Sunday, July 26, 2015

A PERFECT DAY


It all came together beautifully. The first Circle of Art event, held on Saturday, July 25, was a another great success for the Friends of Crystal Beach.

The setting for the art show was Queen's Circle on Derby Road in Crystal Beach. It was a triumphant return to the heart of the village, where it all began. For it was in the late 1800s that Crystal Beach became a meeting place for artists, educators, musicians and speakers as part of the Chautauqua Movement, named after the town in New York State where it began. Once again, artists, musicians, educators and people gathered in the shady, idyllic circle to enjoy art, food and conversation. It was a true example of what can be achieved by dedicated community volunteers.



Visitors were impressed by the recently refurbished gazebo that has been in Queen's Circle since the late 1990s.  Now painted a light silvery green, it blends in with the trees and plantings that adorn the lush circle. Shade trees protected the artists and their works from the summer sun and a breeze kept things cool and comfortable. The work on the gazebo was moved ahead at the request of the Friends of Crystal Beach, along with a generous donation to the project so that visitors and residents alike would enjoy the park even more this summer.

 Circle of Art creator and coordinator, Gayle Martineau worked tirelessly for months on the project. She got a lot of help from other Friends of Crystal members, especially Karen Davis-Matthews, who also took Second Place in the visitor poll. Paul Lewis took First and Stacey Thomas came in Third. Artists were very impressed by the treatment they received and the sales they made of their artwork. All have indicated they will be back next year on July 23, 2016 for the second Circle of Art exhibition. Local students were also represented and awarded ribbons for their efforts.

Bob Steckley provided food along with his fabled Crystal Beach Waffles and Suckers. Nothing better than sharing a blooming onion in the shade while visiting with friends and neighbours. Hot dogs and all the other great food he serves up were washed down with Crystal Beach Loganberry. Other soft drinks were offered by The Friends of Crystal Beach along with their popular tee shirts and special tote bags with the Circle of Art logo. Even palette-shaped homemade shortbread cookies made by Gayle and her friend Mel were available.

A great assortment of door prizes was raffled off, provided by a number of local businesses. Buskers offered ambient music and even visiting canines were provided drinking water, treats and clean-up bags.

As an observer and a volunteer for this event, I must say that this is what I have always envisioned for Crystal Beach and Queen's Circle. It has taken years for Crystal Beach to come back from the devastation of the closing of the amusement park. At least a dozen new people to the area introduced themselves and told why they chose to relocate to Crystal Beach. One couple said they had been trying for several years to find the right place to buy. The tortured Era of the Condo was never mentioned; people were just too happy at what they saw yesterday in Crystal Beach. Meanwhile, that morning was the annual Crystal Beach Drive/Terrace Lane garage Sale. Another long-standing tradition that draws people from all over.

There was another very important event going that day in Waverly Beach: the dedication of a plaque commemorating the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of the NAACP which is the leader in the civil rights movement in the United States. A representative of Barack Obama, President of the United States was on hand as well as a number of local and national dignitaries. As many know, Fort Erie was an important stop on the fabled Underground Railway for runaway slaves from the US in the years preceding the American Civil War in 1861. It was a natural setting for a meeting of civil rights advocates; it is now recognized as a birthplace for the movement.

To sum this all up, I have to recount a statement made by a visitor to the Friends of Crystal Beach tent:

"Thank you for all you do."

Amen to that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WHEN IT ALL STARTED

In a recent opinion piece by Kris Dubé, the former editor of the Fort Erie Times, now working for the on-line Niagara Bullet, he talked about the "healing" taking place regarding Bay Beach as a result of the Bay Beach Study now being undertaken to plan the future of the publicly owned Bay Beach Properties. What the people will be treated to is a nice wish list that local residents helped create. Sure, the locals are happy: the early plans have all the factors that people have wanted since the property was bought in 2001. Too bad that there were two attempts to change the very nature of the property away from a public-friendly parkland and parking spaces to commercial/residential property. (It must be stated that the property, under the previous owners did contain residential units. However, those units were razed shortly after the property was purchased by the town.) 

In 2002, an attempt was made to sell off the north sections of the property that contained parking lots in order to fund a section of the Friendship Trail. That proposal was met with fierce opposition and it was eventually dropped as the Crystal Beach Neighbourhood Plan was being formulated. In 2005, council voted to accept the award-winning plan which stated that the whole property, save one tiny piece, be retained as public. A height limit of three stories for new builds was also included in the plan.

Well, a friend recently unearthed an interoffice memo from 2008 which contained the whole real agenda of the then town planner Rino Mostacci and the then town CAO Harry Schlange. 

WARNING: These two now hold similar posts at the Region after both bounced around in other communities, presumably waiting for the mess they helped create to settle down.

So, behold the beginning of the Molinaro Years:





Sunday, July 19, 2015

INTERESTING WEEK COMING UP

Well, first. Let's hope that the predicted thunderstorms don't land in Crystal Beach during the Waterfront Park Concert with The Remnants tonight (Sunday.)  The second in the concert series sponsored by The Friends of Crystal Beach will feature songs of the 60s and 70s. The popular events attract hundreds out for the free concerts. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy.

UPDATE: A few rain drops fell; the wind was wild; but quite a few music lovers were treated to a great evening from a stellar band, The Remnants. Even the mayor and his wife showed up. Next big date is August 9 when the Toronto All Star Big Band brings its sound back for the fifth year. 

SATURDAY: JULY 25 - CIRCLE OF ART at Queen's Circle in Crystal Beach. 10:00 am - 5:00 p.m. Check out what local artists are doing. Another event in our walkable community.

But first,

On Friday, July 24, lawyers for both sides in the now dismissed conflict of interest case will meet again in court to decide the costs of the case and who will pay them. Hint: Tim Whitfield may be on the hook for a great deal of the costs not covered by insurance since it was his name on the lawsuit against The Four. 

Just another reminder of the "community-minded citizens" who pledged their support for this lawsuit which has has succeeded in ruining the reputations of four innocent men who were trying to represent the people who voted them into office in 2010. Now they have been vindicated, but the damage was done. Which is why the lawsuit was brought forth in the first place. Let's hope the following keep their promise to support Tim Whitfield (A.K.A. Strawman):

Here is the list as copied from the official list supplied by the court:


1. Bridgeburg Holdings Limited
1625 Niagara Parkway
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 5M4

Owner: James Miller

2.  Zavcor Trucking
3650 Eagle Street
P.O. Box 180
Stevensville, ON L0S 1S0

Owner: Kirk Zavitz

3.  1049506 Ontario Inc
2045 Niagara Parkway
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 5M4

Owner: William Miller

4. Garrison Square Plaza Inc.
6150 Valley Way, Suite 104
Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E 1Y3

Owner: Artaj Singh

5.  Howard Beattie, Valerie Beattie
649 Lakeshore Road
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 1B8

6. Employment Professionals Canada
1220 Garrison Road
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 1P1

Owner: Marina Butler


Marina Butler is the most interesting name on this list. She brought a compliance audit request against John Hill shortly after the 2010 election where he won over incumbent Tim Whitfield (there's that name again) in a landslide. A costly, taxpayer-funded exercise in revenge, the compliance audit netted nothing of any note in Hill's financial statement for election expenses. Then she allegedly went on the fund a nasty billboard and a slanderous flyer that was put in residents' mail boxes. Of course, only Kim Zanko (oh, another name we have become familiar with) accepted responsibility for the actions, citing a "group of concerned citizens" as the donors.

