Monday night (June 21), city council is expected to declare Mark Tinlin’s seat officially vacant after his death on June 13 at the age of 79. It is the second time in just over a year that members of council have gone through this emotional process.
In March of last year, council was faced with the death of second-term councillor Linda Stevenson. Former councillor Steve Wookey was appointed to fill the vacant seat.
The process has not always been that seamless as we’ll delve into shortly.
Born and raised in St. Thomas, Tinlin was characterized as a “great role model for the rest of us,” by Mayor Joe Preston.
He graduated from the Ontario Police College north of Aylmer in 1963 and served with the London Police Service from 1962 through 1966.
He spent five years with the RCMP and over 20 years guiding security at universities.
His municipal career included stints as a councillor and deputy mayor of the Township of South Frontenac.
He was first elected to city council in 2014 as an alderman.
Preston had high praise for Tinlin.
“You respect a guy who comes knowing what he wants to ask, not with his mind made up as to what the answers are but knowing what he’s looking for for the betterment of the city.
“He was a great role model for the rest of us on how to do that.”
Coun. Steve Peters noted Tinlin’s ability to keep council focussed on matters at hand.
“He was very active in trying to get us to re-form our committee system and keep us focussed as council members on what we need to do and quite the advocate for municipal governance and what we should be involved in and shouldn’t be involved in.”
Peters added Tinlin’s service to others is “a wonderful legacy.”
Noting, “His obituary really spelled out his community service and service to others. It’s a wonderful legacy that he left behind.”
In one of his last major votes, it’s noteworthy Tinlin teamed up with Peters and Coun. Jeff Kohler to oppose expanded activities at Lake Margaret.
Tinlin was one of five councillors at this time last year who reconsidered their votes and agreed to re-open the Horton Market in time for summer.
Council had voted 5-4 last May to shutter the popular market due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A month later, Mayor Preston and councillors Kohler, Gary Clarke, Joan Rymal and Tinlin – reconsidered their previous non-support which resulted in a unanimous vote to proceed with opening the market exactly one year ago this weekend.
In April of 2019 when council had a change of heart and agreed to declare a climate emergency in the city, Tinlin was prudent in stressing, “We need more than just this motion.”
Further evidence Tinlin was a forward thinker is evident back in 2017 when he led the charge to pivot to electronic voting in municipal elections.
During debate on the matter, Tinlin observed, “It’s inevitable we move in this direction. It’s easier, quicker and more accommodating.”
” . . . where elected officials place the interests of citizens ahead of themselves and their pet projects.”
However, he questioned the logic in limiting online and telephone voting to advance polls only.
Council has yet to button down a community grants process and two years ago Tinlin warned of what he called “grant creep,” a seemingly bottomless pit of cash up for grabs in recent years.
He also voiced what others have said in the past, grants should be a one-time ask and not a yearly trip to the bank.
Looking at mental health problems in the city, Tinlin observed at an all-candidate meeting before the 2018 municipal vote, “I don’t think there is a more serious social issue. We can’t do this alone. We will need lots of help.”
Flash forward to today and those mental health issues, in conjunction with homelessness, occupy a great portion not only of council’s energy but the resources of the St. Thomas Police Service.
During the 2018 campaign, Tinlin suggested his dream project is to develop St. Thomas as a “world-class destination,” which can begin with the Elgin County Railway Museum.
And, we fondly recall Tinlin’s remarks at a 2014 all-candidate meeting as he campaigned for a seat on city council.
He called for “fiscally responsible, open and accountable government . . . a council focused on decision making while letting the administration manage.”
And he envisioned a St. Thomas “where elected officials place the interests of citizens ahead of themselves and their pet projects.”
Well worth remembering by anyone seeking a council seat in 2022.
LOOKING BACK ON A PREVIOUS VACANT SEAT
The process of filling a vacant council seat has had a checkered history in the past couple of decades. And we reprint this item from a year ago when council was tasked with filling the seat left vacant with the death of Linda Stevenson.
Any debate related to Steve Wookey’s appointment to fill the vacant seat was conducted in-camera, but it seems to have been a very amicable process.
Certainly not the acrimonious ordeal council endured back in 2013 when tasked with filling the seat left vacant by the departure for greener pastures by then alderman Sam Yusuf.
A highly divided council at the time also opted for someone with experience in the person of former mayor Cliff Barwick.
