Leblovic’s manage to get at least a part the hearing they’ve wanted on the Chilly Half Marathon route.

December 12, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  They weren’t exactly made welcome at the city council Monday night. At one point it looked as if it was going to be just the one person speaking about the Chilly Half Marathon that is run on Lakeshore Road  every March.

Diane Leblovic was before city council to follow up on her Standing Committee delegation over the route used for the Chilly Half Marathon that runs along Lakeshore Road every March – some 4000+ strong.

A popular race that brings thousands to the city; Unpopular to some of those who live south of Lakeshore Road.

Ms Leblovic had asked if the Marathon portion of the Festivals and Events could be deferred to a date she was available and Council agreed to do so.  Last night was to be her opportunity to deliver some additional “significant” information.  It wasn’t going to be quite that easy for Ms Leblovic.

The list of delegations had three names of people who were to speak about the Marathon which is not the way Councillor Dennison saw things playing out.  He took the position that it was Diane Leblovic who asked for the deferral and it was Diane and Diane alone that was to speak.

That brought out the liberal in John Taylor who was close too aghast that a city council would limit the right of a person to delegate to their city council.

Much toing and froing on that issue with the Clerk being brought in to read through the various pieces of correspondence and the decisions made at previous council and Standing Committee meetings.  Taylor managed to get in several Points of Order and told Council he was going to challenge the Clerk’s decision.   Mayor Goldring finally brought the matter to a close: Diane Leblovic, her husband Nick and Donald Belch  were to each get their five minutes at the podium.

It was worth listening to; both the Leblovic’s dumped on just about everyone.

Diane was there to tell Council that the concerns they had raised were valid and that changes to the marathon race were both possible and reasonable without affecting the integrity of the event..

Ms Leblovic reminded council that on May 21st, Council, without prior notice or discussion, reneged on its earlier commitment to hold a public consultation on this event.

Ms Leblovic explained that their group needed to clearly understand the reason for this unexpected reversal of position.  She asked the Mayor to meet wither and he did so along with Councillor Dennison on May 28th.

As race directors, the VR Pro people are good at their job. Working with difficult situations – perhaps not as good.

At that meeting Mayor Goldring said he had been told by Kelly Arnott, a principle in VRPro, the company that organizes the race that they were about to get a new name sponsor for the event and that the sponsor, who turned out to be Trillium College, would not sign on if there was going to be a public meeting or any controversy relating to the race.

It was at that point that an offer was made, according to Diane Leblovic, for another meeting which would involve the Mayor, Councillor Dennison, Kelly Arnott and Peter Peebles, a staff member who knows the most about setting up this kind of race event.

Ms Leblovic said she had two concerns with any ‘next’ meeting.  She apparently didn’t like the idea of an “open agenda which would permit consideration and discussion of all aspects of the race”.  Ms Leblovic sent the Mayor a list of proposed agenda items and the Mayor provided a detailed response in which “he either rejected or put limitations on many of our suggested agenda items”.

The second issue was to determine the reason for Trillium’s sensitivity over a public consultation about the race.  Ms Leblovic explained that her husband Nick, who was to delegate later, called the president of Trillium College and learned that the College had never heard of the Leblovic group and their efforts to have a public meeting held and denied ever putting pressure on VRPro.

The cat was now out of the bag.

Ms Leblovic explained that the working group was “very unhappy with the outcome of these two events  and “concluded that any meeting would be a waste of time” – it would allow the Mayor to “check the box” saying he had met with the group and “that would be the end of the discussion”.

Ms Leblovic wasn’t done yet.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Mayor and four members of Council and city staff supported a process that was flawed and unfair and that there was an appearance of favouritism to a for profit private business over the legitimate concerns of residents which Leblovic  underlined by telling Council that Kelly Arnott was the first name on the list of delegations and should have been the first person to speak at the Standing Committee meeting but “I have it on good authority” she said “that Councillor Sharman who chaired the meeting directed the Clerk’s office to move Arnott’s name to the bottom of the delegation list thus giving her an unfair, tactical advantage to listen to and rebut the presentations of prior delegations.”

Ms Leblovic still had more arrows in her quiver.  She advised the Council meeting that Councillor Dennison sponsors the Chilly Half Marathon and that his place of business is used for another VR Pro event.

