Monthly Archives: May 2014

Thou Shalt Not Steal (Another’s Trust)

Mayor Joe Fontana’s fraud trial began this morning, just in case you haven’t already heard already *yes, I’m sorry for being sarcastic, once again ; p*

Along with tales from the provincial crypt of lies, promises and good old politicking, our mayor’s alleged abuse of public trust is a lead story on every major news outlet – all eyes will be on our city this week, for better or for worse (unfortunately, my bets are on the ‘worse’ part of it); it’s the kind of negative attention we all can do without. If Fontana is convicted he’ll possibly face up to 10 years in prison which would strike a serious blow to the city.

Of course, we also have the option of turning things around by electing people of integrity and maintaining checks and balances through a number of initiatives I am proposing.

None of us are perfect but when you run for public office there is an expectation that one will act ethically and with a sense of integrity, regardless of the circumstances. I have come to understand how trust and progress proceed from loyalty and accountability. This has become abundantly clear to me from my interpersonal relationships and, of course, through my business dealings with customers in the London area and across North America. The Fortune 500 company I work for sponsors a culture of professionalism which really represents what I stand for.

We are often presented with situations in life where we can’t help but feel that we are at a crossroads between what is easy and what is ethical. Sometimes the right decision may not be popular nor politically correct, but as people who are blessed with the “freedom of conscience” we often know what must be done.

As a board member at my synagogue, I was recently presented with a situation where I had to stand up to one of the main authority figures of London’s Orthodox Jewish community. It was incumbent upon me to announce to the board that the fanatical religious cult, Lev Tahor, had requested to use our synagogue’s facilities – I would have preferred never to have mentioned it to the board, but like I said, doing a job often requires us to do what is right even if we’d rather do something else.

Although the group’s leader was fleeing justice in Quebec – he is implicated in child abuse – our rabbi wanted to welcome Lev Tahor to London because he said we had an obligation to help other Jews. But I contested his decision and said that engaging with such a group would bring negative attention on the wider London Jewish community – besides, and more importantly, I felt that if the charges against Lev Tahor were true, myself and everyone else at the synagogue would be complicit in child abuse and religious fanaticism.

I proceeded to bring the matter before the board and brought a motion to discuss the issue. Thankfully, it turned out that Lev Tahor eventually rescinded their original request to use our facilities.

Having integrity compelled me to look out for the interests of the wider Jewish community (this includes Reform, Conservative and unafiliated Jews) and not just go along with the leader’s directions.

What is true for a Jewish-specific issue carries over to Ward 4 and all of the possible conflicts that arise during the course of political life. My experiences provide me with a well of insight and integrity needed to remain accountable and honest in my political life.

This brings me to the next point regarding Ward 4 incumbent Steven Orser. Being part of the Fontana 8, i.e. costing taxpayers $97,000 says to me that he doesn’t care about the interests of the wider community of Ward 4. He’s aligned himself with a mayor whose integrity is under serious scrutiny, even as you are reading this post.

As my mother always said to me when she saw untrustworthy people in cahoots with one another:“birds of a feather flock together.”  That certainly rings true from what I’ve seen so far in the current situation concerning Joe Fontana and his loyal gaggle of eight council members.

It’s time to vote for vision and leave the shady, “unseen” deals back in the past where they belong.

Congratulations to Aleksa and Victor!!

I want to congratulate Aleksa Bjelogrlic and Victor Ling for their hard-earned accomplishments which were recognized at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Windsor (held May 9 – 16). *Check out their profiles for information on their inventions and remarkable CVs by clicking on their hyperlinked names – their sense of creativity and initiative will astound you*

I had the opportunity to meet with Aleksa and Victor just before they left for the CWSF competition which highlights the country’s up-and-coming scientific and engineering innovators. Needless to say, I was very impressed with both of them, and I believe they have very bright futures to look forward to.

I was curious to know what these young men felt about how high schoolers are educated when it comes to science and engineering. As an electronics engineer myself, I was definitely intrigued by what they had to say and I think you may also find their comments edifying.

(You can find audio clips from the interviews with Aleksa and Victor at the end of this post).

Aleksa, who is currently in grade 10, and Victor, who is graduating this year, are students at London Central Secondary School and veterans of the competition – Aleksa just won his second bronze medal and Victor collected his first silver medal to add to his collection of three bronzes and a gold. The medals also include cash prizes and offers for scholarships from various Canadian universities including Western and Waterloo.

