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Steve Lehman | London Council Ward 8

Posted by James Osmar | Posted in Social Traffic Maker | Posted on 14-09-2018

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Steve Lehman

1. The basics:
Steve Lehman is 58 years old, a small business owner for over 30 years and father of 2 boys (one currently at Western and the other working in Toronto). Steve has lived in London for 35 years.
2. What’s the most pressing problem you’d tackle if elected?
The BRT plan is front and centre in this election and I consider this the most pressing issue. However, this is dealt with in Question 3 below. The issue that requires our immediate attention is the drug/mental health crisis now facing our city. This used to be a “downtown” issue but now is spreading out to our neighbourhoods. It is an issue that is very complex with solutions not readily apparent. Needle exchanges and supervised injection sites are being discussed and tested. They have the right intentions but I am not convinced they represent long-term solutions. We have many non-profit and government departments that are attempting to help people suffering from these two health issues. As a city government, we need to facilitate the coordination of the many organizations including our police that are working hard on this challenge.
We need to change the revolving door solution for mental health, addiction and homelessness into a well-defined pathway that guides towards a long-term change by building on the creative ideas of such organizations as Y.O.U., Unity Project and Goodwill. They believe in providing a path out of day to day hopelessness by breaking the cycle and giving the means and guidance to a better life. The city needs to examine how our subsidized/social housing (HAC) is currently fitting into the long-term benefit of its tenants. Are we being good landlords and managing properties effectively.
In the late 90’s the mental health system was drastically changed closing psychiatric hospitals in London and St. Thomas resulting in the number of beds available for mental health cut. Since then we have seen further restructuring resulting in even more beds lost. The result has been mental health sufferers now are living on our streets with no hope for a different life. As a regional health centre, we need to take ownership of this and vigorously lobby the province to provide/restore the beds lost over the last 15 years.
Long-term solutions will take time to develop and implement. In the meantime, we all have a right to feel safe in all areas of our city. In the short term, we need to find a way for our police to provide that safety. Our police do a wonderful job given the constraints they work with daily, however, they need the proper resources to do their job. What happens to someone in a crisis of a drug overdose or a mental health challenge? Are the police hesitant to arrest or assist as they know individuals they hold will be back on the streets within hours of being detained at the hospital or our county jail with no true solution of stopping the cycle? Police spend countless hours in hospital emergency rooms, taking them away from our streets…our tax dollars deserve a better solution to keep London safe. Let’s give the police the tools they need to do their job of providing a safe environment for all.
3. Do you support the current BRT plan, yes or no?
I do not support the current BRT plan. As with all cities, how we get around is of great importance now and as we grow. I don’t believe the current transit plan which advocates dedicated bus lanes with concrete barriers throughout our city is the answer. The 1/2 billion dollar cost doesn’t justify the 4 minutes saved by 23% of our transit users that live on the proposed BRT routes. It also doesn’t address the many areas of the city currently not served by transit. So what is the answer? First of all I believe we have to seek out solutions that address the needs of ALL of us and how we choose to move around town. Simple low-cost solutions such as
computerized traffic lights currently in BRT plan – why not do this immediately?
bus bays for all bus stops on major corridors to keep traffic flowing (including transit traffic)
flex streets for major corridors – extra lane going into the core in the morning rush hour and reversed going out of the core in the evening rush hour. Toronto has used this system for years with much success.
We have spent money and energy looking at 20th-century solutions to transit improvement. How will transportation look in 10 years? Autonomous vehicles are on the horizon. “Uberization” is upon us. Let’s work for a better transit plan that truly looks at the future. We have world-class knowledge and ability in our backyard. Let’s reach out to our next leaders in the forefront of technology at Western and Fanshawe and explore how their computer scientists and engineers can partner with our city to develop new, innovative ways to move people around easily and more affordably. Both city and our educational institutions would benefit from this partnership. In the meantime, let’s analyze current true ridership numbers and see if we can be more effective. Are we truly joining ALL of our city? Are we using the right size of transit vehicles? Can we explore direct point to point transit on high destination routes at high ridership times? What areas of the city and industry are not being serviced currently that should be considered if we want to attract more industry and handle housing growth?
4.What leadership skills could Steve Lehman bring to city hall?

Over 30 years of owning my own business have given me the financial and organizational leadership skills that I intend to bring to city council. As a steward of our tax dollars, I feel it is important to manage decisions city hall faces with and true understanding of the importance of weighing costs and true benefits. In business, the failure of this is met with immediate financial consequences. As a $1 billion corporation, we need the pragmatism that a background of meeting a payroll brings. Over the years I have learned that to be successful you must seek out many opinions from various sources in order to make the right decision. I will bring that leadership skill to the table and encourage all councillors and mayor to spend more time listening to what taxpayers and citizens of London truly want and then to address those needs with cost-effective solutions.
.How would you bridge divides between Londoners?
I am concerned that our politics have become so polarized that we have stopped talking to one another. A successful government is made up of people with various outlooks and backgrounds that can work together to find good compromises. I have the empathy and integrity to do that. A good councillor listens and considers all points of view as they seek the best answer for their city. I intend to do just that.
past or present city councillor would you hope to emulate?
The past 4 years have been one of the most controversial and divisive city term that I can remember. I always admired councillor Phil Squire. He demonstrated a calm demeanour and ability to listen before cautiously determining his position. He also had the fortitude to stay with his conviction even when it was a lonely voice at city hall. I intend to emulate these qualities if I am elected.
7. Who should have the final say in how London grows, city hall or developers?

There are many stakeholders that are involved in the growth of London. Developers play a major role. Without their investment, we would not have cranes in the air. City council provides land developers with guidance that begins with the London Plan developed by our last council. This plan was clearly developed around a light rail system that is now been changed to a bus plan that may or may not be changed with a new council. The urban densification of development (a main point of the London Plan) is something we need to continue, regardless of changes to transit plans. This is what is happening naturally as boomers downsize and as young professionals look for their first home before they have families.
However, we are also reaching a point where we are simply running out of land for housing outside of the urban core. This is leading to the explosion in house prices to the point that affordability is becoming an issue. The London Plan will need to address housing affordability with planning for increased housing inventory.
sets Steve Lehman apart from the other candidates?
The city of London is a $1 billion dollar corporation. I see city council as its board of directors with the mayor acting as its chair, each having 1 vote to cast on decisions made. I am offering Ward 8 and London someone who has run a business in London for over 30 years. I understand the process of making tough decisions while working towards a budget. I have run the Richmond Row Association and am currently a board member of the London Downtown Business Association and I understand how politics meets reality in the urban centre. As a business owner, I also understand the importance of the customer, in this case, the citizens and taxpayers of our city. While living and raising my family in London for many years I have seen city hall do great things like Convent Garden and locating Budweiser Gardens downtown. I have also witnessed mistakes like approving Galleria Mall downtown which pulled the life out of Dundas St. only to close in a few years. I will use my experience to represent the interests of Ward 8 and will do my utmost over the next 4 years to ensure London thrives as it meets its challenges both now and those down the road.