Asserting a vicarious identity or ownership with collective pronouns such as "we" or "our" is harmless enough when it comes to sports teams. It's such a common fallacy that the assertion often goes uncontested and a democratic interest is easily appropriated. But when local activists and politicians arrogate that idle sense of possession for the purpose of making policy, it exacts a great cost both to taxpayers and to individual property rights.
innocently begins an article in the London Free Press. The "barrier," one would be at pains to discover in the text, was until 2003 nothing more than the private management of the property. Just so that we know which side the Free Press is on…
A barrier that for 71 years has stood in some form between Londoners and Wonderland Gardens will be removed this summer…
The prospect of the area becoming a private space is clearly something the city is anxious to avoid — but why? Whether or not the insurance company proves to be as generous as the city hopes, the attractive location of the site by the river and the existing Springbank Park would entice an excellent price for the property from developers — oops, can't do that, says Bud Polhill — and the sale price as well as the insurance combined would make for a decent property tax reduction for Londoners. But the political benefit of invoking a collective heritage where none had existed — Wonderland Gardens was never a park but home to a bandshell and dance pavilion — is more appealing to politicians than benefits that accrue to individuals.
The removal of a dilapidated chain-link fence will mark the beginning of a new park-like era for the heritage site, whose once proud ballroom burned down last summer.
Interestingly, as cited above, the word "condo" has acquired a pejorative sense in London that other forms of residential property usage have not, even other high-density buildings. By a rhetorical interpretation, condo owners are associated with an unseemly wealth that implies a disengagement from social participation. By a political interpretation, apartment dwellers have at least the affiliate advantage of not exercising a property right at odds with the city's exercise of collective appropriation. But that doesn't give developers a free pass to build apartment dwellings. One such development has been in limbo for a couple of years now because of … you guessed it … heritage. In January 2004, city council met behind closed doors to discuss a hastily contrived bylaw preventing development along Richmond Street between Huron and Grosvenor streets, a four block stretch, in response to RSJ Holdings Inc's plans to build a four-plex rental unit at the corner of Richmond and Cheapside, prompting concerns for the area's heritage streetscape. The development may finally be going ahead, but it has taken a great deal of pandering to heritage sensibilities as well as over $220,000 in taxpayer money. From the Free Press:
Anyone interested in the incredible history of this arbitrary exercise of authority in the name of heritage and its attendant expenses can find it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here… oh, and here. It's no wonder they keep getting reelected — it's an awful lot of work keeping track of how they've been screwing us.
A proposed Richmond Street development that sparked accusations of betrayal and secrecy on city council faces a final hurdle today before the Ontario Municipal Board. The board will not sort through the issue of whether council debated a freeze on development in secret. Ontario's top court already quashed the freeze on that basis, a decision council hopes to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.