The St. Thomas Police Service was the focus of national media attention last week, a baffling turn of events for one member in particular.
A survey launched last weekend went somewhat viral in a most unexpected fashion and responses to Tanya Calvert’s poll ultimately may be put under the microscope for a future research paper, according to a CBC story.
Calvert – corporate communications coordinator with the service – took to Facebook last Friday (April 12) to ask the question should the city’s police service “publicly release the names of all people who are arrested for trying to purchase sex.”
A hot-button issue that boiled over on the police Facebook page.
In the span of just two days, the survey generated close to 4,000 votes and well in excess of 400 comments from far beyond St. Thomas. In fact, there was feedback from across the country and into the U.S.
And the survey says: 59 per cent of respondents are opposed to naming names.
The results will be scrutinized by Chief Chris Herridge before any action is taken.
While Calvert’s survey generated an impressive response, in a conversation Tuesday (April 16) she stressed “Our primary goal was to seek input locally. However, all conversation is conversation.”
Calvert was honest about the driving force behind the survey.
“We went out on our own with this. However, our friends and neighbours in London definitely started the conversation.’
Police in that city recently started naming alleged johns.
“We really didn’t have any strategy in place,” continued Calvert, “and moving forward, should we design such a thing? We wanted input from our community members.
“First and foremost, we want to do what’s best for our area, not provincially and not nationally.”
While Calvert was genuinely surprised by the number of individuals and advocacy groups who participated in the survey, she is likewise puzzled by some of the comments and reaction in the media.
“One researcher kind of coined it unusual we would take this approach. But I don’t think it is unusual at all that we would reach out to our own community members who have a vested interest in their police service.”
She continued, “I did take a little bit of offence to the one article where a research analyst said we were crowd-sourcing our information and that we were using it as an attention-grabber to garner community engagement. I thought that was a little off the mark. I consider that poll grassroots.”
And, on occasion, the service does release names of offenders at the discretion of Chief Herridge.
“We have a lot of considerations to take in before the chief releases any kind of decision.”
“He has made it very clear,” explained Calvert, “that he bases a lot of his decisions on recidivism – the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend – and what is in the best needs of the public.”
Calvert noted the survey was just one of the pieces of the puzzle.
“That poll was not the defining moment. But how could we not take into consideration the views of our own community?
“There are still advocacy groups to be consulted with, community partners, people with lived experience. We have a lot of considerations to take in before the chief releases any kind of decision.”
Most important, cautioned Calvert, “There is a big difference between human trafficking and the sex trade.
“And all the purchasers in both situations are labelled as johns. So, what kind of john are we talking about?”
And, Calvert advised, the ultimate direction from Chief Herridge may not necessarily come as a formal decision.
“It might just come whenever we have to cross that bridge.”
In wrapping up the conversation with Calvert, you are struck by the sincerity of her intentions with the poll.
“I have to be honest with you, for only the second time in my whole career, when I hit ‘send’ my tummy hurt. I did not know how it was going to go over at all. But I’m glad we rolled the dice.”
By the way, don’t go looking at this as a weekly media event from Calvert. And you certainly won’t see her name or that of the police service trending on social media this weekend.
“I have a long weekend so nothing is going out Thursday afternoon,” she laughed.
ACHIEVING LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY
During debate Monday on a motion to declare a climate emergency in St. Thomas, City Manager Wendell Graves noted over the past few years, across all city departments, about $20 million has been dedicated to issues relating to the environment.
And, that does not include efforts in place at the new police headquarters and to be incorporated into the social services and housing campus under construction at 230 Talbot Street.
We talked to Graves later in the week to validate that $20 million figure.
“That figure is correct,” confirmed Graves, looking across all departments.
“And that probably is a little bit light because I didn’t include everything. I did a bit of a scan.”
The motion was deferred for a second time, so what is the next step?
“I think that will be up to council,” advised Graves, “but we intend to have a report back to council in early May.
“One of the things we need to do is move forward with the (city’s) strategic plan itself and to get that refreshed.”
The city’s last strategic plan was completed in May 2013 and, according to the city’s website, it is “a collaborative and inclusive community planning tool that identifies the desired future for the community: what it looks like, how it functions, and how to achieve the vision for the future.”
“The environmental issues will continue to be part of that,” said Graves “and refreshed as part of our strategic plan.
