Addressing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues . . . how do we collectively get on the same page?


city_scope_logo-cmykHe’s lived in the downtown core for 29 years and Steve Peters recounts over that time, “either sitting in my front window and watching the traffic on the street or sitting on my deck and hearing the traffic, things have changed.”
Boy, have they ever and Coun. Peters begins to open up on the challenges people face in finding a place to live in the heart of St. Thomas.
How much of that is due to what is referred to as the gentrification of downtown neighbourhoods?
“In the core area, the number of retrofits I have seen and continue to see,” suggested Peters.
“I am aware of a family that has had to move out of their place because the building has been sold and the new owner is coming in and is going to spend a lot of money to upgrade the place.
“I can look at a house beside me that is a fourplex and changed hands about four years ago and the new owner I bet spent over $200,000 or more and where this fourplex was probably renting for $600 is now renting for $1,200 plus utilities.”

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‘Any community needs to have a strong protective element for industries to feel good about moving in there.’ – new St. Thomas Fire Chief Kevin Welsh


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Oct. 28 media release from the city announcing the hiring of a new fire chief was somewhat short on information.
The one-paragraph devoted to Kevin Welsh reads, “With over 27 years of experience, Chief Welsh currently serves as Chief in the Town of Renfrew after spending many years with Kingston Fire and Rescue.
“He holds a Masters of Public Administration from Queens University and a Bachelor of Arts from Waterloo.”
He assumes his new role on Nov. 15, so what better way to get to know the city’s new fire chief than to call down to Renfrew and find out who Kevin Welsh is.
He’s got a sense of humour as we quickly discovered when he asked about the short turnaround between his last day in Renfrew this coming Friday and on the job in St. Thomas starting Monday, Nov. 15.
“Well you’ve got a weekend in between, so it’s all good.” he pointed out.
You can easily hear the enthusiasm in his voice, noticeable when he explained he was to be in the city last weekend to begin house hunting.

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Proof of vaccination mandate for St. Thomas municipal employees to debut Nov. 2


city_scope_logo-cmykAs far as policies go, the city’s proof of vaccination procedure appears designed more to accommodate employees who may balk at getting a COVID-19 jab.
In the process, avoid any disruption to the provision of services at city hall.
And, if approved Monday by council, those hesitant or unwilling to be vaccinated would be compensated for holding out as long as possible.
The proof of vaccination policy report, authored by Sandra Schulz, Director of Human Resources, indicates these procedures will apply to all members of council and committee appointments, active city employees, volunteers and students.
They will all be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19; or request an exemption due to a medical or creed/religion reason(s) under Ontario Human Rights Code for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and undertake regular testing; or complete a COVID-19 vaccination educational session and undertake regular testing.
Requests for exemption will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

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‘A world where mental illness is seen in the same light as all other illnesses in Ontario.’


city_scope_logo-cmykAt the end of July, we wrote about Dennis Kalichuk and his retirement.
After delivering his last letter for Canada Post, he eschewed typical retirement pastimes like golf and fishing in favour of starting a movement.
As per his vision, “a movement and official petition to ask the Ontario government for immediate and sweeping changes to the way that Ontario deals with issues and problems of homelessness, mental health and addictions.”
Remember, this was at the very end of July.
Not three months later – this past Thursday (Oct. 7) to be exact – there’s Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek standing up at Queen’s Park to present Kalichuk’s petition to members.
He referred to Kalichuk “as recently retired and he’s making Ontario a better place.”

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Oh bridge, wherefore art thou?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe operative word in this week’s headline is art.
Art on a grand scale. As in a massive movie-themed mural painted on Pier 9 of the Michigan Central Railroad trestle, which hosts the St. Thomas Elevated Park atop the impressive structure.
The expansive visual treatment, to be undertaken by mural artist Daniel Bombardier, also known as Denial, is the brainchild of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation.
Because the mural would be an alteration to the bridge designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, council’s consent is required and the matter will be on the agenda for Monday’s May 3 meeting.
At an April 14 meeting of the Municipal Heritage Committee, support was given to the project, “subject to any paint or colour scheme being complementary to the historic character of the designated property.”
Serge Lavoie, president of the elevated park promotes it as “a worthy addition to Canada’s first and only elevated park.”

