Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Big city politics in small town pants

Re. forcing victims of criminals pay for crime to appease politicians' vanity:

'Nuff said

Predatory bylaw likely to remain

The bylaw against overnight street parking is being revisited again this year as Coun. Cheryl Miller "succeeded in convincing members of council's environment and transportation committee to ask staff for a report" on lifting it during the summer, according to the London Free Press today. What a lot of bother! It seems that no business can ever be conducted at city hall without first creating make-work projects for the idle army of bureaucrats that inhabit it… and no better way to disengage anyone's attention to the subject long enough for the idea to be shelved yet again. After all, staff delivered a report on exactly the same proposal to the same committee just last year, after which it was rejected for the simple reason that city hall would lose upwards of $100,000 in fine revenue. The probity and authority of the law are cheapened when laws are sustained, not for any principle of defending right and punishing wrong, nor even for any genuine considerations of safety or utility, but only for the pinching and grasping of cold hard cash. So why should anyone suppose, on the face of it, that any of the other hundreds or thousands of bylaws enforced by fines are motivated by any greater purpose?

"second-tier destinations" but first-rate money pits

The Free Press also reports that $3 million in municipal taxes last year went to support London's five apparent tourist "destinations," although destination seems like a strong word for any hole-in-the-ground that requires such gross subsidization to survive. According to the Free Press, municipal subsidies to Fanshawe Pioneer Village and Museum London (which also operates Eldon House) amounted to $13 per visitor in 2006, and $9 and 95¢ per visitor to the Guy Lombardo Museum and the London Regional Children's Museum respectively. The city-run Storybook Gardens also faced a revenue shortfall of about $200,000 last year, and will be receiving a $199,000 capital upgrade in 2007.

The economic benefits of these handouts are enjoyed in part by the handful of visitors who receive a subsidized entertainment, but the primary benefits accrue, as always, as sinecures enjoyed by administrators. Ensconced in taxpayer-funded comfort, they are ever ready to leap to the defence of their privileges with the trusty tools of inscrutable vagaries and attempted sentiments:

Any cost, however, is small considering the kind of experience those places offer people, said Sheila Johnson, the executive director of Fanshawe Pioneer Village.
Any cost? In that case, double her salary at once! And the director of Museum London added:
"Support is essential . . . as a cultural investment, but also as an economic investment," Brian Meehan said yesterday, adding such sites are "critical for the city to be a livable place."

"The reasons individuals and companies cite for moving to a particular community is, what kind of culture do they have?" Meehan said. "What can you do after five o'clock?"
After five o'clock nobody will be much visiting these landmarks because they're generally closed. But it's only part of a parcel of such incoherent nonsense that Londoners can only conclude they're receiving a very poor return on investment in rhetorical apologetics. Companies might cite such drivel as a reason for locating in the company of such vaporous blowhards as Meehan, but in their offices they are looking for competitive advantages that include not having to pay taxes for squandering on fools and white elephants. Individuals in return will as more than likely cite employment opportunities from companies that make profitable location decisions. And, of course, implicit in Meehan's unoriginal cant is the idea that $3 million of taxpayers' money would just otherwise disappear down a sinkhole, and that it is the responsibility of people like himself to dispose of it for Londoners' good.

Incidentally, Museum London received $1.458 million from taxpayers last year to support 142,000 in general and public program attendance, and will receive $1.503 million this year (Boards & Commissions PDF). In addition, it received $364,000 in government grants and subsidies as part of its $2.806 million expenditures last year, meaning that well more than half of its operation is dependent on taxpayers. Similarly, most of the other deadweights on London's subsidized list also receive grants and subsidies from tax-funded agencies like the Canadian and Ontario Arts Councils, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Trillium Foundation.

In response to the city's community and protective services committee decision to approve $25,000 in new funding to the Springbank Gardens development project to create "new displays and features" for the Lombardo Museum, Ian Gillespie notes that
As it stands, the city pays about $13,000 a year to keep the Lombardo centre open 35 hours a week from June until Labour Day, and Sunday afternoons thereafter. About 1,000 people visit the museum every year.
Gillespie suggests the city cut its losses by placing the legacy it purports to protect on-line where it will be accessible to far more people than a tucked-away and costly bricks-and-mortar establishment. Considering the transmittable legacy of Lombardo, it is a superior suggestion even despite the savings to taxpayers, but it is also buttressed by these realistic opinions:
"It's not ever going to be a major tourist attraction," says John Winston, director of Tourism London. "It never has been and it never will be."

[…] Ken Palmer is former artistic director of the Home County Folk Festival and a founding member of the Dixie Flyers. He's also an avid musicologist and Lombardo fan. But he harbours no illusions about the Lombardo museum.

"That thing (the museum) has been there forever and nobody's showing up," says Palmer. "Nobody goes to it because nobody cares . . . and it's not going to get any better."
It's tough to keep going on the same tax-and-spend regime when even the director of Tourism London won't give you a break.

If Gillespie's idea won't fly, though, there's always this tried and trusted revenue approach…


Jake said...

Why is council so adamant about funding museums that few people visit or have even heard of? These so-called tourist sites were invented by the city in a futile attempt to make London seem "important" as a tourist destination.

The city loves to treat all of these "museums" as if they are all sacred or of any historic value. The Pioneer Village, for example, is nothing more than a 1950's built replica of what London was 200 years ago.

The Guy Lombardo Museum is another example of this bureaucratic waste. For some reason, he is considered the "most famous person to come from London" yet the few people who know who he was are either in a nursing home or six feet under. Only a 1000 see this 40 by 40 feet brick box on Wonderland Road--which will dissipate to zero once their elderly "clientèle" passes away.

I highly doubt any out-of-towners are shitting their pants with excitement at visiting the Guy Lombardo Museum, Pioneer Village, or the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

If anything, the few people going to see the Pioneer Village are saying to themselves, "Wow, I really wanna see how Londoners lived in the old days before they had high taxes!"

Honey Pot said...

When anyone comes to visit, from another city, province or country, I would not even think of taking them, or suggesting to them to frequent any of these so called London tourist attractions. It takes about 15 minutes to walk through Pioneer village, and 2.4 minutes to open the door, take a boo and then close it on the Guy Lombardo museum. You could put dancing bears and a flying elephant in those places, and still no one would come.

Fanshawe Pioneer village counts on the mandatory school tours to keep it looking like it has willing tourist in attendance. We get to pay for that one three, four or five times over when our children are forced to attend. Once through our city taxes, second our school taxes, thirdly and fourthly the provincial/federal money and fifthly the $3.50-$5.00 they ding the parents for. Yeppers to have your child go on a 30 minute drawn out tour of Fanshawe Pioneer village is probably only costing you about $100.00 per head. Now that's a bargin.

matt said...

It'd id illustrative of the current councils inability to say no to anything. But when it comes to roads they have an inability to do anything without years of reports and chin stroking. we have to start preparing for the election of 2010 now and clean house completely.