Flash forward to 2014 and looky here! Marina Butler runs against John Hill and beats him handily! What a surprise. Well played, Marina. Well played. You and your "concerned citizen" friends managed to disrupt the democratic process with a well-planned campaign to unseat four duly-elected councillors who demonstrated  that they were not going to fall into line behind the mayor-by-five-votes and the rogue EDTC head honcho. So, in your mind, Marina, and those of your "concerned citizens," all well-known and well-heeled, the town must be rid of these elected officials - one way or the other.

Project 4-2-0 was almost a complete success. It's all yours now, Marina and friends. You can do your worst - and it looks like you're right on track to drive property taxes into the ozone. Stand up for the regular folks of Fort Erie? Of course not. You and your "concerned citizens" will continue to stick together. You will take that to the bank (laughing all the way.)

Lest we forget that this is what "concerned citizens" with money are capable of doing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

WHEN JOHN OLIVER SPEAKS; PEOPLE SHOULD LISTEN


He's funny, but he's also telling the truth. He just delivers it in a funny way so that it doesn't hurt so much. This clip is about how sport teams hold towns hostage until the taxpayers cough up enough money to build a new stadium. As any Buffalo Bills fan can remember, there has been a long-standing struggle to keep the Bills in Buffalo amid numerous threats that the team owner, the late Ralph Wilson, dropped until he got what he wanted. Now, the new Bills owners are talking about a new waterfront stadium which brings many of us back over forty years ago when such a stadium idea was mired in corruption and politics.

It also brings to mind the Canadian Motor Speedway which has threatened to pull up stakes unless some level of government (the taxpayers) provides it with infrastructure and roads to the race track. Considering what other sports teams have been able to coerce local taxpayers to fund, the CMA is not far off the mark in its demands. 

Please pay close attention to the myth that such a new facility automatically breathes new economic life into a community. That is totally false. Here in Fort Erie we have heard that refrain sung many times by developers and entrepreneurs. It has been sung to a fare-thee-well by the people behind the CMA. In the John Oliver video, someone said that the towns would be better off if the millions invested in sports arenas was simply dropped from a plane on the populace. The people would benefit more from that than they would from a new stadium.

Think about it. And ask yourself this: why the delay in the building of the race track? Are the Middle Eastern owners waiting for cash-strapped Ontarians to make the first move and supply the massive infrastructure improvements before the Middle Eastern owners actually start to build? Were the millions in tax breaks not enough?






Saturday, July 11, 2015

TIME TO REMEMBER



We remembered the 50s and 60s July 12 
at Waterfront Park

The Moonlighters played to a crowd estimated at 200 on Sunday night at Waterfront Park. The event was put together by the Friends of Crystal Beach. Many of us remember too that what is now Waterfront Park was once a pile of rocks. Following a C.A.U.S.E. (1996) recommendation, an intrepid bunch of people put together and carried out a plan for a park on the waterfront in Crystal Beach with a boat launch and picnic facilities. With the help of bingo funds and a lot of hard work, the park is now a reality to be enjoyed by everyone.

Some of the original Waterfront committee members are now dead, but their contribution will live on in a plaque at the entrance to the parking lot and in the hearts and minds of grateful people. As Paul Lewis (is that an American accent I hear?) spoke to the crowd before the band started to play said, "Look around you. Here we are at the water, having an outdoor concert. Ladies and Gentlemen: This is Crystal Beach!"


Now, on to the story of those who sought revenge against the voters' choice in the 2010 election:

It was almost a year ago that the list of contributors to the lawsuit against four sitting councillors was revealed.  From what we hear, the contributors were assured that their names would remain anonymous but the judge hearing the case demanded that Whitfield's lawyer (Dave Hurren) provide the names of the backers. The backers pledged support of a lawsuit filed in 2013 against four elected councillors: Bob Steckley, John Hill, Paul Collard and Don Lubberts. Only Lubberts was re-elected to council in 2014.

So, we thought we would remind you of how a small group of people set out to ruin the reputations of four elected representatives of the people.  They will forever be remembered for their "community spirit."


