Plagiarism, penny-pinching or pure coincidence?


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We have in our possession this week a copy of the Economic Development Corporation’s proposed game plan for the coming years, which examines “its current and future economic opportunities and positioning,” in a proactive fashion.
The executive summary of the economic development strategy is chock full of feel good vernacular like: “champion an action,” “supportive infrastructure and delivery model,” and our favourite, “programs must be augmented by service delivery tools.”

The four-page document outlines “four primary pillars of strength” that are keys to the city’s transition away from manufacturing and three specific target sectors in which the city and the EDC must pursue economic development activities.
One of these pursuits involves the need to “attract Lone Eagles to the community.”
My goodness, the EDC appears to have our economic future well in hand.
We hate to curb that enthusiasm, however this document looks suspiciously like the Economic Development Strategy developed by the City of Cambridge back in 2008.
In fact, extensive chunks of the St. Thomas plan are lifted word for word from the Cambridge strategy, including the introduction which deals with “global trade linkages, disruptive technologies, international capital mobility,” and on it goes.
Including the rather incredulous reference to “widespread community consultations” that have been undertaken “to determine how St. Thomas can best position itself.”
What follows that is a four-pronged description that mirrors almost word for word what is contained in the Cambridge strategic plan.
What gives here?
Did St. Thomas ratepayers foot the bill for a re-hash of what was documented in Cambridge last year?
Did the same consulting firm produce the almost identical strategies and charge full billing?
Plagiarism, penny-pinching or pure coincidence … into which category does our economic strategy fall into?

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT ALMA?
City Scope has learned the city issued a work order in early May against the owners of Alma College.
“There is a property standards order issued,” confirmed Wade Woznuk, city building inspector and property standards officer.
“You have to give a reasonable amount of time to clean up things. And what I can say is they have started things out there. They have put some boarding up and done some clean up. Action has started.”
Woznuk stressed the order was not specifically based on safety concerns, but in general on the condition of the property.
“The chapel was unsecured and it’s secure now. That’s a safety issue, but it was done fairly quick. What we’re looking at is site clean up.’
That includes the bricks and general rubble following the devastating fire more than a year ago.
“It’s basically an eyesore. The owners want to get it cleaned up as much as anyone else.”
Really, talk about a slow boat to China.
So why hasn’t the chapel roof been secured against the elements?
“Hopefully that will be done soon,” assured Woznuk. “If they don’t comply a report will be written to council and council would have to decide what they want to do. There’s a number of different options.”
That’s not a good sign. The main building on the property suffered death by neglect because of the lack of will at all three levels of government.
“There’s progress and that’s the important thing,” stressed Woznuk.
Let’s hope progress prevails, because if cleaning up and securing the property falls back into the lap of council we are reminded of the years of waffling that dominated the recent history of Alma and which reinforces the vulnerability of heritage properties in St. Thomas.
And remember, this work is just to meet minimum property standards, nothing more.

STILL WITH ALMA
So, what happened to one half of the distinctive wrought iron main gate at the former school for girls? After lying in the grass for several years, it has vanished.
Apparently some concerned individuals had hoped to retrieve the gate and secure it from vandals and the elements. When they arrived to do so, it was nowhere to be seen. Needless to say, these gate keepers are disappointed and for several reasons. More to follow in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, this corner welcomes all tips and information.

WE WAITED FOUR MONTHS FOR THIS?
An eagerly-anticipated statement also landed in this corner over the past few days — the travel and expense claim for Mayor Cliff Barwick’s trip to Japan back in mid-February.
It can be best summed up in one word – skimpy.
In fact the entire claim comprises just four lines on an equally vague city expense form.
It was filed with city treasurer Bill Day on June 10 and approved a week later.
During his tenure in Japan, the mayor spent $395.29 on train fares, $3,047.95 on 14 nights accommodation and $120 even on meals for a grand total of $3,563.24.
No itemization or specifics as to what each of these sums represents. No day-by-day break down on what was spent where.
A quick call to the treasurer confirmed supporting receipts were included, but again, no detailed financial itinerary. That and the fact $1,521.76 was the cost of jetting Barwick to and from Japan, bringing the total to just over $5,000.
And the mayor waited four months to submit the slimmest possible expense summary?
No further evidence is needed to illustrate the lack of leadership at the head of this corporation.
This claim sends a loud message to all those employed at city hall that accountability for spending taxpayer dollars is an inconvenience to be dealt with whenever you get around to it.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“As far as I’m concerned they’re working at it and as long as they keep up that kind of work and meet the deadlines that we both agreed upon then I’m happy.”
Wade Woznuk, building inspector and property standards officer for the city, told City Scope he’s satisfied with the work now being undertaken by the owners of Alma College to meet minimum property standards.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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6 thoughts on “Plagiarism, penny-pinching or pure coincidence?

  1. “THE FISH ROTS FROM THE HEAD DOWN”

    Much like our mayor, his travel expense claim is a joke. I am baffled by how the City Treasurer could approve such a document, and yes I am in receipt of it.

