No financial accountability? Then no public funding


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Members of city council will don their referee shirts Monday as the Downtown Development Board and North America Railway Hall of Fame escalate their funding feud.

The jousting dates back to last summer when the DDB, under chairman Mark Cosens, “loaned” NARHF the sum of $10,000.

Now, the DDB wants the sum repaid, however it is being stymied at every turn by NARHF.

Dan Muscat, current DDB chairman, is attempting to obtain records from NARHF to determine the status of the loan.

“This situation is a city council issue as it is the past DDB board (under the leadership of Cosens) that sanctioned the loan,” asserts Muscat, in a letter to council.

The matter needs to be “clarified and rectified to allow the new DDB board to proceed without any encumbrance to their finances for the upcoming year,” Muscat continues.

“We are unable to accept this deficit from the previous board.”

In his response to council, NARHF executive director Joe Docherty argues the financial records requested by the DDB are not public documents and will not be forthcoming.

Uh Joe, since NARHF is in line to receive $50,000 in city funding this year, ratepayers have every right to full financial disclosure.

In fact, should a financial accounting not be forthcoming, our elected representatives should seriously consider withholding the funding until such time as the records are made available.

A policy that should be enforced for any organization seeking financial support from the city.

TARNISHED IMAGE

The unveiling Tuesday of a new corporate image for St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital drew the ire of one passionate T-J reader.

“Two hearts, one green and one blue — tacky, tacky, tacky,” writes Phyllis Ferguson.

“The $40,000 (for the image makeover, the third in the hospital’s history) would be better spent in setting up a fund to purchase an MRI for the hospital,” she continued.

Ferguson knows of what she writes — she’s a retired RN from the class of 1958 at STEGH.

Which raises the question, why does the hospital need a re-design of its corporate logo in the first place?

How does this help the harried front-line staff in their day-to-day duties?

The only logo any hospital truly requires is a blue square with a white ‘H’ in it.

After all, in a medical emergency you don’t generally give a damn about the niceties of a hospital logo.

At the unveiling, CEO Paul Collins noted one of the hospital’s core values is accountability.

Sadly lacking last summer when he orchestrated his retirement/re-hiring two-step.

WILL YOU STAY OR WILL YOU GO?

Elgin St. Thomas Public Health CEO Cynthia St. John remains adamant her organization cannot function properly in its existing home at 99 Edward St.

So, Wednesday’s board meeting was conducted almost entirely behind closed doors so the new directors could acquaint themselves with the protracted debate that deeply divided the previous board.

At no time has St. John been able to mount a convincing argument that favours a move to new digs.

What this boils down to is a city versus county tussle.

The city reps are pushing property at the west end of Talbot Street, owned by London developer Shmuel Farhi.

The county, as owner of the Edward Street property, is digging in and protecting the status quo.

So when does providing the community with the best possible healthcare services enter the equation?

SUPPORT FOR SANDS

OK, so Premier Dalton McGuinty drops into St. Anne’s Community Festival a week ago with Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands in tow.

She’s the provincial Liberal candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London, in addition to her role as chairman of the city’s finance and administration committee.

While enjoying the sights and sound, McGuinty was greeted by a joint delegation from the St. Thomas Police Association and St. Thomas Professional Fire Fighters Association in a display of support.

Will that show of affection extend to Baldwin-Sands?

Remember, she introduced the 2011 capital budget that initially called for a 1% pay hike for city employees like police and firefighters.

She then insisted the budget be posted online prior to council having an opportunity to debate the finer points of the document.

Is it not fair to argue that is bargaining in bad faith?

From what we understand, contract negotiations between the city and the various bargaining units are not proceeding in amicable fashion.

Was the stroll down the midway an advance glimpse of the rollercoaster ride in store for the premier and the finance chairman?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“The biggest challenge right now is not for the economy to perform better, but for government to restrain its own spending.”

St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Hammersley is optimistic the Harper government can realize a budget surplus by 2016 without raising taxes.

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

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