What we have here is a failure to communicate


The right of a homeless man to pick up garbage in downtown parkettes sparked debate on several fronts this week, none of which has diminished the seeming absurdity of the situation.
Caught in the middle is Jason McComb, the advocate for the homeless who, as an employee of the Downtown Development Board, has done an admirable job of keeping the downtown core as neat and tidy as is possible in a disposable world.
In a conversation with Jason last week, he bemoaned the fact he was no longer welcome to clean up litter in any of the Talbot Street parkettes.
He was under the impression city CAO Wendell Graves and parks and recreation director Ross Tucker had banished him from the green spaces, based on a memo sent to the DDB this past summer.
This corner requested a copy of that correspondence for clarification.
“I understand that DDB summer students may be doing or have done some maintenance/cleaning activities within the downtown parkettes,” writes Graves.
“Given that the city has staff in place to look after these areas I would ask that the DDB students refrain from work within the park areas.”

We contacted the CAO Friday for his take on who can deposit the trash and where.
“The email related strictly to the work we were paying our students to do under an agreement downtown and the use of volunteers. Ross and I talked and it’s something Ross and I will have a further talk about.”
Bottom line then, what’s the problem with Jason picking up litter in city parks?
“I don’t know the relationship between Jason and the DDB. But any citizen can pick up anything they want and put it in the garbage, that’s great. But if there’s something formal going on, I think we would at least want to know about it . . . what the arrangement is.”
So, has there been discussion between the city and the DDB regarding who is responsible for what, considering this is all about creating and maintaining an attractive city core.
“There has been no discussion,” advised Graves, “but that can happen. This was precipitated by whatever you had in your column last week.”
Fair enough, let’s revisit our discussion with Jason where we speculated any controversy may be a continuation of the city versus DDB squabble that dates back to the Mayor Cliff Barwick years.
Or perhaps, Jason’s insistence a clean city is a happy city may not be sitting well with those paid to undertake the same task.
That possibility prompted a spirited email from Bob McCaig, who has a close association with litter in the core through his sponsorship of the Green Team and their nifty Mad Vac which roamed Talbot Street in the summer months for close to a decade.
“It’s not about organized labour wanting to protect jobs,” writes McCaig. “It’s about union interference in the well-being of our community in getting a job done in the DDB area that is being done efficiently by the DDB and heretofore uncared for by city forces. City litter pickup forces have plenty to busy themselves with outside of the downtown.”
Nothing like throwing gas on the fire.


David Kerr has a question for Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
“How does not paying union dues make manufacturing in Ontario more attractive?”
As president of the St. Thomas and District Labour Council, Kerr takes the liberty of answering his own question on the Times-Journal website.
“Maybe it is because employers want to cut workers’ pay and they can’t do it easily with unions to represent the interests of workers,” writes Kerr.
All of this is in response to our interview last week with Yurek and discussion of the provincial PC’s white paper, “Pathways to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets, which has been compared to U.S. Tea Party politics.
“Does Yurek and his Tories actually think employers even want to pay minimum wage, because they don’t,” Kerr asserts.
“They would pay as little as they could. Union organizations led the way in increasing the minimum wage for all workers. If they lose their funding by having to support free riders in the workplace, they will lose a lot of their ability to work for fairness in all workplaces.”
Kerr points out less money for workers cannot be good for the economy.
“Making less money means spending less money. Maybe they should spend more time figuring out how to be more competitive with U.S. pricing on manufactured goods.”
Last week in this corner, we referred to an Ontario Public Service Employees Union right-to-work documentary “Made in the U.S.A,” which Yurek has referred to as a “fearmongering attack ad.”
Well, you be the judge.
This video will be available for viewing at the next meeting of the St. Thomas and District Labour Council, 300 South Edgeware, this Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Kerr extends an invite to any interested parties, including Yurek, to watch the 17-minute presentation and you are free to comment.

