Cats Concert delights hundreds, helps save, control strays

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Last week’s concert by the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra benefiting the Cote Saint-Luc Cats Committee was a pure delight. The calibre of this symphony orchestra, lead by Maestro Joseph Milo is exceptional. Having such a performance in your own neighbourhood is a real treat.

CSL City Council with Anthony Housefather, MP at 2017 Cats Concert

The work being down by the volunteers of this committee is also something to applaud.

“It is often said that a community can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable population, animals included,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.

Spearheaded by Councillor Mike Cohen who is responsible for Animal Welfare, this group has been focused for several years on controlling the stray feline population that some number in the thousands through humane measures including rescue, neutering and adoption.

 

This interest must be a global concern. On a visit to Kotor, Montenegro earlier this month I spotted this sign asking for donations to help stray cats.

Hats of to the committee for their thankless work (other than the purring sound). And thank you to Maestro Milo and the extraordinary musicians this world-class symphony orchestra.

Read more on Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog.

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Volunteers rescue and neuter Côte-St-Luc’s stray cats

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Veterinarian Dr. Marlene Kalin and Michael Cohen, the Côte-St-Luc city councillor responsible for animal protection, with Gidget, a stray cat that is available for adoption, at the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals in Montreal on Aug. 9, 2017. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

From about March to November, Diane Liebling’s garage is brimming with caged cats that she captures in the wilds of Côte-St-Luc’s suburban neighbourhoods.

“I have a very understanding husband,” Liebling said with a laugh. “Of course, to do this kind of work, you really need somebody who is on board with you, and he really is.”

Liebling is chair of the Côte-St-Luc Cats Committee which, for the last seven years, has been working to stabilize the city’s feral cat population through a trap, neuter and release/adopt program.  Volunteers take the program a step further by providing feral cats with food and shelter.

“We’re a small group of volunteers, but we need more,” said city councillor Mike Cohen, who commended Liebling’s efforts — she has already trapped about 40 cats and rescued 11 kittens this year alone.

It’s not just volunteers who are needed, Cohen added, but more funding as well because, as the program expands, so do the costs.

“In Côte-St-Luc, we estimate that we have thousands of homeless cats,” he said. “Some say there could be as many as 10,000.”

Cohen, the councillor responsible for animal protection, helped found the group when former resident Shelley Schecter approached the council with concerns over the city’s booming feral cat population — a problem, Cohen said, that’s not limited to Côte-St-Luc.

Cats, often living in colonies, have taken up residence in the rail yards, behind restaurants, in the Meadowbrook golf course and in backyards. Cats are abandoned by owners, lost or simply born feral. Cat populations are quick to rise, as females can have two to four litters a year, producing two to four kittens each time.

Feral cats spread disease to fellow felines, whether they’re domestic or wild, and they can be a nuisance in the community. Beyond that, feral cats live extremely short, difficult lives scrounging for food and struggling to stay warm in the winter. They are often found injured and diseased.

Côte-St-Luc requires outdoor cat owners to neuter and register their pets with the city. However, it’s the unlicensed, unneutered cats that committee members are focused on.

Residents are asked to be on the lookout for and report unlicensed cats to the committee via a city-hosted hotline (514-485-6800 ext. 2287). The cats are then caught in humane traps so they can be dewormed, sterilized and vaccinated at the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals.

The hospital offers the committee its services at a low- to no-cost rate. While being operated on, one of the cat’s ears is notched in a painless procedure so volunteers can keep track of treated cats. Cats awaiting treatment or recovering from sterilization are housed in Liebling’s garage.

Kittens and sociable cats are put up for adoption, but volunteers must first foster and help socialize them until a home is found. As for the rest, even after weeks in Liebling’s care, they have no interest in humans. Those cats are released where they were trapped.

The committee provides volunteers with food that they can leave out for feral cats. The committee also offers residents handmade, insulated huts. Tucked away on people’s properties, the huts, constructed of plastic and foam, keep cats warm in the winter.

