Philip Mcleod

The McLeod Report - London, Ontario

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Morgan’s budget job a shrewd move

REPORT #1,137: Mayor Matt Brown’s decision to name Councillor Josh Morgan as his special advisor during the London budget debate which begins today may have the consequence – if not the intent – of elbowing one of his potential rivals in the next civic election.

Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 – LondonOntario

Mayor Matt Brown may not be the most effective leader London has ever had, but he certainly is a shrewd politician. 

At least that’s one way to explain the mayor’s appointment of Josh Morgan as his special advisor on the multi-year civic budget, to be tabled this afternoon.

By city bylaw, the mayor is council’s budget chief. That lofty title doesn’t get you much more than a chance to bang the gavel from time to time – except, of course, when things go off the rails. Then the budget chief is expected to pull the group together and help steer proceedings to some sort of acceptable agreement.

This budget, however, is a bit different. For starters, unlike any London budget before now, it covers four years instead of the traditional one. More importantly, it bundles up a huge shopping list of council and administrative wants and wishes, some extending well into the next decade.

With an advertised advance average price tag of a 2.5 per cent tax increase every year, parts of this budget may prove to be quite unpopular with Londoners. So a wise politician – and certainly one with an eye on elected office higher than here – ensures that blame gets spread around.

Which brings us back to Josh Morgan, the councillor for Ward 7 – the ward, just coincidentally, Mayor Brown represented for four years before his election to the top job in 2014.

Councillor Morgan certainly has the credentials to serve as a credible special advisor on the budget. He holds a combined honours degree in economics and political science and a master’s degree in political science with a focus on local government from Western University. As well he is a member of the university’s pension board which has assets totaling $1.3 million. 

His day job is recruitment and development officer for Western’s local government program. He also served three years as chairperson of London Public Library, in the process helping to reduce its budget while expanding service. 

But Councillor Morgan’s education background also suggests he might be more qualified for the job Mayor Brown currently holds and the one for which he is expected to seek re-election in 2018.

In fact, prior to the last election Councillor Morgan was briefly touted – at least by The Free Press – as a candidate for mayor. He never took out the papers, and eventually settled for a ward candidacy, the same route taken by the mayor.

The two are friends, at least publicly. In 2010 when Mayor Brown was first elected to council, Mr. Morgan was his campaign manager. In 2006, the roles were reversed when Mr. Morgan ran unsuccessfully in Ward 8 – he lost by 23 votes to Paul Hubert.

And they certainly had nice things to say about each other in the official news release. The mayor said Councillor Morgan would “add value to the process” of debating the budget. Councillor Morgan noted he and the mayor “have a long and positive history of working together.”

In his elected position, Councillor Morgan has been one of the more outspoken members, joining a quartet of Jesse Helmer (Ward 4), Phil Squire (Ward 6) and Stephen Turner (Ward 10) who seem to be vying to fill the leadership vacuum the mayor often leaves.

So in the budget debate, expect Councillor Morgan to have much to say, probably far more, if last year was any guide, than the mayor himself. 

If all goes well, of course, Mayor Brown will be able to say he chose his special advisor wisely. On the other hand, should this unwieldy beast falter – and that’s certainly not impossible – then the mayor has only to look immediately to his right on the council horseshoe to the person he can blame, the obliging councillor for Ward 7 and potential opponent in the next election.

Shrewd that. 

As is said, keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. The mayor might see Councillor Morgan as both.

The McLeod Report on CJBK

Councillor Josh Morgan will be a guest Monday morning at 9:05 to talk about the budget process. CJBK radio 1290. 

Comments   

# just another Liberal politicocynic 2016-01-11 01:15
After three tries he gets elected. So when Brown steps up to Provincial or Federal, is the dust up then between Morgan and Hubert? Stay tuned in Melonville.
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# The hell with Londoners only thing that counts is me……..the puppet!Tucker 2016-01-11 02:08
The liberal diarrhea in this city is getting real thick……PERIOD!!
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# More of the sameJ. David Scott 2016-01-11 15:00
More drivel from Tucker without one single word on the relevant topic.As usual adds nothing to the conversation, just spewing nonsense,
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# The hell with Londoners only thing that counts is me……..the puppet!Tucker 2016-01-11 21:32
J. David Scott thank you for your comment.

