He’s the longest-serving mayor/alderman/councillor currently in St. Thomas and earlier this month, Jeff Kohler declared his intention to seek another four-year term on city council. Kohler has served in that capacity since 2010, but his introduction to municipal politics is a story unto itself. He first threw his hat into the ring in 1997 and finished as third runner-up in that year’s municipal vote. Referencing Eric Bunnell’s People column from April of 2000, Ald. Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Kohler should fill the vacant seat. The top vote-getter in 1997, Terry Shackelton had already moved on to council and the next hopeful in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment to council.
The question was posed recently by Peter Ostojic of Walter Ostojic & Sons Ltd. “Just do not understand why the city is involved in building affordable housing units themselves.” The former mayor of St. Thomas was referencing the community and social services hub now under construction at 230 Talbot St. The subject was broached again this past Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the reference committee meeting in which city manager Wendell Graves updated council on Phase 2 of the project, which will front onto Queen Street. With Phase 1 nearing completion this fall – “something Graves described as a shiny, new nickel for us” – he presented a conceptual business case to council members. The structure would contain a minimum of 48 housing units on two floors with the possibility of more units should the structure be expanded to a third or fourth floor. The estimated cost of constructing each unit is $225,000 with 24 of them renting out at $500 or so per month and another 24 geared to income at approximately $300 per month.
Is another provincial backtrack in the offing? On Aug. 16 MPP Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks, noted in a statement, he is working “to improve public transparency and consistency” in dealings between municipalities and the conservation authorities. Yurek continued, “The legislative changes we’ve made ensure conservation authorities focus on delivering core services and programs that protect communities from natural hazards and flooding while using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively.” Last week in this corner, we questioned the impact this legislation would have on events such as the maple syrup festival hosted by the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA)at Springwater Conservation Area. Well, what should appear in the agenda package for Tuesday’s (Sept. 3) city council meeting but a letter from Rick Cerna, CCCA board chairman and Ward 3 councillor in Malahide Township.
From the promise of a downtown fibre optic network to assurance the St. Thomas office of Entegrus is under no threat of closure, the future is one of exceptional service, according to the top brass at the merged utility. The trio of heavyweights – including president and CEO Jim Hogan – appeared before council at Monday’s (March 18) reference committee meeting to update members as the one-year anniversary of the St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus merger approaches on April 1. Their message was one of corporate goodwill. Everything’s going to be fine, Jack. The kind of pat-on-the-head pep talk you get when your share of the pie is only 20.6 per cent. And, nary a word on why the city received such a minority share when it serves 30 per cent of the total 59,000 customer base. But more on that financial skeleton in the closet in a moment.
The Town of Aylmer is already on board and now St. Thomas has the opportunity to partner with that municipality on the implementation of a community notification/alert system. Last year Aylmer, in conjunction with a pair of local industries – the Integrated Grain Processors Co-op ethanol plant and Air Liquide – entered into an agreement with ICEsoft Technologies of Calgary to purchase their Voyent Alert system. The firm’s website notes, “The flexible platform serves the dual purpose of alerting and advising residents during a critical incident as well as providing targeted day-to-day communication services.”Continue reading →
Following a year that saw a record number of reportable incidents and operating at minimal staffing levels, the city’s police chief is undertaking an innovative approach to maintaining the overall safety of St. Thomas residents. That means putting more COP’s on the street. Although, that’s not what you think and, no, the police budget is not going to absorb a beating. The COP’s, in this case, are Citizens on Patrol. The program – to be launched later this spring – is modelled after an existing undertaking in Brantford which provides “a visible presence in the community while fostering partnerships with Brantford Police Services, local businesses and residential areas, to identify and expand opportunities to deter criminal activity and reduce crime,” according to the service website. The COP volunteers – more than 100 now in the program – act as goodwill ambassadors who “foster positive contact with members of the community. COP’s will act as non-confrontational observers and report suspicious behaviour.” Continue reading →
The municipal vote is Monday and for the first time in St. Thomas, advance polling is available via internet and telephone. As of 11 a.m. Friday, 12.73 per cent of the 28,034 eligible voters in the city had cast their ballot, with 3,300 voting via the internet and 268 by telephone. By comparison, 9.67 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot through in-person advance voting in the 2014 municipal election. The total voter turnout that year was 37 per cent. Tim Hedden, one of 19 candidates running for councillor, asked the obvious question in response to a City Scope Tweet on this year’s advance polling system. “Curious to see if it drives voter turnout up or just made it more convenient for those that already vote.”
The St. Thomas mayoral contest was a four-way race, however at the all-candidates meeting Thursday (Oct. 11) you couldn’t help but feel one of the hopefuls had all but conceded. In front of a gathering numbering about 100 at the Knights of Columbus hall, Malichi Male used his allotted five minutes to talk not about himself but, instead, praised his three opponents. “The rest of the candidates are amazing,” he observed. “Heather (Jackson) has stood strong,” he added. Turning his attention to Joe Preston, Male noted “Joe creates something out of nothing. Joe cares.”Continue reading →
Although 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 →