vCOP fills the hall, Suburban chief thanks the troops

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Photo courtesy David Goldsmith

A capacity crowd of 80 Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol members filled the council chamber at city hall this week to hear the Suburban Newspaper’s editor-in-chief Beryl Wajsman speak on a wide range of topics, but mostly on the political landscape in Quebec. Wajsman was raw and uncensored, swinging wildly, particularly at provincial politicians. The considerably knowledgeable and articulate speaker was unscripted in his gashing assault against the political elite who he described as unconcerned about the citizenry and focused solely on attaining power by saying whatever was necessary to secure votes.

Against this negative backdrop Wajsman described CSL mayor Mitchell Brownstein as unique in his “openness and accessibility”. You can meet with Mitch or call him anytime. He answers his own phone, Wajsman said. “He cares and it shows.”

Beryl Wajsman addresses the vCOP corps of volunteers

But Wajsman’s ultimate compliment was saved for the volunteers in their bright yellow uniform jackets and orange polo tops. You are the true examples of what it means to be a community, to care for your neighbour and to help people who really need your help, he said. He congratulated the vCOP members for their service to the elderly, to all residents.

“I truly enjoyed speaking to a very special gathering of some of the most engaged citizens around. The CSL Volunteer Corps of Citizens on Patrol. The only one of its kind on the island (actually the only one in Quebec) and they cover every sector where the 33,000 residents of CSL live. Great Q&A too,” Wajsman posted to his Facebook page

Long-serving volunteers Susie and Harvey Schwartz

vCOP meets every other month to refresh on protocols and procedures, learn new skills and techniques and to hear from community leaders and experts in public safety. They are a dedicated and energetic group that give of their time, day and night, to safeguard the community. Once again, I salute CSL’s men and women in yellow and orange.

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No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

Cavendish Boulevard extension may be a pipe dream

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Global News reports that the Cavendish extension dream may fade completely in 2 years from now. After endless discussion, pronouncements and media opportunities over the last 50 years we may be down to the wire on whether this project will come to fruition.

Montreal city council passed a motion last Tuesday to extend the negotiation deadline with CN and CP Rail by two years, according to Global News.

This means city officials have 24 months to reach a deal with the rail companies to allow for the extension of the boulevard over their tracks — but no more extensions will be granted after that period.

So what’s the problem?

Cote Saint-Luc has wanted to see this plan come about since the late 1990s. It was a major promise in the merger debacle of the early 2000s. The former City of Saint-Laurent and current Borough of the same name (and same mayor) is also in favour. Local Members of the National Assembly have been on board for years as has the Member of Parliament, notably Anthony Housefather is his capacities of Borough Councillor, CSL Mayor and MP for Mount-Royal.

But Montreal and the province have been mired in construction gridlock across the Island. Resources have been prioritized elsewhere and municipal, provincial and federal funding has been allocated for years to come. Turcot will be a mess for several more years. The REM project will keep us tied up for the next 5 years too. And those are just some of the biggies.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is no friend to motorists! And the upcoming Quebec election dust will have to settle for us to know what new priorities lie ahead.

This will not be an easy time for Mayors Brownstein and de Sousa who must get the necessary major players around the table to make things happen. The project cannot advance without the next Quebec premier and the Mayor of Montreal giving the nod of approval.

Time may be running out on this critical infrastructure plan and 50 years of dreaming may go up in smoke without concrete action, and fast.

 

Global News:  Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

For more information on the history of the Cavendish extension , search this blog.

Tempo question is a hot potato

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In my words: The issue of whether to permit tempos in Cote Saint-Luc has dogged City Council for decades. Mayor Bernard Lang was always opposed, citing an unsightly neighbourhood. Early in my mandate I argued that the hardship for those homeowners without a garage (pretty much west of Leger Ave all the way to Wentworth, in District 5) required extra consideration beyond aesthetics. Council agreed and this specific exception was granted.In my years of polling residents, door by door in District 6, a significant minority spoke out in favour of these wind-flapping tarpaulin tunnels for their street. But the majority, at least 3 out of 4 homeowners, were not favourable to the idea.Times have changed, there are more cars than ever in CSL and who likes to shovel anyhow?

This issue will be a political hot-potato, pitting one resident against another. There are no easy answers and everyone is right in their own case. But the bigger question is who will be right for the entire neighbourhood?

Just asking the question is fraught with political risk. You cannot please everyone and will likely annoy many. Breaking into an unprecedented 73 zones will mean some areas will wiggle through while many more will attain the 12 requisite signatures to call for a politically-undesirable referendum.

The matter of tempos was left dormant for many years since allowing just a few, in a specific neighbourhood to break with the rule. Perhaps it should be left alone for few more years.

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Tempo question to be put to CSLers in 73 zones

The City of Côte St. Luc will publish a notice Oct. 3 informing residents in 73 zones that they will have an opportunity to ask for a register if they oppose a proposed bylaw to generally allow temporary car shelters (tempos) in most of the territory.

Currently, tempos are allowed if a resident does not have a carport or garage. Several residents with garages were also able to have them by providing the city with a doctor’s note.

Council passed a second draft bylaw last week on tempos during the regular public meeting. In each of the 73 zones, 12 signatures would be required for there to be a register to ask for a referendum. Residents will have eight days to sign the register if they oppose allowing more tempos.

“It’s a hard one,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein told a well-attended public consultation meeting on the issue the same night. “We know there’s a movement in certain areas of the city where people wants tempos, and certain areas where they don’t want tempos.”

“I am not, at any point, going to recommend that this council proceed with a referendum — it’s a very expensive procedure and it causes division within the community,” the Mayor added. “But if I see within the 73 zones that there are many in a particular district that got 12 signatures — and it’s not very hard to get 12 signatures — I want the council to see through this process which zones are going to be in favour or not.

“I have a feeling, in areas where the homes are more expensive, where people have two-car garages, they’re going to get the 12 signatures pretty quickly and send the message to council.”

Brownstein also said he believes that in areas with no or one-car garages, or smaller homes, the residents will be more inclined to want tempos, and not sign for a register.

During the more than half-hour public consultation, residents came out passionately for and against the proposed tempo bylaw, citing aesthetics, security (for those against) and the city’s harsh winters and senior population (for those in favour). Judging by the applause in the room, most of those attending were in favour of expanding tempo use.

“In the wintertime, utility sometimes outstrips aesthetics,” said a resident. “I support it… I will definitely solicit for tempos.”

According to the city’s website, the new rules would allow “no more than one [tempo] on an existing, conforming driveway,” they “can only be in place between Nov. 1 and April 15,” and they “must be translucent white canvas with clear windows, fitted with a dismantable tubular metallic frame.”

Brownstein later acknowledged to The Suburban that council could have some tough decisions to make area by area.

Councillor Ruth Kovac, who represents District 8, said one of her concerns is disputes between neighbours.

“They’re going to come to the city looking for us to resolve those disputes, and we’re going to be in the middle of it,” she said. “It’s one thing to legislate, and it’s another to deal with the fallout. I’m very comfortable with what we have done — give permission by exception.”

 

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Read more:

CSL to relook at tempo policy, The Suburban 2009

Suburban exclusive: Quebec in process of changing French-only highway signs to pictograms: Fortin

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Very proud of my friends and colleagues Ruth Kovac, Harold Staviss and David Birnbaum on this important step forward. My readers will recall my many posts and communications with various ministries and agencies of the Quebec government, as well as the city of Montreal (notably the Fire Department) demanding that messages pertaining to public safety be in both French and English, as permitted by the oppressive and dreaded Charter of the French language. Many of these communiques received a polite we’ll look into it with little action or follow up.

The case of the highway road signs proclaiming completely unintelligible warning messages to any non-French-speaker were particularly unjust and illogical. Search my blog for these posts and pictures.

Well, thanks to perseverance and determination of Ruth and Harold they pushed and hounded, and engaged the assistance of our duty-bound MNA, David. The result is favourable in terms of agreeing to pictograms, unfortunately not bilingual signs, but the work is still to be done by the ministry. We’ll continue to follow this important dossier and hold the next government to account and press forward until this gets done in the name of public safety!

Suburban exclusive: Quebec in process of changing French-only highway signs to pictograms: Fortin

Suburban exclusive: Quebec in process of changing French-only highway signs to pictograms: Fortin
From left, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss, CSL councillor Ruth Kovac and Transport Minister André Fortin at a recent meeting.

