Flagship Erie commemorative plaque: a memorial to ‘the enduring bond of friendship’ between two nations


final descentjpgIn reassuring contrast to President Donald Trump’s tempestuous Tweets undermining Canada-U.S. relations, an emotional ceremony Sunday (Sept. 9) in a soy field east of Lawrence Station serves as confirmation of the lasting bond between the two countries.
The occasion was the unveiling of the commemorative plaque at the crash site of the Flagship Erie, American Airlines Flight 1 en route to Detroit from Buffalo that slammed into the ground at 10:10 p.m. Oct. 30, 1941, killing all 20 aboard the DC-3.
It’s final resting spot was the farm of Thompson and Viola Howe.
Their deaths made it Canada’s worst airline crash at the time and it remains Elgin county’s worst disaster. An almost forgotten chapter in the history of Southwold Township. Continue reading

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A big ‘if’ looming over proposed west end community hub


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the announcement last April the city has extended a conditional offer to London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre Street.

The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot Street. The possibility also exists the site could be used for affordable housing units.

In the intervening months, the city has undertaken due diligence. Time is becoming a factor, however, as the lease on the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street current home of Ontario Works and also owned by Farhi, expires later this year.

Continue reading

Is there proven need for an expanded council?


city_scope_logo-cmykPrevious discussions transpired more than a decade ago, however the size and composition of city council resurfaced during the Nov. 14 meeting and it is a useful exercise to revisit notes and documents from that time.

In 2003, the council of the day authorized what became the McCarth-Tetrault report – a full and independent review of council and its working relationships at city hall – undertaken at a cost of $25,000 or so.

It characterized that council as “dysfunctional” with a toxic mix of personalities resulting in a “lack of respect for others (which) seriously undermined the effectiveness of council.”

The report made but three recommendations, one of which called for the reduction in size of council to seven members from the current eight, including the mayor.

Of course that recommendation was never adopted although, in 2002 council attempted a reduction in size but the motion died when no member would second it and a subsequent move to increase in size by one member was defeated on a 4-4 vote.

And here we are today seeking to increase the bureaucracy at city hall with a move to endorse a council comprised of mayor and eight councillors.

In order for a revision to the existing composition of council to be in effect for the 2018 municipal election, a bylaw must be passed prior to December 31, 2017.

At the November meeting, discussion touched on the creation of a deputy mayor position.

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Former mayor Jeff Kohler

Similar debate took place in January, 2005 based on a recommendation from then-mayor Jeff Kohler‘s task force.

A deputy mayor could either be elected or appointed by council from its existing members to serve when the mayor is unavailable.

It is worth noting the Ontario Municipal Act only recognizes the head of council and council members.

In a letter in June, 2004 to then-clerk Peter Leack from Jill Bellchamber-Glazier with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, she cautioned “if the approach of the task force is that a deputy mayor would automatically have the power of the head (of council), you may want to ask your solicitor.”

She continued, “It is my understanding the mayor must agree to a bylaw . . . that the deputy will perform all of those functions . . .”

The mayor’s task force in 2005 proposed the deputy mayor would be compensated at $23,941, the midway point between the mayor’s salary and that of an alderman.

For years, the head of council each month appointed a member to serve as acting mayor during any time of absence. Is this system not working under the present regime? If not, why not?

At a time when fiscal restraint should be rigorously preached at city hall, why is council proposing an extra salary for an additional councillor and an increase in salary for a deputy mayor?

Related posts:

Should we be feeding one more at the council table

History and findings of the McCarthy-Tetrault report 2003

GOOD TIMING

On Monday’s council agenda is correspondence from Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro advising of proposed changes to Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act.

This modernization of the existing 2001 legislation includes several key changes to watch. If endorsed, the new package would improve access to justice for the public and for municipal councillors by allowing integrity commissioners to investigate complaints.

The city already has appointed an integrity commissioner in John Maddox – who also serves as closed meeting investigator – and it just so happens council will be asked to renew both agreements with him through 2017.