    From a financial control perspective, it is a disgrace;
    – there are no dates associated with when the expenses were incurred
    – there are no receipts provided for the expenses claimed
    – there is no individual accounting for the expenses incurred on a daily basis
    – from this document, it would appear that Cliff Barwick took a train to Japan
    – there is no identification of currency used and the conversion rate applied
    – there is no visibility regarding his two personal days and how they were paid for
    – this document does meet minimum financial control standards and is (as provided) subject to potential abuse

    No bean-counter worth his weight in salt would approve Barwick’s travel and expense claim.

    There is a Russian proverb that states, “the fish rots from the head down”. Talk about hitting the nail on the head.

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

  2. RE: Alma College
    Well I see he has finally come to life (the owner of 96 Moore Street that is).It has been 13 months since we lost that magnificent structure and still he drags his feet,when it comes to getting the property up to minimum standards.It’s scary to think the final decision may be left to the St.Thomas city council who seem to have problems making decisions on just about every issue that comes across the council table.The mere fact that 13 months have passed,and massive holes remain in the chapel roof,is a clear indication the owner is in no rush to repair anything on the property,which is one of the reasons we lost Alma College.It’s truly amazing the owner of Alma College did not see the beauty of the main building,instead he slowly stripped away her beauty inside & out leaving a shell,that could not withstand Ontario’s brutal winters.We have this unique oppurtunity to save a small part of Alma’s legacy,but first we need those in power to recognize 96 Moore Street with provincial hertiage designation,then we can properly protect 96 Moore Street,for future generations to enjoy.

    Bob Foster
    Brampton,Ontario

  3. With all of the economic negativity that has plagued the newswire over the last 18 months, you would think there would be more positive ways that Mr. Sandison and Mr. McCallum could contribute to their community than by being critical of those in a position to make the changes that are needed.

    Who made them the “official opposition” to the City of St. Thomas?

    I truly doubt that too many people read this column, be it online or in the newspaper, but it doesn’t send the right message to those who do. I assume that the reason the Mayor went to Japan was to promote our City and to maintain a positive relationship with the Japanese companies who are already here. If he was able to accomplish that for a mere $5,000 – good for him.

    I also question what the reaction would be from the Japanese people he visited if they were to come across this column and see the ridiculous tag-team commentary that is constantly carried on by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb (McCallum and Sandison). I expect that they would be embarassed and that is truly a shame.

    As for the EDC’s Plan for the future of the City, I must admit that I don’t see the relevance in worrying about the fact that the consulting firm used some of the same text that they used in other studies – how much different could we expect it to be? As long as the strategy itself is different, I can tolerate the fact that the overview is similar to that of Cambridge or whoever else they have done work for. I am willing to wait and see if the plan works. If it doesn’t, I will be just as critical as anyone else but I will express my concerns elsewhere. I would like to think that it is better to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Negativity does not promote creativity and we definitely need to be creative to succeed.

    As a resident of St. Thomas, I am ashamed that our daily newspaper thinks that this is what its readers want to hear. I cancelled my subscription months ago and this confirms my decision. It is time for the people of St. Thomas to share positive news stories and to shift their focus away from the inane banter that often dominates the headlines in this City.

  4. Dear R.F. I appreciate your feedback, it is always welcome here. That’s what this blog and City Scope is all about. It is unfortunate you express these strong viewpoints but are unwilling to associate your name with your opinion. To his credit Mr. Sandison has chosen to do so, however that is neither here nor there. You deal extensively with negativity – the issue here is accountability and to a lesser degree transparency. We elect a slate of candidates and I, for one, expect them to be accountable for their decisions, their spending and their long-term vision for St. Thomas. And we are sadly lacking on all three fronts with some members of this council. No I am not the official opposition, I cannot speak for Mr. Sandison. I chose not to call this negative reporting, instead
    it is to hold politicians of all stripes accountable for the trust we have placed in them. That is the role of a newspaper and journalists in general. To cancel your subscription because I chose to get under the skin of some of our elected officials is sadly unfortunate and flies in the face of a free press. You might as well cancel your paper because the weather forecast is bad or the local sports team loses again. Our paper is chock full of positive news stories on a daily basis – the accomplishments of young people in our schools, and you have to look no further than the stories I have written personally about Jared Nooren, a St. Joe’s grad who gained a scholarship to a U.S. school and is competing in the national rodeo finals. Or the accomplishments of the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, celebrating 40 years in July, another story I authored last week. Of course you wouldn’t be aware of these uplifting stories of everyday people accomplishing extraordinary things, because you cancelled your subscription months ago. Pity. You’re missing out on a lot of the heart of St. Thomas.
    Ian

  5. RF,

    I am also a resident and taxpayer in St. Thomas. I care passionately about our city; and take the time to research issues confronting our city; make suggestions and recommendations to council, appear before the Budget Committee and our City Council to offer opportunities for improvement and share the findings of my research.

