Ward 5 – The Choice

election scrabble

Let’s talk about the Ward 5 race ‘cause that’s where I live, and I have a vested interest. In the ward is the incumbent, Maureen Cassidy, who has served the last term on Council as our representative for Ward 5. Running against her in the election are some people. Notably Randy Warden, who ran and lost n the last election, Charles Knott and Shane Clarke.  What has marked this election across the city, and here in Ward 5, is misinformation, sign wrecking, and anonymous attacks through websites and signs.

Sadly this seems to becoming a norm in London, and I don’t think the media pay enough attention to the trumpifying of our local elections. That said I want to talk about these candidates and who I feel should choice for Ward 5.

For a majority of candidates in Ward 5, there is little difference between the anti-BRT candidates. They oppose BRT without a lot of details. Most say we need to reconsider BRT because of cost, the need for “better” consolation, or that it won’t fit our future needs. Again their clams are light on details and strong on ten-word opinions. The problem though is that Ward 5 residents need the next ten words to understand exactly what their plans are beyond “further discussions or consultations” or “ preparing us for autonomous vehicles” that may or may not ease traffic.

The problem is with these claims, and others that include safe consumption and development is that they don’t have any credible alternatives and are so sparse on details that we could be another decade waiting for any response to growing congestion in London while they discuss and consult. We need action now, not in 2029, on our severe infrastructure and congestion issues. If you want some thoughts on BRT from some leaders with some credibility and experience, then I suggest you read our former mayors ( and outstanding past Ward 5 councillor)  Joni Baechler and Jane Bigelow here on the facts of BRT

About some of the candidates:

Randy Warden is an outstanding volunteer in our community, especially with St.Johns Ambulance and The Canada 150 celebrations. He has given a lot of his time, and his efforts to London should be applauded for this. That does not make his sparse platform and his views on serious issues affecting London very detailed. On his platform page Randy has two lines on job creation, two lines on BRT, two lines on making life easier for families, and two lines on making life easier for families. If you watch the Ward 5 debates you see the same pattern of sparse answers and hardly any details. Randy’s campaign tagline is “leadership you can trust” but it’s tough to do that when there is little substance to his campaign. Randy is a nice guy and a great community volunteer but we need leadership, and a significant part of leadership is clearly articulating a vision and plan for where we are and what we should do. Randy doesn’t do this.

Charles Knott:  I haven’t been able to find much out about Charles other than his campaign website and Linkedin profile. He’s lived in London for some time and went to The London School of Economics to complete masters degree in science. He worked for a bread company and a motor company in customer service, has created a flooring business that supplies Mixed Martial Arts( MMA) companies, and is a manager of a sports clinic. I haven’t found anything about community service or volunteering. Charles has many of the same views as Randy does, though with more words that describe essentially the same viewpoint. You can read his platform here. Again my complaint is the same as I had for Randy – lots of declarations but few details backing up his clams. Charles talks a lot about job creation, and rightly so, but anyone who has spent any time on economic development will tell you that City Councils have little control of job creation. They can create small incentives through development but Councils are severely limited by law on what they can do to attract business to a city. The industrial land development was an effective way Council did this in the last two terms. But it is also important to understand that according to LEDC ( London Economic Development Corporation), who is charged with attracting business to London, says there are 1500 jobs available right now to at great companies. Our problem is we can’t attract and retain the talent we need to fill those jobs. We have a talent attraction and training gap problem in London, not a business attraction problem. How do you attract young professionals to our city? Well, there’s a lot of research on that, and googling Richard Florida is an excellent place to start as is looking at the CityLab website.  I don’t find Charles to be a credible candidate – claims and assertions are fine, but they need facts and details to be believable.

Shane Clarke: I have a lot of time for Shane Clark as he works on issues that are close to my heart. Poverty, mental illness, addictions, and the serious crisis we have in this city when it comes to our most vulnerable fellow Londoners. Shane has only three issues on his platform. Addictions, affordable housing, and snow removal.  I really respect Shane’s commitment to working and advocating with those who are most in need of our attention and focus. Think Shane also has an outstanding character and his care for his fellow Londoners is evident in his work and his volunteering. If my first choice for Ward 5 wasn’t elected, then Shane has the humility to listen and the strength to stand up for his values and our Ward. Check out Shane here

Maureen Cassidy: Maureen has been a long time advocate and volunteer in London especially when it comes to development issues in our ward. Joni Bachelor endorsed her 4 years ago as her choice to replace her, and again this election, and I believe she has done an outstanding job advocating for our ward and major issues across our city. Fiscally she was a part of the Council team that brought in multi-year budgeting and lowered our city debt by 10%. Maureen has advocated and works on issues from poverty, to indigenous issues, to very complex development issues. Throughout she has been consistent, and I believe very effective as a Ward 5 Councillor. I have had my disagreements with Maureen on some big issues, but she has always taken the time to hear me out and at times modify her views if she thought mine were valid.  Have seen her do this with fellow Ward 5 residents as well. She is not afraid to face tough issues and never takes a position for the sake of an easy political win.  I know her to be steadfast, very competent, and above all someone whom you can trust to work for the best interests of Ward 5. Here’s another reason why I support Maureen. She has details to her platforms and facts to back them up. Unlike Randy or Charles, she has more than ten-word answers. I respect that a lot and appreciate the time and thought that went into it. Here is Maureen’s platform and importantly here is the endorsement of some people who are leaders in Ward 5 and London.  I encourage you to vote for Maureen’s re-election as our Ward 5 city councillor because she has shown courage and commitment in the face of adversity and more importantly stood up for Ward 5 while facing it.

Advertisements

Also the Fault of Progressives: Trump, Leitch, and the Age of Division

gbmw-laid-off-aricle-pic

We are all, quite rightly, appalled by the way Donald Trump has behaved. His xenophobic, sexist, misogynist,  racist, daily diatribes are in embarrassment to the Party of Lincoln. But while we are all feeling morally superior and content in our enlightenment, I am troubled by how we progressives helped to create the environment for this kind of viral hatred to grow.

We progressives are great a supporting causes like #YesAllWomen, #BringBackOurGirls, #IceBucketChallenge, #IndyRef, #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins . All of these are critical issues in our world and all of them very worthy of our attention but there is a problem. Who are we progressives ignoring?

There is the bias we show in the causes we champion and the people we don’t. In the case of the dog whistle politics of a Kellie Leitch or Donald Trump, the cause we did not pay attention to was the plight of the blue-collar worker and those who were ejected in to an uncertain future from the economic disaster of 2008. So many lost their jobs ,or were made redundant by changes in technology on the factory floor, that there became a huge group of people who were left behind. And while clever pundits and economists speak of creative destruction, in the real world millions lost the dignity of work in the middleclass.

The result? Men and women, many of whom had achievied  a middle-class lifewere thrown into a  long humiliating nightmare of uncertainty. Manufacturing jobs were devastated and never came back because those industries either moved to cheaper labour markets, Caterpillar did this here in London, or innovated through technology and so need radically fewer workers in plants. Also retraining programs were inadequate at best and callous at worst. A worker would rarely, especially in the US, get the training they needed to work in advanced manufacturing and would often be forced into programs that were irrelevant to the current job market. Also it was brutally tough for a 50 year old man or woman to retrain in the computer focused workd of advanced manufacturing.

So the dignity and stability of work, which is so critical to having a stable life, became a memory for millions across north America who instead found themselves in precarious work and precarious lives. They were, and are, a growing  group who are rightfully angry and rightfully feeling ignored. Into this vacuum come Kellie Leitch and Donald trump who provide easy targets for the anger and frustration. So it is any wonder that we have the environment that spawns a Donald Trump or Kellie Leitch? No progressive movement I’ve seen is advocating for this group  and so they support those who, through lies and misdirection, provide them with a target for their anger. Immigrants, political correctness, elites, women, international bankers and the list goes on and on. It is so easy for Trump or Leitch to pretend to be one of them while givig them targets for their anger that further thier callous ends. Meanwhile we in the progressive ranks shake our heads and tut in superiority. Racism, sexism, and prejudice are always unacceptable. But it should be equally unacceptable for so many millions to be left behind and become the targets for politicallu opportune predators like Trump and Leitch to pretend to use our friends and neighbours so callously.

