and 2004, he led the de-merger movement.

“And my comrades in arms were Anthony Housefather and Mitch.”

Trent placed his hand on Brownstein’s shoulder as he spoke.

“I have seen them fight for their city which I think is important that potential electors realize,” Trent said.

Trent explained that five weeks before the 2001 election, Libman thought the mega-city would be a “bureaucratic monster” and that Libman was “completely against it”.

But, Trent said, then he changed his mind.

“From then on, he became the biggest cheerleader for the mega city, to the point that when we managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and have a chance at de-merging, he actually argued against de-merging,” Kent said.

According to Trent, the de-merger is the most important thing to happen to Côte St-Luc.

“You can judge a person’s character on how they behave during a tough time,” Kent said.

Trent added that Brownstein has the capacity to “do the right thing when times are tough” and that history has proven that Brownstein can stay the course and fulfils his promises.

Housefather said that you can tell a lot about a man from what he does when the chips are down, and told a story about how Brownstein lifted him – and others – up.

Housefather reminded the crowd about how difficult it was to bring the de-merger to life back then.

“There was not an incentive from the government for us to de-merge,” Housefather said. “They put a process in place that was exceptionally difficult.”

He explained that at the time the symbol used to support the concept of a de-merger was a blue ribbon and told a story about how, one weekend, they all went out and put up blue ribbons on both public property, and the private property of those who requested it, across the city.

He said he was shocked and discouraged when he heard that then-mayor, Libman, was on the news opposing the ribbons and had Public Works crews out taking down all their blue ribbons.

This year, his first year as mayor, they ran a surplus of over a million dollars, he says, but with the Association of Suburban Mayors, they were able to negotiate a deal with Montreal where the city of Côte St-Luc will be paying $2.4 million less, phased in over three years, in order to support island-wide services.

“That is really who I want to be as mayor,” Brownstein said at the press conference when it was his time to speak.

“Someone who could create consensus, who can work together for what the people want.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Gazette Community Snapshot: Cote Saint-Luc

3 Comments

I believe Cote Saint-Luc is the best place to live and to raise a family. It is a place of great harmony, happiness and active, inter-generational participation. What a fantastic place to call home. This is a wonderful piece that appeared in the Montreal Gazette on June 3, 2017 written by an excellent business journalist, Megan Martin, who worked with me a few years ago at the Jewish General Hospital.

 

COMMUNITY SNAPSHOT

A look at CôteSt-Luc

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE CITY OF CÔTE-ST-LUC
Renowned artist and local resident Shalom Bloom has donated 10 of his life-size animal sculptures to the city of Côte-St-Luc, which created a sculpture garden in the recently renovated Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park.

 

Spread over seven square kilometres and located a mere 10 minutes from downtown Montreal, the cosy community of Côte-St-Luc is a suburban sanctuary. Home to roughly 34,000 residents, the city’s many green spaces, safe streets, and well maintained community services and facilities are a rare combination so close to Montreal’s core.

“I always say our mission statement is to provide services, facilities and programming in a compassionate environment in order to ensure that families and friends of all ages can enjoy meaningful experiences together and find happiness right here in Côte-St-Luc,” said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We are a proud community and our residents expect excellence in service, infrastructure and programming, and we do our best to please.”

That’s why the city recently undertook projects to upgrade several of its facilities, including the community’s heavily used Aquatic and Community Centre.

“We created a sports corridor with a new and improved fitness room directly across from the changing rooms of our two indoor pools,” Mayor Brownstein said. “There’s also a new teen lounge and we’ve entered into a partnership with Le Rec Room to create a bouncy kids room and to provide 30 more birthday-party and programming options for children six years old and under.”

In addition to youth programs, the city makes it a point to cater to an older demographic as well. For instance, the Cummings Centre recently opened a drop-in centre for elderly people with dementia, which gives their caregivers a break.

“We have active senior men’s and women’s clubs at the ACC,” Brownstein added. “So you can see that our Aquatic and Community Centre has become a real intergenerational facility.”

In addition to these upgrades, the city also recently undertook a complete renovation of Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park, which will be inaugurated on July 1.

“We received a donation from the internationally renowned artist Shalom Bloom of 10 of his life-size animal sculptures and created a sculpture garden in the park, making it a destination for anyone visiting the island of Montreal,” Brownstein said.

Maintaining its green spaces has long been a priority for the city as it seeks to accommodate the growing number of young families moving to the area.

“Our community keeps getting younger,” the mayor said. “It’s a great place to live for people of any age who want to feel part of a caring community.”

