Letter sent to Council this week #Ldnont

To His Worship the Mayor and Councillors of London Ontario,
London refers to itself as the Forest City as it was founded in the Carolinian forest. Archaeology shows us settlement in this area dates back over a thousand years but only the last few decades have seen the significant destruction of the forest London claims. The recent decision to destroy more forest and marshland is evidence this city lacks vision and leadership.
Further environmental destruction in the London area will have economic consequences. Concrete and asphalt have no ability to absorb heavy rains as shown in recent rains here and more tragically in Calgary. The ground needs to absorb water not have it run off with pollutants to our streams, rivers and lakes. Marsh lands and forest assist in flood prevention and reduction of harmful effects. They also clean the air, provide temperature control and a place for tourists to watch birds and other wild life.
My Saturday trip to the WhiteOaks area was terrible. Heat, lack of shade, air pollution, noise pollution and zero infrastructure for pedestrians or cyclists convinced me to boycott that area of London from now on. This city is increasingly becoming a desert incapable of sustaining a healthy environment to live and work. This city lacks old growth trees to relax under, as it lacks significant green spaces. Large public lawns are not green spaces.
As none of you are impoverished London Transit users perhaps an explanation why the reported jobs will be of no benefit to the city. Currently if an applicant even suggests they have to use buses to arrive at work they are immediately disqualified from getting the job. LTC is to unreliable for employees to get to work. The more London sprawls, the more strained and unreliable the bus system becomes. I challenge each of you to spend a week relying on the LTC to see first hand how pathetic it is despite some good peoples’ best efforts.
Seventeen years ago was my last trip to the city ours is named for. In that time new subways have been completed, more cycle paths added, more green spaces and sustainable, livable communities. London UK has also added icons in the Millennium Dome, Eye, Gherkin, Shard and Olympic Village. Even keeping the scale of the two cities in mind London Ontario has added little alternatives to the car and no icons. Nearly thirty-nine years since being born in this city and all London has built is roads, strip malls and suburban homes better suited to Los Angeles or Phoenix. There are parts of London that could be Oshawa, Burlington or Mississauga. Nothing that jumps out as a unique city.
Automobile infrastructure is an expensive burden on the public purse. To seek to increase that burden by approving further sprawl, while there is plenty of already serviced areas of London demanding investment, is unfathomable. It steals resources from transit, parks and services that will grow a better community. Focus on automobiles creates silos of neighbourhood verse neighbourhood and artificial separation between residences, commerce and industry. London needs more places where commercial is zoned under residential and next to parks and a short walk from industry. London needs to face the reality that the most car friendly generation is about a decade away from losing licences to blindness, senility, and lack of pension income.
London has the potential to be ground zero for an amazing start up scene, music scene and art scene. None of these are benefited by further annexing cow paddies, corn fields and wilderness. Pandering to large business chains with subsidies will kill any hope of ending the poor jobs situation and drive innovators to other cities.
The most concerning aspect of the recent decisions is the total disregard for public expression and citizen engaged planning. It is dangerous to democracy to seek engagement only to crassly ignore the results to continue down a ruinous path of profiteering and fleeting growth. Economic growth comes in two forms; the natural healthy kind and cancerous sprawling kind. Recent decisions to ignore the established polices remind me of the findings of Justice Charbonneau’s Commission and Quebec’s Anti-Corruption Police Task Force. Perhaps Ontario should consider similar processes.
If London is to survive the Twenty-First Century it needs to stop thinking in mid-Twentieth Century terms. Destruction of the environment for a few poorly paid jobs is a nail in the city’s coffin. The continued short sighted policy of city government makes me ashamed to be from London. We are becoming a paved wasteland of poverty, pollution and irrelevance. It is time for transformation and vision.
Ed Stephens
Resident of Ward 2

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