Perhaps we need a new hashtag that lasts for more than a weekend. Perhaps we need a hashtag that says we will stand with those being ignored. Perhaps we should do more than a hashtag and actually send messages through the corridors of power and say we will not ignore our friends and neighbours any longer. We won’t stand for the denigration of the dignity of work and the humiliation of families that are left behind. That would be a proud achievement for the progressive movement. I doubt it will happen but it would be a proud moment. #nooneleftbehind

A Culture of Division? Yes the CPC created it

Someone I like great deal was hurt today by my anger at his party. He’s a good man and a much needed engager in this community but I stand by what I said. The Conservative Party of Canada has creatied an environment of racial intolerance, hatred , and division. Today two candidates , one liberal and the other conservative, had their signs defiled by racial hatred and I pointed the finger for creating the environment where this could happen squarely at the source. The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the their leader Mr. Harper.

My friend wrote this:

“Take a look at a few of the hot button issues:

1.       Second class citizens- this is a media interpretation and used as hyperbole by other parties. If you take issue with parts of the bill then go after them but do not use such a general phrase for changes to a bill that is so complex.

2.       Conversion therapy- vetting over three hundred candidates is less than a year is complex process. He was removed as a candidate as was appropriate.

3.       The Niqab has been a highlighted debate by the media but let’s not forget, the court ruled on this. It has been named unlawful and is the reason that such checks and balances are in place.”

I can’t agree with his interpretation here and I want to outline exactly why I disagree with his take and why I  blame the growing climate of intolerance on the actions of the leader and the PC party.

Over the course of this very long campaign what have we heard from the Conservative party week after week?

  1. That if a woman where’s a Niqab to the citizenship ceremony and does not uncover her face then she cannot take the oath of citizenship. Many in the CPC blame media or liberals or ndp or anyone else for this being an issue but the PM is the one who has made ,and continues to make even yesterday, this an issue. Also what most people fail to understand is that women who chose to wear the Niqab during the ceremony have to remove it for identification before they sign their citizenship papers. So they have been clearly identified. But the CPC continues to make it an issue. Also our courts have continually overturned this law by the CPC but they continue to fight it so they can create media attention.
  2. Barbaric Practises Tip line is simply another tactic for devision. We are expected to call this special line created by the Conservative Government if we see a “barbaric practise” being perpetrated against women or others? This has been clearly linked to our nations Islamic community by the CPC as has the Niqab. But i wonder why we needed a special line when we have 911 and our countries excellent police forces. Here in London our police force take domestic abuse  and racial crimes seriously. We don’t need a special tip line that is focused on a specific part of our population.
  3. The removal of Citizenship from immigrants convicted of serious crime is in fact one of the most worst actions by the CPC government. They are creating a second class of citizenship for Canadians. if you’re an immigrant you no longer have the same protections under the Citizenship Act , unless this is challenged in court, or under the charter of rights and freedoms. if you come from another country you’re citizenship is worth less than an “old stock” Canadian. I have always believed that citizenship is citizenship and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are equal to all who hold that status. If someone is convicted of , as the conservatives point out, terrorism as recently happened in Ontario then they should be tried in Canada, Judgement found in Canada, and sentence carried out In Canada. Our country is wise and strong enough to deal with anyone who wished to commit crime and the case is no different for these convicts. If an “old stock” Canadian committed the same crime then he or she would not be stripped of citizenship and deported. So the Conservative Party has created a second class of citizenship with a different set of rights than the first. Again it’s devise and racist.

