Respecting Your Voice

Above all things today I hope that you will show up at the polls and mark the ballot. I hope that you will vote with your heart or your head or your soul. I hope you will make an independent, informed decision and not cast your ballot because that’s how you’ve always voted or that’s how your parents always voted.

I can’t respect someone who sits on their ass while we have so many problems in this world. I can’t respect apathy.

I can’t begin to list all the reasons that someone might not feel engaged in our democracy but I still ask you to show up at the polls and exercise your your other option, to decline your ballot.

But I have to acknowledge that some of you will not find a choice on the ballot that appeals to you. Maybe your principles will not allow you to select the least terrible option. I hope all of us want to vote for hope and for something we believe in and if that’s not there I can’t blame you for wanting to walk away. And you shouldn’t take anyone else’s shit for trying to make you feel bad for not buying into a busted political system.

So I ask you, show up to the polls, even if just to reject your ballot. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll change your mind when they cross off your name and hand the ballot to you. Maybe you’ll find something inside that compels you to go to the screen and make a choice. But if you just can’t get there I will honour and respect your decision to say “no, I decline my ballot”.

There’s no tomorrow folks, we need you. Please use your voice.

Request to Reschedule ReThink Presentation

Mr. Mayor and Council,

By any measurement the public engagement around the ReThink initiative has been an incredible success. In recognition of the tens of thousands of hours that the public has invested in this important project and in order to allow as many people as possible to witness the unveiling of the draft report I would like to request that the presentation scheduled for 4pm this Thursday (May 22) be rescheduled for 5pm (or 5:30pm) that same day.

One of the big gaps in the public engagement process comes at the end when you close the loop and say “we were listening to you and this is what we heard” and making a small schedule change will be a great demonstration that we’re as important now as we were at the beginning.

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Shawn Adamsson
London Citizen and Ward 11 Resident

Letter to Council: Food Trucks

Mayor and Councillors,

I’ve been watching the food truck debate for a year now with anticipation and frustration. As a business owner, I’m trying to reconcile some things and perhaps you can help.

1. City Hall is making great efforts to say that London is Open for Business yet this protracted debate is sending the exact opposite message. When you talk about lowering the bar to starting a business can you please tell me what you mean by that?

2. I can think of no situation in which I would approach council to provide our business special protection from competition, nor can I easily identify any other business that would do so. Can you please explain to me how brick and mortar restaurants are afforded such protection?

3. Several councillors have said “let the market decide” on the topic of menu vetting (something that has been quite successful in other cities) yet refuse to “let the market decide” on the number, location, hours and even the concept of food trucks. Can you please explain under what circumstances the market is allowed to decide?

4. I love London. This is a fairly recent thing for me. I want London to be a world class city. London isn’t a special and unique snowflake, other cities are doing this successfully today, why can’t we?

5. If you’re worried about retaining youth then you have to pay special attention to every little thing that youth are asking for. Better London delivered a petition of over 1000 signatures yesterday (many of which are youth) so I hope you’re listening.

One brush stroke doesn’t make a beautiful painting. Food trucks aren’t the solution to all of our problems but taking calculated risks and letting different business models push us forward almost certainly is.

Please remove the cap on the number of trucks, loosen the hour restriction and reduce the distance limit back to 25 metres (or less).

Let’s get this done tonight, not kick the can down the street again, and move forward with the next brush stroke. We have more painting to do.

Shawn Adamsson
Ward 11

Pride, London and the Sochi 2014 Games

Dear Mayor and City Councillors.

Canada set the bar with Vancouver’s Pride House in 2010 and cities across Canada are flying the Pride flag in solidarity with our LGBT olympians.

This Council has enthusiastically supported Pride events here in London and I hope that you will continue to support our LGBT community by supporting the motion to fly the Pride flag at City Hall for the duration on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Shawn Adamsson

cc/ Cathy Saunders

Replies from Council (posted in the order received):

Nancy Branscombe:
“Shawn,
Thanks for your email. I will be happy to propose your motion so we can join many other Canadian cities in support of ALL of our Olympians. It would come forward at Tuesday’s Council meeting as an emergent motion. I will look for a seconder and notify the Clerk and the Mayor tomorrow that it is coming forward.
N”

Joni Baechler:
“On Fri. I sent a note to the Mayor and Cathy Saunders requesting the flag fly until games are over. Cathy may be able to ok request internally. If not, we can make a motion at SPPC tomorrow night to go to Council Tue.Cheers
Joni”

Judy Bryant*:
“Hi Sean,
Sochi presents a great opportunity and I am on board. I do not want to start an electronic illegal meeting.
Thanks,
Judy”

Stephen Orser:
“I will fully support this Joni and Nancy.
Ward 4 Councillor
Stephen Orser”

Cathy Saunders:
“good afternoon. You would need to direct that the policy be amended.”

Denise Brown:
“Shawn, you can count on my support “

* I sent this to all of council in one shot so “reply to all” could be considered a “meeting” I guess.

Letter to Council: Two Developments, Two Chances for a Better London

June 22, 2013

Councillor Denise Brown, Mayor Fontana and members of Council,

This week, I was one of a large number of London residents who watched in disbelief and dismay as the Planning and Environment Committee (PEC):

  1. disregarded three years of public participation1 to endorse a development that ignores quite specific (and Council-endorsed) design guidelines recommended in the South West Area Plan (SWAP);
  2. set aside over a decade of environmental leadership in approving a development that will clear cut 5000-10,000 trees in a municipally-designated, environmentally significant woodlot.

The fast-tracking of both the PenEquity and York developments as “who are we to stand in the way of jobs?” is a gross simplification and a disservice to the communities that you serve. This isn’t about anyone standing in the way of jobs; this is about citizens expecting their elected representatives to follow the rules that this city has established for urban design, forward looking community development and ecological preservation.

As citizens, and taxpayers, we rightfully expect your responsible stewardship of our communities and environment.

These proposed developments will be with us for decades. They will define the city that we will become. But these developments fly in the face of the feedback that you have heard, and will continue to hear, from citizens at every major citizen engagement event.

The primary argument being made in favour of these developments is that they will create additional jobs. This is a specious argument. While there may be a small net increase in jobs, it likely won’t be significant, as these potential new jobs will not be high paying (2011 retail average salary $27,113), or even full-time. It’s also likely that unless our current transit system is expanded, these potential jobs will be out of the range of anyone who relies on public transit.

Another important fact is that these big box centres tend to bring larger chain stores to the community. A wealth of research shows that these types of businesses siphon money out of the community while local businesses retain a much higher percentage of money within the host community2. Council and the Mayor have stated again and again that small business is the engine that drives London’s economy3. Causing these local businesses distress ultimately harms our community and the local economy in an already trying retail economic climate4.

Council has also repeatedly stated that London needs to do a better job of attracting and retaining Gen Y and Millennials. For these demographics (and this cannot be understated), community design is important, walkability is important, transit is important, cycling is important, the environment is important. Disregard any of these at your peril. Other communities are way ahead of London in this regard. We cannot afford to take it slow and easy; we have to make a deliberate decision to catch up.

Since the current council took office, London has experienced a resurgence in citizen engagement. Record numbers of Londoners have become involved, bringing personal insight and experience, and their visions and aspirations for the city that they have made their home.

They have come out for their downtown (DMP), for their transit system (Smart Moves), for culture and heritage (Cultural Prosperity Plan), for their neighbourhoods (SWAP, Meadowlilly, SoHo, etc), for the local economy (London’s Prosperity Plan) and for the future of London (Rethink). Rethink alone involved the participation of more than 10,000 people. London’s diverse and engaged citizens are thinking about jobs, they are thinking about the environment, they are thinking about an accessible and age-friendly city, and they are thinking about cultural diversity. Together, we are trying to help build a better London.

The proposed developments that the PEC considered this week ignored the input of current Londoners, potential Londoners, City of London planners, top Canadian urban planners, environmentalists, economists … and the facts.

Ms.Brown, Mayor Fontana, Councillors, the decision that you hand down on these developments will demonstrate the political will of this council to stand by its own policies and your willingness to listen to the voices from your citizen engagement initiatives.

Please don’t let ill-advised developments like the ones currently proposed be your legacy. Please reject these proposals until they better align with the recommendations from your staff and advisory committees and adequately reflect the community that Londoners wish to create for our future.