More yet:  Ms Leblovic told Council that VR Pro sponsors the Healing for Woman’s Cancers of which Kelly Arnott is the race director.  The race, according to Ms Leblovic benefits Breast Cancer Support Services whose Chief Executive Officer is Blair Lancaster.  Councillor Lancaster had advised the Mayor at the beginning of the Council meeting that while she did not believe she had a conflict of interest she was nevertheless not going to take part in the debate and would not be voting on the matter.  And she didn’t.

Wow! Diane Leblovic had done her homework and did a very impressive scorched earth exercise.  Council had yet to hear from her husband Nick.

Nick and Diane Leblovic have been “players” in the political life of the city for some time.  Diane served on the school board of trustees and Nick was the chair of the Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee created by former Mayor Cam Jackson as the city was heading into the 2010 municipal election.

That committee had its life cut short when city council sunset the thing in December of last year.  At the time it didn’t look as if that committee, which many felt wasn’t all that effective, was going to have anything in the way of a legacy.  Some of the material they pulled together on possible uses for the Beachway Park and the excellent work that was done by Les Armstrong and his sub-committee on public access to the lake and the Windows on the Lake program, proved to be useful during the debate on the waterfront property on Lakeshore Road between St. Paul and Market streets.  The city has not heard the last of that matter.

Of the two, Diane Leblovic is the better speaker but the lawyer in Nick Leblovic came across strongly when he pointed to what he called a fundamental flaw in a report put out in 2009 when the race was being proposed.  At that time, according to Nick, the report had the eastbound lane of Lakeshore Road closed for 90 minutes – from 10 am to 11:30 am. while the race was run. Leblovic released email that confirmed this information and added “as we all know now the eastbound Lakeshore road has been closed each year since 2010 for between  4 and 4.5 hours” – which Leblovic maintained was not some kind of a “rounding error” but it  almost 300% longer than estimated.

Leblovic wanted to know: “How did this occur?”  Was it incompetence? Or was there a subsequent change to the event that required a significantly longer closure period? Or was the time intentionally underestimated in order to get the new route by Council?

“Given the size of the discrepancy” asked  Nick “one would have thought this issue would have been raised in the post-race evaluations…”.  Nick Leblovic could find nothing in any of the documents he was able to read.

Leblovic asked some leading questions: “Would you have approved the route change in 2009 if the report had contained an estimated closure of Lakeshore Road east of over 4 hours rather than 1.5 hours?”

Nick wanted Council to do two things.  Find out why the 1.5 hour race time grew to 4 hours and require than in future Lakeshore be closed for no more than the 1.5 hours in the original plan.

The length of time Lakeshore Rod as closed is not the only issue for the Leblovic`s and their working group.  The Community Care access organization (CCAC) people who meet the care needs of people who are unable to get out f their homes for the care they need,  work to very tight schedules.  They drive from location to location with next to no wiggle room in the schedule.  Nick Leblovic pointed out that there are people who have to go without the care they need for a full day because the CCAC people are not able to double back to drop in on a person just because the road id closed.

Leblovic maintained the one situation they brought forward was not an isolated one and that there is a high concentration of seniors in retirement homes and multi-residential buildings in the east end.  Like most lawyers Nick was able to see the potential liability to the city were someone to suffer an injury because their care givers were not able to get to their residence. “You are now on notice of this problem and cannot ignore it” he intoned.

Nick had one last suggestion for Council: “One obvious solution would be to eliminate the back and forth aspect of the race which would permit a normal traffic flow along Lakeshore during the race.”

They come by the thousands.

Well that didn’t happen.  Council which had approved all the other Festivals and events at a previous meeting – they had agreed to defer a decision on the Chilly Half Marathon to meet the interest of the Leblovic’s – voted to proceed with the race based on the route used in the past.  Councillor Lancaster had advised earlier that she would not be voting on the matter.  Mayor Goldring, Councillors Sharman, Dennis and Craven voted to follow the Staff recommendation and keep the race route for 2015.   Meed Ward and Taylor voted against the Staff recommendation. It was a recorded vote – expect Meed Ward to use that as she campaigns for re-election in Ward 2 and sets herself up for a run as Mayor in 2018. 

In comments made before the vote Meed Ward was passionate about what the Leblovic’s had had to put up with and applauded them for having the courage to come back to Council again and again to argue their concerns.

What we did learn was that the Ms Leblovic met with City Manager Jeff Fielding who is apparently going to arrange a meeting with Arnott and Ms Leblovic – that should be fun after the mudslinging Ms Leblovic did in her delegation.

