City Council has changed its tune on funding an orchestra for London.
Months after councillors put the brakes on a staff plan to spend $300,000 on reviving London’s defunct orchestra because of a lack of information, politicians voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving that money to the London Arts Council — even though that information still hasn’t been provided.
In April, a staff plan would have seen the $300,000 split between supporting musicians formerly of Orchestra London and investigating a sustainable orchestra for the city.
Councillors were uneasy with the proposal, wanting a detailed plan before approving taxpayer money going towards another orchestra for London.
The plan was never completed despite ward 3 councillor Mo Salih asking over the summer for an update.
Tuesday night that appeared not to matter as city council voted 13-2 in favour of giving the money to the arts council to fund groups, or a group, that delivers “orchestral music services.”
Salih, and ward 4 councillor Jesse Helmer, were the lone dissenting votes. The pair also voted against the plan on Monday when it was presented anew at the Strategic Priorities and Policy committee meeting.
The new staff recommendation didn’t sit well with Salih or Helmer, both of whom felt staff disregarded council direction.
Speaking with AM980 on Tuesday before the council meeting, Salih said it was “unacceptable” that staff presented a report on something council didn’t ask for and repeated that criticism on Tuesday, criticizing City Manager Art Zuidema for the undelivered old plan, lack of an update, and unsolicited new plan.
Zuidema told council there wasn’t enough time to put together the council requested plan because the orchestra groups weren’t able to come together, and suggested Salih’s criticism was a form of bullying of staff.
Responding on social media after the meeting, Salih wrote on Facebook his criticism wasn’t bullying.
“Unacceptable for our City Manager to indirectly imply that I was bullying, in my opinion it was a tactic to reflect negatively on me because of my opposition on a motion,” Salih wrote. “As always I look at every motion critically and the ongoing convo around Arts Council and Orchestra in our city is no different. I raised concerns about the process and expressed my disappointment w/the direction I believe staff was trying to lead us.”
Before Tuesday’s council meeting, Salih questioned the lack of time reasoning, pointing out the new plan from staff was quite detailed, and wondered why that kind of detail couldn’t go into the council requested report.
Salih and Helmer were also unsuccessful on Monday in their attempt to install a member of council on the London Arts Council board to improve accountability and transparency. Unlike other boards, the arts council doesn’t have council representation and doesn’t report to city council, reporting to city staff instead.
The Musicians formerly of Orchestra London, who have rebranded themselves as We Plan On, indicated Tuesday they will apply for funding from the arts council if approved by politicians. However, to do that, they have to incorporate, meaning they’ll return to a structure similar to the now defunct Orchestra London with a board of directors and management team.
The process to incorporate is underway.
The We Play On musicians have performed since January after Orchestra London went belly-up in December and have pledged to do things differently than the old orchestra if they are successful in securing funding.