Monday, July 17, 2006

Summer reading

One of the most pleasant aspects of municipal government is the relative pace and quiet of the time leading up to elections, specifically the lack of crude and costly pork-barrel vote-buying schemes that plague provincial and federal election campaigns. Without political parties or parliamentary privileges attached to relative aggregations of partisan seat-warmers, blame or credit in municipal politics tend to accrue to either the council as a whole or to the individual councillors who lack the privileges of governing parties or ministers to initiate spending without legislative oversight. Oh, sure, the mandarins in city administration continue to concoct their expensive schemes to expand their domain or to appease those special interests sympathetic to an encompassing social engineering role for bureacurats. But their power at this time of year is largely limited to preparing the fronts in next year's war of budgetary persuasion. This year's budget has been set, and unlike provincial or federal ministries, there are no massive departmental funds available exclusively for use at political discretion.

Quiet and unobtrusive, then… just the way local politics always ought to be. If, however, you do need a London political fix, check out the weekly updated website of Arthur Majoor, candidate for Mayor of London in November's municipal election, a permanent link to which is available on the sidebar here.

A city is more than a collection of buildings and artefacts. It is more than a postal code where people live. A city is the place where we live our lives, the place where we do our personal, family, social and economic activities. The late Jane Jacobs observed that cities provide the dense web of interactions and environment of trust which permit great things to be planned and executed, and this can only occur with strong horizontal links between communities of like-minded people reaching common goals, not vertical links to governments and bureaucracies seeking to execute their own agendas.

Unfortunately, London is losing its way. People living and working in London have their opportunities and choices constrained by a civic government which demands more and more tax dollars, while also creating an ever more intrusive regulatory environment for business and property owners alike. The bonds of interaction and environment of trust that cities should provide are being supplanted by lines of control leading to City Hall.

Londoners see the constant increases in taxation being used to provide benefits for the few, rather than supporting opportunities for the many. While expensive prestige projects are being pursued by City Hall, Londoners in general have to deal with crumbling roads and infrastructure. While City Hall touts new housing starts, new jobs and new developments, over a million square feet of retail space sits empty, and London’s median income declines relative to other cities in the province. Escalating spending is constantly blamed on “downloading” and other external factors, without any reference to the decisions and actions of city council.

It is time for a change.
Arthur Majoor's declaration of candidacy can be found here… he can be reached by email at this address.