Victor explained to me that the science fair is “divided into different challenges depending on the type of project (discovery, energy, environment, health, information, innovation, resources).” And he wound up winning the discovery challenge as well. Way to go!

Victor was also invited to present his project at the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS 2014), to be held in Québec City from July 13th – July 18th, 2014. Best of luck, Victor! We’re looking forward to hearing all about it : )

Lulls are part of the process

The Thames Valley District School Board decision to close Lorne Avenue Public School in June, 2015, is…well, short-sighted.

My position – and I am certainly not alone in this regard – is to keep the school open. I know that this is the best option, because although enrollment might currently be down to roughly a quarter of the school’s capacity, things change.

Yes! It’s true…people, places and things CHANGE*please pardon my sarcasm, just a bit tired of people confusing the trees for the Forest City*

But here’s the rub: we need to have the patience, fortitude and vision to see that change through to fruition. And in the case of Lorne Avenue Public School, great changes centre around the school itself – but I will get back to that a bit later in this post.

Countries, provinces, cities, neighbourhoods, individuals: All experience lulls in employment, development, cultural accomplishments, et al. The error being made here, is mistaking a lull for a long-term “reality”. The only “long-term reality” in the Old East Village is a very bright future where kids and their parents can eventually experience the joys that come with attending a neighbourhood school.

Encouraging young families to move into the area only goes so far with regards to gentrification – i.e. fancy coffee shops, community gardens, yoga studios and kitting cafes cannot fill the void left behind by abandoned schools which act as social and educational focal points of communities.

So although it may not seem like there’s enough reasons to keep the school open, important reasons could be just around the corner…if we can only see how our actions RIGHT NOW, affect how attractive the OEV will be to young families in the future.

The assortment of high rise condos off Dundas on the main thoroughfare, are only as valuable to young families as they are close to school. As a parent, I believe this to be true and have spoken to many families who agree with this sentiment.

People simply don’t want to send their kids off on a bus everyday – at least most people don’t, and certainly not those kinds of people who wish to live in an all-inclusive environment where their children can study and play with the neighbours.

The other concern here regards not just the school, but the deterioration of the neighbourhood, because once you close a school, it’s a tell-tale sign that the neighbourhood is starting to deteriorate in terms of having that social network which connects people to institutions and to each other.

The OEV is an area that’s trying to build on its history and reputation as being a place of tourism and community, and I feel that keeping this school open past it’s current closing date of June 2015, will be a very wise move on the part of the school board.

So there’s a lull right now, and that’s normal: people move away, people move back, things die down, things pick up and we move forward.

But by getting rid of the most fundamental part of a neighbourhood’s infrastructure, we’re not giving change a chance to work for our benefit.

Eventually the school could become known for its academic excellence, it’s role in furthering not only education, but community activities – ESL classes are currently being held there – and friendships; school truly is a second home, and we want to encourage that, not move on when things slow down.

I want to commend those who are committed to revitalizing the area and to Jesse Helmer and Sheryl Rooth for their support for the OEV.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

– Paul

Honour is much more than a salute

Today is Canada’s National Day of Honour. The Department of National Defence says this day presents us with the opportunity to recognize “those who fought, those who fell, and to salute all those who contributed to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.”

I believe that the basis for honouring someone is appreciating them. And I definitely appreciate the sacrifices our young women and men continue to make in the service of Canada.

This is why I want to create a support network for veterans and their families by organizing mental health professionals, students and other volunteers who will help make London a truly veteran-friendly city.

As I’ve stated on my website, one of my initiatives as Ward 4 city councillor will be towards this end: truly honouring our veterans and their loved ones by tending to their psychological wounds which normally require greater effort to heal that the physical ones.

Practically speaking, I want to have veterans, volunteers and mental health professionals be able to meet while vets are waiting for psychotherapeutic consultation with the CF – waiting times can often be a minimum of several weeks and present real danger zones to those suffering from PTSD.

A crisis hotline will also be a key component to this support system.

Students, recent graduates, retirees, and other volunteers will be able to put their knowledge, training and compassion to the service of our veterans as they have so bravely served our democracy both in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

So I want to hear from you – would you be interested in joining this initiative? What are your questions, concerns and ideas for its development?

I think it’s time we united our values and our talents in saluting our vets with the humanity they so duly deserve.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone.

– Paul

Oh, and before I forget, here’s an interesting interview with retired lieutenant-colonel Chris Linford, author of “Warrior Rising: A Soldier’s Journey To PTSD And Back” via Legion Magazine in which he details other obstacles in the way of rehabilitating traumatized soldiers.