Markham's Development Services Committee (DSC) meeting on Sept 25 addressed the current status of the controversial cow statue “Charity”. For backgrounds of this ongoing saga, please click here:http://chinesenewsgroup.com/news/662457
An organized group of residents from the street where the statue is located arrived early to give their deputations to the committee. There were 6-7 deputations given, including one by this writer. The attachments to the meeting agenda on the City of Markham's web site now included the missing reports from the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) rejecting the statue and recommending public consultations to be held to determine the suitability of its location.
The Mayor suggested the exclusion of debutants not living on the street where the statue is placed (effectively just myself), based on a full agenda. This undemocratic approach was turned down by all other councillors.
At the start of the meeting, councillors all claimed that information relating to the PAAC rejection was not given to them at the time when they make that earlier decision to approve the statue. Most of them recognized their earlier approval as an error in judgment, except for the Mayor. Steve Chait (a staff member) then stated that PAAC recommendations are non-binding to staff decisions. In effect, they cherry-picked them as they wish such as taking their recommendation for safety concerns and not others. They admitted that there was no public consultations since they assumed that the ward councillor (Alan Ho) will be doing that himself.
The residents made their cases known to the committee members, many of them had their second floor window views blocked almost completely by the statue at eye level, over 20 feet above the ground. While the staff insisted that the distant from the statue to any windows is at least 18 meters, many residents disputed that fact and stated that they are much closer.
The City now understands the current location for the statue on stilts is too small to handle large crowds and too close to residences. It is a tourist attraction that requires a large display area. The statue's wreath with its sharp pieces also presents a potential safety concern if broken apart or touched. They realized that the residents were never consulted and they woke up to see a statue outside their bedroom windows, almost within a stone's throw away.
The ward councillor Alan Ho then put forward a motion to “Remove cow from the location”. It was subsequently revised a number of times to include input from other committee members as follows:
Remove from current location upon Final Acceptance and receipt of ownership of the sculpture by the City, or otherwise agreed with the Donor.And that the sculpture remain until a suitable location is found. And that staff report back on an alternate location for the sculpture by the end of 2017. And that staff contact the donor to confirm their intentions by the Oct 17 Council meeting.
This is very confusing with so many amendments and additions to the motion but when put to a vote, it passed by a 8-5 count. Amazingly, one of the dissenting votes came to none other than Alan Ho. He probably did not like the amended terms as it left a number of open ends and possible outcomes.
The City is still trying to work with the donor who is not budging. She has the right to complete the installation before turning the ownership over to the City under the current agreement. If this takes “a long time” then the statue will stay there for the extended period. The City can also change the existing agreement by accepting the statue in an incomplete condition but that will probably be a last resort.
The “remove the statue” motion will come up again in Council on Oct 17, 2017 for formal voting. There may be lobbying by the donor and amendments may show up. Some Council members may even change their vote. The residents must keep an eye on this and show up at that meeting to ensure the statue is removed in a reasonable time frame.
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