Monday, December 29, 2014

WARD 2 COUNCILLOR RICK SHULAR DEAD AT 68

Sad news today of the passing of Fort Erie Councillor Rick Shular today.

Can't say much more except to offer my condolences to his family. My mother died on this day many years ago so it is especially sad for me. One of the reasons that the Christmas Season is difficult for me.

Funeral arrangements:


Family will receive friends on Thursday, Jan. 1 at Benner 
Funeral Services, 1105 Benner Ave. in Fort Erie from 7 p.m. 
to 9 p.m. Services will also be hosted by the Masonic Lodge, 
the Fort Erie Kinsmen and the Royal Canadian Legion.
Visitation will continue from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 
on Friday, Jan. 2.
A service will be held at St. Paul’s Anglican Church on 
Saturday, Jan. 3 at noon. Burial will follow the service.
The family has asked that donations be made to Community
 Outreach Program Erie, Meals on Wheels or St. Paul’s
 Anglican Church.

(Editor's Note:  When our mother died, we had the same challenges with regard to her 
funeral. It was difficult for relatives to get to Buffalo during the busy holiday season and we 
had to delay her funeral until January 3. And then we heard that the gravediggers were on 
strike, so her burial was delayed for several weeks. A very difficult time for everyone so I 
have a great deal of empathy for the family and friends of Rick Shular.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Another Christmas and the end of another year.

Not exactly the happiest time for me and some of my friends, but we'll go through the motions and try our best to make merry. I, for one, will be grateful when it's all over.

There's always next year to look forward to with the hope that 2015 will be better.

It's times like this that I wish for the simpler days of yore where we weren't constantly blasted with news of terrible events and hyped-up reports designed to scare the heck out of us.

The lies posted on so-called "mainstream media" have made many lose their own sense of what is right. People have been manipulated into voting against their own best interests because the media has been complicit in pandering to the worst fears and prejudices of the general public. Christmas has become a huge retail greed event as evidenced by the insanity of "Black Friday" shopping.

I have fond memories of Christmases years ago where family gathered and shared in the spirit of the season. We went to Midnight Mass; we gave as much as we could to the Salvation Army; and our Christmas Dinner table was full of friends and relatives, many of whom would have been alone for the holidays.

That is the Christmas Season in my mind. Sharing, not getting. Kindness, not self-satisfaction. Reflection, not judgment.

And most of all, humility. Christ was born is a stable, we are told. How is it that all this overblown salute to conspicuous consumerism is in any way related to Christ's humble beginning?

It's a question that I ask myself every year and am still waiting for the answer.






Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BEWARE THE GRINCH



Well, that's the best we can do for now. This is the guy behind a number of companies. Black Bear Homes. Clap Board Homes, etc. The house that was "sold" on Cherrywood was not really sold. It now sports a dollar store "For Sale" sign. Houses being built on Schooley Road are way over-priced and the property at Queen's Circle that has been stripped down to the studs is listed at close to a million.

This guy has a long history of scamming investors. He served jail time for bilking family members and even his pastor out of millions. And he has recently settled in town with his many business names and owning exactly nothing in his own name. The phone number provided for Black Bear Homes is a Welland/Font Hill telephone number.  He used to live in Fonthill in a rented house there. We're not sure where he lives now, but he has five children so they may be difficult to hide in a small town like Ridgeway or Crystal Beach.

What we don't need is another con artist in town. Enough already.  Please look at the previous post and read the links provided.  

Gary Fraser has been appointed to the Crystal Beach Business Improvement Area Board and he is a convicted fraudster.   Please call town hall and demand that he be removed from that position.

An on-line petition may be a good idea. Meanwhile, don't let this Grinch ruin your holidays.

IN OTHER NEWS:

It seems that the powers that be are determined to place medical marijuana grow ops in residential areas.  Heard just this morning on CKTB radio, Niagara Falls Councillor Carolyn Iaononni says she was "blindsided" by a recent application to rezone two former properties to allow for "a nursery to grow plants, shrubs and trees." The application for the former Kimberly Clark plant and the Redpath Sugar building are slated to be  medical marijuana grow operations. Residents  were not informed that the "nursery" was to be a medical marijuana grow op. If they had known, they would have "turned out in droves" according to Iaononni. She stated that she is not against medical marijuana grow ops, but she does not want to see them in residential areas for many reasons, including security concerns.

It seems now that the neighbours only recourse is to appeal the rezoning to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).  And we all know how that usually turns out.  Similar to a situation in Fort Erie where a medical marijuana grow op is slated for a site in a residential neighbourhood.

Monday, December 8, 2014

UH-OH. CONVICTED FRAUDSTER NOW ON CRYSTAL BEACH BIA BOARD. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Plenty if Gary Fraser's past is any indication. Below are newspaper articles regarding Fraser's history of fraud for which he served time in jail.



  1. Scam Artist Bilked Family, Friends Out of  $2 Million.
  2. 30 Month Sentence For Fraud Artist Who Scammed His Pastor.
  3. Warning/Complaint About Gary Fraser.
  4. Fraser cons in the Muskokas
  5. His Port Colborne Cons
  6. 3 Years Jail Sentence. Officers warn he will con again once he is out.
Of course, Gary Fraser claims that he has changed and that he has learned his lesson. Odd though, he's gone into the same line of work that he was in when caught bilking people of millions of dollars: selling dreams through investment opportunities.

He recently set his sights on Crystal Beach and is the go-to guy for a series of investments in Crystal Beach. Somehow he and one of his followers, Arlene White, were appointed to the Crystal Beach BIA. So far, there is only a post office box in Crystal Beach listed as the business address of Black Bear Homes, Ltd. (Not to be confused {cough-cough}with Black Bear Developments.)  President of Black Bear Homes is listed as Audrey VandenBerg at that P.O. Box; she's reported to be Fraser's girlfriend. (Correction: Gary Fraser identifies himself as the president of Black Bear Homes, Ltd.) 

