It’s now a three-horse mayoral race in the Oct. 24 St. Thomas municipal vote. Joining Joe Preston is former mayor Heather Jackson and newcomer Gregg McCart, who admits it’s a daunting task trying to unseat a high-profile incumbent.
However, McCart feels he may have an advantage in one area, that being his experience in dealing with homelessness in the city.
With reference to Mayor Preston, he admits, “I kind of like the guy, to be honest. But I believe that he is too far away from this particular problem.”
That problem is the scourge of homelessness, particularly in the downtown core.
McCart continues, “I don’t want to say anything bad, but it is my peers who are suffering the most, as far as income levels.
“And I believe, because of that, I have an advantage over him. So, maybe I can do something.”
McCart continues, that Preston is aware of the issues, “but I never once heard a solution coming out of him.”
It’s all about dreaming big, suggests McCart who has volunteered and, for a time, worked at the city’s homeless shelter, The Inn.
He recounts an incident that prompted him to assist, rather than complain.
“About a year ago, I started seeing the uptick in homelessness. I remember one morning I left my apartment and had to step over a gentleman laying on the ground outside.
“At that point, I decided to try and do something about it, rather than complain.
“So, I started volunteering at the homeless shelter and various organizations here in town.
“Over the past year, I started learning a lot about the whole problem and some of the details and maybe what could be done to help solve that problem.
“And that just kind of led me to run for mayor and try to put a spotlight on some of the issues our town is facing.
“I love St. Thomas, I was born here and I’ve never seen it like this.
“I just feel they need to do something about it.”
He asks why aren’t they building more affordable housing.
“It’s not just less fortunate people. It’s people who have been working and paying taxes their whole lives are now asked to spend 75 per cent of their income just to afford a place to live.
“I don’t think there is enough emphasis put on problems like that.”
Continuing with that train of thought McCart feels “We need to increase the vacancy rate. I’ve heard about bidding wars happening for apartments in St. Thomas, which is something I’ve never heard of before.”
“He is obviously a very successful businessman and credit to him but I don’t think he sees it the way I do.”
We asked McCart about his decision to run for mayor and not as a councillor which, no doubt would have been an easier path.
“I just decided to go for it because sometimes you just have to seek and expect a miracle. And, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
“No half measures for me. It’s about dreaming big. I believe, because of my position, I can do a better job than the current guy who is just too far removed from the problems that the City of St. Thomas is facing right now with the affordability crisis and the homeless crisis.
“He is obviously a very successful businessman and credit to him but I don’t think he sees it the way I do.”
What is needed, concludes McCart is better coordination amongst the various groups and social service agencies in the city.
“If I, somehow become mayor, I will see to it that we have collective meetings. Who knows what could happen?
“Because it’s not happening right now. And the problem is getting really bad, it’s not getting better.
“I’ll do whatever it takes.”
AND THE CANDIDATES ARE . . .
Well, quite the flurry of activity this week leading up to yesterday’s (Friday) 2 p.m. deadline to file nomination papers for the Oct. 24 municipal election.
Most notable we now have a mayoral race with a pair of latecomers challenging incumbent Joe Preston.
Newcomer Gregg McCart announced his intention to take on Preston on Thursday while former mayor Heather Jackson entered the contest Friday.
It sets up a rematch of the 2018 election where Preston polled 3,731 votes to Jackson’s 3,189.
It was a four-way race that year with Steve Wookey and Malichi Male finishing third and fourth respectively.
It must have been a frustrating week for Preston. Had no candidate stepped forward to challenge him, he would have been declared the winner as of 4 p.m. Monday.
New candidates for city councillor this week are Devon Church, Joe Docherty Jr., Dawn Docker, Rose Gibson, Tara McCaulley and Harald Schraeder. Two current members of council, Mark Burgess and Joan Rymal chose not to seek re-election.
This will be Gibson’s sixth attempt to win a seat in the council chamber. She garnered 2,927 votes in 2018 to finish 10th in the 19-candidate field.
The voter turnout was 36.07 per cent in 2018. Up slightly from 35.79 per cent in 2014.
Here is the certified list of candidates:
(ONE TO BE ELECTED)
(EIGHT TO BE ELECTED)
DE NEIRE, Shawn
DOCHERTY Jr, Joe
THE THAMES VALLEY DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
(TWO TRUSTEES TO BE ELECTED FROM ELGIN COUNTY)
THE LONDON DISTRICT CATHOLIC SCHOOL BOARD
(ONE TRUSTEE TO BE ELECTED FROM ELGIN COUNTY)
NOTHING TRIVIAL ABOUT THIS
The St. Thomas Summer Harvest Festival is coming up in a month, Sept. 23 – 25 in Pinafore Park.
It’s an end-of-summer celebration with live entertainment, car show, market, food trucks and more for an all-ages festival that is committed to a clean and green experience.
One of the events will be a trivia contest running all three evenings with yours truly serving as MC.
It begins at 7 p.m. on Friday with the competition that evening and Saturday evening being knock-out rounds based on team scores and Sunday being the championship round with one team walking away with a cash prize and year-long bragging rights as St. Thomas’ most knowledgable trivia masters.
Here is the nitty-gritty.
◉ Team registration fee is $40 and a maximum of 4 members per team age 18 or over.
◉ Trivia questions will span a multitude of categories so pick your team members carefully!
◉ The $40 registration fee from each team will be put into a pot with the winning team receiving half of the total pot in play.
◉ The person registering their team will be the team captain and main contact.
◉ Teams will be assigned a team colour in advance of the competition and we encourage participants to dress for battle.
To register your team, visit https://bit.ly/3JAq7ZO
THE ECHO CHAMBER
Well our interview last week with Shawn DeNeire, running for city council in the Oct. 24 municipal election, generated plenty of response and some quite heated debate.
Fellow candidate Timothy Hedden forwarded this detailed observation based on the following quote from DeNeire.
“You know the homelessness is one thing. It doesn’t necessarily group together with mental health and drug addiction.”
“A third to half of all homeless individuals deal with severe mental health challenges.
“Forty per cent have been assaulted and 23-25 per cent of homeless women have been sexually abused.
“Those numbers skyrocket among the population that people consider disruptive or violent.
“It groups together so well that any attempt to solve the issue has to consider both issues simultaneously.
“The family who, for financial reason, are temporarily homeless are not the people that downtown businesses are having difficult interactions with.”
Hedden responded to the following quote from DeNeire.
“I would like to see homelessness is separate from the drug rehabs and or the clinics where they get their free fixes.”
“Making services further apart and less comprehensive is not a solution anyone working in these fields would recommend, and those ‘free fixes,’ which I assume is methadone, reduce dependence on riskier drugs, reduce the desperation of the individual who is dealing with their addiction.
“For a downtown merchant, there is a direct correlation between the need for ‘a fix’ and property crime.”
Moving on, Hedden reacted to this quote.
“With acreage for a lot and it’s usually fenced in. The property is big enough to put a green space in. The buildings are big enough to put in lodging, medical and training back into society all under one roof.”
“There are so many things wrong with this suggestion that my brain actually temporarily short-circuited. There is such low availability of commercial and industrial space that we just bought out a bunch of farmers.
“We did this to land an employer that will provide great future-proof green energy jobs. We did it to woo the Teslas of the world, not to build the ‘DeNeire Homeless Interment Health and Re-education Camp.’
“How do you decry transit in one breath and then put the facilities that help dangerously out of reach?
“Here is the real issue.
“The issues being experienced by downtown merchants are very real. It has led to a great deal of anger and frustration. They have every reason to reach out to the community and politicians to get this dealt with.
“Anger and frustration are a very effective way to have your voice heard. It’s not a great place to build solutions from.
“The greatest thing we could do and are doing is supportive housing with full wraparounds.
