Getting it right for a VIBRANT London
The quality of our neighbourhoods is very important, but when it comes to having a vibrant city that offers something for everyone (and attracts visitors and businesses), having a downtown core that is thriving is vital to the overall well-being of the city.
The downtown revitalization started with the new Covent Garden Market, the Central Library, and Budweiser Gardens. Approving more high density residential downtown moved more Londoners into the area and created the needed demand for business growth. The population increase raised tax revenues for the city with a relatively low cost to service the area. The process is not yet complete and we have missed some key opportunities to create a more vibrant and exciting atmosphere downtown.
I want to be clear with Ward 7 voters as to where I stand on some of the recent downtown issues discussed by council because these decisions have an impact on our entire city.
This should not be a decision that takes years. It certainly does not require council oversight of menus or micro-managing locations. Good restaurants will not be hurt by food trucks, and if the food trucks don’t offer something customers want, they will not be in business long.
On opening up London to food trucks, and increasing London’s revenue stream with the licensing fees, I would vote YES.
Acoustic Music for Restaurant and Bar Patios:
I don’t want London to be the city that fun forgot. Allowing restaurants and bars to have acoustic musical performances on patios is a simple way to improve the “night out” experience of the downtown, without negatively impacting residents. A cut off time and volume restrictions need to be in place, but an outright ban is unreasonable.
Allowing music on restaurant and bar patios is something on which I would vote YES.
Fanshawe College at Kingsmill:
I recognize that the current council may have dealt with this prior to the election, but if this should carry over into the next council’s term, it is important for me to express where I stand on the issue.
Bringing 1000 additional students into the downtown core for an investment of a million dollars a year over ten years—money the city has already set aside for economic development—is an obvious winner to me. It will spur the growth of new apartments for students, bring new customers to restaurants, and help increase the downtown population to the point where new business opportunities (like a grocery store) could be viable.
This is a reasonable and strategic investment with a reliable partner (Fanshawe College) that, over time, will have a relatively secure and positive return for tax payers. Additionally, it preserves and breathes new life into a London heritage building.
I would vote YES to this investment.
Performing Arts Centre:
I am a strong supporter of arts and culture in our community and have had the privilege to serve on both the London Public Library Board and the Museum London Board.
Let’s be honest, Centennial Hall has never been an adequate facility for the performing arts and does not do justice to the talent of the musicians and performers who use the space.
Our community could benefit from a facility that meets the needs of the range performing arts and music organizations in our city (one that also provides a quality venue for visiting performers).
Unfortunately, the process to date has produced a proposal that isn’t right for our city. It is a proposal that I cannot currently support. I am not satisfied with the process which led to just a single proposal coming forward . I am not satisfied that the proposed location, proposed size, or the current business model is right for our community.
In January of 2013 the city of London produced a Cultural Profile Report, found here:
At the end of that document there is a September 2012 report that contains a conversation with 30 cultural leaders in our city (including representatives from Orchestra London, the Grand Theatre and Centennial Hall,). Page 1 of that documents states:
Respondents are looking to the City for leadership – they believe that the City has no vision or plan for cultural facilities. Not surprisingly, the answers to the last interview question (“What should be the goals for the next 5 years?”) were largely about the need for planning rather than about specific projects.
Our cultural leaders go on to suggest that the city develop:
“a Cultural Facility Feasibility Plan, which aligns with the City’s corporate asset management:
• Vision and goals
• Policy framework
• Business model for capital development
• Delivery model for capital projects”
I couldn’t agree more; a Cultural Capital Planning Process is what we require to ensure the city gets the cultural assets it needs to support a vibrant downtown while ensuring good value for public tax dollars. It would also ensure that we work towards a facility that will meet the diverse needs of our musicians and performing artists for years to come. We don’t want to end up with another inadequate facility on our hands.
What we currently have is a back and forth between proponents and council on a proposal that cannot seem to gain the necessary public support. There is a high risk that a decision on this is rushed through before this council loses its ability to make a decision on this one proposal (council is approaching a legislative “lame duck” status that occurs in an election year).
Therefore I would vote NO on the current Performing Arts Centre proposal. But, I would remain committed to investing in civic cultural assets and I do believe there is a strong general case for a new performing arts facility in our city.