Archive for June, 2012

Karen Stintz’s “Tax Attack” Battleplan

- June 27th, 2012

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The OneCity Transit plan TTC chair Karen Stintz will roll out Wednesday at City Hall

TTC chair Karen Stintz has been laying the track for this OneCity transit tax plan for a while.

Stintz is set to roll out the plan publicly at City Hall today (story here) and council would be voting to start city staff on working on it next month.

That’s the real surprise in Stintz’s transit move – she’s already got the necessary motions on various spots of the July council meeting’s agenda to ensure this could happen sooner rather than later.

If Stintz tried to walk the move on the council agenda as a member’s motion it would require a two-thirds vote – a high bar she might not have the votes for – but she won’t need to do that.

Motions passed at several committees, the Toronto and East York Community Council and even at Mayor Rob Ford’s own executive  are all already on track to be on the council agenda. That means Stintz will only need a simple majority of councillors on board to ram this plan through. It will happen and then the plan will be in the hands of city staff to study and report back in October.

Here’s the rundown on where and when the seemingly innocuous motions were passed:

June 12 – Executive committee

Mayor Rob Ford’s own executive committee voted earlier this month to have city staff work with Metrolinx and other levels of government to look at ways to fund transit. It’s approval at executive means it’ll be on council’s agenda in July and could even be amended to focus it on having staff explore Stintz’s transit tax idea. This item was on the agenda from a member’s motion Councillor Josh Matlow brought forward ages ago.

Here’s what Ford’s committee approved:

City Council request the City Manager to engage and participate with Metrolinx in establishing a working group of appropriate officials representing the City of Toronto, Greater Golden Horseshoe municipalities, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and any other relevant bodies to provide input into the preparation of a funding strategy for the Metrolinx regional transit plan.

June 13 – Toronto and East York Community Council

Councillor Pam McConnell successfully got the community council to endorse the East Bayfront LRT as a “priority project” and urge all transit authorities and levels of government to find a way to build it. Here’s the motion:

City Council identify the East Bayfront LRT line as an added priority project and encourage the TTC, Metrolinx, and the federal and provincial governments to investigate ways and means to facilitate the construction of the East Bayfront LRT at the earliest opportunity.

June 18 – Planning and Growth committee

Stintz – a member of the planning committee – added two items to the committee’s agenda last week that were quickly and quietly passed with little if any debate.

The first item asked city staff to include transit priorities in any official plan review. If approved by council next month, the motion orders city staff to work with TTC staff to develop a list of transit priorities. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess she’ll want staff to look at the lines in her OneCity plan and formally adopt them as transit priorities. Here’s Stintz’s motion:

City Council request that the Acting Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning work collaboratively with the Toronto Transit Commission to develop a list of transit priorities, to be approved by City Council, and that these priorities be included in the Official Plan review.

The second item the planning committee approved was support for the East Bayfront LRT. Stintz has said that transit line would be #2 on the priority list of lines to be funded by the new transit tax, second only to replacing the Scarborough RT with an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Councillors on the committee endorsed the East Bayfront LRT as a priority for the city’s transit network and asked staff to report back in October with a way to fund the line’s construction.

June 20 – Economic development committee

At this committee meeting, Councillor Josh Colle walked on a transit-related motion. If approved by council, this would start city staff on doing the research to make the economic case for the OneCity plan and the tax increase that comes with it.

The committee voted to direct economic development staff to include the following in the city’s economic growth plan:

a) an analysis of the impact of traffic congestion on the City’s economy;

b) a review of the City’s transportation hubs and ports and their importance to Toronto’s economy;

c) the need for a goods movement strategy for the City;

d) the importance of a comprehensive transit plan and transportation funding strategies for the City; and

e) a review of employment hub development and employee mobility issues in the City of Toronto.

 

CUPE Local 79 is taking it to the street (festivals)

- June 26th, 2012

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With Toronto’s much predicted labour war put to rest for the next few years, CUPE Local 79 is spending the summer waging a different battle – a public relations one.

