OPINION: Council faces questions in its four-year plan

The City of London is in the midst of working on a strategic multi-year (four-year) budget cycle.

 Mayor Matt Brown and the rest of city council have a list of widely debated issues in front of them to deal with in the coming days. Everything from tax policy, to funding for London’s orchestral community, relocating buses off Dundas Street to fixing the Springbank Dam.

 The first question is whether the city should reduce its industrial tax ratio.

 The city plays a key role in attracting, retaining and growing our industrial sector and one way is by reducing its industrial tax ratio to promote economic development, create jobs and to remain competitive across the province.

 In my opinion the city should make a small reduction in the commercial tax ratio in 2015 from 1.98 to 1.95 and reduce the industrial tax ratio to a level equal to the commercial tax ratio.

 Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.01.32 AMThis change in tax ratios would not increase total taxes, including education in the residential class beyond the 2.5 percent increase approved by council during budget deliberations because of the combined effects of the province wide reassessment and the 2015 education tax rates.

 Reducing tax ratios below 1.98 will improve competitiveness in the commercial and industrial sector.The second question is whether a report from Art Zuidema, the city manager, for a $300,000 package allocated to musicians of formerly Orchestra London — led by London Arts Council — should be approved.Half of the money will go to musicians through the rest of 2015 and the other half to develop a sustainable business model for Orchestra London.

Given the recent polls and discussions, many people have demonstrated a lack of interest in funding Orchestra London.

 The musicians need to build relationships with the community beyond their fan base and sponsors. People need to see musicians and the musicians need to be where they are.

 It’s important to note that the plan calls for a reallocation of funds previously earmarked to the orchestra in the Community Arts Investment Program (CAIP).

 The plan frees up funds under CAIP for more cultural organizations to get funding.The proposal by the city manager is not to cover any liabilities in the past but a one-time funding that is much lower than before.

 The third question is whether the city should begin to relocate buses on Dundas St.This one is a no brainer. The answer is, yes, absolutely.

But first let’s stop calling it “taking buses off Dundas” and start talking about “improving the efficiency and location of downtown bus routes” to meet the standards in the Transportation Master Plan (TMP).

The TMP calls for two transit stations, one on King Street and one on Queens Avenue where the buses will be relocated. This will help pave the way for the Dundas Place, a flex street that is pedestrian friendly.

This strategic move will create an attractive, energetic and lively downtown that is desperately needed for rejuvenation and to follow through with the proposed Bus Rapid Transit initiative.

The last and final question revolves around whether the city should fix the Springbank Dam. The Springbank Dam should be fixed to create a recreational environment for paddlers. However, anyone who has visited the river since the dam shut down in 2006 will note the river is healthier now, in spite of the millions of litres of untreated sewage the city releases into it annually.

Politicians need to think outside the box —  it should be noted arguments from both sides are valid.There is no easy answer. What councils’ facing are strong feelings from this community that are divided.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi

Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.

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