Background: new streetcar interior, blurred

The Cheat Sheet: March 2018 City Council

Toronto City Council meets for the first time since passing the 2018 Budget. On the agenda: REimagining Yonge, winter shelter debriefs, BLOCKCHAIN!11!!!1, billboards, and more.

The Big Ticket

…is not actually on the agenda. At last week’s special Scarborough meeting, Executive Committee voted to shelve the already-delayed Long-Term Financial Plan until next term. Outgoing City Manager Peter Wallace’s report outlined significant financial pressures on the horizon and presented three paths to Council—a dramatic shrinking of government; the status quo; or expansive (and expensive) city-building. True to form, the Mayor and his allies chose to kick the can down the road and save the hard decisions for after the election.

For more analysis, see Steve Munro for Torontoist.

Urban Planning

  • Toronto is where forward-thinking urban planners’ lofty visions smack into the unyielding wall of City Council, like birds knocking themselves out on skyscraper windows. REimagining Yonge is the latest example, and it’s the item likely to draw most of the debate this Council meeting.

TL;DR: Yonge between Sheppard and Finch is dangerous and old and the whole thing has to be re-done. There were several scenarios drawn up, from “Do Nothing” to “Transform”—see page 5 of this PDF for a comparison. “Transform”, staff’s preferred option, would add protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and other infrastructure to make the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. It would also reduce the number of lanes, adding as many as two minutes to commutes, so naturally the Public Works committee nixed the plan in favour of a more watered-down version.

Related: Friends and Families for Safe Streets is hosting a die-in at 6 p. m. Monday evening, and for the more athletic, Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists is leading a ghost bike ride to Don Mills.

Active Transportation

  • The City is getting some $25 million in provincial funding towards commuter cycling infrastructure. In theory, this could speed up the Ten-Year Cycling Plan. In practice…well, that might not be so easy.
  • A possible strategy to cut down on bike theft in plain view: banning “bike disassembly and re-assembly” in parks. (Minor maintenance, like filling up tires, would be permitted. What about changing tires? This could get kind of fuzzy.)
  • As Matt Elliott wrote recently, getting traffic-calming measures like speed bumps installed requires jumping through a mind-boggling number of hoops. A review of traffic control warrants was due a year ago. Whatever happened to that?

Shelter and Housing

  • Here’s a brief presentation on the state of the rental housing market. TL;DR: it sucks.
  • “What was originally intended as a ‘bandaid on a bandaid,’ in the words of one City Councillor, has become a fixed part of the City’s response to homelessness.”

The Ombudsman’s report into Winter Respite Services found that conditions at facilities were poor and inconsistent, and publicly available information was confusing and out-of-date. The full report paints a picture of a chaotic, inaccessible, and under-resourced system.

(Related.)

Tech

Miscellaneous

  • Proposed billboard by-law amendments would, among other things, introduce a new tax bracket for big electronic signs. As with any billboard-related item, expect lobbyists to be slithering all over the Council chambers for this one.
  • Are the Committee of Adjustment and Local Appeal body doing enough to stand up for trees?
  • Here’s everything we did for #Canada150 and how much it cost—from museum exhibits to Torontomoji.
  • Section 37 Benefit of the Month: $7,500 for a heritage plaque for the Prince Edward Viaduct. The money comes from the Printing Factory Lofts development.
  • For Everything Else, There’s MasterCard: “The identification of cost savings and increased revenue is only one component of the Auditor General’s mandate. Equally important is the ongoing evaluation of governance, risk management and internal controls. However, the benefits resulting from these audits are not easily quantified in financial terms.”
  • Gun control is a hot topic right now. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month and a half, here’s a quick recap. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting several weeks ago, outspoken survivors are spearheading a mass movement for gun control. The debate has had repercussions in Canada as well—after pressure from members, MEC announced they would stop carrying brands owned by Vista Outdoors, an umbrella company that also owns gun brands and lobbies against gun control. More recently, the (Canadian) federal government unveiled a gun control bill in an attempt to roll back Conservative changes without being accused of bringing back the long gun registry.

So where does Toronto come in? One action a municipality can take is to use zoning laws to effectively ban ammunition. This has been tried before, unsuccessfully. You can expect the same for the latest attempt.

If zoning laws aren’t the answer, there’s always the public health approach.

Predictions:

Small brain: ruled out of order.  Big brain: Fails to waive referral, dies in committee. Cosmic brain: councillors accidentally vote to eliminate constituency office budgets. Galactic brain: having inadvertently re-opened the 2018 budget, Council is unable to re-balance it. City Hall is frozen in a time loop, isolated from the outside world.


Thanks for reading, and as always, please leave suggestions or corrections in the comments.

Council begins at 9:30 A. M. To follow along, watch the livestream or check Meeting Monitor.

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