It doesn't take long to find those buildings associated with Fraser and the investors behind him. The stripped former tourist home at Queen's Circle that is listed for close to $1 million, once completely refurbished. The house next door was torn down to its footings. Next, a remodeled cottage on Cherrywood that reportedly "sold" for over $400,000 that is worth less than half that amount. We're still waiting to see who "bought" that place; it closes on the 15th of December. Real Estate company is allegedly an in-house company. Fraser's investment company also bought the former Pines restaurant and refurbishment is underway. Supposed to have re-opened last month. Still waiting for that.

The crown jewels to this operation are the houses being built on Schooley Road near Smalls Road and Glen Spring. Priced from $487,000 for a 1477 sq.ft. house without a garage to $598,900 for a 1954 sq.ft house without a garage.  All are on small lots and do not look well-made at this stage. Inflated prices are not making neighbours feel confident for the future. Will probably end up like the places on Cambridge that never sold and are now rented out. Only an idiot would pay that much for such places, in my opinion.

Again, we're not against smart development in Crystal Beach, but these overpriced houses will do nothing to draw people to the area, especially when the spokesman for the company is a convicted fraudster. I was tipped off to Gary Fraser and his past history by a local real estate agent.

So, the village of Crystal Beach may have escaped the plans of a high rise developer only to fall into the clutches of a convicted felon. We worry about the few who may have invested in this man's latest scheme, believing that he is a changed man.  If he was "so changed" he would have gone into a completely different line of work, not fall back right into the investment world.

Please beware of this man's history before you get involved, invest, or buy into his dreams. Several years ago, a similar scam took place in Crystal Beach. Silent investors lost a lot of money but no charges were ever filed.  There are still a few remnants of these people remaining in town. Another reason that Crystal Beach suffered after the amusement park closed was the influx of these vultures, who took advantage of the low prices and desperation. These "investors" could pay cash (Crystal Beach was red-lined so no mortgages) and rent them out to the poor and those on Social Services. Almost destroyed the Beach. 

Let's not repeat that sad history.

UPDATE: The house on Cherrywood was "sold" then the deal fell through and another deal was supposed to have gone through, but there is now a generic "For Sale" sign on the property.  Also, the "mortgage company" used in the past by Fraser has been busted by the SEC but is still operating. Company names change frequently and there is no actual physical address for the various companies that are undertaking the developments. 

Like others before me, I am requesting someone to send me a picture of Gary Fraser so that it can be posted here. In an aside, when one person met Gary Fraser, she counted her fingers after shaking his hand. It is suggested that others take that as a warning.

Friday, December 5, 2014

LET'S RE-DEDICATE

QUEEN'S CIRCLE PLAQUE 
RE-DEDICATION CEREMONY
A Ceremony to Re-Dedicate the Plaque that replaces
 the original one that mysteriously went missing. 
SUNDAY DECEMBER 7 
3:00 O'clock in the Afternoon
at Queen's Circle, Crystal Beach
Performance by 
Crystal Beach Public School Choir 
Guest Speakers
Unveiling of Plaque
Sponsored by the FRIENDS OF CRYSTAL BEACH
We invite all to attend. 


I remember well the original dedication of the refurbished Queen's Circle and the plaque that was unveiled on that beautiful June day in 1999.  Then Mayor Wayne Redekop gave a great speech to the schoolchildren who attended.  He urged them all to take care of the circle because it was the birthplace of what we now call Crystal Beach.  A local theater group performed a historical recreation of the sacrifices of the Burd Family which had placed a memorial in the circle close to a hundred years earlier to honour the son who gave his life in WWI.  The Ridgeway Lioness, of which I was a member at the time, provided lemonade and cookies for the event and the service club's name was included on the plaque as a sponsor for the refurbishment of the circle.

On Sunday, Mayor Redekop is expected to be a guest speaker and many of the original sponsors will be in attendance to see the replacement of the plaque that has suffered through years of vandalism.  Too bad that some in the community have no respect for the rich history of the once Chautauqua-style meeting place at the circle, named for then Queen Victoria. From Queen's Circle came the amusement park just south on the shores of Lake Erie.  It is only right that this hallowed ground be celebrated and preserved for all. 

IN OTHER NEWS:

I am encouraged that the Niagara Parks Commission is taking another look at an improved marina on the Niagara River along the Niagara Parkway.  Janice Thomson, chair of the NPC, has set forth a two-pronged approach to the marina that currently stands on NPC property on the river near Fort Erie. In the Bullet Media article, Thomson states that the first priority is to find a company to operate the marina for the 2015 season. The marina contains 135 berths and has a small concession stand and washrooms.  It is definitely in need of a major overall.  The consensus of opinion from a June, 2014 open house into the matter, was that any new marina project should take into consideration the neighbouring residents.  

Homes along the scenic Niagara Parkway pay some of the highest property taxes in the region and many were upset about an earlier planned development that would have taken a large chunk of the parkway to convert into condos and a huge retail area and marina. I got a laugh from the statement by Economic Development Tourism Corporation honcho Jim Thibert that he was unaware of the new direction the NPC is taking with regard to the marina until he was contacted by Bullet Media. Hah! And keep him out of the loop, please.

 Many of us remember his ill-fated attempt to help a developer build a golf course on the Niagara Parkway. That's when he plucked Kimberly Zanko out of a customs brokerage and paraded her before the press in his dog and pony show in favour of the golf course.  Except, Stella Ziff lived on the Parkway and took the developers to the OMB and won. Flash forward and Thibert championed the huge Kuwaiti development for the marina and found out what the people who pay big bucks to live on the Parkway think about "Winston Churchill's Favourite Sunday Drive" being cut to shreds for a commercial development. Another grandiose Thibert dream that failed when the NPC pulled the plug on the development. Add that to Thibert's big idea of buying the horse race track and you might get a clue why I think he should be fired.

It took a lot of effort to stop the Bay Beach Condo Tower on our public beachfront property. The residents along the Niagara Parkway on both above and below the Falls will not take lightly to their magnificent parkway being ruined by a foreign developer's plans.  Keep it local and keep it within proportion and look for the area.  All one needs to do is look across the River to the Buffalo side to see how a community can screw up its waterfront.  Buffalo is slowly reclaiming its waterfront for the public and great strides have been made at the mouth of Lake Erie and the Niagara Rover, but so-called "Riverside" is still a mess. Why would Fort Erie want to copy that?

Monday, December 1, 2014

WE BEGIN AGAIN

REPORT FROM INAUGURATION:

The new council was sworn in. Certain new members were able to hide their hypocrisy long enough to take the oath of office.  The Great Unwashed were not in attendance, according to sources that were in attendance. I have a feeling that they are now completely out of the loop, having served their purpose. I do wish that the present council focuses on the average people of Fort Erie, not just the members of the Chamber of Commerce's will.  There is much to be done and budget deliberations are coming up.  Let's see if this council keeps the taxes as low as the previous council.  All the rest is rhetoric.



 Yesterdays the first day of the new council, headed by the old/new mayor. This is where the rubber meets the road and the "campaign for change" will be put to the test.

To those who feel they have been left behind while the politics of retribution have played out in council for the last for years: do you think that the Chamber Maids are going to represent you? Of course not. They owe their place on council to their supporters on the CofC and they will be loyal to their benefactors above the average taxpayer.

 For, where else have four of those elected in 2010 subjected to billboards, bad publicity and lawsuits? At least, some who voted against The Four, think the lawsuits will end now that three have been defeated.  Clue: you have no idea what is in store going forward. The town is on the hook for numerous potential lawsuits, once the original conflict of interest lawsuit is complete. Certain councillors, newly-elected, will come under scrutiny for their part in the lawsuits.

And I will be here to report on and call attention to every little detail of their existence on council. Especially the work of the Chamber Maids.

Too bad I can't afford a billboard or two.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ANYTHING NEW?

UPDATE: CMS has finally opened an office in Fort Erie. About time.



Been out of commission for a few days due to stomach flu, No time for much of anything. Anything new happen in Fort Erie? Another fire? What's going on? 

Did anyone attend the mayor's send-off? Hope so. He sure has a lot of friends. Meanwhile there was a Friends of Crystal Beach meeting last night. Very interesting from what I've heard.

BTW, just listening to talk radio about the Jian Ghomeshi and a clip of one of his interviews just played. Why does he sound (Jian) just like Mike Cloutier? Inquiring minds want to know.

Between Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi and their "alleged" multiple sexual assaults, it makes me wonder just how corrupt law enforcement is in North America. WOW. My thoughts go out to all the victims of sexual abuse. Every woman I know, including myself, has been sexually harassed at some time in her life. Some of us managed to turn the tables and survive. Many were affected for life. And when it's a person in power (usually it is) it is that much harder for a victim to be believed. 

On to Ferguson: so much wrong there, it's almost beyond fixing. I was listening to the coverage of the Grand Jury "No Indictment" decision when I got ill.  I'm still sick.  

So, I'm taking a break to get well.  Carry on. I will post your comments.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU LIVE ON THIS SIDE OF THE LAKE?

Took this picture on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 9:00 AM.  You can see the wall of Lake Effect snow headed towards Buffalo's South-towns, the traditional Snow Belt of Western New York.

As I was trying to clear the snow sofe off the top of my car this morning, a young lad walked by my place. "Headed to school?" I asked. "Yes," he said. "Too bad," I said, thinking of the joyous "snow days" we enjoyed when I was growing up in Buffalo. We didn't care that traffic and emergency services were tied up; we were having fun making forts and preparing for snowball fights, knowing that our moms would have hot chocolate ready for us when we finally gave into to exhaustion and the cold.

While the Buffalo area makes headlines with a record snowfall, eight people lost their lives over the past few days - all storm related. That is the sobering statistic that comes from such storms. Perhaps people should follow the late Jimmy Griffin's advice during a big snowstorm when he was mayor of Buffalo: "get a six-pack and relax."
.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

INVOCATION RECITED EACH MEETING AND THEN IGNORED



Shirley Wallington Grace speaks at Fort Erie Council


"Almighty God, father of all mankind, the source of all that we can hope to have, grant that we may be worthy custodians of all that has been entrusted to us.

And so the Invocation begins. Standard for such things. Humble and hopeful, elected officials and town staff listen in respect, but, do they really get the message?

Not according to Shirley Wallington Grace at the November 17 Regular Council Meeting and last of the present term for some. Shirley, of course was talking about the treatment of four councillors who have been the target of "a diabolical plot" to destroy them. Certainly not in keeping with the spirit of the Invocation.

May we bring to our council chambers minds that think and hearts that feel so that, in our deliberations we may display imagination, wisdom and courage and the will to do our work for the good of all."

Notice that outgoing mayor Doug Martin is not even paying attention to Shirley's presentation. This has been a common occurrence during council meetings when someone the mayor does not agree with speaks before the group. That is, if he is not pounding the gavel to shut them up.  When one of his "chosen ones" spoke, they got away with disrespect and slander against the Four on a regular basis.

