The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times

Too many Londoners are facing a host of economic issues such as unemployment, affordable housing and even a lack of basic literacy skills, according to the London Community Foundation’s recently published London Vital Signs Report.

See this Metro News article for more on the connection between literacy, employment opportunities and physical well-being.

Even though I’m not surprised by the report, it is still a bit jarring to see the final product of the bi-annual study which also highlighted a lack of transportation and childcare as barriers to people seeking help once laid off from their job, especially in the manufacturing sector.

The initiatives I am proposing, such as encouraging entrepreneurship and development, will help to free so many Londoners from the economic doldrums they are currently in.

With only two weeks to the election, I think it’s so vital that we reach out and let others know about who the candidates are, and how they may be able to help their wards reach their full potential.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m definitely a big fan of the separation of church and state. Whenever I bring up concepts or analogies between Judaism and political life, I do so only because I find the intersection of faith-based and civic phenomena to be another curious aspect of what it means to be fully human…but I digress…

Apart from my recent canvassing, I’ve been spending most of my time in my sukkah, celebrating the festival of Sukkot, which marks the end of the High Holy Day season in Judaism.

My sukkah - the lights weren't meant to look 'psychedelic'.

My sukkah – the lights weren’t meant to look ‘psychedelic’.

The sukkah, or temporary dwelling, is meant to remind the practitioner of the impermanent nature of life, and that the fabulously wealthy can tomorrow find little more than palm branches above his or her head for shelter.

The sukkah is a reminder of the insecurities we face as human beings; it is not, however, a statement as to how people should live in the first place. And while sitting in my sukkah, I can’t help but think of the approximately 2,300 families who desperately need rent-geared-to income housing; the unemployed who face serious financial and psychological stresses, and everyone else who is looking for a better future in the Forest City.

What I always found interesting about Sukkot, is that it is also considered to be one of the happiest holidays in Judaism. With regard to our own situation, what could be more of an appropriate message: That we can simultaneously experience the joy of progress, growth and even transcendence while still being mindful of the transient nature of life, and the financial and social uncertainties that accompany it.

My hope is that this October 27, Londoners will be overwhelmed with optimism when voting for whom they think can help bring this city to a better place.

As Sukkot wraps up, I am meditating on how the coming two weeks can help determine what happens to our city over the next four years.

My goal is to help carry that optimism into the future and into the challenges and sometimes overwhelming feelings of hopelessness so many Londoners experience.

 

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Bringing Home The Bacon (Or Brisket, As The Case May Be)

Generating productive forms of revenue is always challenging for civic wellness facilitators, a.k.a. politicians – I know it’s a mouthful, but I like that term because it’s more about helping things run smoothly than being in a position of power; I personally feel that “being in charge” and all of the ego-stroking it entails is a mental and moral trap for politicians when they have the opportunity to play a positive role in the lives of countless people and future generations.

There’s no question about how important sustainable sources of income are in providing services, maintaining roads and assisting communities and individuals through programming – hence all of the stress and bickering about how to get these usually limited funds.

Often, politicians take the path of least resistance by increasing taxes – an unpopular and fiscally futile method, especially when tax hikes are focused on one specific group of people.

In the case of Ward 4, I am referring to homeowners, whom my rival, Jesse Helmer has cited as the next target of “economic transference”, as economic-psychoanalysts might call it…I also don’t see a transfer mechanism in place to pass the taxes to renters, whom Mr. Helmer says he wants to help by raising property taxes by 5.37%.

My proposal to deal with limited resources is this: focused employment strategies to help Ward 4 residents and other Londoners bring home that bacon so that our municipality can do the same.

  • Provide modest loans to small businesses and entrepreneurs with sound business plans – these loans will be sourced from the existing tax base, creating a looping mechanism where revenue from these new businesses goes back to the city
  • Retain long-term sources of tax revenue which come from development and the resultant business activity by keeping developers happy – this can be achieved by cutting red tape and other constraints such as long approval times, charges and other factors which are burdensome and ineffective
  • Advocate for more provincial funds and user fees which can help keep taxes lower
  • Assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses will jump-start the current unemployment lull and generate more income for the city without having to raise taxes

Employment is really the key here, because it helps sustain and maximize our tax base. Therefore, my focus will be on employment issues rather than higher property tax schemes and the like.

 

Volunteer Opportunities

I’d love to meet some new faces this Sunday, October 5, and have some fun putting up signs and enjoying the refreshing autumn weather together with those who want to improve Ward 4.

I’ve got a few volunteers who’ve generously donated their time and effort to helping me put these elections signs out.

sign

 

Please let me know if you have any questions about my campaign, or would like to join me in helping the ward achieve its true potential!

– Paul

519-872-0218, vote4vision@bell.net

 

 

 

London Yodeller Interview

Earlier this month – September 11, to be exact – The London Yodeller published an interview with yours truly.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to make more people aware of how I intend to make Ward 4 a better place to live.

Big thanks to Mary Lou Ambrogio – what would London do without this intrepid advocate for freedom and true social justice?!

The interview can be found on page 8.

– Paul

Heads Up

Over the last few days, I had some time between eating, praying and sleeping to reflect on the meaning of the Jewish New Year, which in Hebrew is called “The Head of the Year” and its connection to my run for Ward 4 city councillor.

