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.
WHAT IS A FAIR WAGE?
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.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope