Take part in ReThink London Saturday (column)
London Community News
ReThink London, the year-long process during which we get to tell planners what kind of place we want the Forest City to become, hits full stride this Saturday morning.
At 8:30 a.m. and again at 11:30 a.m., workshop sessions will be held at the Convention Centre when anyone can help develop, define and prioritize a 20-year vision for London along five dimensions — the way we live, grow, prosper, move around and think green.
Admission is free; pre-registration at ReThinkLondon.ca is recommended.
Described by John Fleming, the planning director, as “a conversation with the community,” the ReThink London process ultimately will lead to an updated Official Plan, a document city council must pass and the province must approve that will guide how and where the city will grow between now and the 2030s.
Last week a three-hour briefing session was held for early registrants. It essentially boiled down to a series of provocative questions that really every citizen of London should think about.
The reward for developing smart answers and an intelligent blueprint for our future will be a city that attracts and keeps young people in well-paying, future oriented jobs; that protects its heritage while embracing new technology and better ways of doing things; that lives light on the land and makes efficient use of precious resources.
The best way to predict the future is to create it, wisely said Abraham Lincoln. And that, ultimately, is the whole point of ReThink London. So, thinking caps on.
• How do we grow the city and protect the things that are important – like old schools, church buildings and public spaces? Schools often provide community gathering space and playgrounds in establishment neighbourhoods, both often lost when the kids grow up. Must outdated funding models and inefficient or unimaginative design models always trump history and heritage?
• If it’s easier for a company to move to Toronto than attract good workers to London, how are we going to sustain our community? Recent studies suggest many of today’s young people plan to live differently than their parents, less likely to settle in sprawling suburbs far from city centre. They will use cars less and public transit or more personal transport forms more. Technology will be important, but so will unique social experiences. What kind of community helps attract and retain young people?
• What things do other communities do that we can adopt or emulate? We don’t have to dream up every great idea. We can – and should – borrow from other communities.
• Does growth always mean getting physically bigger? That may be the most critical question, clearly the one on which there is likely to be significant disagreement among the public, and between the public and city council’s majority. This is where creative ideas about repurposing old buildings or reusing so-called brownfield land will be critical.
• When the people have decided something, should city council have the right to overturn it without consultation? This is the ultimate question.
Council is not obliged to accept any, or all, of the final document. However, there are two mitigating pressures. Provincial government approval is largely contingent on showing wide-spread citizen engagement and support. And in less than a year after the final document is tabled, there is a civic election.
Philip McLeod is a longtime London journalist who writes a regular blog on civic affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com.