Irate residents in council ruckus over road closing
Constables guard councillor after angry deputation fails to persuade lawmakers to keep King High open
Tempers flared and accusations flew in council chambers Monday as the long-running dispute about the closure of King High Dr. at Dufferin St. was raised once more.
About 50 residents, fearing a closure would increase traffic on their roads, filled the room in support of a lobby group voicing their disapproval.
After the committee of the whole meeting, the crowd descended from the public gallery and surrounded Regional Councillor Mario Ferri, who was flanked by two Vaughan special constables.
Though the majority was opposed to the closure, some, like King High resident Ronda Goldberg, were for the closure and attended the milieu.
“It got me a little concerned that they would think that people on King High would actually bribe officials to do something, or that we have more money than they do so they feel they’re not being treated well,” she said in a phone interview after the meeting.
“These kinds of accusations are so unfounded and just nasty.”
A one-year trial closure of King High at Dufferin was approved by council on May 14 following a survey of area residents that indicated one third of respondents preferred a turn prohibition, another third favoured a full closure and the final third were happy with the status quo.
“The data shows you two-thirds did not vote for a closure,” said Alex Porat, a Beverley Glen Blvd. resident, in a phone interview Tuesday. “They ask for a survey of what people think and then they just ignore it.
“The reason people are upset is because of what they perceive to be injustice: how the privileged few are able to obtain their way at city council,” he added. “That’s what people are really upset about.”
Goldberg disagreed, saying the survey clearly showed the public’s desire for a closure.
“When you looked at the entire survey, two thirds of the respondents acknowledged that it needed to be closed or have some kind of left turn prohibition,” she says. “Council decided to close the road, seeing that two thirds of the residents understand that something needs to be done, and because they tried the sign and that didn’t work.”
City staff did conclude that the attempted left-turn prohibition from Dufferin onto King High was too difficult to enforce, according to the May 14 report presented to the committee of the whole.
“Even though King High residents wanted it closed, we agreed that we would try (the left-turn prohibition) first,” Goldberg says.
Part of the frustration felt by opponents of the closure stems from what they call the secretive process that led to council’s May decision, Porat said, adding it was only through a chance encounter with Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Racco that they knew anything about it.
“Would you like to wake up one morning and find out that traffic on your street had increased substantially without your knowledge or participation?” Porat asked councillors in beginning his deputation Monday. “This is what has happened as a result of council’s decision to close off King High at Dufferin.”
Crowd drowned out councillor
Following the deputation, Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio said she remembered at least two pubic meetings on the issue before the decision to close King High was reached.
“We’ve been dealing with this ever since I’ve joined council, which is 16 years, and every year a request comes forward to close, not to close, whatever,” she said. “The last time we dealt with this, my recollection was that there was at least two public information meetings with notices being sent to all of the affected area.”
The crowd rose with cries of “No!”, drowning Frustaglio out.
“At that time, nobody knew about it,” Porat says. “I think they had put one little notice in some little newspaper that something like that was going to happen, but we, the affected residents, really had no idea.”
Councillors voted to accept Porat’s deputation, effectively resolving none of the concerns of the residents opposed to the closure – council’s May decision to close the road stands.
“I hope that council finally respects that they’ve made a decision,” Goldberg says. “They did already once before where they did reopen it and held public meetings.”
Porat, on the other hand, does not accept the matter is dead: “If you voted on it once before, you can vote on it again,” he says.
Vaughan Today Online: November 9, 2007 Byline: Philip Alves Link