Here is the list as copied from the official list supplied by the court:


1. Bridgeburg Holdings Limited
1625 Niagara Parkway
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 5M4

Owner: James Miller

2.  Zavcor Trucking
3650 Eagle Street
P.O. Box 180
Stevensville, ON L0S 1S0

Owner: Kirk Zavitz

3.  1049506 Ontario Inc
2045 Niagara Parkway
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 5M4

Owner: William Miller

4. Garrison Square Plaza Inc.
6150 Valley Way, Suite 104
Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E 1Y3

Owner: Artaj Singh

5.  Howard Beattie, Valerie Beattie
649 Lakeshore Road
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 1B8

6. Employment Professionals Canada
1220 Garrison Road
Fort Erie, Ontario L2A 1P1

Owner: Marina Butler

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:


  • The Millers are close friends and contributors to Doug Martin's campaign in 2010. They own Miller's Auto Recycling as well as a great deal of property in Fort Erie.

  • Kirk Zavitz also contributed to Martin's campaign in 2010 when Martin won by a mere five votes over Ann Marie Noyes.

  • Arjaj Singh is the landlord for the property (Garrison Square Plaza, Inc) rented by the Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Erie Economic and Development Corporation. He also contributed to Martin's mayoral campaign

  • Marina Butler (Employment Professionals Canada) also contributed to Doug Martin's election campaign in 2010. She filed a compliance audit against the campaign of Ward 4 Councillor John Hill in 2010 after his successful election. It accomplished nothing but cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.She went on to run and defeat John Hill in Ward 4 in 2014.

  • The Beatties have been close friends of Martin for years.  1118184 Ontario Inc. runs Madison's Pub at the Leisureplex.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

THEY'RE NOT FOOLING ANYONE

So said a long-time Crystal Beach resident with regards to the so-called Bay Beach Study that has brought together a bevy of consultants, planners and facilitators to the village. They are currently holding court in the Crystal Ridge Community Centre where they have spent the past couple of days "gathering input from stakeholders."  Holy Crap! It's déja vu all over again. 

Even the expected outcome is a foregone conclusion. Just like back in 2002 or thereabouts. Here it is, folks:

The consultants will propose that a three or four story building be placed on the north side of the Bay Beach Properties that will either be residential or hotel/commercial.

They admitted as much this morning at a roundtable discussion with various representatives of government agencies.

Oh, and it was also revealed that the Molinaros still hold a Ministry of Natural Resources permit regarding the "Fowler's Toad Habitat" until 2027 which the town does not want to see revoked at any time in the near future. What this means is that nothing much can be done on the south side (lakefront) of the property until the permit is revoked and replaced with a new permit.

Also lurking in the background is the Molinaro inspired lawsuit and the still unsettled dispute over the property itself. There is a claim that there is an open road allowance running through the property as well as a path running along next to the breakwall parallel to the water.

So, last night we dutifully filled out poster-sized wish lists that were then placed on the wall of the banquet hall. They all said pretty much what has been said for almost twenty years regarding Crystal Beach. Same as the C.A.U.S.E. Study of 1996; the charettes in 2003-2004; the award-winning Crystal Beach Master Plan of 2005; and the general will of the people as evidenced by the election results in 2010.

But we know that certain people in town have had other plans for the Bay Beach Properties since they were bought from the Rebstock Family in 2001. And those plans are still there, despite what the majority of people really want for our last good piece of public beachfront property in Crystal Beach.

Once again, our public property is in jeopardy of being portioned off for "reasonable return on investment."  For whom? If that were the case, then every park and playground should be held to the same standard. No, it's only Bay Beach that has this unwanted attention.

And this latest taxpayer-funded study is just another pile of you-know-what posing as community consultation.

PREDICTION: Once the final draft is presented to council, it will be shelved, along with the many other studies and suggestions from the past. The high cost of the improvements will be cited as the reason and the only way it can be afforded is if the north side properties are sold. There will be no attempt at improving the property in increments as money becomes available. The present council has no interest in Crystal Beach; never had - except during amalgamation when Crystal Beach had a very healthy treasury. So, now it will be payback for all the opposition to the Molinaro tower. The consultation brought forth a lot of great ideas for Bay Beach, few or none of which will be implemented. Council will vote as they have been programmed 5-2. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

HAPPY CANADA DAY, FORT ERIE?

UPDATE: HERE is why Americans are not coming to Canada for Friendship Festival activities. Great weather notwithstanding, the atmosphere and the location for such festivities is outstanding. An estimated 20,000 people attended the all-day event which culminated in a spectacular fireworks display donated by a local businessman. The renaissance of Buffalo has picked up more and more energy as people flock to the waterfront area. Beaches and waterfront areas are being improved and cleaned up. It's all about making the visitors' experience unforgettable and fun.

Fort Erie has the natural resources and locations to become a desired visiting place once again. Just need people with a vision that does not include high rises on public beachfront property. Enhance and improve what we are blessed with and people will come and spend money.





Searched the morning news services on line and found a great series of pictures of Canada Day in Niagara. All over the region, parades, festivities, fireworks and family fun took place, caught on camera. All but Fort Erie which didn't seem to have anything except a quarter hour of taxpayer-paid fireworks. Hopefully that was well-attended.

You know, I'm embarrassed for my adopted town. WTF? Did not anyone from the once-great Friendship Festival see that when they decided the dates for the event? Holy cripes, Batman. Now the American summer residents will get to celebrate their July 4 holiday at a wonderful community festival in Ridgeway that starts on July 4 (Friday.)

No one can blame the Friendship Festival organizers for the bad weather for last weekend's event. I have not attended the festival in years as there is nothing there of interest to me. I do not fault the organizers for that either, but I suspect there are many others who do not attend for similar reasons to my own. What I am hearing through various people is that everything, including vendor sites, are very expensive. What was once a great low-cost event has become a cash grab and I feel for those parents who must part with significant amounts of money so their children can go on the rides at the festival. I can't get past former Friendship Festivals that celebrated Canadian-American friendship where events coincided with events just across the Niagara River in Buffalo. Fireworks were part of the Friendship Festival, enjoyed by those in Canada near the Old Fort while Americans enjoyed it at LaSalle Park in Buffalo. On July 4, the Americans provided the fireworks from Riverside Park just across the Niagara River near Fort Erie. Great shows and a wonderful choice of handmade items and artwork in a festival that stretched over days and a length of the Parkway between the Old Fort and Mather's Arch. 

Yeah, we know that the bingo money is down. We know that, OK? Then, how can Ridgefest go on for a few thousand dollars, attracting thousands each year? I go to Ridgefest every year because there is a lot to see and it costs me very little to enjoy the festival. Families really enjoy the event and there are a lot of things for the kids to do and see that doesn't cost a fortune.  Food is good and there is plenty of music, along with a street dance sponsored by a service club. 

Fort Erie Friendship Festival organizers have missed the point while they had a bunch of bingo money to throw around. The "bigger" it got, the smaller the potential audience became. If people want nothing but a series of bands parading on stage, they might go to a music festival. The rest of us, members of the Woodstock generation, have had enough of loud bands and third-rate performers; we have all seen the real McCoys. Well-known crafters and artists used to place the Friendship Festival as Number One on their list; now few even show up because the price for a booth is outrageous. 

I believe that the Friendship Festival's only hope is to return to is more humble beginnings. It must run on July 1, even if that is the last day of the festival. Fireworks for a longer period must be part of the event, not budgeted separately. I also believe that the current organizers need to step aside as any long-time organizer/president of any group should step aside after a few years. Stagnancy is bound to happen and the Friendship Festival is in its death throes.

Anyway, Happy Canada Day (a day late as I was elsewhere enjoying Canada Day.)  I am so proud and happy to live in this great country.

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