Menno Meijer

Phone: 519-280-5712 • Email: menno@mennomeijer.ca

LETTER TO MY WARD 11 NEIGHBOURS

Menno Meijer

I grew up in Manor and Highland park, attended Manor and Highland Park public school (recently demolished), Woodland Heights Public School, and Westminster Secondary School. I Worked as a lifeguard at Thames Pool and had friends throughout Ward 11. This is my home.

I have been a soldier with the Canadian Armed Forces (10 Years), a log home builder, a civilian medic in British Columbia’s north, a volunteer firefighter & training officer, I have farmed on a hog and dairy operation in the Okanagan Valley, and spent many years in the newspaper industry as a photojournalist. I have been an independent photojournalist working on social documentaries in Canada and Eastern Europe. I was a teaching assistant at King’s at Western for many years.

Ten years ago I moved with my new family back to my old neighbourhood in Manor and Highland Park next to the Coves, a place I spent much of my youth playing with friends and later walking through to re-centre myself. I wish to see this preserved as a natural heritage area.

I hold a BA in Social Justice and Peace Studies from King’s University College and an MA in Political Science from Western. I currently drive for Robert Q Airbus and I am a reservist with Christian Peacemaker Teams with whom I have extensive training in unarmed civilian peacekeeping.

The greatest change in London I have seen, since my youth, has been the creation of the trail system along the Thames River making it possible to cycle from Byron to downtown, the university and other parts east without ever having to cross a road. Further development of this system to include dedicated, well maintained bicycle paths throughout the city is a goal on which I believe we must continue to build. I would like to see safe cycling paths connecting all our communities.

In Ward 11 we have several distinct communities. Wortley Village, Old South, Manor and Highland Park, Kensal Park, Southcrest, Berkshire, and the Coves area. A less positive change I have seen in Ward 11, with the exception of Wortley Village, is the disappearance of services and amenities, such as grocery stores, hardware stores, and cafes, to name a few, that are within walking distance of our homes. I often find myself having to drive to go to a store to buy an item which in the past was locally available, including fresh vegetables, milk, hardware, and even banking services. I do not believe the big box stores and continually pushing merchants to the outskirts of the city is a positive development. It means too many cars on the road, too much money being spent on infrastructure for cars, and plain ugly, treeless traffic corridors. I would like to see development change to a community focus. We are after all several communities in one city. I have seen European style of communities growing in other cities in Canada. Communities where all necessary amenities are within walking distance of the home. Where trees line the streets and pathways are established making walking and cycling off the road a pleasure and safe where there are roads. Combining this vision with an enhanced public transportation system linking these communities is the way forward, I believe, to make this City attractive and liveable. Each community needs a centre, and every community must be connected to their neighbours.

Each community must have a voice at council. I propose to use my councillor discretionary funds to help each Ward 11 community establish a regular general meeting to discuss neighbourhood concerns and goals. I will attend these meeting to listen. I believe each community must have a greater say in how development and changes occur from building new housing to how long the wading pool stays open. I will bring these concerns and goals with me to council where appropriate, and to City staff when it does not require a political solution. I will be a strong advocate for citizens, without whom, there would be no city.

While I believe large industries have a place in London, I do not see them as the great saviour of London. When a corporation makes a decision to move away from London, the impact is immediate and devastating to many citizens. While London currently makes great efforts to attract these businesses, by subsidizing transportation corridors and infrastructure, there is very little support or focus on encouraging London’s entrepreneurs to establish small businesses. Local business persons have a stake in the community and the revenue generated from these businesses is proven to create more jobs. Local business owners are also most likely to use a portion of their profits to support local initiatives and projects that enhance the communities in which they live. All of this generates its own economy and creates even more local jobs. I believe London should make greater efforts to remove obstacles for small business and invest in creating the space for them to flourish.

