Voters hung up on robocalls, now it’s time to dial in on issues.


In a municipal election campaign that deeply divided the city, it would be fair to say most residents do agree on one thing — thank goodness the damn thing is over with.

The focus on a new police station and, to a lesser extent, revisiting the two-year-old Ascent remuneration boondoggle that ensnared Ald. Tom Johnston, completely shifted the focus away from more pressing concerns.

Will this new council work as a unified body to address unemployment, poverty and homelessness, a staggering infrastructure deficit, the city’s woeful transit system and the west end of Talbot St., to name but a few items requiring urgent attention?

And, while it would be easy for us all to take credit for electing a new-look council, the realization is fresh faces in the council chamber at city hall was an inevitable reality as three veterans were retiring and another two would be casualties in the mayoral race.
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Time for good ideas, not absurd promises

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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Revitalized Tories feel a Wynne is in sight


A reinvigorated party, ready to head to the polls and unseat Kathleen Wynne and the scandal-plagued Liberals.
That’s the prognosis from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek as his party emerged from last weekend’s pep rally in London.
“All of the caucus left pretty invigorated and ready to go behind Tim (Hudak),” Jeff told City Scope on Thursday.
“Tim has even come out on fire in the legislature all week and really focused on jobs and the economy. He has really loosened up and he’s ready to go for the next election.”
We’ll zero in on jobs in a moment, however we had to peg Jeff down on the party’s leader who just doesn’t seem to resonate with the majority of voters.
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A loss in the courtroom, a positive outcome at the polls


He was the central figure in one of the shabbiest chapters in this city’s political history.
Days prior to the 2010 municipal election, David McGee, owner of the Sutherland Press building, announced he was suing the City of St. Thomas, former mayor Cliff Barwick, St. Thomas police and other defendants for $3 million.
    At the time, McGee insisted his motive was not political — even though he sent out a press release and employed an automated phone dialer to leave voice mail messages for St. Thomas households.

Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

He also hired PR consultant Suzanne van Bommel, a local political strategist.
   In a 32-page statement of claim, McGee and Sutherland Lofts Inc., were suing for punitive damages and aggravated damages, as well as “mental distress, economic interference and, specifically, loss of income” for what the claim states was “unnecessary demolition” in July 2008.
Well, Justice L.C. Leitch handed down a decision just prior to Christmas.

As to the matter of whether the claim of Sutherland Lofts Inc., be stayed or dismissed on the ground that it was without legal capacity to commence the action, Justice Leitch determined the claim must be dismissed because the limitation period had expired.
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A fundamental change blowing in the budget wind?


Budget deliberations are a critical indicator of the direction city council will follow in the coming fiscal year and the sometimes quirky priorities of our municipal representatives.
After a warm-up session Thursday, council will get down to brass tacks on Monday as they tackle Part 1 of the 2012 capital budget.
Members are being asked to approved expenditures of just over $8 million, of which $2 million will be sourced through the 2012 property tax levy, the same as 2011.
In total, the requests for capital in 2012 total $22.4 million, requiring property tax supported funding of $9.5 million.
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Sutherland Press building a backdrop for ‘smear’ campaign


The Sutherland Press building casts more than a shadow across Talbot Street . . . the moribund edifice projected a pall over last October’s mayoral race and ultimately proved a game-breaker in the final days of Cliff Barwick’s campaign.

Days before the trek to the polls, building owner David McGee dropped a bombshell — he was suing the City of St. Thomas, Barwick, St. Thomas police and other defendants for $3 million for punitive damages and aggravated damages as well as “mental distress, economic interference and, specifically, loss of income” for what the claim states was “unnecessary demolition” in July, 2008.
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Dialing out for votes turns the tide on mayoral race


It was a game-breaker. It, being news that broke last Thursday of the law suit by London developer David McGee, filed in August, against the city, Mayor Cliff Barwick and numerous other defendants.

Did the timing of the $3 million suit, and the hiring of political strategist Suzanne Van Bommel, impact the mayoral vote in the final weekend of the campaign?

A study of the advance polling numbers would appear to indicate the front-page story filed one week ago by the T-J’s Kyle Rea, and picked up by the Free Press in London, took the wind out of Barwick’s campaign sail.

As of last Friday, Barwick led the advance polls with 585 votes, followed by Heather Jackson-Chapman at 454 and Al Riddell with 432 votes.
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The past year in words and what you won’t hear in 2010

As an avid collector of notable quotations, I love this time of year. Cast a line back over the past 365 days and troll for the best of the best. Those utterances that generate thoughtful approval at the time, but over time, quite often leave you scratching your scalp in puzzlement.
To set the scene, let’s turn to the master of the put-down, Will Rogers, who noted many years ago, “Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.”
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So, you want to be a municipal politician — don’t miss this one

Good news for those contemplating a run for office in the 2010 municipal election.
A training seminar entitled C. P. O. will be offered on Tuesday, Sept. 8 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Carnegie Room at St. Thomas Public Library.
Lecturing at the event is city historian Ray Galloway, although the info sheet contained in Monday’s city council agenda includes no credentials pertaining to his relevant political background.
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