London's mayor reflects as his first year in office comes to a close
LONDON, ONT. -- London Mayor Ed Holder opens up about his first year in office in a one-on-one interview with CTV's Daryl Newcombe.
“It goes so, so quickly,” admits Holder as he gets set to begin year two of his term on Monday.
The former federal cabinet minister says the biggest takeaway, so far, is the importance of city hall.
"You are front-line and you are the bottom line...The intensity of this role is you impact people at their most basic level.”
Holder focuses on three priorities outlined in his state of the city address: transit, jobs and helping London's most vulnerable.
So far the mayor's office has dedicated a lot of effort to his Jobs Now strategy to get more Londoners into the workforce.
But given the severity of the housing crisis, should he shift priorities in year two?
He says , "You can't deal with any one issue in isolation, be it jobs, transit or London's most vulnerable. It’s all part of a whole and that's the approach we've taken in this office."
Holder faced challenges from day one. His solution to London's Bus Rapid Transit debate was to divide the BRT plan into five routes and issue a deadline for council’s decision.
Ultimately, just the south, east and downtown routes were funded.
Holder pushes back when asked about comments during his 2018 mayoral campaign that he did not support BRT.
“I think your question is naive. And I am going to be really clear. I did not hear that people say, 'We did not need better transportation routes.' I did not hear people say, 'We did not need better transit routes..." If parts of that make sense, then you do the parts that make sense, and that's what we tried to do.”
As budget season looms, the draft tax increase for 2020 stands at four per cent, well above his stance during the election that anything above inflation would be “unaffordable.”
Ahead of budget deliberations though, Holder is less certain, “Would I like to be in a position to say I can stand to that...Look, we are going through a multi-year budget process right now and it’s that issue of - trying to balance those interests of the citizens - and I would ask the indulgence of our citizens that we will do our very best.”
Holder says his toughest days as mayor came after the Woodman Avenue explosion, but from that tragedy came a sense of collaboration he intends to build on.
“That tragedy actually galvanized a community and galvanized a city, so I think it’s that same spirit of goodwill going forward into the second year.”
His second year will require big decisions inside city hall, filling key roles after the city manager, city planner and director of human resources all announced their retirements.
Holder also believes a big decision about city hall’s future will soon emerge. Has London's municipal government outgrown the building at 300 Dufferin Avenue? Is it time to build a new city hall?
“There are a number of administrative functions that somehow, if we could have it consolidated into one building, I think it would improve efficiencies. So are we going to look at it during this first term? I don't know that yet. I think we will seek some information from staff. At this point no decisions have been made, but could I imagine it being seriously considered during this term? Yes, I think it could be. “