Once dewormed, sterilized and vaccinated, kittens and sociable cats are put up for adoption, but volunteers must first foster and help socialize them until a home is found. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Over the last four decades, trap, neuter and release programs have proven more effective than extermination, explained Dr. Marlene Kalin of the Côte-St-Luc Hospital for Animals. Since 2006, she estimates that she has treated over 1,000 trapped cats in her effort to give back to the community.

“Trap and kill has been shown many times over that it is not a successful program,” said Kalin, noting that cats tend to gather around food sources. “You can trap and euthanize all the cats behind a restaurant, for example, but there’s a vacuum effect. Within a very short time, other cats come in and repopulate the area.”

Trapping and neutering a single cat costs about $100, she said, whereas trapping, impounding and eventually euthanizing them costs about $200. Because trap, neuter and release programs have existed for some 40 years in cities around the world, there is plenty of data proving their effectiveness, she said.

“From a cost perspective, trapping and releasing is the way to go as it is the most effective, long-term strategy to stabilize and reduce the size of the feral cat population,” she said. “It also improves their health.”

Yet the reality is, to make a lasting impact, at least 60 per cent of the cat population must be treated. To do that, more funding and volunteers are needed.

Cohen said the committee gets about $5,000 annually from the city and, through fundraising events like benefit concerts and bake sales, that municipal contribution is matched. The money pays for cat food, supplies and veterinary services.

“We’ve been getting many more calls,” Cohen said. “As a result of that, our expenses have gone way up this year.”

There is hope, he said, that the sixth annual Cat’s Meow Concert will help replenish the committee’s diminished bank account. On Aug. 22 at 7:30 pm, the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra will perform in the Syd Wise Auditorium (5785 Parkhaven Ave.). Tickets cost $12.

Meanwhile, Cohen said surrounding municipalities need to do more. There are similar programs found throughout the province, but there’s not enough, he said, especially in the west end.

“More municipalities need to do this,” he concluded. “There should be trap, neuter, release/adopt committees in all municipalities. This problem with homeless cats is not just in Côte-St-Luc. It’s everywhere.”

CSL golf tourney proves more fun than I imagined

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Five in this Foursome: Andy Lee, Glenn J. Nashen, Mike Cohen, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Police Commander Jean O’Malley

Had you asked me a few weeks ago I couldn’t tell you who Bill Lee was. I’m not the biggest sports fun, but despite my occasional venture to see the Expos at Jarry Park as a teenager I really didn’t know the names of the players all that well.

So when I was told that my recent foursome in the Cote Saint-Luc Golf Classic included Bill “Spaceman” Lee I was kind of excited to know I’d be meeting an astronaut. Well, that’s what I thought.

Truth be told, I was more excited that Police Commander Jean O’Malley of Station 9 would be one of my four besties for the day.

But life has a funny way of unfolding and once I was adequately briefed by my fellow rookie golfer Mike Cohen as to the background on Bill Lee the day was anything but usual.

For those that were as clueless as me, William Francis Lee III (born December 28, 1946), nicknamed Spaceman, is an American former Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Boston Red Sox 1969–1978 and the Montreal Expos 1979–1982. On November 7, 2008, Lee was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, as the team’s record-holder for most games pitched by a left-hander (321) and the third-highest win total (94) by a Red Sox southpaw. On August 23, 2012, Lee signed a contract to play with the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent North American League at age 65.

In addition to his baseball experience, Lee is known for his counterculture behavior, his antics both on and off the field, and his use of the Leephus pitch, a personalized variation of the eephus pitch.[1]

Lee has co-written four books: The Wrong StuffHave Glove, Will TravelThe Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History; and Baseball Eccentrics: The Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game. In 2006, the documentary film by Brett Rapkin Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey featured Lee.

