Corp Comm Connects

'Egg on your face': Aurora councillor slams mayor over rainbow crosswalk

Councillor is defending vote not supporting LGBTQ+ initiative as financial issue, mayor says
July 22, 2020
Lisa Queen

Aurora Coun. John Gallo is accusing Mayor Tom Mrakas of withholding information about financing the town’s rainbow crosswalk as part of a political ploy that cast councillors who voted against it in a bad light.

“To me, that was done on purpose for political gain,” he said in a YouTube video posted after the vote in which he said Mrakas has egg on his face for his handling of the issue.

“It’s quite a sad day for Aurora.”

But Mrakas said he’s disappointed with Gallo’s reaction.

“I am troubled that some members of council are defending their decision not to support our LGBTQ+ community as a financial issue, rather than celebrating Aurora as the first municipality in York Region to install a rainbow crosswalk,” he said in a text.

In a 5-2 vote on July 14, councillors approved the crosswalk on the south side of the intersection of Yonge and Wellington streets.

While Gallo and Coun. Wendy Gaertner support the crosswalk’s inclusive message, they don’t want taxpayers on the hook for the $12,600 cost.

Mrakas didn’t divulge the cost in his original motion, and also didn’t weigh in during the meeting when councillors debated how the crosswalk would be paid for.

At the end of the meeting, he disclosed an anonymous donor is contributing $10,000. Mrakas said the donor had asked him not to mention the gift so council's vote would not be swayed by knowledge of the contribution.

“The donor is a very private person who prefers not to draw attention to themselves. They specifically asked me to keep their donation anonymous and did not want it to influence the important discussion around LGBTQ+ rights," he said in his text.

He's happy the crosswalk was approved.

“So, I’m glad this initiative is going forward. I’m glad that our community stepped up and said how important this is to our town," he said in the council meeting.

A surprised Gallo indicated he would have voted for the crosswalk if he’d known that “tidbit” of information.

Gallo posted the video criticizing Mrakas the day after the council meeting, adding he wants residents to know he supports the LGBTQ+ community.

Gallo called Mrakas’s last minute announcement of the donor after the vote a “proverbial mic drop.”

“He chose to withhold that information during the discussion part of the meeting, knowing full well if he had let us know that there was a donor out there who was willing to give us $10,000, he would have known Coun. Gaertner and I would have supported this,” he said.

Gallo said Mrakas could have chosen to reveal the donation and secure unanimous support for the crosswalk.

“He chose not to and chose to put a wedge between us,” he said.

“Mr. Mrakas, if you’re watching this, that’s not what leaders do. Leaders bring people together and it’s very unfortunate that you chose not to do that. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what you are gaining by doing that. To be honest, I think the egg is on your face.”

Mrakas called the crosswalk an important initiative that deserves support like other community programs.

“Given that council approves taxpayer funds every year to support many other well-deserving community groups, do the LGBTQ+ members of our community not deserve the same support? Supporting the LGBTQ+ community should not be contingent on private funding,” he said by text.