One good thing was that the usual suspects were missing a few members of their clown car. As a result, there were no loud outbursts and fifth grade foolishness as has been the case over the past couple of years. Again, the mayor allowed this behaviour to go on unchecked.

Later, each councillor spoke about the past four years as the term comes to a close. Don Lubberts thanks his supporters and helpful staff.  Rick Shular pontificated on his years on council. taking credit for his"policies" which were really just voting along with the mayor on everything. Although Rick may be a master of changing his face into a variety of poses and using his standard Malapropisms in his speeches, he will go on to gyrate with apples and oranges for another mute four years.

John Hill gave an impassioned speech about the good things that have happened in the past four years and his part in them.  He proudly listed his accomplishments and thanked his wife and family in an emotional close to his speech.  He presented himself as a man who tried to do the best for the people despite organized opposition and lawsuits.

Paul Collard spoke of his commitment to the people of Stevensville and his hopes for the completion of project started under his watch such as the Official Plan for Stevensville and the prospect of bring transit to his community. Another good man taken out by the "diabolical plan" of certain people.

Bob Steckley spoke about the harassment that placed a great strain on his family life and warned that on December 1, some people will be receiving phone calls. He plans to tell these people the truth about what he thinks of them. Like the others who have been under attack for so long, he has behaved with class. 

When it was Stephen Passero's time to speak, I left the chambers as I cannot bear the sight of that man. The only good thing from this past election is that he is out, out, out.  It's only a matter of time when he receives his consolation prize for running for mayor from his handlers.

And goodbye to Mayor Martin!  Worst mayor in recent history and he has some strong competition. Ignorant, rude and short-tempered.  Nasty man who will not be missed.  There was applause when The Four gave their speeches, none when Martin ended his.

That tells it all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

BRING ON ANDRÉ MARIN

It looks like the Ontario Ombudsman will have increased powers over the 444 municipalities of Ontario. According to an article in The Toronto Star, Bill 8 is currently before legislators at Queen's Park. Its passage would give André Marin the chance to field complaints about municipalities, universities and school boards regarding finances and conflicts of interest. One article describes Ombudsman Marin as "salivating over the prospect of delving into the town of Brampton's municipal finances after a spending scandal involving councillors and (now defeated) mayor Susan Fennell."

Bill 8 would, if passed, extend the jurisdiction of the Ontario ombudsman to include municipalities and provide everyone with access to an ombudsman,”  said Mark Cripps, a spokesman for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. 

"Deeply important issues affecting the management of cities have been ignored for years. For example, in many Ontario cities, developers continue to have direct access to municipal officials, often with little oversight. 

The line between politicians’ private fundraising efforts and how they use such activities to gain influence is blurred. Conflict of interest laws deal with votes in council chambers but don’t address what council members do outside them." (Toronto Star

The people from Fort Erie had a chance to see and hear André Marin when he spoke to council in December 2007 before being chosen as the representative for municipal complaints regarding closed council sessions.  At the time, the town was considering using the staff recommended Local Authority Services Association, vetted by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario,  as its investigator. That would cost the municipality a $300. per year retainer and $1200. per day for an investigation. The Ombudsman's Office, while independent, is funded by the taxpayers i.e. free. Then Ward 6 Councillor Ann Marie Noyes persuaded the council to consider Marin's department. Marin and a couple of Ombudsman's Office staff members came through a snow storm to appear before council. He gave an informative, professional presentation and his office was eventually chosen by the town over the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's recommendation.

So, we'll be hearing more from Marin in the future as he takes on added responsibilities.  He has done a lot to make sure that local councils maintain high standards.  Incidentally, Fort Erie has remained high on the list of complaint-driven investigations.  Too bad Marin wasn't in charge a couple of years ago.  The conflict-of-interest lawsuit against The Four councillors would never have gotten as far as it did.  Would have been investigated and thrown out - as it will be in the courts.  However, the negative publicity helped ruin their chances in the latest election.  Only one, Don Lubberts was able to retain his seat in Ward 6. (He is also being sued by EDTC GM Jim Thibert in a separate conflict of interest suit.)

André Marin has proven himself to be a hard-working, honest advocate for the people of Ontario.  I look forward to him taking on his new responsibility.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

YOU HAVE NO IDEA




I have taken the above Letter to the Editor and adapted it to the current situation in Fort Erie. 

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." (Joni Mitchell)

You Americans Fort Erians have no idea just

 how good you have had it with Obama The

 Four:



Many of us are confused by the October 27, Municipal Election. Consider, right now in Fort Erie, the tax rate is at a record low; a building boom is taking place in Crystal Beach; there is a healthy amount in the Reserve Fund; Stevensville is moving closer to adopting its Official Plan; transportation is high on the list of priorities; The Four have always been in support of the CMS; and The Four worked very hard to deliver a budget that respects the hard-working taxpayers of Fort Erie.
Fort Erie, especially Crystal Beach is getting national press attention for its quaint village and lifestyle; its National Historic Site Point Abino Lighthouse is hailed as "the most elegant lighthouse on the Ontario Great lakes shoreline."  The restoration of the lighthouse was spearheaded by The Four. It probably would not have taken place without their support.
So, Fort Erie voted for Chamber Maids and guys who supported the efforts to run The Four out of office instead of those who stood up for the average people in Fort Erie. This defies reason.
Only Donnie Lubberts remains and we are grateful for that. 
Sharon Bowers
Crystal Beach, Ontario

HOPEFUL NEWS


At least for Crystal Beach, there is a mini building boom going on. Schooley Road houses going up; Marz Homes getting ready to begin building on Ridgeway Road and numerous in-fill new builds and rehabs in the village.

