It took seven years, but now St. Thomas accessibility advocate Stan Taylor and other transit users can ride a city bus right to the Wal-Mart store instead of trekking several hundred yards across what, in winter, can be likened to a Siberian landscape.
Seven years and two appeals to the Ontario Human Rights Commission to get the city off its duff to route buses for the convenience of passengers and not department staff.
Taylor won his first appeal against property owners First Pro Shopping Centre in 2005, and late in 2006 the city agreed to implement stops adjacent to the shopping area and not out on the perimeter road.
He argued it was discriminatory to force transit users to walk half-way across Texas in order to place money in the tills of retailers.
“If cars are allowed to park close and bus riders have to walk a long distance, yes, this will set a precedent,” argued Taylor.
Let’s backtrack a couple of paragraphs.
The city reluctantly relented in 2006 and the first bus traversed the route this past Tuesday.
The dragging of heels on the city’s part is more than shameful . . . it’s pathetic.
This follows last month’s approval by council of the 2010 Municipal Accessibility Plan — in reality nothing more than documentation of the city’s accomplishments to date, of which the transit tango is not a shining example.
This underscores the pressing need to resurrect the City Scope accessibility challenge for all municipal candidates so that this arrogant attitude never again gets a seat on the bus.
WE GOT QUESTIONS
The first lawn signs are up, the behind-the-scenes posturing is well underway and you can barely take a photo these days without a local politico or wannabe in focus somewhere.
In other words the 2010 municipal election campaign is approaching silly season status.
Last week this corner invited readers to submit questions or talking points that should be addressed by all mayoral/aldermanic candidates and Ann Bigelow forwarded a slate of questions she would like answered and she doesn’t hold back any punches.
Here goes . . .
1) Are you in favour of a tax cut/freeze?
2) If there is a tax cut/freeze, what are the top three services to St. Thomas residents you feel should be reduced?
3) Does St. Thomas need a CAO? Why or why not?
4) Are you in favour of a ward system?
5) Can you recognize your own credit card in your wallet?
6) What makes you qualified to make decisions about the spending of taxpayer dollars and the level of service we receive?
7) What will you do to ensure taxpayers are consulted and their opinions are valued in making decisions?
8) Please describe a time when you demonstrated honesty, accountability, leadership, transparent decision-making, skills at dealing with difficult people, great communication, your commitment to something, long term decision making, etc., and what you did and what you learned from the situation.
All right candidates, let the answers begin. If you seek the confidence of voters like Ann, now is the time of reckoning.
WHAT IF . . .
Bill Aarts, a vocal opponent of a CAO at city hall, wins the Southwold mayoral race in October.
That would result in a seat on Elgin county council.
Would his first order of business be to initiate a campaign to dismiss Elgin county CAO Mark McDonald?
THE DEAL MAKER
This corner is starting to piece together details of a proposed deal pitched last year to Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health that would have seen the organization move to a new, purpose-built home on Talbot Street, between William and Queen streets.
CEO Cynthia St. John and the board of directors were offered a 30-year lease on the property at a rate of about $19 per sq. ft., considerably less than the $25.98 now being paid at 99 Edward St.
If St. John is not willing to renew with the current landlord (Elgin county) at half the present rate, and has left London developer Shmuel Farhi waiting in the wings with his proposal, does this mean she is not interested in leasing but instead is seeking property-owner status?
Or is this a case of a CEO incapable of making the critical decision?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I only asked for one stop and they gave me two. I wish this had not lasted as long as it did.”
After a seven-year battle, city resident Stan Taylor can now ride St. Thomas Transit almost to the front door of Wal-Mart.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY
Stonewalling for seven years and two appeals on something as simple and obvious as a bus stop to do what’s right on accessibility; it’s just wrong.
Regarding the latest Municipal Accessibility Plan, a 50 page document titled “2010 Moving Beyond Barriers”, this is not a plan. A plan is a living document that is the roadmap created to achieve a specific objective or set of objectives. It should include the following elements, none of which exist;
– Identification and prioritization of barriers
– Specific actions to deal with those barriers
– A cost associated with each action
– The desired timeframe for completion of the action
– The scheduled completion date for the action
– Identification of who “owns” the action
Further, the Municipal Accessibility Plan makes no mention of the Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF). The EAF is a support programs that enables people with disabilities to participate in their community, it started in 2007 and just recently received a $45 million boost to extend the program through 2013.
The City of St. Thomas qualifies for the current round of federal funding which is applicable to small municipalities (< 250,000 population); not-for-profit organizations; small private-sector organizations (< 50 employees and < $5 million gross revenue annually).
Activities such as construction and retrofitting of buildings; modification of community-used vehicles, and communication technologies are eligible under the specified guidelines.
The maximum funding payable per project is $75,000.
The deadline is September 10th, 2010 to apply for this round of funding.
I shared this information last week with the Downtown Development Board, the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce (who will post this opportunity this week) and a member of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee. There was no awareness of this program.
I hope we see a slew of applications to take full advantage of this opportunity to improve accessibility across our city.
TO ANSWER QUESTIONS
As a candidate for Alderman in St. Thomas, I welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss these questions with Ann and/or yourself, and any others that may come forward.
I am available to meet individually or in groups and can be reached at 519-207-0819.
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
The most important political office is that of the private citizen. ~ Louis Brandeis
Bill: In addition to encouraging candidates to sign up for the accessibility challenge I am asking candidates to forward answers to Ann’s questions, and there will be more questions from other readers, to me and I will include them in the weekly column and post through the election campaign here on the blog site. – Ian