Why this issue has ended up on the City Managers desk does raise several serious questions.  The Lakeshore residents had real issues that needed to be dealt with.  One cannot hold people hostage in their homes while several thousand people run a race.

Yes, the date of the race is known well in advance, and the average person should be able to make other arrangements but there are people who are not average in that part of the city; there are people who have special needs.

Imagine for a moment there were e death that a Coroner’s Inquest decided was preventable if a care giver had been able to get to a residence.  Do you want to guess how fast that race would be cancelled forever and would you like to guestimate what the lawsuit might be?

The city has general managers who have direct oversight over how the various departments work.  It does not require a degree in rocket science to figure out ways to get help to people who cannot leave their homes or who have other sound reasons for being able to get out of their streets that are on the south side of Lakeshore Road.

Someone at city hall hasn’t been doing their job on this one.  The race is a hugely popular event, brings in thousands of visitors who spend their money in the city and has to be hugely profitable for the race organizers.  Good for business and good for the city – now find a way to manage the problems of a small group of people.  It’s just a matter of better communication and being sensitive to the real needs of people who need help. .

At the same time let us not see a situation where the genuine needs of a few people are used as a ruse to bring to an end an event that benefits thousands because a neighbourhood does not want to give up a portion of one day in the year.

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22 comments to Leblovic’s manage to get at least a part the hearing they’ve wanted on the Chilly Half Marathon route.

  • Chris Ariens

    Wow…this issue has gotten some heat! To me, it’s indicative of a larger trend when it comes to our Lakeshore. Lakeshore Road is kind of like the “living room” of our city. It’s the fancy part of the city with the “good furniture”. Some people have a vision of that “living room” to be used strictly for those who live there to move through, and want it to remain a private space. They feel they have paid for the privilege and the idea of sharing that space with the community rankles them. Others envision it a more public space that should be enjoyed by all and is central to our coming together as a community, and want to have all of the family gatherings (marathons, parades, etc.) along the beautiful lakeshore.

    It’s interesting that people like the Lebovics are spending many hours of their time fighting what is approximately a 4 hour inconvenience. Why? While they, like all people should be treated with respect by Council, this really should be a matter between residents and the race organization. Council is put in a no-win situation here. Their job is to define the vision, not to mediate squabbles. Surely in the case of an emergency, no one from VR Pro would choose to put residents health in jeopardy over runners. At the same time, the reduced vehicular access should not be an issue at all for the vast majority, and accommodations can be made for those who are inconvenienced (for example not ticketing vehicles that are parked on side streets the night before), and allowing service people to access homes on foot during gaps between runners.

    The race adds a great deal to our community, it is a major tourist attraction which benefits local business and our hospital. Plus the runners have a fantastic location for a unique event. So long as they respect that location, clean up after themselves and respect those who live there, the event should be allowed to continue and grow. Slight changes to the route may be possible and beneficial, but suggesting that it move to a service road beside the highway is ludicrous.

    • Shannon Gillies

      Chris, I’m consistently impressed by the rational and thoughtful comments (especially on cycling) that I’ve seen you post on various sites. I don’t know if you live in the downtown area, but any thoughts on running for council? 🙂

      • Chris Ariens

        Thanks for the compliments, Shannon 🙂 Happy to know that there are more people out there who appreciate logic and analysis. Don’t think I’m the politician type, but you never know what’s in store for the future. 🙂 Right now I’m good with volunteering on the Burlington Cycling Committee as well as working full-time and raising 2 very energetic boys. BTW I’m in the Orchard.

  • Stephen Warner

    I think an alternate less disruptive route should be found.

    On another matter … I had never heard of this website prior to today. Came up on my Twitter feed. Is this a new site? Wasn’t there a Burlington Gazette paper years ago? Btw … Fair number of minor spelling mistakes in yiur article but otherwise excellent readung. Thank you.
    Editors note: You are now amongst the several thousands that read the Gazette regularly. Enjoy – we are working on the spelling – spell checkers aren’t all they are made out to be.

  • Shannon Gillies

    Parking cars to block the runners? What a delightful way to show community spirit and teach a lesson to those selfish participants who have trained for months or years. One commenter in The Burlington Post suggested laying on our car horns to scare the bejeebers out of them as the ran past and maybe give them a heart attack. Good one, Philip! Hey, maybe you could whip snowballs at them too. Or trip them with fishing wire? Those runners. Who do they think they are?! Make sure you include your kids in your plans to show them how to be a kind human being and a model citizen. They do look up to you. Merry Christmas everyone!

