By any account, voter focus on the issues of municipal spending, taxes and crime does not favour many of the incumbents in the upcoming civic election. The response of the London Free Press is then, naturally, to manufacture an entirely spurious issue. The lead story in Monday's Free Press is titled:
Joe Belanger, reporter of municipal citizen clamp-down record for the Free Press, mostly elides the fact that the probated — sorry, "protected" is just a friendly-sounding euphemism — woodlands are not the property of the city but privately owned. More tellingly, he entirely elides the regulatory definition of "significant," except to say that the so-designated woodlots would be, in his characteristically un-disinterested manner, "be spared the developer's axe" — which is an interesting omission given the absolute and unarbitrary injunction that the designation would impose on property owners. In fact, the proposition of "significance" is wilfully unquantifiable and inscrutable in direct proportion to the thorough rigidity of the embargo placed on property owners in its service.
Council voted 16-1 to amend the official plan to make it easier to designate woodlands significant and protected from development.
As with the pesticide ban earlier this summer, the regulatory utopianism of auto-didactic environmentalism makes its appeal for uncompromising authority over the property of Londoners with the emotional but meaningless rhetoric and vague assertions about London's "lagging" tree coverage, a contention that is dubious from any scientific or elevated visual vantage point.
And, from the previous day,
"We need to be firm and committed to the (Forest City) brand of our city," said Coun. Joni Baechler, who led the push for a new policy.
Why does the city need to "brand" itself? Against what other "brands" is the city competing? Just how much more regulatory authority over private property will need to be ceded to unelected city staff to protect this ineffable "brand?" I don't know how many times Baechler finally ended up repeating the word "brand" during the course of her successful campaign, but its constant reiteration was engineered to rally a pathetic veneer of populist consent that overpowered any meaning to which consent ought to be attached. Consent, that is, among the governed… among the activist groups present, consent to appropriation of other people's property is always met with a customary exuberance. For Baechler's fellow councillors, the clanging populism was only a welcome palliative to the consideration of whether the stridency of special interest groups and its obliging reporting in the Free Press would be a hindrance during the election. Only Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen dissented in favour of the property owners.
"Here we sit with the Forest City brand and we're letting our forests decline. If council members are not willing to defend the city's brand, they shouldn't be sitting at the council table."
In the end, however, neither activists nor councillors have much in the way of qualms about this kind of regulation because the costs are not borne by themselves but by the property owners whose opportunity to profit from their ownership has been abrogated and by aspiring homeowners. It is clear that the use of the impenetrably obscurant credentials of "branding" and the anaesthetizing reflex-triggers of environmentalist key words like "trees" serve a end-around policy subterfuge for urban sprawl containment, the holy grail of civic activists who already have a place to live and who, incidentally, stand to gain from artificial inflation of property prices by restraining outward development.
It's even more puzzling that Levin and every other environmental platitudinist fail to recognize that trees grow — as in the trees that suburban homeowners plant and cultivate on their properties without regulatory coercion simply because they happen to like them just as much as any activist, if not so volubly, without any muncipal coercion. Levin and his colleagues might observe this if they ever stepped outside their own Old South and Old North territories of historic urban sprawl.
"It's really puzzling to listen to the anti-environment sentiment that permeates this council," [Urban League of London member Sandy] Levin said. "Once those woodlots are gone and subdivisions put on them, they can't be replaced."
So, let's hear that tired canard about developers controlling the agenda at city hall again!
While haranguing councillors before the vote over the defense of the city's "brand," Baechler scolded them by saying
Well, just so the rest of Londoners know where they stand in the city's hierarchy of interests and responsibilities!
"It is our responsibility to protect the city's interests."