What really caught my attention and got me thinking about life and the choices we make, was the stirring Hebrew liturgical poem Unetanneh Tokef, recited each of the two days of Rosh Hashanah and again on Yom Kippur.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the more well-known parts of it:

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by upheaval, who by plague, who by strangling, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But Repentance, Prayer, and Charity avert the severe Decree!”

Here’s an old-school cantorial rendition of this part of the poem which is the inspiration behind Leonard Cohen’s Who by Fire:

The religious message of the prayer means a lot to me – it probably doesn’t for many people in the ward, although I’d like to know what you think about its content. That being said, I believe there’s a secular value to this prayer which corresponds to our upcoming election.

Please bare with me while I preach politics for the next few lines…

Repentance, according to Judaism, has three main components: 1) Recognizing what one has done through regretting the behaviour 2) Resolving not to do the behaviour again through aspiring to accomplish positive goals 3) Actually doing the positive behaviour and not doing the negative behaviour when presented with the same situation which the person first stumbled in.

For Londoners, as for many people living in democracies, the last step is the most significant because it applies to voting, i.e. actually changing the negative behaviour rooted in apathy, and perhaps, dare I say, a sense of fatalism.

I think we all recognize how dismal voter participation has been in the past; it’s time that changed. Now we have the chance to do just that.

So “repentance” as mentioned in the poem would be getting out there and making your voice heard, standing up for what you believe in and changing not just the year ahead, but the foreseeable future. In digital terms, four years amount to generations of operating systems and radical changes in the ways humans relate to each other and the physical environment.

This election is definitely more than just another merry go-round for democracy.

“Prayer” can be said to correspond to the messages of hope and hopelessness we express to ourselves and to those around us when it comes to our elected officials and the state of Ward 4 and the city in general. Once again, positive “prayers” i.e. intentions, can help set the stage for greater voter turnout and a city council which reflects what the real majority decides.

“Charity” is given when people volunteer to help those they believe can make our collective home a better place.

My own personal prayer is that we can look past the issues that slowed down progress and move forward with a much clearer vision of how employment and other important issues can be resolved.

Happy New Year!

– Paul

 

 

 

The World’s Oldest Oppression

Today’s show contains content of a sensitive nature. I do not recommend this program for children or those who have difficulty listening to true stories dealing with violence and sex slavery.

You are going to hear testimony from someone l and countless others regard as a true spiritual warrior.

This person has endured unimaginable suffering, a living hell which many people continue to experience as a way of life, called prostitution.

We mourn for the victims of the world’s oldest oppression.

And in this vein, this podcast will not contain any music.

Listener discretion is advised.

Katarina MacLeod: A True Spiritual Warrior

Open For Business

Normally, I like to introduce a topic when I start a blog post.

Sometimes I’ll use a quote, or provide some history to bring everyone up to speed.

But when talking about unemployment in London, we’re all unfortunately too familiar with the history, current realities and seemingly uncertain future.

A recent Forum Poll suggests that finding and keeping a job is pretty much the number one issue that London voters are concerned with – another major issue is the city’s growth, which is connected to the jobs issue.

London is slowly recovering from the 2008-2009 economic crash, but we still have yet to restore the estimated 27,000 lost jobs.

So yes, we’ve all heard the bad news…

Now what, exactly, is the good news?

Here’s what I propose: let’s work with our available tools to facilitate employment growth by cutting the existing red tape that inhibits new businesses from getting off the ground.

  • Let’s work with business owners and make it easier for them to get permits by shortening long process times. If someone has a business plan, they’d like to implement it right away, not five years from now. I know there’s been lots of frustration along these lines.
  • Development charges have been lowered but they’re still too high. The city should opt to waive them for first time developers. And if that same developer wants to do more, implement a reasonable increase to help generate municipal revenue. We want to keep developers and others involved in the process happy; once they are able to conduct their project without feeling overly-burdened, the city’s reputation as a viable development centre will spread and bring more potential customers.
  • Jump-start the current unemployment lull by giving small business loans to entrepreneurs with a sound business plan.  We need to remember that two-thirds of the private sector generates employment opportunities at the local level. I think it’s really important to not waste this opportunity by allowing the brain drain from Western and Fanshawe to continue, simply because certain people on council fail to have the vision necessary for economic progress.
  • A blog post about two students who received awards and university scholarships at a prestigious science fair is the most basic example of the type of ingenuity that needs support, even in its infancy – it’s never too early to invest in future start-up stars but always too late to reclaim them once they’re gone.

As a person involved in business in Southwestern Ontario, I know that if I don’t hustle to get more customers and sales, my companies ROI (return on investment) will be little or none at all. A city the size of London can’t afford that scenario on any scale or the impact will be felt on a wider level. The closing of GM Diesel and other sites were tell tale signs that jobs were simply not going to fall from the sky, and that every good thing must be sustained through effort and ingenuity in order to continue.

And while the city can’t create jobs, it can certainly relinquish its bullish restrictions and have a positive impact in jump-starting employment opportunities.

We need an open arms approach to anyone willing to set up shop in London; this hasn’t been the case until now.

If you remember, former Mayor Joe Fontana vowed to bring 10,000 jobs to London – a promise that neither he, nor his former lackey, Ward 4 incumbent Stephen Orser have ever, nor will ever follow through on.

Our first and foremost goal is to elect a new council. In a new environment, and with the tools that are granted to me, I will do everything in my power to nurture and grow business in Ward 4 and in the rest of our collective home that is London.