Thursday, November 2, 2006

2006 London civic election: our endorsements

The municipal election on November 13th offers London residents the rare opportunity — and soon to be rarer with the new four-year election cycle — to reject the failures and misdirection of our elected politicians that have cost Londoners economic opportunities and the highest residential tax rates in Ontario. Over the past generation, city councils have strayed farther away from focusing on basic municipal services and closer towards the socialist-inspired central planning and regulatory oversight of almost every aspect of London's economic activities. Under the administration of our current Mayor and almost every current member of board of control and council over the past six years, this trend has become a stampede, and city hall has squandered hundreds of millions of Londoners' tax dollars. The results have been predictably disastrous, including:

  • a 25 per cent increase in residential property taxes and a 50 per cent increase in water and sewer charges between 2000 and 2005, including increases in property taxes of 5.9, 6.63 and 2.95 per cent in the past three years respectively;
  • a municipal debt that has climbed to $371.1 million in 2006, the repayment cost of which topped $38 million in 2004, or 5.6 per cent of the city's budget;
  • declining median family incomes in London relative to other Ontario cities;
  • unemployment that has risen from 5.5 per cent in September 2004 to 6.5 per cent in September 2005 to 7.0 per cent in September of this year — in June, London ranked 17th out of 25 Canadian cities in generating economic activity, one-third the growth of Kitchener and Hamilton and about one-half that of Windsor's, and graduates are leaving the city for other opportunities;
  • a spate of costly but money-losing large prestige projects — including the John Labatt Centre, the new Central Library, the Convention Centre and the new Covent Garden Market — that bring only localized benefits to a few London businesses and residents but financial burdens to all Londoners;
  • deteriorating road and sewer infrastructure — the spate of compensatory repairs this year came because of a one-time provincial grant;
  • a 3 per cent increase in crime overall, including a 180 per cent increase in murders and a 4 per cent increase in property crimes, at a time when crime in other Canadian cities has been trending downward; and
  • deflection of attention to these issues toward "quality of life" policies that use tax dollars to subsidize efforts to socially engineer politically correct behaviours or land uses with regard to heritage, garbage, urban sprawl, transportation, etc., and impose regulatory controls and burdens on private property.
This last has been so successful, and the current administration's reception to funding requests from special interest groups so accommodating, that candidates have been flocking this election to become part of what they have correctly perceived to have become a regime of opportunity and promise for social engineering agendas. As the institution has been devalued, so has the quality of persons seeking positions therein. This has made the prospect of a meaningful about-turn in the city's financial management and economic fortunes daunting, as a sizeable cohort of councillors dedicated to fiscal responsibility and reducing the city's economic interventionism will be required to have an effect on a council of nineteen members in which only one incumbent, Ward Seven Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen, has so far fought to reduce the size and scope of local government.

Nevertheless, we believe that it is still possible to restore London's competitive advantages and reduce the burden on ratepayers as long as there are candidates committed to these propositions. To this end, we have decided to endorse those candidates for Mayor, board of control and council who we feel are best suited to representing the interests of London ratepayers who have had enough of the city's reckless taxing and spending, and to restoring London's misplaced economic prospects. In examining the candidates, we have started from the premise that London can once again be a prosperous and attractive location for residents and business, and that this can be accomplished in short order with the recognition of and immediate action upon these predicates:
  • that the proper functions of municipal government, and indeed its only proper functions, are the provision and maintenance of the basic infrastructure of roads, sidewalks and sewers that allow residents and businesses to conduct and pursue their own interests and opportunities, and the protection of the peaceful conduct and pursuit of those interests and opportunities by provision of fire and police protective services;
  • that any function beyond these is not a proper function of municipal government and constitutes interference instead;
  • that the municipal government's spending must be reduced — too many candidates and pundits defer to the idea of limiting spending increases to the rate of inflation or some other arbitrary target, but the acceptance of any increase presupposes that the huge increases of the past six years were justified;
  • that taxes must be reduced, for the same reason as above and because;
  • that quality of life is achieved not by political or bureaucratic interventions but by Londoners themselves through their own resources, and that they must be allowed to retain those resources to achieve their own freely chosen quality of life;
  • that income redistribution policies or funding of agencies for similar purposes are not within the legitimate purview of the municipal government;
  • that the city should not be in competition with the private sector for entertainment and recreation business;
  • that municipal development policies have not, as claimed, mitigated detrimental and/or cost-ineffective urban development but have instead promoted them, and that further tightening the city's grip over development is therefore counter-productive; and
  • that blithe assurances of financial accountability and efficiency are meaningless without recognition of the above.
With these in mind, we looked for candidates who in some way acknowledge some or all of these propositions; in particular, those candidates whose platforms demonstrate commitments that include and are largely limited to:
  • tax cuts;
  • spending cuts; and
  • a renewed focus on basic infrastructure and protective services.
The claims to financial accountability and discipline by candidates who made numerous or extravagant promises to exceed the proper functions of municipal government as listed above or to use the city's regulatory powers to advance social engineering agendas were considered by us to be facetious and misleading.

