Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub

A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading

You’re elected to make a decision and move forward


She survived a bitterly fought election campaign last fall, threats to her well-being this month over the city’s snow-removal efforts and on Wednesday, Mayor Heather Jackson demonstrated in feisty fashion why she has earned the right to wear the chain of office.

Jackson appeared with Southwold Mayor Grant Jones and Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr at the fifth annual State of the Municipalities luncheon, hosted by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce at St. Anne’s Centre

While her focus was firmly directed at economic development, the city’s near $300 million infrastructure deficit and cooperation with neighbouring municipalities, it was this observation from Jackson that left no doubt she will no longer tolerate foot dragging on two projects that have unnecessarily languished in the political mire — a byproduct of previous councils.
Continue reading

Adopt a code now or face wrath of voters


By the time the closing prayer is uttered Monday, council may well have adopted a code of conduct, not only for themselves, but for appointed boards and committees.
A sad commentary on how questionable the behaviour of some elected representatives has become over the past few terms of council.
“It’s a shame in this day and age this is a necessity,” bemoaned Mayor Heather Jackson on Friday.
However, the continual leaking of information discussed in closed session and the verbal sparring between aldermen Cliff Barwick and Lori Baldwin-Sands are but two factors that lift the proposed code of conduct into the urgently required category.
The mayor’s frustration was evident last December.
“Even this week there’s been another piece of information given to somebody . . . and they’re not even leaking the right information.”
Continue reading

Here’s a way for the city to play transfer station operator for less

Budget deliberations the last three years have been relatively civil in nature and completed in timely fashion.
With a preliminary tax hike of 5.9% in the balance for 2014, matters are likely to get heated, if not downright ugly, on Monday as members of council — painfully aware the municipal vote looms in October — whittle that number down to the 3% range before calling it an evening.
That’s going to take some resolve as council is faced with several ‘no-touch’ items that account for a considerable hit to the municipal property tax rate.
Land ambulance costs will rise $400,000 this year; policing at the new consolidated courthouse will add about $450,000; and then there’s the promised grant of $350,000 to the hospital revitalization fund — part of a 10-year $3.5 million pledge.
There’s more than a million big ones right off the bat.
And, don’t forget back in December council approved adoption of a long-term asset management plan — to deal with a whopping infrastructure deficit — and voted to include the plan in the budget to ensure sufficient capital reserves are available to fund the plan.
Continue reading

Food for thought over at the food bank


A young mother this week posted on the Times-Journal Facebook page her desperate plea for assistance. “I needed bread and milk. Quite desperately. I have a week left until I get CCTB (Canada child tax benefit) and I am almost out of both.”
She did what many in St. Thomas would do, she gathered up spare change and headed to the Caring Cupboard food bank.
On her arrival, she discovered numerous changes, including a new executive director, Janice Kinnaird.
The young mother had previously complied with the need to show personal ID, proof of income and rental information so she could receive much-needed food assistance in the future simply by arriving with an item of identification.
She was denied assistance this time out because she could not comply with the new policy of presenting full ID.
Continue reading

What do downtown barriers portend?

It took a month, however we finally have had someone step up to the plate to declare their candidacy in the October municipal election.
Mayor Heather Jackson filed her nomination papers first thing Monday morning, although she has not finalized her campaign platform.
We talked with her Tuesday on what her strategy may be in a bid for a second term as mayor.
“I’m working with my team on finalizing the platform. We’ll be releasing that in the coming weeks. I don’t want to take the focus away from the work that needs to be done right now.
“We’ve been elected to a four-year term so we’ve got work to continue to do.”
The one thing she wants to avoid is a repeat of the down-and-dirty 2010 election campaign — a black eye for the city on several fronts.
“I can stand behind everything we’ve accomplished as a council and continue to do. It’s certainly not what I’m looking to do. I don’t believe that is in the best interest of anybody and I certainly hope that anybody else who runs for either alderman or mayor keeps that in mind.”
Continue reading

Finding jobs a critical element of the homeless strategy


St. Thomas has been allocated close to $917,000 in funding under the province’s Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) for the period April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015.
How the city spends that money will be addressed at Monday’s council meeting.
According to the report to council, “CHPI is intended to provide better coordinated and integrated service delivery to prevent, reduce, and address homelessness with a focus on two key outcomes.”
That would be helping the homeless obtain and retain housing while ensuring those who are at risk of homelessness remain housed.
Those are great priorites but we’re missing the mark in one key area, points out homeless advocate Jason McComb, who met with Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston and MPP Jeff Yurek on Tuesday to stress the need to get the homeless back contributing to society.
Continue reading

Note to London school board, it’s time to honour our own


The London-based school board has quietly made it known the expanded Edward Street Public School is about to christened June Rose Callwood Public School.

It’s certainly not a name singularly associated with this city. Not to downplay the contributions of the popular journalist, author and social activist, but is this the wish of the existing school community, or is the name change driven by the incoming population from Balaclava and Scott Street public schools?
Continue reading

A shift in behaviour or beware of the trash troopers


You have been forewarned, a staff report to be reviewed Monday by St. Thomas council is designed to generate “a permanent shift in resident’s behaviour.”

Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator, has submitted a draft version of a waste diversion and curbside collection bylaw designed to achieve the province’s 60% diversion target.

To do so, Shannon says the city “will need to utilize a combination of policy mechanisms and incentives to stimulate waste diversion and discourage excessive generation of garbage.”

Having read the report, the thing we see diverted most is cash from our wallets. And if anything is to be generated, it likely will be frustration.
Continue reading