More attention to be paid

This blog is primarily dedicated to discussion of urban planning and economic and community development and sometimes slips into my own development. I don’t like to be negative all the time and there are some amazing things happening in London, largely due to the contributions of organizations and individuals who’ve decided to make a difference in the community. When London draws from these partners, it creates successes. This ought to be seen as a best practice and pursued more. For instance, the partnership of the City with the Service Delivery agencies in the Employment Sector ensure that a continuum of services are provided to employment seekers. The work of Joe Kool’s staff to organize community clean-up days are another great example, though some Cities encourage and partner with organizations across their jurisdiction and that’s a model London could use. Toronto’s 20-minute Community Clean-up days were a wide success and reconnected people with their won daily actions and efforts to keep their City clean.

London’s Community Gardens are also a great example of what happens when community organizations and the City come together to provide innovative services, facilities and amenities. And the City’s use of Advisory Committees to inform City officials of the opinion of local community experts  is another great example of listening to organizations such as the Urban League of London and Emerging Leaders and many others. These are just a few examples of the City and local organizations partnering together to improve community living in London and these programs must be applauded.

What I find lacking is the depth of conversation in the City about significant issues and despite best efforts of City staff, the meaningful consultation that doesn’t occur until the very last minute, usually due to a lack of interest or effort by an otherwise well-meaning City Councillor. The blow-up in Old South about a 3 or 4-storey building (that fits quite nicely now that its there) or the last minute change in the City’s Bicycle Plan to accommodate upset homeowners who somehow hadn’t previously known about the plan to change their street.  Londoners would benefit, whether they believe it or not, by paying the position of Councillor a higher salary and demanding the commitment of full-time service. City politicians play a vital role in prioritizing and coordinating the efforts of bureaucrats and acting as a buffer between the City and its citizens. When directed by engaged citizens, full-time representatives work at building their community and by bringing new solutions that bureaucrats cannot or will not necessarily identify or suggest due to the limitations and nature of their role. ‘Professional’ politicians can, in turn be expected by voters to achieve much more, and to be much more accountable for the actions of the City, to be more responsive to voters and communities and ultimately provide a larger benefit to the City that far exceeds the additional costs. I know many Londoners don’t agree with me on this one and that’s fine but until you’ve tried it my way, you’re wrong, not me.

I am hopeful about my upcoming move to Ottawa. While I know no government is perfect, I’m looking forward to getting acquainted with a new municipality, its politicians, bureaucrats and involved citizens and groups. I love Cities and each one is unique. Ottawa holds an appeal to me as it does to any Canadian with passion for politics, our national values and principles and our system of government. I hope to make a huge new contribution but don’t wish to spoil it.  Now to do more research.


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