Week of March 9

City Hall demands money for info that should be public

Sir: On Feb. 22 I wrote a letter to Mayor Mike Bradley, with copies to all council members, and asked the city clerk to place the letter on the agenda for the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 27.

The city clerk not only refused my request but she did so without consulting with the mayor, to whom my letter was addressed. She also took action and made suggestions, all without even talking to the mayor.

In the letter, I asked for full disclosure of all money that has been spent on lawyers, consultants, and contractors, during this past year. The clerk’s response offered me the information, in return for payment, citing it as a ‘Freedom of Information’ request.

This is absolutely ludicrous because, prior to the current council’s election in November of 2014, Mayor Bradley, and all previous mayors, had always made full financial disclosure available to the public. There is no question about that.

Councillors and city management like to say: ”Everything you want to know is on our website.” You might be lucky to find one total figure, but there are no detailed expenses and billing information about all the individual lawyers, consultants, and contractors hired.

Whoever heard of having to pay money for information on how the city is spending OUR money?

If I choose to go ahead with obtaining this information, the city clerk will provide an estimate up front. After some serious thinking, I have decided to go ahead with getting the estimate, which, of course, will be very interesting.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, Coun. Dave Boushy brought up the subject of my letter and asked why it had not been added to the agenda, and why a decision had been made by the city clerk without consulting the mayor.

This was good, because my letter is now ‘on the record’ as having been discussed.

Margaret Bird

Bright’s Grove

 

Students says high schools need new gymnasium flooring

Sir: Great Lakes Secondary School is about to undergo $16 million in renovations, and according to recent new articles that will not include a new gymnasium.

The school board expects students to move into the old St. Clair building within the next two years, and with no new gymnasium it could have a negative impact on the school and student morale.

A school gym is intended to be the centerpiece of a school, where students can go and have fun and be active. However, if it doesn’t keep up with the standards of an updated school its rundown state may serve as a disappointment to students.

I have had much experience playing on the old gym floor, and understand how difficult it is to play and participate at the old St. Clair building.

This also occurs at the school I attend. Northern Collegiate is very much in need of a new gym floor, for it is uneven and rundown.

I believe that the school board needs to invest in a new gym floor at both schools.

Jackson Earle

Northern Collegiate

Sarnia

 

Kudos to The Journal for providing fact-based journalism

Sir: I commend you sincerely for your concise and well-substantiated column headlined: Facts belie Trumped up threat of ‘alien’ terrorists.

I hope I might add one more piece of data to your chart that showed a 10 year annual average of 11,737 Americans being shot by another American.

It is also clear that an additional 963 to 1,100 Americans are shot and killed annually by their own police forces. The range in the numbers is owing to the difficulty of gathering hard data; however, the sources are the very reputable BBC, The Guardian, and the Washington Post.

FBI Director James Comey said in October of 2015 that it was “embarrassing and ridiculous” that the U.S. federal government had no better data than news organizations on citizen deaths by law enforcement.

With your column, by informing rather than inflaming, you have demonstrated the key role of professional journalism in a healthy democracy: ensuring a well and accurately informed public.

You are helping to keep a balance in a world of 24/7 information in which “the sources of opinion are proliferating but the sources of facts on which those opinions are based are shrinking.” This last observation is from The Shattered Mirror, a major Canadian study that was recently released on the potential impact on democracy if quality journalism continues to shrink —and it is!

While terrorism is by no means to be taken lightly, it is imperative to keep it in context, and never to forget that too often the exaggerated fear of it is used by governments to exercise extreme controls over the civil liberties of the very people they purport to represent. They even call journalists the enemy.

So, I do encourage your continued good work, and I trust that many of us in this community can continue to distinguish between destructive hysteria and quality research, thanks to people like you.

Bob Sutton

Camlachie

 

Vaccines save lives

Sir: As a Grade 10 student at Northern Collegiate I believe that vaccinations are important for everyone’s safety.

Vaccines protect people from diseases such as whooping cough, meningitis, and chickenpox and save more than 420 000 lives in Canada each year.

Students in Sarnia must provide records of a vaccination or face possible suspension. Last month, more than 300 students stayed home from school because they didn’t have the proper vaccination records to show they were safe.

Whether that was necessary or not is a question that’s been going around my school, and many others in Sarnia-Lambton.

According to author Christine Vara on shotofprevention.com, students who have received their vaccinations are not always 100% protected. In fact, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent reports, vaccines are often only effective in 85% to 95% of recipients.

That means even if you are immunized you can still contract a disease from someone who is not vaccinated.

If students and parents were to receive more information about vaccinations, I believe they would be in favour of getting immunized too. But, many websites carry false information about how vaccinations cause more problems than they solve, and some people might not realize what they’re looking at is incorrect.

Educating people on the benefits of immunizations will save lives, and it could be as easy as talking to your doctor or visiting Lambton Public Health.

Madeline Veysey

Sarnia