Leadership is action, not position

On Oct. 18 of last year this corner editorialized on the need for our municipal officials to gather with their counterparts throughout the county to hold an economic summit to deal with the staggering job losses in St. Thomas and Elgin.
They have failed to act on this, instead Mayor Cliff Barwick jetted off to Japan for a two-week junket that accomplished little. In fact, Barwick would have been far better off visiting Pittsburgh to see how that former rust belt city has magnificently transformed itself.

The problem is our mayor and some members of council have an us-versus-them mentality when dealing with the county, as witnessed Monday evening when Ald. Tom Johnston opposed beefing up the Elgin-St. Thomas tourism budget … a viable and valuable alternative to help beef up our battered local economy that has historically been dominated by manufacturing.
Six months ago, City Scope opined, “Gather neighbouring municipalities together, call an economic summit, come up with a made in Elgin solution to the manufacturing meltdown and then aggressively target federal and provincial dollars.
“We’ve wasted enough time dickering with the likes of the Sutherland Press building, the Downtown Development Board and Christmas lights along Talbot Street. Remember, leadership is action, not position.”
So … who is now taking the lead initiative – the St. Thomas and District Labour Congress.
Faced with the temporary layoff of workers at Formet and Presstran, and the continuing economic downturn, Dave Kerr, president of the St. Thomas and District Labour Congress, says he’s trying to organize an economic summit featuring local mayors to talk about the economy.
Kerr said not only are hundreds of families directly affected by these layoffs, there are also food service contractors, maintenance personnel and railway workers who’ll feel the affects, too.
“It’s going to impact on more than the people who are being laid off from Formet.”
Those with keen memories will argue in fact such a summit did take place last September when a 90-minute forum was hosted by the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce at the CASO station.
However, a little digging found the think tank was not conceived by the chamber, but instead was the brainchild of Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands.
It’s worth noting Mayor Barwick did not play a role in organizing that event and did not attend. His absence perhaps due to the appearance of keynote speaker Mark Cosens, chairman of the Downtown Development Board which was on the receiving end of veiled eviction threats from its city hall office after a verbal dust-up with the mayor’s office.
In spite of continued job losses and layoffs the pettiness continues. More than ever, what we desperately require is leadership at city hall.

Gabriela Ruiz of Mexico fondly remembers it “as one of the best years of my life.”
Will Gibson attended kindergarten there which, in later life, inspired him to come up with a comic strip idea centered around Alma College in 1885 at the time of Jumbo’s death Jenny Phillips, now a resident of Dutton, became an Alma College girl in September, 1965 and on a picture-perfect day in July of 1968 married David Phillips in the college’s chapel. These are just a few of the colourful, emotional and vivid snippets of life at Alma College that will grace the pages of a commemorative publication to be produced by the Times-Journal to commemorate the first anniversary of the devastating fire that ravaged the former school for girls. There’s still time to become an active participant in this project. Forward your remembrances, photos or copies of Alma-related artifacts to mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com and celebrate the glory days of the grand old lady of St. Thomas.

Monday evening, city council will be asked to broaden its horizon with regard to getting people from here to there.
In a letter to Mayor Barwick, Kristine Diaz, acting vice-president of mental health services for St. Joseph’s Health Care urges the city to extend existing transit service south on Sunset Drive to Regional Mental Health Care, St. Thomas.
She indicates regular feedback from patients in the Alternative to Competitive Employment Centre, staff and volunteers would make use of such a service.
In reality this is an improvement that should have been undertaken years ago. Yes the facility is outside the city, barely, however St. Thomas Transit has the infrastructure in place and the city is the recipient of bus loads of gas tax funding from upper levels of government to undertake this improvement.
However, you can almost hear the tired old arguments about maintaining a 30-minute schedule, etc.
Why not run a shuttle service down Sunset that could also include the Elgin County Administration building, the residential area and Canadale Nurseries as stops and then link in with the existing route at some convenient point?
All it takes is the will and a willingness to work cooperatively with all of the partners and neighbouring municipalities involved.
Take the initiative now and voluntarily introduce this additional needed service rather than face a challenge under provisions of the province’s Disabilities Act.

“I think we should take from that, that the McGuinty government’s plan is the same old, same old – the same old that has seen over 300,000 manufacturing jobs disappear in the last couple of years, the same old that has the unemployment rate headed to double digits.”
NDP leader Howard Hampton in the Ontario Legislature Tuesday reacts to assurances from Michael Bryant, minister of economic development, the provincial Liberals have been there for the automotive industry in the past and will continue to be there in the future.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com


2 thoughts on “Leadership is action, not position


    Something smells rotten in St. Thomas…

    Mayor Barwick left for Japan on February 16th, 2009 and returned February 27th, 2009.

    On February 23rd, I contacted the City Clerk Wendell Graves’ office to request “a copy of the Mayor’s detailed daily business schedule as the representative of the City of St. Thomas during his time in Japan.”

    On March 3rd, I received a response which did not fully address my request and raised further questions surrounding the “two personal days” he said he took upon his return while he addressed council.
    These “two personal days” were not discussed or approved in an open council meeting prior to his departure – why not?

    On March 17th, I requested clarity regarding the “two personal days” Mayor Barwick said he had taken and whether Mayor Barwick had paid for his own expenses on his “two personal days”. NO RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED.

    On March 30th, under Part II– Freedom of Information – ACCESS TO RECORDS, I requested “A copy of the expense voucher(s) along with receipts submitted by Mayor Barwick for the business trip taken to Japan on behalf of the City of St. Thomas.”
    That same day, I received a response for the City Clerk advising me that the expenses were “a public document” and I should make arrangement to review them with the City Treasurer, Bill Day.

    On April 5th, I contacted City Treasurer Bill Day asking when I might may able to come in and review a copy of the expense voucher(s) along with receipts submitted by Mayor Barwick for the business trip taken to Japan on behalf of the City of St. Thomas.

    On April 6th, City Treasurer Bill Day replied stating “The claim to which you refer has not yet been received nor processed.”
    That same day I asked City Treasurer Bill Day if there was a process in place requiring timely submission of expenses as it had been over five weeks since Mayor Barwick’s return. NO RESPONSE WAS RECEIVED.

    On April 13th, I advised City Clerk Wendell Graves that despite his instructions March 30th I had still not received any response from City Treasurer Bill Day.

    On May 1st, City Clerk Wendell Graves advised that “a City policy requests claims be submitted within 5 days from the return of a conference/trip” but the Mayor “is awaiting some detailed information from Japan relating to the trip prior to the submission of a claim of expenses.”
    What kind of “detailed information” could this be?

    Well, there you have it………… OVER TWO MONTHS since Mayor Barwick returned from Japan and STILL NO EXPENSES SUBMITTED.

    What leadership, he can’t submit an expense voucher on time?

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

  2. Bill:

    This is not the first time a member of council has dragged their heels on submitting expenses. And that alone raises suspicion at all levels. Barwick campaigned on accountability and transparency and there has been a dearth of both. Perhaps a member of council should challenge this at the next council meeting, May 11. In the meantime I will follow through with calls to request the same information. Ian

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