A couple of reversals on the budget, stalling on the green bins and retaining the ban on the sale of bottled water at city facilities.
I arrived at city hall when council had been underway for an hour but it didn’t take long to catch up with what had happened.
Discussion was underway about the ban on the sale of bottled water at city facilities where fresh municipal drinking water is available. I say, “discussion” since, as predicted in my previous blog, no councillor asked to have the item pulled from the reports in order to make a substantive motion on it. Even Ward 10 Councillor Paul VanMeerbergen, who called the ban “draconian” didn’t have the temerity to repeat his motion at the Community and Neighbourhoods Committee to immediately allow for the sale of bottled water.
With no substantive motion to debate, councillors were left with only the option of asking questions about the report which, considering that the gallery was filled to overflowing with environmentalists, most of them did, but only after making little speeches. Questions were raised about the cleanliness of public fountains, the reduction of garbage at public festivals, and the possibility of getting the provincial government to impose a refund on plastic bottles to ensure more would be recycled. One councillor, worried that the city is driving people to drink soft drinks which, he suggested, are more addictive than alcohol.
Nonetheless, even those who wanted to pacify Nestle and reinstate bottled water at city hall recognized the hundreds of emails from members of the community. They were especially impressed with those from the many youth and school children, which lauded the city and the former council for its leadership on this issue.
So ultimately, the by-law rules. No bottled water at city facilities as long as fresh municipal water is available.
As predicted earlier, as well, the pilot Green Bin Project will be deferred for another six months until we have a better indication of the odour problems at Orgaworld, the local commercial composting facility.
Next up was the budget. Not surprisingly, the overall budget was passed unanimously, but not without a few last minute changes. In particular, two items that I was particularly concerned about were changed. First, the garden project at the London Middlesex Housing Corporation was reinstated at the request of Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler who noted that her intention had been to reference the Middlesex London Health Unit, not the Housing Corporation. After it was pointed out that the $8,000 required to finance the project could be accommodated within the budget without resulting in an increase in the tax levy, council voted to reinstate it. Hooray!
The other reversal was that regarding Civic Receptions. Each year, $20,000 has been set aside to assist with receptions for events which bring significant numbers of visitors/tourists to the city. A number of organizations had already been approved by the previous council and had organized and sent out invitations to their event.
One of these is the Western Ontario Drama League which is hosted by the Community Players at the Palace Theatre. This event brings hundreds of theatre enthusiasts to London, staying at our hotels, eating in our restaurants and shopping at our stores. They have never before received support for their event and were very excited about being able to expand their outreach.
I’m happy to report that the funding for those approved requests are being protected in this budget, thanks to the initiative of Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert. Well done!
The final item that I was particularly interested in was the request from Middlesex Centre to increase their sewer capacity in Arva to allow for more development. That debate was so convoluted that I will need an extra day to review the tapes of the proceedings. Suffice it to say that the issue is being referred back to staff to bring back another report.
Perhaps if the councillors had bothered to read their background reports and the letters from our own developers and homebuilders as well as the residents of Arva, this referral would not have been needed.