Sorry, we’re very busy getting our house in order


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It’s a gutsy call . . . turning down an opportunity to have St. Thomas profiled on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Mayor Heather Jackson and other city officials turned thumbs down on feelers from Force Four Entertainment in Vancouver requesting the city consider serving as a backdrop for the second season of Million Dollar Neighbourhood.
Promotional material touting the series gushes, “Million Dollar Neighbourhood is a groundbreaking television series about taking control of finances, the power of community and guiding people toward their best lives.”


You can’t help but wonder, however, if St. Thomas was short-listed because we’re thought of as a community down on our luck.
After all, episodes were shot this season in Aldergrove, B.C., a community painted as debt-ridden and in need of a change in fortune.
Yes, we’ve been battered by the manufacturing meltdown and the road to recovery looks like a daunting uphill climb that wouldn’t be out of place in the Tour de France.
Having said that, we don’t need production companies from Lotus Land capitalizing on our misfortune.
“I don’t want any more negativity about the city,” Jackson told the Times-Journal on Thursday.
“We’re just saying at this time, it’s probably not something that I’m looking for to bring into my community. I certainly don’t want to support it at this time.”
Jackson will take heat from some quarters, but in the above context, she made the right call for the right reasons.

FROM ONE DEVELOPER TO ANOTHER
London developer Shmuel Farhi has been prominent in this corner the last couple of weeks with his threat to take the 2009 board of directors at Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and members of council to court if they don’t proceed with construction of their new home on land he owns on Talbot Street in the city’s west end.
To wit: “Believe me, I am not afraid of courtrooms, especially when I have a case like this,” warned Farhi in a recent email sent our way.
That message caught the attention of St. Thomas entrepreneur Bob McCaig who, in turn, zipped off a quick line to City Scope in admiration of Farhi’s “fantastic negotiating skills.”
McCaig points out, “Who would have thought of such a straight forward negotiating tactic with our municipal government. Either give me what I want or I’ll threaten to sue you.”
In a moment of rare insight, McCaig continues, “why even my warped mind would never have
stumbled on that idea – so direct and unequivocal.”
He concludes, “After all; considering all the money he pumped into the last municipal campaign, he obviously feels he has a right to have his own way.”
Now boys, play nicely and don’t be tormenting the members of council and the board of directors.

IT MUST HAVE BEEN A VERY GOOD YEAR

Tucked away in Monday’s city council agenda is a report from Ascent, the former St. Thomas Holdings Inc., summarizing several business matters arising from their recent annual general meeting which require council’s approval.
Under board remuneration is a motion dealing with a “phased in approach” to compensation for eligible directors.
It’s couched in corporate bafflegab, but seems to imply board members are going to be even more handsomely compensated than the $8,500 or so per year they now receive for attending 10 or so meetings.
It’s an obscene amount as is, so any increase in this stipend can only mean one thing: Ascent had one hell of a year financially and, as a result, the board members are to be rewarded in proper fashion.
Will Ascent board chairman Ald. Tom Johnston confirm this is the case?
And, will this compensation be retroactive?
Hopefully a recorded vote is called for Monday in council chambers.
We request this information so it can be passed on to the real Ascent shareholders . . . the ratepayers of St. Thomas.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK
An exciting report from CAO Wendell Graves will also come before council this week dealing with the historic London & Port Stanley railway corridor running from Wellington Street north to Kains Street.
The vision is to create “a vibrant people green space” with elements that include a pedestrian/bike path, design features to accommodate festivals and other events and re-laying rail to encourage tourist activity along the right-of-way.
Stakeholders will meet in May and June, with a conceptual plan and cost estimate due to council in July.
Efforts like this and at the CASO station, Elgin County Railway Museum, the consolidated courthouse and the new regional forensic unit should be the attraction for outside media and film production companies.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We certainly have been portrayed in some of the larger media as a municipality, a community that’s been hit really hard and struggling . . . so, anything else that’s negative at this time, I’m just trying to avoid.”
Mayor Heather Jackson explains the reasoning behind the decision to say thanks, but no thanks, to Force Four Entertainment of Vancouver, which had considered filming the second season of Million Dollar Neighbourhood in St. Thomas.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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One thought on “Sorry, we’re very busy getting our house in order

  1. What a hortible decision for the town. I think the mayor needs to take her snobbish aditude and start looking at the reality of st. Thomas. Our youth are leaving, 4 restaurants have failed, and even Ford Motor Company felt that we were just not worth investing in. I think it would have been nice for the show to start up some social events in a town where the biggest event has been the reopen ing of a&w since the railway.

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