In 1988, Lee was the Rhinoceros Party presidential candidate running on a platform of bulldozing the Rocky Mountains so Alberta could receive a few extra minutes of sunlight and banning guns and butter. His slogan was “No guns, no butter. Both can kill.”[21]

In May 2016, Lee was chosen by the Liberty Union Party as its nominee for the 2016 election for governor of Vermont.[21] Lee, who had never heard of the Liberty Union Party before, was contacted by the party to run for governor and accepted.[4] Lee did not take campaign contributions.[22] His campaign slogan was, “So far left, we’re right”.[23] 

Lee lost the election, receiving 8,912 votes (2.78%).[25]

Commander O’Malley with Montreal’s Finest, ‘Officer’ Flick, Bill Lee and Glenn J. Nashen

True to his bio, Bill was as entertaining as can be, a ton of laughs. He reminisced about his olden days in Montreal, about his life experiences and his ‘retirement’ plans to move from Vermont to British Colombia. He was joined by his son and his adoring and charming wife, Diane.

Baseball player or not, Bill instructed me every step of the way, as I was completely out of my element with golf clubs in hand. We spoke about family, travel, and of course, baseball.

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was a real sport golfing in his Expos T-Shirt, seen here at the ACC for lunch, with my dad, George, and me

Not to underscore (pun intended, as I really underscored) the importance of having the best coach the Montreal Police Department could offer, Jean had the patience of a saint in instructing me on proper posture, grip and swing. My game, only the second time out in my life, was dramatically improved by Jean’s coaching and the pressure of not making a complete fool of myself. Lucky for me, years of mini putt really paid off.

Oh, who am I fooling? I wasn’t even close to being close!

The honouree at this year’s tournament was Johnny Elias, a long-time volunteer and past owner of the Grand Slam Baseball School. “Johnny recently agreed to loan nearly 50 years’ worth of baseball memorabilia to Côte Saint-Luc,” said Councillor Mike Cohen.

Bill shared stories about his close relationship with Johnny Elias from the days he played with the Expos. When he was released in 1982, Johnny hired him to be an instructor at his camp. Bill has maintained a connection to our city for more than 30 years. “Johnny and I are like brothers,” Bill said.

The Pierre Brunet Parks and Recreation Bursary Fund was launched, sponsored by local McDonald’s franchisee Pierre Brunet. “The Fund will be used to help local families who need financial help to register their children in recreation programs. Funds will also support children with special needs. Pierre Brunet has been involved in helping our community for many years,” Mike Cohen said. “This new initiative will have a direct impact in the lives of many kids in our community.”

Brunet announced that $4,700 was raised at the two McHappy Days in CSL this year. CSL Men’s Club contributed $1400 by selling coffee to its members (courtesy of McDonald’s). Men’s Club funny man, Mannie Young, announced that his grandchildren Jesse, Zoe, Andie and Cooper Young, donated an additional $500. With spontaneous support from others including Steve Woloz from the CSL Model Aeronautics Association and MNA David Birnbaum the fund will be launched with more than $7,000. Now that’s the power of community!

Bill Lee was interviewed live on stage by the well-spoken and personable CSL resident and TSN 690 Radio show host Matthew Ross.  Lee was hilarious in his views on anything and everything and in telling bits of his fascinating life story. “Live in the moment,” the outspoken and provocative sports legend told the audience. “Don’t worry about the past or be concerned by what may come. Just enjoy thing right now.”

Thank you to event co-chairs Councillors Mike Cohen and Sam Goldbloom, to staff leads Harold Cammy and Alvin Fishman and to all the volunteers and sponsors such as Marc Ezerzer. It was really a great time and Mike and I got to meet a Montreal Expos legend and hang out with a Top Cop. What a great day.

