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?
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.
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.
“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: email@example.com.