No portage for les Voyageurs this year


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The overwhelming success of the French Immersion program at Pierre Elliott Trudeau school is to be admired.

The downside of that success is severe overcrowding at the school, which has resulted in what can only be called a great divide.

The rift in the school community over busing 240 students to Port Stanley to relieve pressure on a school that is literally bursting at the seams.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Thames Valley District School Board, a recommendation was made to put on hold for a year the busing plan while a full attendance area review be completed this fall. Continue reading

Is there a will for ‘amicable’ solution to cemetery crisis?


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With mere days remaining before St. Thomas Cemetery Company seeks to abandon its two burying grounds if a $59,000 grant is not reinstated, there was some movement following an in-camera meeting of council Monday.
“The general tone of council is to try and work toward a resolution or recipe that is amicable for everyone,” CAO Wendell Graves told the Times-Journal on Tuesday.
“And so our solicitor was given direction to correspond with the cemetery board’s solicitor.”
In addition, Coun. Gary Clarke volunteered to sit on the cemetery board after council chose not to appoint a representative for the first time since 1990.
“I volunteered,” indicated Clarke. “I want to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want this to work in the best interests of everyone and not at the taxpayers’ expense.” Continue reading

Time for good ideas, not absurd promises


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Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, this corner checked in with the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encouraged voters to maximize the impact of their decision when they cast ballots.
Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.”
In the aldermanic race, voters can cast up to a maximum of seven votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse that number of candidates.
The goal, argues Bens, is to only support those candidates “who will make good decisions on behalf of the community.”
If a voter feels they have accomplished that by supporting less than the maximum allowed seven candidates, then they should not feel obligated to cast the remainder of their votes.
He pointed out just filling up the ballot “can sometimes send irresponsible and unethical people to public office.”
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Council candidates and whose credibility?


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With 19 hopefuls in the running to fill seven seats on St. Thomas council, it’s difficult to get a read on all of the candidates when there are few opportunities to gather them in one venue.
The first all-candidates meeting for the Oct. 27 municipal vote was held Wednesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall and it afforded the 150 or so in attendance an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the individuals seeking to represent St. Thomas residents for the next four-year term of council.
The five minutes allotted to present their sales pitch affords little in the way of meaningful insight into how each of the candidates intends to serve their constituents.
As a recap — and for those unable or uninterested in attending the meeting — here is the first of a two-part thumbnail summary of each candidate’s presentation. They appear in the order established by organizers of Wednesday’s event.
Ken Boe: He stressed the need to work strategically with all stakeholders in the city and tourism is an economic opportunity that needs to be capitalized upon. Council and city staff have to focus on customer service and St. Thomas needs to benchmark itself against other municipalities.
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Buckle up, we’re approaching ram speed


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The second meeting of the police building committee attracted a strange assortment of bedfellows Thursday morning at city hall.
Notables included former mayor Peter Ostojic, former alderman Marie Turvey and former Elgin County Board of Education chairman Bob McCaig.
Discussion of a new police headquarters, to be located on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre, has generated such pushback the meeting had to be moved to a larger venue.
Deliberations had barely begun and McCaig couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“Why are you in such a hurray,” he blustered, as the committee attempted to establish a schedule for developing a request for proposal for architectural services.
“A group of people want to ram this through.” Continue reading

Was the pencil really sharpened enough?


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In spite of its length — a mind and rear-end numbing four-and-a-half hours — the demeanor observed throughout Monday’s budget deliberations was surprisingly amicable and focused.
Faced with a property tax hike hovering around six per cent, by dipping into reserves and cutting back on contributions to those same funds, council was able to approve a 3.8% municipal tax levy.
All the while approving more than $300,000 in community grants to more than a dozen groups and organizations.
The real financial picture of the city lies not in dozens of pages of line items, but instead in the notes, advisories and warnings from treasurer Bill Day.
Tidbits like the fact the city has projected a 2013 operating surplus of $176,000. A figure much less than in previous years and chump change when dealing with a $110 million corporation.
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