“And if you look at our existing strategic plan, it really does speak to the environment and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The most recent strategic plan can be found here. The section relating to the environment begins on Page 78.
THE PASSWORD FOR OUTDOOR FUN
A Tweet this week from city hall updates residents on the work underway at 1Password Park. “We are excited to be partially opening the park in May with full access expected by the end of June!”
At a ceremony last November, it was announced the 65-acre complex in the city’s north end across from Valleyview Home will be known as 1Password Park.
David and Sara Teare of St. Thomas committed to a contribution of $500,000 to support the city’s outdoor recreation complex that will include soccer pitches, a full-size lighted artificial turf football field, a community park with play zone and splash pad, basketball courts, multi-use trail, washrooms, concession stand and change rooms.
In May of last year, city manager Wendell Graves told council opportunities exist to include the soccer and football clubs in fundraising initiatives. This would help pay for items not included in the base tender price, including a shade shelter, a score clock for the artificial surface field, optional bleachers and an equipment storage building.
The St. Thomas Soccer Club has already committed to a donation of nets with an estimated value of $140,000.
THE READER’S WRITE
A post earlier this week regarding Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands climate emergency motion generated plenty of feedback including this lengthy email from Al Bod.
“Wondering if we can engage on your column of April 16, 2019, I can’t see where you’ve made the connection of a political motivation in Councillor Baldwin-Sands motion to declare a climate change emergency. My understanding of “politically motivated” is that the motion is written in such a way as to divide the issue along partisan lines?
“To be clear, I don’t necessarily disagree with you, I’m just not reading the connection in your column.
“Are you saying it is politically motivated because only she and another Liberal, Councillor Peters are speaking in favour of it? (What about Linda Stevenson?)
“Or, is it politically motivated because the motion is redundant as (the CAO and some other councillors suggest) St. Thomas already has some policies and measures in place to mitigate climate change?
“Or, is it politically motivated because the word “emergency” is being used in an emotionally charged, divisive way in this motion?
“I suspect you are correct, in that the motion is, at least partly, politically motivated. But, does that mean the motion has no credibility and shouldn’t be supported? Your column seems to suggest that is the case.
“This is why I believe the motion does warrant support:
“Throughout the U.S. numerous major cities have put similar motions and measures in place. It directs staff positively, knowing that their elected officials support all strategic and practical efforts they may bring forward to mitigate the impact of climate change. Secondly, it encourages more senior levels of government, whether that be state, provincial, territorial or federal, to follow the leadership of the communities within their respective jurisdictions. Or to put it in a more negative way, it calls out senior governments for their inactivity on this issue.
“Two Ontario communities, Kingston and Hamilton, have already passed similar motions. I understand it is also being brought forward at other Ontario communities including London. That is leadership. St. Thomas has an opportunity to join them in this leadership position. Why let someone’s political motivation stand in the way?
“A recent federal report indicates Canada’s is being impacted by climate change at twice the rate of the rest of the world. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47754189) Anyone that doesn’t think this is an emergency has their head buried in the sand.
“Mayor Preston’s response to this motion saying it is “a federal issue” is the height of irresponsibility. Councillor Baldwin-Sands’ political motivation for this motion is not what should be called out; instead, it should be Mayor Preston’s response to it.
“In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Green Party member and volunteer.”
That email prompted a back-and-forth exchange – all of it in a civil fashion – with Al closing off the dialogue by commenting, “Thank you for answering my question about the ‘political motivation’ aspect of this issue.”
Katharine Denise Lauzon posted the following on Facebook.
“The whole community can be part simple things cause big change using cloth bags, plant one tree, install one solar panel, plant wildflowers, reduce reuse and recycle. Have a day of trade & barter! Challenge the community!”
Our tally last week of candidate expenses in the 2018 municipal vote prompted candidate Tim Hedden to Tweet the following.
“I’m already saving for 2022!”
Ya gotta love it.
FOR THE CALENDAR
And, the above mentioned Hedden passed along the following information regarding a Stop the Ford Government protest to be held 5:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 23) at the CASO station on Talbot Street. It is timed to coincide with the visit to St. Thomas of provincial Finance Minister Vic Fedeli. He is addressing the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce following the release last week of the 2019 provincial budget. Hedden notes the rally is open to anyone who has concerns with cuts to education, health care, social services, seniors’ care, post-secondary school funding and affordable childcare.
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