Philip Mcleod

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A year later, little to show for it

REPORT #1,129: This Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the election of the current London City Council, although the members did not officially take office until Dec. 1. And what have they accomplished in this first year? Very little, but with an asterisk. 

Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 – London Ontario

This Tuesday marks the first anniversary of the election of your new city council. Henceforth they will no longer be referred to as your new council, even though they didn’t actually take office until Dec. 1.

In anticipation of media requests about what this council has accomplished in the first year since its election, every department at City Hall was apparently asked for a list of accomplishments. This missed the point, of course. The question isn’t about what got done; it’s about what this council did.

And the answer to that question is, very little. But with an asterisk. 

Before we all get our collective knickers in a knot, two things we should remember. The first is this group was elected for a four-year term so properly any measurement of their accomplishments, or lack thereof, should occur in 2018.

The second is that few of us not on council can appreciate just what a learning curve awaits newcomers to elected leadership. And in this case, fully 73 per cent (11 out of 15) were newcomers to civic politics and 80 per cent (12 out of 15) were newcomers to their jobs on council. 

So it has been an experience, a difficult one made more so by the high expectations so many voters had for this council. That they haven’t met those expectations yet is hardly cause for real concern. There is still 37 months and five days left their term.

Okay, though, what did this council accomplish since election 365 days ago?

It’s a short list admittedly. After all the angst that stopped the previous council from acting we got food trucks. In the end this was not the end of fine dining as the previous group imagined. 

We did not get unanimity but we got collegiality – and that wasn’t so difficult either. Kudos to this council for its ability to debate without taking offence.

And we got a lot of debate, boy did we ever. This council loves to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk. Doesn’t like making decisions so much but there does not appear to be an issue on earth on which some of them don’t have an opinion. Just check their Twitter feeds.

We got a lot of new ideas, so many in fact the group is having trouble paring it to a short list of accomplishables over the next three years. This may yet prove to be its Achilles heel as it tries to fit everyone’s wish list into the limitations of expected revenue. It the meantime, though, some imaginative projects are being considered.

We got some new direction. This is a council that really believes London is part of – well, probably still the centre of – a region. It seems prepared to embrace the notion of a collective, regional approach to development.

On the downside, we still don’t have a lot of leadership, either from the top – that would be the mayor’s chair – or from the council itself. 

With few exceptions Mayor Matt Brown, serving his second term on council but his first as our premier civic leader, has been happy to facilitate the activities of his colleagues without attempting to direct them. 

There are numerous arguments about this style. On the one hand we continue to await a clue as to where Mayor Brown wants to take this city; on the other, he seems to be emulating former mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best who rode the facilitation pony to 10 years as mayor, the longest record of any of them.

In the mayor’s absence, the leaders by default on council have been Jesse Helmer (Ward 4), Phil Squire (Ward 5), Josh Morgan (Ward 7) and Jared Zaifman (Ward 14). 

Missing is action for the most part is Paul Hubert (Ward 8), the mayor’s personal choice as deputy mayor, who seems reticent to take charge despite his experience and grasp of the essentials facing the city.

Two to watch in the years ahead are Maureen Cassidy (Ward 5), the current deputy deputy mayor, and Tanya Park (Ward 13). At the moment they tend to let the guys do most of the talking, but do make worthy points when they speak up.

So it’s been a timid year, let’s call it that and move on. At least there’s been no talk of chickens, for which we are thankful. Give this group time – they could yet be, as they so often see themselves, the best council ever. 

Down on the downtown

Downtown London, the marketing arm of the Downtown London Business Association, is asking city council’s strategic priorities and policy committee tonight for $800,000 over four years for yet another consultant’s study on how to improve the city’s core.

 This council should say no. It should say, go back and read and then act on all the reports that have been done in the past decade on the downtown, none of which have so far been accepted. 

The most useful remains the downtown task force report, authored by former controller Gord Hume (alright, he was a former partner in The Londoner but he’s still a bright guy) that offered a very clear and modern concept for the downtown. Essentially it said the retail past is done and gone; the future of downtown is as a cultural centre based on education and entertainment. 

Then there’s the city’s Downtown London Master Plan, which also so far hasn’t been acted upon.

We don’t need another study of what’s wrong with downtown London. This council, this downtown business association, just needs the courage to act on what we already know.  