Transports Quebec is in the process of changing French-only directive highway signs to pictograms, and will gradually also do so on electronic message boards, provincial Transport Minister André Fortin told The Suburban Saturday.

The changeover is coming about following a 7,000-name National Assembly petition, created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Cote St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac and sponsored by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, which sought bilingual traffic signage dealing with health and public safety. Last year, we reported that Transports Quebec committed to more and better pictograms.

Fortin praised the petition, and pointed out that he recently met with Staviss and Kovac along with Birnbaum.

“In terms of using more pictograms and to make sure highway signs are understood by everybody who uses the roads, there’s a couple of things we have developed,” Fortin said. “It’s important to know that we already use more pictograms on Quebec roads than anywhere else in Canada, but obviously we can go further.”

Some examples already addressed include signs indicating thaw following the winter season, and uneven pavement.

“And there are others that are in the course of being replaced,” Fortin said, including some addressed in the petition such as “incident voie droite bloquée” (right lane blocked because of incident) and “risque d’aquaplanage” (risk of hydroplaning). “So to make our roads safer and make sure everyone understands the warnings, we are moving to using more pictograms.”

Another aspect of the petition was electronic message boards warning of accidents and incidents, and providing directives.

“A lot of them are first-generation message boards and they don’t necessarily allow for the use of pictograms,” Fortin explained. “With the newer boards, the technology is better and it enables us to use less words and more pictograms. We’re changing a lot of these message boards right now to use more pictograms.”

The Minister also pointed out that, as the petition addressed, sometimes there are too many words on the message boards, “and we agree with that.

“We certainly don’t want our message boards to be an added distraction to drivers, so we’ve already given a directive to the various regional sections of the ministry  to leave the boards blank if there’s no particular information of value.

Staviss and Kovac were very happy.

“We are ecstatic with the news that the traffic signage and message boards on Quebec roads dealing with health and public safety are in the midst of being replaced by symbols or pictographs,” they said in an e-mail to The Suburban. “It is welcoming to know that such public safety signage as Dégel shall be replaced by pictographs, which most certainly will be more clearly understood by motorists using our Quebec roads.

“As we have said since the launching of our petition in early December 2016, the change has nothing to do with language, it has all to do with everyone’s health and safety,” they added. “Kudos and many thanks to David Birnbaum, the MNA for the riding of D’Arcy McGee who deposited our petition in the Quebec National Assembly on March 14, 2017, to André Fortin, our Minister of Transport and the MNA for the riding of Pontiac for considering and implementing our petition and someone who gets it, as well as to Elisabeth Prass (Bureau Chief and Political Attaché to Birnbaum) and Caroline Des Rosiers (Press Secretary/Attaché responsible for the file and Political Advisor) for their input. It goes without saying that we are excited and overjoyed that our petition really made a difference. It sometimes pays to stand up for what one truly believes will make a positive change.”

Birnbaum praised Staviss and Kovac, and those who signed the petition, “which I was pleased to present in the National Assembly. And, frankly, I commend The Suburban for having kept this issue in the news.

“I’m really encouraged that my colleague, Minister Fortin, has taken concrete and prompt action to respond. We’re talking safety and security, for all Quebecers and for all visitors to the province. André has spelled out specific measures to replace unilingual wording with easily understandable pictograms on key road and traffic signs and on electronic billboards. Furthermore, he’s given instructions to have those changes implemented promptly.”

Montreal adopts motion calling for ban on private ownership of handguns, assault weapons | CBC News

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Bold move, long overdue. Canadians do not need handguns.

Let’s see Montreal suburbs pass the same resolution and add to the outcry. Contact your City Councillor as well as your MP.

 

Source: Montreal adopts motion calling for ban on private ownership of handguns, assault weapons | CBC News

Video: Acceptance speech at D’Arcy McGee Citizenship Medals 2018 Ceremony

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D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the National Assembly goes to…, Nashen Notes

D’Arcy McGee medals awarded, The Suburban

The Late Gerry Weinstein among citizenship medal recipients, Canadian Jewish News

 

 

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