The Third Quarter issuance of building permits in Fort Erie has risen since the second quarter. Nationwide, the unemployment rate has gone down although it still way too high in Niagara. 

"Fort Erie has a population of 29,960, with a seasonal influx of approximately 10,000 seasonal residents during the months of June through September.
Fort Erie experienced the third greatest population growth in Niagara (from 2001 to 2006) with an influx of some 1,782 new residents." (Source: EDTC statistics)

I have not found the latest stats on new residents, but I'd bet that there is still a sizable influx of new residents coming into the area. The recent article in the Globe and Mail featuring Crystal Beach as the first in a seven part series on desirable locations for senior citizens has verified a favourable trend in Crystal Beach: reasonable housing and great location are drawing people from the GTA to relocate.  All this was accomplished without the addition of a high rise condo on public beachfront lands.  This is what many of us want for Crystal Beach despite being told by carpetbagger planners and greedy politicians that a high rise would spur the local economy.  Thanks but no thanks. We'll keep our beachfront public property and fix it up as a park to be enjoyed by generations to come. 


Important meeting today: 

Region Waterfront Enhancement Strategy 

6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.  Niagara Region headquarters, Campbell East building, 2201 St. David's Rd., Thorold.

"Niagara Region is working together with Niagara’s area municipalities and other key stakeholders to develop a Waterfront Enhancement Strategy. In the first phase of the project the focus was on lakefronts. This second phase, which launches with this open house, will focus on other regionally significant watercourses throughout the region."

Hope that Regional Councillor-elect Sandy Annunziata attends. He can relate how he was able to stop any high rises near the Coal Docks on the Niagara River when he was a town councillor, meanwhile supporting a twelve story high rise condo on public lakefront property in Crystal Beach.  Pretty nifty maneuver from Annunziata's Playbook.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

11-11-11

My mother used to call it Armistice Day when I was growing up in Buffalo, New York.  Later, I heard it called Veteran's Day. Now I know it as Remembrance Day here in Canada.

Although there were many members of my family who served in the military, only a cousin was lost in World War II.  We American Baby Boomers were not well taught on the sacrifices made for our freedoms in the early days, but members of my generation would eventually play a large role in war as the Viet Nam War escalated.

Too bad, that war was one that many wanted to ignore. There were no parades or ceremonies to commend the participants in that war. The devastation to those who fought in another country's civil war should have taught everyone a lesson about getting involved in a country's internal struggles, but it hasn't. Americans are too quick to get involved in countries it has no business getting involved in. One of the reasons I moved to Canada was in protest of that dangerous American policy as exampled by the Viet Nam "Incursion."  They weren't even able to call it a "war" because it was an undeclared war.  Then came the Iraq War which was also given another name because it was also an illegal invasion of a sovereign country.

That is why I appreciate the Remembrance Day events here in Canada so much more than in the US. It is very important to honour those who stood up for the country while they are still alive; those who lost their lives in service to their country and those who returned, never the same after witnessing the devastation of war. Canada takes that into consideration far more than its American cousins. Canada chose to stay out of Viet Nam as well as Iraq. I believe that Canada has it right in that regard.

There is an added poignancy to this year's services: the recent deaths of two active servicemen by self-proclaimed jihadists, Canadians killing Canadians who are sworn to protect and represent our democracy. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo were killed within days of each other by recent converts to Islam. There are still many questions without answers regarding these acts of domestic terrorism but the fact remains that another two fine men are now being honoured for their service to Canada.

We will probably always have a day when we remember those who made the "ultimate sacrifice." We cherish those who served as we should. We must also realize that, if it were not for those brave souls, we might be living in a far different world than we do now.

Thanks from a grateful immigrant.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

MORE POSITIVE NEWS



This time the article is about the Point Abino Lighthouse. Of course, written by someone from outside the area who is not influenced by nasty local rhetoric about the money (in reality $400K) spent to restore the National Historic Site.

In the book, Brown raves about the Greek Revival  style Point Abino Light Station describing it as, "easily the most elegant lighthouse on the Ontario shore of the Great Lakes." He goes on to describe how Point Abino became the "enclave of wealthy industrialists" where many of the homes pre-date the 1918 completed light station. The lighthouse was constructed to replace a light ship that was destroyed in  a storm in 1913, killing all on board. A plaque was recently unveiled at Waterfront Park in Crystal Beach to honour the six coast guardsmen who died when Lightship No. 82 sunk in a fierce storm that raged 101 years ago this weekend.

The author also reported that the Point is off-limits to non-residents but walking, biking and shuttle tours are available.  As with many other National Historic Sites, access is limited, but not impossible. Other lighthouses are located out of reach of the average tourist. The light station's Fresnel Lens was state-of-the-art at the time of its installation. It remains in the lighthouse and is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Although more access to the light station is always desirable, it stands proudly at the end of the Point, clearly visible to boaters and observers from the shoreline of Crystal Beach. It is truly a beautiful sight from the Waterfront Park, free for anyone to enjoy.  The efforts of The Fabled Four members of town council are responsible for the restoration of the lighthouse. They pushed for matching funds to a government grant to pay for the restoration. The Lighthouse Keeper's cottage was sold to the restorer to complete the funding. Although there was some opposition from people who lived in other parts of the town, there was a great deal of support from the people of Crystal Beach and Ridgeway. The late Janet Truckenbrodt wrote a letter to the editor of Niagara This Week in March of 2012 praising The Four for their "decision to restore and preserve the Point Abino Lighthouse."

Let's hope the new council continues to preserve and protect the unique features of Fort Erie for future generations.


