Please grant us a sane and sensible community grant policy


city_scope_logo-cmykA seemingly innocent comment at the close of Monday’s reference committee meeting – held prior to the regularly scheduled council session – unwittingly could have the same impact as flinging a full can of gas onto a smoldering fire.
In the new business portion of the meeting, Coun. Mark Burgess waded into the mire that is council grants to community groups, a process that sees hundreds of thousands of dollars doled out on an annual basis.
The response to the good councillor’s remark was swift.

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The Dobbie Report: Was the damning document highjacked?


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter reading the unabridged version of the Dobbie Report, it’s not so much the concerns raised by the author, London consultant Tim Dobbie, are troublesome — and they most certainly are — it’s the manner in which the document itself was withheld from the previous council.
And we’re not certain all members of this council received “a thorough presentation of this report and an implementation update as part of their council orientation,” a critical recommendation of the report.
But let’s step back for a moment to get up to speed on the report itself.
The organizational review of the environmental services department — budgeted at $20,000 — was undertaken in the summer of 2014 and involved interviews with staff, department heads, members of council and outside stakeholders. Along with 10 sweeping recommendations, the review details major issues facing the City of St. Thomas, including the almost $300 million infrastructure deficit.
A highly edited version was presented to the outgoing council on Nov. 3, 2014. The report was endorsed that evening by a slim 5-3 margin with aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden opposed.

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Spending big doesn’t get you the chain of office


city_scope_logo-cmykThe final numbers have been submitted and it’s a bitter lesson for mayoral candidate Mark Cosens, who found you can’t spend your way to the top.
March 27 was the deadline for candidates to file campaign expenses for the 2014 municipal vote and all 22 individuals met that target.
Cosens claimed $15,244.94 in expenses, which was well beyond double the amount logged by Mayor Heather Jackson at $5,883.59.
Cliff Barwick, who filed months ago, spent just over $4,000. Continue reading

You’re elected to make a decision and move forward


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She survived a bitterly fought election campaign last fall, threats to her well-being this month over the city’s snow-removal efforts and on Wednesday, Mayor Heather Jackson demonstrated in feisty fashion why she has earned the right to wear the chain of office.

Jackson appeared with Southwold Mayor Grant Jones and Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr at the fifth annual State of the Municipalities luncheon, hosted by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce at St. Anne’s Centre

While her focus was firmly directed at economic development, the city’s near $300 million infrastructure deficit and cooperation with neighbouring municipalities, it was this observation from Jackson that left no doubt she will no longer tolerate foot dragging on two projects that have unnecessarily languished in the political mire — a byproduct of previous councils.
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Will new council game plan lead to efficiencies?


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Mayor Heather Jackson alluded to changes in her 2014 mayoral campaign and a report last fall on restructuring of at least one department at city hall recommended a re-think in how council conducts business.
A new game plan saw the light of day Thursday at a special meeting called to solicit dialogue on a proposed overhaul of council’s committee structure.
Currently, a system of seven standing committees is employed to deal with finance and administration; human resources; environmental services; protective services; community services; planning and development; and social services.
Business relating to each of these committees is managed within committee of the whole during regular meetings of council.
Under the new system presented by Jackson and CAO Wendell Graves, the seven committees will be scrapped in favour of four reference committees that would undertake discussions dealing with strategic community development and planning; community engagement and services; infrastructure management and civic operations; and local government and administration. Continue reading

There’s nothing out of order on the mayor’s out of order call


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Monday’s procedural put down involving the two veterans on city council — Mayor Heather Jackson and Coun. Jeff Kohler — prompted testy exchanges on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page.

To recap, Jackson ruled Kohler out of order as he attempted to table a motion calling for city staff to obtain quotes from local contractors to renovate the second floor of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.

“Abuse of Her Highness’ power at work,” screamed one online poster.

“Kohler is a hot dogging grandstander,” was the retort from another participant.
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A campaign promise better left unfulfilled


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The Jan. 19 council meeting in which Part 1 of the 2015 capital budget was unanimously approved is undeniable validation a new home for the St. Thomas Police Service did not play a significant role in the 2014 municipal campaign.

Members of council were united in committing $13 million to construct a purpose-built structure immediately west of the Timken Centre. It should be noted Coun. Jeff Kohler was absent from the vote due to a personal family matter.

In a presentation that evening by The Ventin Group, given direction by council to undertake the tendering process, a Class B cost estimate of $10.6 million for construction of the single-storey building was tabled.

A far cry from projections of up to $30 million floated in some corners during the bitter October election campaign.
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