Reconstruction of City Hall/Library parking lot underway

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Posted by Councillor Mike Cohen

As many people have noticed by now, Côte Saint-Luc has started work on the reconstruction of the parking lot behind the City Hall and Library. We’re doing more than just repaving. We’re improving the way it’s configured in order to remove the excessive turns, which create risks for pedestrians. We’re also adding two charging stations for electric vehicles, a bike path and creating more parking spaces for cars to park.

We have been fortunate to have a parking lot with so many trees not just around the edges but within the parking lot itself. Our goal at the start of this project was to save as many of these trees as possible by transplanting them elsewhere. We are saving approximately 70 percent of the trees and have transplanted 28.

 

Of course, we would have preferred to have saved all the trees. However, of trees that are being cut their roots were too deep to survive transplant or to small to justify the cost while new trees can be planted of similar size or they were sick or damaged in some way. It didn’t make sense to move the sick trees as the cost to transplant a single tree is about $2,000. We decided to transplant the healthy trees, which cost $53,000 in all. All the trees being cut will be replaced with new replanted trees.

To sum up:

-We will have a new, safer parking lot ;
-We saved approximately 70  percent of the trees in the existing parking lot;
-We will replant new trees for all those that were cut;
-We will have two electrical charging stations for electric cars;
-We transplanted 28 trees of the old trees from the parking lot to locations across the city.

Parking Lot

Work begins on the City Hall parking lot reconstruction (Mike Cohen photo).

 

This lot was in desperate need of repair. How many people, the majority seniors and those with limited mobility, have we heard from in recent years complaining about the fact they could not find a spot when attending special events?

As for the benches that many people congregate on, I have now received confirmation that  a crew move the seven benches along the path on the south side of City Hall and have them placed east of the parking in the area between Sir Walter Scott and Marc Chagall to provide seating for the residents of the area. They will be  placed under some shade as much as possible.  If necessary, special umbrellas will be added.

New CSL bylaw changes construction hours for new buildings

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Côte St. Luc council passed a change to the city’s noise bylaw in response to complaints from residents on Marc Chagall and Mackle about ongoing construction, including on weekends, of two rental apartment buildings in the area.

Construction began in late March on Phase 1 of Le Carlyle, which will consist of two 12-storey buildings.

“We’re prohibiting work on weekends for new construction, and after 7 p.m. on weekdays for new construction,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein explained. “That does not mean if you’re extending or putting something on your house. It’s for a new building.”

But the mayor also pointed out that the existing noise bylaw allows for a process to apply for a special permit to work beyond the limits of the new bylaw.

“For this particular developer, who has certain requirements to work beyond the terms of no weekends and not after 7 p.m weekdays, we negotiated a deal reducing the amount of time he would be working, limiting the amount of days he will be working on weekends, and we have a schedule which we will share with residents, explaining the deal.”

Brownstein explained that in exchange for the special permit being issued to the Le Carlyle developer, “he has a written undertaking with the city that he will not contest the amended noise bylaw.

“In law, when somebody gets a construction permit and there’s an existing bylaw, if we change that bylaw mid-process, there’s the risk of contestation. What we negotiated is good for the residents and the city, and the future of the city, because future developers will know clearly what their limits are and what they’re able to do.”

Area Councillor Mike Cohen said he has received numerous phone calls of complaints about the construction, and he formed a committee of condo and townhouse representatives to meet on the issue.

“Mayor Brownstein and I met with representatives from the condos, and we had the developers in the room, and there was a good consensus.”

Premier Couillard charms his audience at packed Côte Saint-Luc address

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Premier Couillard charms his audience at packed Côte Saint-Luc address

by: Councillor Mike Cohen

It is pretty rare that we see the Premier of Quebec come to speak in the City of Côte Saint-Luc. But this finally did occur on May 12 as Philippe Couillard addressed a standing room only crowd at our Aquatic and Community Centre on Parkhaven Avenue.
Credit is due to our incredible Men`s Club and of course the Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum, who made this happen. As event emcee and District 2 resident Sidney Margles pointed out that in his then capacity as new Quebec Liberal Party leader Couillard was slated to address this same group at the urging of Birnbaum`s predecessor, Lawrence Bergman. Something came up at the last minute and his appearance had to be cancelled. The Men’s Club has 560 members and counting.