“We’re basically cranking the valve shut. There’s no way to go back.”
An obviously frustrated John Dewancker who, as director of environmental services, made the call to city council this week to authorize the use of concrete barriers to barricade off Sunset Drive at Chester Street.

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

6 thoughts on “What we have here is a failure to communicate

  1. Convenient Graves!
    In discussion with the Mayor I was told “Jason, they are showing up to work in the morning and there is nothing for them to do, that is why they don’t want you in there, you have to understand Jason it is a union job, and when they don’t have work to do when they get there…” I was picking up garbage that had been there for days, garbage that had been shredded by a lawn mower at times! I was sweeping parkettes that no one else was!
    I was not doing this on behalf of anyone other than doing it myself for my own reasons every chance I got but, as soon as I got a job with the DDB, I was no longer “allowed” to do it. I was never, never wanted to be, and still don’t want to be paid for it! I offered to take volunteers around with me to do this in every area possible (even if that only meant me and people I assist as a “gratitude” effort in which, I donate my pay from the transitional home to take them to a movie, or for a “pizza night”, or something else to promote them “giving back” for things/assistance provided to them in their lives! I was told “No, I am sorry you can’t do that but, I will take this to council next week, and get back to you with a project you guys can do”
    I heard nothing back (that was well over 5 weeks ago!!!

    Jason H. McComb


  2. A quick video made to add currency…


  3. *A rough copy of correspondence I will send to Wendell Graves and post publicly.
    *Copied and Pasted,

    Reply To Wendell Graves (he has no idea my relationship with the DDB)*

    * I am writing this as, A citizen of The City of St. Thomas in my own interest, and on my own accord*

    This note is something I am typing in response to Wendell Graves (C.A.O. For The City of St Thomas), stating…

    “I don’t know the relationship between Jason and the DDB. But any citizen can pick up anything they want and put it in the garbage, that’s great. But if there’s something formal going on, I think we would at least want to know about it . . . what the arrangement is.” To St Thomas Times Journal reporter, Ian Macullum in reference to me cleaning the parks on Talbot street in St Thomas.

    The story can be found in Saturday October 12, 2013 St Thomas Times Journal or, here…


    With all DUE respect, Mr. Graves… You are an out and out liar! I struggle with how it is you sit on City Council as the C.A.O. (not limited to just the following reason) as a result of how you can be so blatantly dishonest to a reporter you know will publish this quote! Despite the way you have been towards me upon our “chance meetings” in the early morning (when you were on your way in to City Hall) and other times throughout the day, I still went out of my way to say “Good morning Mr. Graves”, and wave at you each time I saw you! Nearly every time since May of this year, I was wearing my work shirt, gloves, was almost always holding a broom but, more indicative of why I was out there, I had the green wagon with the sign on it stating who it was that I work for (a lot of those times, I was doing extra hours/cleaning!

    On occasion as you will recall I am sure (after all, it was you that did this), you would wave, nod, say hello quietly before, quickly turning your attention from me and making your way to your destination. I confidently say these things as a result of being in the area that the employees at city hall pass by more than thrice a day to go to and fro, City Hall intentionally! I was sure it would ease the tension that was omnipresent for a significant amount of time between you, other employees at City Hall, and myself! I made it very clear over a year ago that, I am here and am only here to do well by the community, and City of St Thomas, and I have not given up on that!

    To add more currency to this but not give every detail, instance, and profound “item of proof” to my response to (or “memory adjustment”), I will recant a couple of the times in which, I came to your office in relation to a few concerns surrounding what I have been doing!

    I brought in posters that (in my opinion) looked expensive that were hung on posts in the downtown core (a by-law infraction). My intention on those occasions were fanatical perhaps but, I tried. The “said intentions” were, I was hoping your office could contact the people hanging these because, they looked expensive and I have to tear them down every time they are put up and I hated the thought of these people spending so much money on them only to have me tear them down almost right after they had been put up and noticed. I went through this more than thrice at your office!

    A lady very well known to, and “fed up” with, your office stopped me numerous times and went into great detail about how many times she had tried getting attention brought to an area that had an abundance of garbage and was “overcome by weeds as high as my hips”. She all but, begged me to go to this area and clean it, and pull these weeds. I told her “I would absolutely love to”. I brought this to the attention of the board of directors for the merchants that sell their wares on this property, and asked her how she felt about me taking the lawnmower I had just acquired, along with a weed whacker, and (if permissive) the wagon I pull with a garbage can, broom, shovel, and other tools to maintain my duties. I wasn’t even 50% of the way through asking for permission to do it before she stopped me and asked me to come to your office with her and see if I could! We were in your office, we asked, and I was told know after both yourself and Mr. Ross Tucker were consulted about it! The young man that told me I was not to do it (as a result of your direction to do so after being asked) also told me, you and Ross Tucker will meet in relation to having it done but, it is an “insurance risk” and that, “The city workers should be doing that not the DDB!”

    Mr. Graves, I have many more examples that negate the truth in your comment, if they are something you wish to hear in order that your memory be “refreshed”, I will be more than happy to outline each and every one of them if it is what it takes for you to correct your outlandish claim that you are unaware of my association with the DDB!

    Nearly all of the merchants downtown, and an abundance of citizens, have been well aware of my employment with the DDB since May (including City Hall!) as well as the efforts that I have been making to keep any part of the city safe and clean since last fall (that included the grounds, and parking lot of City hall for many months!).

    I can be reached at my office (across the street from City Hall where I have (and periodically was indulged in by yourself), greeted you more than thrice a week!

    Jason H. McComb


    • It seems, Mr. McComb, that you are very “anti-establishment” indeed. I am very glad that your “wages” and your “office” are being paid for by the DDB and not my tax dollars as I am really not very keen in supporting anyone who “chooses” to be homeless. It’s my opinion that if someone is looking for a soap box to preach from, they should at least be able to afford their own! I’m kind of surprised that the DDB would promote “chosen” homelessness and stand behind anyone who would slander and be-rate our educated, hard-working professionals at city hall…To me, it says a lot about the board.


  4. Ellen;
    First and foremost, I am not speaking on behalf of the DDB, I am speaking on behalf of myself. Second but not any less important;
    I am homeless by choice as a result of ending up homeless over sixteen months ago not by any choice of my own! Rather an illegal move out by a former landlord while I was in hospital. I remained homeless by choice so I can afford to pay for my office, and all of the efforts that I make to assist not only the homeless but, less fortunate in general! Now then, about your opinion of my seeming “anti-establishment”. Nothing that I say or, do is indicative of being “anti establishment” as you say.

    Essentially I pointed out the blatant dishonesty of someone holding the position of C.A.O. That being said, I am sure there is no more need for discussion on that matter!

    If there is something, anything you are unclear about, that is my purpose! To inform of the reality of what I am actually doing and why. Whether you are “keen on your tax dollars being spent on someone that chooses to be homeless” or not the reality is that is far less than applicable here! I fail to see how that even made its way into your comment when it by far is not the case.

    I can afford my own “soap box” as you call it however, even being equipped with the ability to fund the metaphorical attempt at insulting me (fail by the way). I am not about that in any way shape or, form. I am simply here to assist those that NEED assistance with a hand up (not hand out), guidance to the few resources that do exist, and anything I am able to do in the “said areas”. I work three jobs to try to afford to do what I do but, in the case of this discussion (not being allowed to clean the parks) it is irrelevant, if you noticed, I was doing that on my own accord, without expectation or, desire of being paid for it. It Has nothing to do with employment, it was once I gained employment with the DDB I was told to stop doing it.

    If you need further clarification on any of it as a result of still not understanding, I am here for that as well!

    Jason H. McComb


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