CSL has launched a brand new website

 I am pleased to formally announce the launch of the new website. The biggest change visitors will  notice is the look of the site, which will display nicely on smartphones. The pages are organized  somewhat differently but the content is more-or-less identical to the old site. In Phase 2 of the  website project, we will add new content, implement A/B testing of pages, and continue tweaking the look and feel to improve things.

In addition to having a cleaner design, our new site is now responsive to mobile phones and tablets. It is also equipped with a custom site search that should increase engagement thanks to live results, control over which result to present, and analytics that inform us about user intention and actions. Another useful feature: results are now presented by the type of content (pages, news, jobs or events), making it easier for visitors to find what they need.



Our website theme also allows us to present content in a variety of ways. You will therefore find  pages that use accordions or tabs to present a large amount of information, while other pages  favour index and grid-style presentations. Larger text, breadcrumbs and highlighting of principal options — to prevent information overload —  are a few more characteristics that should help CSL residents find their way around our city  website. Navigation and information architecture have changed and will most likely be tweaked in  upcoming months as we examine how people use our new website. We will also add more content and   features based on the needs expressed by residents and city departments.

Our Public Affairs and Communications team, headed by Darryl Levine and Regine Banon,  built the site in-house, with a bit of help from the  outside. Over the last two months, our new Web communications officer Maryse Bézaire has led the  effort of moving over content from the old site.

Let's Chat Facebook page transforms into West End Politics

Almost two years ago, before the 2017 Côte Saint-Luc municipal elections got into  full gear, a new Facebook page called Let’s Chat was created by local activist and businesswoman Marissa Sidel. It attracted a lot of attention, with residents airing their gripes and candidates chiming in. Some others  pages  like   Côte Saint-Luc Families and CSL Unsensored also materialized.

Marissa Sidel

Upon the election of the new council, Our Public Affairs and Communications Director Darryl Levine launched CSL Ideas. We already had a general city Facebook page with general updates and information.

After the election Let’s Chat  CSL expanded to become Let’s Chat CSL, Hampstead Montreal West 2.0. Then last week the page was taken down by Facebook. Initially Marissa tried  to revive it as Let’s Chat 3.0. It seems the  page got caught up in a spam folder algorithm and the name needed to be changed.

Marissa has now introduced West End Politics, aiming  for a broader audience and mandate. “This group is meant for discussion surrounding local issues in the West End,” she notes. “The West End constitutes CSL, NDG, Hampstead, Montreal West and TMR. All issues are welcome to be discussed. The purpose of this group is to be a citizen led conversation about anything that affects the West End. The group is for the people and by the people."

Working  alongside Marissa is her brother and business partner Noah, a former journalist, communications professional, political candidate and most recently an active voice for the Edinburgh Elementary School community in Montreal West. What’s refreshing about this page is the fact it will not just focus on municipal issues in CSL, Hampstead and Montreal West, but we will hear about the provincial and federal level and yes the school boards.

"There’s a lot we can do as a group of people. I’m a little tired of the  'we have no lights on Cavendish and Kildare' posts."

I have been active on Facebook for years, with personal and political pages. In addition, I am an administrator or moderator for the English Montreal School Board, the CSL Trap Neuter Return program, CSL Central Bark, Montreal Food Scene and Carré Union. 

Anthony Housefather

Besides  members of our city council, Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum are frequent posters to these local pages.

Housefather is thriving in his role as our representative in Ottawa and this week he posted a video of his impressive  back and forth with the Bloc , who have proposed a bill that would give English-speaking Quebecers in the federal civil service fewer rights to work in their language than any other civil servant in Canada. “In this video my vision of Canada comes out loudly and clearly in both official languages,” Anthony stated on his Facebook page. You can see it here is you have access to Facebook.

With a federal election set for October, West End politics will no doubt be occupied with that topic.




Video recording of our public council meetings fulfills "open city" objective in a fiscally responsible way

For a number of years I brought the possibly of webcasting our regular monthly public council meetings  to the table for discussion.

When Mayor Mitchell Brownstein gave me the Communications portfolio after last November's election, there was already some momentum to provide our citizens with the opportunity to view our meetings online.

Darryl Levine sets up the video equipment.

Initially, we looked into live webcasts.  The cost to video record (and live stream) the council meetings with a professional company would have been $1,230 (plus tax) per meeting. This price only included  one camera. For the 12 regular monthly meetings, this would have translated into a $15,000 cost (plus tax) and  an additional $1,230 for each special meeting that we would recorded as well, such as December budget meeting, for instance.

We are fortunate to have someone as resourceful as Director of Communications and Public Affairs Darryl Levine on our team. When we mandated him to come up with another option he was quick to respond. His department began video recording council meetings in January 2018 and posting the video recording on YouTube within two days. It also began uploading the audio to SoundCloud. There was no added capital cost to the city to introduce this service as the department had previously invested over the past seven years in a camcorder, wireless audio transmitter, a mirrorless camera (used as a second video camera), digital sound recorder, and video editing software. There was no added labour cost either. Our inhouse production uses two cameras during question period to make the video more interesting to watch.