Guiding Light: Beautiful Point Abino Lighthouse was written by Ron Brown and reprinted , with permission, by The Fort Erie Times from his book:  Top 123 Unusual Things to See in Ontario, 4th Edition 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

AND NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS




The secret is coming out!  The Globe and Mail published an article about Canada's South Coast, especially Crystal Beach, as the first of seven desirable places for the over fifty crowd. Of course, those of us who live in the Beach have known this for a long time. Every year, the population of Crystal Beach and Ridgeway increases with refugees from the GTA who long to live in a quaint and quiet community free of traffic congestion, high rises and urban blight.  

This "news" is further proof of the divide between different communities within Fort Erie. we just went over to Buffalo the other day and upon return, when asked, "Where do you live?" I responded with, "Crystal Beach" and my friend said, "Ridgeway." Not Fort Erie, which is technically where we live.  Although the town was amalgamated decades ago, the disparate villages remain loyal to their own brand.  

That is a good thing, except when it comes to politics.  Remember when now Lame Duck Mayor Doug Martin wanted to change the ward system to an at large configuration?  Did he really think that would happen?  That idea will not be discussed again now that the mayor's buddies have been elected in all but one ward. Just as various communities within the amalgamated GTA retain their identities, so too Fort Erie has at least five distinct sectors; some of those broken down even further into neighbourhoods which retain their own identity.  There are many who wish that the former towns within the Town of Fort Erie would return to their former autonomy.  

No wonder there is a divide in the community.  The villages of Crystal Beach and Ridgeway are changing because of the new demographics provided by the influx of people from the GTA and other areas.  It seems that Fort Erie proper, including Bridgeburg, remains static as does Stevensville while Ridgeway/Crystal Beach is growing and changing.

I think we live in interesting times.  I still see great things ahead for the Ridgeway/Crystal Beach area Fort Erie.  Let's see how this new council faces these challenges and opportunities.



Monday, November 3, 2014

FORT ERIE REALLY IS A MICROCOSM

UPDATE:  The Mid-term Elections in the States just proved my theory. The Democrats, who, under president Barack Obama brought the country back from a terrible recession; brought in the Affordable Care Act; got Bin Laden and numerous other benefits, were defeated in many crucial elections. The Republicans have now taken over Congress and the future looks grim for average Americans.  Those who voted, voted against their own best interests. In many ases, they voted out the people who stood up for them.

(Just heard this on Stephanie Miller's Show:  Now they have to prove that they can lead.)


It would seem that Fort Erie's recent municipal elections are really a microcosm of what is happening in the US. As I said before, tomorrow, Americans go to the polls to vote for the entire House of Representatives; one third of the Senate of 100; many governors and local positions.  

In this election, it's all about Obama and his "failures" as a president.  The  BIG FEAR that the republicans are counting on to take over the Senate and retain their comfortable majority in the House is EBOLA.  More people have died by falls in the US than have died of Ebola - one.  There is only one active case in the US at this time. So far two who contracted the virus from contact with the first patient are now clear of the virus.  But the anti-Obama media has ginned up the fear and have assigned blame to Obama for "a failure of leadership" in the Ebola crisis.  Which, of course, is no crisis at all.  True, mistakes were made by the hospital in Texas when the patient, who had just arrived in the US from West Africa, presented at the hospital suffering from symptoms associated with the disease.  If he had been treated appropriately at the beginning, he probably would have survived and the two nurses would not have contracted the disease.

But that was only one example of how the media and wealthy donors have manipulated public opinion to turn voters away from those who are working in their best interest.  Same thing happened in Fort Erie.  The fear of higher taxes due to lawsuits filed and funded by agenda-driven persons caused many voters to turn away from their own best interests.  The future may not be so bright for the majority of the people of Fort Erie, but it will certainly be bright for the "friends" of those who were elected.

It looks like the GOP will prevail on Tuesday. This is because they were able to use the media's influence to move their agenda, even though that agenda is woefully untrue.  HERE are some real facts about Obama. None of this got any play in the media, just as the accomplishments of The Four were never included in the local media's coverage.  There is a lot of money behind the anti-Obama effort. The Koch brothers have invested millions in the effort to take over the Congress of the US.  A dozen or so people funded the effort against The Four.  Among them was Marina Butler who was elected in Ward 4. Something about that just doesn't seem right. Call for a Compliance Audit, then fund a lawsuit on the man you plan to run against in the next election.

But it worked!  Now Fort Erie can take pride as a town that followed the American way of winning elections. Except it was on a much smaller scale. The next four years will be interesting as to how this plays out.

Early Predictions:

1.) Taxes will rise but the new council will blame the lawsuits for the rise (which will be a lie.)

2.) The Kinsmen Pool will remain closed.

3.) That other blog, as well as its contributors will be dropped; no one will take their calls.  They have served their purpose. Lesley North will probably not speak at council, but when she does, she will need to be very careful as Wayne Redekop will not allow such antics.

4.) Stephen Passero will get a job with the EDTC or the Peace Bridge.  

5.) The votes on council will be 5-1 and no one will say a word about it except me.

6.) The Fort Erie Racetrack will stay open with million of dollars from the province and a top-off from the town.

7.) Young people will continue to leave town after the get their educations.

Any other predictions?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

ANOTHER IMPORTANT ELECTION

On Tuesday, November 4, Americans will go to the polls in what is called a "Mid-term Election."  This is one which falls halfway through a presidential term. Every two years, the entire House of Representatives of Congress is up for election; one-third of the 100 member Senate (two from each state;) numerous governors and other elected officials face the voters. As an American citizen living "abroad" I am eligible to vote by absentee ballot in the election.  This election, I had only one election that I was eligible for: U.S. House of Representatives.

