City sends press release about outcome of meeting—during the meeting
By Kevin Woodhouse
What began as a public consultation meeting in the city of Beaconsfield, Monday night, on the issue of installing a 60-foot high billboard within the city limits ended in a walk-out when the more than 100 in attendance left before the meeting was adjourned.
Mayor Georges Bourelle told the assembled at the beginning of the meeting that Cogeco proposed the billboard concept to the city with promises of $300,000 in revenue every year. A representative from the company gave a tepid presentation that the mayor admitted afterward was also his first time hearing it.
During the question and answer portion of the evening, not one resident expressed support for the billboard. Concerns ranged from homes within 500 feet of a billboard losing property value; the $300,000 in yearly revenue coming out to a tax break of less than eighty cents a week for the average home and the fact that a six-storey high billboard to be located on City Lane and Beaurepaire Drive would hurt the visual environment.
Other residents resented the fact that in terms of revenue possibilities, the town should not be limited to one idea presented by one company.
“You keep repeating to the media that you did not go seeking billboards but that you were presented a proposal which could raise money for the City and felt that you should at least consider it,” said resident Michel Guay.
“If the city needs to rais money for whatever reason, wouldn’t a well-managed organization look at all alternatives for raising funds and look at the pros and cons of each alternative before taking a decision rather than just reacting to the one option offered when someone knocks on your door, as you are doing here?” concluded Guay to great applause and support from the attendees.
In response, the mayor told his fellow taxpayers to “be quiet or we will not go on.”
While attorney and Beaconsfield resident Brigitte Garceau commended council for looking at raising different sources of revenue, she said “I think the way you have gone about it is why you have such opposition. We have been here for over an hour asking question and have not heard one positive comment from any resident.”
“I agree that we have not heard one comment tonight that is positive but I want t o remind you that we have 6,200 homes in Beaconsfield,” Bourelle stated, implying that the people who had come to the public consultation were unrepresentative of all comments or viewpoints regarding the issue.
“I want to come back to transparency and governance, which is the objective of this evening,” Garceau told the mayor. “If we are looking at different sources of revenue, I would have thought that we would have had a few presentations to see what is available to us. To see what possibilities exist in the marketplace. That would have been the appropriate process. Perhaps even a call for tenders after the initial idea was presented to the city. Instead, we have a single corporate option which you did not discuss until this evening.”
When those in attendance found out that the city of Beaconsfield had sent out a press release to the media about the outcome of the public consultation while it was still going on, the mayor lost credibility with the audience and the meeting degenerated.
Resident Daniel Mongeau told Bourelle that “If this was not a done deal, how do you explain the fact that the city sent out a press release ten minutes ago? And it does not reflect the feelings of residents.”
Some comments from those in attendance prompted Bourelle to threaten to eject a senior citizen, Derrick Pounds, a decades-long resident and sound wall advocate who was taken to task for his comments about the press release.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves, sending out a press release prior to the end of the meeting,” Pounds told Bourelle.
The mayor then demanded “Derrick, do you want to be removed?”
Pounds answered “go ahead”, prompting another citizen to add “I think we should all be kicked out.”
Those in attendance then stood up and left the meeting.
The city is supposed to make a final decision on the billboard June 15.