Filling vacant seat will be a true test of this council


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When city council next gathers at city hall on May 6, the seat previously occupied by Sam Yusuf will officially be declared vacant. Council will then have 60 days, under the Ontario Municipal Act, to appoint a new alderman.
It’s an undertaking that has been dealt with several times in the past decade or so, however T-J reporter and People columnist Eric Bunnell reminds us of the fascinating parallel he wrote about in April, 2000.
Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Jeff Kohler should fill the vacancy.
He was the third runner-up in the 1997 municipal vote, however the top vote-getter of the also-rans, Terry Shackelton, had already moved on to council and the next individual in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment.

Joanne Brooks was mayor and advised council’s decision was unanimous to follow the precedent of asking, in order, the runner-ups.
We’ll digress for a moment to point out former school board trustee and community advocate Linda Stevenson was the first runner-up in the 2010 municipal election but it’s a safe bet council will not follow this precedent.
Back to our story. In 1997, Kohler had campaigned on a populist platform, wrote Bunnell, promising a property tax freeze and referenda on major issues – including health unit governance.
Kohler said at the time he wanted a working council.
“I definitely want to see an end to the fractiousness on council.”
Yet in the intervening years, Kohler has sat on two of the most bitterly divided councils.
The decision to build the city’s new twin-pad arena downtown only came to fruition after the long-deadlocked council of the day schemed a devious plot to place Ald. Sharon Crosby in a conflict of interest position, breaking a protracted 4-4 stalemate.
And, our present council has been mired in a similar quagmire as it wrangles over whether to construct a new police headquarters adjacent to that very same arena.
A critical business decision that was the subject of a snap vote Monday initiated by Ald. Mark Cosens.
A strategy that bears a striking resemblance to the pre-emptive arena strategy employed a decade ago by four members of council.

HOLD MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTABLE
Last week’s feature item with Stratford-area health care advocate Frances Simone has sparked vigorous online debate.
To recap, Simone has written a letter to the board of directors at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital urging them to reverse the decision to lay off all of its in-house medical transcriptionists and outsource their jobs at the end of May. You can read her letter here.
“STEGH is making a poor decision that will harm staff and put patient care at risk,” charges Simone.
Here are a couple of responses to her letter.
“The Hospital CEO should be ashamed of himself for destroying a vital component of our health care system and should tender his resignation,” writes John Dallicardillo of Stratford.
“Now is the time to hold executive management fully accountable for their destructive decision making. I ask all citizens of St. Thomas and other communities to sign this petition, because as taxpaying citizens, we need to take back control of our health care system.”
“I was a health record manager for many years in St. Thomas,” posts Lisa Seburn of Thunder Bay. “I tried using home-based transcriptionists in the past and it was not successful. Client confidentiality is definitely jeopardized when people are transcribing sensitive information in their own homes.
“Even if they sign confidentiality agreements, there is no oversight. Reports could be read/shared with others, stored on personal computers, etc. This is a HUGE mistake!”
The on-line petition can be found here.

A WISE CHOICE
Plaudits to the St. Thomas Police Services Board on their selection of Deputy Chief Darryl Pinnell to take the reins when Chief Bill Lynch retires on May 31 – his 35th anniversary with the force, by the way.

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This corner has advocated for this chain of succession in recent months and, in a related move, Insp. Jeff Driedger will move up to fill Pinnell’s role.
We talked to Lynch on Friday and he offered this delightful insight into his philosophy as chief.
“Nobody ever said I was a brain surgeon but I was smart enough to surround myself with good people and when you have good people you should listen to them.”
A refreshing piece of candor.

QUITE THE ACCOMPLISHMENT
Can’t comprehend why Cosens appeared so perturbed after Monday’s council meeting. After all, he was able to garner the support of all members of council to defeat his own motion to proceed with a new, state-of-the-art police station.
Hey, pulling off an 8-0 vote on such a contentious issue is no easy feat Ald. Cosens.
Cheer up.

THE TRUE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE
Still with the police HQ vote, Cosens explained the reason he called the snap vote on Monday was to ensure Yusuf had the opportunity to vote, rather than wait for his replacement to get up to speed on a rather complicated matter – a process that could take months.
Obviously, Cosens realizes the tremendous value of replacing Yusuf with an individual already well grounded in city business.
Perhaps someone who already has council experience?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“After an extensive interviewing process, it was a unanimous decision by the board, ensuring the citizens of St. Thomas the same quality policing they have enjoyed for years.”
Ald. Dave Warden, St. Thomas Police Services Board chairman, on Friday’s announcement Deputy Chief Darryl Pinnell will become the city’s new police chief on June 1.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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