Hello again, everyone! It’s so nice to be back. On this month’s agenda: the poverty reduction strategy, hookah lounges, Old City Hall, and probably the first use of “selfie” in council history.
The “big” item this month is unquestionably the poverty reduction strategy. Toronto is the child poverty capital of Canada, and precarious employment—part-time, temporary, or contract work without job security or benefits—is the new norm in the GTA. Not only is the gap between rich and poor widening, particular demographics—people who are new immigrants, Aboriginal, racialized, single mothers, or disabled are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.
Some things the city can do about it, as identified in the report:
- ask the province to let us implement inclusionary zoning (requiring that new housing developments include a certain percentage of affordable units)
- create a rooming house policy and enforcement strategy
- increase the number of subsidized child care spaces
- look into a “fare-geared-to-income” model for the new PRESTO cards
- make the TTC fully accessible
- undo cuts to public transit service in the most poverty-affected areas
- advocate for a living wage, and prefer to do business with companies that pay a living wage
- improve the health benefits available for people moving from social assistance to employment
- assess how city budget choices affect poverty
Do read the whole report, which includes much more detailed information—including what indicators and statistics the city will be monitoring to check if its strategies are working. The additional attachments provide a full breakdown of steps the city will take over the next few years.
- How much does healthy food cost in Toronto? According to the latest measures, $196 a week for a family of four. See how your household stacks up by calculating your Nutritious Food Basket cost.
- We might be getting not one, but two much-needed 24-hour women’s drop-in shelters. This depends on how the 2016 budget goes, though, so don’t count your shelters before they’re hatched.
- There’s a story here behind a rather dry report on how the initially reluctant Oakwood-Vaughan neighbourhood is adjusting to the relocated Cornerstone Place shelter.
- Janet Davis (Ward 31, Beaches-East York) wants to know exactly how hard the city is cracking down on Uber. (See also.)
- If you regularly find yourself stuck in downtown rush-hour gridlock, you may wonder what the city is doing to mitigate congestion. This report on the state of the Congestion Management Plan identifies several strategies the city has used to good effect, and more that are being rolled out. A sample: testing “courier zones” along King, improving signage and traffic reporting, and replacing the 25-year-old traffic management system. One interesting idea mentioned that has apparently been very effective elsewhere: expressway “service patrols” that find and clear away collided or broken-down cars before traffic jams build up. Staff also mention improving the bike network and increasing pedestrian crossing times—an oblique acknowledgement that ultimately, the only fix for congestion is getting out of your car.
- Good news, everybody! A new transit plan to fuck up! In the wake of council’s Gardiner East decision, city staff are calling for a waterfront transit “reset”—a comprehensive review of the current projects that have been planned, studied, and costed, yet never implemented.
- Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) continues his war on the traffic study.
- Toronto Public Health recommends banning hookah lounges for health reasons. Based on the licensing & standards committee meeting a couple weeks ago, we can expect a lively debate.
Development & Urban Planning
- What’s going to happen to Old City Hall when it’s no longer a courthouse? After everyone flipped out over Old City Mall, the government management committee has asked staff to study additional possibilities, like a Toronto museum. And with the captive audience there, why not?
- Mark Grimes (Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), who is generally a pro-development councillor, decries the unfettered development that is overloading transit in his area.
- Tom Jacobek? Now, there’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.
Normally, the whole council must vote to send the city solicitor to OMB hearings. Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth) and David Shiner (Ward 24, Willowdale) want to give ward councillors temporary authority to do it while council is on its “winter break.”
Related: Torontoist Explains the OMB
- As developers descend on the latest up-and-coming Toronto neighbourhoods, local councillors are calling for new design rules to help preserve the areas’ unique character. This meeting: Blansdowne, Roncesvalles, and the Davenport Triangle.
- @norm (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) wants more versions of the wildly popular 3D “TORONTO” sign. He suggests “The 6,” “T.O.,” and “T Dot”. Will someone please put forward a friendly amendment to change “The 6” to “#the6ix”?
- Nowadays, Internet access is increasingly important. Earlier this year, the FCC voted to regulate broadband like a public utility, which would help bridge the “digital divide.” Could Toronto move in the same direction?
- Introducing our new poet laureate, Anne Michaels! She replaces George Elliott Clarke, whose term recently ended. I wish I could add some informed commentary about Michaels’ work, but I’m not one of those poetry types who can just drop, like, Gerard Manley Hopkins references like it’s no thing.
- As part of a new partnership between the city and the Toronto Arts Council, the parks & environment committee recommends creating a new type of permit for art and music events in city parks.
Odds and Ends
- Some residents of Etobicoke-York are mad about shoddy curb cuts, and they’re not gonna take it anymore!
- This January, Scarborough-Rouge River gets a by-election to replace outgoing TDSB trustee Shaun Chen, who is now an MP.
- Gravy update: still none.
The Great Outdoors
- As part of the five-year review of the Official Plan, the city is adding 68 new ESAs (Environmentally Significant Areas) and expanding 14 out of the 18 pre-existing ones. These are protected natural areas that are particularly ecologically important (for example, high in biodiversity; an endangered species’ habitat; or part of a migration route). Curious about where they are? Here’s an interactive map of all the ESAs in the city.
- This motion to save the largest and oldest red oak tree in Toronto has been deferred three goddamn times. Will they get around to it this time? I’ve bet the Torontoist editors a plate of nachos that they won’t. Stay tuned.