For these purposes, candidates were evaluated on the basis of their published platforms and campaign literature, other published commentaries, public appearances, and in some cases personal correspondence with the candidates themselves. The results of a survey that we distributed to candidates last month were as well instrumental to our conclusions, and we thank those candidates who took the time to respond*. The contents of some of their responses will be published over the next week on this website. Finally, of course, incumbents were evaluated on their prior record as members of council. In presenting our endorsements, we indicate those candidates that have our strongest and most unreserved support with this symbol: . We look forward to seeing these candidates on the next city council, and extend to them our best wishes in the upcoming election.

Our endorsements

Mayor

Each candidate apart from incumbent Anne Marie DeCicco-Best can be said to possess at least the virtue of not being Anne Marie DeCicco-Best. Her talent for memorizing and regurgitating staff reports is prodigious and uncontested; words like "strategic plan" and "vision" trip effortlessly from her tongue. This has almost successfully masked her fatal shortcoming as a reed before populist winds and those pulling the political strings at city hall, and her tenure has been notable for a remarkable deficiency in leadership. As mayor for the past six years, DeCicco-Best has presided over the most incompetent administrations in the city's history and the corresponding decline in London's economic fortunes. We consider that four more years of DeCicco-Best's leadership are untenable and would continue to diminish London's economic prospects.

Challenger Joe Fontana has lately put forth a platform calling for a two per cent ceiling on spending and tax increases, which is certainly more palatable than the current Mayor's "what, me worry?" disregard for the issues. However, Fontana is a latecomer to the standard of fiscal responsibility, and we question whether his new-found commitment to these issues is simply borne out of political necessity. Further, his proposal would do little more than halt the slide in London's economic prosperity, and at the same time he remains beholden to redistributive policies and to his own particular tax-and-spend electoral constituencies. We do not fault Londoners who vote for Fontana as the most likely replacement to DeCicco-Best, but his appeal is limited to this virtue and we cannot endorse him for Mayor.

One candidate for Mayor, however, has been a consistent proponent of sound economic management and responsible government; we therefore an unreserved endorsement to:

Arthur Majoor. Majoor has demonstrated an acute perception of the problems facing London as a result of the city's administration, and in response has articulated a strong platform for significant tax and spending cuts and a re-focus on the essential core services of infrastructure maintenance and protective services. He has committed to returning London's resources to Londoners so that they may provide for their own quality of life. We feel that Majoor would be a very strong Mayor for London, and that under his leadership council would restore to Londoners their economic prospects, making this city the envy of Canadian municipalities. We urge our readers to acquaint themselves with Majoor's proposals and commentary here, and to vote for Arthur Majoor on November 13th.

