Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bits of trash from the foggy town

As I sometimes have an opportunity to look at both the online and print versions of the London Free Press, I have noticed that a few stories are generally omitted from the online version each day. Curiously, many of these stories are about London city council; considering the relative infrequency of articles reporting on London in the first place - and I won't even get started on the quality of such articles when they do appear - I surmise this decision is in part made to keep sales up. I for one refuse to pay for this sorry excuse for a newspaper. For others of like mind, I will reproduce a few highlights from the omitted articles from today. Keep in mind I am soiling my fingers for the sake of our loyal readers.

First up is a report about the number of closed door meetings at city hall:

London is spending less time meeting behind closed doors than a year ago, but it's still too much for a councillor pushing for less dealing in the dark.

Figures released at yesterday's board of control meeting show council spent 27.6 percent of its time in private session between Jan. 17 and April 27 this year.

Coun. Fred Tranquilli, who has pushed for more public debate at council meetings, isn't pleased.

"I think there are questions and clarifications being sought by council that don't need to be taking place" in private, Tranquilli said.

The report shows council spent 28 hours and 18 minutes in open session, compared with 10 hours and 47 minutes in closed session.

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell, who called for more a [sic] open, transparent council in the campaign for the November 2003 municipal election, offered no apologies.

"I think it's improved," Gosnell said.

"We would like to do as little as possible in camera, but it would be irresponsible to discuss legal, personnel or properties issues in public. Are we perfect? No. But I'd say we've made a lot of improvement."
The percentage is sure to increase when the next controversy hits. Perhaps the scandal over the position of Human Rights Specialist and the role of Joyce Burpee will help London set a new record. True to their Liberal stripes, being paid with taxpayer dollars doesn't seem to be a reason to let the public in on what will inevitably impact them.
A year ago, The Free Press reported that between Dec. 1, 2003, and mid-April 2004, council spent 24 hours, or 60 per cent of its time, in closed sessions compared with 16 hours in public.

[..] The staff report also reveals board of control spent about 32.5 per cent of its time in private - 11 hours and 17 minutes - compared with 23 hours and 28 minutes in open session.

[. .] The issue surfaced again last month when it was revealed at an April 11 council meeting that board of control discussed establishing a downtown parking commitee in private.

In other news, Liberal London is in the vice business in more ways than one and Tom Gosnell is heading the pack:
London's deputy mayor is leading a push to reduce the number of body rub and massage parlours in the city.

Board of control approved yesterday a motion by Tom Gosnell calling for a staff report on the feasibility of cutting the number of approved body rub parlour locations to seven from nine.

"I think the community sentiment is we'd rather have fewer of the facilities than more," Gosnell said after the meeting.
The chances are pretty good this was a closed door meeting. Funny all this talk of public input when most of the issues discussed are not open to the public. Instead, they approve more reports to justify the existence of city staff.
The issue surfaced when the board was asked to remove two locations from the adult entertainment bylaw.

The locations are Gloria's, at 1003 Clarke Road., which hasn't been licensed since 2001, and The Avenue Club Fantasique, at 1815 Dundas St. E., which ceased operations this year.

Though those specific locations will be removed if approved by council Monday, the number of massage parlours locations allowed remains at nine.

Lawyer Barry Card, who was at the meeting with a client's application for a new location, said fewer massage parlours is not necessarily better.

[. .] "If you have (more) licences in the city, it's healthier than having a limited number that could be controlled by certain (criminal) interests," Card said.

[..]Council has reduced the number of strip clubs in the city in recent years to five.
With the licensing system, council will be better equipped to help their buddies get first dibs at the market.

And finally, news about the decrepit crumbling village that taxpayers in London pay for, whether they like it or not - and this despite the fact that only approximately 8.5% of Londoners bother to show up in a given year. This statistic doesn't even take into consideration repeat visits and the number of children forced to attend by their teachers.
Fanshawe Pioneer Village must raise $3 million and almost double attendance over 10 years to keep getting city money.

Those are the key targets in a deal to get an operating grant from the city, board of control was told yesterday.

"This is the most critical stage in the process and I think the terms are reasonable and achievable," village executive director Sheila Johnson said.

[. . ] In a deal, the city will provide funding of $300,000 this year, $350,000 next year and, tentatively, each year after, with a goal of reducing the city's contribution to its operating budget from 50 to 43 per cent by 2010.
Ahh - this article coincides with my discovery of a bookmark, paid for by the city of London, promoting the village. I will fondly remember Fanshawe Pioneer Village and city council next time I take my car in for realignment due to frequent contact with giant potholes.