A proud Londoner and business owner,

Shawn Adamsson

1 http://www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Planning_and_Development/Southwest.htm

2 http://www.civiceconomics.com/featured-projects/the-civic-economics-of-retail/

3 “Sure it is great to bring in those companies that will bring with them 300 or 400 new jobs, but each and every day the small businesses that drive London’s economy need to be recognized.” http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/news-story/1359246-hire-one-to-help-small-businesses-grow-london-s-job-market/

4 Retail spending in Ontario declined from 2012 to 2013 (source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/trad43a-eng.htm)

cc: Cathy Saunders ℅ The City Clerk’s Office

Two Apologies

Had a little dustup on Twitter the other day. Not terribly important who it was or what it was about. A guy slagged at me pretty hard and I retweeted it. Why retweet? Might have been a bit hurt and wanted friends to slag the guy back, maybe just to call him out, whatever the reason I was wrong in doing it. What I ended up doing was getting others upset.

For anyone who witnessed the exchange please accept my apologies.

The guy in question sent a note over today to apologize.

“I want to apologize for my comment yesterday, it was rude and unduly harsh. I have taken it down.”

My response spilled out quickly and from the heart. Right or wrong this was it …

“I really don’t know who you think I am dude. I’m a guy with no particular agenda aside from getting people involved in their city. I might be progressive but I don’t care who shows up, just as long as they show up.

I also know that by sticking my head up I’m going to get kicked in the teeth from time to time (some deserved and some not) – so be it. As much as it sucks that’s just part of the deal.

I have zero idea what you get out of slagging me in public. You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me that you haven’t either heard from others or invented in your own head.

No, I’m not the smartest guy out there, I’m just the guy who stood up. Yes, I act like a fool sometimes. Yes, I’m an asshole sometimes. No, I don’t expect to be universally loved. Don’t care. Somebody needs to do this shit and I’ve taken it on until someone smarter comes along to relieve me.

I didn’t deserve any award and I didn’t want it. I took it so that other little people like me might find it in themselves to stand up and do something. I find the attention embarrassing and I’m glad that it’s over.

So I’ll accept the apology and feel free to continue slagging me at will.

But before you wind up to slag the next person please try to give them the benefit of the doubt for a couple minutes. That’s not an ideology you’re about to attack, that’s a person and they carry all the happy/terrifying/complicated shit that makes them the way they are. Cut them some slack, show them a little respect.”

(Note to self: Don’t use “I” so much in the future, you come out sounding like a self-centred jerk and it’s bloody lazy.)

On the Ropes

I doubt many people would deny that London is having economic challenges at the moment. Unemployment, while not the highest we’ve ever experienced, is high and most wonder when we’ll break free of this “forever recession“.

Many in our city favour the strategy of tackling these hard times through austerity. I’m not an economist and I don’t pretend to have a deep knowledge of these matters but I have to wonder about the effectiveness of such a strategy.

I love analogies so you’ll have to forgive what follows …

If you’re a good (not great) boxer and you’re up against the ropes getting pummelled is it strategically sound to cover up, pull back and conserve your resources in the hope that the other guy tires out? Does it make sense to bet on having enough stamina to withstand the barrage of punches?

Or is it a better strategy to muster all of your resources and fight back?

If your coach was recommending that you to just take the beating and that it will get better soon would you consider that sage advice? Would that increase your confidence in a positive outcome?

This is our home so what are we going to do about it?

(this isn’t a new argument – see links in the second paragraph for deeper discussion)

Letter to Denise Brown re: London Public Library Comments

Hello Denise,

I am a resident of Ward 11 and am concerned about remarks that have been attributed to you in today’s London Free Press regarding Library service.

Quoting: “The library has cost jobs in this city. They have first-run movies and Rogers and Blockbuster have gone out of business”.

I’m not terribly knowledgable in this sector but knew immediately that this statement was not representative of the actual state of the industry. I spent 15 minutes doing a bit of digging and have summarized my findings below.

I started by looking for the latest “blockbuster” release and came up with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I’m sure you’ve been to a large rental chain in the past and know that a typical store would carry 15-25 copies of such a DVD (estimating 8-12 stores across London that could be upwards of 300 copies per chain). Doing a simple search on the London Public Library’s website I see that they have 22 copies of the film in the entire city with 444 people on the wait list (source: London Public Library).

