Tag Archives: City Hall

Let Citizens Decide if Council Has Earned Its Raise

By Jason Menard

If you’re a casual outside observer of the City of London, you may think that the city is falling apart at its seams: job losses, closures, rioting in the streets, violence… So the time is right for council to give itself a raise, right?

Actually, yes. If the members merit it. And that review should be only the first step in recognizing that running this city actually requires a full-time commitment. Continue reading

Downtown Sign Issue Highlights Need to Create a Bigger Flap

By Jason Menard

Should Shmuel Fahri take down the gaudy ‘For Sale’ and ‘For Rent’ signs that have papered the City of London’s downtown core? Yes – but only if he promises to put bigger and better ones up in their place.

In fact, if the noise caused by the flapping signs is an issue, I’d recommend Fahri simply repaint the entire exterior of his buildings with the words “Space for Rent/Sale.” And use big, garish, gaudy neon colours that will shine in the night. Continue reading

A Lack of Pioneering Vision

By Jason Menard

Monday night’s meeting didn’t just see London City Council toss an extra $85,000 onto the pile that is the Fanshawe Pioneer Village – they managed to waste $300,000 by providing a brief stay of execution for the facility.

And hopefully it’ll be the last $300,000 wasted. It will be if Council has the guts to finally cut bait next year.

In a Utopian world, it’d be wonderful to support each and every artistic and historic venture that enriches the Forest City. However, the reality of the situation is that perhaps we’ve come to a time where we need to take a cold, hard look at what we have, and make the tough decisions required to maximize our return on our investment – and to stop chasing after a dream that will never come to fruition.

Now, before I get branded a cold-hearted right-winger who only looks at the bottom line, you should know that I’ve been on the left wing more often than Bobby Hull in his heyday! But what good is funding a service that people have shown, through their apathy, they don’t want.

The only time that the Pioneer Village arouses passion in the community is during the annual “Save the Village” scenarios. Where is this passion during the year? Can you show me where this vocal community that would hate to see such a valuable component of our community disappear has actually been backing up their words with their wallets? Perhaps if their support extended beyond the emotional to the financial, the Fanshawe Pioneer Village wouldn’t be trying to stave off the axe each and every year.

We’re not talking about a site that’s unique in Canada. Heck, I Googled “Pioneer Village” and had to wade through five pages before I even hit on a mention of Fanshawe Pioneer Village – and that was from a Free Press article! There are dozens of villages out there, so we’re not talking about eliminating the last of its kind.

And I propose we don’t totally eliminate it. We simply take a concerted look at what we have in London and try to maximize its impact.

London has more pressing needs than a Pioneer Village that doesn’t get support. It has a downtown that’s grip on survival is tenuous at best. I often walk the streets of Downtown London and see the empty storefronts, or the constantly changing vendors. We have the potential markets created by the John Labatt Centre’s events. We have a Market that needs to better market itself. And we have a rich history that many of our very own citizens know nothing about – much less care.

But, seeing as Easter’s just around the corner, what if we decide to put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak. What if we consolidate our efforts and make Downtown London the focal point of the city’s history, culture, and – dare I say it – future?

Tutankhamen’s tomb is no less valuable or interesting to people because it’s been moved from Egypt and has toured the world, so relocating a few artifacts from the outskirts of London to a centralized display isn’t sacrilegious. Why not conscript some of those empty storefronts on Dundas, or rent out some areas of Galleria London and turn Downtown London into a living, breathing celebration of everything that London was, is, and can be?

Why can’t we intersperse our city’s history amongst its present? Co-ordinate efforts between Museum London, the Public Library, and our archeological caretakers and give people a reason to visit downtown. In doing so, people will hopefully be attracted to the Core, will patronize its shops, and draw new investment to an area that sorely needs it.

Obviously the status quo isn’t working, and has not for many years in the case of Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Our city and its heritage is something of which we should be proud. But it’s hard to feel pride, when we don’t know enough about our past.