# RE: A year later, little to show for itJeff 2015-10-26 00:23
They kept us out of the bottomless pit known as Orchestra London, which I consider a significant achievement, especially since they did so very early in their term.
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# Pardon Me But.JMAC 2015-10-26 01:04
Council directed staff to prepare a community report on providing more funds to the Orchestra. As usual a report that was supposed to take a few weeks is still not ready after months and months.
Another failure by this Council to perform.
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# One thing they did doGrandma 2015-10-26 00:43
was allow the City Manager to demoralize inside workers with a very long, mean strike. I hope people remember that at the next election.
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# StrikeStrike 2015-10-26 01:19
You missed something big, they forced a 9 week strike of its inside workers and not one seemed to care. That's pretty telling to me.
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# RE: Strikeyour-oh-so-wrong 2015-10-30 00:53
grandma and strike. if i'm not mistaken cupe local 101 voted 97% to STRIKE so no the city didn't FORCE anyone you asked for it zuidema handed it to you on a silver platter. Shelley is the one to blame if anyone. but I see you voted her out as union leader. The union thought they had bought Matt Brown from the huge campaign contributions but oh boy did you guys fail there well maybe next time
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# RE: A year later, little to show for itBill Brock 2015-10-26 02:56
A year later. The learning curve is over.
The records speak for itself. There is a battle going on as to who sets policy and who runs the operations. Councillors named have all kinds of confidence and expertise. Just ask them. Experts are Staff, UWO and Fanshawe as the COuncillors say "They are the experts" unless of course a Councillor disagrees. Councillors appear to believe that each has individual power meeting with outsiders even without Council direction. The facts about long meetings aren't because of debate; but, when averaged is because of process. A Councillor has the right to attend any standing committee and join in the discussion and debate. Vote only if on committee. It is not a privilege it is a RIGHT! Public input is compromised because if there is 8 Councillors indicating support or voting at a committee meeting decision can be implied even before public input. There has been no changes by Councillors on London Plan or Shift to date but each supports "in principle". Accountability
and reality check to come next?
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# Here we go againobserver 2015-10-26 14:05
The downtown business association should read the reports and then explain why they are not good enough. Geesh! I wonder if Brown is regretting not running for the London West Liberal nomination this time. Guess he won't be moving up to Provincial or Federal politics anytime soon! I agree with Phil (and not the Freeps) about Hubert. Nothing going on in his ward - he has nothing to do and has done little. What is interesting is the number of 15-0 votes. Not much dissent is also not good. But hey, this group is so much better and smarter than the last. Given 'em time.
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# A year later, little to show for itTucker 2015-10-26 16:57
Philip, good read, thank you.

Agree, they will no longer be referred as our new council, unfortunately the good ship London has no steering wheel guiding our experienced rookies, one wonders will we have sand or rocks on the shoreline. So far sand.

Yes, in the end expanded food trucks was a small expensive plus, but more importantly jacked up taxes, with much more to come is due to a lack of smarts and foresight.

Hoping the next three years they keep talking, and talking, and talking, and talking, so they will not waste our tax dollars reinventing waste.

Clean the river, get the smell out of the air, reduce our taxes, "DO" some good with our less fortunate, remove the plaque with your name on it from your minds, and then maybe think about wasting our tax dollars on your La La Land dreams.

Remember rule number one:
Humans first,
Everything else second.
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# good luck with that Tucker,cynic 2015-10-26 21:43
Tucker: Cleaning up the river requires very expensive tertiary treatment and costly separation of combined sewers. How do you do that AND lower taxes? Money from the Feds and the Province? Magic? "Cutting the fat" doesn't cut it - specifics please.
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# A year later, little to show for itTucker 2015-10-27 18:08
One last thing Philip, after many failures we believe our existing Council will put on us for the next three years, future Councils will be forced to find another source of drinking water for half of Londoners, and many people in southwestern Ontario who didn’t vote past and existing fools in London.

We will not only be drinking from toilets, etc, etc but, also from Argo spill.

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# Orchestra Funded By Our TaxMichelle 2015-10-28 13:05
The one item that sticks out for me like a thorn is the on going and on going and on going orchestra conversation. No one I talk to wants this or any performing arts centre funded by our tax dollars so why won't this go away. With the exception of 2 bright councillors this group still carries on this conversation.

I don't understand and I need to understand, why won't this orchestra/perfo rming arts centre conversation go away? What or who is driving the campaign to have our London tax dollars fund this losing proposition? What power do they have? How can it even be a question to support and pay for this project when the citizens don't financially support it by attending the performances? Look at the other cities where they have paid for a beautiful centre. Its the same thing. No one goes.
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# Orchestra Funded By Our TaxTucker 2015-10-28 17:22
Well that didn’t take long, one (1) day another failure.

It appears we have more than one puppet around our corrupt horse shoe.
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# tax moneycynic 2015-10-29 02:09
Guess it is ok to subsidize rich sports team owners and developers but not the arts? guess we will always be a hick town.
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# This council has great potentialLeila Paul 2015-10-29 17:53
Mo Salih especially deserves recognition for his demonstration of integrity - a word so often used that it rarely has meaning. Initially, I did not have much confidence in this council but I see the stirrings of true leadership in at least two councillors: Mo Salih and Jesse Helmer.

