Sunday, December 11, 2005

Save London Roads! Close Fanshawe Pioneer Village

Overtaxed Londoners may recall that Fanshawe Pioneer Village is part of the list of organizations receiving free handouts from council. Last year the virtually unattended and crumbling heritage zone was nearly forced to close as council wisely considered cutting the lifeline. However, council acted as we have come to expect, which is to say irresponsibly, and dished out an additional $300,000 last year, promising $350,000 this year. The unpopular village will also receive an unexpected $50, 000, funded by assessment growth. The operating funds were initially granted on condition that Fanshawe Village double attendance and embark on a fundraising campaign to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

It's been a year and they still don't have a fundraising manager. What they have done is apply for government grants meaning more money forced from the pockets of hard working people who care not at all about the fate of the stupid relic. From the Plea Press:

Still without a needed fundraising manager, Fanshawe Pioneer Village has scooped up a $100,000 grant.

The funding, from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, came as a surprise to Sheila Johnson, executive director of the recreated 19th-century village in London.

"This is a much larger donation than the support we've received in the past," Johnson said.
What you have received is not properly called a donation because the money is not given to the Trillium Foundation voluntarily. The money comes from the citizens of Ontario. Honorary fundraising chairperson Andy Spriet unwittingly sums up the situation:
"You can't pick $100,000 off the street too often."
Unless of course you are accustomed to receiving unearned 'free' money. If their fundraising campaign is unsuccessful, and it's not sounding too promising so far, oh well, the money has all been spent and no refunds will be issued.

What is especially irksome to me is that people are forced to pay for things they don't care about and / or disapprove of. And this at the expense of the few conceivably legitimate uses of public funds, like road repair and snow removal for example. But as with every service the government holds a monopoly on, it ends up sucking. We'd all get better service for less if we hired private contractors.

Screw you old people who don't drive a car and are forced to use the sidewalks. Suck it up and shut up you global warming causing motorists attempting to drive to work. Necessity takes a back burner to heritage and entertainment. Again, from the Plea Press:
As of today, the tax hike stands at 3.2 per cent, which would add $66.37 to the tax bill of a home assessed at $152,000, bringing the total to $2,155, not including sewer and water rates.

[..] assisting council was the fact city departments produced budgets with no increases but a few service reductions.

One of those service cuts -- to snow clearing -- led to an hour-long debate that saw council flip-flop on the issue after dinner.

Staff wanted the city's two-person plow teams reduced to one person handling the driving and equipment, eliminating the need for a so-called "wing man" to handle a side plow blade.

Staff said it's a practice in other municipalities and would save the city $100,000 next year and $300,000 a year once fully implemented.

Council first agreed, then reversed its decision because of safety concerns and possible snow removal delays and problems.
The city has reported a $8.7-million budget surplus, and here they are trying to save $100, 000 by proposing one of the few cuts to a service which is currently far from adequate. And out of that $30, 000, 000 a year in new debt the city incurs, and the $500 million borrowed from 1999 to 2003 to fund special pet projects of council and city staff, not one dime more can be found to fix the potholes or remove the snow from the sidewalks and roads?

Did someone say London Public Library?

The buildings are fancy but residents are snowed in
Londoners spend 50 per cent more on libraries than the Ontario average, but the investment is well worth it, council members say.

An annual report by BMA Consulting Inc. showed that in 2004, London city hall spent $50 per capita compared to a provincial average of $33.

But that cost is more than offset by gain, library supporters said, the benefit also apparent in the BMA report:

- Londoners visited libraries 27.7 times a year on average -- 40 per cent more than the Ontario average.

- Because of increased use, Londoners spent less per visit for libraries than the provincial average -- $1.67 compared with $2.04.

The numbers don't tell the whole story, said library chief executive Anne Becker. Much of the cost is to service debt for constructing new libraries and another chunk is the library's pro-rated share of services provided by city hall.

Without those factors, the average cost per Londoner is $38, she said.
The reality is Londoners are paying at least $50 per capita for the Library and this is precisely because virtually every branch in the city was either rebuilt or renovated, all at the same time. This was done largely with money borrowed by the city and granted to the Library. The system is going to cost Londoners more, not less, each year. Renovations are necessary over time, as buildings age and new demands arise, but to renovate nearly every branch, including the Central Branch, in such a short period of time, is fiscally irresponsible but when you are playing with other people's cash, no strings attached, who cares so long as that career can be advanced. The interest payments increase, but Creative Cities advocate Gord Hume will fight cuts and closures with his "last ounce of breath" as London Public Library positions itself as a central player in the scheme.

The numbers suggest Londoners pay less on average per visit than the provincial average, but more visitors means more demand and use of materials, which means more money is needed to keep it all running, and that cost is passed on to people who do not use the library. As Anne Becker says, the numbers don't tell the whole story:
The Task Force’s Working Group (WG) obtained information on City of London 2004 spending on arts and heritage, and found it to be comparable to the spending by the City of Toronto noted in their Creative City Culture Plan. In the year 2004 London spent approximately $12 per capita in arts and culture activities. This included municipal dollars spent on Centennial Hall, festivals, the Community Arts Investment Program, Museum London, Children’s Museum, Fanshawe Pioneer Village and Heritage and Museum Grants. It also included capital spending for Museum London and municipal owned heritage structures. This per capita total did not include municipal spending on the London Public Library or the John Labatt Centre.

If municipal spending for Tourism London was included as part of the total cultural spending per capita for the year 2004 by the City of London the per capita amount would be raised to $16.

[..] Many municipalities in Canada have calculated what they spend on arts and heritage grants, not the total amount that they spend on arts and culture because it is easier to obtain this calculation.

[..] it is difficult to relate one municipality to another, because what is included under arts, heritage and culture spending is not the same for each municipality.
It's much more effective to mislead when seeking to gain approval for public schemes. People who don't use these institutions of cultural improvement are forced to pay for it anyway, but the recipents of the funds don't trouble themselves over that fact. It's all about diversity.

Coun. Fred Tranquilli: "There's no sense having good roads if you have nowhere to go."