We haven’t tuned into the Elgin St. Thomas Public Health soap opera in several weeks and so an impromptu visit by this corner to their September board meeting on Wednesday proved an eye-opener.
This is a body deeply divided along city-county lines and the animosity evident as the evening wore on shed considerable light on the dynamics involved in determining where the health unit will hang its shingle in years to come.
The stay-or-go tango has played out for more than two years and there was serious stepping on toes after Elgin County Warden Bonnie Vowel attempted to gain support for her motion to declare the board in a lame-duck position until after the October municipal vote.
In effect this would have stifled any action on determining whether the health unit will vacate 99 Edward St., where the landlord is the County of Elgin.
One alternative is a move to a downtown property owned by London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The motion was deep-sixed through the votes of city reps. Ald. Gord Campbell, Ald. Tom Johnston and Ald. Bill Aarts, along with the support of Marla Champion, executive director of the YWCA of St. Thomas Elgin.
Throwing their support behind Vowel were Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks and Malahide Mayor John Wilson.
Prior to the vote, Marks engaged Campbell and Johnston in a verbal dust-up that certainly seemed out of place in an organization focussed on mental and physical welfare.
“It’s time to make a decision,” charged Johnston. “I will put a motion on the floor to build a new building.”
It’s time to move on, agreed Campbell.
“I’m sick, tired and fed up with the delays and road blocks put up.”
The gloves hit the ground in fine donnybrook fashion.
“I take offence to those comments,” countered Marks as he revved up for battle.
“There have been no road blocks. I resent your comments Ald. Campbell. We just want to put this on hold for two or three months for the new board.”
Marks and Johnston then exchanged pleasantries, with Johnston noting the CE mayor is the newcomer on the board (whatever inference that may be) while Marks rebounded by reminding Johnston missed six or seven consecutive meetings at the start of the year.
The delicious irony in all this . . . the verbal nastiness followed discussion on the negative impact of mixed martial arts.
In this case, the board meeting (and the heated in-camera session that followed) could prove more hazardous to one’s health.
DODGING THE ISSUES
When announcing his re-election bid, Johnston declined to engage in discussion with Times-Journal reporter Patrick Brennan on which side of the CAO fence his platform lay.
“I’m not going to comment on that. It’s up to the next council.”
Except, it’s a critical talking point for many of the candidates and certainly a considerable number of voters who see the lack of an effective CAO as a detriment to the smooth operation of a $100-million corporation.
By refusing to answer a reporter’s question and deferring the matter to the next council, of which he may very well be a participant, is Johnston declaring himself a lame-duck candidate until the October municipal vote?
Or is his 2006 flip-flop on the matter still an embarrassing memory?
POLICE AND POLITICS
Chief Bill Lynch and the rest of the police service ensconced in their cramped quarters were beaming earlier this week at the announcement of a location for their new digs.
After overcoming decades of hurdles, a potential roadblock still looms.
The ultimate decision lies with the incoming council and if the lineup were to include Al Riddell as mayor, and aldermen Jeff Kohler, Mark Cosens and perhaps even Bill Sandison, don’t be too hasty in sharpening the scissors for the ribbon cutting.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We’re trying to get the system working, and working well. It doesn’t matter who takes credit for it. Everyone park their agendas. It’s a review to make the system better, and that’s a good thing. Keep politics, agendas and egos outside the room.”
Central Elgin Mayor Tom Marks reminds the players involved in the recent boil water advisory to filter politics out of any discussions dealing with protocol improvements.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PRAGMATISM not POLITICISM
On April 18th, you suggested I visit and talk Chief Bill Lynch and arrange a tour the police station.
On May 11th, I met with Chief Bill Lynch Chief and Deputy Chief Darryl Pinnell for about ¾ hour to discuss their needs, understand the background and gain insight on challenges facing the Police Services. That meeting was followed by a ¾ hour tour of the facility with Senior Inspector Mark Traichevich that included brief discussions with a number staff along the way.
I then appeared on Politically Speaking hosted by Dan Reith that aired for a number of weeks in May and June. During the segment I was questioned about a police station. I responded by saying that “inadequate is an understatement” regarding the current facilities and that after years and years of not being addressed it was at the point of critical mass whereby there was “absolutely no question that new facilities are required to provide the community with the services they expect and the services they deserve.”
From a financial perspective, I did say that if borrowing money was the only vehicle available, I would be reluctant to borrow $18 million. Having said that I went on to say we should attempt partnership funding with the federal and provincial governments and while infrastructure funding may not be available, we needed to exhaust all financial instruments that may be available to us. I also said that I believe we have some financial opportunities (internally) but that I would need to examine the books more closely to determine if I am correct.
To summarize: I recognize the need for new accommodations and support the plan in principle.
I am available to meet anytime, anywhere to discuss this or any other topic and share my views on the challenges and opportunities facing our city.