Is council 'nickel and diming' economic recovery plan?
LONDON, ONT. -- Council’s decision to pare down of a list of projects to help local businesses recover from the pandemic sparked an angry response from one of their colleagues.
On Tuesday, council was presented a diverse list of projects totalling $2.7 million developed by stakeholders on the London Community Recovery Network.
But several ideas faced questions about their value to pandemic recovery, and focus on specific business districts.
“I don’t see $100,000 spent on patio furniture is in the best interest of the London taxpayer,” said Councillor Steve Lehman about a proposal to fund purchases for sidewalk patios in the core.
Civic administration had recommended the patio funding be limited to businesses in the downtown and Old East Village, where 80 per cent of sidewalk patios existed in 2020.
But that restriction left some councillors who represent other parts of the city feeling spurned.
“I want these things to help everybody,” explained Councillor Phil Squire. “I don’t want them to be limited to a particular area, be it downtown or Old East Village.”
“I am not interested in nickel and diming people,” responded Councillor Jesse Helmer whose ward includes the OEV. “(Councillors saying) ‘it doesn’t help people in my ward so I’m not going to support this’, I think that is fundamentally the wrong approach right now.”
Council has set aside $5 million to fund local economic recovery efforts.
Tuesday night they approved most of the projects, and increased eligibility to the sidewalk patio purchases program to all Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) citywide.
However, a motion by Helmer to subsequently expand the funding available in the sidewalk patio program from $100,000 to $120,000 failed.
Not approved by council were enhanced holiday decorations downtown, a light projection show on buildings, and paying artists to paint murals on blank walls.
“I’m not happy with some of these decisions we made here tonight. That’s why I’m angry,” confessed Helmer. “But I think as a group we have to keep pushing, and keep pushing, and aim as high as we can.”
Mayor Ed Holder assured Londoners more economic recovery programs are on the horizon.
“We’ve still got work in front of us, and I’m sure we’ll have a number of these debates from time to time.”