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‘A good public transit system is essential to a healthy community’ – a frustrated St. Thomas passenger


city_scope_logo-cmykIsabelle Nethercott knows a thing or two about the city’s transit system.
She probably knows more about the pitfalls and shortcomings of the bus operation than anyone at city hall. And that includes mayor and council.
For years, Isabelle has relied on the creaky buses to get her to and from work.
And, to put it mildly, she is not impressed with the much-ballyhooed roll-out of Railway City Transit.
Most days she is the only rider on the bus, making social distancing effortless.
She forwarded a copy to this corner of a very lengthy letter addressed to Justin Lawrence, the city’s director of engineering.
It is as comprehensive as many of the big-buck consulting reports that cross the desk of city hall staff.
The director and council would be wise to heed and act upon many of her observations.
In short, any city that penalizes users by downgrading the service to a one-hour headway on almost all of its routes has no right to call itself progressive.

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The latest COVID-19 shutdown: Province can’t afford to have businesses go out of business


city_scope_logo-cmykYou had to have seen it coming. After a week of new COVID-19 cases above 2,000 per day across the province, we will spend the month of April in another shutdown.
In reality, however, there are very few changes from our region’s past few weeks in the Orange zone of the COVID-19 colour-coded restrictions.
As asked of Premier Doug Ford during Thursday’s announcement, these restrictions have been in effect in the province’s hotspots with little effect, what makes you think they will have an impact now?
We asked Downtown Development Board chairman Earl Taylor how the small, independent businesses in the city are faring so far and what impact will this latest strategy have on their bottom line?
Being able to open to 25 per cent capacity “I think is better than what we had last time,” observed Taylor.
“I think the government has finally come to terms with the fact they can’t afford to have these businesses go out of business. So, I think it is better than nothing.” Continue reading

St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge: ‘an increasingly expensive police response is the wrong direction’


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It’s time to get serious and address the escalating challenges looming over the city’s downtown core, advises St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge.
After a couple of phone calls this week and an exchange of emails, Herridge took the time to present a case for taking a leadership role in confronting those challenges.
“We are seeing a trend where drug and property crime has been increasing,” notes Herridge. “If we do not get a handle on the issues we are currently facing, the big city issues that quickly arrived here three to four years ago are going to turn into the serious issues occurring in larger centres across our country.
“As I have mentioned many times in the past, St. Thomas is not unique to the social, health and crime problems being experienced, but we can be leaders in addressing these issues if we focus on where the challenges are and, right now, the challenges are predominantly in and around our downtown.”
Herridge starts with a resource primer that should be pinned within easy reach for downtown merchants and their staff.

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A defining moment in the history of St. Thomas’ Memorial Arena to be written this spring and summer


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has a long and storied history. Of course, the St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Centre was long the home of the St. Thomas Stars and before that, the Pests and the Barons.
How many of you remember the short-lived Wildcats of the Colonial Hockey League who called Memorial Arena home for three years before morphing into the London Wildcats and then the Dayton Ice Bandits?
The old barn is seeped in hockey history but its defining moment may very well be written this spring and summer.
Over the past couple of weeks, the venerable facility built in 1953 has been transformed into an impressive vaccination hub where tens of thousands of area residents – certainly far more than the 2,600 or so hockey fanatics who could jam the stands and walking track for a game – will wend their way through the structure and emerge after a shot of insurance against the coronavirus.
Tremendous gratitude is owed Cynthia St. John, Jaime Fletcher and the rest of the hard-working staff at Southwestern Public Health and their community partners who have ironed out every last detail to open up the vaccination clinic Monday morning to get down to the business of corralling the coronavirus.

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