Well, this one comes right out of the blue. Tucked away at the back end of Monday’s council agenda is a notice of motion from Ald. David Warden that council consider increasing the number of aldermen to eight from the current seven.
It won’t be debated at that time but will come up for discussion at the lone July council meeting.
Much like the wrangling over the process of filling the vacant seat on council, the timing of this motion has an off odor to it.
Call for change in the middle of summer when many residents are on holiday or their attention is diverted elsewhere.
I can hear it now: Members are overworked with committee proceedings they have to deal with. Having another body on board will ease the strain.
So, in essence, you’re giving yourself a raise. Cut the workload, same rate of pay. At a time when many municipalities are tightening the purse strings, some members of council want to ding ratepayers for another 20 grand to pay for more hired help.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had one person say to me what this city needs is more people sitting around the council chamber.
And, cry us a river on increased workload. You knew the responsibilities when you assumed office.
There are hundreds of people in St. Thomas at offices, shops and factories where workforces have been slashed and those remaining employees have to pick up the slack with no recourse and precious little in the way of thanks.
Yes, I can hear it now: It’s only another 20 grand from the budget, why that’s less than a cup of coffee a day for ratepayers.
How many cups of coffee are seniors and those on fixed incomes expected to pay for?
The McCarthy Tetrault Report of 2003 only had three recommendations – the city has acted on none of them – and the key point called for the reduction in size of council to seven members, including the mayor, in an effort to cut down on the number of deadlocked votes.
In 2002, the council of the day attempted that with embarrassing results as Ald. Marie Turvey’s recommendation died on the table when no member would second the motion.
A subsequent motion to increase the size of council to nine members lost on a 4-4 vote, with aldermen Gord Campbell and Tom Johnston opposed to the move.
Can we assume these two at least are still opposed to upping the count on council?
Seems members of council have forgotten they were elected to serve the people. As such, determining the need to alter the composition of council should likewise be left to the electorate.
ENTICING THE ELECTORATE
Some voters are already counting down the days to the 2014 municipal vote in order to register their frustration with certain of our elected representatives.
Well, how you register your displeasure may take on an entirely different fashion as CAO Wendell Graves outlines in a report to council on Monday.
Following the 2010 election, the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario conducted a survey of 415 municipalities that undertook a vote. Of these, 218 responded.
From the survey, it was determined average voter turnout was 46.7%. However that drops to 40.7 when you focus on municipalities with a population between 25,000 and 50,000.
In St. Thomas, the turnout was a dismal 36.2%.
Of those municipalities, 110 relied on paper ballots, 54 employed mail-in ballots and 28 allowed residents to vote online.
According to the survey, the highest voter satisfaction was achieved through mail-in ballots, with the lowest through the use of touch screen balloting.
For the past three municipal votes in St. Thomas, ratepayers have been able to vote at any polling station. The cost to run the 2010 election was $56,689, according to Graves.
Over the summer, Graves and his staff will prepare a report for council on the pros and cons of the various voting methods.
It’s a document keenly anticipated in various quarters. A turnout rate of 36% demands something be done to entice participation in the democratic process, especially with younger and first-time voters.
YOUR INPUT IS IMPORTANT
You might very well get a call from Statistics Canada next week on behalf of the city.
Selected residents 18 years of age or older will be asked their opinion regarding the quality of municipal communications, as measured through your awareness, participation and use of the city’s services and amenities.
The results will be given to the city to help with future strategies, programs and planning.
Be kind to these callers, I don’t think they are prepared or equipped to deal with venting about the Barwick 4, a new police station, the proposed skatepark or state of our downtown core.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I think this premier has done a lot of damage to this province. The fact that he stayed around for an extra six months and didn’t come to work at all at Queen’s Park, he should have stepped down. (Former Liberal cabinet ministers) Dwight Duncan and Chris Bentley stepped down back in February but instead he didn’t, and that’s a disappointment.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek in an interview Wednesday with T-J reporter Ben Forrest, after Dalton McGuinty formally announced he’s stepping down as the Liberal MPP for Ottawa South.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope