After all these years, is there a move afoot to pare the size of St. Thomas city council?


city_scope_logo-cmykSize 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.

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St. Thomas Transit strategic plan: ‘Any change is better than what we have now’


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city’s much-maligned transit system may very well become a greatly relied upon people mover if council endorses the recommendations of the soon-to-be-released Strategic Transit Plan.
The proposed changes would involve route and schedule adjustments, the introduction of demand-responsive transit (DRT), the possibility of larger buses and electric bus technology and a pilot project to explore regional bus service.
At Monday’s (Nov. 18) reference committee meeting, Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting and city engineer Justin Lawrence presented an overview of recommendations to members of city council.
The plan, which is 95 per cent complete, drew favourable comments from all of council, including the stark observation from Coun. Joan Rymal that “any change is better than what we have now.”

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So, who on city council is responsible for kicking around the issue of climate change?


I love my planetjpgFor the second time in less than a month, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands failed in her bid to have council endorse a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city.
So, you have to ask what is the motivation behind this motion that Baldwin-Sands admits is purely symbolic in nature?
Well, if you were one of the several dozen supporters in the public gallery Monday (April 15) and you listened objectively to what was espoused by seven councillors, the mayor and city manager, then you should have your answer.
The motion, tabled by the member of council who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding in this fall’s federal vote is, pure and simply politically motivated.

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No cannabis consensus: council votes 6-2 to opt in for St. Thomas pot shops


city_scope_logo-cmykIn the end, the allure of economic opportunity prevailed over health and policing concerns.
It was not unanimous, however, city council last night (Jan. 14) voted 6-2 to opt into the province’s cannabis retail outlet program. Councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Tinlin were opposed while Gary Clarke was absent for the vote.
Giving the green light to one or more retail outlets in St. Thomas doesn’t mean a pot shop will sprout up on a city street any time soon.
Last month the province reversed course and announced it will limit the number of initial licences to 25 because of cannabis supply shortages.
And last Friday (Jan. 11) in the opening round of the cannabis retail lottery, 25 winning applicants were announced – seven in southwestern Ontario – who now have the opportunity to apply for a provincial retail licence.
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Municipal employees and garbage collection staff should not be at risk of unsuspected jabs . . . neither should the public


city_scope_logo-cmykAt its May 22 meeting, council will be asked to approve an amendment to the Waste Diversion and Curbside Collection bylaw, with regards to used needles.
According to a report from Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, in the past year there have been three incidents of needles found in curbside waste.
Under the current bylaw, used needles are a designated hazardous waste under the Environmental Protection Act and are prohibited from being collected at the curb in the regular waste stream.
Shannon stresses improperly disposed of needles and drug equipment pose a health hazard to the public, garbage collection staff, and municipal employees. Continue reading

Capping community grants the opening salvo in 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a budget body slam last night (Dec. 18) in the council chamber at city hall. A bloc of five councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Heather Jackson as to who is behind the wheel on budget deliberations. Or at least the community grant portion of the 2018 city budget.
Councillors Steve Wookey, Joan Rymal, Mark Burgess, Mark Tinlin and Gary Clarke voted to adopt the budget as is. The 2018 financial roadmap for the city included a $60,000 cap on community grants to any one group or organization.
Jackson is opposed to a grant cap and therefore was in opposition to approving the budget as is.
She did a little politicking of her own by asking for a recorded vote so those associated with the Talbot Teen Centre (TTC) and St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre – two pet projects – would be well aware of her sympathy. Continue reading

Are we being led down the wrong rabbit path on utility marriage? Or, how to distinguish a merger from a fire sale.


city_scope_logo-cmykDid you check out the notice in your latest St. Thomas Energy bill? Seems like the utility merger with Entegrus out of Chatham-Kent is moving toward consummation early in the new year, with the new entity to be known as Entegrus Powerlines.
I guess when you only have a 20 per cent piece of the pie you don’t have any say in naming the beast.
And by coincidence, the merger is the subject of a report from city manager Wendell Graves on Monday’s council agenda.
It’s chock full of legalese and ratepayers have the right to a clear explanation of what is about to transpire on the eve of the merger.
More important, what are the long-term financial implications because this appears to be less a merger and more a fire sale.
So, we chatted with Graves on Friday as to what members of council are being asked to vote on as our elected representatives. Continue reading