Tag Archives: council

A Letter to Council: Great Cities Have Great Transit; But Not Necessarily this BRT

By Jay Ménard,

Tonight and tomorrow, our elected representatives will discuss the future of the BRT proposal. As I had a few hours to kill waiting in a hospital today, I wrote one final letter to all of them for consideration and sent it to them earlier.

I present it to you below.

“Dear councillors,

This BRT issue presents an interesting challenge for many of you. I encourage you to vote to send this proposal back to the drawing board. And I’d like to support my argument by starting by quoting one statement — and ask you to read on carefully.

‘Great cities have great transit.’ Continue reading

Not Losing is a Win

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that there is no “I” in team. As we approach the 2014 municipal elections, it is important to remember that it doesn’t matter if a candidate is a rookie, a young up-and-comer, or a seasoned veteran.

Whether as a role player or a team captain, they just need to know what it takes to be part of a winning organization. And that’s teamwork. Continue reading

When the Going Gets Tough, Council Shouldn’t Get Going

By Jason Menard

It may be fair and balanced, but it doesn’t mean it’s right. And if Ward 4 councillor Stephen Orser advocates letting the citizens make the tough decisions, then perhaps it’s time for us to just abolish council altogether and let every city decision pass through a plebiscite or referendum.

If one of the leading advocates for full-time council is so ready to abdicate the responsibilities bestowed upon him, then maybe it’s time to let majority rule.

Actually, it would probably be a plurality. A plurality empowered to decide regardless of knowledge, information, big-picture perspective, or responsibility. Continue reading

Capping the Forest City Until October 2014 Makes No Sense

By Jay Menard

Sometimes a tree branch starts growing in a direction that you don’t want. There are a number of ways to control this growth, ranging from pruning to capping, but in the end all you’re doing is preventing the tree’s natural growth.

It makes sense if the tree is infringing on your home or at risk of causing damage, but to cap a tree simply because you don’t like the way it looks — or, worse, the colour of its foliage — is ludicrous.

Yet that’s exactly what some are suggesting we should do in London, Ontario. Essentially, there are those who are content to cap the Forest City’s growth until Oct. 27, 2014. Continue reading

Everyman Mayor Must Apologize for ‘Stupid’ Comment

By Jason Menard

Maybe it was an off-hand comment. Maybe his intent differed from his execution. But whatever the motivation, a Mayor publicly disrespecting his or her constituents crosses the line – and every “average” Londoner deserves an apology from mayor Joe Fontana.

The alleged transgression came late on Monday night (Mar. 26) during a marathon council meeting. In discussing a measure that would potentially leave council open to a citizen-led Ontario Municipal Board challenge on the grounds of insufficient public notice.

Fontana’s alleged statement? “… the average person can’t understand what we’re talking about.” Continue reading

Time to Park By-law

By Jason Menard

Let me preface this with a little story here, before I get into the meat of my discussion. It’s the story of a young 19-year-old celebrating his high school prom.

Now, of course, this was back in the days when Grade 13 was still in vogue. In fact, I think it was back in the days when En Vogue was still in vogue… But regardless, after a night of revelry and some alcoholic libations, several of us retired to a friend’s back yard, set up tents, and celebrated the conclusion of our high school experience.

Of course, many of us drove from the official prom to this more laid-back after-party. And, seeing as our hostess only had a normal-sized driveway, many of us parked on the street. The next morning, many of us also woke up to little City of London gifts tucked ever-so-maliciously under our windshield wipers — a fine for parking on the street between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Now, the $20 charge wasn’t the issue – it was the principal of the matter. Begrudgingly I paid my fine, dramatically stating, “Next time I’ll comply by the law and drive drunk – I hope that’s acceptable for you!”

And that, in a nutshell, is the lunacy of this by-law. It penalizes those who are acting responsibly. Personally, I don’t think any revenue gained by these needless fines are worth the cost of one innocent life lost because an inebriated driver chose to get behind the wheel, instead of leaving the car on the side of the road.

Proponents say that other regions have similar by-laws, but I can also count a number of cities – large ones, the likes of which London often aspires to become – that have more sensible parking enforcement strategies. And if city councilors are reticent about losing the cash grab – uhm, sorry – legitimate revenue from parking offenders, then there is a simple solution to this issue that should satisfy all sides.

There is the argument that the existing by-law makes road maintenance easier, but that convenience can still exist for both the maintenance crew and the citizen or visitor. Alternating parking rights on city streets is the simplest way to satisfy all parties.

Here’s how it can work: on certain days, or between certain hours on certain days, you are restricted from parking on certain sides of the street. Simple. Easy. Clean. Clear.

Say I live on Menard Street (it’s catchy, isn’t it? And I’m more than willing to offer that up for the next round of road name suggestions). Well, from Monday at 8:00 p.m. to Tuesday at 8:00 p.m., I’m restricted from parking on the north side of the street. Then, from Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. to Thursday at 8:00 p.m., I’m restricted from parking on the south side of the street. That way, if they need to do any maintenance on Menard Street, then the workers have a 24-hour window to do so – far more convenient than the 14 hours of interrupted time the current by-law offers.

During the winter, more frequent restrictions can be put into place to enable snow plows to work their magic. Say a Monday to Thursday restriction on the north side of Menard Street and a Friday to Sunday restriction on the south side. That way, there’s always ample parking and also room for the maintenance crews.

This is London, remember. There’s not an abundance of people parking on the street. Most people either have private drives, complex parking, or parking garages, so the impact on the roadways would be minimal. And should we find that the issue grows and more people are parking on the street, preventing area residents from having close parking for their homes, then we can designate certain streets at certain times as residential parking – and the residents would obtain stickers indicating that they are allowed to park in that zone.

We’re not reinventing the wheel here. All we’re doing is taking the best of what other cities have effectively done for years and applied it to our region. There’s no need for a Made-in-London solution when the answer is so clearly available to us elsewhere.

The fact that council refused to make a change to this by-law shows that their progressive thinking gear is stuck in neutral. The way to make all parties happy is clear. And sure, there’d be a little investment in street signs, but that’s a one-time cost that can be considered an investment in fostering our city’s growth and infrastructure.

And that way, should someone know they’re going to drink a few too many, they can park appropriately before they’re under the influence – without being penalized for doing the right thing!

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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