For those exploring the idea of moving to Côte-St-Luc, the area has much to offer in terms of real estate.

A four-bedroom townhouse on Merrimac Rd. has an asking price of $429,000, while a two-bedroom condo on Macdonald Ave. is listed for $369,500. If you’re looking for more space, a five-bedroom, twostorey on McMurray Ave. is selling for $599,000, and a new four-bedroom home on Tommy Douglas St. is selling for just over $1 million.

“Many new townhouses have been successful, and a new luxury rental building being built at Cavendish Mall by BSR Group is highly anticipated,” said Saguy Elbaz, real-estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty Québec.

“Luxury homes in the Cavendish Mall project are sold out and not many have come back on the market.”

In addition, a townhouse project on Parkhaven Ave. is almost complete, and a new apartment building is being built on the site as well. Another project containing townhouses and single-family homes was recently completed, and another multi-unit housing development is currently underway on Marc Chagall Ave.

“Côte-St-Luc is a great place to raise a family,” Elbaz said. “It’s a clean, safe and friendly neighbourhood with great local services.”

CSL council votes 4-2 to enable synagogue register

Leave a comment

Côte St. Luc council voted 4-2 Monday night for a rezoning bylaw to enable a new synagogue to be created on Mackle Road, even though it is being generally acknowledged the Fondation Sepharade Kollel Avrechim will very likely not be built in that location.

A register on the synagogue, in which residents can sign to express their desire for a referendum, will take place 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 15. More information on the particulars will be sent out by Côte St. Luc.

Councillors Allan Levine, Sidney Benizri, Sam Goldbloom and Mike Cohen voted in favour, while Ruth Kovac and Steven Erdelyi voted against. Councillor Glenn Nashen was absent, but passed on the message he would have voted in favour. Dida Berku, who has abstained from these votes, was also absent.

The vote came after enough signatories — 33 out of 56 eligible residents — signed a petition to spark a register, on which only 17 signatures would be needed to prompt a referendum. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said if enough people sign the register, there will be no need for a referendum and, as a result, another location will have to be found for the synagogue.

Brownstein said it is the city’s mandate to help all residents, and support religious communities. He added that even those who oppose that location for the synagogue want to help its congregants find a new location.

“I assure you now that we’re continuing to look into [potential] locations,” the Mayor said.

Kovac objected to council passing the bylaw to enable the register. The councillor emphasized that she is not against the synagogue, just the proposed location, as are the 33 residents who signed for a register.

“For me to drag this out to June 15 and ask these same residents to come a second time to say the same thing is a little bit unfair,” she added. “We already know we’re not going to a referendum.”

Côte St. Luc Dramatic Society to stage Little Shop of Horrors

Leave a comment

The award-winning Côte St. Luc Dramatic Society is once again demonstrating how diverse its offerings are, this time by presenting the horror-comedy rock-musical Little Shop of Horrors from June 8 to 25 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium, 5801 Cavendish Blvd. in Côte St. Luc.

The CSLDS’s other productions have ranged from ensemble comedies to classic Broadway musicals to straight drama.

Little Shop of Horrors is the story of a plant named Audrey II that offers fame and fortune to a meek floral assistant, in exchange for blood. It was first an ultra-low budget horror black comedy movie in 1960 featuring a young Jack Nicholson.

It became an off-Broadway musical in the early 1980s, then a high-budget 1986 Frank Oz-directed movie musical with Rick Moranis and the voice of Four Tops singer Levi Stubbs as the killer plant, and then a full Broadway musical. The music is by Alan Menken and the book is by Howard Ashman.

The CSLDS’s artistic director Anisa Cameron directs again, and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein is producing and has a role in the musical as well.

Cameron said she has wanted to direct Little Shop of Horrors for a long time. She first saw the 1986 movie at the age of nine, and was captivated by its music, cast and script.

“Like all of our shows, I had to wait for the right people to come into my life to be able to produce the show,” she told The Suburban. “I have my amazing production team back —David Terriault, my musical director; Alexia Gourd, my choreographer; and Mitchell Brownstein, the most amazing producer ever.” A five-piece band will be playing the music.

Brownstein says the show, with its cast, special effects, and set design, will be very special.

“It’s going to be very exciting, visually,” he adds. “It’s a little different from what people have seen before in Côte St. Luc, a satire of all the horror movies of the past put into a musical — every song is really fun. I think it will have island-wide appeal.”