Local 79 went toe-to-toe with Mayor Rob Ford’s City Hall earlier this year over labour negotiations. In the end, the union’s members voted to accept the city’s final offer rather than hit the bricks.

The union – which represents more than 20,000 of the city’s inside workers – dropped off swag bags of summer stuff at the City Hall press gallery last week.

They’ll be handing out the Local 79 branded beach balls, water bottles, hand sanitizers and sun screen this summer at festivals around Toronto.

While I’m not sure everything in the bag is union made (ie. the beach ball has “Made in China” stamped on it), the campaign seems aimed at showing a softer side of Local 79 while still educating the public about the city services they provide.

Local 79 is planning to be at the Pride parade on July 1, the Festival of South Asia on July 7 and 8, Caribbean Carnival Parade (the festival formerly known as Caribana) on August 4 and Taste of the Danforth on the weekend of August 10.

Along with the freebies, Local 79 will also have a “refreshing misting tent” at the summer events and will be pushing out a new transit advertising campaign.

Here’s some of the Local 79 transit ads that will be popping up this summer:

CUPE79-Aquatics

CUPE79-Butterflies

CUPE79-Leaping

So while the new labour contracts guarantee labour peace until the end of 2015, the battle for Torontonians hearts and minds clearly won’t even get the summer off.

Quote of the Day – Mayor Rob Ford on street food

- June 22nd, 2012

Mayor Rob Ford

“Let them sell what they want. I wouldn’t restrict it to just hot dogs and hamburgers. If they want to sell something else, that’s fine.”

- Mayor Rob Ford to reporters on Friday when asked about the changes city licensing staff are proposing for Toronto’s existing street food vendors (story here)

Quote of the Day – Ford to media: Drop weight

- June 18th, 2012

Councillor Doug Ford

“I’m looking around here, three quarters of the people taking pictures right now have a weight issue” 

Councillor Doug Ford during the final weigh in for Mayor Rob Ford’s Cut the Waist challenge pointed out the Ford brothers aren’t the only ones with weight issues.

Ford weighed in 35 pounds lighter than when he started the challenge back in January while Mayor Ford managed to shed 17 pounds (story here).

It’s not the first time the media and politicians have discussed weight issues at City Hall but at least no one threw around the words “fat f**k” this time around (video of that legendary incident here).

Mayor Rob Ford’s blink and you miss it MMVA cameo

- June 18th, 2012

Mayor Rob Ford on MMVA

Mayor Rob Ford films a cameo for the MMVA opening credits (Photo courtesy of Isaac Ransom, Mayor’s office)

A few weeks ago Mayor Rob Ford took a secret trip to Burlington for a film shoot.

Staff in his office were tight-lipped at the time about the exact details of the event – until last night. Turns out Ford filmed a quick cameo for the opening credits of this year’s Much Music Video Awards.

You can watch the cameo here.

In a blink and you miss it appearance about 10 minutes into the show, Ford is out of his characteristic suit and tie and in a backyard wearing a red apron and grilling on a barbecue. Ford ends up lifting the bbq lid and then waving off a flurry of pink smoke before the credits roll on.

Just goes to show you never know where this mayor will turn up.

Quote of the Day: Denzil Minnan-Wong on banning bullets

- June 15th, 2012

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Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong and Mayor Rob Ford earlier this week (Toronto Sun file photo)

“It’s funny when Chris Rock suggested it but it’s ridiculous when Adam Vaughan suggested it.”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong on Councillor Adam Vaughan’s bullet ban idea

Kathleen Wynne sends Rob Ford her “best wishes”

- June 14th, 2012

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Mayor Rob Ford got a “Wynne” Wednesday when Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne agreed to give her consent to the city’s sale of 65 TCHC homes (story here).

Ford celebrated the Wynne-win with a two sentence statement thanking the Premier (and not Wynne) for getting the green light to sell the Toronto Community Housing Corp. houses worth an estimated $24 million.

“I’d like to thank the Premier for his quick action on this issue.  I look forward to receiving the Minister’s letter so we can move forward to make critical repairs that will improve the lives of hundreds of families in TCHC buildings.”

The Sun snagged a copy of the minister’s letter sent to the mayor’s office (see photo above) confirming she is granting ministerial consent to sell the homes.

In her official letter to the mayor, Wynne repeats she had wanted to see council deal with the special working group’s recommendations on housing before making the decision to sell the 65 properties. But Wynne states she’ll respect the will of council.

“Thank you for bringing your concerns to the attention of the government,” Wynne writes to Ford. “Please accept my best wishes.”

Quote of the Day: Adam Vaughan on bullet bans

- June 13th, 2012

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“There is no need to go hunting in Toronto. There are no raccoons that big that require you to have an armed rifle at the back by the garbage can. There are no gophers chewing at people’s gardens that need to be shot because tractors are going to lose a wheel. And the last time I checked, I didn’t see any grizzlies at the garbage dump down the road.”

Councillor Adam Vaughan on why his idea to ban bullets in the City of Toronto makes sense

Ball hockey report still on the bench

- June 11th, 2012

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A bit of a scuffle erupted last month when Councillor Josh Matlow revealed the details of a yet-to-be released staff report on Toronto’s ball hockey ban.

Matlow said at the time a staff report would be on the agenda at the June public works committee meeting and would offer a bureaucratic fix to the city’s outright ban on ball hockey (story here).

Long story short, the “fix” would have seen parents trying to cut through a sea of red tape just to get their street an exemption to the ball hockey rules. Most councillors slammed the idea as ridiculous (story here) and even Matlow ended up saying he wouldn’t support the change (story here).

Flash forward to last week when the works committee agenda became public and there was no ball hockey ban report in sight.

I couldn’t help but wonder – Did staff put the idea on ice in the wake of the controversy?

A city spokesman told me Friday the report, which council requested over a year ago, is still in the works.

“I checked in with Transportation Services, and found that the report wasn’t ready to go this cycle, and it has been pushed back to the fall (September) of this year,” senior communications coordinator Bruce Hawkins told me in an e-mail.

So for now – and likely once the report does come out – the status quo remains in effect for ball hockey on Toronto streets: It’s illegal but no one really obeys that bylaw and it is almost never enforced.

Game on.

The Elephants in the (Council) Room

- June 10th, 2012

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Thika the elephant at the Toronto Zoo (file photo)

Councillor Raymond Cho tried two days in a row to get the Toronto Zoo’s elephants on the agenda of this month’s council meeting.

On both days, Cho didn’t get the two-thirds of council support he needed to walk on a motion about the ordered but yet to be completed transfer of Toka, Thika and Iringa.

I managed to snag a copy of Cho’s motions Friday, here’s the rundown:

Had Cho succeeded in getting this motion on the council floor, councillors would have been voting on giving the zoo another order. The last order council gave the zoo was to transfer the elephants to the PAWS sanctuary in California. This time council would have been ordering the zoo to transfer the elephants within 30 days of getting the CITES permit – the documentation needed to transport an endangered species across the Canada-US border.

Here’s the exact text of what councillors didn’t vote on Wednesday or Thursday:

Recommendations:

1) The Toronto Zoo commence transport of Toka, Thika and Iringa to the Performing Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) Sanctuary in San Andreas, California, within 30 days of receiving the CITES permit approval and confirmation of the elephants’ continued good health.

Cho had to change the wording of the motion’s reason for urgency each time he brought it to council.

On the first day, Cho said the reason for urgency was because Iringa is suffering from a foot infection “caused by a lack of open space available to elephants at the Toronto Zoo facilities.” He pointed out PAWS had the open space that could “potentially cure” Iringa’s foot and that two elephants at the zoo have passed away due to complications from foot infections.

When he tried for approval on the second day, Cho invoked retired U.S. game show host Bob Barker to help make his case for urgency. In his motion, Cho said the matter was urgent because Barker had threatened in the past to rescind his offer to pay for the elephants transfer unless he has a guarantee it is going to happen.

“If PAWS and their supporters rescind their offer, the full cost of the elephants’ transfer will have to be paid for by the taxpayers of Toronto,” Cho stated in the second motion.