Municipal politics is ‘liberating’ says St. Thomas mayor-elect Joe Preston, the city’s unabashed official cheerleader


city_scope_logo-cmykIn announcing his entry into the St. Thomas mayor’s race back in July, Joe Preston stressed municipal politics is “where rubber hits the road.”
Three months later as mayor-elect, after a 550-vote win over incumbent Heather Jackson, Preston isn’t waiting until the Dec. 3 swearing-in ceremony to get the gears in motion.
In a lengthy conversation with Preston yesterday (Oct. 26), he chuckled, “They’ve already started.”
Noting the increased demands on his schedule this week, Preston continued, “The election is over, now let’s get going. I’ve got a fantastic elected council, so I’m already talking to most of them. I already had a great meeting with (city manager) Wendell Graves about where we are and what I need to know. And with a lot of different community groups who want my ear at the moment.”

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She could go in and go nuts on them, but to what end?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe notion, upon first hearing it, is almost absurd. Nearly four years ago, City Scope referred to it as entirely counter-intuitive. Let an absentee owner off the hook and reach out to the community instead for their help and support.
But, that is exactly the approach lawyer Elena Dempsey was proposing in June of 2014 to turn things around at Walnut Manor — an independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living in Welland.
Well, a lengthy conversation this past Wednesday (Jan. 3) with the lawyer at Elgin-Oxford Legal Clinic in St. Thomas confirmed Dempsey is just as passionate.
She had visited the group home at 57 Walnut Street just before Christmas to drop off gifts for the 18 or so residents and found the facility just as dreary and depressing as ever. The food, appalling not appealing. Continue reading

Land-use planner warns St. Thomas is suffering from ‘sign disease’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a sign of what lies ahead for city staff in St. Thomas. An overview of the proposed 2017 advertising sign bylaw ran into stiff opposition at this week’s reference committee meeting.
Amendments to the existing bylaw to deal with portable signs in the downtown core faced vocal opposition from more than two dozen small businesses and area sign companies.
The bylaw would prohibit portable advertising signs in the downtown business area and limit them to one per commercial lot outside the core and three per industrial lot.
A-board signs would still be permitted but would have to come in off the sidewalk at the end of the day.
It’s a restriction similar to what’s in place in London and Sarnia.

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Silently pointing the way atop St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you think all is quiet on the St. Thomas Elevated Park front, all you have to do is look up to see nothing could be further from the truth.
The first of two large sculptures crafted by area artist and blacksmith Scott McKay was positioned in place this week, high above Sunset Drive in readiness for this year’s picnic on Aug. 27.
Entitled Fear Not The Wind, the artwork is an over-size, functional weathervane.
“Because it’s a windy environment up there, the artist came up with the idea of using that wind to make the sculpture move,” explained Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas. “So, a big, overgrown weather vane was the answer. You go to old-fashioned gardens and they put in weather vanes or sun dials and he came up with a weather vane for this garden and I think it’s a cool idea.” Continue reading

Who suffers when you can’t get there from here?


city_scope_logo-cmykLow-income families, young people, seniors and those with disabilities are the most disadvantaged when a rural area does not have access to good public transportation.
That was the message Thursday (March 23) at a rural public workshop hosted by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and  attended by close to 30 participants.
The aim of the three-hour forum was to get the ball rolling on development of a community transportation system for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Opening speaker Dr. Joyce Locke, the area’s medical officer of health, noted 35 per cent of Elgin’s population lives in rural areas, with personal vehicles being the most popular form of transportation.
In fact, advised Locke, 86 per cent of those living in St. Thomas/Elgin drive to work, with the average annual cost of operating a vehicle running in the neighbourhood of $7,300.

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Interpreting Ascent deal through our ‘filters’


city_scope_logo-cmykThree members of council are in favour of keeping the people who elected them to office in the dark about the comings and goings at Ascent, formerly known as St. Thomas Energy.
Well actually it may only be two but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The trio, Mayor Heather Jackson and councillors Gary Clarke and Linda Stevenson sit on the Ascent board of directors which met May 26 to deal with the sale of its Ascent Solutions division to Spark Power of Oakville.
Included in the deal are Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
This corner — and we’re sure many ratepayers — would like financial disclosure on the sale.
Guess what, that is not about to happen. Continue reading