Words of wisdom from 2008


Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum


Author Philip G. Hamerton suggested, “Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted, than when we read it in the original author?”
With that in mind, let’s revisit some of the memorable quotes from
the past year in order to take measure of what transpired in 2008.

We had barely turned the calendar page when Mayor Cliff Barwick proclaimed, “Finally our city is in good shape. We are not afraid of the future, we are not afraid of the decisions that must be made. By
not confronting our problems we compound them. This is a council
willing to tackle tough issues.”
Hmm, there’s a quote that doesn’t stand the test of time.
Later in January, via a letter to the Times-Journal, Lara Leitch
noted, “City council is just as responsible as the owners for the
demise of this building (Alma College), because they never applied
the (minimum property) standards against the owners to maintain this
heritage property.”
Four months later, those words took on a new significance amid the
rubble of the former school for girls.
Shortly after Alma’s demise, Mayor Barwick took a tough stand with
the owners of the Sutherland Press building and other absentee
property owners who do not fulfill their obligations when he warned,
“I’m putting every absentee landlord on notice now that if they’re in
the city and their buildings are not kept up, we’re going to get them.”
That knee-jerk reaction will cost city taxpayers many, many
thousands of dollars in legal fees as the future of the Sutherland
Press building remains in limbo as 2009 dawns.
The closing of Talbot Street for much of the year as a result of
wrangling over the building’s structural integrity prompted Downtown
Development Board chairman Mark Cosens to ponder, “It seems that the
city should be looking at the engineering reports and seeing if it’s
really necessary to have that street closed. I’m not convinced
council should have closed it (Talbot Street) down in the first place.”
Barwick took the bait and offered up this ultimatum, “These remarks
cannot go unanswered. They are irresponsible, unfounded and
accusatory. The DDB must clarify its position or I have no
alternative but to recommend to council a review of the use of city
hall facilities by your organization.”
So much for freedom of speech.
In refusing to accept a $5,000 donation from the East Elgin Sports
Association this fall, the London-centred school board stretched
political correctness to the max. In the process, Elgin school
trustee Frank Exley got a little hot under the collar when he put
this corner in its place by charging, “You keep digging and digging
and I hate the media, because until they get their point they’re not
happy.”
When you choose public office Frank, you are fair game for the media.
To wrap up the year in words, a tip of the City Scope visor to Ald.
Lori Baldwin-Sands
who demonstrated she understands the intended
spirit of an amendment to the Ontario Municipal Act to shed some
light on what goes on behind closed-door council meetings.
“It’s a message for us that all citizens be able to express their
concerns and their voice at any given time,” she noted.
And that, dear readers, is what it’s all about.

YOUR EFFORTS ARE APPRECIATED
As we bid farewell to 2008, now is the appropriate time to praise
the efforts of city employees, who are at the whim and mercy of our
elected officials and the general public. They deserve a better fate,
as witness this e-mail passed along to City Scope from a works
department employee.
“Being a municipal/government employee seldom has an upside. We
don’t pick up leaves when we should; don’t shovel snow as we should;
don’t fill pot holes quickly enough and should never shut the water
off to anyone’s home (even if it’s in their best interest).
“All of the above will find it’s way into print from time to time
but here’s some information that very seldom seems to be reported.
“We employees at the city works department on Burwell Road collected
21 food vouchers and donated them to Women’s Shelter and Caring
Cupboard. In addition to that, we also collected $225 and donated the
full amount to The Christmas Shop.
“I am proud to be an employee of the St. Thomas works department – we really do care about our community.”

THE TOP FIVE THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR IN 2009
5. “I would serve on the board of directors of St. Thomas Energy
even if it didn’t pay $8,400. This is not about the money and I
understand Ald. David Warden’s concerns are not a personal attack on
me.”
Ald. Tom Johnston
4. “Building the city’s new elementary school next to Parkside
Collegiate is a prudent decision by the school board. The high school
students will be a positive influence on these young people.”
Ald.
Bill Aarts

3. “On behalf of the Thames Valley District School Board I am
pleased to accept this generous donation from the East Elgin Sports
Association. We applaud them for their efforts to promote gun
safety.”
– Elgin school trustee Frank Exley
2. “It is my pleasure to bestow provincial heritage designation on
the Alma College property. We will do everything in our power to
protect the two remaining buildings.”
-Ontario Minister of Culture
Aileen Carroll
1. “I admit I jumped the gun on the Sutherland Press building and I will work with Downtown Development Board chairman Mark Cosens and
the property owner to rectify this situation.”
Mayor Cliff Barwick.

ONE PARTING THOUGHT
“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing
up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year,
to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our
lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

A fitting snippet of advice from Boston Globe columnist Ellen
Goodman.
And with that, City Scope offers this sincere wish for
health and happiness in the coming year.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions
and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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2 thoughts on “Words of wisdom from 2008

  1. Ian,
    I’m writing to say thank you,for all your support in regards to Alma College.It was a long fought battle to try and save the main building,and it’s an ongoing battle,trying to save the chapel & the music building.A small city like St.Thomas,has so many stories to tell,and every building has its own unique history.Alma College was indeed the crown jewel,and losing it to fire,was a devastating blow to the community,and to all the people who are supporters of historic sites.96 Moore Street is sacred ground and should be recognized by the Ontario government,as provincially significant.For 130 years,Alma College graced the skyline of St.Thomas,Ontario,and its only right that the property be brought back to life,so the legacy of 96 Moore Street continues.My wish for 2009 is the Ontario government will wake-up and realize 96 Moore Street deserves the honour of designation,as a way of saying thank you,to all people who built Alma College,all the people who were students & staff at the college,and to all the people who simply loved the college.How great would it be,to turn onto Moore Street,and once again see a beautiful tower standing tall and proud,on the very spot Alma College once stood.It can be a reality,if the people in charge,will step to the plate,and do whats right.

    Bob Foster
    Brampton,Ontario

  2. Another great column.I would have to agree with the “top 5 things that wont be heard in 2009”.Minister Carroll has proven time and time again,that Ontario’s heritage is not of interest to her.She has failed miserably in her dealings with heritage sites across Ontario. Like many others I have sent countless hand written letters,many e-mails and with only a standard form letter for a response,simply points out the glaring fact that heritage is not even on the governments radar.We’ve lost quite a few buildings and are about to lose many more,do to demolition by neglect or the fact that this minister is terrifed to come forward with a plan,that would actually see buildings protected,instead of allowing a wrecking ball to erase our heritage.The Alma Advocacy Association has my full support in their tireless efforts to try and save the 2 remaining buildings located on the property at 96 Moore Street.My only hope is they can stay one step ahead of this minister,and the bumbling politicians who seem to point the finger,but never seem to have a solution,which I believe is the only qualification needed when running for office.We can never allow our heritage to be left abandoned and neglected,fighting to save these buildings is our only option!!

    Michael Quartz (Heritage Advocate)
    Toronto,Ontario

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