Philip Mcleod

The McLeod Report - London, Ontario

A regular commentary on civic affairs in London, Canada by journalist Philip McLeod.

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THURSDAY, JULY 31, 2014

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A candidate with chutzpah

TODAY’S REPORT #1,020: Seven months after the race to become mayor of London started, Councillor Joe Swan officially started to run Wednesday – and immediately set about trying to change the rules. “Let’s make this a campaign of ideas,” he said as he kicked off his campaign.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 – London

It takes chutzpah, as the 13th entrant in a race that started seven months ago, to immediately start trying to change the rules.

If nothing else, Joe Swan has chutzpah.

So it was, late Wednesday in the sparsely populated but cavernous confines of the London Music Hall, Councillor Swan launched his campaign for mayor.

“Let’s make this a campaign of ideas,” he declared. “Let’s encourage each other, inspire each other. Let’s refrain from comments that distract us from our goal. We need to set a gold star standard for public office. A campaign of ideas and vision and the best ideas for London will win.”

And here some of the candidates thought all along the winner would be the one with the most votes.

This is not to suggest Councillor Swan, a veteran of 19 years on city council, does not have some ideas. He certainly does, even if some of them sound as if they were lifted from the many reports circulating around City Hall.

For example:

    London must move towards a Go Transit concept “with linkages between all mobility patterns,” an idea raised in both the Transportation Master Plan of 2013 and the more recent London Plan. He’s crafting this around the slogan, Let’s Go London.
    The mandate of the London Economic Development Corp. “needs to be renewed.” The city needs only one economic plan, suggesting he favours an amalgamation of all the quasi city agencies which some economic growth responsibilities. He’s raised this idea before at city council. The deceptive slogan for this: The New Economy for London.
    The successful model communities in southwestern Ontario use to get water from the Great Lakes needs to be extended to electricity distribution. The water system “is highly cost effective and very efficient. I think we can find the same results in the utility sector.”
    A tight rein must be kept on taxes to protect essential services. “Now is not the time for taking risks with candidates who are new or untested in making difficult choices.”
    We need to become a ‘green city’, a concept pushed by the London Plan. One aspect of that: “If I am elected mayor I am going back to a seven-day garbage pickup cycle. I think we can do it within our current budget.”
    Seniors who are property taxpayers should get a $500 annual credit so they can afford “to stay in the homes they love.”

“When I look at London today I see a city on the verge of greatness, ready to take a leadership role it so much deserves,” he said, reading from a prepared text to about 40 supporters, including fellow councillors Bud Polhill and Bill Armstrong. “We have a chance to go backward and look at high taxes and ineffective programs, or we can go forward to the new economy of London. The cities that make the right choices are soaring.”

That much could have been said, indeed probably has been, by any of the front runners in the Oct. 27 race for mayor. What followed, though, is sure to draw chuckles around the council table if nowhere else.

“The citizens have a clear choice for mayor – a chance to move forward, one London, one united council that get results for the people. I know how to get things done in London. It takes teamwork to get results.”

As the intellectual centre of the Fontana Eight voting bloc in the first two years of Joe Fontana’s tenure as mayor, Councillor Swan must share much of the blame for what became perhaps the most dysfunctional city council in decades. For him to argue he’s a team player is, to put it politely, chutzpah.

As has virtually every candidate running for city council positions, Councillor Swan took a slap by inference at the leader he served so willingly virtually until the day the man resigned in disgrace.

“I think being a politician needs to be restored as an honourable position.”

Unlike many others, though, he didn’t say how he would do that.

Meantime, lest we forget there are others with ideas in this race, former city councillor Roger Caranci fired a shot that nicked both Councillor Swan and the third member of a front-running trio, Councillor Matt Brown.

In response to the vote at city council Tuesday night against a proposal to give Fanshawe College another $10 million to help it buy historic Kingsmill’s department store downtown and rebuild it into classrooms for 1,600 students, Mr. Caranci said:

“The vote against Fanshawe’s request proves that once again internal roadblocks at City Hall have prevented London from moving anything meaningful forward. I am saddened that despite all the rhetoric, nobody showed the ability to get this council working together to help move our city forward.”

Councillor Swan led the attack on the Fanshawe proposal; Councillor Brown supported it, but was unable to sway sufficient votes his way.

NOTE TO READERS: With city council now on a summer schedule and many people at City Hall on vacation, The McLeod Report reverts to once-a-week publication, unless events merit. You can also find a second, and separate, column each week in London Community News or on their website.