You have to admire the patience of St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell, who calmly answered a bevy of questions Thursday during an accessibility tour of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
The walk-through of all three floors — including the lock-up area — proved an eye-opener in several regards. The structure is a daunting challenge for anyone with accessibility issues and the floor space available on the now-vacant second floor likely cannot be considered functional for police use without significant modifications
Designing work areas around the two large courtrooms remaining intact surely must be a design challenge.
There is not one single accessible washroom in the building, the one elevator is in the centre of the structure and originates in the jail area and even the existing main floor is a cluttered maze.
Putting those aside, the main takeaway from the tour was the absolute loss of focus.
It was clearly evident Thursday that finding a healthy and functional home for the police service — be it through adequate renovations to their existing headquarters or construction of a new facility — is no longer a prime concern to some individuals.
This is now all about political aspirations — advancing a personal political agenda as we approach the October municipal vote.
And, the needs of the men and women of the police service are of little consequence.
The dignity and independence of any individual with an impairment — be it physical, medical, visual or hearing — take a back seat to the egos of certain aldermen seeking re-election.
Aldermen willing to bend and twist the findings of not one but three consultant’s reports. How many reports, studies and processes will ratepayers have to commission before these members find one they like?
Aldermen hell bent on turning a blind eye to building codes and functional space needs. Load up on some drywall, a few cans of paint, used furniture — from an out-of-town business no less — and we’ll have you a good-as-new police station in a couple of weekends.
Aldermen who feel no shame in short-shifting the basic requirements of “those people” as individuals with accessibility issues are now referred to.
When are these elected representatives going to awaken to the fact those with disabilities are not second-class citizens. How they vote can benefit or do as much damage to your political career as the ballot cast by any other ratepayer.
In any other office, the shortcomings experienced Thursday would have been noted and filed as grievances years ago.
But as Chief Pinnell duly noted, the men and women of the St. Thomas Police Service are not noted for complaining.
Or, to paraphrase one member of the service; I don’t want anything fancy . . . I don’t need a Taj Mahal. I just want a toilet I don’t have to flush four times.
Apparently for some aldermen, even that is asking for too much.
To those members of city council who have yet to grasp the importance of treating individuals with disabilities in the same fashion as any other resident of St. Thomas, perhaps a review of the city’s Corporate Accessibility Policy — effective Nov. 12, 2013 — is in order.
The policy is also a must-read for any person seeking to win a seat on council.
“The City is committed to implementing, maintaining and enhancing accessibility with respect to delivery of services to customers and employees and for the use of all City goods and services, programs and facilities by the persons with disabilities in a manner that:
• Respects each person’s dignity and independence and is sensitive to their individual needs
• Ensures reasonable efforts are made to provide service outcomes that would be the same for persons with disabilities as for those without disabilities
• Allows persons with disabilities to benefit from the same services, in the same place, in a similar way to others, and in a timely manner, considering the nature of the service and accommodations required.”
So, informing a visitor to any municipal building they cannot proceed beyond the front lobby because of their disability or restricting a physically-challenged employee to certain work areas in no way respects that person’s dignity and independence.
HERE’S A THOUGHT
To help defuse the hyper-charged police building debate, why not package up all relevant info regarding building options, police service needs, square footage requirements, pricing as it becomes available, consultant recommendations, building code considerations and the like on a neutral website for public dissemination.
Perhaps the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce website might be a possibility.
That way there can be no accusations of bias, misleading information or false claims.
And wretched gossip columnists would not be able to hijack the process.
WHAT A COINCIDENCE
What are the odds of Ald. Jeff Kohler and city developer Bob McCaig holidaying in the Turks and Caicos Islands at the very same time?
My, what a small world we live in.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
After contacting the campaign office of Liberal hopeful Serge Lavoie, we need a clarification.
Is Ald. Lori-Baldwin Sands campaign co-chairman or simply a volunteer? This corner has received confirmation of both scenarios.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I hope to see a council that embraces a people-first approach to issues relating to the business of the city.”
Aldermanic candidate Todd Rowley speaking to the Times-Journal this past week.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.