Sunday, January 13, 2013

London: view from city hall

Two new apartment towers, one still under construction, grace the city's downtown.
Saturday, the City of London held the Build a Budget Workshop. The event presented Londoners with a window into the complex world of city budget development. With many on city council striving to maintain a zero percent budget increase for a third straight year, the budgeting task in London is becoming more and more difficult. City costs go up over time, that's just a fact of life; If a city's income doesn't go up too, cuts or increased borrowing will result.

Session looking at draft budget allocation for city services.
Unfortunately, my health was not good Saturday and I had to excuse myself after attending only one session. I believe the event was divided up into four main sessions with numerous other associated activities available.

For instance, there was a speaker's corner, based on the MuchMusic concept. Participants recorded 30 second video clips in which they presented their thoughts on the budget. The mayor and members of council were encouraged to make short video clips as well. All the clips will be edited together and the resulting video posted on YouTube.

The folk at city hall are certainly imaginative and aware of the strengths of social media. Using a free web-based service, tweets with the hashtag #LdnBudget13 were projected for immediate viewing at the event. Plus, all tweets tagged with #LdnBudget13 were collected for later analysis.

Mayor Joe Fontana at event on left.
Even though I could not stay for the entire event, I left feeling concerned that clinging to an arbitrary 0% budget goal may keep my taxes from jumping this year but it is just putting off the inevitable.  I have always believed that the day will come when one must pay the piper, or the snowplow operator, or the fireman, or policeman or the sewer repair crew, or the street repaving team . . .

Today the public discussion seems to be centred around whether of not to cut Sunday library hours at the downtown branch but there is far more involved. Reserve funds have been fair game in the past and the sale of city assets is again being discussed.

Oddly enough, some costs associated with the mayor's office have gone up by tens of thousands of dollars since the pursuit of a zero increase goal began. Maybe if the mayor were to show some leadership in making the tough economic decisions . . .

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