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London Local Mythbusters Report

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London Local Mythbusters Report

  1. 1. London Local Mythbusters A Report on Local Citizen Perceptions Prepared for Robert T. Anderson, Board President Amir Farahi, Executive Director Arthur Gonzales, Chief Research Officer London Institute for Public Policy Prepared by Alana Cameron Benjamin Charlebois Moses Monterroza December 13, 2015
  2. 2. i Executive Summary This investigative paper was commissioned to study public opinion with regards to the economy, local politics, academic institutions, technology, environmental issues and sociocultural factors. The informal investigation sought from residents normative statements pertaining to the above aspects and then conducted literature reviews to determine the accuracy of those statements, and thus the accuracy of the public’s perception of the matter. Highlighted within this report are three concerns which were well-represented in surveys with Londoners. Concerning the environment, survey respondents believed that London’s recycling options were dated and not comprehensive enough, compared to other cities of various sizes. Guelph and Toronto were mentioned more than any others. Upon review it was confirmed that London’s recycling system was inefficient, particularly with regards to splitting of recycled items which is not done in nearby Guelph and Waterloo. However, while complaints were made regarding London’s lack of compost options, the costs incurred upon other cities who do have composting initiatives have been substantial enough to justify London’s previously documented reluctance. One of the primary economic concerns of Londoners was a perceived lack of youth jobs. Upon review of relevant statistics it was confirmed that London is among the worst in the province for unemployment among youth aged 15 to 24. It is unclear, however, whether Londoners are generating these perceptions based upon legitimate observations, or simply projections based on the conversations at the provincial or national level. Lastly, interviewees expressed disinterest in the city’s downtown core, stating concerns with the aesthetics and cleanliness of downtown. Londoners similarly believed that there was very little to do downtown, and many admitted that this perception resulted from their perception of the core’s aesthetics. Upon review, it would appear that London’s core is lacking in investment particularly with development and upkeep. However, numerous initiatives to improve the city’s core are currently in place and have been for some years.
  3. 3. ii Table of Contents Executive Summary…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. i Methodology………………………………………………………………………………………………………………....... 1 Opinions on the Environment……………………………………………………………………………………………. 1 Is Recycling Up to Par?............................................................................................... 1 The Feasibility of Composting………………………………………………………………………………… 2 Opinions on Culture………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3 Millennial Engagement in London…………………….…………………………………………………… 3 What is there to Do Here?................................……………………………………………………… 4 Opinions on the Economy…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 5 Concluding Remarks………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 6 Works Cited………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 7
  4. 4. 1 Methodology The data in this study are based on interviews conducted in several regions across London. In an effort to cover the diverse perceptions across London we surveyed the north, south, west, and east ends of the city. We interviewed families and individuals belonging to various quintiles and ethnicities. Structurally, we coded the data by extracting overarching themes from each interview and categorized them accordingly. Once compiled, we collectively decided which themes appeared most often and found that environmental, economic, academic, and sociocultural topics were referenced the most. We then researched the existing grey literature in regards to the aforementioned topics, and dispelled myths purported by the interviewees; we also confirmed any truths mentioned in the interviews. Opinions on the Environment “The requirement of splitting recycling in London is outdated. Failure to properly split your recycling results in a heavy fine that is unwarranted and unreasonable. Other cities have taken on the one blue bin recycling program, green composting bin program, and throw out less.” As seen clearly in interviews, any questions pertaining to the environment and waste disposal in London ignited negative responses from the participants. A clear trend in the participant responses was Londoner’s dissatisfaction with London keeping up to date with environmental development including single bin recycling, composting options, and less waste. Is Recycling Up to Par? After a review of the recycling and garbage page on the official London website, the Londoner’s dislike of their recycling and garbage programs seems warranted. The splitting of recycling in London is not an easy task to perform for the average citizen. The splitting system consists of the containers blue box and the paper blue box. While this system might appear simple, the materials that go in each box do not necessarily align with the name of the blue box. Many paper products with lamination such as paper cups, cardboard cans, and juice/milk containers are to be put in the containers blue bin which can become confusing quite fast (Curbside Recycling). However, many other paper products with lamination like magazines and catalogues are to be put in the papers blue box (Curbside Recycling). Paper products such as construction
  5. 5. 2 paper and dark-coloured paper are not to be recycled but thrown in the garbage (Curbside Recycling). Due to the lack of items that can be recycled such a batteries and coat hangers (Curbside Recycling), garbage collection in London is a heavy task and has resulted in an overabundance of waste dumping in London. Therefore the splitting causes confusion, and much effort to complete properly. Due to the time commitment needed to spilt and the confusion of splitting to many Londoners, the task of splitting much of the time is completed improperly. The result is a yearly fine that is usually just over $200.00 (Curbside Recycling). The website does show development in the recycling program to allow for more items in the blue bins including paper cups, ice cream tubs, and rigid plastic packaging (Curbside Recycling). However, many of the respondents were more concerned about an updated blue box program that had one blue box rather than a recycling program that included more recyclable items. The mass amounts of waste collection are frustrating Londoners due to a growing public concern of the environment. The Feasibility of Composting All respondents compared London to other cities including Toronto, Guelph, and Waterloo in desiring of London’s lack of green bin capacity. Toronto was an unreasonable comparison due its larger size, bigger population, more equipped economic abilities, and faster development. Guelph and Waterloo are more feasible comparisons. After reviewing two newspaper articles, Londoners’ expectations of a green bin program being developed might not be too reasonable. Both residents of Waterloo and Guelph have had considerable tax increases, composting facilities are underused, and much more money is being spent on the program than expected (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). Waterloo taxpayers pay $654 annually to fund the compost program; a 30% increase since the implementation of the program, and these cost increases are likely to increase over the next 20 years (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). Many government officials have questioned whether the green box program was worth it due to the fact that only one year of landfill is saved (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). The green box program was also introduced in Guelph in 1996 costing $40,000.00 but failed significantly and was shut down in 2006 (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). The program was revived a few years later at a cost of $32 million (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). The increase of taxes has affected Guelph residents and will continue to into the future. There composting system is greatly underused and has resulted in no revenue from the program (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). Both cities acknowledge that composting is an important responsibility to environmental protection but admit that the green box program has hurt their cities financially and has come into question for its usefulness regularly
  6. 6. 3 (Green Bin Costs Soar: Are They Worth It?). London’s choice to not participate in the green bin program was a smart decision to avoid economic hardships in its government and for its citizens. Opinions on Culture “The downtown region is underdeveloped and aesthetically displeasing. There’s nothing happening here.” In regards to the socio-cultural aspects of London, many of the interviewees believed the cultural scene to be lacking in variety and eclecticism. As a whole, many interviewees believed that London has developed little economically and as a result the downtown center has suffered greatly. The general aesthetic of the downtown area - stores, buildings, infrastructure, and roads - are run-down and poorly kept. The stores that do open up in the city core are not family friendly; there are too many clubs, weed shops, empty buildings, and undesirable looking places. On average, Londoners were dismayed specifically by the Dundas and Richmond area; for the most part, we were told that that specific region harbours undesirable characters and is dangerous during the night time. Aside from the “regular” attractions - the Grand Theatre, Budweiser Gardens - there simply was not enough to do in London according to the interviewees. Many believed that what London needs is a revitalization of the downtown core to make it more of an attraction for the diverse London population. This diverse population includes families, professionals, and the millennial population. Right now, it is believed that the downtown region only attracts the lower income demographic. Millennial Engagement in London In general, the myths surrounding London’s culture revolves around the appearance of city and its propensity to accommodate its diverse populations. While it is true that London, as of right now, is aesthetically displeasing, it is not entirely true that London lacks events and cultural expression. For one, London houses a thriving arts scene amongst the millennial demographic. The media publication LondonFuse is a good example of this; It works to consolidate the many arts projects - be it music, visual arts, or media - into a format that encourages participation from the public. By allowing for any group to post their events and publicize their art, LondonFuse bolsters the arts scene by providing a platform for local artists. In conjunction with the post-secondary institutions and their multiple arts programs, LondonFuse is a great representation of the real thriving arts scene in London.
  7. 7. 4 What is there to Do Here? London is no Toronto in terms of its output of cultural expression, however, it still holds up in terms of its family friendly events. Aside from the Grande Theatre, there is also Original Kids, Palace Theatre, and the Arts Project in terms of theatre.. The London Convention Centre also provides annual events such as Jeans ‘n Classics that attempts to appeal to younger age groups with concerts and rock shows (London Convention Center). Just recently, it also hosted London’s second Comicon which attracted over 5,000 participants (Forest City Comicon). The food culture, an aspect of London that was highly criticized, is fairly eclectic with Latin American food cuisines (Su Casa, Casa Blanca, Che Resto Bar, Lo Nuestro Latin Restaurant), Asian Food restaurants (Take Sushi, Dragon Boat Chinese Food, Green Tea Asian Cuisine, Mandarin), Middle Eastern Restaurants (Paramount Fine Foods, Barakat Restaurant, Dooly’s Shawarma & Falafel), of those listed there are far more as well. There are also small shops such as The Early Bird where the general atmosphere is unique and friendly. In terms of London’s future plan, there have been plans and efforts proposed by the city council. This includes “Our Move Forward: London’s Downtown Plan.” This 77 page document includes transformational projects with efforts to reduce gridlock, congestion, and to make the downtown area more aesthetically appealing. The project “aims to build on the success of Richmond Street, north of Queens Avenue, and create a stronger link between commercial activities along Dundas Street and those on Richmond Street” (1-2). It seeks to improve the transit system and create a hub for cultural development. Along with this plan there is also My Dundas, which is a “creative community discussion led by the City of London about transforming Dundas street…[into] the most exciting street and unique destination in London” (1-2). While these projects are incredibly ambitious and somewhat unfeasible, it is still an example of London’s desire to move into a progressive direction - the city is not necessarily static and moving without direction. There are initiative being put in place to try and transform the city into a cultural hub. In conclusion, the socio-cultural perceptions of London are largely based on the way the city looks, rather than what it actually has to offer. Based on the interviews we conducted, it is suggested that London increase its efforts solely on the revitalization of the downtown core. While that is easier said than done, a revitalization will attract business and further develop the cultural.
  8. 8. 5 Opinions on the Economy “There aren’t enough jobs for youth in London.” One common theme in these surveys was an appreciation of the post-secondary institutions we have here in London, namely the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College. London is the fifth largest metropolitan area in Ontario, after Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and Kitchener. While all of these cities boast at least one major post-secondary institution, Londoners perceive their city to be the largest in Southwestern Ontario which is distinctly independent of the Greater Toronto Area, and thus there is a greater expectation that London should be able to make use of the talent and expertise generated here. The notion that London is not adequately retaining talent was commonly represented in this survey. Some respondents felt that London was not engaging youth and students while they were here, thereby reducing their chances of developing roots and relationships that might keep them in the city, while others felt that London’s failures were predominantly its inability to provide jobs for recent graduates. In either case it would appear that a review of the youth employment metrics of London and other Ontario cities would be prudent in determining whether or not this perception was valid. According to a report commissioned by the City of London, London’s unemployment rate in 2014 was 7.6%, slightly higher than the provincial average of 7.3% (London Community Economic Roadmap – Technical Report). Unemployment for youth aged 15 to 24 in London was more than double, at 15.7%, which was the third highest in the province after Windsor (16.5%) and Kingston (16.0%) (Technical Report). The report suggests that high youth unemployment is explained by a skills gap between the local labour force and the needs of employers (Technical Report). London’s post-secondary institutions should reasonably be able to provide labour for most of the city’s needs. If there is a skills gap as suggested, it would appear that London is not satisfactorily convincing graduates to stay in the city despite the availability of work. While numbers for Fanshawe are difficult to ascertain, 86% of Western graduates leave London after graduating (The Insiders Guide to the Colleges, 2014).This information is both a blessing and a curse. While it suggests that London is failing to provide competitive alternatives to a large number of students, it also suggests that the solutions to some of our problems could be under our noses, and stuck here in four year intervals, no less.
  9. 9. 6 It would appear that Londoners’ perspectives of youth unemployment are accurate, although the extent to which it is linked with London’s graduate exodus is unclear. It is also unclear as to where Londoners derive these perceptions. Perusing the news reveals that youth unemployment is a topic of discussion across Ontario, and the lack of employment prospects for youth and recent graduates in particular was a topic of importance during the recent election campaign of the now-governing Liberal Party. It is therefore unclear to what extent Londoners’ perceptions are based upon their observations in London or their assumption that general trends are simply active in this city as well. In either regard, London would benefit from further research in this area as it determines how to better take advantage of the labour force it generates each year in its post-secondary institutions. Concluding Remarks Overall, this study was quite successful in debunking myths and clarifying truths within the London community. We discovered that public perception does not necessarily provide an accurate description for London as a city and for what it has to offer. We were able to collect a fruitful amount and selection of people from various backgrounds during our canvassing. As a quantitative study, the research could have been improved if we had a larger sample size. However, the quality of interviews and information we collected made up for the smaller amount of participants. The diversity of our participants was strong as it included people of different genders, ethnicities, social class, and location of residence in London. The identification of common myths and truths among the participants was an easy task due to willing and knowledgeable participants, fairly long interviews, and adequate collection of the data. The gathering of research was successful in collecting information from various categories. Our paper touched on the topics culture, environment, and economics. However, several other topics were collected in our data including transportation, travel, infrastructure, academics, technology, and politics. Due to limited time and space, we were unable to touch on every subject and chose to focus on the topics that had the most data and resources.
  10. 10. 7 Works Cited Comicon. “Forest City Comicon.” November 11, 2015. http://www.forestcitycomicon.ca/ London Canada. “Curbside Recycling.” November 11, 2015. http://www.london.ca/residents/ Garbage-Recycling/Recycling/Pages/FAQ's.aspx London, Ontario City Council. Our Move Forward: London’s Downtown Plan. 2015. Millier Dickenson Blais. “London Community Economic Roadmap – Technical Report.” April 2, 2015. Outhit, Jeff. Waterloo Region Record. July 27, 2013.http://www.therecord.com/news- story/3912486-green-bin-costs-soar-are-they-worth-it-/ Tourism London. “Downtown London.” November 11, 2015. http://www.downtownlondon.ca/ Tourism London. “London Convention Center.” November 11, 2015. http://londoncc.com/events Tourism London. “London Fuse.” November 11, 2015. http://londonfuse.ca/ Tourism London. “My Dundas.” November 11, 2015. http://www.mydundas.ca Yale Daily News. “The Insiders Guide to the Colleges.” New York: St. Martins Press. 2014.

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