So, I mailed in my ballot the other day. One vote for a guy who will probably have no trouble being re-elected.  I still voted though as I have for at least twenty years by absentee ballot.  I have voted in almost every election that I can since I turned twenty-one. There was a period that I did not vote as I was not aware that I was eligible, living in Canada. Since then, I have not only voted but I've helped other ex-pats vote, including a ninety-five year old woman who had never voted in her life. 

Some Canadians are convinced that what happens in the States has no bearing on what happens here. I think they are wrong. There is a chance that the Republicans can take over the Senate while they retain their majority in the House.  This would make the gridlock even worse than it already is.  President Obama has to work very hard to implement his platform/promises to the American people because of the opposition in Congress.  Some Republicans are still trying to repeal the very popular Affordable Care Act that is still nowhere near as good as the Canadian universal health care. 

I do hope for the best for my native country, but I'm still glad I live in Canada.

Friday, October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

I think that Halloween came earlier this week for some of us.  Scary thought that three of our best were sent packing in Monday's election. Certainly no treat for many of us.. 

It's one thing to win an election by presenting a better platform and ideas. Another thing altogether when some win by way of a well-financed hit campaign that has gone on for years.


By this time next year, this will all have been forgotten - except by a few.  The promises of a bright future for Fort Erie will be tarnished by the reality that governing, even in a small town, is a difficult thing to do and those who are elected to the task must be responsive, knowledgeable and accountable.  The Four were held accountable for their every action; they were judged harshly by certain groups in the community; but they did not have the whereforall (™Rick Shular) to tell their side of the story. They did not have the money to put up a couple of billboards; they did not have the money to put out a slanderous flyer; they didn't have the money to file frivolous and vexatious lawsuits and they certainly didn't have the clout to turn the local press in their favour.  

So the victors can enjoy their victories and promise that they will "work together" to bring jobs and revenue to the town through aggressive development and help to business. Good for them. They certainly have the Chamber of Commerce on their side. We can only hope that they will keep their lofty promises.

Let's see what they do with their mandate. Let's see if they are able to keep the next tax increase at a record low. Let's see if they deliver a 0% water bill increase. Let's see if they care enough about the people to protect the shoreline. You see, they have a tough act to follow. The voters didn't realize the good points of this council because they were misinformed and influenced by a very well-orchestrated campaign against The Four. But this council achieved a lot and they were met with resistance from the mayor and his flunkies every step of the way.

Meanwhile, we can take comfort in the fact that one of The Four made it through and the new mayor will not tolerate the kind of behaviour that has marked many a council meeting.  We can also smile that Stephen Passero's dream of domination of the town has been derailed and his mentor, Doug Martin will finally go off the stage.  

The three who lost will be fine. At some point, they will feel relieved that others will now feel the heat from a demanding electorate who never seem satisfied. 

And, for the people of Fort Erie: let's hope that the new council lives up to its hype.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WHAT'S HAPPENING?

I can't understand why the number of hits to my blog has increased so dramatically of late.  Even after the election. Makes me wonder just who is out there reading The Strand Blog.  Perhaps it is trolls looking for evidence for another or to continue the lawsuit against me. Perhaps it is trolls looking to see what I'll say now that all but one of The Four lost their elections. Perhaps it is just people curious to see what "the other side" has to say.

I suppose I should be encouraged by this, but I'm not.  If all those hits represented people who agree with what I published, our guys would have won handily.  Even if only half agreed, they would still have won.

So, that leads me to conclude that my blog had zero influence on the election.  Hard to accept that, but I have no other explanation as to why so many visited my blog, yet the people I endorsed, save one, lost their elections.

Can someone explain this to me?  

As Shirley Grace says, "There's a book in all this somewhere."  I feel that there is a shoe still hovering over town, waiting to drop on our heads.  That is why some of us are going over all the videos, papers and minutia from the past few years and are trying to put together a narrative about this town without pity.  Certainly a nice activity for the long, cold months ahead.  You see, we can't let it go because the darkness in this town goes very, very deep and we have tried to shine a light on it. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ONE EGG ROLL AND WON TON SOUP LATER ...

I needed some comfort food after last night. Luckily, I live near our fine Chinese Restaurant in the Beach.  Now I feel better:

While others in town are whooping it up and slapping each other on their backs over the retaking of the Fort Erie Town Council, lots of us are shocked and saddened over the losses incurred by "our guys."

What is really sad that The Four never got much of a chance to show people that they were committed to bringing responsible, good government to Fort Erie. From Day One they were attacked. The campaign against them carried on non-stop for four years resulting in the outcome of yesterday. It is really sad when the local Chamber of Commerce hierarchy gets right into the battle against representatives elected by the people.  I would think they would be more concerned about business opportunities than revenge against election winners.  The same people who will now run our town put out the false narrative that The Four were anti-development and anti-business mainly because members of the council stood up to the egomaniac who runs the EDTC when he disrespected the taxpayers and council on several occasions.  His bad attitude is well-known but many are afraid of him. (Yeah, I know all about that. I was sued by him with taxpayer money.)  

So, the select group went after The Four and anyone who wanted to keep the Bay Beach Properties in the public's hands. And they really went after The Four. They received a great deal of help from the local newspapers, especially from James Culic of Niagara This Week who never let a chance to bash The Four pass him by.  He must be so proud of himself right now along with Kris Dubé whose close ties to Doug Martin made it impossible for him to be objective.  Other so-called journalists who promised to cover the full story of the conflict of interest lawsuit but got cold feet, probably because they might lose advertisers - the same people who were at the centre of the lawsuit in the first place.  It is all so incestuous that it makes one ill.  And to think, despite all this, this council was able to do a great many good things.  Lowest tax hike in a decade; replenishment of the reserve fund and lots of improvements to the infrastructure. But the people seldom heard about that in the biased press. No, all they heard about was the dissension, mostly caused by a weak mayor who was still smarting over his razor-thin victory over his challenger in 2010. Council meetings turned into sideshows replete with a bunch of high school bullies making loud, insulting remarks from the back of the room.  The mayor let them carry on.

