• Multi-year Budgets and Provincial Uncertainty

    I recently had the opportunity to speak with London Free Press columnist Chip Martin about the city’s next multi-year budget cycle.

    Already the Ford Government in Ontario has downloaded or cut services that will add at least $4 million to the city’s budget costs. Staff have already told council just to stay on track next year we need to raise property taxes another 2.7%.  And of course we have a federal election looming this year that could result in more changes to affordability for Londoners. That concerns me a great deal. Seniors on CPP and OAS benefits aren’t able to keep pace with those kind of increases and stay in their homes. The rising costs of groceries, hydro bills, and everything else is making it harder and harder for people to make ends meet, and property taxes are the LEAST FAIR form of taxes possible.

    People should make no mistake, decisions of senior levels of government have profound financial impacts on municipal governance. Continue Reading

  • Time to Say No to a Bridge to Nowhere

    The 2014-2018 Council (including the former Ward 2 Councillor), set aside $5 million to potentially fund the “Ribbon of the Thames” portion of the “Back to the River” project.

    What has become known as the “bridge to nowhere”, a suspended lookout bridge and river facing amphitheater space, has already ballooned in cost from $2 million to $7 million, with additional costs for shoreline work, excavation, and flood mitigation measures coming in at another $3-4 million.

    Staff pegs the cost of the “Ribbon of the Thames” at a minimum of $12.8 million dollars, with only $2 million in private donations from the London Community Foundation, leaving the project with at least a $5 million funding gap even if we spend all $5 million of the public dollars set aside.

    And that’s without spending a penny on the removal of the decommissioned Springbank Bank that has gates and hydraulic systems currently sitting at the bottom of the river. Continue Reading

  • PUSHING FOR BETTER SNOW CLEARING AT COUNCIL

    At Civic Works Committee on Tuesday (Jan 8th), I introduced a motion to start the process of looking at options for better snow clearing for London residents.  This is an issue I heard about during the campaign, and promised to try to tackle.

    My motion was seconded by Councillor Elizabeth Peloza, who supported my campaign pledge on this issue and it read as follows:

    That staff be directed to investigate and report back, before the next multi-year budget process begins, on the operational and budget impact of:

    • lowering the clearing of residential streets from 10cm to 8cm and 7cm options.
    • the capital costs for new equipment and options for faster response times during heavy or consecutive snowfall events.
    • to lower the threshold of sidewalk clearing from 8cm to 5cm.
    • to ensure that school walking routes are cleared as a priority.
    • to conduct a review of current snow plowing routes and available technologies to implement smarter, more flexible and responsive snow clearing.

    There has been lots of interest from Londoners across the city, and from the local media on this effort. I invite you to check out the media stories at:

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/london-snow-removal-1.4971779

    London councillor aims to improve city’s snow clearing standards

    https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/city-hall-briefs-15

     

  • Time to Axe the Vacant Property Tax Rebate

  • London Home Owners Get Some Tax Relief

    Get this year’s property tax bill yet?

    When you do, you might notice how the 2.9% increase homeowners were supposed to get ended up only being 1.1%

    That’s some good news and Londoners have my friend Ward 7 Councillor Josh Morgan to thank for that.

    In 2014 I was happy to serve as Campaign Manager for Josh Morgan’s (successful) bid for a council seat, not just because Josh is a friend, but because I knew Josh was someone Londoners could count on to balance the need for city building and infrastructure improvements with the fiscal realities of London families.

    Josh and his wife are working hard to raise 3 kids, make the mortgage and car payments, and cover the grocery and hydro bills, just like so many other London families. So he gets prioritizing the “need to haves” over the “nice to haves” for the City, and recognizes just how hard people work to generate a tax dollar.

    This year, some changes to the education portion of our property taxes meant there was an opportunity to provide some tax relief. These variances do happen from time to time, but historically City Councils (remember, Mayor Brown and Councillors Armstrong, Hubert, and Usher have been on past councils) have given the relief to industrial and commercial landowners (people like Mr. Farhi who can write off more in taxes than most homeowners earn in a year).

    This year Josh Morgan made sure that homeowners got the relief.

    This is exactly the kind of balanced, fair tax approach Josh campaigned on.

    Here is Josh (along with AM980’s Craig Needles and myself) talking about how he delivered this tax relief for homeowners, give it a quick listen: