DALSON CHEN, WINDSOR STAR
More from Dalson Chen, Windsor Star
There’s been no shortage of Internet reaction to Windsor city council’s controversial Pelissier Street parking garage decision — including trolling comments, mocking memes, and a semi-serious online petition.
“That’s why the Internet is important,” said Windsor city hall watcher and gadfly Paul Synnott. “It gives people a voice. It has that power.”
On Wednesday morning, Synnott launched a petition via change.org demanding that Ward 10 Coun. Paul Borrelli refund the $7,500 in taxpayer money that was used to send him to an international conference in Rome to learn about urbanism and “livable cities.”
Borrelli was one of the seven council members who voted on Monday to rid the Pelissier Street parking building of retail and commercial tenants in favour of 42 more parking spots.
When Borrelli returned from his city-funded trip in June, he publicly touted Pelissier Street as a “walkable” place and “a catalyst for a vibrant downtown.”
In the summer of 2015, Borrelli posed for a Star photograph in front of the Pelissier Street parking structure with Downtown Windsor BIA chair Larry Horwitz — at the time, heartily endorsing Horwitz’s efforts to save the building’s commercial units.
The irony was too rich for Synnott to ignore. “He says one thing and votes the exact opposite way.”
As of Wednesday evening, Synnott’s petition had surpassed its goal of 100 signatures. But Synnott said he doesn’t really expect city hall to refund taxpayers the $7,500 spent on Borrelli’s “expensive junket for personal pleasure.”
“Obviously, it’s sarcastic,” Synnott said. “It’s meant to bring attention to the issue.”
Meanwhile, other observers of Windsor politics have been up to online mischief. An anonymous Facebook page entitled Windsor Needs More Parking has been relentlessly posting memes about the situation.
Photoshopped images depict the Welcome to Windsor sign with the appellation “Parking Capital of Canada” and Windsor’s coat of arms with the motto “The Car & Parking Lot Sustain Us.”
There’s also a spoof Twitter account, @WindsorParking, created solely for trolling tweets such as: “If Windsor should be known for one thing, it’s parking.”
There’s even a slogan/hashtag that takes its cue from U.S. president-elect Donald Trump: “Make Parking Great Again.”
“I think it’s pretty funny,” said Synnott — who swore he’s not responsible for any of it. “It’s not me. I would love to take credit for it.”
Dean Scott of the local monthly publication Windsor Independent posted a mock public announcement that the Independent will cease operation in order to convert into a parking lot.
“The key thing to consider here is the parking. The future of Windsor clearly rests solely on paid parking,” Scott was quoted as saying — facetiously.
Synnott said these Internet shenanigans do serve a purpose: “It gets people to read and think about the issue. In today’s media age, it’s not always the headline that gets people interested.”
Critics of city hall aren’t the only ones posting online. On Wednesday, Mayor Drew Dilkens took to Facebook to reply to some comments himself.
“I can tell you that I know perfectly well what I’ve done with my vote — and I stand behind it 100%,” Dilkens wrote in response to Rhys Trenhaile. “I’ve been hearing the same people make the same comments for the last nine years.”
“Our record on downtown investment is clear and unequivocal. And it will continue,” the mayor wrote.
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