I'm especially amused by the photo taken by Derek Ruttan in the LFP's story. Ruttan captured the very essence of Zuidema whose pose is looking down his nose at Mo Salih who is a man I believe can lead London out of the wilderness of being bullied by city hall managers.

It's too early to judge the entire council but I'm optimistic about the future with courageous first-timers like Salih and Helmer.

This first year has been a good one because they did not rush to approve things just to appear to be getting things done. The decisions made were cautious and in the right direction.

I'd give this council a B+ for its civility and caution. It might have been a A if we did not have a few lumps still sitting on the old log in the bog.
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# Great loss of Gord Hume's acumenLeila Paul 2015-10-29 18:06
Abolishing Board of Control was a huge error. In particular, Gord Hume has the kind of savvy that's been sorely missed.

Gord also revealed great foresight in that the downtown cannot be left to its own devices. It's only hope is to be guided into an educational and cultural centre. I'd also like to see a few elegant boutiques and craft shops included along with art galleries.

Once example I'd use is that of Mackinac Island. It's a stretch, I know, but we could make London's downtown into a cultural island that might even attract tourists and make the expense of Tourism London earn its keep.

I did not like the way the Kingsmill deal went down and its excessive cost to taxpayers. But as an educational centre, it's part of the right approach; perhaps the only approach that will work.

Any new residential buildings approved for downtown should be held to the highest aesthetic standards. Solid, first class construction is essential, as well as artistic appeal.
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# Who's the really bully?Leila Paul 2015-10-29 23:25
The "issue at hand" is that Zuidema failed to produce the report requested by Council on how $300K is to be spent. In public comments today Brown is again forfeiting his role in deference to Zuidema, as he did during the extended inside workers strike.

I have to wonder if Matt Brown worries that Salih and other councillors are doing the job the mayor should be doing.

Please, councillors, remember foremost why you are councillors. It is not to walk on egg shells for fear Zuidema will claim hurt feelings while he's the one really attempting to bully council.

And the question requires an answer - why did Zuidema fail to produce the report? Does the time he spends commuting to and from the city where he pays taxes take time away from doing his job where he receives a large salary?

Time will tell if Matt Brown has taken some politically fatal steps away from advocating for the people, in favour of aiding Zuidema's attempts at perverting the seemingly apparent efforts by Zuidema to intimidate council.

Is Brown allowing himself to be used to silence council's justifiably firm questions?
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# Board of Control, LOLobserver 2015-11-01 22:15
Leila, it was an elected finance cte. They had no added power and frankly, no additional brain power. Those elected from wards acted like an additional councillor for that ward. And due to the cost of running city wide, where heavily subsidized by the development industry. How was that a good thing?
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# Controller, From comptollerLeila Paul 2015-11-05 00:13
and that original English usage, i.e., Comptroller, probably derives from the French world 'compte' which means to count. One of my earliest jobs was in accounting so I'm well aware of its meaning and the role of comptrollers. By your logic, though, the mayor's ward gets dual representation. Yet we retain the mayoral city-wide election.

You also neglect that ANY elected person is indebted to some donors from lobby groups, be they gatherings of citizen lobbyists or corporations or developers. The sin (if such it be) is that donations are accepted at all. Some elected people, though, still pride themselves on integrity versus being bought and paid to serve their donors, and thus themselves, rather than do their duties. I believe we've seen proof some of the new councillors place duty over self-interest and subservience to their donors or city managers.

Quote: In business management, the Comptroller is closer to a Chief Audit Executive, holding a senior role in internal audit functions. Generally, the title encompasses a variety of responsibilitie s, from overseeing accounting and monitoring internal controls to countersigning on expenses and commitments.
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# A year later, little to show for itTucker 2015-11-08 17:44
1 of 2

Philip, here we go again.

Well that didn’t take long, another failure, this time it took 11 years to show its face to Londoners.

It appears we have many puppets around our “corrupt” horse shoe, reason being they are buying Bill Armstrong song and dance or maybe creating this song and dance in the lfp about this article.

“Armstrong doesn’t question the COMPETENCE OF CITY ENGINEERS, since they WEREN’T in charge when the first tunnel effort ended in 2004 when it collapsed on an industrial boring machine before it made it below the first of 22 tracks in the CN yard.”

For the love of God how stupid do you think Londoners are?
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# A year later, little to show for itTucker 2015-11-08 17:49
2 of 2

All activities have been removed from the internet on this topic, believe we can thank London City Hall.

Must question whether Bill Armstrong will be getting a prize for this fabricated Bull story or what?

Most Londoners remember as if this happened yesterday a city engineer came on site and told the contractor you’re boring too deep, bring it up.

How on Earth can this council justify keeping these city engineers on payroll after breaking a dam and altering good construction practice?

My fellow Londoners you deserve everything you swallow!

Philip, will you be doing a story on this next “Corruption at our City Hall?
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