The Leafs, a parking ticket and the administration of justice


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What’s more likely to transpire first — a new consolidated courthouse for St. Thomas and Elgin or the Leafs returning to respectability?
With their impressive preseason record (faded somewhat by an opening night loss to the Habs, of all teams) the latter may be the safer bet.
That possibility prompted local barrister and solicitor Mervin Riddell to vent his frustration via a letter to City Scope.
“I urge city council to end the impasse with the province and support the construction of a new consolidated court facility,” he writes.
Ah, but here’s the kicker.
“At a location other than the 4 Wellington St. (existing Elgin County courthouse) location. The city’s lack of support for a new location will, in my respectful opinion, only continue the present delay and the absolute embarrassment of the facilities already in place.”

Mr. Riddell has a bit of a vested interest in a quick resolution to this vexing situation.
In this letter, he passes along a copy of the $25 parking ticket (paid) slapped on his vehicle parked in the Curtis Street parking lot, “for being there more than two hours (sorry). Our justice building at 145 Curtis St., has two public parking spots (time-limited).”
He goes on to note consolidated court facilities in Simcoe, Woodstock and Chatham all provide unlimited free parking for those undertaking business inside.
There’s an added requirement for urgent attention, he advises.
“Independent access for persons with disabilities must be in place by Jan. 1, 2010 under provincial legislation, so far as I am aware. It should have been in place voluntarily years ago and that, in itself, is a part of our history that does not lead to a lot of pride. History is more than preservation of a historically-significant building.”
A compelling presentation of facts on the part of Mr. Riddell, who notes the long-running Bandidos trial should have been played out in St. Thomas, but the lack of facilities moved the proceedings north.
Imagine the economic benefits to downtown establishments that would have accrued over the past months.

TOBACCO … A TAXING MATTER
 In response to our series on the impact, both economic and health related, of contraband tobacco sales ( Hiccups and coughing and School boards and health unit ), reader Elizabeth Dye points the finger squarely at the high taxes slapped on cigarettes.
“How do they justify taxing cigarettes so much?” she questions.
“If contraband smokes can sell without the outrageous mark-up, then why not the “safer” brand-name smokes? Whether you’re on a fixed income or not, $90 per carton is an awful lot to pay.”
The obvious, but overly-simplistic, response is to kick the habit, Elizabeth.
“I would love to quit,” she affirms, “but guess what, the government doesn’t cover stop-smoking aids. And they are just as expensive if not more than the cigarettes themselves. It has been said quitting smoking is akin to kicking heroin.”
That admission alone should be enough to discourage young people from lighting up in the first place. However, it’s a losing battle Elizabeth warns.
“I, for one, am dead set against kids smoking, but kids are gonna smoke cigarettes and will do so at whatever cost. They always have. We need to continue drumming the consequences to their health into them, not the financial cost. Most of them have more disposable income these days than ever before.”
Ease up on the taxes — a level playing field would help butt out the sales of illegal smokes, she suggests.
“What say we demand the government stop taxing legal cigarettes out of reach. Sounds to me like this would put a stop to the illegal smokes faster than all the complaining about them.”
We understand MPP Steve Peters has been working behind the scenes to advise on this contentious issue. As always, his input is not only appreciated but insightful.
A LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Joe Pollard is a fairly reasonable guy, that is until he locked horns with the Thames Valley District School Board and Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services.
 His patience and tolerance levels have been stretched to the max over the past month as he and other parents attempt to resolve what is, in their mind, an unsafe school bus situation.
 Shortly after the new school year, the location of the bus stop used by their young children was changed, without notice. As a result of this lack of communication, parents and young students have to cross Wellington Street twice to board the school bus at Lydia Street.
 Previously they didn’t have to cross the busy thoroughfare at all.
Now, the bus incredulously stops in the middle of the intersection to pick up and drop off students.
 There is no crosswalk at this corner and a student was almost hit crossing Wellington Street a couple of weeks ago, Joe advises.
 The bus also blocks a busy driveway to a health centre and the students have to congregate in that driveway to get on and off the bus.
He notes John Wise Public School (where he is on the safe schools team) sent home a list of bus rules, one of which warns, “Do not cut diagonally through an intersection as only one direction of the intersection is controlled by the (extended) bus arm.”
 It’s just one of a litany of issues that have plagued John Wise P.S. in its first month of existence.
 Students put on wrong buses and dropped off at wrong bus stops, students having to cross busy streets to get to bus stops and students falling from their seats onto the floor due to over crowding.”
 Unhappy with the efforts of the London-centred school board and Elgin trustee Frank Exley, Pollard has approached MPP Peters’ office with the observation, “At the root of all these problems there is no accountability.
 The people who want to make our children safe have no recourse to do so and the few who have the ability are not being held accountable for their lack of action.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
 ”They are just two lines on the pavement.”
John Dewancker, director of environmental services, on the safety of some city street crossings.

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

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