Regain control of city affairs: Henderson (column)
London Community News
Shortly after his surprising victory in last October’s civic election, Dale Henderson was famously quoted as saying the workload was far heavier than he expected.
That hasn’t changed in the months since; he still finds the piles of reading for committee and council meetings among the worst parts of the job.
“I’m in there as a change agent,” he says, describing why he wanted to serve as councillor for Byron’s Ward 9 even though he actually lives outside London in Thorndale. “I’m not in there as a politician. You’ve got to be up for it, you’ve got to have the time. If you initiate something to change something, now you’ve got double the work. You really have a full-time job coming at you.”
A computer engineer for 35 years and current owner of the London Music Hall — he renovated the former Imax Theatre at the Western Fair District to create it — Mr. Henderson says his bias on city council is toward business.
He ran, he says, because he felt city council was broken. “To me they had a bubble over it. They spent money as they wished. Business was on the outside and the city didn’t understand how to create business.”
And while the situation, in his view, isn’t completely fixed, “we are making progress. We’ve knocked money out of the administration budget. People are being switched around, being retired. Now we’re looking at systems. I’m asking serious questions about engineering and how it’s financed – I don’t think that’s been done before.”
His personal campaign is for the city to create what he calls an enterprise zone — an industrial and commercial development area where taxes and development charges are low — that would run like a business and wouldn’t even necessarily be owned by the city; it would pay to put in its own services instead of the city financing this and waiting years to get it money back.
Attracting new business to London in the future, Mr. Henderson says, “requires off-the-wall thinking. Look around the world. There are new games out there. These times are different times. You’ve got to be out of the box to play this game.”
The toughest decision ahead for city council, he believes, is regaining control of its affairs.
“We’re charged as a council to run the city, but half of the city is being run by others with our money.” The various boards and commissions — from London Transit to Tourism London, London Public Library and Museum London, to name only a few — have been granted considerable autonomy in setting budgets, paying personnel and establishing policies.
“City council, if they are to be the control, has got to be the point of last discussion. We need a mechanism to ensure all the (boards and commissions) are kept within the policies of council.”
Expect a big fight if Mr. Henderson is successful in bringing a majority of council around to his point of view.
And as for all that paperwork?
“A lot of it is going to disappear,” the rookie councillor says. “We’re going more and more to computers, a more efficient system. Mind you, that could be an issue if everything is on the computer unless you’re a computer whiz.”
Philip McLeod is a longtime London journalist who writes a regular blog on civic affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.