There’s plenty to celebrate in Queens right now.
An outpouring of public support sent a few noisy bigots back to their caves, demonstrating that we live in a welcoming and inclusive community. A statue has been erected to celebrate the achievements of an outstanding local athlete and citizen. And, as you can read about in today’s LighthouseNow (Progress Bulletin), the Trestle Trail bridge could reopen to the public as early as this fall.
These landmark accomplishments are not the result of vision and hard work on the part of our local government. On the contrary, they stem largely from the tireless efforts and community spirit of ordinary folks, as well as the enormous generosity of a locally focused charitable foundation.
As you’ll recall, Kim Myra of Oscar’s announced plans to include a float in the Privateer Days parade to highlight the local LGBTQ community. A couple of drag queens, including her son Brad, would come from Halifax to participate. A small but vocal number of homophobes quickly started a whisper campaign against the idea. Some openly denounced it.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the parade. After briefly cancelling the float, Myra boldly regrouped and decided the show must go on. The community — people of all ages and from all backgrounds — stood with her in a very big way. It was an inspiring and wonderful thing to see.
Myra said she decided to re-enter the parade because of the overwhelming support she received. People contacted her on social media. They dropped by Oscar’s to offer words of encouragement. They gave her love and support and guaranteed that her son and his friends would be safe marching in the parade.
According to my sources, only two elected officials — the councillors who represent Liverpool — reached out to Myra. In other words, our mayor and deputy mayor went AWOL at a defining moment in our community’s history. Their silence on this issue speaks volumes to anyone who cares to listen.
Then we have the unveiling of the Tiger Warrington statue, a long-overdue tribute to a Canadian champion and local icon. The idea came from Tim McDonald and the late Tina Warrington-Joudrey. The artistry came from Ivan Higgins. And the behind-the-scenes work came from a dedicated group of volunteers, including one local councillor acting on his own initiative.
Region of Queens’ contribution to the project was to provide a small plot of land in Privateer Park, dig a hole and install a slab for the statue to be placed on. In fact, if the mayor and a couple of councillors had their way, the statue would have been erected at Queens Place Emera Centre — against the expressed wishes of Warrington’s family and the private donors who made the project possible.
Those donors are the directors of the Murphy Foundation, the philanthropic legacy of the founders of Mersey Seafoods. Without their generosity, the statue would never have been built. The same is true with the Trestle Trail bridge project.
At the last meeting of council, representatives from the Queens Rails to Trails association outlined their plans for the bridge. Based on an engineering assessment they commissioned, the group believes the bridge could reopen as early as this fall. The Murphy Foundation has committed $250,000 for immediate repairs. The province has kicked in $150,000.
Council, which handed control of the bridge to Rails to Trails in 2016, was asked to provide $90,000 in municipal funding so work on the bridge can begin. It should be a no-brainer — in fact, it would have been nice to see approval given right then and there — but with council, one never knows.
For example, Rails to Trails was able to get a full engineering assessment done by a prominent Atlantic Canadian firm for $17,000. Region of Queens, on the other hand, previously said that such a study would cost upwards of $140,000. (A bit of a difference between those two figures, isn’t there?)
It’s wonderful to see these things happening in Queens. It feels as if we are on the cusp of something new and exciting.
But it’s important to remember that people and philanthropy are powering these achievements, not local government. So let’s keep dreaming and working and pushing to make Queens the best it can be. With any luck, our municipal masters will catch up to us at some point.