I survived my three hours of radio fun last Friday - more on that in a future entry - and ended up having more fun on-air than should be legally permissible. At various points I felt like WKRP's Les Nessman. I didn't mispronounce Chi Chi Rodriguez's name or those Chihuahua dogs, but I missed enough cues and felt my away around the process enough that I knew I was in new-for-me territory. Which was a good thing, because I don't think I've ever enjoyed airtime as much as I did on Friday. Man, I owe a lot of people (Al Coombs, Mike Stubbs, Al Smith, Rick Sinclair, Stuart Clark, my wife...) a lot of thanks!
So, about the show. One of the segments is called 2 Minutes Out Of The Box. It's basically a two-minute editorial, and as these were always my favorite spots on radio and television, it was a serious treat to be able to write and read mine on-air. Here's what I wrote - and I'm guessing if the politicos I wrote about end up reading this, my invitation to the City Hall Holiday Festival is never going to get here. Anyway, here goes:
Live in London long enough and one thing becomes clear: this is a great city. We're home to world class education, medical care and research, technology, manufacturing and business. We consistently rate near the top of every quality of life index imaginable, and talk to anyone, anywhere, in Canada and chances are they've got a London story to share. They've studied here, they've worked here, and they loved the place.
We are home to a growing class of engaged citizens who are right now defining the state-of-the-art in using social media to build better communities and a better city. We're in position to set the tone for other cities in the digital age.
There's a "but" coming.
Live here long enough and something else becomes clear: we deserve better from those who lead us. Over the past few weeks, we've all had a front row seat to a veritable circus at city hall, with intra-council feuds spilling out in public, on air and in social media. We've had near-violent opposition to hiring an integrity commissioner, followed by a mayor who can't remember signing a five-figure check to pay for his son's wedding just a few years ago. We've had gridlock on council while the city grapples with stubbornly high unemployment, failing infrastructure and now, failing bridges. Some days, it almost seems like we're being led by politicians more focused on their interests than ours.
I'll admit, I'm tired of it. And I'm guessing I'm not alone. While city hall dithers, cities like Kitchener-Waterloo and Stratford are building reputations as business friendly, forward focused towns. Their municipal governments have learned to work well together. They've learned how to reach out to other levels of government, to connect with schools and businesses, to build partnerships that make people want to invest and live there. While I'm sure they've got problems of their own, they seem to be able to handle them professionally, with the kind of courtesy Canadians are known for. London hasn't gotten the memo.
Londoners have a role to play here, too. Many of our councillors have been in the game for years because, frankly, we don't seem to have the gumption to change. And that needs to change.
We're two years into our latest municipal mandate. Still, I dont think it's too early to start talking about who we really want to lead us. While I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water anytime soon, we need to start talking about who really deserves to lead this great city, and who doesn't. I'm guessing folks who think "duck off" is an acceptable response to a citizen may want to find another line of work.
It's time we got the leadership we deserved, and if we go with the old guard yet again next election, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.Your turn: Thoughts?
I agree, there needs to be some serious thought about who we want to lead the city. The discussion needs to start now so that when the time comes we all feel that we are electing the person that we feel do the best job for us at city hall.
Sorry, but I don't buy this "leadership" vacuum idea. The fact is that in municipal govt there is a natural group of business people who wield great influence over planning decisions just because they have more to gain or lose by a particular decision. Maybe people get tired of this an elect a reform candidate instead, but Londoner's seem happy with the status quo.
G. Babbitt: Londoners may very well be happy with the status quo, but they shouldn't be surprised by the fact that other cities are cluing into the way the world works in 2012 and are running away with the prize. We're falling behind because no one in office has enough vision to change the current staid reality. Stasis isn't going to cut it.
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