Is there proven need for an expanded council?


city_scope_logo-cmykPrevious discussions transpired more than a decade ago, however the size and composition of city council resurfaced during the Nov. 14 meeting and it is a useful exercise to revisit notes and documents from that time.

In 2003, the council of the day authorized what became the McCarth-Tetrault report – a full and independent review of council and its working relationships at city hall – undertaken at a cost of $25,000 or so.

It characterized that council as “dysfunctional” with a toxic mix of personalities resulting in a “lack of respect for others (which) seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”

The report made but three recommendations, one of which called for the reduction in size of council to seven members from the current eight, including the mayor.

Of course that recommendation was never adopted although, in 2002 council attempted a reduction in size but the motion died when no member would second it and a subsequent move to increase in size by one member was defeated on a 4-4 vote.

And here we are today seeking to increase the bureaucracy at city hall with a move to endorse a council comprised of mayor and eight councillors.

In order for a revision to the existing composition of council to be in effect for the 2018 municipal election, a bylaw must be passed prior to December 31, 2017.

At the November meeting, discussion touched on the creation of a deputy mayor position.

JEFF KOHLER HS

Former mayor Jeff Kohler

Similar debate took place in January, 2005 based on a recommendation from then-mayor Jeff Kohler‘s task force.

A deputy mayor could either be elected or appointed by council from its existing members to serve when the mayor is unavailable.

It is worth noting the Ontario Municipal Act only recognizes the head of council and council members.

In a letter in June, 2004 to then-clerk Peter Leack from Jill Bellchamber-Glazier with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, she cautioned “if the approach of the task force is that a deputy mayor would automatically have the power of the head (of council), you may want to ask your solicitor.”

She continued, “It is my understanding the mayor must agree to a bylaw . . . that the deputy will perform all of those functions . . .”

The mayor’s task force in 2005 proposed the deputy mayor would be compensated at $23,941, the midway point between the mayor’s salary and that of an alderman.

For years, the head of council each month appointed a member to serve as acting mayor during any time of absence. Is this system not working under the present regime? If not, why not?

At a time when fiscal restraint should be rigorously preached at city hall, why is council proposing an extra salary for an additional councillor and an increase in salary for a deputy mayor?

Related posts:

Should we be feeding one more at the council table

History and findings of the McCarthy-Tetrault report 2003

GOOD TIMING

On Monday’s council agenda is correspondence from Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro advising of proposed changes to Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act.

This modernization of the existing 2001 legislation includes several key changes to watch. If endorsed, the new package would improve access to justice for the public and for municipal councillors by allowing integrity commissioners to investigate complaints.

The city already has appointed an integrity commissioner in John Maddox – who also serves as closed meeting investigator – and it just so happens council will be asked to renew both agreements with him through 2017.

Maddox adjudicates complaints received under the city’s code of conduct – adopted in 2014, but not without considerable debate over lobbying, which prompted Ald. Cliff Barwick to pronounce, “We would all need three pieces of duct tape to apply to our ears and mouth” – and that is another proposed change to the Municipal Act requiring municipalities to have a code of conduct for members of council and local boards.

If you remember, the present council was only a month into its four-year term when Maddox was called upon to mediate in a spat between two councillors during an in-camera discussion of committee appointments.

While we don’t know the specifics, it involved a message or messages exchanged between the two individuals.

Whatever was written, Maddox concluded “The message was ‘ill-timed’ and left considerable room for interpretation.”

Council will likely rubber-stamp both agreements with Maddox but has it determined whether this same service can be provided through the Ontario Ombudsman’s office?

We understand that service is free.

Related posts:

Can courtesy prevail over confrontation on council

Barwick Four found guilty in the court of public opinion

THE NAME GAME

Preston Joe 2012City council is being asked to name a street after long-serving MP Joe Preston.

In a letter to mayor and council from Stephanie Brown, vice-president of Living Alive Granola – of which Preston is a business partner – urging council to adopt the name Preston Lane for a city roadway.

“He has done so much for this community and beyond that I think we should say thank you,” writes Brown.

A noble gesture, but why stop there.

Steve Peters logged yeoman service as alderman, mayor and MPP and a street bearing his name would be equally fitting.

Karen VecchioContributed photoQUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We have to make sure we’re not being given a raw deal here and that there’s going to be money for rural infrastructure in this plan as well. Right now we’re not and we need to continue to voice our concerns.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio speaking with Times-Journal reporter Jennifer Bieman this week about the federal government’s new infrastructure strategy.

City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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In this case, one option does not fit all


city_scope_logo-cmykAs touched upon last week in this corner, senior administrators at the Thames Valley District School Board are recommending Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School become a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility, effective next July.
Under this proposal, French Immersion students in Grades 6-8 and Grade 7 and 8 Extended French students would attend classes in Port Stanley Public School.
This past October, the TVDSB presented six new options to parents and you have to ask does this proposal reflect popular opinion in the school community?

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Is there a will for ‘amicable’ solution to cemetery crisis?


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With mere days remaining before St. Thomas Cemetery Company seeks to abandon its two burying grounds if a $59,000 grant is not reinstated, there was some movement following an in-camera meeting of council Monday.
“The general tone of council is to try and work toward a resolution or recipe that is amicable for everyone,” CAO Wendell Graves told the Times-Journal on Tuesday.
“And so our solicitor was given direction to correspond with the cemetery board’s solicitor.”
In addition, Coun. Gary Clarke volunteered to sit on the cemetery board after council chose not to appoint a representative for the first time since 1990.
“I volunteered,” indicated Clarke. “I want to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want this to work in the best interests of everyone and not at the taxpayers’ expense.” Continue reading

That was the year that was, in words


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After an enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s hiatus, City Scope returns with a tradition dating back to 2005, when we welcomed the incoming year by casting a final glance back to focus on the wit and wisdom served up by some of those individuals who graced this corner over the previous 365 days.

Since that debut, we have broadened our horizon to include quotes from a variety of sources, including Times-Journal readers.

As an unabashed collector of quotes, this flashback is an enviable task that neatly ties the preceding 12 months into a compact package to open and savor at the demise of another year.

And, as American writer and editor Daniel Okrent deftly observed, “I’m afraid we’ll see reporters stop chasing quotes around the same time dogs stop chasing cars.”
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Is a female MP in the cards for EML?


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It’s still a work in progress, however there now is the very distinct possibility late next year Elgin residents will be represented for the first time by a female MP.
The announcement Saturday of Karen Vecchio as the riding’s federal Conservative nominee sets up a showdown with former city alderman Lori Baldwin-Sands, acclaimed last month as the Liberal nominee in Elgin-Middlesex-London.
Fred Sinclair is seeking the nomination for EML NDP candidate.
Still on a high from Saturday’s victory over five other very qualified individuals, Vecchio noted the male-dominated federal playing field here is already in transformation.
“Look at our nomination, there were four women and two men,” Vecchio pointed out in an interview Friday.
“My campaign team is fifty-fifty. I find the party itself has become much more family oriented where it’s about moms and dads and grand-parents. Having a woman doesn’t change things.”
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She is energized and ready for business


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In her inaugural address to the new council Monday, Mayor Heather Jackson sent a clear message she is ready to embrace change at city hall.

A priority is the implementation of a communication plan, which would include a communication officer working out of the clerk’s department. Speaking to the Times-Journal, Jackson stressed this would not be a new hire.

“It’s certainly not a new position,” advised Jackson. “Wendell (CAO Wendell Graves) and I have been talking about how we can make this happen without adding to the staff. We’ve got somebody now who does most of those functions but it’s not in anybody’s job description.”

Look for the manner in which council conducts business during its regular meetings to come under review in the new year.
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My acclamation? Sorry, no comment on that


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He’s the hottest and sexiest political commodity in the country right now and surely any number of eager, imaginative up-and-comers would love to be a player on the Justin Trudeau team as it readies for the 2015 federal election.

And yet we are expected to believe not one single motivated individual stepped forward to challenge Lori Baldwin-Sands for the Liberal nomination in Elgin-Middlesex-London?

The former St. Thomas alderman will be acclaimed on Nov. 20 at a nomination meeting to be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

That’s right, it was no contest.
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