So we take all of these and the PM’s use of the phrase “Old Stock Canadians” and what do we have. A clear campaign to create division and intolerance based on religious and ethnic differences. Now some on twitter have accused me of being a sensationalist, hypocrite, party hack. I don’t belong to a political party nor do I support one leader over the other at this point with the exception of Mr. Harper ,whom I don not support at all. Others have said this is all driven by the media. This is rubbish plan and simple. It was The PM who has continued to bring these issues out during the election campaign again and again. it is the CPC party who puts out mailings like this:

CPC PHOTO

So to blame the media is at best simplistic and at worst and clear act of deception. The CPC can only look to itself for the attention this continues to generate in this election because it is they who continually bring it up in interviews.

We have seen in newspaper articles in Ontario and Quebec a rise in attacks on Muslim women who are wearing Niqab’s . We have seen pominent Muslim Canadians say in interviews that there is a real fear in their communities. We have seen in London a clear racial hatred displayed against Muslim candidates. And the Prime Minister of this country has created the environment where these acts and this fear is fanned. To suggest that the Conservative Party is not to blame is either blind partisanship at any cost or is an unwillingness to confront the actions of their leaders. Either way it cannot be simply rationalized away as a few bad apples, complex issues, or media/partisanship bias. There is a clear pattern here and it is one of them vs. us with the CPC pointing to muslim immigrants as them. it is unrcontionable in our country in the 21st century.

Benjamin Franklin , The American President and slave owner, said “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” . We have now in our great country of Canada an approach and laws that have created fear, inequality and oppression. This must not stand or be rationalized but must be expunged for what it is.  A cynical calculation of fear and division.

Generosity of Spirit

loonie

There is a kind of whirligig tempo to the last week that surrounds us with sandblasted acceleration that everyone, me included, is thinking about. Of course it is our Canadian federal election i’m talking about. My social media feeds are filled with prognostications of who won the debate, who will win the election, what the foibles of each party and leader are, that in the end leave us feeling more than a little weary. But there were some issues that have been occupying my mind that I hoped would be addressed.

During the debates there was only one leader who brought up the social issues we face. Try to guess her name. Go on, I know you can figure it out. That’s right, Elizabeth May was the person to say what about poverty? What about health care? What about inequality? That was good to hear, even if for only a few very brief moments, as I’ve been thinking a lot about it in the last week. The rest acknowledged it as an after thought perhaps. I’m not blaming the other participants but rather pointing out an important missing space in the national conversation; much like Elizabeth May will be a missing space in the conversation enforced by the ridiculous “rules“ of the upcoming debates.

This, by the way, is not an endorsement of Ms. May. No. Rather it is to point something out something that I feel needs some closer examination. Her missing, as much as the important issues of social wellbeing are to the national conversation, needs some looking at. What does it say about the bastions of journalism if we can’t talk about the issues that leave many of our fellow Canadians further and further behind? What does it say about them if we ignore a key person and a raft of key issues on the cutting room floor? What does it say about us?

Last weekend I was celebrating my birthday and was at a local grocery store to pick up a few supplies with my family. We parked and while traversing the parking lot a man, sitting on the curb, asked if I had any spare change. I did and gave it to him. I went inside to get him a bottle of water as it was hot, returned, and gave it to him. I was just walking away and he asked “Hey, you a Habs fan?” I have been a Habs fan since I first moved to Canada, Lefleur being my hero, and told him so. He said, ”Knew it the moment I saw you. Hold on a sec I’ve got something for you.” He digs in his bag and comes out with a loonie celebrating the Canadiens. I told him i couldn’t take his money but he insisted and I accepted it with the generosity of spirit in which it was given. True generosity on my birthday from a man who did not seem to have the means to spare much. But he did and he shared what he had with me. I thanked him, shook his hand, and went on my way.

That moment has stayed with me all week as the election increased its tempo to a fevered pitch. He had very little but wanted to share something with me. A little generosity in a parking lot from someone who didn’t know me but wanted to share what he had. Within the context of our national, provincial, and local conversations his act seems to be a one-way proposition

given how little he had and how much so many of us have. In terms of the elections, this man and the many more like him are at best a postscript for the choosing of those who will represent us.

And on social media I see more and more pronounced judgements by many who look down upon anyone who is using our inadequate safety net; saying that they’re tired of these people and their unwillingness to work. So easy to say these things, so easy to throw a judgement out in public, so easy to click “Like.” Not so easy to look deeper and understand these problems, to see their complexity, and to try to then do something meaningful about it. Much easier to cast a judgement and move on to the next item on your Facebook feed.

in the end perhaps we can take a lesson from the man in the parking lot and his generosity of spirit. Perhaps those of us with the means, and the willingness to use our vote and voice can perhaps try to raise our own generosity of spirit to match this man’s. Perhaps with this we could filing some important gaps in the conversation going on right now. Perhaps this is an opportunity to do something a little different and change the focus. After all, it takes such little generosity on our part and provides such important opportunities for those in need.

City of Opportunity III – Resolve

Those of us who were hoping against hope for a change of heart by certain members of council last night all faced a hard lesson in a number of ways. For some it was that the best arguments don’t often win the day, for others it was the shocking display of naked one-upmanship, for a few it was about the anger at those councilors who would say anything to win an argument, but for me it was simply about one lesson.

I was amazed in the last 10 days at the generosity of friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers who rallied around the issues I was facing with my last two blog posts and the reaction by Councilor White and was often left speechless by the unqualified expressions of support and understanding. I am grateful to all of you who supported me through that difficult time but I also stood rapt by the power of the community to come together so quickly and with such focus around the issue of affordable housing which council was about to cut anyway.

In a matter of days we collectively went from vague unease to outright, full-blown advocacy on behalf of those in our city who could not be heard. I saw tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and in person conversation that gathered together in numbers that the powers in City Hall heard clearly and could not be lightly ignored. We decided we would not stand for cuts that would leave behind our fellow citizens whether they had disabilities or needed a home. We knew and believed that London should be a city that was about our collective good not expedient cuts to justify a policy that our current circumstances had determined was no longer relevant. I was held rapt by the potential of community.

In the last year we have gone through a trial by fire in London and more and more of us are waking up to the fact that we are afraid for our future and that the only way to overcome this fear is to face it openly and transparently, to consider not just our own well-being but the wellbeing of every one of our neighbors as well. We are learning that the world has changed and the only way for us to succeed is to make sure no one is left behind and that the basics of housing, health, and dignity are not open to negotiation.

But because we create community at the speed of light, an idea expressed brilliantly by Glen Pearson, other things can as quickly distract us. Social Media as a means of community building is like quicksilver and flows along the path of least resistance and at this critical time we cannot afford to be distracted.

I am not assigning blame here, I often get as distracted quicker than most, but I am pointing out that we must understand our goals, focus our resolve, and not be distracted by anything until the issues of economic equality, environment, livability, intelligent growth, and fairness in London are achieved. Once we achieve them, and I have great faith in my community that we can, we cannot ever let them be taken away or watered down. This is not only about politics and running for office but is also about continually gathering an authentically engaged community and applying a steady tide of pressure to those who hold public office in our name so that they understand that we demand more than only our participation at the ballot box.

So I’m asking you all friends to think, to talk, to gather, to move forward, to not be distracted, and build upon the amazing accomplishment you all made in the last week. Let us decide to throw out the old ways of power, and create for ourselves and for our neighborurs a place that we can proudly say is city of opportunity for all.

City of Opportunity II – I speak as a Londoner

I must begin this post by stating clearly: I  AM IN NO WAY REPRESENTING THE OPINION OR POSITION OF ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP AND THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE AND ON THIS WEB SITE ARE SOLELY MY OWN AND ARE NOT ENDORSED BY ANY ORGANIZATION OR GROUP

Councilor White in the previous Blog Post to this asked a question at the beginning. She asked ” Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED?”  Respectfully I have never claimed publicly nor privately to speak for Glen Cairn Centre or on behalf of Emerging Leaders who is my current employer. I ask Councilor White that when she called my previous employer and current employer Friday to complain about me was she speaking as a City Councilor or as someone who works for Children Aid Society or as a Private Citizen? Does she represent the City of London Council when she handles a CAS case? Does she represent CAS when she speaks at council? Or is she or any other Londoner allowed to speak out when they see something they disagree with?

