Bob McCaig: Remembering a cautionary tale, that pre-election poll and a generous soul


city_scope_logo-cmykHe continually courted controversy, was synonymous with waste management and his legacy adorns the front of the Great Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
St. Thomas developer – and author of 2012’s cautionary tale Madame McGuinty’s Teflon Academy – Bob McCaig died this past Wednesday (June 5) at the age of 79.
The former Elgin county school board trustee was not only a frequent contributor to City Scope, but he was also the focus of numerous items in this corner. Inclusion of the McCaig name could be counted upon to generate a considerable response, both pro and con.
His was a black and white canvas, there was no gray on Bob’s palette.
Love him or loathe him, there is no denying – at heart – he was a prolific community booster.

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What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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Sutherland Press building roof collapse raises ‘significant concerns’


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It was a key factor in the defeat of Cliff Barwick in the 2010 mayoral vote and now the Sutherland Press building is back in the news to haunt Mayor Heather Jackson and city staff.

At a hastily called media conference Tuesday afternoon, CAO Wendell Graves and Jackson advised they have “significant concerns” about the structural integrity of the Talbot St. structure following a roof collapse Friday at the southwest corner of the building, east of Moore St.

The city has hired a structural engineer to update staff on measures needed to minimize risk to the public until the future of the building, constructed around 1910, is determined.
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The Sutherland Press building is on a slow simmer


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It’s been compared to Alma before the former school for girls succumbed to a fiery death.
It’s been the centrepiece of a $3 million lawsuit launched immediately prior to the 2010 municipal election. And, it’s had its top floor shaved off at the front in a questionable attempt at reducing the danger of the structure falling to its knees.
The sad legacy of the Sutherland Press building over the last decade is another example of the city handcuffed by absentee landlords.
In this case David McGee of Toronto, who had high hopes of turning the hulking structure into luxury suites.
It was a similar script with the Zubick family of London, who subjected Alma to death by neglect. Continue reading

Last stand for the infamous Barwick Five


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The clock is ticking down on the term of what many ratepayers have deemed the most ineffectual council in recent memory.
That may be an overly harsh evaluation — one only has to look at the two councils in power during the lengthy and feisty new arena debate a decade ago — however there is little doubt the individuals who became known as the Barwick Five were no crowd favourites, with the exception of Heather Jackson, voted in for a second term as mayor.
She and Ald. Jeff Kohler are all who remain as a new council is installed next month.
While many voters will surely take credit for the house cleaning at city hall, the reality is the makeover was self-inspired.
Aldermen Dave Warden, Lori Baldwin-Sands and Gord Campbell announced their retirement from municipal politics and aldermen Cliff Barwick and Mark Cosens were the two casualties in the mayoral race with Jackson. Continue reading

Voters hung up on robocalls, now it’s time to dial in on issues.


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In a municipal election campaign that deeply divided the city, it would be fair to say most residents do agree on one thing — thank goodness the damn thing is over with.

The focus on a new police station and, to a lesser extent, revisiting the two-year-old Ascent remuneration boondoggle that ensnared Ald. Tom Johnston, completely shifted the focus away from more pressing concerns.

Will this new council work as a unified body to address unemployment, poverty and homelessness, a staggering infrastructure deficit, the city’s woeful transit system and the west end of Talbot St., to name but a few items requiring urgent attention?

And, while it would be easy for us all to take credit for electing a new-look council, the realization is fresh faces in the council chamber at city hall was an inevitable reality as three veterans were retiring and another two would be casualties in the mayoral race.
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Time for good ideas, not absurd promises


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Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner checked in with the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encouraged voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the aldermanic race, voters can cast up to a maximum of seven votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse that number of candidates.
The goal, argues Bens, is to only support those candidates “who will make good decisions on behalf of the community.”
If a voter feels they have accomplished that by supporting less than the maximum allowed seven candidates, then they should not feel obligated to cast the remainder of their votes.
He pointed out just filling up the ballot “can sometimes send irresponsible and unethical people to public office.”
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