A co-ordinated, consolidated effort to create a downtown core that’s rich in history, vibrant in its present, and optimistic about its future should be worth more to the City than throwing away money at a model that doesn’t work.

And then the responsibility would fall upon the shoulders that deserve it – those of the people of London. If they don’t support something that’s been tailor-made to meet their needs, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for what we lose

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The $415,000 Question

By Jason Menard

Another day, another City Hall fiasco. Unapproved renovation costs, sexual harassment issues, closed-door meetings, denials, double-talk, sniping – it seems one can’t wake up anymore and pick up a paper without reflexively cringing before seeing what’s next.

So what do we, as Londoners, do about it? That’s the $415,000 question, now isn’t it? For many years now Londoners have been willing to gripe about our elected officials, but when it comes down to that decisive moment, the status quo reigns supreme.

Name recognition seems to be the order of the day for London voters – last election saw all incumbents who ran re-elected. Voter apathy tops the list. In fact, just over 30% of eligible voters cast ballots last election. And who are among the worst offenders? London’s youth.

Whether it’s university students returning home from their studies, or high school grads preparing to take the next step in their lives, one of the fundamental responsibilities we have as a society – and as adults — is participation in the democratic process.

Of course, no one is actively going to get you to the polls. I’m not so far removed from that age to have forgotten how hollow “Get out to vote” messages can sound. In fact, those pseudo-hip messages specifically targeted to the youth demographic are either way off base or way too condescending.

So why should you go out and cast a vote on November 10? The pretentious answer is, “Because it’s your civic duty to do so.” But the real reason is that you can make a difference and help to shape this city the way you want it!

Stop and think about the power you – and when I say you, I mean youth as a block – hold for the upcoming election. The numbers can be in your favour! Look at the percentages we’re talking about here – only about one-third of eligible voters actually exercised their right to vote. Now, if the youth of this city – even conservatively saying 5,000 to 10,000 people — actually got involved in this process and voted for a candidate who met their needs that could have a significant impact on the final result.

Now I can hear the cry, “There’s nobody out there who cares what we think.” You know what? You’re probably right. And you know why? You don’t give them a reason to care.

As much as we’d like to live in a world where politicians have all of our best interests in mind, the fact of the matter it’s not that the squeaky wheel gets the grease –all the whining in the world won’t get you anywhere. It’s the squeaky wheel that actually has some weight behind it that will see results. They’re called interest groups because they actually can attract the interest of our city’s movers and shakers.

I’ve lived in this city for a number of years and all I’ve ever heard from this city’s youth is how backwards the city is, how there’s nothing for the youth, and a litany of things that are wrong with the city. I’ve yet to see anyone do anything about it.

Where’s the motivation for someone running for office to develop a position, or even address your needs? Why should they waste their breath on a group that’s not even going to get out and cast a ballot. However, I guarantee that if they knew that your vote could make a difference between election and obscurity, I’m sure they’d be more receptive to your concerns.

Sure it’s only May and it would seem too early to start thinking about elections, but that’s precisely the problem! Most people don’t think about elections, read what they see in the paper, then go cast a ballot – and hence the same-old, same-old council we keep getting.

Think of it as your summer project before you go back to school. We live in the electronic age, so send the candidates an email. Go see them when they’re stumping for votes. Call their offices. No matter what you do, get your voice heard and ask the questions that concern you! If you don’t get an answer, ask again. Find the candidate who addresses your concerns in a way you’re satisfied with. And don’t just stick with the “money” candidates – talk to the lesser lights, see what their ideas are.

This way, when Nov. 10 rolls around, you’ll know who – and what – you’re voting for. Maybe it will be the same-old candidate, or perhaps someone new will earn your vote. At least you’ll be making an informed decision.

And, hopefully, as voting day approaches the candidates themselves will know who they’re dealing with when it comes to plotting London’s future!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved