It is a pleasure to speak to you about the state of Heritage and preservation of important architectural structures in London. I compliment Heritage London Foundation and the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, London Branch for organizing this Meeting and for their contribution in protecting heritage here in London. I am a candidate in Ward 9, Byron and Lambeth, where I have lived for 46 years.
I have been asked to answer three questions. What personal experience, interest and commitment do I have in preserving heritage in London or elsewhere.
I have a B.A. in History and have studied Ontario, Canadian and American history. When I go on holidays, I generally visit historical sites like Williamsburg, Virginia and the St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest City in the US -- one of my favorite tourist destinations. I have been there about six times. I was an active member of the Urban League (1998-2000). I also served on the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, the parent organization for Fanshawe Pioneer Village, and I strongly supported the Pioneer Village. When I served on London City Council 2000-2003 I was a strong supporter of the preserving heritage. I worked to help save the Georgian Style Salt Box house on Halls Mills and I voted against the demolition of "Mooney Gibson's house" on 252 Central. Shortly after I was elected to City Council I distributed articles on Richard Florida's "Bohemian Index" to the City staff and to my fellow councillors. Richard Florida's studies showed a clear link between support for the arts, culture, and diversity and heritage to a City's economic success. To prosper in the "new ecomony" you need to attract and retain the best and the brightest. Cities that were high on the "Bohemian Index" and had a thriving arts and cultural community tended to prosper. Investing in your arts and cultural community and protecting heritage is a wise economic move.
Protecting heritage adds to the cultural attractiveness of London. This is an important part of making London a "Creative City."
Has the Current Council, adequately supported heritage preservation in the City of London? The short answer is no. We have lost many significant heritage sites and missed the opportunity to preserve other heritage sites and incorporate them in the City that respects heritage. We lost the Sir Adam Beck house, Grace Hospital, The Talbot Street Scape, now possibly the Library. The recent passage of a plan to allow a property tax rebate for heritage properties and the heritage Community plan was long overdue. The City needs to do better and ensure that the Library on Queens Ave is protected and preserved and incorporated into a building that respects heritage and the local community.
The Revised Question Three. I think we need to follow our Bylaws, our Official Plan and the law and spirit set out in The Ontario Heritage Act. We also need to enforce our Property Standards bylaws to ensure that heritage properties are properly maintained and not allowed to deteriorate.
There is much room for improvement. There is a need for more municipal government support for preserving heritage and a better recognition of the economic benefit the City receives from heritage. We also need to go aggressively after federal and provincial funding for our museums and to protect and enhance our heritage properties. We need to harness these activities to add to the quality of life in London and to generate economic prosperity.
I will continue to be a strong supporter of preserving heritage where possible and economically feasible, because I know it adds to the quality of life in our community, and as Richard Florida has shown, it is a smart economic investment.