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.

JEFF KOHLER HS

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

Visit us on Facebook

Unlike London, carding is not a trending topic in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was what we called in radio, a cluster-buster.

A Tweet from Police Chief Darryl Pinnell Friday morning sure cut through the clutter.

“Let the @STPSmedia “Collection of Identifying Information in Certain Circumstances” training begin!” proclaimed the message, with accompanying photo.

Sounded for all the world like they’re delving into carding, a trending topic up the road in London.

A phone call to St. Thomas Police media contact, Const. Jeff DeLeeuw, confirmed they were in training but it’s not what you think. Continue reading

If you’re not talking poverty issues, then re-think your campaign platform


city_scope_logo-cmyk
Can’t say we’ve seen any reference to this in campaign literature, so the relevance of a poverty survey is timely as the Oct. 27 municipal election looms.
While candidates dwell on jobs and the economy, the impact of job losses and the proliferation of low-paying, part-time jobs needs to be front and centre on the campaign trail.
Bridges Out of Poverty St. Thomas- Elgin is asking candidates to respond to a poverty-focused survey launched this week. All candidates have been contacted regarding the initiative.
The online survey is part of a collaborative local/provincial project coordinated by the Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health and administered by local partners such as Bridges Out of Poverty.
“The purpose of the project is to build awareness and support among decision makers for healthy public policy which assists in reducing poverty and food insecurity in Ontario,” writes Erin Woolley, Bridges Out of Poverty coordinator.
Continue reading

Has waste contractor got act together?


city_scope_logo-cmyk
The city’s new waste contractor takes to the streets in a couple of weeks and we can only hope the launch is a smoother affair than the day-to-day operations up in Whitchurch-Stouffville, north of Toronto.
The new contractor, Green for Life, takes over from BFI in St. Thomas, which in turn replaced Green Lane Environmental.
Green for Life not only serves Whitchurch-Stouffville, but several other municipalities in York Region where it has been experiencing mechanical issues with its trucks, leading to missed collections.
That has been compounded by a lack of communication from GFL on the service disruptions.
Continue reading

October is a good month for pruning


city_scope_logo-cmyk

Progressive by nature is a catchy marketing slogan employed by the County of Elgin that, unfortunately, is not readily applicable to all members of St. Thomas council.
That was painfully evident Monday when a motion to allow internet voting during a portion of the advance polling period in the October municipal election was defeated on a 4-4 vote.
Aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston, Gord Campbell and Dave Warden presented some of the flimsiest arguments possible to maintain the status quo, i.e. the traditional paper ballot.
Had this been evidence in a court case it would have been dismissed as not germane.
The concern seniors would not vote because they prefer the traditional ballot over computer voting is a smoke screen since the paper ballot would remain as the primary method of casting one’s vote.
Continue reading

Should we still use a pencil or can we now click here?


city_scope_logo-cmyk

In the last municipal vote, a paltry 39% of eligible voters bothered to cast their ballot in what proved to be a bitter mayoral showdown.
The anybody-but-Barwick election of 2010 should have been motivation enough to flood the polling booths after one of the nastiest campaigns in many years.
But, when little more than a third of voters participate, you know the system is broken, or worse, irrelevant.
Is it a case of constituents who are so weary of lies and deception at all levels of government?
Do young people — especially those voting for the first time — feel politicians of all stripes are not reaching out to them?
Or, is it overall apathy on the part of voters who have given up at having their concerns dealt with?
Continue reading

You have a cold, city council will have a code


city_scope_logo-cmyk

Mayor Heather Jackson’s announcement at the close of Monday’s council meeting is, if anything, long overdue. In fact, her first step in establishing a code of conduct for city council is a process that should have been jump-started ten years ago during the bitter debate over a new twin-pad arena for St. Thomas.
If you ever bump into former alderman Sharon Crosby, have her recount the tale of why she didn’t cast a vote on the final arena motion.
What prompted Heather’s motion to initiate a code of conduct – among several factors – is the drip, drip, drip of leaked information trickling out from in-camera council meetings.
That is why she has turned to CAO Wendell Graves and Human Resources Director Graham Dart to craft a binding document designed to keep this and future councils on the straight and narrow.
Continue reading