Only with full disclosure can council best serve


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At the Feb. 14 meeting, St. Thomas council put the boot to adopting a ward system for municipal elections.

In a 5-3 vote, only Ald. Jeff Kohler, Ald. Sam Yusuf and Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands supported a motion to proceed with establishing such a system in time for the 2014 municipal vote.

Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman explained the majority of council is in opposition to a ward system for St. Thomas because only two similar-sized municipalities in Ontario have such a structure.

The information was contained in a report to council by Mike Smale from the city clerk’s department.

Well, alerts Bill Sandison, who failed in his bid to gain a council seat in the 2010 vote, Smale’s data is “skewed and incomplete.”

To back up his challenge, Sandison passed along a key page from a study presented to the previous council in January, 2009.

That document notes ten Ontario municipalities fall in the population range of 30,000 to 45,000. Along with this city, are Timmins, Quinte West, Georgina, Brant, Lakeshore, Woodstock, Innisfil, Stratford and Orillia.

Of those, Timmins, Quinte West, Georgina, Brant, Lakeshore, Innisfil and Orillia all have adopted the ward system. To be fair, some of those are amalgamated municipalities.

However, wouldn’t council, and ultimately city ratepayers, be best served if they were fully informed?

FUZZY TRANSPARENCY

Is this the forerunner of a disturbing trend?

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Ald. Gord Campbell requested environmental services director John Dewancker remove estimated dollar values from reports to council dealing with road and sidewalk replacement.

His concern?

The budgeted amounts are a tip-off for firms wishing to bid on infrastructure contracts.

A cheat sheet, if you will.

“If I’m a contractor, the amount is right in front of me now and I’m certainly not going to be bidding low,” advised Campbell.

With no evidence this is now the case, with no input from the rest of council and with nary a motion or vote on the matter, Dewancker agreed to leave these dollar amounts out of future reports.

Aren’t these figures also for the benefit of our elected representatives when debating the merits of infrastructure undertakings?

Dewancker noted the figures are a matter of public record and are contained in the city’s capital budget and available to any contractor seeking the information.

So, is it Campbell’s aim to keep the budget amounts away from the prying eyes of ratepayers and media gossipmongers?

“I understand transparency and all,” Campbell continued, “but I wonder if transparency is going a little bit too far.”

There’s your answer — to hell with the easy dissemination of key information.

LOOKING A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

A faithful reader passed along this photo taken a week ago along Highway 401, opposite Green Lane landfill. We’ll let him paint the picture.

“The trees are decorated with garbage bags. I guess that is the City of Toronto’s idea of Christmas decorations. I had never seen anything like this during the time Bob McCaig owned the facility.”

For the folks in the Big Smoke . . . out of sight, out of mind.

SPEAKING OF BOB . . .

Reader Jacqueline checked in with reference to McCaig’s comments in this corner two weeks ago regarding community support for St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital. Read here

Jaqueline wonders if Bob “is putting his money where his mouth is in regard to the city giving money to the hospital? He made mega-millions selling Green Lane to the City of Toronto. Just wondered.”

From past experience, McCaig has been active financially in supporting numerous community endeavours, but in typical fashion, it’s not characteristic of him to make a big fuss on those occasions.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I’m painting a picture of doom and gloom here, but we have to face the truth.”

Southwold Mayor John McIntyre on the negative economic impact following closure of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant this September.

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

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2 thoughts on “Only with full disclosure can council best serve

  1. Great work! We are presently forming the Aylmer -Malahide Taxpayers Coalition to follow a similar mission statement as yours. Aylmer taxpayers are dealing with a 1.78 tax rate with burgeoing budgets and zero growth since 1996. Please contact me if there is any information that would be of benefit. Thankyou Bob

  2. RESIDENTS GET DIS-ENGAGED
    It should be all about “engaging” (a term our mayor has grown fond of) the residents of St. Thomas to determine how THEY would like to elect THEIR council.
    The previous council had an excellent opportunity to ask residents by placing a question on the October 25th, 2010 election ballot, but they thumbed their noses at the mere mention of it – to hell with any input from the residents.

    ODD APPROACH TO AN ODD NUMBER
    Our council wants to have an odd number of members, not to be confused with members that are odd. This would avoid any votes being defeated as a result of a tie. To wit, council wants to increase by one member or 12.5%, for those with a penchant for numbers. No mention of a reduction of one council member to achieve the same result.
    We could easily reduce to six aldermen if we had six wards or by realigning responsibilities in the same manner they are mucking about with merging/streamling the CAO and City Clerk positions.
    Strikes me as odd that departments and spending are being directed to hold or reduce but council wants to add to their number.

    QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
    I believe that a guarantee of public access to government information is indispensable in the long run for any democratic society…. if officials make public only what they want citizens to know, then publicity becomes a sham and accountability meaningless. ~ Sissela Bok

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