I have never once spoken on behalf of Emerging Leaders or Glen Cairn Centre here or on Facebook, and would never do so, without express permission. The problem becomes when this happens it has a chilling effect on free speech and citizen engagement. But so be it, I can not be silent, even if it has personal consequences for me and my family.

Councilor White and the Mayor have made some points in defending their position. But the heart of the matter remains and while both of them and others have direct experience with people in poverty and Londoners with mental health issues so do I both within my family and amongst many friends. I have advocated my entire life both privately and publicly on behalf of those who are most often left behind because it affects my life and the life of my City, Province, and Country.

Mayor Fontana had posted the following in response to the outcry on the cuts to affordable housing, he did this on Facebook and I post it here unedited and in it’s entirety:

With a reduction in the contribution into the Affordable Housing Program, we will be shifting our approach to affordable housing. Right now there are a number of vacant units out there and a lot of individuals and families who need them. Instead of focusing on building all new units, our focus is shifting to filling existing units and entering into public private partnerships to convert exisiting spaces (like commercial space no longer being used as commercial space) into affordable housing. It’s a different approach, but it’s still a good approach and we will be able to increase the number of people we can help. London has done incredible unique things and we will continue to do so.

Affordable HousingThe reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.Changes were made to legislation January 1, 2012. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds: 
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. 
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding. 
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects. 

Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of:
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)

Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes.”

I think there are a couple of key points here to pay close attention to and to understand more fully and to seek clarification on.  I notice in this post the Mayor states ” a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.” . Notice some important words here?  An emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term? This will mean an increase in temporary housing and not permanent housing.

It’s important to note this as well: “While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled. ” .  Fewer rental units and more short term or temporary housing.
What we need to recognize here is that we are in every case reducing the number of permanent homes as a means to achieve a 0% tax increase. We also need to understand there is an 8+ year waiting list for permanent housing and while moving more families into temporary housing may be attractive in the short term we will in fact be delaying the issue at the expense of those most vulnerable and  sadly who is to say that that temporary housing budget will be there in a year or 3 years or 5.
We also need to understand the economic as well as the human impact of this cut. Abe Oudshoorn ,a recognized voice in homelessness and housing issues, wrote in his blog “this means that the $1M cut to the Housing Reserve Fund represents a potential $8M loss, or at $140,000 per unit, 57 units of affordable housing not built.  Each new unit also represents 2 person years of full-time employment.
Abe goes on to say ” affordable housing represents a much cheaper way to house people who are experiencing homelessness.  Housing an individual in shelter costs $1,450 per month, jail costs $140 per day, psychiatric acute care costs $650 per day, and acute care inpatient over $1,000 daily.  These statistics are clearly outlined in your Council-approved London Community Housing Strategy.  Therefore, putting money into housing up-front saves us much greater costs down the line.You can read the whole post here
Councilor Joni Baechler wrote on her Facebook page ” In My Opinion
Some members of council indicated they support the cut in Affordable Housing by $ 1Million because of the “Mayor’s plan” presented to committee yesterday. To be clear, there was NO plan presented. The Mayor simply outlined how he would divert the Affordable Housing $’s. What may have been missed by some councillors was the “KEY MESSAGE” from staff on the briefing note which states: “The reduced funding from the Program will result in a STRATEGIC SHIFT from the creation of a MAXIMUM number of PERMANENT units to an emphasis on creating shorter term TEMPORARY housing MEASURES”. The plan presented is a significant divergence from the Council adopted COMMUNITY HOUSING STRATEGY. Staff DID NOT recommend the budget cut in this area.As a result of this cut, we will not be able to leverage the same $$’s in order to meet our housing targets ($20 M in municipal housing dollars has leveraged $140 M from other sources). We will construct 75 less units per year which results in the loss of 72 associated jobs. The “temporary plan” does not address the housing crisis as year after year we will fall further behind.The cut to Affordable Housing is permanent. It will temporarily solve a fiscal shortfall on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community
Important in what Councilor Baechler states is that Staff recommended against these cuts and that we will not be able to leverage these dollars and we will construct 75 less units per year.
So despite assertions to the contrary we are left with the same terrible loss at the expense of those that can afford it the least, but if we can focus and share our concerns with Council and the Mayor for just one week ,as so many on twitter and email and by phone have, then maybe, just maybe, we can convince a thoughtful Councilor or a thoughtful Mayor to change their vote and end this tragedy and begin to create a city of opportunity for everyone.