Couillard CSL

The Premier shakes hands as he enters the room. (Photo: mikecohen.ca)

This time everything worked out just fine. The Men`s Club began distributing reserved tickets a few weeks ago. When I arrived, there was a strong police presence around the building. Couillard did get to the ACC a little late and like a born campaigner he enter the room by shaking as many hands as possible.
One thing must say about our Premier, who by profession was a former professor and neurosurgeon. He speaks both languages so beautifully. While many of us are upset with the significant budget cuts we incurred early in the Liberal mandate and their gutting of the health system, Couillard has this audience eating out of his hands from the get go. He began with some humour, alluding to the massive flooding in different parts of Quebec and the fact he decided to visit an aquatic center. He drew applause immediately when he announced “I will do this speech in English so we can all follow.” He also introduced Greg Kelley, son of Native Affairs Minister Geoff Kelley, as his new point person for Quebec’s English-speaking community. “Anglophone liaison officer,” is the exact title. I met Kelley after the talk. He’s 31 and presently bunking with his parents in Beaconsfield. He formerly worked in the office of government House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier.
Couillard drew cheers again when he previewed his upcoming trade mission to Israel. “This will be my third trip there…it is the first time a Quebec Premier has gone.” More than 100 Quebec business persons and leaders will accompany him. “Why are we doing this?” Couillard asked rhetorically. “Israel is a start-up nation and an example to follow.”

Couillard mentioned the fact that both Air Canada and Air Transat have direct flights from Montreal to Tel Aviv. He also laughed that when he is in Israel, so will controversial US President Donald Trump.
“Since elected our government is doing exactly like we said we’d do; putting our financial house in order.”

The Premier gave a ringing endorsement for federalism. “Some people are telling me that I cannot be a Quebecer and Canadian. We will stand tall for a strong Quebec within Canada.”
Couillard expressed pride about his government’s job creation program. He also pointed to the investments made at the Jewish General Hospital. “This is a hospital that serves all communities,” he said. “My (late) father was treated there in oncology. So was Mr. Parizeau”
Couillard asked, “How do we build our economy in such an unstable world?” He referred to the three pillars: advance manufacturing, exports and entrepreneurship. “You need a strong educational system to build a proper economy,” he said.

Couillard spoke very excitingly about the planned 67-kilometre, $6 billion electric-train system which will connect downtown Montreal with the South Shore, Deux-Montagnes, the West Island and Trudeau airport. “This will be the equivalent of Expo ’67 in 2017,” he said.

Rather than a straight question and answer period, Margles said that members were asked to submit queries. From the 40 or so obtained, he chose to share a few with the Premier related to assisted living for seniors, the availability of family doctors, special needs children, the sale of marijuana and the Quebec Electoral Commission’s decision to merge the Outremont and Mont Royal ridings and change the boundaries of D’Arcy McGee.

Couillard said that he turns 60 in June so he is sensitive to issues related to seniors. “We are devoting significant dollars to seniors,” he acknowledged. “We have many more doctors than we did before – hundreds of new physicians and they are staying in Quebec.”

As for access to family physicians, Couillard said that right now there are 600,000 people more who have this option compared to 2014.

Turning to the sale of marijuana, which will become legal in Canada in July 2018. “An easy thing for me to say that at first glance I think there is merit to the idea,” said Couillard. “It is now controlled by the black market. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. My biggest concern is public health. Smoking pot is probably not good for your lungs. Young people now are smoking a product that much worse than the hippy days.”

Couillard also wished to clear up a myth that the province is not going to make a lot of money on this. “If to price it too high you will send people back to the black market,” he remarked. “If you price it too low, you will increase consumption.”