  • John Amor

    I live on the race route, in a community of 116 town homes. There are roughly 200 cars parking within our complex, all using one common driveway on Lakeshore Road for access. Many of our residents are seniors, with typical senior’s physical limitations. Side street parking is just not an option.

    Over a year ago, City staff were given a directive to explore other route options that might be less obstructing, but a full six months later, Councillor Sharman used a procedural dodge to rescind that directive and block further debate. There has never been any revelation of what, if any, route options staff had managed to come up with in the intervening six months they were supposed to have been working on it.

    One wonders why. One also wonders why, with more than $300,000 in race revenue, only something in the order of $20,000 reaches the hospital that most people understand is supposed to be the principal beneficiary of this event.

    • Katherine McDonald

      Relax John, play some checkers with your friends during the race, enjoy some coffee and those little sandwiches without the crust. If you don’t think $20K is enough, then have a cupcake sale, every little bit helps. Let’s all try and enjoy life a little bit and stop complaining about every little 4 hour marathon. Maybe even reflect on why we have so many cars and why we rely on them instead of going for nice healthy walks to the park, the store, and even to church.

    • Sandy

      Wow. It appears to be Katherine McDonald in a single handed crusade to protect the Chilly Half Marathon and to disrespect everyone who raises any questions about it. To me, the issues raised in Ms. McDonald’s first comment are part and parcel of the same problem – an unresponsive council where 4 votes carry the day. Citizen involvement appears to be encouraged only where it consists of cheerleading our municipal government. Trying to right a perceived injustice at city hall is tough; I applaud those who have the energy to try.

      • marie

        Dear Katherine,
        I think that you should stop writing on this issue. You are obviously a minority and seem to be lacking in joie de vivre. Good luck!

      • Katherine McDonald

        The injustice at city hall comes from council and staff (Jeff Fielding, General Manager making $250K per year will be having a fire side chat with the Leblovics; plug your nose) deciding to spend an unusual amount of time on a frivolous matter, because somebody’s squeaky wheels continue to squeak.

        Raising a question is one thing, turning the ad nauseum Leblovic complaint into the realm of being a potential risk to the nation’s security, is an abhorrent waste of management resources. Protecting the marathon is not the issue here; its how these council members elect to manage the complainers in this city.

        Council is here to manage this city, not run a daycare centre.

        Being a temporary chair on the board of education should have given Leblovic a better sense of etiquette when behaving in a public forum, and she should have known when to stop on a matter of little relevance.

        The continued conduct on this matter must be embarrassing at this point for Leblovic, and people like Meed Ward do not help the cause. If Meed Ward did her job properly, like say Craven has, then she might actually have been of more effective assistance to the Leblovics and their loyal support team. The Leblovic cause and ongoing case could have potentially resulted in more positive results. Another example of amateur hour at city hall.

        • 57Chevy

          Katherine, you must be a Craven family member. Stop doing to Marianne what he does. Take up a hobby (maybe running) – it will give you some joie de vive or at least an opportunity to wave to the Leblovics

  • Tom Singer

    The 4.5 hours constantly mentioned is misleading. This time refers to the 2013 race when 4,000 runners participated. The estimate for 2014 is 6,000 with the number increasing each year if the organisers have their way. If a cap is not put on the numbers, before we know it Lakeshore will be closed for the entire day. I live at the East end of Lakeshore, am long retired, and do not see why I should have to park my car on some side street the night before, ( I don’t think the city by laws would allow this ), or get someone to park my car early on the morning of the race where 3 hours is the maximum allowed. Will the city or organiser pay my parking fine; I doubt it!!

    • Katherine McDonald

      If you are retired, you should have lots of time to deal with a minor inconvenience. Park your car in your garage and relax, enjoy the beautiful events that take place in this city. Have some fun and stop being so grumpy.

  • parrking

    We received the following from Diane Leblovic:
    Two errors in your article today re the Chilly Half Marathon.
    First Your comment that our group was opposed to an “open agenda” for the meeting with the Mayor. In fact just the opposite, our concern was that he would limit the agenda (which he ultimately did) while we wanted a discussion of all aspects of the event on the table.
    Second just for completeness I was also the Chair of the Halton Board of Education for a period of time.

    • Katherine McDonald

      Go away. The Leblovics have had their 15 minutes and 6 months. Who cares about being temporary chair of some education department, who cares about anything about the Leblovics. Who cares? Go away. Just don’t get the lawyer husband to put together some legal motion for further debate. This file is closed, and so it is ordered. All further motions denied.

