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September 5th, 1997

THE TEMPER OF OUR TIMES

Running a city well means taking care of the little things and keeping people informed. I must confess to you we fell down a few times in August in fulfilling one or both responsibilities. But, you know, sometimes citizens are just plain on edge. Read on to find out why: Thomas Thompson

Item: When Councillor Thompson announced minor changes in the dog licensing law, it precipitated an avalanche of letters from dog owners, with long paeans of praise for our four-footed friends and pleas for no changes in the dog laws. They don't take too kindly to a bowser wowser.

Item: The rules in our annual (perennial?) garden contest had to be changed mid-stream because so few people entered in some categories it would be a no-contest garden contest. A few entrants were very upset, claiming it was unfair. They did not go so far as to suggest pistils at dawn.

Item: We turned off the electricity for 16 hours in parts of Upper Westmount in order to carry out major repairs. Trouble is, we didn't warn anybody about it. I got a real blast from a friend living on Westmount Avenue who suggested we might as well have Hydro-Quebec take over our Light and Power Department. Well, at least they throw better parties.

Item: We started applying our helmet bylaw without any signage to that effect on our bicycle path. Our PSO managed to nick Professor Graeme Decarie who took it in good humour, suggesting we only make the adults pay, as they should know better. His head is screwed on right. Karin Marks

Item: Councillor Karin Marks got a petition from residents on Somerville after they saw little marks (not little Marks) on the road surface, painted on by the city to show where one is supposed to park. For them, such road runes are "too commercial". Parking spots must not be defined by spots.

Item: The width of Edgehill Road is 25 feet throughout except for a small section 37 feet wide. Our Public Works decided to make it uniform, narrowing that section in line with the rest of the street. Residents went ballistic. I received quite a few rockets myself. THE TEMP

I can't help but think that, while in many cases we should have kept citizens better informed, it was the jitteriness in Anglo Quebec that caused some people to react more strongly than they otherwise would have done.

Local politicians become the lightning rod for any charged atmosphere - and not always of our own creation. We are the political ground that attracts static created by other forces - the negative energy between the minority and majority groups in Quebec's firmament. This sour corona all around us explains the public's hair-trigger reaction to anything we do. Bruce St Louis

So our Director-General, Bruce St Louis, has instructed city employees to inform the public of even seemingly minor decisions of the administration. Mind you, we should do it anyway. And we're looking for better ways to keep you informed, especially if it involves roads and cuts in power, or rules and things in flower. And dogs on leash at any hour. THE TEMP Please see our Council in action Photos by DTN
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September 12, 1997

ONE BRAIN, TWO TONGUES

I consider myself articulate in French, but it does require somewhat more effort. Sometimes, it's a bit like swimming with your clothes on: progress is slow and inelegant, but you manage to get to your objective. Switching back to English becomes the linguistic equivalent of putting on a Speedo. I can then slip along nicely, unencumbered by French grammatical formalities, its tyranny of word agreement and arbitrariness of genders.

But, usually, I just take the plunge in French, unmindful of committing grammatical solecisms. And I'm getter better at the sex of words, even picking my way through those that swing both ways, such as m‚moire, poste, and poˆle - which has three meanings, depending on gender. ONE BRAIN

By the time the cameras were rolling last week for an interview on Radio Canada's Le Point, I had once again shucked off any linguistic diffidence, and I engaged Me Serge Ménard in his own element - or at least in his own language. As you probably know, Me Ménard is Minister of the Montreal Metropolis.

Poor Minister Ménard. After a successful stint as Minister of Public Security - where he exploited his background as a criminal lawyer - his new job is no piece of cake. As Le Devoir said editorially, in trying to deal with the mayors of the region, he won't have a marijuana field to cut down in front of the cameras. The grass must seem greener in his old stomping grounds. Now his job is to stop the whole region going to pot.

My French is not always up to word games and puns, so during the televised discussion, and while Me Menard was extolling the virtues of creating yet another commission for our region, I was wasting valuable mental time in deciding whether "my preference for sins of omission rather than sins of a commission" translated well into French. ONE BRAIN

It must be the Cartesian side of our francophone friends that puts them at risk to bouts of structuritis. We've got a problem? Let's create a government structure to deal with it. Maybe it comes with the language: a language as elegant, as structured, and as internally logical as a minuet.

One thing that M. Menard said that really got my goat: he referred the parochial rivalries in the region that supposedly prevent any kind of regional cooperation. The media, too, are always going on about "squabbling" among municipalities. Why is it that any difference of opinion in the Quebec legislature is referred to as "debate", yet when there is a genuine difference of opinion between, say, the Island cities and the off-Island towns, it's called "squabbling"? Please e-mail Trent.

Besides, when asked to give an example of such "squabbling", M. Ménard is hard-pressed to give examples. Certainly, as president of the Conference of Suburban Mayors, I've made it a point to forge a consensus. Believe it or not, we also get along with the city of Montreal. ONE BRAIN <>





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September 26, 1996

WESTMOUNT CREATES: ART RENOUVEAU

The first time I met Kathleen Duncan, she trembled. Actually, she was shivering from the cold, riding in an open calŠche we shared, which silently rolled along Sherbrooke Street while layer upon layer of fat snowflakes settled upon our persons. The driver had thoughtfully provided lower central heating in the form of a buffalo rug that smelled as if it had just been removed from its unwilling donor. We two figured in Westmount's first Santa Claus parade, which was Kathleen's brainchild.

Kathleen Duncan is the sparkplug energizing another community event: Westmount Creates, which is an all-day arts festival taking place this Saturday, culminating in a jazzy dinner, by George! Westmount Creates is a celebration of music, literature, photography, film, and art - all with a Westmount twist.

While the city is helping out - providing a bit of money and a venue - the concept and its execution is all thanks to Duncan and a few volunteers. WESTMOUNT C

One criticism levelled at this Council is that we actually get along with each other, that we actually agree on things. This state of affairs has the drawback of not providing much in the way of entertainment, such as is found in Côte St Luc's Council meetings, where every drop of blood that is publicly spilt transubstantiates into an equal drop of printer's ink.

For example, your Council has reached agreement that our most important goal is to reinforce a sense of community in Westmount. As we Westmounters 1) dig in our heels, or 2) grit our teeth, or 3) thumb our nose, or 4) stiffen our upper lip to what is swirling around us in the rest of Quebec, it's doubly important to be able to feel part of a community. So the role of City Hall transcends just the provision of cultural and recreational services: our main purpose is to develop a sense of community.

And that is precisely what Westmount Creates will do.

Council is also aware that community reinforcement means modifications to our city buildings and policies. Take Victoria Hall, for example. In the early 90s, 70% of rentals were to groups who were not residents of Westmount. It gave us a paltry $45,000 a year in revenue, which hardly covered wear and tear. Victoria Hall should be our community centre, not some anonymous commercial facility. We have to make it into the image of what it once was: a place for Westmounters to meet each other. Menu

Those of you who remember Arts Westmount in its heyday will embrace Westmount Creates with enthusiasm. Then it was the redoubtable Edythe Germain who produced a few magic days of celebrating culture in Westmount. Duncan is her spiritual successor. Maybe Westmount Creates will lead to a Westmount Lecture Series in the Westmount Room of our library, or Westmount amateur theatre in the Lodge Room of Victoria Hall, or art exhibits by Westmount artists. Who knows?

WESTMOUNT C


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