“In just the limited number of units we currently have we are seeing a massive (and I do mean massive) reduction in police interactions. We are seeing people start to rebuild their lives and get much-needed help in recovery.
“At some point, we have to ask ourselves if the problem is that we have a life-or-death issue with causes steeped in family trauma, medical trauma, sexual trauma, and mental health and it requires difficult solutions and needs to be solved by forward-thinking, responsible individuals.
“Or, do we just not want to see it?
“Death by nimbyism.
“A ‘get-off-my-lawn approach’ to this issue will only lead to more suffering and more death.”
Leticia Mizon opened the discussion up to deal with the lack of diversity on city council. Something we have pointed to on several occasions, particularly on this term of council where two vacancies needed to be addressed and could have provided a starting point.
“It would be super incredible if potential candidates had any idea of the current struggles our community faces.
“We don’t need another conservative, tone deaf, or ignorant white man on council. We have seen enough of that.
“Want to learn about the issues your community faces?
“Want to learn about addiction, homelessness, social determinants of health, poverty, mental illness?
“Making claims that reek of ignorance and privilege are one thing, now you have the time and tools to learn and seek consultation, it’s on you to do that work and as a prospective city councillor, it is imperative that you get informed.
“Shipping people into an industrial area with gates is not only problematic, but it is saying ‘you don’t belong here’ where your supports and services are.
“And it’s a methadone clinic that has helped not only save but improve the lives of so many of your prospective taxpayers.
“Do some learning, please. The world is at your fingertips, and you have a plethora of resources to consult with.
“Be better and do better.”
Which prompted this response from Kevin Smith.
“You wrote, ‘We don’t need another conservative, tone deaf, or ignorant white man on council. We have seen enough of that.’
“I always find it amusing that those who use the race card always see racism when it doesn’t exist.
“You wrote, ‘Want to learn about the issues your community faces? Ask. Want to learn about addiction, homelessness, social determinants of health, poverty, and mental illness? Ask’.
Now that is really comical.
“What are you going to do Leticia, keep handing out 60,000 needles every single year without having a program in place to help those coming off of addictions.
“Your logic is the equivalent of handing out alcohol to alcoholics without having any AA groups around. Utter stupidity! Why would they ask you for advice when your ideas are fueling addictions in our community? Your plan has failed, move along.
“You wrote, ‘Making claims that reek of ignorance and privilege are one thing, now you have the time and tools to learn and seek consultation, it’s on you to do that work and as a prospective city councillor, it is imperative that you get informed.’
“Nobody cares about your virtue signalling. Ordinary people like DeNeire have worked hard their entire lives to get where they are in life.
“They are not privileged. They are simply concerned citizens trying to address big problems in our community.
“You wrote, ‘Shipping people into an industrial area with gates is not only problematic, but it is saying you don’t belong here where your supports and services are,’
“You know there are many businesses in the downtown area which are suffering as a result of the mess in the area. The stuff going on is not good for business but obviously, you don’t care about business owners.
“It makes sense to use the empty areas away from the downtown core and residential areas to help the homeless, addicts and to relieve the stress on businesses.
“Think of it this way, all the services, supports and accommodations to help the homeless and addicts will be in one place.
“Having said that we need to make sure we have programs in place to help those coming off of drugs have mental health services available, skills development and job training programs in place as well.
“It’s a win-win situation which would benefit the homeless, addicts, business, residential areas and the community.”
And finally this from Leo Anthony.
FOR THE CALENDAR
The Nameless, in partnership with Southwestern Public Health, is putting on a Third Annual International Overdose Awareness event on Aug. 31, from 5 until 8 p.m. at White Street Parkette in St. Thomas.
It’s a chance to support and be supported. An opportunity to learn about services in the community and what you can do to help.
Perhaps a good opportunity for many in the community to come out and see what is being done.
This corner will be on hand in the hope we bump into members of city council and the candidates seeking to get elected.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
Visit us on Facebook
And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.