Maddox adjudicates complaints received under the city’s code of conduct – adopted in 2014, but not without considerable debate over lobbying, which prompted Ald. Cliff Barwick to pronounce, “We would all need three pieces of duct tape to apply to our ears and mouth” – and that is another proposed change to the Municipal Act requiring municipalities to have a code of conduct for members of council and local boards.

If you remember, the present council was only a month into its four-year term when Maddox was called upon to mediate in a spat between two councillors during an in-camera discussion of committee appointments.

While we don’t know the specifics, it involved a message or messages exchanged between the two individuals.

Whatever was written, Maddox concluded “The message was ‘ill-timed’ and left considerable room for interpretation.”

Council will likely rubber-stamp both agreements with Maddox but has it determined whether this same service can be provided through the Ontario Ombudsman’s office?

We understand that service is free.

Related posts:

Can courtesy prevail over confrontation on council

Barwick Four found guilty in the court of public opinion

THE NAME GAME

Preston Joe 2012City council is being asked to name a street after long-serving MP Joe Preston.

In a letter to mayor and council from Stephanie Brown, vice-president of Living Alive Granola – of which Preston is a business partner – urging council to adopt the name Preston Lane for a city roadway.

“He has done so much for this community and beyond that I think we should say thank you,” writes Brown.

A noble gesture, but why stop there.

Steve Peters logged yeoman service as alderman, mayor and MPP and a street bearing his name would be equally fitting.

Karen VecchioContributed photoQUOTE OF THE WEEK

“We have to make sure we’re not being given a raw deal here and that there’s going to be money for rural infrastructure in this plan as well. Right now we’re not and we need to continue to voice our concerns.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio speaking with Times-Journal reporter Jennifer Bieman this week about the federal government’s new infrastructure strategy.

City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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The city is playing politics insists Sutherland Press building owner


 city_scope_logo-cmykYou had to see this coming. Like watching a train hurtle off the tracks in slow motion, who could not have envisioned the fate of the Sutherland Press building end up back in court, a la 2008.
That summer, after the city began to dismantle the structure that dates back to 1913, all work came to a halt in late July after Justice Peter Hockin ruled in favour of Toronto owner David McGee’s request for leave of appeal, disputing a previous decision made by Justice David Little on July 14 that gave the City of St. Thomas a green light to commence demolition.
Following the successful appeal, McGee’s lawyer, Valerie M’Garry observed, “It gives him (McGee) an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Eight years later, is McGee convinced he can bring the four-storey building back to life through a conversion to luxury condos?

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Proof we can put aside our differences


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Never has the Canadian flag looked so resplendent as it did on this brilliant late-autumn afternoon. Dozens upon dozens of them flapping vigorously in the stiff breeze, reaching out to welcome home for the final time John Gallagher, killed Nov. 4 while volunteering with Kurdish forces to fight against ISIS in Syria.
Several hundred people stood along the Col. Talbot Road

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St. Thomas firefighters

overpass Friday — some for hours — patiently waiting to pay tribute to the former Wheatley resident.
Dozens and dozens of young people, several St. Thomas air cadets and numerous vets, individuals in wheel chairs and seniors gingerly hiking up the embankment to pay their respects, accompanied by a large contingent of city fire, police and EMS personnel.
All of them standing resolutely together to thank this young man — indeed all Canadians who have served and fallen — and in the process remind us we can put aside our differences and be proud of who we are.

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

Don’t worry, he’s not throwing in the towel


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We caught up with Jason McComb this week after his return to St. Thomas from Edmonton where he halted, for the winter, his cross-Canada trek to raise awareness for homeless issues.
He is heading to the North Bay area for a well-deserved retreat to recharge mentally and physically.
If you have seen Jason this week you know he is extremely gaunt, although he never was a Pillsbury dough boy
To allay any fears, Jason assures he hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for his Walking in the Free World undertaking. Continue reading