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. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: September 30 City Council

The Cheat Sheet: Committee Meetings, May 19-25

I have been falling behind on my committee-agenda-reading agenda, I’m afraid. Better late and slightly half-assed than never. Coming up in the next few weeks: the final 2014 budget variances; extreme cold-weather drop-ins; misuse of TTC fuel credit cards; wildlife encounters; and more. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: Committee Meetings, May 19-25

The Cheat Sheet: May 5 City Council

Just in time for my 30th birthday, I’m getting the best present ever: a City Council meeting! This month’s agenda is jam-packed with important items, so fix yourself a drink while you read this. Up for discussion: funding the Scarborough subway, diversity on the TTC board, a new City Manager, the social housing waitlist, (not) fixing basement flooding, and more. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: May 5 City Council

Financial Facelift: Debt doubts cast shadow for world-class city with major expenses

Toronto chose to put low taxes ahead of infrastructure and services, but it has put her in a bit of a bind. She is 181 years old and has diverse thriving industries, a vibrant cultural scene, and well-loved municipal services like parks and libraries.

She has several major expenses, ranging from large-scale capital projects to everyday service improvements, all of which she wants to pay for without raising taxes or going into debt. As the nation’s economic hub, Toronto has substantial earning power — but she chooses to take in less revenue than she could. Continue reading Financial Facelift: Debt doubts cast shadow for world-class city with major expenses

The Cheat Sheet: Dec. 11 City Council

The first real City Council meeting snuck up on me! Much of the agenda will be familiar if you followed last week’s Executive Committee meeting. SmartTrack makes its debut, the budget schedule gets settled, and Mammoliti’s in trouble again.

Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: Dec. 11 City Council

2015: Threat or Menace?

Warning, serious wonkery ahead.

So I was a tad alarmed to see, in last month’s council agenda, this operating budget variance report projecting a year-end deficit of $1.783 million. And I’ve also been going back to David Hains’s look at the formidable 2015 budget gap and wondering if there’s anything to it. Basically, I’m wondering 1) how much of a mess will the next mayor inherit?, and 2) do they even know?

Continue reading 2015: Threat or Menace?

A Very Special Cheat Sheet: #TObudget 2014

  1. A Note: Operating Vs. Capital
  2. First, Some Context
  3. Operating Budget
  4. Capital Budget
  5. The Most Disingenuous Game

I don’t usually do Cheat Sheets for special meetings, but this one is for the 2014 budget! I love the budget!!! The entire exciting process, which started all the way back in November, is culminating this upcoming Wednesday in a meeting sure to be full of delightful surprises, dramatic reversals, procedural confusion, and petty, childish infighting. Continue reading A Very Special Cheat Sheet: #TObudget 2014

The Cheat Sheet: December 16 City Council

Disclaimer: For entertainment purposes only. Check out the full agenda.

Last meeting, we saw the Mayor reduced to a figurehead, with most of his responsibilities (and office budget) going to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. In a fit of pique, the Mayor insisted on holding and speaking on various petty routine items until the clock ran out, and promised to do the same next time. I hope he’s forgotten, because there’s plenty of actual stuff to get done. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: December 16 City Council

The “mushy middle” sets at last

Yesterday, while cops and protesters clashed outside City Hall, a quietly dramatic battle was taking place inside. In the face of sweeping budget cuts, the “moderate” councillors joined forces with resident pinkos like Carroll, Davis, and Vaughan and tabled motions reversing the mayor’s most controversial proposals. It started with Josh Colle, a heretofore silent rookie whose key role up till now was being mistaken for Josh Matlow.

Unsure Fry meme: Not sure if Josh Colle...or Josh Matlow

Shortly before the lunch break he put forward an omnibus motion that would save many of the services to be cut, including daycare subsidies, CPIP grants, and community centre youth programs. It was an audacious move that sent Ford allies into a tizzy. Speaker Frances Nunziata was acting like a crabby schoolteacher who’s lost control of her class. Deputy mayor Doug Holyday accused Colle of cutting a deal with his “special interest pals”. Giorgio “The Thumb” Mammoliti desperately attempted to paint Colle’s motion as some kind of salvo in the downtown vs. suburbs wars in a blustering tirade reminiscent of Brady’s closing speech from Inherit the Wind. It became pretty obvious why it was Colle who presented this; he responded to attacks from Ford allies with unusual determination and composure, refusing to be bullied into rhetorical traps.

Josh Colle introduces his motion
Josh Matlow Colle. Photo by Rene Johnston of the Star.

And then, one councillor after another began moving to reverse budget cuts not covered in Colle’s motion. Berardinetti (whose stance on daycare has not been particularly women-friendly) moved to save the Immigrant Women’s Health Centre. Crawford, to keep three shelters open. Cho, to preserve library services. And so on. (Matt Elliott has a wonderful breakdown.) The usual lefty suspects were, for the most part, lying low; most of the councillors were moderates—not always Ford-friendly, but not vocal opponents, either. A few who supported Colle’s motion or tabled their own were reliable Ford allies.

Cllr Gloria Lindsay Luby beams as she gives a thumbs-up, countering Mammoliti's surly thumbs-down.
Mammoliti’s thumb seems to have lost its power. By Steve Russell for the Star.

Side note: Ford’s inner circle (Rob Ford himself, as usual, didn’t participate in debate) badgered everyone (or tried to), as expected, but I thought their treatment of Ana Bailao was inexcusably patronizing. They saw a young, not really aggressive woman rookie and used all the old rich white dude pull they could muster to try to cow her into submission. I hope she wasn’t intimidated, and that she goes into the next meeting more prepared.

As protesters massed in Nathan Phillips Square, police presence ramped up and City Hall was put on lockdown—no one going in, no one going out. Security already wasn’t letting anyone into council chambers, partly because it was very full, partly to prevent any protesters from sneaking in, unfurling banners, and raising a ruckus (which happened a couple times over the course of the day). Tweets flew back and forth. We had only a vague idea about what was happening outside—arrests? tear gas? fights?—and most of the people outside were equally in the dark about what was going on in the council meeting. Tension drew to a peak as Nunziata, to councillors’ very vocal dismay, announced a short recess before the vote—presumably so the mayor’s cadre had time to get councillors alone and whip up enough votes.

And, in the end, Ford lost. Big time. Doucette’s and Bailao’s motions (for the High Park Zoo and fire services, respectively) were ruled out of order and a motion to defer contracting out janitors didn’t carry—but everything else went through, to immense jubilation from the gallery. Ford’s budget was swiftly, decisively defanged.

What I learned?

Common human decency sometimes wins the day. It may take a little (okay, a lot) of backroom machination, is all.