• Sean M. O'Connell

London doesn't want success


Have to showcase our strength

I took a break from the shenanigans with City Hall over the summer. Frankly, I am disappointed and disgusted with the way the city has conducted itself as of late. Let me touch upon some on-going issues.


Transit:


On Aug 23, 2019, the federal government announced the amount of funding for BRT at $123 million, relating to 10 parts of the proposed plan. In case you may have forgotten, London was originally asking for 200 million (123 million received) in funding from the federal government, $170 million (103 million received) from the province and the city would have chipped in $130 million. BRT, before the bungled approach of London's city council (who essentially tinkered with the plan in an attempt to kill it) was to cost $500 million. After all the conservative bullshit excuses, Phil Squire, Shawn Lewis, Paul Van Meerbergen, Michael van Holst, Steven Lehman, and Steve Hillier and Mayor Holder cost the city $144 million in transit money. Think about that for a moment.


I spoke on two occasions last year and told these council members directly not to forfeit our golden opportunity in regards to transit. We literally were to receive 'free' money. Instead they didn't listen, Squire went running to Jeff Yurek, then Minister of Transportation to say we could use the funding for other things and in reality we were stiffed with 67$ million less. Naturally, this was because we watered down the BRT plan. To add insult to injury, the city's portion of the BRT has increased an extra $18 million from 130 to $148 million for half a transit plan.


On August 29th, the transit commission asked for an increase of 20% in funding from the city coffers and the cost of user trips will likely increase. As a transit user, trust me, I cannot afford an increase. When I ran for the mayor last year, I feared these outcomes. It doesn't help either that the province is trying to cut off every municipality at the knees. The gas tax increase has been nixed, and Doug Ford's other cuts are digging in.


I really hope in the next election, residents finally wake up and realise these conservative-minded councillors ultimately cost London money and need to be tossed. Due to their ineptitude, council cannot continue to function effectively. We deserve better than mediocre backward-thinking councillors.


Hiring Practices:


I spoke with city hall in July to get some traction with my applications or rather to gain insight on why there wasn't any traction. The treatment I received from management was unprofessional. Let me highlight some facts. In July (2019) the city had received over 50,000 applications. Provided most of the applications are from Londoners that means potentially, a quarter of the working population in the city applied for a job there. That is a staggering amount for any Human Resources department to manage. Similarly most positions receive an average 300-500 applications. Clearly there will be many who are turned away due to volume alone.


However that isn't where the problem resides. It resides in the fact that the hiring system is essentially rigged in the favour of union members. City hall is an 80% unionised environment. Not to mention the city practices, such as seniority, are straight out of the 1980's. The union also stipulates what criterion are specified on job adverts, then claiming it to be the 'rules'. Many jobs that I see advertised ask for higher specifications than are necessary for the actual role. Union members also get first dibs on any job offer a full 10 days before any other non-union candidate receives notice. Hence, this is why the countless jobs I have applied for are interviewed and filled in the span of a week without any notice. (I continue to follow through on applications as its best practice.) In reality, normal hiring practices aren't that quick. (I used to work in HR) It takes usually about a month to sift applications, arrange interviews, evaluate and then make offers. Assuming the person still wants the job or there isn't another conflict.


There is another thorny issue where it is assumed that (unless one is a career specialist in a field) applicants should start at temporary work and move into full time (when a qualifying post is available). The notion, that once one has their 'foot in the door' of an institution, one can move up. In reality that doesn't hold true. One generally applies for full time work because they are capable of it. They shouldn't be told that full time work is too much to reach for.


The other critical point is that one must score with the applications questions 80% or higher in order to qualify for review/interview. Normally this isn't an issue as other institutions do similar evaluations. However, most of the questions are based on how long a person has done a particular qualification, for example, how many years of customer service, etc. Meaning unless you have the maximum amount of required experience you won't score high enough on their evaluation. In short, it is another way to dismiss potential candidates in favour of union members. Union members who already set the criterion for a job and have a career to fulfil the requirement. City Hall is essentially a public organisation that thinks itself as a private company. It isn't, and it is in need of serious reform. One only needs to look at the repeated instances of harassment, micromanagement, targeting, bullying and retaliation. A culture of entitlement allows this to persist.


New builds?


There are many empty buildings downtown, usually with one name attached to the side of the them, Shmuel Farhi. My immediate thought when I moved back into London was that no one should be allowed to own that much property. (I cannot emphasise this enough) My second thought was how much wealth was being laundered into Canada without someone being wise to it? I've seen this before. It is a classic move, buy property to avoid improprieties and look legitimate. I had the unfortunate experience of having him sit next to me at a town hall a few years ago. It was remarkable how he assumed he has influence over council because of his properties.


The crux of him being in London is obvious. He is an obstacle to new projects in the downtown core. One would think with so much property that it would be utilised to great effect. Instead the core looks like a shell of what used to be, like a garden with too many weeds spouting. Competition spurs growth, it is a key component to any society. However, when London continues to allow individuals to acquire more property or power disproportionately it disrupts the fabric of a city. McDonald's restaurant, Rexall, and RBC are just to name a few businesses that are now leaving/left the downtown core. There are obvious reasons, such as higher rents, temporary construction, less foot traffic and businesses etc. It is a recipe for disaster.


London has to do more and really focus on revitalising our city. There are too many ongoing problems that don't appear to be addressed without adequate funding, ingenuity, the removal of obstacles and sheer determination to resolve these issues. In sum, power cannot be concentrated in the hands of the few. Our residents need the best infrastructure to be mobile and our public institution must be flexible and open to hire talented and passionate individuals.