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After pitching in with the Heather Jackson campaign team in the June provincial vote, Timothy Hedden is turning his attention to this fall’s municipal vote.
This is his second run for a seat on city council. He was in a crowded field of 19 candidates, finishing 15th with 1,711 votes in the 2018 municipal election.
Hedden tells us he learned plenty from that unsuccessful run and now has a clearer understanding of the role of a city councillor.
“It’s an interesting role that I think I understand a lot better now having been through the process once and watching council meet and paying attention to the things they actually do.”
His understanding of a councillor’s responsibilities and mandates has matured over the past four years, and his campaigning on the plight of the homeless likewise has taken on a sharper focus.
“You might be able to stamp out not homelessness entirely because it is a revolving thing, but I think you can get to the point where there are very, very few individuals that we are having to help out.
“And that would be the main boon for the residents who live downtown and the businesses down there. It’s a win-win.
“And I’m hoping I can convince people of that because when it gets to issues around addiction and mental health, it tends to go in a very unkind direction.
“A lot of this is provincially and then federally funded. There is not a massive role for the city. It is being downloaded onto us.
“So, it’s really about getting in Mr. Flack’s (Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack) ear and saying ‘What are you going to bring to the table?’
“We’ve got people dying. They may not be everyone’s friend but they matter to some people and it should matter to us as a community.”
When the conversation turns to addictions, Hedden admits initially he knew little about harm reduction as one pathway to addressing those issues, particularly in the downtown core.
Now, however, he feels harm reduction is a viable option.
“I hadn’t heard the term harm reduction before the last election. I was doing my homework on what certain issues were and I went OK, we’ve got an addiction issue, a mental health issue.
“So, where has this been solved? Well, the first country you will hear about is Portugal. And what are they doing?
“They’re treating it as a health issue instead of a criminal issue.
“Obviously some of the other elements they did in Portugal happened at other levels of government.
“By treating this in a supportive way versus a punitive way – and I know people don’t always like that and think tough love is the way to go – but the numbers don’t lie. It works.
“If I’m running a campaign on what I want to do and what I think, I have to go with what works.”
Portugal decriminalized the public and private use, acquisition, and possession of all drugs in 2000; adopting an approach focused on public health rather than public-order priorities.
Moving on to another campaign issue, with the city’s continued vibrant growth and the potential for thousands of new jobs, Hedden says a review of the city’s new transit operation with recommendations is warranted.
“I understand problems are complex and not easily solved. I know sometimes you want the easy answer but that’s not necessarily the one I can give.”
“I think we are kind of at the point where we’ve implemented changes (the roll-out this year of Railway City Transit) and it’s time for a more thorough review.
“I know they’re getting information in bits and pieces right now and I have not seen that right now, but it’s probably time to go OK, we’ve made these changes, what’s working and what isn’t.
“And fine-tune it so that it works a little better.
“The other thing we have to think of is our growth rate. If it’s going to hold, whatever is going to end up in the northeast end of St. Thomas (the 800-plus acre tract of land being assembled by the city for mega-industrial development) are we going to have transit that can shuttle out to those areas?
“There are issues that are on the horizon that, hopefully, we’re paying attention to.”
Hedden continues to be a strong supporter of stable funding for arts and culture in the community.
“I think the first time through (in 2018) I was going for yearly, stable funding for the art gallery and now they’ve got that, although I’m not sure if it is as much as they need.
“It’s not entirely reliable, though because it’s still part of the grant process (something that council may deal with at the Aug.11 meeting).
“I’m curious to see what impact inflation has on the next budget. At any point, city council could say that’s the first thing to go because it usually is.
“Arts and culture are deemed non-essential and de-funded first.”
In closing, Hedden stresses he is not afraid to ask tough questions to come up with viable solutions.
“I understand problems are complex and not easily solved. I know sometimes you want the easy answer but that’s not necessarily the one I can give.
“I am hoping that I can drive that I’m your guy if you want someone who is really invested in solving these issues.”
SATURDAY NIGHT ON THE STREETS OF ST. THOMAS
Sincere appreciation to Police Chief Chris Herridge for his invitation to participate in a ride-along with one of his officers, which we undertook last Saturday (July 30).
It’s not the first time spent covering a 12-hour shift in a cruiser to get a feel for life on the streets of St. Thomas.
The intent this time around was to compare the nature of service calls today to those experienced about a decade ago.
A warm shout-out to Const. Rebecca Corcoran for allowing me to share her mobile office throughout the evening and overnight.
And for patiently answering my questions as she undertook her duties that shift.
The amount of documentation of facts required for each of the seven calls during the night and the time spent dealing with the issues at each of those stops is an eye opener.
Both of the above are time-consuming but inherently necessary to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion.
The major difference this time around – with one exception – was the lack of alcohol-related incidents prevalent in the first outing.
