On Oct. 7 the LPOA held an important public meeting.
Meant to be a debate among the three leading candidates for mayor, we sent out flyers throughout Leaside, announcing the event. Needless to say, we expected a lot of attendees. The campaign had been eventful, and interest was high.
The event was primarily intended to give Leaside residents an opportunity to question and to hear John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford.
When we booked them, we received a commitment from their campaign managers that, because the William Lea Room at the Leaside Gardens does not have infinite capacity, and we wanted Leasiders to be assured of space, no more than three or four campaign workers would accompany each candidate.
Imagine how we felt when LPOA directors showed up at the Gardens an hour and a half before the advertised starting time of 7:30 p.m. to set up the meeting room, to discover well over 100 people already waiting outside. And wanting to go inside. All of them seemed to be carrying Ford signs, wearing Ford t-shirts and other insignia. Clearly, many had arrived in their cars, because even then parking spaces were few and far between.
Since the refurbishment of the Leaside Gardens, there are constant activities taking place in the building, and we had been asked to tell attendees to the LPOA’s mayoral meeting not to use the new main entrance, but to use the door closer to the Southvale end. There was concern that there would be major congestion at the main entry otherwise.
We had put up signs at both doors to inform attendees where to enter. But because it had started raining, many of these early arrivals crowded around the main entrance and just inside, trying to get into the meeting room, which was still being set up.
By the time local residents got there, the scene was already getting unruly. By 7 p.m., when the doors to the William Lea Room officially opened, the room immediately became standing room only.
Most of those standing were Leaside residents; a great many of those seated were from other parts of the city.
Anyone arriving at 7:30 was not able to fit into the room and quite a few gave up and left. The room is supposed to hold a maximum of about 300-350. We estimate that there were at least 150-200 more than that number. We were lucky the Fire Marshall wasn’t in the neighbourhood — he’d have closed us down!
Granted, LPOA public meetings don’t usually attract this kind of overflow (and partisan) crowd, let alone visitors from Scarborough through Etobicoke. But scenes from the Oct. 7 meeting linger on in our memories. We have no desire to repeat a situation where local residents cannot get into their own community’s meetings. As it were, the song may be over, but the malady lingers on….
Many of those who couldn’t squeeze into the meeting room on Oct. 7 went home angry, and several suggested that there must be ways of giving priority to Leasiders.
So I’m consulting Leaside Life readers for suggestions. Are there fair and effective ways of doing this? What do you think? We’d really like to know.
The LPOA meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month, in the Trace Mains building near the Leaside Liibrary and tennis courts. These meeting are public and we invite you to join us with your questions, any concerns, or just plain interest. The next meeting is Jan. 7.