Tickets are available online at CSLDramaticSociety.com, or in person at the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library (5851 Cavendish Blvd) or the Aquatic and Community Centre (5794 Parkhaven Ave).

New life breathed into decades-old dream of a Cavendish extension

2 Comments

After many stalled attempts over the last 80 years, the city of Montreal once again appears to be taking steps to make the extension of Cavendish Blvd. a reality.

The extension of the roadway to link Côte-St-Luc to St-Laurent has been talked about since the 1940s, but a new housing development could provide an impetus to complete it.

On Monday, the city sent out a public notice that Finance Minister Carlos Leitão would hold a news conference that afternoon at City Hall with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Russell Copeman about the land formerly occupied by the Blue Bonnets horse racing track (later called the Hippodrome). However, as is so often the case with the Cavendish extension, the news conference itself was postponed to another date, as Coderre was testifying before the Chamberland Commission looking into police spying into journalists and his testimony took longer than expected.

Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand said the city has been waiting since 2012 for the province to cede the land so it could build a project with at least 5,000 housing units on the 43.5-hectare property.

“The development of the Hippodrome site is part of the city’s plan to develop near heavy transit, and keep people from leaving the island for the suburbs,” Rotrand said.

Rotrand said because the area around Jean-Talon St. at Décarie Blvd is already heavily congested, the extension of Cavendish Blvd. is needed in order not to add more strain to the existing road network.

Rotrand expects a deal with the province to be announced shortly so it can come to a vote at the coming June city council meeting.

While the city and the province came to an agreement on ceding the land in 2012, the file has stalled, said Rotrand, who speculated it was because both levels of government had to iron out terms on the Cavendish extension.

“Part of the deal (with the province to cede the land) was that the city fund part of the Cavendish extension, but while it was put into the city’s capital budget, we never got matching funds from the province,” Rotrand said.

Also on Monday, the city of Côte-St-Luc planned a town hall meeting to answer the public’s questions about the project.

“The Cavendish extension is closer to reality now than ever before,” Côte-St-Luc city councillor Mike Cohen told the Montreal Gazette on Monday. “Once the city (of Montreal gets) that land, the extension will happen sooner than people think. It won’t be a pipe dream anymore.”

Cohen said progress has been made since Coderre announced his intention to go ahead with the project during the last election.

The city has been negotiating with the CN and CP railway companies to build overpasses over the tracks built along the proposed route. Cohen said those negotiations are going well, and he pointed out that the agglomeration council recently set aside $220,000 to conduct a feasibility of the extension.

Proposed for several decades by the Town of Mount Royal, the city of Montreal, and St-Laurent, the extension was held up because the city of Côte-St-Luc didn’t want to give access to thousands of cars to use it as an alternative to the Décarie Expressway.

However, more recent councils have seen the merit in extending the urban boulevard. In 2004, Robert Libman, who was then mayor of a merged Côte-St-Luc, got behind a project by the city to build an indirect link. It would have both ends of Cavendish extended to Royalmount Ave. on the border of Town of Mount Royal and Montreal. Cars would be diverted to the east-west Royalmount to continue their path north or south.

Cohen said Côte-St-Luc now sees an extended Cavendish as an essential link to the road network. It would allow residents to better access the central and western parts of the island, bring them closer to Namur métro station, and serve as a much-needed evacuation route for Côte-St-Luc, which is bordered by train tracks.

Montreal sees Cavendish as a gateway to economic development, as the new access road would be a boon for a $1.7-billion mega mall that developer Carbonleo hopes to build in T.M.R., near the Décarie Circle.

But there is still political opposition to the project. Jeremy Searle, the independent councillor for the Loyola district has said the project would add congestion, and essentially turn Cavendish into a highway.

Peter McQueen, the Project Montréal councillor for the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce sector, said he also fears congestion, but added the route could harm the local economy by diluting traffic from commercial arteries like Monkland Ave. and Queen Mary Rd.

He said the city should also try to add housing without adding cars.

“The need for Cavendish shows the fact the city wants to plan a fairly suburban-type development, similar to Bois-Franc in St-Laurent,” he said, adding that the project should be more oriented towards transit to the métro.

Rotrand countered that the Cavendish extension will reduce the number of cars using through traffic on the streets of Snowdon, because people from Côte-St-Luc, Hampstead and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce now drive through that neighbourhood to get to Décarie. He said the city can control for speed and congestion, by banning cars, or installing traffic lights, stop signs or other traffic-calming measures.

jmagder@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JasonMagder

Facebook.com/JasonMagderJournalist

Older Entries