A Successful London? Stop Swinging for the Fences and Focus on Fundamental Small Ball

By Jason Menard

Instead of swinging for the fences and missing, London needs to play small ball, work on the fundamentals, and build a winning team.

For many baseball fans, there is nothing like the spectacle of a home run. But if that round-tripper comes in a losing cause, then what’s the point? Bunting, advancing the runners, and hitting-and-running may not make the highlight reels, but it will help you win.

And in the end that’s all that matters.

Too many people are looking for that one magic bullet — that one project or program upon which to build the city. A singular source of fuel with which the hopes and dreams of the city’s growth can be sparked.

But the problem with a one-legged structure is that it’s prone to toppling over. Building a structure with many, smaller legs not only allows you more stability — it also lets you distribute the weight far more effectively.

Winning breeds winning, and those little gains can lead to much greater opportunities down the road.

Council and pundits alike are stuck in a state of municipal inertia. Afraid of making mistakes, ideas are second and third-guessed into oblivion. Recommendations presented by city staff are sent back to that same staff for further review. And self-professed watchdogs who once complained about London’s lack of innovation and motion are now content to put the city on pause for the better part of a year and a half.

Some simple — and not so simple — suggestions and ideas that are stuck in neutral:

  • Food trucks: Apparently the only solution is a truck, tethered only to Victoria Park selling nothing less than Ambrosia in a cup will do;

  • Casino: Seems we need one equipped not only with regular metal detectors but also neurological scanners that will not only indentify, but FIX, the impending swarm of problem gamblers waiting to infest the city — addictive personalities that have so far remained immune to other vices like bars, LCBOs, cigarettes, and drugs;

  • Cleaning up the downtown: There are those who suggest that those concerned about downtown obviously don’t live there, work there, or have a clue. The reality is that there are many people — young and old alike — concerned about aggressive vagrants, drug peddlers, and the like. So instead of understanding their concerns we should just ignore them? After all, Joe and Jill Suburanite should want to forsake the comfort and convenience of community malls and local options. We should never try to see their point of view or address their perceptions — both real and false;

  • Exclusive infill: Balanced city growth is overrated. While it would seem that building up strong neighbourhoods that support a vibrant, commerce-and-entertainment-focused downtown, it may be better to wait for an influx of genetically superior superhumans to take up residence downtown (I say genetically superior, because these people are expect to reside, car-free of course, downtown without the need for a grocery store.)

  • Transit solutions: Actually, the service downtown isn’t that bad — it’s getting anywhere to and from the rest of the city that needs work. But instead of focusing on the here and now we’re waiting for plans from the future.

Whether it’s commercial and retail environments, cultural support, attracting new residents and retaining existing ones, there are a plethora of opportunities to make incremental improvements just waiting for us to take advantage of them.

Sadly, it seems Londoners only dig the long ball.

Opportunities abound everywhere but we exist in a state of inertia with everyone waiting for the ideal solution to manifest. Instead, we need to get on with our lives. We can’t let perfect get in the way of better.

One big swing of that bat will only score you one run; but string together a few solid doubles, a couple of seeing-eye bloop singles, and maybe the odd base-on-balls, and you have yourself a pretty good rally.

And isn’t that what we need in London? Some momentum? A rally? As it stands now, we’re having a hard enough time stepping up to the plate. And even if we do step in the box, we can’t even get the bat off our collective shoulders.

We, as a public, must shoulder part of the blame. The only issues we show any concern about are the ones that get the ink — either in print or on Twitter. The day-to-day actions — the stuff that really matters to the continued function of our city — is ignored. So if we’re only interested in the bright lights, why are we so surprised by the grandstanding and posturing. And why are we shocked when eventually our key players develop stage fright?

To get back into the swing of things, let’s start with some easy batting practice.

The idea of food trucks has been served up, but we watched the pitch sail down the middle of the plate. We’re waiting for that perfect solution that will make everyone happy instead of letting a couple of trucks have semi-free reign over the city and let the market decide? Let them bring some diversity and ease-of-access to heavy-industrial zones and places that feature shift work (such as the 3M and General Dynamics factories).

Let’s look at the viability of other casino ideas, both in the core and in the other areas (south, east) that have good access to major highway routes and available hotels. Let’s run some trials on pricing and more-direct test routes in the LTC to get suburbanites downtown to work more easily. And let’s revisit the idea of a community policing facility on the corner of Dundas and Richmond (say the old Quizno’s in the Market Tower?) to reduce congestion of the illegal cigarette and drug traffic.

Even the best hitters in baseball only connect three times out of 10. Not every idea will work perfectly — and some may fail. But if we keep waiting for that perfect pitch the only thing that will be guaranteed is that we’ll continue to strike out.

We need a roster that’s built from top to bottom to succeed. We can’t spend all of our money on a clean-up hitter and expect to win when every other spot of batting order is hitting below the Mendoza line. Downtown and out; from ward to ward, we need to focus the development of a balanced community that celebrates its differences and supports — not excludes — each other.

You don’t win the World Series by playing only one game. It takes multiple victories, each of which take a few timely runs. Some come from big hits; others come from manufacturing offense.

It’s time for London to play small ball and try to generate some much needed momentum.

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