    Over the past two years, I have been in contact with Aldermen, past and current, a previous Mayor, and Ministers and Members of Parliament in both the Provincial and Federal governments to advance the concerns of residents in St. Thomas, such as Alma College and the preservation of our architectural heritage, the creation of an economic strategy, electoral reform, the Sutherland Press Building and the Montgomery Area Flooding, to name a few.

    I do not consider myself the “official opposition” but rather an Advocate for a better municipal government. I think we deserve better that what we have, for instance; a Chief Administrative Officer to manage the affairs; a Council elected based upon a Ward System to provide equal representation for all residents of our City; along with Transparency, Accountability and Leadership.

    It is healthy to vigorously discuss and debate the issues openly, in my opinion, but when you have a City Treasurer who believes “the status quo has served us well”, a Part-time Mayor, and Management by Committee that has all but paralyzed progress in our City, I make no apology for calling them out.

    On this past weekend I was in contact with Brock Dickinson of Millier Dickinson Blais Inc., the consultants who prepared the St. Thomas Economic Development Strategy – Executive Summary and asked him to respond to Ian’s article. The response was just as long as the Executive Summary itself, had a high fog index and missed the mark.

    Here is my response to that note from Brock;
    ————————
    “Dear Mr. Dickinson,

    I fully appreciate the construct of a strategic framework (template) for decision-making analysis and the utilization of SWOT analysis, Porter’s Five Forces and other techniques to establish detailed goals, along with the identification of critical success factors, timelines and accountability to monitor the achievement of those goals.

    The Executive Summary is the subject of my inquiry, and the substance of the St. Thomas Times-Journal editorial article.

    My interest in a local economic strategic plan dates back to last year when St. Thomas was besieged by job losses. With a new Federal Budget scheduled for January 27th, 2009 I requested on January 16th, 2009 that Joe Preston, Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London and the Hon. Steve Peters, Member of Provincial Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London help make the creation and deployment of an employment strategy for St. Thomas a priority and a reality, on behalf of the residents of St. Thomas.

    An Executive Summary is considered by many to be the most important part of any business plan. It should be clear and concise, and provide an overview that highlights key facts, issues, and conclusions from the detailed strategic plan that follows.

    The social, political and economic realities are vastly different today than when you undertook the City of Cambridge economic development strategy in the 4th quarter of 2008; unemployment has skyrocketed, an economic stimulus has been provided from the Federal and Provincial Governments, and trade protectionism is at the forefront of the U.S. political agenda. Much has changed (context) in the preceding nine months and I challenge your position that “this element of the summary is not “lifted word for word” from Cambridge, but – in fact- from our own project proposal document”.

    The Executive Summary is not a template, and it should not be the same from one city to another city because “research inputs are different, so too are the outputs”, as you point out.

    Yet here is the first paragraph from the Executive Summary for St. Thomas dated June 2009;

    “Twenty-first century Canada is confronted with an economy that has transformed dramatically and radically, and is thus fundamentally different from what has occurred in the past. New and emerging global trade linkages, disruptive technologies, international capital mobility, the rapid emergence of new international economic leaders, the widespread restructuring of the workforce: these and other global trends have created a new environment in which the Canadian economy must seek to adapt, innovate, and thrive. ln the new environment, the policies and practices of the past are not only obsolete, but they are often also counterproductive.”

    Here is an extract from the Executive Summary for Cambridge dated December 2008.

    “However, 21st Century Canada is confronted by a dramatically and radically transformed economy, fundamentally different from what has gone before. New global trade linkages, disruptive technologies, international capital mobility, the rapid emergence of new international economic powers, the widespread restructuring of the workforce: these and other global trends have created a new context in which the Canadian economy must seek to adapt, innovate and thrive. In this new environment, the policies and practices of the past are not only obsolete, they are often counterproductive.”

    They are almost identical. The local writer’s observations are certainly not misleading, and I believe the only agenda in play is a search for the truth.

    The fact that so little effort was placed on the Executive Summary, is a disservice to the City of St. Thomas residents and all those who participated. As I stated previously, the Executive Summary is deemed by many to be the most important part of any business plan.

    I will, in fact, read the entire document once it has been made public. In the meantime, I believe you owe the City of St. Thomas an apology.

    Sincerely,

    Bill Sandison, MBA, C.P.P., CPIM
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas”
    ———————————

    I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your views on this or any other matter as well as any others who visit the site.

    You can reach me at 519-207-0819.

    Bill

  6. Bill: Thanks for forwarding the correspondence with Brock Dickinson. As mentioned in my comments above, this is not about negativity it is the desire for accountability. You are bang on with the observation, “I believe the only agenda in play is a search for the truth.” That too is the role of journalists and the media. Follow this link for an interesting back and forth between the mayor of Saint John N.B. and the Saint John Telegraph Journal … “We are doing our job. Are you, Your Worship?” http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/actualites/article/713984

    Ian

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