Surely a finance chairman would have greater priorities


I guess it must be the good Liberal thing to do. Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands will stand in council chamber Monday and present a motion to change the title of city alderman to that of councillor.
We can only presume Baldwin-Sands is a close personal friend of Heather Jackson and is doing the mayor a favour by continuing on with her battle of 2005.
Do you remember in June of that year when a previous edition of city council debated the very same point?
Well, gather round and let City Scope dust off a reporter’s notepad and recount the tale.
You see history prevailed over innovation on June 20, 2005, when members of council agreed to continue with tradition.
This followed an impassioned history lesson delivered by Ald. Cliff Barwick, which resulted in members defeating a motion to adopt the title “councillor” instead of the currently recognized term “alderman.”
The motion, tabled by then-alderman Heather Jackson-Chapman, was defeated 6-2 with Ald. Bill Aarts the only voice of support.
Gender equality was the driving force behind her request, advised Jackson-Chapman at the time.
“Gender neutrality in titles is important when we say we are a progressive, forward-thinking community,” she stressed. “Some will argue that we should maintain and respect the history of the title, but I believe that changing the term (alderman) is a matter of gender equality, leadership and inclusion.”
Increasing numbers of men and women are offended by language they consider sexist, noted Jackson-Chapman, “believing that such language creates images that are inappropriate today.”
Aware that Barwick was waiting in the wings to argue on the side of tradition, she acknowledged, “I look forward to the history lesson.”
And Barwick didn’t disappoint as he condensed 1,200 years of history into a few short minutes.
“Our traditions are fundamental concepts of British Parliament,” he began. “And the assumption change is good and beneficial is not necessarily true.”
He proceeded to trace the roots of “alderman” back to the ninth century, when it referred to the elder men of the community who were consulted on matters.
“I’m not saying it’s good or bad,” stressed Barwick, “but it’s a fact of history.”
He noted the terms “alderman” and “councillor” are not necessarily interchangeable.
“An alderman is the person next in authority to the mayor,” he advised. “To change to councillor is a loss because my title goes back 1,200 years and I am proud of that connection.”
Barwick insisted the matter was not about “sexist language.”
“Remember not only who you are … but what you represent. This goes far beyond sexist language.”
What a history lesson that was.
So, what does the retired Barwick think about re-visiting the past once again?
“To spend our time on this stuff is not really a good use of a politician’s time,” Barwick told this corner on Friday.
“It’s a lot of time and a lot of energy and for what?”
Barwick continued: “To have council get all wrapped up and its attention diverted for something like this when they should be doing other things really is a waste of time and energy. I just throw up my hands and say ‘here we go again.’”
As finance chairman, you would think Baldwin-Sands would have enough on her plate, like balancing budgets and lowering taxes.

Former St. Thomas mayor Peter Ostojic now has company over at St. Thomas Energy/Ascent as he is joined by former alderman Bill Aarts. Ostojic sits on the Ascent board of directors while Aarts was quietly installed on the St. Thomas Energy Inc. board back in January.
Wonder how St. Thomas ratepayers, the ultimate shareholders in St. Thomas Energy/Ascent, feel about paying Aarts, a resident of Southwold, $3,000 for attending five meetings over the course of a year.
Surely there must be worthy city residents who could have filled this position. Otherwise cronyism appears to be alive and well over on Edward Street.

Former Ascent board chairman, Ald. Tom Johnston, took an oath of office after city residents entrusted him with their vote in the municipal election.
Subsequently, Johnston has not only thumbed his nose at that oath for personal financial gain, but has so far declined to explain his actions to his peers and made no offer to pay back compensation he has received from St. Thomas Energy/Ascent over the past three years in spite of a city bylaw that forbids such remuneration.
We understand he was also approached to resign from council and steadfastly refused.
Voters have long memories, what are the chances trust will be forthcoming in the next municipal vote on Oct. 27, 2014?
Or, is the plan to once again share election signs with a mayoral candidate?

“It’s a project you discuss as to what lenses you’re going to use on the street bulbs and what shape lanterns we need downtown. That’s the kind of things you discuss along with this.”
Former mayor Cliff Barwick on the weight of importance attached to discussing the merits of “alderman” versus “councillor”, as will be the case Monday at city hall.

City Scope will now pause for a short break to trek the highlands of Scotland in search of distilleries. We will return refreshed and invigorated in October.

If you don’t endorse a bylaw, do you still have to abide?


Ald. Tom Johnston appears to have dug in his heels on the matter of receiving compensation for serving as chairman of the Ascent board of directors, in spite of a city bylaw to the contrary, as first brought to light in this corner last week. Read here.
Johnston voted against the motion when it was adopted in 2009 and he appears now to have adopted the stance that is justification for thumbing his nose at the bylaw today in accepting season hockey tickets as compensation or a bonus from Ascent.
Unfortunately, under the Ontario Municipal Act, there is little recourse for the city and we talked Friday with Mayor Heather Jackson on that very matter. Continue reading

Question of compensation dogs former Ascent chairman


The retirement of Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Holdings Inc.) CEO Brian Hollywood at the end of June and the resignation of former board chairman, Ald. Tom Johnston, the same month has this corner puzzling over the timing of this double play.
Especially in the case of Johnston who tumbled from board chairman to out the door in a matter of weeks, prompting the question: How much pressure was exerted by the board of directors on Johnston?
Was it the fact Ascent lost $1 million in 2011, down from a profit of $584,501 in 2010.
Or, how about the possibility Johnston was continuing to receive compensation in some fashion as Ascent board chairman, in spite of a city bylaw enacted in 2009 that eliminated remuneration for members of city council sitting on outside boards?
Continue reading