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The Cheat Sheet: September 30 City Council

City Council returns after its summer break, and there’s a lot to cover on the agenda. Read about Toronto’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis; taxi clusterfuck; Gardiner clusterfuck; new shelter standards; and more. Did I miss something? Let me know.

Big-Ticket Items

  • Staff deliver a long-awaited report on taxis, limos, and Uber. Since coming to Toronto, Uber has been giving the taxi industry stiff competition. Taxi brokers hate it; taxi drivers are using it on the side; consumers love it; and the courts have left the decision in the City’s hands. The City is rightly wary of UberX’s practices, which include “surge pricing”, sidestepping insurance, flimsy screening procedures, and lack of shared standards, and wants to create regulations to cover this new class of transportation.

    Accessibility for cabs and Uber is a whole ’nother kettle of fish, which, staff say, deserves its own report. In the meanwhile, they recommend issuing a whole bunch of the new taxi licenses, which require making vehicles accessible.

  • Hoo boy. The Province has launched a five-year review of key legislation regarding municipal government, including the Municipal Elections Act, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and the City of Toronto Act. This is a chance to reshape how our city operates. Some proposed amendments:

    • cutting ties with the much-maligned OMB;
    • allowing the City make affordable housing requirements for new developments;
    • letting the City create more kinds of taxes.
      Other possible changes, like term limits, ranked ballots, and new powers to enforce the MCIA, will be a tougher sell. Anyway, remember that this is just the beginning of a long process.
  • Cllr Joe Cressy has spearheaded the development of a resettlement strategy for Syrian refugees. Many municipal governments across the United States and Canada have already pledged to welcome and support refugees.

State of the Union

  • Six month operating budget variance report. Land transfer tax continues to be indispensable, the City continues to save money by not hiring people, water revenue is down, blah blah blah. There’s no doubt much more to be found in the 70-something-page full report. Not sure how I feel about this “simplified” traffic-light graphic system.

  • The police union’s collective agreement, which was still being negotiated when the City budget was approved, requires $17M more than we estimated.

  • The quarterly Social Development Dashboard is out. A sprinkling of statistics:

    • youth unemployment and the proportion of part-time jobs continue to rise;
    • the percentage of Toronto households in “core housing need” rose 10% between 2006 and 2011;
    • the decline in permanent residents landing in Toronto (they have been going to the suburbs/elsewhere instead) has levelled off over the past two years.
  • We also have an Economic Dashboard, which notes trends like the international decline in oil and commodities prices and Canada’s weak dollar (great for the Toronto film industry, bad for the Toronto mining finance industry). Also, experts still can’t agree on whether there’s a housing bubble or not.

Housing & Shelter

  • The Executive Committee thinks City Council should make a nice but ultimately toothless request that federal candidates address housing issues.

  • 82 affordable rental units are coming to a former industrial site near the foot of Casa Loma. (Yes, they’re cleaning it up first.) The units will be rented at about 77% of market rent. This agreement lasts for fifty years. Maybe by then you’ll be at the top of the waiting list! For the nitty-gritty, see the full report.

  • Two 1-bedroom condos in one of the new Alexandra Park developments will be set aside for affordable rental, and five low-income home buyers will get $45K each towards down payments on units in the same building.

  • The City is raising the bar for its shelters. New additions include policies for transgender and disabled clients and harm reduction practices. Here’s the whole thing (heads up, it’s like 90 pages).

  • The TCHC property at 389 Church St., in the process of being revamped into something people would actually want to live in, will become a temporary home for the Red Door shelter.

  • A former bed-and-breakfast, whose owner blamed local sex workers for tanking business, is getting turned into affordable housing.

  • With no funding from provincial or federal governments forthcoming, TCHC is refinancing some of its mortgages to help pay for capital repairs.

Culture & Sport

  • Toronto’s Poet Laureate will soon be joined by a Photo Laureate.

  • Are all those City arts and culture grants (some $28M worth in 2014) making an impact? According to this staff report, yes. Between 2010 and 2013, for every $1 the City gave, arts and cultural organizations were able to leverage over $20 on average from other funders. Over the same time period, the total attendance at City-funded events grew by 3 million. This isn’t just TIFF we’re talking about; local arts service organizations (LASOs), which fund programs outside the downtown core, have also benefited. Expect non-profit organizations to cite this the next time they have to plead for funding in front of Budget Committee.

  • It’s fun to stay at the YMCA coming to 505 Richmond St. W.

  • The planned LGBTQ-inclusive sports and recreation centre at Moss Park is facing some stiff opposition from Cllr James Pasternak, one of whose pet causes is defunding any organization that has ever been associated with anyone that has ever said anything bad about Israel. I am pretty sure that the co-op housing crisis is because Cllr Pasternak found out I went to this one Judith Butler talk on BDS back in 2011. SORRY EVERYONE! YOU’RE HOMELESS BECAUSE I’M A GAY RACE TRAITOR. #nocontext

  • Fun with member motion titles.

The Great Outdoors

Food & Liquor

Completely Terrible Ideas


Only of Local Interest But I’m Writing This So There

Congratulations! You made it to the end! The prize is a picture of my cat. I’ll see you tomorrow.

My cat Wasabi pokes her head out from a plastic bin in the vet's office.
I spent $227 to find out nothing is wrong with this fucking cat ugh why is she so cute

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