I worked in an independant video store 25 years ago that was eventually put out of business by Blockbuster. Back then VHS was the medium of choice but what most people don’t know is that those tapes were prohibitively expensive to own (video ownership wasn’t really in our vocabulary). This was the golden era of Blockbuster, expensive media that the public could only access through rental. The advent of inexpensive VHS and DVDs have decimated that market. It’s not unusual to find homes with 100+ purchased DVDs. This is a radically different economic environment.

The final nail in the coffin of these services was the advent of Netflix home DVD delivery and more recently their Internet streaming offering (<a href=” http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-03-01/tech/30045214_1_netflix-blockb…“>see this article and infographic).

Convenience rules in this market. Being last in a queue of 444 is decidedly inconvenient and people with enough money will shell out the money to use another delivery mechanism like Netflix.

However, services like Netflix are in no way affordable to low income Londoners they require a monthly fee ($8 or more) and a premium Internet service (add $10-20/month on top of basic Internet fees).

All of the facts that I’m seeing regarding the demise of the video rental industry point to commoditization and the advance of the internet.

I’m all for a goal of 0% but only after thoughtful deliberation and that is not what was demonstrated today. I would beg that you consider your words more carefully in the future when representing our ward and our city.

Shawn Adamsson
Ward 11 Resident

The rules of engagement

Here’s the thing about civic engagement; it doesn’t happen only in a room in City Hall, it doesn’t happen only in committees and it doesn’t happen on a schedule dictated by city staff.

Most importantly civic engagement doesn’t start and stop at the ballot box. You didn’t give someone a detailed mandate on election day nor did you write them a blank cheque. You get to hold them accountable during their term of service and not just at the polls.

Engagement happens where, when and how you decide it happens. You don’t have to fit in a little box that someone else defines anymore.

Your voice is all you have, use to speak for the things you believe in.

Respect others, follow your head and heart and you cannot go wrong.

Council Agenda Highlights – October 24 – RCDC

Lots of interesting stuff on this week’s Council agenda. Here’s a rundown and a bunch of links for more information.

If anything strikes you as interesting (or if you just want to meet some really cool folks) then come out for tomorrow night’s RCDC meetup.

1. Council is looking into the possibility of privatizing electricity, water, wastewater, solid waste and parking services. They are looking to sign a cooperation agreement with EPCOR who does the same thing for Edmonton. This feels a bit like signing an agreement with Blackwater to investigate privatizing a police force – EPCOR isn’t neutral in this game.

London Hydro courted by Edmonton utility company
Power player joins race for London Hydro
‘It just doesn’t smell right’
Baechler Balks At EPCOR Partnership Proposal
VIDEO From CTV London
Facebook Pack the Gallery Event

UPDATE: a trio of new articles were posted Sunday evening

City may pull plug on Hydro partnership
So where are the Hydro answers?
It’s a Small World After All

2. Council will be asked to approve of London’s Growth Management Implementation Strategy. A number of developers aren’t completely happy with the plan so there should be interesting activity around this one. If you care about urban sprawl this is important to keep an eye on as it helps set the blueprint for London’s growth.

OMG, what have they done to GMIS?
Oh, give me a home

3. The development and real estate industries would like Council to allow some of the largest “temporary” building signage in the province. These temporary signs would also be up longer than any other city – 365 days. A very generous definition of temporary in my opinion.

Staff has recommended less generous signage allowances but it seems that Joe Swan, Denise Brown and Bud Polhill are feeling differently.

The press doesn’t seem to be covering this one so here’s the item from last week’s BNEC (Built and Natural Environment Committee) agenda.

4. The downtown parking garage item is on the agenda again. Turns out that the existing parking available is under-utilized now (check out page 10 of this doc) and the additional cost of this facility may not be warranted at the moment.

City of opportunity or opportunists?
Parking debate raises issue of financial viability
It’s time we park this debate with a decision that suits us all
City ponders two core parking proposals (NEW)

5. A new animal welfare strategy is being developed for London. London Animal Care and Control’s contract is coming up soon and there is concern that they kill to many animals. Other cities are adopting “no kill” strategies.

London’s pets, unwanted no more
Vision will make London a more pet-friendly city
City hall seeks partners in new model for animals

6. Request for funding for the development of a Cultural Prosperity Plan for London

7. City of London Wants to Develop Smartphone App for 2012 Budget