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.
“Nobody knew this was going on except anyone over at Ascent that was involved with it. I certainly have sat down with Tom and I had Wendell in the room (city administrator Wendell Graves) and discussed it.
“We have a meeting coming up with Ascent to discuss it and a number of other items and Tom has decided he wants to wait until then to deal with it.
“He’s had the opportunity to discuss with council in-camera about this and he’s decided to wait until we have the meeting with the Ascent board.”
How does Jackson feel about a member of council so openly flaunting a city bylaw designed to equalize remuneration for elected officials? Something that has continued for more than three years.
“It’s disappointing from my point. Everyone else is abiding by the bylaw council put in place and I think it’s a fair bylaw. Whether it’s a bonus or direct payment, in my opinion it’s still direct compensation. It’s very frustrating.
“The bylaw is in place, you still have to follow it. You have to follow the rules like everyone else does. “I’ve met with the new (board) chairman (Jim Herbert) and it certainly was news to him as well. He’s really concerned too. ”
All of this came to light in June, around the same time CEO Brian Hollywood retired from Ascent and Johnston stepped down as chairman.
So, now what?
“It’s stopped and it absolutely will not happen again,” Jackson asserts. “Now you need to repay this, you need to make amends and admit you made a mistake.”
And, not behind closed doors. Up front on a Monday night with the cameras rolling.
COMING BACK TO HAUNT YOU
Ald. Mark Cosens boldly declared Tuesday, “I’m not the only one that’s noticed the downtown is falling down and we’re not doing anything proactively to deal with it.”
The observation supports his push for more aggressive enforcement of the city’s property standards bylaw.
Hmmm, there seems to be some history here.
Let’s flip the calendar back four years to June, 2008, when then-mayor Cliff Barwick attempted to do just that and had the city proactively shut down Talbot Street, between Princess Avenue and Ross Street, due to public safety concerns surrounding the vacant Sutherland Press building.
Is the picture coming in to focus now?
And remember, the chairman of the Downtown Development Board at that time was none other than Mr. Cosens, who directed the following caustic comment in the direction of Barwick and council: “To me, it seems that the city should be looking at the engineering reports and seeing if it’s really necessary to have that street closed. I’m not convinced council should have closed it (Talbot Street) down in the first place.”
A clearly flustered Barwick shot back: “The chairman of the DDB has made statements which challenge the integrity of our engineering department, the consulting structural engineer, and as well, has questioned the legislative process of council and the integrity of this office.”
But wait, the war of words was just heating up.
“These remarks cannot go unanswered,” Barwick fumed at the time. “They are irresponsible, unfounded and accusatory. The DDB must clarify its position or I have no alternative but to recommend to council a review of the use of city hall facilities by your organization.”
Oh my, those were the days.
So, you can appreciate Cosens’ chest-thumping on Tuesday clearly warrants nomination in the flip-flop of the year category.
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD
The Southwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) — which oversees healthcare operations in St. Thomas/Elgin — manages an annual budget in excess of $2 billion, with 75% of that total divvied up amongst the region’s 20 hospitals and the remainder directed toward nursing homes and community care.
The knock against LHINs across the province has been they are simply another layer of bureaucracy that siphons money from front-line medical care.
Well, here’s your opportunity to have your say in how these dollars are spent through a series of public meetings, including 7 p.m. Monday at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre.
The funds budgeted each year are significant; this is your opportunity to demand every one of those dollars is wisely spent.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I don’t buy the argument that streets are for transport, they’re not for parking. I don’t buy that argument, never have and never will.”
Ald. Gord Campbell argues with his peers on council Tuesday that streets are meant for parking. And all this time we have been under the mistaken impression roads were for getting from here to over there.
City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope