An Open Letter to The Mayor and London City Council

Dear Mr. Fontana and Council,

one thing I realize is that every one of you on council wants to create a better London and a better place to live for every citizen of our forested city. I disagree with you sometimes about how best to do that and often you disagree with each other but that’s what I love about democracy – it’s messy.  I prefer it that way to some of histories other ways of governing.

This past week a number of things have happened in council, as well as some news reports, that not only disturb me but frankly have me deeply worried. Let’s start with the idea of an auto mall as a way to attract and greet people to the city. I don’t understand the reasoning in the least. In the London Free Press today it mentions the construction jobs, it talks about the benefit for the car dealers, and it talks about the possibility of attracting other dealers to our city. Well for some fairly straight forward reasons it seems to me that it doesn’t make any economic sense. First of all you will remove dealerships from other parts of the city and wherever they leave an economic hole will appear. A hole in terms of the businesses that surround those dealerships, in the  shops and traffic that are attracted to that area because of the dealers, but also a visual hole that will depress an area. We only need to look at the Pond Mills/Glen Cairn area to see the effect of empty store fronts on the local business environment. Secondly I cannot see how car dealerships attract people from other cities and towns except in a transitory way. These people may come, though given the economy it is not likely, but they do not stay. They do not stop in the shops, develop relationships with neighbours, nor do they create small businesses. Really they add little to the vitality of the city. Lastly could the money being spent on an auto mall not be better spent on some other gateway venture. Say a huge market like Kitchener/Waterloo has. Or better yet could this money be spent on the existing small businesses or the not for profit sector to help those who are most vulnerable in this dire economy, or on arts, or on wifi downtown, or ….well I am sure you get the idea. If you spend the money on making the city better for the people who already live here it will attract others. This has been proven in Edmonton, Halifax, and Saskatoon.  I suggest this would be a better use of our precious resources.

The next thing that has me troubled is around the possibility of Mr. Fontana spending $50,000 on reworking his office. Your Worship, while I believe that it is important to make sure our Mayors office has a certain respectability I think this kind of spending sends exactly the wrong message. I know that your intention was not to be malicious, but given the recent unemployment statistics do you not think that this money could be better spent on employing some youth in our city? If it is true and you are considering spending this kind of money I would ask, for our collective sake, you not.

The next issue I would like to share my thoughts with you on is the Green Bin program. I think to not follow up on this, especially in light of the previous two issues, is very short sighted. We must be progressive in every area of our cities life in order to keep the London a vital and attractive place to live. I know that you all understand the 12 year limit on our current dump and that this kind of a program, while incurring a cost at a difficult time, would be of immense benefit to our future. We cannot simply ignore the future for the benefit of a quick gain in the present. This is not a lesson we would teach to our children and we should not do it ourselves. While immediate gratification, a quick easy cut to the budget, is attractive the scar it can leave behind could cause much grief in the future. Reconsider this proposal.

I would lastly like to offer a difficult suggestion to you your Worship. I understand the need to keep costs in line and I admire being frugal in difficult times but I think you have to reconsider your freeze on tax cuts. We cannot sustain our current level of service nor plan for the future with a tax freeze. We must pay the costs of what we receive. There is no other way. I do not make a great deal of money Mr. Fontana. In fact I make very little but I would gladly pay more city taxes if it would ensure and enhance the quality of life for my family. No one wants to pay more but sometimes we must make a sacrifice for the common good. That sacrifice should be some of my earnings to make where I and my fellow citizens live a better place. To make a better London.

I have such deep faith in the people of this city and such admiration for many I have met but I am also worried that the amazing potential that is London could be lost if you, our leaders, do not begin to look forward rather than what seems to be back ward.

Respectfully offered for your consideration,


Sean Quigley

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