As an avid collector of notable quotations, I love this time of year. Cast a line back over the past 365 days and troll for the best of the best. Those utterances that generate thoughtful approval at the time, but over time, quite often leave you scratching your scalp in puzzlement.
To set the scene, let’s turn to the master of the put-down, Will Rogers, who noted many years ago, “Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”
Having set the stage, let’s revisit a sampling of memorable quotes from the past year in order to fully appreciate what transpired in 2009.
In January, Mayor Cliff Barwick was the guest speaker at a presentation on heritage building preservation, hosted by the Elgin St. Thomas Archives Association. Afterward, Suzanne van Bommel, president of the Alma Advocacy Association, delivered this glowing revue.
“This was an exercise that Pontius Pilate couldn’t have done better. This was wash your hands of all responsibility for anything.”
In March, residents of Montgomery Road, frustrated by several episodes of flooded basements, continued with their battle to seek compensation from the city. While opposed to any admittance of negligence, Ald. Gord Campbell offered this advice.
“Certainly If I were in the situation that these people were in, and was given the $750 or even $1,500, I would take it directly to a lawyer and have them sue the city for the balance. And I’d use your (ratepayer) money to do it.”
Two months later, Heather Dobbin, a systems analyst who was one of the last still employed at Sterling Truck, painted the most poignant picture of the firm’s demise.
“It’s been hard seeing it collapse, this has been like a long good-bye.”
At a July council meeting, Ald. Bill Aarts wandered off his municipal path to serve up this insight.
“As long as there are schools that are not completely full, such as Scott Street or Port Stanley, I don’t see the need for portables. We should not be using our children as guinea pigs in order to get ministry funding.”
For years, city residents assumed it was safe to traverse busy thoroughfares at designated crossings. That is, until 82-year-old Harold Leslie Hill was struck and killed at such a crosswalk on Elm Street.
That prompted this observation in October from John Dewancker, director of environmental services for St. Thomas.
“They are just two lines on the pavement.”
And finally, on an emotional day that same month, London developer Shmuel Farhi walked down the corridor of the Elgin County Courthouse, moments after an announcement the new consolidated court facility would be located in the Wellington Street building he owns, and told City Scope how it feels to turn the property over to another party and walk away from the chapter of history that graces his business card.
“This building I used to mention was my first-born child. This is the second phase of life for this building and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a very important building in my life. It was a symbol of my company, so I guess I’m going to have to spend a few shekels to change it now.”
THE TOP FIVE THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR IN 2010
“Thanks to the success of my candidate school this past summer, we have a strong slate of hopefuls for this year’s municipal election.” – Ray Galloway.
“One of the highlights of this past term for me has been watching the Timken Centre operate in an efficient and cost-effective fashion.” – Ald. Bill Aarts, who quietly stepped down last summer as chairman of the committee overseeing the $12.3 million facility.
“All along we have supported and promoted the historic Elgin County Courthouse as the preferred site for the new consolidated court facility.”– Elgin Law Association.
“There is no doubt the city must assume responsibility for negligence that led to instances of flooding on Montgomery Road.” – John Dewancker, director of environmental services.
“I know it’s taken a little longer than I expected, but I will shortly submit to council a thorough accounting and itinerary of my trip last year to Japan.” – Mayor Cliff Barwick.
IT’S SHOW TIME
Monday evening, in lieu of a full session of city council, Mayor Barwick will deliver his New Year’s address to the residents of St. Thomas.
We can only hope a new choreographer is in the wings to prevent a repeat of last year’s sleep-inducer that attracted a dozen or so faithful to the gallery, and that generously included family and city staff.
To recap, this corner wrote (after enduring the 30-minute ritual), the mayor’s message was “devoid of substance, rife with finger pointing and short on positives, this state of the union presented little in the way of a calming influence for shell-shocked city shareholders.”
Most confusing was Barwick’s pledge one year ago to “rework the management committee and to possibly introduce an overview executive committee.”
Typically, promise little and deliver even less. A pizza joint would go broke with this kind of track record.
In a year-end interview this week with Times-Journal reporter Eric Bunnell , the mayor stood firm on his assertion the city does not require the services of a CAO. However he laid on the bafflegab by introducing the concept of a city manager.
Let’s be honest, appoint an individual with all the powers of a CAO, because second best just isn’t good enough.
Those three letters will be the downfall of Barwick. Should he choose to seek re-election in this year’s municipal vote, City Scope is betting a bottle of single-blended (to be provided by our research staff) the issue of a CAO will beat him back at the ballot box.
A 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 outlook on life from Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman. And as we stand on the doorstep of 2010, City Scope offers a most sincere wish for health and happiness as the year plays out.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: email@example.com
ANOTHER FIVE THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR IN 2010;
“We were prepared and able to take full advantage of the downturn.” – Mayor Barwick
“I can’t go to the Detroit Red Wing game tonight as I have a council meeting to attend.” – Alderman Johnston
“I will not go behind members of council’s back to investigate their expense claims.” ¬- Alderman Warden
“The city is dead nuts wrong and we should reimburse the flood victims in the Montgomery Road area.” – Alderman Campbell
“You must live in St. Thomas to be on council so I propose we annex Port Stanley.” – Alderman Aarts
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind. ~ Lewis Mumford
Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
STR8TALK in St. Thomas
The best quote of the year, if not the past several years, came from Mayor Barwick himself this past week, although it was too late to include. It was his reference to this city only needs one captain. This man’s legacy will be his deep-rooted paranoia. When your closest adviser is Ray Galloway, you know there is no one at the wheel of the bus.
Now, here’s a quote from a progressive mayor. It’s a letter from Fort Wayne, Ind. Mayor Tom Henry to Navistar CEO Daniel Ustian, on the benefits of remaining in that city for the long haul.
“Making the best trucks in the world is imprinted on the DNA of Fort Wayne, Indiana. It is what we do. It is a part of our history and the invincible spirit of our people – people who quietly and steadily strive for excellence, thrive on hard work and innovation, and exemplify all that is good about our great country.
Fort Wayne is where America works and works well. It is where Navistar has prospered. I am convinced it is where the company needs to be. And I know it is where the company can continue to flourish.”
That opening line has winner written all over it. And we’ve got a mayor whose only intent is to ensure he is the sole captain. Some agenda.