And, apart from a traffic stop at an intersection, all of the calls were related to social service issues.
A family dispute, a couple of possible domestic assaults and two cases of removal of unwanted individuals from premises, all of which could have escalated but were dealt with in a calm and reassuring fashion.
Even the final call in which a heavily impaired individual tested the patience of three officers for an extended period of time before being transported to the police station where they could sleep it off.
Again, this belligerent person was dealt with in a controlled but firm manner even after refusing a ride home in a waiting taxi.
To the father who wanted his son removed from the home, let us hope in the future the toxicity evaporates from the relationship.
To the young man requested to be removed from his girlfriend’s apartment, your anguish for her wellbeing was palpable.
You have a loving ally in your sister who attended to comfort you at an extremely emotional time.
And to that sister, best of luck as you begin your PSW career and, no doubt, you will become a well-thought-of RPN down the road.
To the young couple attempting to iron out their differences, perhaps the healing process began with that walk around the block.
And to Const. Corcoran, you made the correct career choice and best of luck as you advance through the ranks of the St. Thomas Police Service.
A successful ride-along which confirmed empathy can deliver a better outcome over enforcement.
You generally hate to see any building consumed by flames, but in the case of this particular structure, the dense smoke hopefully will obliterate its controversial past.
City firefighters spent Wednesday (Aug. 3) morning attending to a fire at Walnut Manor, the former supportive living residence shut down by Southwestern Public Health last July under a Section 13 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Upon its closure last year, Peter Heywood, Program Director, Environmental Health at the health unit noted, “This was an unfit, unsafe environment for living, and not at the standard expected of a supportive living facility.”
It was an un-licensed residence for adults who have physical and mental health challenges, operated by SupportiveLiving.ca located in Welland.
This corner has devoted many inches of copy going back to 2014 dealing with its owner Vishal Chityal, otherwise known as Charlie Duke.
The site at 57 Walnut Street was the scene of an exterior fire at the rear of the structure in May of last year.
In June of 2014, we first began documenting the troubles at Walnut Manor, beginning with the quality and quantity of food served to the 14 residents housed there at the time.
It was described as appalling and not appealing.
A situation so dire the health unit – then known as Elgin St. Thomas Public Health – shut down the kitchen for three days.
In a post from June 28, 2014, we asked the question why do we allow such warehousing of the vulnerable?
Something MPP Jeff Yurek in 2021 referred to as “a gap in the system.”
Jeff Burch, NDP MPP for Niagara Centre in December of 2019 introduced a private member’s bill to regulate supportive living homes like Walnut Manor and others owned and operated by SupportiveLiving.ca.
The Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation Bill provides a framework for operators and sets minimum standards that must be met so that tenants are no longer at risk.
It passed second reading at Queen’s Park but was sidelined by the provincial election.
For the sake of residents in equally squalid homes, we can only hope that gap in the system is permanently plugged.
As for the site of Walnut Manor, it is now owned by Domus Developments of London which is attempting to proceed with a residential development next door at 59 Walnut Street.
In October of 2020, it applied for approval of a zoning bylaw amendment in support of a 109-unit development encompassing the existing triplex at number 59.
Domus is proposing the development of six townhouse units, one four-storey apartment consisting of 40 units and one six-storey apartment consisting of 60 units.
The proposed development is getting a rough ride at city hall with a lack of support from city council.
What impact will the slum clearance next door have on this project?
The deadline to file nomination papers for the Oct. 24 municipal election is coming up in less than two weeks, Aug. 19.
Two more individuals stepped up this week seeking councillor positions bringing the number of candidates to 10 to fill eight positions.
Timothy Hedden who we profile above and Shawn De Neire who we will spotlight next week.
Meagan Ruddock joins John Allen in seeking to be one of two trustees elected to the Thames Valley District School Board.
With a heat warning in effect for St. Thomas all weekend, a cooling centre has been opened at the Joe Thornton Community Centre, 75 Caso Crossing.
It will remain open to all who are looking for relief from the heat. Please remember – seek shelter and keep yourself, your family and your pets hydrated.
THE ECHO CHAMBER
On the subject of the Walnut Manor fire this week, John Waugh has these thoughts on Old St. Thomas Church, located right behind the former domiciliary hospice.
“I’m rather recent to St Thomas, but to me, the Old St. Thomas Church is one of the most beautiful places in Southern Ontario. I’ve been in most places and seen a lot of the beauty spots.
“I never saw Alma College, but Ian, you almost had a second Alma College.
“I usually take a drive by when I’m in the area at Foodland. etc.
“Always amazed at how open everything seems. But access to the cemetery and historic tombstones must be maintained. So there is a dilemma there.
“There is obviously a need for 24-hour, 7 days a week security of some kind.
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