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Mayor stops leak of secret documents to Sault This Week

Sault Ste. Marie City Council held a special meeting tonight to discuss a secret community plan. It was supposed to be a public meeting.

Sault Ste. Marie City Council held a special meeting tonight to discuss a secret community plan.

It was supposed to be a public meeting.

But if you wanted to get a copy of the report under discussion, to understand what everybody was jawboning about, you were fresh out of luck.

Mayor John Rowswell, who called tonight's committee-of-the-whole meeting, says this report is just too secret for members of the public to get copies.

At one point, Ward 2 Councillor Susan Myers was about to leak the report to Sault This Week's Bob Mihell, but our ever-vigilant mayor noticed the unauthorized handover and swiftly intervened, decreeing that the documents not be turned over to the reporter. (See note from Councillor Myers at the bottom of this article).

The mayor promised that members of the public would be able to review the entirety of the report on a projection screen during tonight's meeting, but then he adjourned the gathering after only six of the 12 pages in the prepared summary had been discussed.

From what we could extrapolate from tonight's discussion and from the limited information we were allowed to see, the plan had to do with strategic priorities for City Council, especially as they relate to economic development.

There was, for example, a proposal to make the Sault a leader in green energy.

The original document said we need to become a "national leader" in green energy, but Ward 3 Councillor Bryan Hayes said he's a realist and he felt that might be a bit grandiose.

Other proposals included:

- Become an "international leader" in sustainable development.

- Commit to improved recyling initiatives following examples set by our sister cities in Forssa, Finland and Maia, Portugal.

- Undertake targets for emissions reductions including massive reductions in carbon dioxide through polar air cargo.

- Encourage biodiesel use on Sault Transit buses.

- Mandate green space in neighbourhood planning.

- Establish a Centre of Excellence for Environment and Energy that would tie Ontario Forest Research Institute and Great Lakes Forestry Institute with a newly independent Algoma University College.

- Introduce incentives to encourage conservation or green energy in new subdivisions and buildings.

- Expand Sault College as a renewable energy centre.

- Improve the local energy tranmission network.

- Slap restrictions on burning of garbage in burn barrels. Mayor Rowswell said that 50 percent of the air pollution in our region doesn't come from industry, but from backyard trash-burners.

- Improve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in all future buildings.

- An expanded Sault College, with more collaboration with Algoma University.

- Develop a waterfront tourism attraction on the Gateway site to anchor the west end of the downtown area.

- Prepare a "cohesive and determined" policy on arts and culture.

- Clean up the Sault Ste. Marie Canal national Historic Site.

- A trolley or specialty ride through the downtown, linking the Bushplane Museum in the East Downtown with the Gateway/ Gore Street areas in the West.

- Encourage an Aboriginal Gateway tourism attraction on St. Marys Island to promote native culture. - A sustainability strategy for Searchmont Resort.

- Establish an international eco-tourism program.

- Come up with a dedicated theme for the Queen Street/ Gore Street business areas.

- Possible involvement of the Conservatory of Music in local gaming technologies or animation opportunities.

- Support growth of research in biomass farming, possibly within the City limits.

- Pursue the latest wireless technology infrastructure.

- Develop a plan to use the Steelback Centre as a disaster centre. Mayor Rowswell commented that recent disaster exercises were themselves a disaster, revealing that the City is woefully unprepared to handle a crisis.

- Remove portable signage cluttering the entrances to the City as well as commercial strips.

- Review treaties with neighbouring First Nations.

- A sports stadium at Strathclair.

- Restrictions on idling of vehicles within the City.

Councillors are being asked to rate each item in the secret document over the next few days.

Tonight's meeting was facilitated by Norm Jaehrling, who in his concluding remarks to councillors stressed emissions controls as the most important of the proposals under consideration.

Interestingly, Jaehrling is a principal in two local businesses, SITTM Technologies Inc. and Forest Bioproducts Inc., that market proprietary biodiesel technology aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

************************* We get mail

Hi David:

Would you please consider clarifying for the reading public, the use of the word “leak” attached to my actions this evening?

I feel very saddened to think that my name has been sullied in any fashion and yet, for those not in attendance, there is indeed an air of suspicion as to what did I do.

You know that my integrity and ethics are of the utmost importance to me and that as a Christian woman, I take great care not to act in a dishonorable way.

I have no difficulty with you reporting that indeed I reached out to hand Bob a copy of the document in an act of courtesy as he had risen from the table to come for it and was asked by the Mayor not to do so.

It does concern me however that the word leak has a negative and suspicious, underhanded tone to it and I do not wish any negative reflection on my character attached to what was an act of courtesy on my part.

I don’t think that is fair of you to leave that impression with the public.

For those of us who were in the room and who saw what transpired, we understand.

It is those not present whom I would ask that you please convey factually that my action was that of a courtesy, interrupted by a request from the Mayor – there was nothing secretive or underhanded about it.

Please show me this respect David,

[Ward 2 Councillor] Susan {Myers].


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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