ReForest London adds more green with Neighbourhood ReLeaf Program

ReLeafReForest London used the Victoria Day long weekend to kick off a massive residential tree planting program to transform local neighbourhoods with a three-day planting extravaganza.

On May 21, ReForest London volunteers, board members, staff and politicians came together in the White Oaks area to launch a new Neighbourhood ReLeaf program to take tree planting in London neighbourhoods to the next level.

The program builds on a 2015 pilot that saw volunteers go door-to-door in four neighbourhoods, resulting in over 400 new trees planted in yards.

Inspired by the pilot’s success, ReForest London proposed a much-expanded initiative to what was to become the program’s lead funder, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), which liked the proposal and provided a two-year, $200,000 Grow grant in late 2015.

The program has been made possible thanks to funding from the Ontario government (through OTF), the City of London, and the Richard and Beryl Ivey Fund, a fund within the London Community Foundation.

“With this program, we are going to enable Londoners, no matter what barriers they face, to plant a tree and celebrate our identity as the Forest City,” said Skylar Franke, the program’s coordinator. “We will improve public health through cleaner air and water, increase canopy cover, enhance quality of life for Londoners, increase food security and create, in the face of climate change, a more diverse and resilient urban forest.”

Tree blitzes, according to ReForest London officials will strengthen neighbourhood connections, while improving health, well-being and quality of life across the Forest City.

Through this program, over the next two years ReForest London and its volunteers will:

  • Go door-to-door to 20,000 homes to offer them a free tree through 28 Tree Blitz events in London’s least leafy neighbourhoods;
  • Hold 28 Tree Depot events (two in each of London’s 14 wards) to give away 5,600 free trees to residents; and
  • Undertake a new level of outreach specifically aimed at apartment dwellers and new Canadians, inviting and encouraging them to participate in a special series of park plantings in 2017.

In total, the program will plant 16,000 new trees (both native and fruit) in yards and parks, and grow and distribute another 19,000 seedlings with schools and other community groups.

With 28 door-to-door events planned over the next two years, Amber Cantell, director of programs at ReForest London, encouraged any businesses or community groups interested in sending a team to get in touch.

“This is a great way to get out into the community and show you care,” Cantell said. “With this program, we are going to take tree planting to the next level here in London, and show the rest of Canada exactly what it means to be a part of the Forest City.”

All trees planted through the project are in support of London’s Million Tree Challenge (www.milliontrees.ca), through which Londoners are working together to plant a million trees in our city to improve environmental and human health and create a legacy for future generations.

“One of the things about the Million Tree Challenge is that it is really driving us to explore new ways to get trees out into our community,” said Frank Pyka, vice-chair of ReForest London’s board of directors. “ReForest London has done a great deal of work with volunteers in parks and schoolyards, but we’ve rarely focused on people’s yards, even though we know it’s where much of the plantable space is in London.”

For more information visit http://reforestlondon.ca/neighbourhood-releaf-program.

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London Community Foundation offers Vital Signs sneak peak

Vital Signs picVital Signs is a community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada, measuring the vitality of communities in key areas, providing critical data to help set priorities and identify opportunities for action.

The London Community Foundation (LCF) will be publishing its report on Tuesday, Oct. 4, but offered up a sneak peek of its report during this month’s Social Innovation Exchange, May 18, at Goodwill Industries.

The exchange is a partnership between LCF, Pillar Nonprofit Network and Ontario Trillium Foundation. This month’s conversation saw more than 75 people take part, representing not only LCF, but also community builders, cross sector social innovators, local non-profit groups and engaged citizens.

The sneak peek revealed mental health issues in the community as the focus of the 2016 Vital Signs report.

Among those invited to speak at the exchange was Brad Duncan, the former chief of police and a member of the Vital Signs Advisory Committee.

Duncan said the data collected in the report will look at the gaps in the community when it comes to mental health services while helping drive a conversation on how to fill those gaps.

“We aren’t going in with a preconceived notion about what the issues are. Today is just about giving our community partners a look at what we want to do and invite them to participate,” he said. “We need the data. Each group gathers their own statics. By sharing, we might be able to see the issues we’re all dealing with.”

Joining Duncan on stage for the innovation exchange were Barhet Woldemariam and Jennifer Vale, co-ordinators for Homes 4 Women London.

