Hearing the sombre news, I could think of no better tribute to a fellow Scot (he from Dundee and myself a southerner from Edinburgh) than to scrap what I had written and begin anew.
While I was quite at home with the honourable Sensei’s dojo family, who could be found out back in his converted garage, Ed also left his indelible stamp on this city through his tireless work as a member of the St. Thomas Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee.
For anyone who thought Ed was passionate about the martial arts, he was downright feisty when it came to matters of accessibility.
It was a crisp October afternoon last year when Ed and I met in Pinafore Park where he proudly displayed the first barrier-free picnic table, a partnership between the city’s parks and recreation department and Yarmouth Metal Fabricators.
The picnic tables can be used outdoors on grass or hard surfaces and will eventually be standard fare in all parks and recreation facilities in the city.
Ed was pleased as punch that day to hand over a $3,000 cheque — on behalf of the accessibility committee — to Catharine Spratley, city supervisor of parks and forestry, to allow for construction of 10 tables to be ready for placement this spring.
Those tables will be but one lasting tribute to the Professor.
But for this corner, Ed will always be remembered for his involvement with several City Scope accessibility challenges, most recently prior to the 2014 municipal election when several candidates insisted the existing police headquarters could easily be brought up to snuff to meet all existing standards.
Humble pie was on the menu as Ed proved beyond a shadow of a doubt — after an extensive tour of the Colin McGregor Justice Building — it couldn’t be done and it was time to cease playing politics when dealing with accessibility issues.
At the conclusion of a similar accessibility challenge in June 2010, when several aldermanic candidates participated, current councillor Linda Stevenson served up warm praise for Ed’s untiring efforts.
“Thanks to Ed McLachlan for his time and commitment to ensuring we all understand what happens when you have a different ability to see, hear, walk, and get around St. Thomas,” she wrote at the time.
“The afternoon I spent with him was a great eye-opener to understand what still needs to be done. As our population continues to age at a very fast rate, it will be very clear we may not be able to keep up with work to be done to make this community fully accessible.
“When the city wastes money on buildings like the Timken Centre by not getting it right the first time and going back time and time again to repair work that should have made the building accessible the first time around, we can only hope the new council will pay closer attention to the details.
“The folks who can’t access this building in its current state deserve better. Other buildings, parks and roadways need a plan that addresses all the things with every rebuild, renovation and new build this city undertakes in the future.
“Pay close attention new council members . . . there must be wise investments with the few dollars you have to spend.”
And in June of 2014, a front page story in the Times-Journal documented inaction at city hall in dealing with accessibility issues in municipal buildings.
In the story, Ed noted, “It took a young guy to sit outside the police station in a wheelchair to get any action on getting an automatic door there.”
Well, that individual was Garrett Smith, then 20 years old and an outspoken accessibility advocate ready to graduate from Arthur Voaden Secondary School.
It was a reader who reminded us of that detail and pointed out Garrett “wrote and presented a deputation to council, lobbied the city, and over a two-year time frame never gave up the good fight. He is responsible for this button and what it represents to the disabled.”
His appearance before council was in October 2011, when he implored members to fix a dangerous curb at the corner of Wellington and William streets.
Speaking to the T-J at the time, Garrett noted “We (my family) have been fighting this for over a year and we got nowhere with (environmental services) so that’s when I got in contact with Ald. (Gord) Campbell and we did start the process of trying to fix that. But it’s taken a long time, longer than I would like to see.”
Garrett was a scrapper then and he remains so today. He told this corner he expected to be somewhat of a fixture at council, fighting for people who need better access to things most take for granted.
“I’m a very strong advocate for other people,” he pointed out.
Will young Garrett be Ed’s worthy successor as the city’s accessibility advocate?
They’re awfully big shoes to fill.
And a closing wish to Ed’s beautiful wife, Carolyn.
Lang may Ed’s lum reek in heaven.
He didnae leave us Carolyn, he just had to gang awa. We’ll all hae a wee greet.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
We’ve long suspected many reports directed to the attention of city hall staff and council disappear into the Twilight Zone, and the Professor was of the same opinion.
“We’ve done all of the reports and a lot of those reports disappeared. We gave the reports to the right people, but we never got answers back.”
Ed McLachlan, former chairman of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, commenting on the lack of action at city hall in the 12 years he volunteered on the committee.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to email@example.comFollow @ianscityscope