Windsor's mayor took to Facebook Wednesday night to call out a city councillor for making "irresponsible and completely untrue" remarks that could scare people away from the downtown core.
While speaking with Windsor Star about council's recent decision to spend $750,000 to refurbish a 99-year-old trolley, Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin is quoted as saying: "When I have to continually go back to residents and say there is no money for a $3,000 alley light where that person got beat up and raped last week, it's hard."
In a post on his official mayoral Facebook page, Drew Dilkens said "city councillors have a responsibility to present facts to their constituents" and that Bortolin's comments could not be "left uncorrected."
Dilkens said police have not received any reports of sexual assault in alleys in the past week or "any time this year for that matter!" He added "using false allegations of public safety to score political points is just plain wrong."
Councillor says mayor missed the point
Bortolin volleyed the mayor's accusation right back at him Thursday, saying it was "unfortunate" the mayor chose to "focus on the politics" rather than the sentiment of his words.
"Could I have been wiser with my words? For sure, there's no doubt about that, but these are the perceptions and frustrations that residents feel on a daily basis," he said.
Dilkens said the Facebook post is the same as a statement from the mayor's office and that he was motivated by concern people will get the wrong impression of downtown.
"I don't want any member of the public to think it's unsafe downtown, the city of Windsor is not putting money in the right places and rapes are happening downtown," he said. "I would never, ever talk about rape anecdotally like (Bortolin) did, if that's what he suggested he's doing."
Frustration festering downtown
Bortolin acknowledged he should have clarified he was not speaking about a particular sexual assault, but was instead providing examples of the types of violence downtown residents fear in dark alleys.
"Crime, security and safety are major issues in the core and we're choosing to talk about the words councillors are using," he said, adding he's frustrated because he constantly has to tell his constituents there's no money for small improvements while millions are spent on "legacy projects."
If Dilkens really does take safety and security seriously, Bortolin added, "let's put our money where our mouth is and start actually making changes in the core."
Bortolin said there's still about $500,000 remaining from the $7.2M originally set aside for a parking garage — even after $1.5M was spent on Christmas lights for Jackson Park and hundreds of thousands on other projects including the streetcar — that could be used to brighten up downtown.
"I would challenge (Dilkens) to bring forward a report, similar to what he did for the trolley or the Christmas lights ... skipping all of the long, process and committee work that would allocate $300,000 to improve alley lighting in the downtown core," said Bortolin, adding that would be enough for dozens of dangerous locations.
"Councillor Bortolin also has a ward fund ... and he can direct $3,000 for an alley light where he thinks one is appropriate." - Mayor Drew Dilkens
"For a fraction ... of what the Christmas lights cost for a month in December we can light up 100 locations in the downtown core, why aren't we doing that?"
Dilkens called on Bortolin to present council with police data showing where lighting could help stop crime if he wants to see more lights downtown.
"Councillor Bortolin also has a ward fund, like every councillor does and he can direct $3,000 for an alley light where he thinks one is appropriate," said the mayor. "There's nothing wrong with that."