Are advance polling numbers an indication St. Thomas voters are engaged?

city_scope_logo-cmykThe 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.”

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She is energized and ready for business


In her inaugural address to the new council Monday, Mayor Heather Jackson sent a clear message she is ready to embrace change at city hall.

A priority is the implementation of a communication plan, which would include a communication officer working out of the clerk’s department. Speaking to the Times-Journal, Jackson stressed this would not be a new hire.

“It’s certainly not a new position,” advised Jackson. “Wendell (CAO Wendell Graves) and I have been talking about how we can make this happen without adding to the staff. We’ve got somebody now who does most of those functions but it’s not in anybody’s job description.”

Look for the manner in which council conducts business during its regular meetings to come under review in the new year.
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The naked truth on conflict of interest

If you’ve read the Page 3 story in Saturday’s Times-Journal, you’ll discover determining when to declare a conflict of interest can become quite the ethical dilemma.
Mayor Heather Jackson is living that now after being challenged by former St. Thomas resident and 2010 aldermanic candidate, Bill Sandison in a letter forwarded to the T-J.
The mayor steadfastly believes she was not in a conflict situation – according to the Ontario Municipal Act – when she debated and voted on the awarding of an Information Technology contract to Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy) in spite of the fact she is romantically linked to an employee in that very same department.
We consulted with a pair of municipal governance experts who argue perception is reality to most constituents and taking the high road would be in order when there is the least whiff of a conflict.
“There is no question that the cautious thing to do would have been to not vote,” advised Western University political scientist, Andrew Sancton. Continue reading

New logo won’t mask air of entitlement at STEGH


Last week’s editorializing in this corner on the $40,000 image makeover at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital certainly raised the ire of several faithful readers.

Including two retired hospital employees who question the poor allocation of public funds at STEGH.

To say they are frustrated with the air of entitlement displayed by certain members of the hospital administration and the total lack of any business reasoning in the use of public funds is an understatement at the least.

Really, if you were a patient flat on your back at the hospital, would you care if there was a new logo?
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Humility is a more endearing quality than unabashed ego

By George Cuff
Regardless of the size of the community, the role of mayor or councillor is important. It adds to the community’s sense of well-being and its degree of pride. It is not to be mistaken for the importance one should have as a member of their family, nor should it replace the recognition that humility is a more endearing quality than unabashed ego. We all leave elected life eventually – often more quietly than when we entered. The question that should be asked is this: What difference did we make?
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St. Thomas council noted for what it didn’t do

Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum

A body of elected representatives is most often judged by what it does. In the case of city council, one of its most prudent decisions to date this year was what it didn’t do.
Instead of endorsing a resolution from the Canadian Auto Workers which in part requires the purchase of municipal goods and services “with the highest possible level” of Canadian content, council sought input from city staff.
A wise decision.
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Loss of mental health beds a “downward spiral”

Ian McCallum

Ian McCallum

In City Scope last week, a reader familiar with programs now delivered at Regional Mental Health Care – St. Thomas called to advise the $900,000 investment by the province to proceed with planning for a 15-bed mental health unit in St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital will, in fact, impact negatively on the community.
The existing facility currently houses 23 assessment beds on top of numerous other beds required by the community. That is in addition to a full out-patient department with staff and doctors who will be will be impacted.
The community has no idea what is coming down the pipeline for mental health services in St. Thomas and it’s a pretty scary outlook, she cautioned. Continue reading

Landmines of being a mayor

George Cuff

George Cuff

I have previously offered some thoughts as to what responsibilities and obligations accompany the role of the mayor. Hopefully, some of those musings resonated with those holding this important position (or at least those who actually read the materials!) and will be of some benefit to their councils and communities. Unfortunately, there are other instances where the role of mayor has become diluted by a misapprehension of the role.

Achieving role clarity by elected officials is often a struggle. This is due in part to the misconceptions of those accepting political office, and in part to the lack of concrete direction and/or advice pertaining to how such roles are expected to be performed.

This month’s column, then, is not focussed so much on what a mayor is expected to do, but rather a description of the pitfalls that many council leaders so readily experience. The following list is not intended to be exclusive nor all encompassing – experience teaches that new pitfalls are being added regularly!
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