Woldemariam said the two women were invited to speak at the sneak peek specifically to the share the impact the project is having on the lives of women and on the community.

Within mental health agencies, she said, the group is looking at closing the gap on mental health, addictions and homelessness to address some of these issues and support women who are most vulnerable in the community.

An effort like Homes 4 Women is just one example, Duncan said, of how when it comes to mental health, Londoners couldn’t be living in a “more care-centred” community.

“We know the Mayor’s Poverty Panel, we know the Poverty Research Centre, they’ve all talked and pointed to mental health and addictions as part of this continuum,” he said. “What we’re saying is now is the time to bring us all together. Now is the time to make a step forward . . . this is really a stepping-stone as far as I’m concerned.”

Martha Powell wholeheartedly agreed.

Powell, LCF president and CEO, said it was decided the Vital Signs report would be crafted “through the lens of mental health” as the data it contains is going to drive the story of the report.

As such, it’s “a pretty important topic” to the community.

“Mental health is a theme that runs throughout all the issues that we talk about — poverty, housing, education, employment,” Powell said. “It finds its way throughout and it is the cause and root of so many of the issues. I don’t know what the data will tell us, I hope there’s good news; there probably will be some not great news as well.”

Central Library to close for heavy construction, open pop up site

LibraryWith the London Public Library’s revitalization underway, the Central Library will open a temporary location next week.

Construction work on the library’s 11-month renovation of the downtown branch started on May 7, but regular hours have remained in effect.

Starting on Tuesday, May 24, the Central Library will need to close for two weeks of heavy construction work and a temporary library location will pop up nearby in CitiPlaza.

Pop Up Central will be located across from the Bulk Barrel in CitiPlaza, close to the Central Library location.

At Pop Up Central, Londoners can pick up items they have placed on hold, borrow from a selection of books, feature film DVDs and children’s picture book bags, return materials and pay fines and fees.

A limited number of internet computer stations and a printer will also be available, recognizing that many Londoners don’t have access to a computer or the Internet outside of the library.

Those parking underground at CitiPlaza to access Pop Up Central will be eligible for two hours free parking validation with presentation of their library card.

The construction closure schedule is broken into two periods: Central Library is closed from Tuesday, May 24 to Friday, June 3 and from Monday, June 13 to Friday, June 24.

During these periods, Pop Up Central will offer service.

Central Library will be open in between these two closure periods with regular hours. The Pop Up Central will be closed.

The Library’s 15 branch locations are open with regular hours throughout construction.

Several evening programs in Central Library’s Wolf Performance Hall and Stevenson & Hunt Room will continue as scheduled during the closure period.

This first phase of construction include the creation of a light-filled magazine and newspaper lounge and a flex space in the former coffee shop area.

This phase also includes the removal of the escalators, which will be replaced by stairs to the second and third floors.

During this phase of construction, large sections of the escalators will be removed and the structural steel for the stairs will be brought into the building, requiring the closure.

For the full construction schedule and to stay up to date on any further changes to spaces and services, visit www.lpl.ca/centralrenew or call the library at 519-661-4600.

London council appoints integrity commissioner

City hallAfter an extensive search process, council has approved the appointment of an integrity commissioner.

Gregory Stewart, of the law firm Donnelly Murphy, is an expert in municipal law and currently acts as the integrity commissioner for several municipalities in Middlesex County.

“This marks an important step forward,” said Mayor Matt Brown. “The integrity commissioner will help us meet our desire to strengthen the relationship between our municipality and the Londoners we serve. It’s important that we all be open, transparent and held accountable to our community. I am confident that this position will support council in doing exactly that.”

Stewart will work independently from civic administration and report directly to municipal council.

He starts his three-year term immediately and will:

  • Investigate complaints and alleged breaches of the code of conduct for councillors;
  • Review the code of conduct for councillors and make recommendations on an annual basis;
  • Serve as an advisor to councillors in relation to the code of Conduct and any procedures, rules and policies of the municipality governing ethical behavior, and act as a proactive educator for council, the civic administration and the public;
  • Provide reports to Council, summarizing his activities; and
  • Provide individual investigative reports, as required, which will include background concerning a complaint and recommendations to municipal council with respect to a complaint.

The fee structure is set at $250 per hour for time devoted to his duties.

Stewart joined the law firm Donnelly Murphy in 2000 after almost 20 years of practice in Windsor and Essex County.

A graduate of the University of Windsor in political science and a graduate of the University of Windsor Faculty of Law, Stewart’s practice is primarily in the areas of municipal, planning, employment, civil litigation and corporate law.

 

London lifts overnight parking restrictions this weekend

ParkingAs of the Victoria Day weekend, the ban prohibiting overnight parking on city streets eases for the summer, except for those streets identified by signs as being enforced.

The eased restriction, which lifts the prohibition of parking on a roadway or shoulder between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. for personal vehicles and motorcycles takes effect Friday, May 20 and ends after the Labour Day long weekend on Monday, Sept. 5.

The lifting of the ban does not apply to commercial motor vehicles, mobile homes or trailers.

The bylaw also stipulates that no vehicles will be permitted to park on city streets for longer than 12 hours at a time.

Overnight parking cannot occur in locations where parking is otherwise prohibited or restricted, such as in front of fire hydrants, on boulevards or front lawns.

Anyone having questions or concerns should call 519-661-4537.

$80,000 in funding awarded for London neighbourhoods

SPARKS!Londoners have taken advantage of two community granting programs, the SPARKS! and TreeME Neighbourhood Matching Funds, to create change in their neighbourhoods.

“It’s exciting to see how Londoners come together to create such innovative ways to strengthen and celebrate their neighbourhoods and make London a great place to live, work and play,” said Lynne Livingstone, managing director of neighbourhood, children and fire services.

SPARKS! Neighbourhood Matching Fund provides opportunities for Londoners to initiate projects in their neighbourhoods.

This year’s successful applicants include activities that engage and bring more neighbours together, create gathering spaces, host community activities and beautify neighbourhoods.

This year 14 new projects were funded bringing the total in six years to 70 SPARKS! projects in 19 different neighbourhoods across the city.

This year the TreeME Neighbourhood Matching Fund has funded two large-scale projects that allow neighbourhood groups to plant trees and make a difference to the city’s urban forest.

Residents will plant more than 3,100 trees on private properties to help increase tree coverage across the city.

Community partners announce London’s living wage

infographic-living-wage-londonIn order to provide food, clothing, housing, transportation, child care, and other basic living expenses for their family of four, a pair of London parents working full-time would need to earn $15.53 per hour, or $30,284 annually.

As London’s living wage, that key finding was announced on May 13 at an event that brought together leaders from the private and public sectors, committed to ensuring their employees can live healthy lives, while making a positive contribution to the community.

Different from the minimum wage, a living wage is a current reflection of the costs associated with living in a particular community.

The living wage helps families achieve a basic level of economic security while minimizing severe financial stress.

While some factors can lead to variations in the living wage calculation, such as an employer-provided medical insurance program — which in London’s case drops the rate to $14.57/hour or $28,412/year — the calculation is based on local figures and data gathered by the London Poverty Research Centre at King’s University College.

“Living wage is one strategy in reducing poverty and increasing positive outcomes. Being a recognized Living Wage Employer fosters social inclusion and supports the quality of life of our staff,” said Stephen Bolton, Libro Credit Union president and CEO. “Growing regional prosperity goes further than financial transactions and balance sheets. It’s about addressing complex social issues in southwestern Ontario and working collaboratively with organizations to help build and strengthen the communities we passionately serve.”

Bolton went on to note different businesses will make their own decisions about the best way to contribute to the health of their communities, which is a conversation Libro encourages.

In addition to Libro Credit Union, organizations represented the announcement included Ellipsis Digital, Western Fair District, Downtown London, Goodwill Industries, King’s University College, the Ivey Business School and the Middlesex-London Health Unit.

The event also included the launch of www.livingwagelondon.ca, a new website designed by Ellipsis Digital, which outlines how a living wage is calculated and encourages local businesses to learn more details about becoming Living Wage Employers.

The website also includes an infographic that individuals and business owners can download and share in order to help spread the living wage message.

Living Wage Canada (www.livingwagecanada.ca) already recognizes many Ontario and Canadian cities as Living Wage Communities, including Waterloo, Hamilton, Ottawa, Windsor, Halifax, Montréal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver.