Council transfers some powers to staff to expedite economic recovery
LONDON, ONT -- Tuesday night City Council handed sweeping powers to city administration that will expedite the economic recovery in London, but the transfer of power could raise some red flags.
Ensuring the economic recovery isn't slowed by red tape has required cutting politicians out of the approval process.
Council discussed transferring approval authorities once reserved to politicians to staff at city hall.
“I think this will allow people to move a bit quicker. I think what we've seen over the course of the pandemic is things are moving fast and we need to keep up,” said Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer.
Traditionally bylaw amendments can take weeks to get in front of city council for approval.
Giving staff the power to approve changes could see that slashed to a matter of days.
However, Councillor Phil Squire reminded colleagues that powers to amend the sound, traffic, parking and other bylaws are in the hands of elected leaders because they can often result in negative impacts for neighbours.
“Nobody wants to help business more than I, but I think when you transfer this kind of authority from the elected Council to administration, that should be cause for concern,” said Squire.
Despite the warning council unanimously approved the transfer of powers to city administration until Dec 31.
“I'm confident how staff will handle it, we're mindful of it, but at the same time we are moving at the speed of business,” said Mayor Ed Holder.
According to city staff, they have already approved 37 new patios just since last week, and they are receiving many requests from other businesses seeking to expand into the public right of way.
The mayor suggests city hall is committed to not slowing the pace of the economic recovery and looks forward to a day when a wider variety of businesses can offer creative ways to reopen.
“If we can continue the progress and move into phase 3, soon we hope, we will be in a position to open up and show even more flexibility,” said Holder.