Can courtesy prevail over confrontation on council?


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Launch into a debate last Monday on a proposed code of conduct for city council and those involved are poetry in motion. Best behaviour all and let courtesy prevail over controversy.
Why, anyone tuning in for the first time would swear a code of conduct would simply be superfluous.
Well, call up the track record of the past three councils – and several current members have sat on all three – and you’ll discover a litany of indiscretions.
How about a bogus address for at least two aldermen who were not residents of the city. At least two aldermen never declared a conflict of interest on numerous items of council business dealing with hockey and a local industry.
Then there’s the matter of hockey tickets as compensation for sitting as a board director and the current squabble involving aldermen Lori Baldwin-Sands and Cliff Barwick.
And speaking of the latter, the deft puck-handling that allowed the former mayor to assume the seat held by the departed Sam Yusuf a year ago will not be forgotten by many of the electorate come the October municipal election.

There’s no guarantee this approved code of conduct will launch a new era of squeaky clean in the council chamber.
But it’s a step in the right direction.
As will be the appointment of an independent integrity commissioner who would assess and investigate formal written complaints regarding alleged contraventions of the code.
One can only hope John Maddox – currently the city’s closed meeting investigator – will accept the challenge.

GET THE FACTS
It’s the most divisive issue facing St. Thomas since debate over location of what is now the Timken Centre.
Construction of a new, purpose-built police station – adjacent to the twin-pad facility that pitted downtown supporters against those in favour of a Sauve Ave. site more than ten years ago – seems to have gained little traction with residents.
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And that’s putting it mildly.
Most are calling for retribution at the polls on Oct. 27 for any council member supporting a new facility over renovations to the existing Colin McGregor Justice Building.
Cost of a new headquarters continues to raise the ire of those in opposition.
And yet a firm price tag has never been established.
All the more reason to attend the second meeting of the police building committee this coming Thursday at 11 a.m. at city hall.
If you can’t attend, we will put forth a suggestion the minutes be posted on the city’s website.

STICKER SHOCK
This story caught the attention of readers Thursday when it was posted to the Times-Journal website.
“As of May 1, there will be an increase in time-of-use prices that will boost the average hydro customer’s monthly cost by $2.83, or $33.96 annually.
“The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) says the jolt upwards in prices includes the arrival of renewable or ‘green’ electricity generation over the next 12 months.”
Consumers in this province are now paying some of the highest electricity rates in the country and they’re putting heat on municipalities, like St. Thomas, to send a message to the provincial Liberals we can’t afford their green energy policies.
When council sits on Tuesday, it will be asked to endorse resolutions from three Ontario municipalities – Petrolia, Wainfleet and Niagara Region – calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne “to take immediate action to prevent these and any other rate increases from being implemented.”
The province’s long-term energy plan anticipates consumers face an increase in hydro rates of 42% over the next five years.
Combine that with the recent auditor-general’s report advising of the extreme amounts of waste in the energy sector, particularly at Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One, due to high labour costs and generous public sector pension plans and the $1.1 billion it cost for the cancellation of gas plants and you get a sense of why ratepayers and municipalities have reached the boiling point.
Two comments leap out from the Times-Journal Facebook page.
Del Hlatki posts, “thank goodness they put the minimum wage up, as well as gas and hydro … but my boss didn’t get the memo since I’m sure not getting a raise.”
And Phil Goodwin shares a wonderful play on words, “And still we add Wynnemills.”
It’s time to send a message to Queen’s Park. Beleaguered taxpayers can’t afford these obscene rate hikes.
And don’t trot out the old standby: “It’s less than the price of a cup of coffee a day.”
Pensioners, fixed-income and single-parent families soon won’t be able to afford the luxury of a coffee a day.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“How much time will be spent policing each other instead of serving the people? We are here to debate, have a vote and walk away.”
Ald. Gord Campbell points out a possible repercussion of the city’s code of conduct approved unanimously by council on Monday.

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

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2 thoughts on “Can courtesy prevail over confrontation on council?

  1. HYPOCITICAL MAYOR JUST THE KETTLE CALLING THE POT BLACK

    Or to quote Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”
    From last week’s city scope – “It’s a shame in this day and age this is a necessity,” bemoaned Mayor Heather Jackson. “You can’t do anything,” advises Jackson. “There is no method of reprimanding or censuring any member of council for something…”
    This from the mayor who did not declare a conflict of interest on two separate occasions last year as council debated Ascent provisioning IT services for the City of St. Thomas. The Ascent IT department is home of one of her love interests, no? She debated fully and voted.
    One alderman seemed to be tuned in to the gamesmanship as he asked that the IT provisioning work be undertaken by an independent contractor. He was the only member of council to vote against the nepotistic sleight of hand.

  2. When you look into codes of conduct now, you find many implementing mission (or similar) statements instead. It provides a way to decide and discuss if those on staff or on council are supporting the “mission” or not, so it has a much broader scope. Normal laws should be able to apply regarding harassment and bullying instead of creating another position that taxpayers here must fund. The Ontario Ombudsman is available already, so why duplicate that position?

    There are things about the the culture at city hall are problematic and don’t reflect community expectations or values. They should be setting a good example, be more transparent and engaging with the public.

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