Epilogue: This example highlights the strength of our Communications and Public Affairs Department. They are able to do a lot of work in-house that other cities our size send out.  It also fulfills a key goal of our new "open city" process.

Here is the video feed from our last meeting.

Here is the audio from our last meeting.  

Follow this section on our website to view and listen throughout the year.


The Smart Cities Challenge: UMQ calls on municipalities to make strong showing  

 The Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ)  has welcomed the launch of the federal government’s Smart Cities Challenge and has encouraged all municipalities to apply. The Union took part in the initial call for projects from Quebec with federal minister of transport, the Honorable Marc Garneau, in Montreal.

“Local governments are increasingly called upon to put innovative solutions in place to effectively meet the needs of their communities. The UMQ applauds the federal government’s commitment to recognizing the work of municipalities of all sizes and in all regions of Quebec,” said UMQ president and mayor of Drummondville, Alexandre Cusson.

“The UMQ’s Smart Cities Commission has been very active over the past few years in supporting municipalities to do the ‘smart’ thing by beefing up their citizen consultation and participation processes. In collaboration with CEFRIO, the Commission has also developed a smart city self-assessment tool exclusively for members of the Union. The Smart Cities Challenge will provide elected officials with ideas for innovative projects that they can learn from and apply in their communities,” said Vicki-May Hamm, mayor of Magog and chair of the UMQ Smart Cities Commission.

The Smart Cities Challenge aims to help communities across the country develop and implement Smart Cities initiatives of their own. As part of this first call for projects, municipalities have until April 24, 2018 to apply. The Smart Cities Challenge independent jury will announce the finalists in the summer of 2018 and the winners in the spring of 2019. Municipalities selected as finalists will receive a $250,000 grant to develop a detailed proposal and business plan. Winners will receive funding of up to $50 million to implement their proposals.  

Côte Saint-Luc will be applying. I will be working on the Smart Cities (open government) dossier with Councillor Dida Berku, who has the citizen engagement portfolio. Several citizens, including District 2 residents Charles Guerin and Robert Leibner, are particularly interested in this project.

A big thanks to our former mayor and present-day Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather for supporting this initiative. "During the last municipal election there was a great deal of discussion about smart cities and transparency," he commented. "A great challenge for cities is the cost of implementing solutions that connect their residents with information. As such I am thrilled that the federal government will now assist municipalities in this area."



Our wonderful Côte Saint-Luc Courier Newspaper

While I will be posting my own District 2 Year in Review shortly, a  magnificent 2012 look back edition of the Côte Saint-Luc Courier Newspaper will soon be delivered to every door. I am proud to serve as the chairperson of this publication. Hats off to editor Darryl Levine  and graphic artist Ruth Farrugia  for a fantastic piece of work.

You can read it by clicking on the link below.

Download CSL Courier Dec2012_EN-web

CSL switches to Google Apps

The City of Côte Saint-Luc  has officially decided to  migrate away from our current e-mail and calendar software Lotus Notes and the accompanying on premises Lotus Domino e-mail server. Instead we are moving towards a cloud-based application in which a software application is not installed on a local computer,  but instead accessed over the Internet via the Google Apps for Business/Postini application.

At a special council meeting on April 23, we  approved and authorized the city to enter into a one-year license contract with Google Inc. for Google Apps for Business and the Postini archiving application, and authorized  payment of $16,600 US (plus applicable taxes);, Research firms have shown Google Apps to be five times less costly to maintain than on premises e-mail systems like Lotus Notes. Google Apps is used by 350 million users and is widely considered to be the easiest and best e-mail application, with outstanding document collaboration tools.

Switching to Google Apps will save our  I.T. technicians countless hours installing and configuring the Lotus Notes application on every new computer or replacement computer, and troubleshooting the complex Lotus Domino mail server -- often with the help of costly outside consultants.

The City of Edmonton just switched over to Google Apps and it appears as if many other municipalities will eventually follow suit.

To the average citizen, there will no noticeable change on how they communicate with the city. They only need to know that we are introducing a system which is much more efficient. Hats off to Darryl Levine, our head of public affairs, communications and I.T. for his many months of hard work on this dossier.

CSL's population increases 2.9 percent as per Stats Can

  Côte-Saint-Luc - Ville (Census subdivision)
Topic Characteristics   Total
Population and dwelling counts Population in 2011
Population and dwelling counts Population in 2006
Population and dwelling counts 2006 to 2011 population change (%)
Population and dwelling counts Total private dwellings  
Population and dwelling counts Private dwellings occupied by usual residents  
Population and dwelling counts Population density per square kilometre
Population and dwelling counts Land area (square km)

Digital signage arrives in Côte Saint-Luc

I am very excited with the arrival of the first digital sign in the history of Côte Saint-Luc.

Digital signage has arrived in the city of Côte Saint-Luc. An attractive four by seven full colour and weatherproof LED display was installed last week at the corner of Cavendish  Boulevard and Kildare Road.031

This is an initiative of Kazoo Digital, which already provides digital signage Solutions for retailers, medical and dental clinics, and corporate offices with the use of in house digital display systems. Company president Howard Szalavetz notes that this agreement reached with Côte Saint-Luc marks the first outdoor sign.

Messages appearing on the sign represent a combination of city announcements and advisories and paid advertisements. Szalavetz states that a number of inquiries from community organizations and businesses have already been received. “We chose Cavendish as the first location for many reasons,” says Szalavetz. “First and foremost, it is the gateway to Côte Saint-Luc.  The screen is also placed in such a manner that the messages are able to be read quite clearly while vehicles are stopped at the traffic lights.”

Szalavetz notes that plans call for at least two more digital signs to be installed in Côte Saint-Luc. As part of its agreement with the city, Côte Saint-Luc has the right to veto any advertiser they do not feel would be appropriate.  Messages will run on a continuous two minute and eight second loop – 16 ads per loop.
“Advertisements on digital signs are proven to have a higher consumer recall than those of static mediums such as billboards and bus shelters” says Szalavetz. “They help increase sales and customer satisfaction. Our advertisers find that a few strategically placed advertisements on digital signage displays pay for themselves in just a few months.”

For more information log on to, email or call 514-529-6655.


Electronic Signage Coming to CSL

I am very pleased to report that another one of my objectives, upon first being elected in 2005, is about to be realized with the arrival of electronic signage in Côte Saint-Luc. Look for the first one to appear  soon at the northwest corner of Cavendish (next to the bus shelter) and directly across the street from Police Station 9.    To follow will be another at the northeast corner of Westminster Avenue and Côte Saint-Luc Road. Eventually, we hope to see a third near our soon-to-be constructed $18 million Intergenerational Aquatic Complex on Parkhaven Avenue.

CSL continues to improve communications tools

As the Côte Saint-Luc city councillor responsible for the communications portfolio, I am pleased to report upon a number of initiatives based on a monthly report submitted by Darryl Levine.

In February, Darryl, who is the city's dynamic director of public affairs and communications,  produced four videos for CSL-TV, made aesthetic improvements to, organized the first ever meeting of municipal communicators to discuss best practices, and attended a roundtable discussion about municipal communications in Kansas City.

The video productions and website improvements were produced in house using low-cost, high value tools. In the case of some of the videos, we used a consumer video camera, wireless microphone, existing lighting on the auditorium stage and edited it in a professional way. In the case of the website, we were able to find new ways to display content thanks to new, constantly updated free modules in our content management system, Drupal (pronounced“Droo-pull”). This open-source and free product, used by 500,000 companies, universities and organizations, was selected in October 2009 to run the website in place of a costly, proprietary system. Our department selected it in October 2006—three years earlier—to run the city website.

In short, the department produces outstanding value to the city by delivering high quality communication services in-house for far less than would be possible with external suppliers or expensive systems. We operate smartly by copying best practices of larger organizations. And, sometimes, we are even a few years ahead of other governments.

In February, our videos were viewed 652 times—which doubled the number of all time views since launching in December. As a guiding principle, the department tries to copy or mimic the best practices of large companies or national governments, rather than municipal ones. That is, we try to aim higher  than what people expect from a municipality. For instance, when determining how best to do a Facebook fan page, we studied the US Department of State and NASA, rather than any municipality. In the case of videos, we studied the video messages from the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Then we try to make our videos look as good—or as good as possible given our resources. For instance, the White House videos show the President sitting in beautiful rooms. We cannot replicate the exact look, however we do have at our disposal an auditorium with professional spot lights and back lights so we can produce something that looks professional, but simple. Right now we have two messages from our mayor on CSL TV.

Following a meeting of our Communications committee, which I share, we made changes to the front page and inside pages at The committee recommended that we make the front page more “dynamic” and to include information such as press releases on the front.

Here is how we responded. We embedded a video from CSL-TV at the top centre of the page. This will create a sense of dynamism and also help draw viewers to our videos. We added rounded corners to our front page sections and added new images to sections such as eServices and Calendar. Now  we have started to  reorganize the content on the main section pages, such as Public Documents, to create a more organized, structured, and elegant feel. The changes are ongoing

Recently, our department  the first ever meeting of communications managers (public affairs and marketing) from the cities representing the Association of Suburban Municipalities. The goal was to create more contact between the cities at the level of communication departments, and to share best practices in our field. The next meeting will take place in Westmount in April