Then there was the Red Ninja blog that took high school bullying to a whole new level. It even employed the camera talents of a local stalker who has a long history of such behaviour.  But, never mind that. He was useful to them as he enjoyed following people around, taking pictures.  Been doing it for years. Police have quite a file on him already.  He particularly likes to harass women.  

So, very honest and capable men were pilloried in their own town by some of their own neighbours. Because?  Because they were committed to keeping the Bay Beach Properties in the public's hands. 

And because they cared enough about their community to put their names in for election; were elected and then tried to do the job they were elected for. 

Sad day indeed.  Thank you to all four of the councillors and good luck to Don Lubberts. The next four years may be, for him, like the plot of Lord of the Flies, but we all know he'll do just fine.

PS. I will continue to call Kim Zanko and Marina Butler the Chamber Maids as that's where they both gor their start and their support.

NEW COUNCIL MAKE-UP IS A COSMIC JOKE. BUT WE'RE NOT LAUGHING





Councillor Paul Collard offered this to me to use because I'm pretty sure it will be needed over the next little while.  All but one of The Four will not be representing the people of Fort Erie next term.  They've been replaced by a newbie, a Barbie Doll and Lucrezia Borgia.

I would imagine that some members of the Chamber of Commerce are celebrating the win for their side. They managed to do a very thorough job of destroying the reputations of The Four Councillors, starting with Marina Butler's Compliance Audit of the man she has now beaten: John Hill.  Then there were the billboards attributed to Kim Zanko who is now Ward 3 Councillor-elect.  And who can forget the lawsuit filed by Tim Whitfield and funded with help from Marina Butler and some other members of the CofC.

Yeah, that's what some Chamber members think is good for the town, right?  Spend time and money to trash the duly-elected representatives of the people.  Such nice, responsible people. Put up signs; put out a slanderous flyer; fund a frivolous lawsuit; and then campaign on honesty and integrity. It seems to have worked if one believes in honest elections.

We have four years to observe how these new councillors will change Fort Erie for the better.  Pay close attention.  There will be a test on this. In four years.

In the meantime, I'm going to design a flyer and a billboard or two.



Monday, October 27, 2014

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IN ORDER TO VOTE



RESULTS!








MAYOR - Wayne Redekop



REGIONAL COUNCILLOR - Annunziata






Ward 1 - George McDermott

Ward 2 - Rick Shular

Ward 3 - Kim Zanko

Ward 4 - Marina Butler

Ward 5 - Don Lubberts

Ward 6 - Chris Knutt

 









Sunday, October 26, 2014

1 DAY - THINK ABOUT IT

In late 2003, I wrote a series of articles about Fort Erie for the Downtowner, a magazine that is now called Niagara Life. At the time, I reported that Fort Erie was on the cusp of greatness, that the planets seemed to have aligned to give Fort Erie a bright future. 

One article centered around the great shoreline and the efforts to keep as much of it public and environmentally sound. Marcy's Woods had just been purchased by a developer and many people were worried that he would develop the property, thus putting important flora and fauna at risk. There was even a demonstration that went all the way to Queen's Park.  As it turns out, the developer kept his promise to keep the property in its pristine condition as planned by its namesake owner, Dr. William Marcy. The DiCienzo Family has turned Marcy's Woods into a model for careful stewardship of the land.

Attention was then turned to Crystal Beach where there was but a rather small portion of the beach that was still public. The owners of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club not only retained the beach from the former amusement park, they placed huge boulders on the sand to deter anyone from even walking the shores. This caused a lot of upset in the community and it widened the divide between the locals and the summer residents. Two years earlier, the town had purchased the former Bay Beach Properties from the Rebstock Family which gave people new hope that there would be a great beach and parkland for the public's use.  Derelict buildings were torn down and the area cleaned up. A parking lot was placed on the south side of the properties as a temporary measure until funds could be gathered to complete a redesigned park.

So, that was where my article ended. It was on a hopeful note for the future of Fort Erie, especially its shoreline.  There were other articles too, all praising Fort Erie's uniqueness and diversity.  

What happened to that hope?

It seems to me that certain elected and non-elected officials of this town lost sight of what was best for the people and favoured the plans of a couple of developers who were only in it for the money and not to better the community. The village of Crystal Beach had already suffered through the development of the former amusement park lands into a gated community. After all, even the town planner didn't live in Fort Erie and the developers certainly didn't either.

Thus began the long road to where we are today.  The pandering to certain developers went into high gear when Doug Martin was elected mayor in 2006. The town became race track centric and everything else seemed to be forced into the background.  Developers bragged that they could get "anything they wanted" in Fort Erie. (A perfect example of this is the development at the end of Hibbard Street near Prospect Point Road where the well-known developer had an "oopsie" and failed to provide enough space for a proper driveway.) How did these things happen?  

One answer is Lack of Leadership. That's the simple one.  The other is far more complex and much darker.

The people elected four councillors in 2010 with the hopes that some of these problems would be addressed and corrected.  Doug Martin and some town staff did everything in their power to obstruct the effort to bring fairness back to town hall.

Fortunately Doug Martin will soon be gone, but he leaves a legacy of nastiness, unfairness and possible wrongdoing behind. He has also anointed his successor and a cadre of candidates that will continue his legacy.

Fort Erie could still have a bright future. Vote for the people who stood up for you - not against you.



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