Tuesday, July 22, 2014

STEPHEN PASSERO GETS "SCHOOLED" BY ACTIVIST PARENT

Where does one begin when there's a treasure trove of topics to discuss revolving around the Monday, July 21st Regular Council Meeting? "From the sublime to the ridiculous," as my mother would say.

OK. Let's start with the ridiculous: Mike Cloutier, the sometime newsman, decided to speak out about something he is passionate about - the proposed closing of Mishner-hic-Road. His delegation was quite rich, considering that Cloutier's only means of transportation is a bicycle, but he slurred his way through and made some valid points - points that had been expressed by many others since staff recommended the closure of one small part of the road as a "cost-cutting measure."  Mike came to the end of his presentation and said he had a "couple more pages" to read but was denied extra time as no one on council thought that Cloutier had anything more pertinent to say.  There was a smattering of applause coming from the back of chambers after he finished. He did want it to "go on record" that he was not allowed to finish his speech. Not to worry, Mike. Council voted to drop the proposed road closure, probably in spite of your delegation. Feel free to ride your bike through Mishner Road all the way to Sherkston Beach if you like.

Then it was Leslie Burrison's time to speak on the future site of an new amalgamated elementary school for Ridgeway-Crystal Beach. She identified herself as a  spokesperson for the Children and Advocacy Group that had formed over opposition to the proposed giveaway of parkland on Rebstock Road to the Niagara District School Board for construction of a new school. (In February, 2014, council decided to offer a portion of the Kinsmen Club donated land to the NDSB for the build. Since February, parents and stakeholders came forward to protest the loss of greenspace when the DSBN has numerous properties in Ridgeway that could be used for a new school. On June 16, council voted unanimously to rescind the offer after hearing from these concerned citizens.)

Ms. Burrison began by offering sincere thanks for council's vote to rescind the offer of the land on Rebstock Road and to not revisit that offer again.  She referred to a petition presented to the town with over one thousand signatures of those against the land offer. After her well-presented speech, the audience applauded. Lame Duck Mayor Martin chided the audience :"No applause please; this is a council meeting. Please, no applause." All righty then.

When Passero got the chance to question Ms. Burrison, he adopted his superior I'm-running-for-mayor-voice* and said something to the effect that there's no other councillor but him who has had as much experience in the Accomodation Review and consolidation process as he went through it in his ward and served on the ARC Committee, so the question was: "Are you aware that the funding for the new school comes from the Ministry, not the DSBN?"

The answer was a simple "yes." Ms. Burrison agreed that the people would all like to see a brand new, state-of-the-art school for the Ridgeway-Crystal Beach students.

Passero served up a morsel of his superior knowledge by explaining that the ministry looks at the municipal involvement when it comes to allotments of funds for a new school. He hinted that, "if we don't pursue the Rebstock Road site, this may not make it to the top of the list for funding." (/badly-veiled threat)

Ms. Burrison countered with the fact that, on the list of 79 schools that will share $700 million alloted for new school buildings and improvements, neither the Ridgeway Crystal Beach HS/Fort Erie HS amalgamation nor the Ridgeway-Crystal Beach amalgation appears on that list that will be in effect until 2017.  "Why the push for a September 30 deadline to decide?" she asked. She also pointed out that the successful rebuild of the former General Vanier School to the Peace Bridge School next to a town park did not require that the town give up any of its public greenspace.

Passero pointed out that a business plan had not been submitted to the province about either of the plans as they were awaiting public input. "Do you see any harm to looking at this again? Are you looking for this to be Dead in the Water?" he asked. Then to throw her off, he remarked that he saw some in the audience nodding in agreement with him.

"I don't purport to be a voice for everyone in the room. I'm speaking only for myself. You asked if I would like this 'dead in the water?' The answer is, 'yes!'

You saw the value and wisdom in rescinding the offer... Let them move forward and build in the direction they were originally going before the Rebstock Road offer. We don't need to balance the school board's budget for them."

Passero tried to save face by ending with, "If you'd like to give me a call, I can answer those questions. I can't answer those now in this type of setting." (WTF?)

Sublime!  Game, set and match to the over one thousand people who signed the petition. Council voted to NOT revisit the Rebstock Road offer.

* Passero announced his intention on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 to seek the mayor's seat in the October 27 municipal election. About time. He's been sniffing around that seat for almost four years.

(Editor's Note:  there is a lot more that went on Monday night. I will continue my commentary later.)