Making Friends In High Places, London Style
As Mayoral candidate David Wonham has said "Youthful enthusiasm in Windsor is an experiment that has failed!"
Clearly Windsor politicians and candidates for office should be given a copy of Dale Carnegie's book as part of their election package.
Obviously, I communicate with bureacrats and politicians from both sides of the border at all governmental levels over border issues. How else would I be able to let you in on the breath-taking insights that only readers of this BLOGsite get!
Because of relationships established and in dealing with them, over the phone or over a coffee, we talk about a lot of things. One of my favourite subjects is Windsor and what goes on here. I will tell you in all candour that this City is viewed as the laughing stock of Caanda (and this by people who deal with cities and towns across Ontario and across Canada). There is absolutely no respect given to our Mayor and Council whatsoever. They are treated as jokes. I will not repeat some of the language used since it is not only uncomplimentary but obscene.
Now some of you will say, great. Our politicians are standing up to the Senior Levels. We will show them that Windsor cannot be pushed around. I have no objection to us being tough. If the last Council had not been tough and stood up for Windsor we would be smelling diesel fumes of Montreal-to-Tijuana trucks travelling the DRTP corridor into and from the heart of Windsor with a golf-course sized Customs plaza in the middle of our neighbourhoods.
We were tough then and the Senior Levels recognized that and respected us. There were no hard feelings when the PM and Premier came here. In fact, at one time we even signed a Phase 1 Agreement with them!
But there is a big difference between being tough and picking a fight or bullying. Or snubbing more than once. Being petulant, childish and immature does not help. Being so smart yet inexperienced in worldly matters is a recipe for disaster.
Is there an alternative way to act? I will let you read parts of the State of the City speech from the Mayor of London. I did not read the Mayor there asking why no one listens to London as Councillor Valentinis asked here.
I cannot include the entire speech. It would make you cry when you read about all of their successes compared with our failures. You, dear reader, decide which alternative makes the most sense!
- "State of the City Address 2006
Below is the part of the text of Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco's State of the City Address
Reflecting on A Proud History & Looking to A Bright Future
150 years ... that's the milestone we have just completed as a city. Celebrations abounded as we paid tribute to our roots, dating back to that first day of incorporation in 1855. For the past 12 months, the spirit of London came alive in many ways as we reflected on our history, our heritage, our successes and our challenges.
Throughout our anniversary, I often echoed the thoughts of earlier leaders who believed, as I do, that we have a proud history and a bright future, not just for today, but for the next 150 years. London's future depends on you and all citizens stepping forward to create a legacy for the next generation. This legacy will be founded on a new appreciation of what London can become, a new vision for the city, establishing its place within the region, the province and the nation.
Building a compelling, lasting and inclusive vision takes time, patience, persistence, determination and leadership. Vision is not about a slogan, or a catchphrase. Vision is insight, knowledge, and wisdom shared for the benefit of all. It means working together. And, if there is one theme in this presentation, if there is one thing that our first 150 years has shown, it is that - when London works together, together we achieve great accomplishments. Accomplishments such as the Canada Summer Games, the Memorial Cup, the John Labatt Centre, the Central library, a city that enjoys a lifestyle that is the envy of Ontario, and much, much more.
City Council has also been listening. We have taken the opportunity to listen to you, whether it be through public input sessions, budget debates, open forums, or a series of articles written by a cross section of our citizens. We're all working together to make London better, and giving us a clearer understanding of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Londoners.
Positioning London among Canada's Top Cities
While City Council, working with our administration, has set a goal for London to be positioned among the top cities in our country, a vision for London cannot rest with Council alone. It must emerge from you. From within the community and be founded on our collective wisdom. I want to share our successes by focusing again on our five key goals, but before I do that, I would like to share with you, a few personal observations.
First, today's London varies from the past. Our population is changing dramatically. We are more diverse and we are much more dependent on new Canadians for the future growth of our city. These new citizens come to London from all parts of the world, with amazing skills, expertise and knowledge and we must do all we can to enable these new Canadians to contribute to our growing community.
Second, our economic base is different now. As you know, London was once primarily a financial, educational, institutional and health care centre for southwestern Ontario. Its regional significance provided the City with wealth and influence, and the legacy of this prosperity can be seen in the amenities and services we have today. But, to succeed in the future, we'll need to continue expanding in the fields of research, technology, manufacturing and life sciences.
Third, we must create our prosperity of the future, rather than resting on past successes. That's why attracting new business is pivotal to London. It's also equally important that we make further inroads with the Provincial and Federal governments to ensure they make more significant investments in our local and regional economies.
Fourth, it's important to recognize our young and dynamic population has a vital role to play in our prosperity. We must focus on retaining our best and brightest, who can, and will, locate in communities that are culturally, socially and environmentally diverse. They will choose to live where they find life most interesting - and, they have been clear, London must be more attentive to their needs, or they will take their creativity, ingenuity, and imagination elsewhere.
Creating A Strong & Diversified Local Economy
So how do we address these observations? City Council continues to make decisions based on five key goals as part of its strategic direction. Our plan of action is working and I want to take the time to share our achievements and explain some of the next steps.
As you recall our first goal as a Council is to create a strong and diversified local economy, of which financial stability and fiscal responsibility are key components. About five years ago, Council decided to develop its first-ever Strategic Financial Plan. We identified this Plan as a necessary measure to competitively attract new jobs, to ensure basic needs are met without compromising other important projects and services, and to invest appropriately in our neighbourhoods...
Our assessment growth continues to be strong and stable, a prime reason for the Aaa credit rating London has retained for the 28th consecutive year. Moody's awarded this distinction citing our expanding assessment base, modest debt and prudent fiscal plan. And, we continued to focus on increasing our revenues and finding new sources of funding.
Establishing A "New Deal" with the Federal Government
In this regard, the New Deal with the Federal government is now a 'real deal'. In all of our efforts, through the Big City Mayors' Caucus and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), we have made an undisputable case that municipalities are the engine behind the economy. As each city in this country faces growing pressures to cover skyrocketing costs related to infrastructure, including roads and sewers, the Federal government has come to the table phasing in a commitment of 5-cents a litre of the gas tax.
By 2009, this Deal will bring us an annual allotment of stable funding of just over $22-million to be reinvested in infrastructure needs like our wastewater systems, the development of bicycle lanes and social housing, to name a few. But, our work is far from over.
We, as Big City Mayors, along with FCM, continue to advocate for a share of other revenues that grow with the economy. We have also identified key areas, including affordable housing; immigration; environmental sustainability; physical and social infrastructure; public safety; and emergency preparedness, to work in partnership to ensure all federal programs, legislation and other policy decisions are flexible enough to meet our needs.
I want to thank our local MPs for their diligence in working with City Council. I also want to serve notice, that it's important for all MPs, who get elected in the Federal election, to clearly support investments in our cities as a priority. And, I ask all of you to take the time to advocate for our communities.
Reaping Benefits from Provincial Government Partnership Initiatives
On the Provincial front, the City also continues to reap benefits from the Province's commitment of 2-cents a litre of the gas tax towards new transit service. When fully implemented, it will provide for $9-million a year in new funding, a vital component as the LTC has had nine consecutive years of growing ridership, and last year, expanded service by 10-thousand hours. Also, City Council's work to secure resources to account for the imbalance of downloading is at last being recognized in part with $13-million in additional funding.
Our positive working relationship with our local MPPs has paid dividends and I thank them for meeting and listening to Council on a regular basis. Looking ahead, we are going to need our MPPs commitment and direction in revamping the provincial arbitration process. There has been much discussion in the past three years regarding the impact of this process on the cost of providing emergency services...
Benchmarking & Tracking our Financial success
There is no doubt, London's long-term financial stability is crucial to its ability to be among the top ranked cities in Canada...
To better illustrate this data, we've developed a financial brochure for your review, which can be used whenever selling London to potential new business clients. In compiling this information, we observed that significant investment by higher levels of government is being made within the greater Golden Horseshoe area surrounding Toronto. As such, I believe that by working together as a region, we have great potential to strengthen our broader Southwestern Ontario economy as well.
For instance, the new Toyota plant being built in Woodstock is a recent regional success. This investment is a win for Woodstock, and a win for all communities in the southwest region of the province, including London, as we continue to attract related industries and spin-off companies, creating new jobs. With this kind of collaboration in mind and to improve and fortify our regional efforts, some very exciting developments are underway.
I am pleased to announce that a regional economic summit will be held in May, 2006. Strategic partners from key sectors of our economy, including the University of Western Ontario, St. Joseph's Health Care, London Health Sciences Centre, and the London Chamber of Commerce, among others, will join forces in an unprecedented attempt to bring the leadership of our area together for two days of discussion and debate.
We know our region - bounded by the Great Lakes, as well as the GTA to the east and the United States to the south and west - is rich in resources, has many natural assets and serves as the transportation corridor for Canada's heartland and NAFTA markets. We also have a competitive edge in manufacturing, food production and processing, health, education, research and many other fields. Together, we can find ways to take advantage of these assets, and develop greater prosperity and opportunities for our citizens.
We have one goal - to build a framework for the future that allows us to work together and make the entire southwestern Ontario region stronger. We will need your help, support, suggestions and enthusiasm to make it work. Details for the event are currently in the works to bring the stakeholders together. More details on the summit will be announced in the months ahead...
As you can see, we have intensified our business development efforts through the combined work of LEDC and the City. Even so, in today's competitive market, it's time to think outside the box. As such, 'London's Next Economy' is a bold, insightful, and strategic game plan to capitalize on attracting more high-tech businesses to London. Through this plan, the City, the LEDC, the Stiller Centre, the Small Business Centre and TechAlliance are forming a partnership to ensure London and our southwestern Ontario region is a globally-recognized destination for knowledge based companies.
This plan is both exciting and ambitious. With your help, it will see 10,000 net new jobs in five years; will quadruple the number of fastest-growing companies, and increase the percentage of high-end jobs from 28% to 35% of the workforce. It will also increase by one-third, the number of graduating post-secondary students who choose to stay in London to work. And, TechAlliance has established the 'Emerging Leaders' initiative, aimed at developing the next generation of local leaders in the business, technology and research sectors. It targets 25-44 year-olds to connect them, to each other, through think tanks, mentoring programs and joint ventures. ..
While, there is still much work to be done, now is the time for the community to embrace this next wave of business development. For five years, we have enjoyed great success with thousands of new jobs and companies making London their home, a goal recognized by the Conference Board of Canada a few years ago, naming London one of the fastest growing economies in the country. And, again recently, the Conference Board cited our well-diversified economy, in particular in manufacturing and construction activity, for posting real GDP growth of 2.7% this year in job creation.
But, the market place is highly competitive and value driven. To continue playing on the world stage, we need to work collectively, with innovation and strategic thinking, to achieve the best for future generations of Londoners. We have much to offer. Our strategic location is central to over 10-million people with access from the 400 series highways, rail service and the London International Airport. We can proudly boast of a well-educated, diverse workforce, and we have a history of delivering a high quality of life to our citizens. We have other advantages as a city as well...
Our fourth goal is core infrastructure and 2005 saw the culmination of several important road projects. They include the Springbank Road Widening, Phase One of the Oxford Street Widening, and the Airport Road twinning, which is now renamed Veterans Memorial Parkway. We also set the stage for the Hale/Trafalgar grade separation to help improve traffic flow.
City Council also moved quickly to bring on the newest industrial park, called Innovation Park. It will provide approximately 120 acres of additional serviced, ready-to-build prime land. This comes as Forest City Industrial Park is almost completely sold out, and twice as fast as expected. And, the construction boom also continued with building permits and housing sales both sizzling, making 2005 the second strongest year in London's history...
In similar fashion to downtown, the City has worked with the merchants, businesses and residents in East London, to put a plan of action in place to revitalize the area. The plan includes incentive programs for owners to improve their properties; a range of land uses and zoning bylaws to offer flexibility in enhancing the development of the commercial corridor; and the implementation of the second phase of the heritage conservation district. It includes 1000 homes, instilling pride in this unique neighbourhood full of architectural and historical elements.
Accomplishing Great Things In Working Together
The first is our people. We are blessed with extremely talented, caring individuals who are committed to making our city the best in Canada. There are people, leaders, workers, thinkers, and doers behind every achievement I have mentioned and without them, none of this would be possible.
The second thought is cooperation. Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."
If there is one thing I have learned as Mayor that I can leave with you, it is this: When we work together, we can accomplish great things. When we join forces, set aside personal differences, and commit ourselves to a common goal, we have great power and momentum. It takes leadership - yours and mine. Together, we really can make a difference."