London has a vast hidden community of poor, either jobless or working poor. Part of the solution is for the City to become a leader in ensuring living wages are paid to those who serve the City. For example, the city contracts out much of its services. The companies that provide the personnel for these positions often pay poverty wages (below $15.53/hr.) often paying workers only minimum wage. The City must take a proactive stance to ensure, if contracting must be carried out, that the workers are at least being paid a living wage. There is no net benefit to the City when workers live in poverty. It, in fact, creates greater costs in subsidized housing, social problems, policing, healthcare and social services.

There have in the past been many initiatives to have Londoners participate in creating a plan for the City. We must give these ideas more than a nod at council. Council must act to ensure the vision of the citizens of London via the London Plan are carried out.

We all want liveable communities. No one knows how achieve that better than the people living in those communities.

My main goal is to listen and be your voice on council.

PLATFORM

Poverty

The greatest challenge facing London is poverty. Jobless and working poor citizens are our neighbours. London is a wealthy city. We have the resources to address poverty. Addressing poverty will reduce the stress on our social services, policing, and health care services, all of which cost us more in the long term both financially and socially. Housing homeless persons and giving those citizens access to the resources necessary for a healthy diet will start the process of dignified independence. The City can, and should, take a leading role in addressing poverty wages (those below $15.53 / hr.) by ensuring contractors who provide services to the city pay no less than $16/hr to their employees. There is no net gain for the City paying poverty wages. It costs more in the long run both financially and socially.

Employment

Large corporations do have an impact on employment in London. However, when they pull out of the City as Electo-Motive Diesel and Kellogg’s, they leave a large hole in our economy and increase the rate of poverty in London adding stresses on our social services and on NGOs such as the food bank. Small business is proven to create more jobs than large businesses. London has a great wealth of highly intelligent, creative, and motivated people many of whom are ready to put their talents to work. When there are no jobs, they have the ability to create work for themselves and as their businesses grow, to provide employment to other Londoners. London must focus its efforts on creating the infrastructure to allow entrepreneurs to start new business while simplifying the registration process and reducing start-up fees. Local business owners are more likely to invest in our City and communities.

The London Plan

The London Plan is our official plan developed with input of the citizens of London. We must ensure we make every effort to realize the goals of this plan, especially in regards to transportation and communities. Ward 11 is home to the communities of Wortley Village, Old South, Manor & Highland Park, Kensal Park, Southcrest, Berkshire Village, and The Coves. Each of these communities have a stake in how the London Plan is developed and how it will affect their community. Each of these communities deserves a voice in decisions made that affect them directly from land use to wading pool schedules. Revitalizing our communities with community centres, local services within walking distance, and effective public transportation, and safe bicycle and walking paths will help regenerate community cohesiveness and livability.

Arts and Recreation

Arts are the expression of our social conscience. They are our voices and provide us with means of expression, communication and historical perspective that make us who we are. The arts are simply necessary for the growth of society and the comfort of community. London must make every effort to support the arts to inspire us and to make our City our home.

Recreation is another cornerstone of a wealthy life. One does not have to be rich to enjoy this wealth. It is incumbent on the City to ensure full access to recreational activities for all its citizens regardless of income.

Arts and recreation are fundamental to the health, wellbeing, and wealth of our community.

Natural Spaces

Ward 11 is home to The Coves. When I step into The Coves I am immediately immersed in green space and the City melts away. Blue Heron, Red Tailed Hawks, Deer, Snapping Turtles, fox, and a long list of other flora and fauna are at our doorstep. Natural spaces are ecologically important and psychologically imperative to our wellbeing. The City must make every effort to preserve this space in its natural state while access is ensured for citizens who wish to enjoy the wealth of our natural heritage.

Public Services

Without people there is no city, just bricks and mortar. We are the the City of London. We provide ourselves with necessary services such as policing, firefighting, healthcare, water, hydro and social services. Essential services must not be seen as an opportunity for fiscal gain, rather they should be regarded as fundamental to our existence. We must keep our public services in our hands and under our control so every person living in London has the same level of service and access to the necessities of life.

We are not clients of the City of London. We are the Citizens who are the City of London. Let us stand together and reclaim our identity as people. Let us stand together and build our communities the way we envision they should be.