Is the (spin) doctor in at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health?


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To paraphrase American social historian and educator Daniel J. Boorstin, some organizations are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.
The latter is the case with Elgin St. Thomas Public Health, which has signed on the services of John Matsui of London, Ont., to address “communication issues” at the Edward Street organization which has cut loose seven employees in recent months and is now inviting proposals for “a physical needs assessment regarding the needs of general space for all ESTPH programs and services.”
When you pare back the bafflegab, they may be looking for new office space.
Matsui, who bills himself as a public relations/ public consultation specialist – dealing in the environment, technology and healthcare, confirmed to City Scope his working arrangement with ESTPH.
You can rest assured his first priority will not be puff pieces on the delivery of health services to St. Thomas and area. The past few months have prompted a litany of questions dealing with management decisions and the corporate direction adopted by CEO Cynthia St. John.

With the appointment of Matsui, the CEO will surely distance herself from any media contact whatsoever, beyond pressing the flesh and ribbon cuttings.
Matsui’s firm carries the moniker, Makin’ Headlines, and the delicious irony is not wasted on the fact ESTPH has been doing just that of late in City Scope.
He has arranged for this corner to meet with him and St. John on Monday – at which point the damage control no doubt will officially kick in.
It has been noted public relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so that the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms.
With staff morale reportedly wilting, a recent management road trip in which individuals travelled separately in their own vehicles and expensed accordingly, accusations of personal use of BlackBerrys, a $600,000 organizational slush fund and a generous bump in the CEO’s salary in 2009, Matsui better have one hell of a green thumb.
The bottom line . . . every dollar Matsui pockets is a dollar sidetracked from the delivery of community health services.

QUESTION PERIOD
Prior to enjoying vacation downtime, Ald. David Warden contacted this corner to vow he would be asking questions in an attempt to shed light on the controversy swirling around Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.
During the July 19 meeting of council, Warden will seek answers from Ald. Bill Aarts, chairman of the ESTPH board of directors, specifically relating to the lease arrangement offered by the County of Elgin for office space at 99 Edward St.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – Warden should consider the leasing issue a foot in the door, with plenty of room for due diligence beyond that threshold.
In fact, we’ve even done the research for him. Re-visit the June 12 City Scope – the questions awaiting answers are duly listed.
It’s time to start holding people’s feet to the fire.

THE POLITICS OF GARDENING
Like ‘dozers scraping away topsoil on a construction site, headlines this week in the T-J have laid bare the truth behind the Isabel Street community garden.
The 19 plots never were about lettuce and tomatoes. Like seedlings gamely pushing upward to feel the warmth of the sun, the main combatants are locked in a political battle of wits to see who will claim the greatest harvest of votes in the October municipal election.
Co-owner of the property Bob McCaig, his newly-hired caretaker Brigitte Cosens and hubby Mark Cosens, who has aspirations to dethrone Mayor Cliff Barwick in the fall vote, sought to curry favour with the electorate through the warm and fuzzy notion of a community garden.
What the organizers didn’t factor into the equation was the energetic backlash from neighbourhood residents, who wasted little time in voicing their concerns to city staff and council.
Eager to sully the political aspirations of the Cosens team, Barwick directed John Dewancker, the city’s manager of environmental services, to play it by the book and strictly enforce a zoning bylaw which deems a community garden is not a compatible use of land on Isabel Street.
Late this week, Dewancker informed the McCaig brothers their property was to be restored to its original condition, i.e. no tempting cabbages or cukes, or face a $25,000 fine.
What a pity Mayor Barwick wasn’t so zealous in enforcing the minimum property standards bylaw when dealing with the owners of Alma College.
Well, at least we know where we stand. When it comes to political will in the mayor’s office, veggies triumph over heritage.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Shame on those city council members who are betraying the memory of all that was Alma College.”
Lara Masur Leitch, former vice-principal of Alma College, who is critical of the craven fashion in which Mayor Cliff Barwick and aldermen Tom Johnston, Terry Shackelton and Gord Campbell voted Monday to repeal the heritage designation on the property at 96 Moore St.

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

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One thought on “Is the (spin) doctor in at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health?

  1. POLITICS OF UNTURNED STONES
    The soap opera on Isabel Street is a study in human behaviour.
    Individual liberties questioned, gardeners hung out to dry, respected businessmen threatened, children allegedly given the finger, menacing snippets on u-tube and neighbours in a quandary – this is much more than the tale of a rogue radish.
    The plot thickens as two mayoral candidates, the incumbent and a challenger, and their end game are called into question in this verisimilitudinous fog.
    One stone that’s unturned and a linchpin in this muck is the involvement of a certain alderman, his neighbouring parents, his participation in closed door meeting(s), and his influence on the speedy decision in this matter given it falls under his purview.
    Conspicuous by its absence; these truths should be unearthed.

    HERITAGE QUOTE FOR THE AGES
    ”We shall continue to move forward under existing legislation to protect Alma.” ~ Mayor Barwick (from his inaugural speech, December 2006)

    QUESTIONS WHY
    Why would Ald. Warden feel compelled to call the T-J to vow he would ask questions of Ald. Aarts three weeks down the road, rather than call Ald. Aarts directly that day?
    Why would Ald. Warden wait until a July 19th council meeting, other than the opportunity for to perform in front of a camera?

    QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
    Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image. ~ von Goethe

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