By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at- large
There was some darn good television to watch Tuesday evening.
No, I’m not referring to the repeat episode of that steamy new series, The Affair.
I am referring to the last meeting of 2010-14 Welland City Council, covered on the local cable channel and in particular, the farewell remarks of those moving on, whether it be back to private life or other elected government.
Those farewells were made by Michael Belcastro (did not seek re-election in Ward 3), Paul Grenier (elected to a Welland seat on Niagara Regional Council), Dan Fortier (did not seek re-election to regional council) Bob Wright (defeated in re-election bid for Ward 6) and Barry Sharpe (defeated in re-election bid for Welland mayor).
Saying goodbye is difficult to do, regardless of the circumstances. While we do not always see eye-to-eye with our politicians, it’s moments like these that are so-called common denominator moments. No political soap box speeches here. No grandstanding. We see the persona for what it is in real life.
Michael Belcastro did not seek re-election because of work commitments but he remains passionate about Welland. He was effusive in his praise for city staff, thankful for their support and co-operation in the short-time he was back on council (appointed in 2013 to fill a vacancy), enabling him to better serve constituents. He offered to continue being of assistances as needed.
Bob Wright congratulated Jim Larouche, who was re-elected in Ward 6 and Bonnie Fokkens, who was elected to the ward’s other seat. Wright said he tried his best over the past four years but for him it didn’t work out. It’s time to move on he said, because “that’s politics.” A gentle man showing the true gentleman that he is.
It was, at times, an emotional farewell for council veteran Paul Grenier who is moving up to regional council. Grenier thanked his Ward 3 constituents who supported him over the years and also those from across the city who supported his bid for the regional seat in the Oct. 27 election. Leaving Welland council chambers is emotional for Grenier who choked up at times during his remarks. The new council’s meeting Dec. 2 in chambers will be the first he will not be part of, a lengthy string of 400-plus consecutive meetings over his career. He congratulated the incoming Ward 3 councillors, John Chiocchio and John Mastroianni and pledged assistance if needed: “I’m only a phone call away.”
Also emotional was Dan Fortier, who did not seek re-election because of a move to New Brunswick, to where he is returning after a lengthy absence. His son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter are there and many other family members. Fortier said he will miss serving Welland taxpayers as a regional councillor (he was appointed in 2013 by city council to fill the seat held by Peter Kormos). He was a Ward 4 councillor from 1997-2006, then was re-elected in 2010 in Ward 3. He said his career is not ended by the forthcoming move, “I have lots on my plate”.
Barry Sharpe presided at his last meeting as Welland mayor. He said he is proud of what council, staff and community stakeholders were able to accomplish in the past four years, whether it was major projects like the Youngs Sportsplex, other infrastructure projects, procedural bylaw changes, economic development and strategic planning, and more. “We have set and met a higher standard” over the four years of working together, he said.
The farewells were interesting and at times, moving, to watch. One of my takeaways was that it’s not always necessary to see eye-to-eye in order to walk arm-in-arm when it comes to getting things done. These were parting comments from the heart. That’s My View.
(A former reporter and city editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City. My View is a recurring feature on the blog.)