Citizen engagement keeps democracy strong

By Tracey Arial

People have been asking LaSalle resident Joseph Pugliese where he’s been lately. The active citizen and new media film-maker has missed two LaSalle borough council meetings in a row, something that hasn’t happened in about three years.

Pugliese regularly asks borough councillors about anything he takes seriously, including public expense accounts, the treatment of the Legion and toxic waste on public and private land. In addition to asking pointed entertaining questions at council, he’s been known to put up public posters around town. He’s also recently started creating films and publishing them on his website, When he takes an issue in hand, situations resolve.

“They keep telling me that there’s no toxic waste anywhere in LaSalle,” said Pugliese. “Then I read about all the contaminated materials they’ve been dumping, treating and burying here and I don’t believe them. If they had told me that they know it’s here, but it’s being stored properly and people are keeping an eye on it, I could stop worrying. What are their denials hiding?”

Pugliese really cares about exposures to toxins. Earlier this year, he noticed a pile of sand contaminated with toxins next to a park on the Allion school yard and made sure it got cleaned up fast.

As a cancer survivor at only 36-years-old, he wonders whether living close to the CINTEC waste site may have hurt his health. That site is now closed, thanks in part to his activism prior to last year’s election. He still doesn’t like the fact that such a large repertoire of toxins remains near his home, but recognizes that no one has the money to clean the site up for now.

Pugliese isn’t the only volunteer keeping elected politicians on their toes. Every borough meeting in LaSalle, Verdun and elsewhere has regular observers who ask pointed important questions. Many, including Sonja Susnjar, Louise Cyr and Louise Constantin, have led campaigns to prevent or achieve particular projects. Others, like André Julien and Steven Laperrière, are in charge of political parties opposing those in power. They also ask good questions about errors or miscommunication, but sometimes also ask questions to point out differences in platforms and approach. Many of them have spent years serving as regular democracy watchdogs, which brought them into politics in the first place.

Everyone volunteering to keep citizens informed should be thanked for their efforts.
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