The kind of fixture we really need at city hall


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Let’s put aside, for the time being, the bickering in council chambers and the backroom legerdemain over at the hospital.

Instead, we could all draw inspiration from a young gentleman who delivered an impassioned deputation to city council this past Monday.

Garrett Smith, a Grade 12 student at Arthur Voaden Secondary School and the author of several letters to the Times-Journal, has become quite the outspoken advocate for those with accessibility issues.

His current focus of attention is a dangerous curb at the corner of Wellington and William streets, which proves a barrier for someone like Garrett in a wheelchair.

However, he’s getting a first-hand insight into battling inertia at city hall, although he says he’s not deterred and vows he’ll become somewhat of a fixture at council.

“I’m a strong advocate for other people,” Garrett asserts.

Ya gotta love him, and he gets our vote should he ever decide to run for municipal office and become a permanent fixture on city council.

WHAT ASSUMPTIONS?

Well, I guess some traditions are better received than others.

Last week, City Scope noted this is the time of year (in the past decade or so anyway) St. Thomas mayors have made their pilgrimage to Japan, which results in the need to appoint an acting mayor. You can read it here.

Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman didn’t take too kindly to the tone of that particular column item and directed the following email our way.

“I must admit I was somewhat disappointed about the assumptions made in Saturday’s City Scope regarding the upcoming EDC trip to Japan,” she writes.

“In a report to the EDC board at the September 12th meeting, details of the trip and the reasons were given. During our trade mission to Japan there are three major components to the trip including a scheduled visit to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, an investment seminar where we hope to host 50-70 Japanese companies who have their headquarters in Japan-including Amino and Takagi.

“We will also be meeting with companies who have expressed an interest in investment in St. Thomas. It is seen by many auto analysts and companies that there will be a further push to move Japanese investment abroad so as to minimize the potential for disruption in the manufacturing process as was seen after the earthquake and tsunami and to counteract the rising price of the Japanese yen.

Jackson-Chapman continues, “The trip includes Mayors and Economic Development officials from Stratford, Woodstock and Ingersoll as well as St. Thomas.

“Also, my reason for selecting Alderman Kohler to be acting mayor is quite simple. We have a rotating schedule for alternates for our emergency response plan and Alderman Kohler is the alternate for November.

“If you have questions, I would be happy to answer them. Assumptions about why we are going to Japan and my reasons for selecting an acting mayor will do nothing but produce rumours.”

My, my the mayor seems a tad defensive about her trip. Nowhere in this space did I question the validity of her trip or the economic impact of previous junkets.

In fact, there’s nary an assumption to be found.

Now, I was going to offer the supposition Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands was passed over (in spite of being the top vote-getter in the 2010 municipal vote) because of the possibility of bad blood between the two, emanating from a cheeky tweet fired out by the mayor following the consolidated courthouse announcement.

But, that would have been an assumption on my part.

HARNESSING CREATIVITY 

Susan Gardner, opening speaker at Thursday’s Bridges to Better Business conference, served up an inspiring overview on this area’s potential in the shift to a “creative economy.”

The executive editor of Union-based Municipal World noted, “This city and the county are demonstrating to the world we’re open for business. There’s a lot of potential.”

Delivered just six weeks after the shuttering of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant, Gardner’s address highlighted the importance of attracting creative individuals as the foundation for the emerging innovation-driven economy.

It’s a concept well documented by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class.

Gardner stressed, ” It’s a mistake to think about it (the creative economy) as simply arts and culture. It extends into manufacturing and agricultural sectors as well.

“It’s about applying innovation. It’s about doing perhaps the same things but in different, more innovative ways and . . . trying to anticipate what the consumer wants before they even articulate it. It’s being able to harness that human creativity.”

Read about her presentation here.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“With what the Rick Hansen Man in Motion Tour was about . . . certainly Megan exemplifies everything that you would want to see in somebody representing the city.”

Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman praises Megan Muscat, Team Canada Paralympian and St. Thomas native, chosen to be a medal-bearer as the tour visits the city Nov. 19 to participate in the Optimist Santa Claus Parade.

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

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