  • Penny Hersh

    Personally, I think that every homeowner that is affected by the closure of Lakeshore Road for 4.5 hours should simply park their cars in line with their driveways but end up impacting the road.

    Council does not seem to feel it is an issue for people to be stuck in their homes for this length of time or leave before the race starts, so perhaps if the cars impede the runners they will realize what it means to inconvenience people.

    Once again Council at its best…2014 should prove interesting….if the residents of Burlington vote in the same councillors they will get what they deserve…..lip service

    • Katherine McDonald

      Ok penny, let’s all vote on a minor 4 hour potential inconvenience; the world is ending.

      But, let’s not worry about the real issues. The Leblovics are a perfect example of cry babies.

  • Katherine McDonald

    I saw the passion that overflowed from Meed Ward in supporting the continued rant of the Leblovics and their stubborn stance at how important the issue is, and how Taylor forced the council rules to bend to once again listen to the accuracy and self professed righteousness of the delegation submissions as presented by the Leblovics. You have got to be kidding Meed Ward, Taylor, and Leblovics that you have been debating the Leblovic complaint, and when the complaining was not satisfied, the debate evolved into a procedural argument? Is the city of burlington world gone completely mad? Is Leblovic trying to impress everyone how he can dissect procedural issues; do we need to send a motion to the court of appeal?

    Do we really need a recorded vote on the function of a beneficial road race? Are we electing politicians on the basis of how they vote on a 4 hour marathon? Are you kidding me?

    How about we vote on the basis of who was at the wheel, and continues to be in charge of the ongoing pier costs? or, how the city sells public parklands to private parties, or, how the new waterfront hotel development will evolve, or, how blind people will no longer have subsidized transit, but, city staff will continue with free parking and free bus passes? How about a recorded vote on real issues? Seriously, why are blind people in this city not afforded a simple benefit of free bus service any longer? And Meed Ward and Taylor think the Leblovics have justifiable concerns; yada yada yada.

    Here’s a good one; now you have Jeff Fielding, City Manager, at $250K per annum salary, meeting with the Leblovics to beat a dead horse? Is there not a meeting Fielding has to attend related to economic development in this city?

    Here’s the boil down of this year’s last council meeting; Meed Ward almost in tears in support of the Leblovic delegation; Taylor speaking latin about who knows what; Sharman hanging on through another year, barely; Dennison speaking intelligently and in an impartial manner, giving full respect to council procedures, the general population and the few complainers, doing his job well and effectively; Craven clearly expressing the business of the city and the successes and dealing with all delegations in a professional and capable manner, similar to Dennison; Lancaster invited everyone to a sing-along with cookies and hot chocolate; Goldring just sat there.

    Are you all insane?

    • marie

      Dear Katherine,
      We are all NOT insane! You speak of the blind – have you not taken one moment to realize the the blind are part of the people with special needs that would need to get in and out of the homes/driveways during the 4 hours marathon. The article makes reference to the CCAC – please re-read the article. I’m sure that Councilor Meed-Ward often wants to shed tears – at what goes on at City Hall. Katherine – please watch this year’s council meetings available in webcast – you might find yourself reflecting differently. I can assure you that being a tax payer and knowing that my taxes will increase – I will work hard to ensure change at council in 2014.

      • Katherine McDonald

        How dare you disrespect the blind people in our community. You offend me as I am also a taxpayer; we all are. Do not confuse the Leblovic frivolity with the real impact of the blind people now having to pay for transit when our tax dollar funded civil servants get free bus passes and free parking. Change at council also starts with the citizens acting rationally. The Leblovic matter is over. Meed Ward needs to mature to become a credible candidate for mayor.

        • marie

          Katherine, obviously you don’t get the big picture of the marathon issue and one of the points that the Leblovics are making. That’s unfortunate. Change at council starts when they start listening to their citizens. I quoted 2018 for Meed Ward to become Mayor,that would give Marianne 2 full terms equally 8 years as councillor, surely enough time to be credible as mayor. At least she would not sit on the fence on important matters.

  • marie

    people being held hostage is a term that seems to be popping up in Burlington….ie – Chilly Half Marathon / Beachway homes. Even though two completely different issues – it is clear that the people of Burlington must get out and vote in 2014. We need change and we need councillors who don’t hide behind staff recommendations!!! Can’t wait for 2018 – Meed-Ward as Mayor!!!!