A hoped-for sane policy for community funding grants


city_scope_logo-cmykWith no sane or sensible guidelines currently in place, council is about to grapple with how it dishes out funding to community groups.

At Monday’s meeting of council, members will receive a report entitled Policy on Granting Funds to Community Organizations, a framework that should have been in place years ago.

No better example of the helter-skelter approach utilized in the past than the dithering this summer over whether St. Thomas Cemetery Company should be granted $59,000 in funding.

A debate that appears more grounded in personality conflict than sound financial sense. Continue reading

A campaign promise better left unfulfilled


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The Jan. 19 council meeting in which Part 1 of the 2015 capital budget was unanimously approved is undeniable validation a new home for the St. Thomas Police Service did not play a significant role in the 2014 municipal campaign.

Members of council were united in committing $13 million to construct a purpose-built structure immediately west of the Timken Centre. It should be noted Coun. Jeff Kohler was absent from the vote due to a personal family matter.

In a presentation that evening by The Ventin Group, given direction by council to undertake the tendering process, a Class B cost estimate of $10.6 million for construction of the single-storey building was tabled.

A far cry from projections of up to $30 million floated in some corners during the bitter October election campaign.
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A new spirit of neighbourly cooperation?


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The city’s incoming municipal council will be sworn in Monday and, prior to that, members will undergo an orientation and training session today in the council chamber at city hall.
It is an opportunity for the newcomers to gain an introduction to the city’s procedural bylaws and code of conduct . . . matters of protocol several out-going members apparently did not familiarize themselves with.
Picking up on our discussion last week with Mayor Heather Jackson, we asked her about the city’s relationship with neighbouring municipalities — not always of a harmonious nature in areas like tourism promotion and marketing.
“We have work with our neighbours and we have to work with the county,” stressed Jackson. “Let’s get a liaison meeting set up early in the new year. I want their new council to get to know our new council . . . so we can continue to build a relationship.
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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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Out-spoken activist sparks homeless dialogue


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After a short time-out in St. Thomas, homeless advocate Jason McComb is back on the road — continuing his Walking in the Free World cross-Canada trek.
On his lay-over, he met with MP Joe Preston, MPP Jeff Yurek and St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson to draw attention to the plight of the homeless in order to get them back contributing to society.
He was encouraged to approach all candidates in the upcoming municipal vote to peg them down on homeless initiatives.
During a similar round table discussion back in January, Jason made the following observation about the city’s seasonal shelter, Inn out of the Cold.
“Get them in, get them fed, get them showered, get them to bed. Then it’s here’s your breakfast and now out you go.
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Can courtesy prevail over confrontation on council?


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Launch into a debate last Monday on a proposed code of conduct for city council and those involved are poetry in motion. Best behaviour all and let courtesy prevail over controversy.
Why, anyone tuning in for the first time would swear a code of conduct would simply be superfluous.
Well, call up the track record of the past three councils – and several current members have sat on all three – and you’ll discover a litany of indiscretions.
How about a bogus address for at least two aldermen who were not residents of the city. At least two aldermen never declared a conflict of interest on numerous items of council business dealing with hockey and a local industry.
Then there’s the matter of hockey tickets as compensation for sitting as a board director and the current squabble involving aldermen Lori Baldwin-Sands and Cliff Barwick.
And speaking of the latter, the deft puck-handling that allowed the former mayor to assume the seat held by the departed Sam Yusuf a year ago will not be forgotten by many of the electorate come the October municipal election.
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Adopt a code now or face wrath of voters


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By the time the closing prayer is uttered Monday, council may well have adopted a code of conduct, not only for themselves, but for appointed boards and committees.
A sad commentary on how questionable the behaviour of some elected representatives has become over the past few terms of council.
“It’s a shame in this day and age this is a necessity,” bemoaned Mayor Heather Jackson on Friday.
However, the continual leaking of information discussed in closed session and the verbal sparring between aldermen Cliff Barwick and Lori Baldwin-Sands are but two factors that lift the proposed code of conduct into the urgently required category.
The mayor’s frustration was evident last December.
“Even this week there’s been another piece of information given to somebody . . . and they’re not even leaking the right information.”
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Not knowing the price is a good thing


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Don’t fall for this scam. Someone insists they know the true cost of a new police station and they’re willing to share the figure with you.
The information doesn’t exist and it never has. Oh, there have been estimates attached to various consultant reports, but they are nothing more than that — rough costing based on a conceptual plan that has no bearing on the final reality.
That was the message driven home Thursday at the initial meeting of the police building committee. A body whose mandate is to do just that — come up with a firm price based on a concrete design.
So, who sits on the committee?
It is chaired by Ald. David Warden and includes aldermen Mark Cosens and Tom Johnston, CAO Wendell Graves, treasurer Bill Day, director of engineering John Dewancker and St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell.
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More bacon now to avoid egg on the face later


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After more than ten years of costly dithering, council finally made a decision on what route to take on a home for the city’s police service. However, don’t for one minute assume that will shut the tap on the steady stream of misinformation that has been leaking out from some quarters.
Figures from $20 million all the way up to $30 million have been bandied about by some aldermen and a blog in the city is stoking the fire with a cost analysis that is pure figment of the imagination. If you want to legitimize your point of view, then compare apples to apples.
With her Tweet just prior to Monday’s council meeting, Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands deftly demonstrated the fine art of fearmongering.
Her assertion a new police station “could cost average taxpayer $150.00 per year for 10 yr.” enraged Mayor Heather Jackson and Ald. Gord Campbell.
Such has been the posturing and playing fast and loose with numbers that has dominated debate over the past decade.
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