Awareness may be the sole ray of sunshine arising from the rubble and ruin of Alma College.
And, how appropriate in the same week two teenaged jokesters were slapped on the wrist for torching the main building at the former school for girls, the St. Thomas-Elgin branch of Architectural Conservancy of Ontario warns a similar fate of destruction by neglect could be in store for other educational facilities in the city.
The local ACO branch was established earlier this year to counter the lack of will from all levels of government to protect heritage properties in St. Thomas and Elgin.
At a public forum held Tuesday, it was noted a half-dozen city schools have either closed or will do so in the near future.
Of those, Wellington Street Public School has been designated a heritage property by the city (a seemingly toothless exercise when recalling Alma).
The ACO would like the city to bestow a similar designation on Balaclava Street P.S. (scheduled for closing) and Arthur Voaden Secondary School (threatened).
The organization is actively promoting the reuse of former schools as a green alternative to constructing new buildings. Perfect for condos, or community facilities.
However, as retired educator and local historian Paul Baldwin pointed out at the ACO event, the Thames Valley District School Board has a mandate to deliver education, and heritage preservation is not a concern to them.
A more likely scenario would see the London-centred board approach city council to remove the heritage designation from Wellington P.S. to make it easer to unload the property.
How will our elected officials respond to that school of thought?
SO WHAT TO ILLEGAL SMOKES
Over the past two weeks City Scope has documented the impact of contraband tobacco sales at the convenience store level and most recently the creeping influx of illegal smokes in high schools across the province.
A recent “butt study” reveals 26 per cent of cigarette butts collected outside a sampling of 55 high schools in Ontario were illegal.
And, on Wednesday of this week, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco held a media conference to announce the results of a similar undertaking involving five London high schools which showed one in five cigarettes examined was contraband.
“Kids, who shouldn’t be smoking at all, are having no trouble getting their hands on illegal cigarettes that cost pennies a piece. For a third year running, this study shows that youth are a primary target of the thugs at the end of the contraband tobacco distribution chain,” said Gary Grant, spokesperson for the NCACT and retired staff superintendent of the Toronto Police Service.
While no butt counts have been undertaken at high schools in St. Thomas or Elgin, Grant indicated the numbers would likely mirror those in London and the provincial average.
“Government needs to take meaningful action now by banning youth possession of tobacco,” he continues. “If it’s illegal for someone under 19 to have a beer, the same or stricter rules should apply for cigarettes — it’s just common sense.”
Likewise, the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board need to become active partners.
In a multi-level approach to countering the sale of illegal tobacco, what is needed is a targetted education campaign to inform students they are breaking the law — simple as that.
And let’s not overlook Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health, an organization that loves to get tough with convenience stores, church and social groups and pie-sellers in Shedden, but is strangely silent when contraband tobacco found around high schools is undermining government anti-smoking initiatives.
While it is not this corner’s obligation to co-ordinate the social calendar of Elgin school trustee Frank Exley, he did indicate in a recent exchange of coffee shop pleasantries that he fully intended to visit the East Elgin Sportsmen’s Association facility east of Aylmer to observe first-hand the manner in which the group functions.
Well Frank, how about this weekend, when the organization plays host to its fourth annual International Practical Shooting Confederation match.
It’s a great opportunity to catch competitors from across Ontario and Quebec as they navigate a variety of shooting scenarios.
Best of all, several thousand dollars will be donated afterward to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
You’ve got to hand it to the EESA, always giving back to the community.
SERVING HER CONSTITUENCY
A belated tip of the City Scope visor to Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands who personally took time to forward us a copy of her report to council outlining her attendance at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference last month in Ottawa. A very thorough hour-by-hour chronology of what transpired during the week, seminars and workshops she attended, and critical observations gleaned from guest speakers who dealt with an extensive menu of topics.
The five-page report affords an in-depth analysis of issues ranging from the Green Energy Act to Canada-U.S. relations.
Now, that’s accountability.
I know it’s been more than seven months since his trip to Japan, but a similar report from Mayor Cliff Barwick detailing his itinerary, thoughts and observations would be most welcome.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I am not sure if we are at the bottom yet, but I feel like I am in an elevator falling down a shaft here. I just hope there is a spring down there somewhere.”
Bob Hammersley, president and CEO of St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce, on his reaction to closure of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant in 2011.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.