Mayor Brownstein concluded proceedings by thanking the Premier for coming to Côte Saint-Luc and particularly the ACC, which the provincial government contributed one-third of the cost.

Also on hand for Couillard’s speech were provincial cabinet ministers Kathlee Weil, Pierre Arcand and Francine Charbonneau, Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, CSL councillors Sam Goldbloom, Ruth Kovac, Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and myself and English Montreal School Board Commissioner Bernard Praw.

VE Day commemorated in CSL

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VE Day 2017 was a pedagogical affair

By: Councillor Mike Cohen

Posted: 09 May 2017

For many years the annual Victory in Europe (V-E) Day commemoration took place on a Sunday. In attendance were veterans from the Brigadier Frederick Kisch Branch 97 of the Royal Canadian Legion, dignitaries and members of the community. The crowds were never exceptionally large and what we clearly missed was the younger generation.

Merton1stu

A Merton student reads “In Flander’s Field” as Jordy Reichson looks on.

When fellow Councillor Sidney Benizri and I were appointed co-chairs of this year’s VE Day event, we were committed to making it an educational exercise. So we scheduled it for a Monday morning (May 7) at a centrally located school – the Marymount Adult Education Centre(soon to be renamed Wagar) on Parkhaven Avenue. Principal Jacques Monfette was most gracious in making all of the arrangements. We virtually filled the 350 seat Syd Wise Auditorium with students from the two host schools – Marymount Adult Education Centre and John Grant High School; Merton and Willingdon Elementary Schools; and Solomon Schechter Academy.

The ceremony highlighted the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Europe from the armed forces of Nazi Germany, on May 8, 1945. Our Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson coordinated much of the ceremony and served as a superb master of ceremonies. He put VE Day into perspective, provided some historical notes and showed this  excellent video.

 

Two students helped lay wreaths at the front of the stage. English Montreal School Board Commissioner Bernard Praw and Mr. Monfette read the Act of Remembrance. Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, Israel Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman and Elisabeth Prass (on behalf of D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum) gave remarks. Two students from Merton read From Flanders Field. We concluded with the singing of the national anthem.

Group

A group photo of dignitaries and the Merton students.

We were fortunate to have with us veteran Sonny Rubin, 92 years young.

“Seventy-two years ago very young men went to war,” said Mayor Brownstein. “You had to be 18 years of age. Some 15, 16 and 17 year olds got fake IDs so they could get into the armed forces. They did this to insure our freedom.”

Zivnevo

Ziv Nevo Kulman

Housefather pointed out that this year’s commemoration of VE Day coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “No matter who is in power,” he said, “you have rights.”

Regarding VE Day, Housefather noted that when he was our mayor VE Day was coordinated by the veterans. “We had dozens of veterans in their 70s who had fought and come back and created Côte Saint-Luc,” he recalled. “They could have come back jaded or disgruntle. But they came back and built our community.”

The Consul General told the audience that his father was a survivor of the Holocaust whose family hid in a little underground shelter and was liberated by the Soviets. “I would not be here had it not been for the Allies,” he said.

Raising the elections in France, the Consul General expressed deep concern over the fact that Marine Le Pen, a candidate whose party denies the Holocaust, got 11 million votes. “We have a very important role to remedy that so denial and revisionism does not happen again,” he said.

Thanks to staffer Jordy Reichson, Regine Banon, Cornelia Ziga and Laura Trihas for coordinating the event. We will next convene to honour our veterans on Friday, November 10 (11 am) for our Remembrance Day commemoration at Veteran’s Park next to City Hall.

“Côte Saint-Luc is proud to express gratitude to the men and women who have fought to liberate Europe,” said Mayor Brownstein. “Our veterans contributed in ending the genocide against the Jewish population of Europe and others targeted by the Nazis. Attending this ceremony is a concrete and visible manner to honour them and to reflect on the sacrifices made.”

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