A decision hotly contested by Mark Cosens, Jeff Kohler and Lori Baldwin-Sands. The trio was adamant they had been kept out of the loop when Barwick was under consideration.
But here is the fascinating irony in the tangled maneuvering to fill the seat.
Whose name was also put forward in 2013?
None other than Linda Stevenson, who was the highest runner-up in the 2010 aldermanic race. She was the first choice of Baldwin-Sands.
Filling vacant council seats over the past 20 years has been a highly intriguing undertaking. It makes for a compelling read and thanks to input from People columnist Eric Bunnell in 2013 you can learn more about it at the post below.
LIGHTS OUT, FOR NOW
So, we are still in the dark when it comes to lighting a portion of the walking trail down the London & Port Stanley railway corridor between Wellington and Elm streets.
A report to council last Monday (June 14) recommended the city not proceed with the installation of lighting.
The cost for conventional LED lighting is anywhere from just under $100,000 up to $270,000.
For solar lighting, the estimate is in the $128,000 to $209,000 range.
With either system, the proposal is based on operating the lights from dusk to dawn.
It must be remembered trail lighting is not included in this year’s budget.
Led by Coun. Wookey, most members of council felt lighting should only be available until 10 or 11 p.m. as usage drops to next to nothing at that time and does not pick up again until approximately 6 a.m.
In her report to council, the city’s supervisor of parks and forestry Adrienne Jefferson noted 10 letters were sent to nearby residents with seven responding they were not in favour due to additional lighting expected to be in place when the Alma College Square development is in place.
From a police perspective, concerns were raised about homeless encampments on the former Victor Dana property near Memorial Arena.
In the end, council voted 6-2 to accept the recommendation with councillors Peters and Baldwin-Sands opposed.
A compromise proposed by Coun. Wookey – to be revisited at a future date – would see a portion of the trail in the Mill Creek area lighted.
This is perhaps the darkest stretch of the walkway, in particular during the winter when students are heading home following extracurricular activities at school.
In recommending not to proceed with lighting, Jefferson cited “Increases in operational and staff costs associated with system monitoring, maintenance, general and vandalism-related repairs and replacement parts,” while noting, “Within the wooded trail sections, the artificial lighting can have adverse effects on nocturnal birds and animals.”
A HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENT FOR EML MPP
It was a disappointing end of the week for MPP Jeff Yurek, ousted from his environment minister post as part of Premier Doug Ford’s major cabinet shuffle Friday.
In a statement Ford noted, “As we continue our work to rebuild and support Ontario’s health system, our renewed team is well-positioned to deliver on the priorities that matter to Ontarians, including getting more people back to work, making life more affordable, supporting businesses and job creators and building transit infrastructure.”
However, with the return to the cabinet of St. Barts jet-setter Rod Phillips, the shuffle is more aligned to ensuring a strong team is in place in the GTA for next June’s provincial vote.
As the CBC’s Adam Carter observed, “the shuffle appears to move out veteran MPPs from more rural ridings that should be safe PC seats and gives junior cabinet posts to MPPs from urban and suburban ridings who may be more electorally vulnerable.”
Yurek was not available for comment immediately following the shuffle.
THE READER’S WRITE
Regarding last week’s item on the biggest catch so far at Lake Margaret, reader Dave McCormick emailed this response.
“Lake Margaret (Axford’s Gravel Pit) has been a ‘swimming hole’ for years! It didn’t just start since the vote on council to allow fishing and non-motorized boating.
“Come on folks, don’t be fooled by some comments from a few people. It is the ministry’s mandate to enforce all boating and fishing rules whether it’s Pinafore Pond, Dalewood, Waterworks or any other body of water along with local enforcement rules.
“Oh, there won’t be any charges laid on Pinafore, Dalewood or Waterworks. Reason? they are ‘sesspools’ and polluted. No one in their right mind would want to boat or swim in those bodies of water.
“Let’s have a water quality test done to see how clean they are. I think we have a water quality assessment already on Lake Margaret from 2019, don’t we?
“Lake Margaret is now a publicly owned Lake and every citizen has a right to use this body of water, of course with rules and provisions.
“People need to stop the fear-mongering.
“I walk that lake and park almost seven days a week and there is not a garbage problem either. For the most part, I dodge goose crap on a daily basis.
“Let’s deal with the migratory bird that doesn’t migrate anymore and leave us to enjoy and recreate on a beautiful area.”
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