A municipal election campaign that had all the excitement of watching paint dry exploded into life Tuesday with Cliff Barwick’s announcement he is seeking a return to the mayor’s office at city hall.
That pits the two primary combatants in the 2010 mayoral showdown — Mayor Heather Jackson and Barwick — in a rematch on Oct. 27.
But, it is going to get better.
Over the next week or so, expect either Ald. Jeff Kohler or Ald. Mark Cosens to join the fray.
If it’s the former, that sets up a tantalizing scenario pitting the last three St. Thomas mayors in a winner-take-all smackdown.
And if you thought the 2006 and 2010 mayoral races were down and dirty, this will be anything goes — keeping in mind two current members of council will be left standing in the ultimate game of musical chairs.
This is high stakes, so why would Barwick go for the brass ring when he likely would be guaranteed a seat on council as an alderman?
Is he out to exact revenge against Jackson for her 500-vote victory in the last election? A race that became known as the “anybody but Barwick” campaign.
Barwick is not hell bent on payback, at least not in the case of Jackson.
In a candid conversation with Barwick on Tuesday, he alluded to the possible impact of an outside influence on the mayor’s office.
“I am not mentioning any outside names, but the office of the mayor may attempted to be controlled or unduly influenced by outside source or sources,” he asserted. “And I believe you have to have a very strong individual in that office to combat that.”
We’ll take the liberty of connecting St. Thomas developer Bob McCaig to Barwick’s unnamed outside influence.
We prompted Barwick to further connect the dots.
“I’ve never seen a situation where in the last three mayoral elections, where there has been an attempt to put candidates forward who would be under the influence of outside sources.”
Introduce a whiff of party politics and the result is an unsavory environment in which to conduct city business, Barwick advises.
“You can see the little trace of party politics coming in and you can see that influence there. And the lobbying that goes on and it’s just not healthy.”
Keeping in mind the robocalls and lawsuit against Barwick, the city and staff and the St. Thomas Police Service that besmirched the 2010 campaign, is he ready for more of the same?
“It was dirty politics, I didn’t participate and I won’t participate in that. I will not lower myself to robocalls, I will leave that to some in the opposition.
“That was one of probably the most dirty campaigns ever conducted. What does that tell you about the character of the people involved?”
One of whom now sits on council and may very well join the mayoral race.
The other possibility? Someone may now reconsider.
“Maybe there were other people who were considering running who, with my name there, may not run.”
$30 MILLION, DREAM ON
As revealed at the police building committee meeting on Wednesday, the Class C cost estimates to build a new police building and to renovate the Colin McGregor Justice Building to meet all building and accessibility codes are virtually identical.
To recap, construction of a new facility on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre would be $10.6 million, which would include a full basement.
The price tag would drop to $8.8 million with the finished basement reduced to 7,000 sq. ft from 23,000 sq. ft. in the first option.
Renovating the existing station would cost $10.2 million, if done in a phased-in manner. A “nightmare” according to Paul Harris of SPH Engineering due to unanticipated hurdles which could bump the final cost up by 20 to 30%.
If renovations to the existing building were not done in stages, the cost would drop to $9.1 million, but that doesn’t factor in relocation expenses during the undertaking.
So what is next?
Council will receive a summary of the two estimates in time for the lone August meeting on Monday. Some time before the end of the month, there will be a public information session where ratepayers can view the estimate material and ask questions.
It is anticipated council will then vote on which option to pursue when the regular meeting schedule resumes on Sept. 2.
So much for the shameless fearmongering on display in the McCaig and Cosens videos, where the price tag quoted had reached $30 million.
Talk about truth in advertising.
SHOUT OUT THE NEXT STOP A LITTLE LOUDER, PLEASE
With aldermen Kohler and Cosens having spent much of the summer challenging the need for
accessibility upgrades in conjunction with any renovations needed at the current police HQ, how are they going to react during Monday’s council meeting when they receive a report calling for an expenditure of $100,000 for an automated stop announcement system on the city’s transit buses.
Under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, all conventional transit buses in the province must be equipped with automated call out and display of bus stops by Jan. 1, 2017.
In total, eight city transit buses are to be equipped with a system supplied by NextBus Inc., if approved by council.
Currently the drivers call out the stops, which meets with the regulations now in place.
Are the two members of the McCaig posse going to argue that method of announcement is sufficient and damn the rules?
That was the gist of their resistance to meeting accessibility codes in the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Frankly, they’d hire guys with carnations in their lapels to run me off the road.”
Ald. Cliff Barwick maintains his sense of humour when describing possible tactics considered by his naysayers bent on keeping him from returning to the mayor’s office.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.