It’s a tradition dating back to the early days of City Scope in 2005 when we greeted the new year with an overview of the previous 365 days, focusing on the wit and wisdom of those who inhabit the council chamber at city hall.
That custom has continued unabated — albeit expanded — to include quotes from a variety of sources, including Times-Journal readers.
As an unabashed collector of quotes, this flashback is an enjoyable task that neatly ties the preceding 12 months into a tidy packet to open and savor at the demise of another year.
And as American writer and editor Daniel Okrent deftly observed, “I’m afraid we’ll see reporters stop chasing quotes around the same time dogs stop chasing cars.”
With that preamble, let’s glean a year’s worth of columns to capture the essence of 2013 in a local context.
January had barely inched on to the scene and we learned of the death — at age 77 — of former Elgin MP John Wise, prompting this tribute from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
“He was a man who considered public service a duty and took his role as the people’s representative very seriously.”
High praise seldom assigned to today’s breed of politicians.
The following month, Project Ojibwa coordinator Dan McNeil teed off on Department of National Defence bureaucrats, charging they cost the museum $1.5 million in federal funding.
“Their objective . . . was to make sure the Elgin Military Museum did not get the Ojibwa. They basically screwed the Elgin Military Museum.”
Dan has never been noted for mincing his words.
Also not afraid to tell it like it is, reader Jim Foster responded to a T-J story in March reporting the Timken Centre was a preferred location for the city’s proposed $600,000 skateboard park with this caution.
“This project wherever it ends up should not proceed until the private funding portion of the project has reached it’s obligation in order that the taxpayer is not further burdened.”
Entering a new year, are boarders any closer to a park they can call their own?
In April, this corner revealed St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital would be outsourcing its medical transcription service to Ottawa-based Accentus, prompting reader ‘Kay’ to observe:
“As a patient there recently I noticed an immense change in staff as though they are abused and scared and hate being there, scared to do their jobs and angry about the way they are treated and it comes out in the ‘excellent patient health care experience’ as ‘worst patient experience in terms of relationships and energy and heart in the hospital.’ It is like trying to heal in hell.”
Our hospital is a regular fixture in the quotable quotes department.
Likewise, Ald. Mark Cosens provides and proves fodder for witty wisecracks on a regular basis, as witnessed in this claim former mayor Cliff Barwick’s appointment in May to the council seat vacated by Sam Yusuf was “orchestrated.”
“One minute we declare the seat vacant and the next minute, four members of council know exactly who they are going to put in there.”
The Barwick Four, as they came to be known, generated copious amounts of feedback from frustrated ratepayers.
Skipping ahead to August and the hospital was again the centre of attention when chief financial officer Malcolm Hopkins was dismissed, a green thumb sort of moment, according to Paul Bode, board of governors chairman.
“It’s probably a healthy thing to happen. It’s kind of like pruning a plant. We survive and we go on.”
Not sure Malcolm appreciated the gardening analogy.
In September, Ald. David Warden had this to say on the hiring of an $80,000-a-year special-projects engineer to help clear off a backlog of previously approved capital projects in the environmental services department.
“We’re hiring a consultant to hire consultants.”
He can’t be faulted for cutting to the chase.
November provided a financial windfall for Gerald Simpson, the city’s newest millionaire, who won big on a Lotto 6/49 Encore draw.
“I was the kind of guy who couldn’t win a free lunch.”
Hey, when you win a million you can afford to poke fun at yourself.
And to close out, it wouldn’t be a year to remember without a quip from Cliff Barwick who, in December, responded to the asset management plan submitted to council that calls for a 3.8% property tax increase each year over the next 20 years. Consultant Dan Wilson referred to the plan as a living document that will evolve over time.
“This has to be a living document, but we don’t want dead taxpayers.”
TOP 5 THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR
NEXT YEAR AT CITY HALL
“I look forward to the municipal election in the new year and will shortly announce my intention to throw my hat in the ring.” — Ald. Gord Campbell
“Paul Blower was a valued, long-time employee at the library and I look forward to gathering with library staff to honour his many years of service.” — St. Thomas Public Library CEO Rudi Denham
“I value and welcome the expert advice presented to us by the Ventin Group as we move forward on the police station.” — Ald. Mark Cosens
“Don’t know why the mayor is wasting council’s time compiling a code of conduct. Myself, I follow procedures and protocol to the letter.” – Ald. Tom Johnston
“I am fully satisfied in the process undertaken to fill Ald. Sam Yusuf’s vacant seat by appointing former mayor Cliff Barwick.” – Ald. Mark Cosens
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.