There’s little time to settle in, the 2019 St. Thomas budget looms ahead for new city council


city_scope_logo-cmykIn past years, this corner closed out the calendar with a review of the previous 12 months through memorable quotes, often humorous and even insightful at times.
This time around, with a newly installed council – which, after just a pair of meetings is proving more dynamic than the previous edition – we will peer ahead to the coming year and the corporate business needing attention in fairly short order.
First on the agenda – with an initial run-through beginning 5 p.m. Jan. 7 – is the city’s 2019 budget.
As outlined during the Dec. 17 reference committee meeting, the goal is to hold the municipal property tax levy to an increase of between 1.8 and 2 per cent.
The capital budget target for 2019 is $4,045,000, up from $3.4 million in 2018. However, keep in mind council will have to wade through tens of millions of dollars in requests.

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Sunday night phone call moves MPP Jeff Yurek into high-profile transportation ministry


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter dealing with a devasting forest fire season that blazed a swath through Northern Ontario, Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek is on the move.
Literally.
As announced Monday morning (Nov. 5), Yurek fared prominently in Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet shuffle that sees him replace John Yakabuski as Minister of Transportation. Yakabuski, in turn, will assume Yurek’s previous post as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, a position he took on after Ford swept into power in June of this year.
The cabinet tweaking, involving a half-dozen MPPs, was necessitated by the resignation last Friday of Economic Development Minister Jim Wilson who, according to Ford, stepped down to deal with an addiction issue related to alcohol.
Global News and other media outlets have since reported allegations of sexual misconduct prompted Wilson’s sudden resignation.
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St. Thomas mayoral candidates in agreement: transit users deserve a better ride


city_scope_logo-cmykAlthough their backgrounds and platforms embrace a broad political spectrum, we discovered Wednesday (Sept. 19) the four St. Thomas mayoral candidates agree on one aspect of city life.
Incumbant Heather Jackson, Coun. Steve Wookey, former Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston and entrepreneur/artist Malichi Male contend it is time to throw the transit routes and schedules under the bus.
The four were participating in a town hall forum at the CASO station, hosted by young & free press, a new media outlet in St. Thomas composed of a trio of 16-year-old high school students working in tandem with STEAM Education Centre board member Andrew Gunn, who served as moderator for the evening. Continue reading

The time has come to brag about St. Thomas, says Coun. Linda Stevenson


city_scope_logo-cmykLinda Stevenson’s trip to city hall this past Monday (July 16) ensured the sitting council would not be in a lame duck position to close out the term.
Stevenson filed her nomination papers, signalling her intention to seek a second term on council. The following day, Mayor Heather Jackson entered the now-crowded mayoral race, leaving only Coun. Mark Burgess as the lone question mark for the Oct. 22 municipal vote.
Following her official business at the clerk’s counter, we talked with Stevenson at length about her initial four years in the council chamber and her expectations for the future.
“I enjoyed the first term a lot,” advised Stevenson. “I think it was a good working council. We got a lot of work done. A lot of faith in staff bringing forward reports that were full and the information was good so we can make good planning decisions. Continue reading

The flag drops on 2018 municipal election race in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykWell a pair of Steves kicked off the 2018 municipal electoral race, on opening day no less. That would be Steve Wookey, in his bid for the mayor’s seat after one term on council and Steve Peters, in a city hall comeback effort.
Both filed their nomination papers early Tuesday.
You have to love Wookey’s assertion he has the endorsement of all members of the present council. Of course, that would be with the exception of sitting mayor Heather Jackson, who has basically been handed a vote of no confidence by councillors.
Wookey has been pushing for a complete overhaul of the city’s transit system, likely a popular move with those who shun the bus but a bitter pill for those who rely on a traditional service, including low-income users and students. Continue reading

Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading

Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?


city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading