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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."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sandy Levin on London Hydro

Where do you get money when you are committed to a tax freeze?

At the first Finance and Administration Committee meeting yesterday, a staff report pointed out the lack of funds available for economic development and floated the idea of a special levy (can you say "tax") for this purpose. The Mayor was receptive to the concept but recognized that it might just be not the most politically astute thing to do at this juncture. He then suggested that a cash infusion might be possible if the city were to sell off some assets. According to this morning's London Free Press, he previously mentioned London Hydro as an example. You can read the story here.

This prompted the following response from Sandy Levin, former city councillor and a member of the task force that reviewed the options for London Hydro after deregulation:

So it didn't take long for the Mayor to break a campaign promise over London Hydro - or did he? At the all mayor candidates' meeting at the Kiwanis Senior Centre in October, when all of the candidates were asked for their position regarding the sale of London Hydro, all of the candidates said "NO." Candidate Fontana was one of the last to speak and said "No to London Hydro." Now did that mean he was echoing what all the other candidates were saying about no sale or was he actually saying no to London Hydro as a city cash cow? I guess now we know. It seems silly to give up the long term revenue that the city gains each year from London Hydro's revenues in exchange for a short term cash infusion, especially when the Mayor and Council are not saying what such money would be used for. If used to keep taxes down while the Mayor is in office, it is a short sighted strategy that will handicap future councils. But I guess if you only plan to be back in the limelight for four years, you really don't care what shape you leave the city in.
-Sandy Levin
The issue of London Hydro also came up early in my term on Board of Control. Although I failed to get enough support at council (and none at Board of Control) to include a "no sale" clause in the Shareholder's Agreement,the submissions at public meeting on the future of London Hydro in September of 2008 were loud and clear: "Hands off our public utility!"

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