Is the province interfering in or ensuring compliance with municipal codes of conduct?


It will be interesting to gauge the response at city hall

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after the province announced yesterday (Friday) it is launching consultations with the municipal sector to strengthen accountability for council members.
To quote the release from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “The province wants to ensure that councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace and carry out their duties as elected officials in an ethical and responsible manner.”

Minister Steve Clark added, “We want to gather input to ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to hold council members accountable for any unacceptable behaviour.”
He went on to note, “It’s critical that everyone feels safe and respected in the workplace, and that they know there are accountability measures in place for members who violate codes of conduct.”
It was two years ago that an unnamed member of council was the subject of a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an individual of the opposite sex removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.

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From slap shots to COVID-19 shots, Memorial Arena takes on a new role


city_scope_logo-cmykWith all the knocks against the province’s coronavirus attack plan and vaccination roll-out, you have to wonder how much consultation there has been with the local health units and their medical officers of health?
In fact, how closely is the government listening to medical authorities at institutions like Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and other experts in the field on a safe back-to-school policy?
You can point to the federal government for their handling of the vaccine itself, but is the shortage an easy target when your own program is likewise sputtering and subject to rapid and unexpected about turns?
At the grassroots level our local health unit, Southwestern Public Health, is being proactive and has approached the city to obtain use of Memorial Arena as a vaccination hub.
The matter is a late addition to Monday’s (March 1) council agenda.
As noted in city manager Wendell Graves’ report to members, “Attributes of the site include easy access, good parking and the ability to map out an operational floor plan that would allow for the greatest number of people to be vaccinated as expeditiously as possible.”

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I have a cough, why am I not being tested for COVID-19?


city_scope_logo-cmykAs is bandied about across all social media venues, does every individual have the right to demand a COVID-19 test?
This week we presented that train of thought to Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health at Southwestern Public Health for her observations.
Is an individual with a cough immediately tested for the virus?
Not normally.
Dr. Lock advises, in simple terms, a test is administered when it is clinically indicated.
In other words, the test results will better help the doctor to decide what is the best route of care for that patient.
So, in the case of an individual exhibiting mild symptoms, what would be prescribed?

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Mayor Preston on grants policy: ‘At no time did anybody come up to me and say would you please give away more of my money’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile attempting to avoid treading water any longer on a definitive grant process, at Monday’s reference committee meeting, Mayor Joe Preston admitted he is “bothered” by the current process or lack thereof.
Obviously frustrated he noted, “a disproportionate amount of time has been spent discussing grants.”
To move along the dialogue, Preston announced the formation of a committee with at least a couple of council members on board in order to “write a proposal council can agree with . . . and bring this back in quickly.”
Curious as to the direction he envisions, we chatted with the mayor Tuesday to allow him to elaborate.
“I think we touched on the outer edges of what grants should look like in our community last night. What we have to decide is where are we going to land in the middle?
“I’m the same as anybody else. I don’t think we should go without an art centre. But, should the art centre be getting a set amount every year in perpetuity as part of their funding?
“I don’t know. We just have to decide those things.”

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No big spenders in the 2018 St. Thomas municipal vote


city_scope_logo-cmykMayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote.
In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife.
All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205.
Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council.
Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500.
The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket. Continue reading

St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston’s challenge to residents: ‘Dare to dream all that could be possible’


city_scope_logo-cmykAs he stressed in his inaugural address on Dec. 3 of last year, smart growth in St. Thomas can be achieved through co-operation and open communication with neighbouring communities.
Mayor Joe Preston reiterated that mantra Thursday (Feb. 28) at the State of the Municipalities luncheon at St. Anne’s Centre.
Joined by Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn and Southwold Mayor Grant Jones, Preston stressed a healthy, expanding regional economy can be nurtured via a co-operative effort with the city’s neighbours.
“We are much stronger when we all work together,” Preston advised the business and community leaders in attendance.
“Will it be accomplished during our terms in office? Yes it will and we all are working together.”
That need for co-operation and communication was one of four key areas Preston stressed need to be addressed during his term in office.

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Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers.
In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range
And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise.
One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities.
Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading

Salary review at city hall prompts healthy hike in remuneration for senior staff


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Correction: As noted previously by then police chief Darryl Pinnell, the correct number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service earning in excess of $100,000 in 2016 should have been 46 and not 43, making the overall total for that year 113. The increase then for this year is from 46 members to 49.

A report on the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 is included in Monday’s council agenda. This is required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996.
In total, 117 employees eared more than $100,000, that’s up from 110 in 2016.
Breaking down by sector, 49 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are included, up substantially from 43 in 2016.
At the St. Thomas Fire Department, 46 are on the list and that is down by two from the previous year due to retirements.
In city administration, 22 staffers are listed, up three from 2016.
Most notable is the hefty increase in remuneration for some of the senior staff, while most others saw their salary remain relatively stable from 2016. Continue reading

From the steam engine to the STEAM Centre, it’s a logical extension


city_scope_logo-cmykAttracting interested and involved participants was not an issue Monday evening (March 27) at an information night to introduce a partnership between the STEAM Centre, housed in the former Wellington Public School, and the Thames Valley District School Board.  The pilot project will see participating Grade 10 students from the city’s three TVDSB high schools work collaboratively for one semester before returning to their home schools. 
One of the biggest proponents of the STEAM Centre is board member Andrew Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.
Gunn sees the St. Thomas centre as a template for what can be undertaken in communities across the province threatened with losing their schools.

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