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.
- 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.
- The next stage of the King Street Pilot: outdoor cafés and “parklets” in unused car lanes. (Think these parking space-sized patios off Yonge.)
- ConsumersNext: Seriously, does every damn planning study need some generic slick hashtag title? I would suggest “Putting the ‘Park’ Back In ‘Business Park'”.
- The somewhat problematic Mimico Judson Secondary Plan has been appealed to the OMB, and hearings begin in just a few weeks.
- 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.
- For serious nerds: revised townhouse and low-rise design guidelines.
- A passel of newish projects: affordable ownership homes; property tax relief for 20 transitional housing units for people with HIV/AIDS and other complex health conditions (related), 188 affordable homes, 36 affordable rental homes for seniors.
- As previously reported in the Star, the City seems to be donating very little of its surplus tech. Heavens to Betsy, surely we can do better!
- Cllr Josh Matlow wants the Province to release data on AGI (above-guideline rent increases) applications. (Related: Province please protect tenants moar.)
- Unofficial Open Data Czar Cllr Paul Ainslie hopes to ensure incoming new software is Open Data-friendly. AMANDA 7, which totally doesn’t sound like an AI that could turn evil and kill everyone, will replace four case management and issue tracking applications the City has been using.
- Put a blockchain on it. Cllr Norm Kelly wants people to be able to pay taxes in cryptocurrency. I seriously doubt anyone on Council knows how cryptocurrencies or blockchains work. This will be painful to listen to. God help us all.
- 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.
- Est-ce qu’il y a assez de documents officiels traduits en français?
- Fucking lol: after voting in favour of only funding constituency offices in civic centres (Ctrl+F “CSOB”), Cllrs Chin Lee and Cesar Palacio now want to take it back. I’m not sure this is even allowed???
Thanks for reading, and as always, please leave suggestions or corrections in the comments.