Hoping some day you will see the light….till than please, continue floating in La La Land.

Enjoy.
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# RE: Morgan’s budget job a shrewd movebill brock 2016-01-11 04:20
Phil,
Look at Strategic Priorities & Policy Committee meeting of May 11, 2015 section "How it will work"
What is different? Someone needs to clarify what changes from current Council ability to change anything they wish in accordance with Municipal Act 2001 is the same as today? Also, Yorke Region did not approve new budget system;
according to city treasurer. Maybe you can get the founder of multi year budgeting to address this report on your CJBK Monday morning program. Remember Council has already approved this system.
Will it be better or is it just smoke and mirrors. I missed the discussion of the points raised by Treasurer in this report?
The Municipal requires approval of budgets each year?
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# RE: Morgan’s budget job a shrewd moveGord Drimmie 2016-01-11 14:11
The fix is in. Not much we can do. Our City Council has their own definitions of "inflation" so that they can say that any tax increase is consistent with inflation and nothing more. The Govt has announced that CPP will be adjusted by 1.2% based on changes over the 12-month period (November 2014 to October 2015) in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the cost-of-living measure used by Statistics Canada. But our Council is looking at somewhere between 2.0 and 2.9% (I'd bet on something closer to 2.9% than 2.0%). And that is after ANOTHER 7%+ increase in sewer & water rates which will only reduce consumption further requiring more increases in future years.

Once again, we will see a tax increase that is affordable for many; but unaffordable by many who are already stretched....an d having to stretch further due to all the "Revenue Tools" that Kathleen Wynne is using to gouge us at every turn.

My taxes were up 3.81% last year; my watr bill up 7%; my CPP was up 1.8%; and my Company pension was flat. This year, my Company pension is flat; CPP is up 1.2%; and City taxes???

Wait for the big number and the rationale and the apology.
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# PercentagesCynic 2016-01-11 14:27
I pay in dollars not percentages. If my cpp dollar increase is greater than my tax dollar and water cost increase, I have more money Gord.
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# RE: PercentagesGord Drimmie 2016-01-11 15:12
Quoting Cynic:
I pay in dollars not percentages. If my cpp dollar increase is greater than my tax dollar and water cost increase, I have more money Gord.


I'm not sure what you are getting at here Cynic. Maybe YOU have more money....but my CPP was up $136 (12-mo total); whereas my taxes were up $238, my hydro was up $301; and my water was up $71. As always, Government math is that everything is just fine and the revenue is needed; but my home finance math just doesn't match the Government disavowal of household money issues.
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# interesting discussionSandy Levin 2016-01-11 19:34
CPI is for households. It is a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers including food (18%), shelter (28%), even booze and tobacco (4.5%). For the most part, a city's CPI is very different than the consumer CPI. As well, property tax changes (city portion only) is a combination of the city's increase and changes in your property assessment vs other properties in the city. So Gord's taxes could go up $238 while someone else's could have gone down or up less. Just interesting stuff. I just suggest everyone get involved in the budget discussion either by going to the City's build a budget sessions or by making a presentation to Council. Otherwise, they don't know your opinion. http://www.london.ca/city-hall/budget-business/budget/Pages/default.aspx
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# RE: interesting discussionGord Drimmie 2016-01-11 19:46
[quote name="Sandy Levin"]CPI is for households. It is a fixed basket of goods and services purchased by consumers including food (18%), shelter (28%), even booze and tobacco (4.5%). For the most part, a city's CPI is very different than the consumer CPI. As well, property tax changes (city portion only) is a combination of the city's increase and changes in your property assessment vs other properties in the city.

