As hoped for, the city this week released the request for proposal (RFP) for the delivery of the EarlyON program in St. Thomas and Elgin county.
While it provides some insight and clarification on the new direction, there are questions and concerns on the part of the city, based on the two-page addendum that accompanies the RFP document.
The preamble notes, “The City of St. Thomas is issuing this Request for Proposal (RFP) to seek successful proponents who will operate EarlyON Child and Family Centres in St. Thomas and Elgin County.
“For the purposes of the delivery of EarlyON Child and Family Centre programs and services, three distinct Service Delivery Zones have been created: West, Central and East.”
Size does, in fact, matter.
That was the finding back in 2003 of what was known as the McCarthy-Tetrault report, a full and independent review of the council of the day and its working relationships at city hall.
The initial call for a review of council and staff dated back to April 28 of that year when Jeff Kohler, then an alderman, moved that “the City of St. Thomas undertake an independent review of human rights practices in the corporation of the City of St. Thomas.”
The subsequent report categorized council as “dysfunctional” and its inability to operate in cohesive fashion is “rooted in the mix of personalities . . . . The resulting lack of respect for others seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”
The report’s author, Chris White of the law firm McCarthy-Tetrault, made several recommendations, the most contentious of which called for the reduction in the size of council to seven members from the then-current eight, including the mayor, in an effort to cut down on the number of deadlocked votes.
As if you didn’t already know this, the return of Cliff Barwick to St. Thomas council is all about balance of power and, ultimately, the construction of a new police headquarters.
Prior to the departure of Sam Yusuf, you had two, equal-sized camps in the council chamber, not unlike the disfunctional council of 2003 in which deadlocked votes were the norm.
With Yusuf’s departure last month, the balance shifted and the ‘Barwick 4’ – as Mayor Heather Jackson and aldermen Gord Campbell, Tom Johnston and Dave Warden have now been christened – were able to out-muscle the remaining three members of council in filling the vacancy.
There is no doubt Barwick will bring experience and decorum to the horseshoe. And the deciding vote needed to proceed with a new facility to house the city’s police service.
At the Feb. 14 meeting, St. Thomas council put the boot to adopting a ward system for municipal elections.
In a 5-3 vote, only Ald. Jeff Kohler, Ald. Sam Yusuf and Ald. Lori Baldwin-Sands supported a motion to proceed with establishing such a system in time for the 2014 municipal vote.
Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman explained the majority of council is in opposition to a ward system for St. Thomas because only two similar-sized municipalities in Ontario have such a structure.
Monday’s council meeting was most decidedly the tale of two aldermen.
The definitive issue — who should attend and how much should be spent on conferences and conventions.
Council has budgeted $6,000 for attending such functions this year and four members had sought to attend the Ontario Good Roads Conference coming up in Toronto.
Trouble is, that would eat up about $5,500 of that figure on just one junket.
Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman and the committee chairman, in this case Ald. Tom Johnston, should be the only attendees. Ald. Sam Yusuf read the situation correctly and graciously withdrew his request to participate. In the process exhibiting political maturity beyond his two months of council experience.
On the other hand, Ald. Mark Cosens scoffed at the budget
, calling the amount diminutive, and asserted he will be in Toronto.
It doesn’t matter there is a fixed budget to deal with. It means nought council is attempting to set an example of fiscal responsibility for ratepayers who are picking up the tab in any event.
No, this is all about entitlement — and a complete disregard for the understanding the mayor and aldermen are elected to serve the people.