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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thoughts on a winter's day at home

Things have been a bit of a whirlwind, finishing business from 2009 and preparing for a new decade. Over the next few days I am hoping to find some time for reflection on my first three years on council and contemplating the year ahead.

A number of members of council, namely Controllers Hume and Gosnell and Councillors Miller and Caranci, have indicated that they will not be standing for re-election. Both Hume and Miller sound very bitter about these last few years on council, suggesting that members of council are mean-spirited and lack vision. I can appreciate that both have felt very frustrated during the current term. They are long-serving members who have been accustomed to having things their own way with little effort. But gradually a more progressive orientation is gaining prominence.

It began with council challenging some of the recommendations of the board of control, particularly those dealing with matters of greater transparency and accountability such as the private meetings investigator and the integrity commissioner. It continued with a more critical approach on planning committee as the so-called "Killer Bees" began to use a more environmentally, socially and economically responsible lens when evaluating development proposals rather than simply rubber-stamping industry requests. Maintaining the integrity of the urban growth boundary in the face of high-powered financial interests was a significant achievement but one that especially stuck in the craw of those who wanted to take a "business as usual" approach.

Then came the final blow, the elimination of the board of control, the bastion of elitism and the old way of doing things. Even though its demise had been predicted for a year or more, the reality of the vote at 13 to 5 hit hard. In the end, only Controllers Gosnell, Polhill and Hume along with Councillors Miller and Caranci voted to save the board of control. Of those, only Polhill has declared that he will be seeking a seat on the next Council. Councillor VanMeerbergen was not present for the vote.

Councillor Miller has also suggested that City Hall is captive to "backroom deals". Certainly there has been a history of such deals in London although I suspect that it is getting more difficult to make them, which may be a sore point for some.

All in all, it has been an exciting time to serve on council. We have brought in the beginning of a new way of doing business with more accountability and transparency. We will have a more democratic council, the city will control the direction and pace of growth, we will be more cognizant of our impact on the environment, and spending will be based on on continuous review and evaluation of services to the residents. Not a bad start.

2010 is beginning to look very promising

Happy New Year, London!

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