Councillor Sandy White Responds

I had promised City Councilor Sandy White that I would post here on my private blog, her response to the budget cuts unedited and unaltered in any way and do so now here as well as on my  private Facebook Page.

“Thank you for the opportunity to offer a comment, Sean! Will you kindly clarify your comment about the Glen Cairn Centre? Are you speaking for them or as the Emerging Leaders, ED? First, getting to zero for the sake of getting to zero is not my goal. Clearly, we are in a deep financial recession and council needs to find practical ways to help Londoners, through this recession. We have lost hund…reds of jobs in the London area, i.e. Ford and EMD. Sadly, there are more to come. We as a council need to look at what is best for ALL Londoners.

Many Londoners indicate that they want tax relief. They cannot afford their bills for a number of reasons that can include, out of work, fixed income or working poor. People need help now! It does not make sense to take money from the taxpayer for a reserve when they do not have money to put into their own savings account or to feed their family. There are much better ways to help that are immediate, practical and less costly. While we may not be building as many new units under this new housing strategy, we are still getting positive outcomes. We will be helping more people and faster.

That being said, the affordable home ownership program was a great success—and Council may direct more funds toward it—as funds are now exhausted. Families can access a fully forgivable loan up to 8% of a home worth up to $148,000. They build equity and achieve home ownership—and they pay property taxes, so it is a win all around. Even with reducing the contribution into the affordable housing program, we are achieving good outcomes. The numbers are forth coming from Community Services, but here are some of the housing programs we offer.

The reduced funding for the Program will result in a strategic shift from creation of a maximum number of permanent units to an emphasis on creating housing measures in the shorter term.

On January 1, 2012, there were changes to housing legislation. The New Housing Services Act repeals Social Housing Reform Act and gives the City of London as Service Manager more flexibility and discretion within local rules.

This will give our housing experts the needed flexibility to create new housing policy and new housing programs based on the needs of Londoners, moving away from the previous prescriptive approach set out by the province.

This shift in strategy is designed to achieve greater efficiency in using the City’s housing funds:
• Families and individuals will have access to housing. While fewer permanent rental units will be created, the number
of families who can quickly be accommodated in short term housing will be more than doubled.
• The City can leverage the same amount of federal and provincial funding.
• Jobs continue to be created through construction and renovation projects.

Working within our funding, we will be using a combination of,
• convert to rent units (increase)
• creating more short-term rental supplements (increase)
• home ownership program
• building new affordable housing units (decrease)

Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes. We have 4% vacancy rate in London that we can potentially access quickly. Affordable housing right now means keeping people in their homes. In addition, London has a 4% vacancy rate and we have many people who need assistance with affordable housing as quickly as possible. Integrated housing is much more humane and preferable to many.

For example, I have a friend who is in receipt of ODSP and they want to stay in their current apartment. However, the rent is not affordable and in order to manage the cost of rent, they forfeit having food sometimes. Living in London housing is not an option for them. They could not handle the environment and would much rather pay the higher rent for the peace of mind. This individual would welcome a rental supplement. I suspect there are many Londoners in this situation. I believe that integrated housing can be much healthier and I totally support anything we can do to promote this type of housing program.

As for the wading pools, we are moving to splash pads. In fact, Westminster is getting a new pool and splash pad this summer.
Also in an effort to offer some relief to taxpayers, council needs to strike a balance. These decisions are never easy; investing money to help pull us through these difficult financial times for the purpose of creating employment will be beneficial to our recovery.

I hope this helps!

Thank you
Sandy ”