Board of Control

The quality of personalities holding the position of controller in the past few councils has unfortunately been the strongest argument for abolishing the board itself, and this election unfortunately offers no new personalities capable of deflating that argument. As such, we cannot endorse any of the candidates for board of control, and we do not find it advantageous or prudent to offer recommendations to some based on stronger antipathies to others; although it has been suggested to us that Tim Gatten may be more receptive to issues of fiscal responsibility, we are not satisfied that we can offer our endorsement. It is our hope, nonetheless, that the next board acts more as a gatekeeper to taxpayer funds and less as an idle witness to an open door, and that it develop and adhere to a more comprehensive and comprehensible, as well as less arbitrary and corruptible, land development plan for London.
Ward One

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward. We feel, however, that incumbent Roger Caranci is the most likely to work with a program of fiscal responsibility on council.

Ward Two

Steve Polhill: Polhill has demonstrated an understanding of the financial burdens to property owners and the competitive disadvantages to business that have been the result of reckless municipal spending. His priorities focus on essential core services. We feel that Polhill will likely be a fair and effective councillor, especially if surrounded by a council more committed to fiscal discipline; we hope that he will not be his father's son on council.

Ward Three

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward.

Ward Four

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward. Our correspondences with J. Daniel O'Neail lead us to believe that he would be the most likely to work effectively with a program of fiscal responsibility on council.

Ward Five

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward.

Ward Six

Bob Howard: Howard has demonstrated an understanding of the detrimental impacts of high taxes and spending on London property owners and business, and the proper function of local government. His priorities are essential core services and respect for private property rights. We feel that Howard will be a very good and independent councillor.

Ward Seven

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward. We feel, however, that Walter G. Lonc is the most likely to work with a program of fiscal responsibility on council.
Ward Eight

Connie L. Graham: Graham has made strong commitments to tax and spending reductions, and has committed to voting against budgets that contain spending increases. Her priorities reflect a strong regard for the proper function of local government and private property rights. We feel that Graham will be a strong councillor.

Ward Nine

Chester Chwiecko: Chwiecko has made strong commitments to tax and spending reductions, and has committed to voting against budgets that contain spending increases or new deficit financing. His priorities are essential core services and ending municipal handouts to special interest groups and to external agencies whose purview falls under the jurisdiction of other levels of government. He has demonstrated a strong regard for private property rights. We feel that Chwiecko will be a very strong councillor.

Ward Ten

Paul Van Meerbergen: The only incumbent on our list, Van Meerbergen has been the only consistent proponent of tax and spending cuts and private property rights on council during the last three years. As author of a proposal to reduce taxation by $1,000 per household, we look forward to his return to council as leader of a group of councillors committed to fiscal responsibility.

Ward Eleven

Denise Brown: Brown has demonstrated an understanding of the financial disadvantages to residents and business of the city's high taxes, spending and debt, and has made these items as well as infrastructure maintenance her main priorities. We feel that Brown will be a good councillor.

Ward Twelve

Robert Vaughan: Vaughan has made strong commitments to tax and spending reductions, and has committed to voting against budgets that contain spending increases. His priorities are essential core services, and he has demonstrated a strong respect for private property rights. We feel that Vaughan will be a very strong councillor.

Ward Thirteen

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward. We feel, however, that incumbent Sandy White is the most likely to work with a program of fiscal responsibility on council.

Ward Fourteen

No candidates in this ward have made commitments to tax or spending reductions or have indicated even a genuine undertaking to sound fiscal responsibility or respect of property rights. We cannot endorse any of the candidates running in this ward. We feel, however, that incumbent Cheryl Miller is the most likely to work with a program of fiscal responsibility on council.


Please email comments or suggestions about our endorsements to The London Fog.

*The London Fog would like to thank the following candidates for responding to our survey, including those to whom our evaluation was understood in advance to be unfavourable: Arthur Majoor, Mayor; Gordon Leffley, Ward One; Steven Peter Van Eldik, Ward One; Shirley Wilton, Ward Two; J. Daniel O'Neail, Ward Four; Greg Thompson, Ward Four; Stephen Turner, Ward Six; Abdul A. Chahbar, Ward Seven; Connie L. Graham, Ward Eight; Josh Morgan, Ward Eight; Chester Chwiecko, Ward Nine; Susan Eagle, Ward Nine; Jordan Smith, Ward Ten; and Robert Vaughan, Ward Twelve. We regret that there were a few candidates whom we were unable to contact.

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