Sorry Sandy...I'm not buying. I totally understand what you are saying. But the Government recognizes CPI as the most appropriate measure and uses it to adjust pensions and tax brackets. But if someone wants to up our taxes by 3 or 4%, they will just say that "their" inflation rate is different. But no proof. Look - the City doesn't buy alcohol & booze or groceries; but it buys commodities (cheaper), fuel (cheaper); interest cost (cheaper); and so on. But unless you're a public sector employee, your wages haven't gone up 3 or 4%. I get it. Taxes are going up a whole lot. Now it's a question of throwing out some cloudy rationale for justification. Too bad.
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# RE: Morgan’s budget job a shrewd movebill brock 2016-01-11 22:02
Update: Just learned from Yorke Region their fist multi year budget was 2013 2014 last 2 years of Council. Just approved new 4 year multi budget for this Council. Benefit knowledge of where Council priorities are for future. Each year approve budget plus future forward left of 4 year plan. The key becomes what is in the content!
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# Comment section working correctly?Leila Paul 2016-01-13 04:00
I've tried twice to contribute to your blog, Phil, but my comments just vanish. I wonder why? Is the software functioning correctly?
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# It worked.Leila Paul 2016-01-13 04:06
This column raises an interesting question? Is Morgan being promoted as the next mayor? In truth, Josh Morgan is the most qualified of all those on council now. Morgan is even more qualified than Matt Brown.

He's also been the most conciliatory when there's been disagreement on an issue that has led to endless, meandering debate.

One other issue: Policing is one of the most - if not THE most essential - service provided by a city, especially during times of potential economic crises. I hope council will consider cutbacks in other areas, while allowing increases for LPS. Nothing makes a city more attractive than a low crime rate. What drove Detroit to its current downturn? The high crime rate was a strong deterrent to investment even if the investors would not be living in the city.

So, as a citizen, I support Josh Morgan having more input. And secondly, as a citizen, I support an increased budget for LPS. If necessary, make cuts elsewhere.
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# Whatever Brown's motives, this serves the city wellLeila Paul 2016-01-13 04:27
I'd like to add that even if Matt Brown is seeking to share blame or merely keep a rival within his sphere of influence, Matt Brown made a decision that serves the city well. By recognizing that Josh Morgan is the most qualified person on council to have greater input, Brown has shown that he can make good decisions, regardless of his motives.

In this instance, I believe Matt Brown was not making a self-serving political decision but is acting for London's best interests by deferring to Josh Morgan's expertise.

I view this as one case of win-win.
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# RE: Morgan’s budget job a shrewd moveGord Drimmie 2016-01-13 14:37
Really Mr Mayor???? The Construction Price Index is your measuring stick for determining if the proposed tax increases are consistent with inflation? You have got to be kidding. We're not that naive.

You need to work with the CPI inflation numbers because that is the best measurement of the pocketbook stress on your residents and their ability to pay! C'mon - let's be honest about it!


Per the Federal Government..... who must adjust pensions, tax brackets, and a myriad of other items:
Levels are revised once a year, in January, based on changes over the 12-month period (November 2014 to October 2015) in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is the cost-of-living measure used by Statistics Canada........f or that period of time, inflation is 1.2%.


For someone like yourself who must carefully study the "Construction Price Index" on a regular basis, you should know that Ontario's Construction Price Index increased by only 1.1% from October 2014 to October 2015! (FWIW - the Construction Price Index for Housing - House and Land - in London from 2007 to 2015 increased at a compounded rate of 1.85% per year.)
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# Lower increases a futile hopeLeila Paul 2016-01-16 02:16
There's only one maxim that we can count on when it comes to people in any level of government - if the have the ability to do what they want then they will. They will charge or bill whatever they believe the market will bear, or at least what the majority will tolerate. Some consumers will sink, but it won't affect the bottom line at city hall nearly as much as the income they will generate by imposing taxes according to whatever rationalization s they use. We'll eat whatever we're fed.

On the whole, however, I'm betting Josh Morgan will be more cautious. Experts predict universities are experiencing greater declines in income (including UWO, post Chakma scandal) but Matt Brown can always go back to high school teaching. Plus Morgan has more awareness of responsibilitie s of public administrators. If your appeal is to have any effect, I'd suggest an email directly to Morgan. Our Ward's councillor (as most of them) has no understanding of allocating big budgets.
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