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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Voters hung up on robocalls, now it’s time to dial in on issues.


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In a municipal election campaign that deeply divided the city, it would be fair to say most residents do agree on one thing — thank goodness the damn thing is over with.

The focus on a new police station and, to a lesser extent, revisiting the two-year-old Ascent remuneration boondoggle that ensnared Ald. Tom Johnston, completely shifted the focus away from more pressing concerns.

Will this new council work as a unified body to address unemployment, poverty and homelessness, a staggering infrastructure deficit, the city’s woeful transit system and the west end of Talbot St., to name but a few items requiring urgent attention?

And, while it would be easy for us all to take credit for electing a new-look council, the realization is fresh faces in the council chamber at city hall was an inevitable reality as three veterans were retiring and another two would be casualties in the mayoral race.
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Time for good ideas, not absurd promises


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Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner checked in with the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encouraged voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the aldermanic race, voters can cast up to a maximum of seven votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse that number of candidates.
The goal, argues Bens, is to only support those candidates “who will make good decisions on behalf of the community.”
If a voter feels they have accomplished that by supporting less than the maximum allowed seven candidates, then they should not feel obligated to cast the remainder of their votes.
He pointed out just filling up the ballot “can sometimes send irresponsible and unethical people to public office.”
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There’s no video to see here people, so just move along


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Last week in this corner we tabelled the first of a two-part thumbnail summary of each aldermanic candidate’s presentation at a meeting held Oct. 1 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Each candidate was allotted five minutes in which to introduce themselves and their platform to about 150 people in attendance.

Here are the remaining individuals who appear in the order established by the organizers.

Ald. Jeff Kohler, Mark Burgess, Walter H. Green and Mike Manary were not present.

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Council candidates and whose credibility?


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With 19 hopefuls in the running to fill seven seats on St. Thomas council, it’s difficult to get a read on all of the candidates when there are few opportunities to gather them in one venue.
The first all-candidates meeting for the Oct. 27 municipal vote was held Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall and it afforded the 150 or so in attendance an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the individuals seeking to represent St. Thomas residents for the next four-year term of council.
The five minutes allotted to present their sales pitch affords little in the way of meaningful insight into how each of the candidates intends to serve their constituents.
As a recap — and for those unable or uninterested in attending the meeting — here is the first of a two-part thumbnail summary of each candidate’s presentation. They appear in the order established by organizers of Wednesday’s event.
Ken Boe: He stressed the need to work strategically with all stakeholders in the city and tourism is an economic opportunity that needs to be capitalized upon. Council and city staff have to focus on customer service and St. Thomas needs to benchmark itself against other municipalities.
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If you’re not talking poverty issues, then re-think your campaign platform


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Can’t say we’ve seen any reference to this in campaign literature, so the relevance of a poverty survey is timely as the Oct. 27 municipal election looms.
While candidates dwell on jobs and the economy, the impact of job losses and the proliferation of low-paying, part-time jobs needs to be front and centre on the campaign trail.
Bridges Out of Poverty St. Thomas- Elgin is asking candidates to respond to a poverty-focused survey launched this week. All candidates have been contacted regarding the initiative.
The online survey is part of a collaborative local/provincial project coordinated by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health and administered by local partners such as Bridges Out of Poverty.
“The purpose of the project is to build awareness and support among decision makers for healthy public policy which assists in reducing poverty and food insecurity in Ontario,” writes Erin Woolley, Bridges Out of Poverty coordinator.
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Of buzzers, boycotts, barbs and boarders


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The buzzer has sounded, the counter is closed and the nomination deadline has come and gone for the 2014 municipal vote.
By choosing to withdraw his aldermanic papers and instead seek to become the head of council, Mark Cosens makes it a three-way race with Cliff Barwick and Heather Jackson.
In the aldermanic race, a total of 19 are in the running thanks to a final week blitz.
Voters have the opportunity to elect seven from the following candidates: John Allen, Brett Bear, Ken Boe, Mark Burgess, Gary Clarke, Jaqueline DeLeebeeck, Rose Gibson, Walter H. Green, Tom Johnston, Jeff Kohler, Frank Lattanzio, Mike Manary, Todd Rowley, Joan Rymal, Beverly Splane, Linda Stevenson, Mark Tinlin, Phil Thomson and Steve Wookey.

BOYCOTT
Late last month, Times-Journal reporter Ben Forrest wrote a factual account of an interview he recorded with Cosens announcing his intention to seek re-election.
While several of Cosens’ comments could be considered inflammatory in nature, there was no attempt by the alderman to question the presentation of the story or the accuracy of the quotes contained within the article. Continue reading