I guess it’s to be expected, since Thorold has for years been overrun with students, now a fact of life and not likely to change any time soon. Council wasted what I figure to be over two hours Tuesday night on yet another student issue.
This time, it was a motion by Councillor Anthony Longo to remove Thorold’s Winterberry Blvd., effective January 1, 2018. In addition, his motion included a provision that any infrastructure for bus routes such as bus shelters, etc. be paid for by a source other than municipal taxpayers. The reason for this measure is ostensibly safety, since the buses run down Winterberry, which is a long, narrow curve with poor visibility, is a danger to residents and their children. He also stated that this route had been instated without the consultation of Council or the public. Longo went on to suggest that buses should be kept on main arteries, hastening to add, “I’m not against public transit.” He just wants routes
that make more sense.
That would have effectively been the end of the discussion and the vote would have been taken at that point, except for one fly in the ointment. That would be Councillor Whelan, who suggested that they let someone from Brock University speak to this, even though, as Councillor Handley had pointed out, they all should have been there at the last meeting, when local residents came to complain.
Mayor Luciani should have ruled against the request, as they could easily have applied to appear as a delegation like anyone else. Despite the irregularity, he put it to a vote. And Council, never wanting to appear unfair, even when it would be fair to be unfair, voted to open Pandora’s box. The result was a long drawn-out discussion of often irrelevant arguments.
Rather than repeat them all, here are the highlights.
The students, after commenting that the headline “Thorold Being Destroyed by Students”, which they’d read, argued that the routes had indeed been OK’d by the City. After an interminable back-and-forth, though, it appears it may have been OK’s by former CAO Frank Fabiano. Not as important an element of the measure as the time spent on it might suggest. To whit: the route’s still unsafe and the Councillor still wants to remove it.
The students also made a point of amount of money students spend per year in Thorold. Even forgetting that they included rent numbers, which generally leave town to absentee landlords, it’s a lot of money. It still doesn’t make the route safer, though.
The students hinted that this was being done in retaliation for the Homecoming party on Winterberry (which they didn’t condone) a few weeks ago, saying this was creating a “recency bias”. They also said that making it uncomfortable to live on Winterberry wouldn’t prevent this type of behaviour. They’re surely right, and I can’t help but expect they may be at least partly right about the “recency bias”, but this fact too doesn’t make the buses any safer.
They also argued that transit has to be accessible. That’s fine, but students in many areas have to walk a couple of blocks to a bus. And this argument, too, dosen’t address the safety of the buses.
They tried the totally non sequitur argument that they’re taxpayers too. I know this to be true because I’m old enough to remember when renters couldn’t vote in municipal elections because they didn’t pay taxes, until a court ruled that tenants pay taxes through their rent. However, removing these buses will make the street safer for these taxpayers too.
In a final hail-Mary argument, the students pointed out that they don’t get to say what size buses go down the street. But go they do, regardless of who decides. I don’t see the point of this line of reasoning, except to point out that Councillors had mentioned articulated buses. Again, this doesn’t address the point of safety except possibly as a mea culpa.
All in all, the students did an absolutely embarrassing job of defending their position. Not once did they address the main argument of the motion, which was the safety of the buses on Winterberry Blvd, regardless of their suspicions about the motive. If this is how they teach debate in university, there won’t be many statesmen (statespersons?) among them. Of course, some of the Councillors, who were carrying on about student behaviour, also irrelevant to the argument, weren’t any better.
In the end, all that hot air was for naught. On a recorded vote, Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion. If all goes well, there will be no more buses on Winterberry Blvd. come the new year.