This month Council will pass the rate-based (water, waste, and parking) budgets. Also on the agenda: Rail Deck Park, SmartTrack, taking action against anti-Black racism, AirBnB regulations, and more.
Since the last regular Council meeting, Council narrowly voted to appoint a Tory supporter to replace late councillor Pam McConnell; Waterfront Toronto announced its partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs; and City Manager Peter Wallace frankly discussed Toronto’s possible futures in an annual address.
On this meeting’s agenda: the Bloor bike lanes; a Parks and Rec master plan; Metrolinx fare integration; the George Street Revitalization; and more.
Council returns from its summer hiatus today, and so I’m back with my usual guide to the agenda. Quite a lot has happened on the municipal scene: Cllr Pam McConnell’s death, Chief Planner Jen Keesmaat resigning, cops in schools temporarily suspended, harm reduction workers creating an unofficial supervised injection site, no doubt more I’ve forgotten. Anyway. Onward.
It’s the last Council meeting till October, and as you’d expect, the agenda is packed. There’s a ton of shelter- and housing-related items, the aftermath of this spring’s floods, banning penguins, terrible motions from Cllrs Ford and Mammoliti, and more. Watch the livestream or follow my tweets.
If March’s fierce transit debate had you feeling “perced to the roote”, April’s City Council meeting agenda will provide a sweet shower of refreshing new items.
First, it reinforces the idea that parks are “extra”, not something that the City itself should invest in. It makes the creation of new parks (and the resources allotted to them) dependent on the whims of wealthy donors and not solid urban planning principles. It’s unpleasantly reminiscent of local improvement charges, i. e. rich homeowners paying to spruce up their own neighbourhood.
I’m afraid this will continue to marginalize places that aren’t tourist hotspots, scenic landscapes, or up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Not every park can be as exciting as the Don Valley or Rail Deck Park or whatever they’re calling Under Gardiner. Not every park has to be. Parks shouldn’t just be attractions people visit on special occasions, like the zoo. They should also be a part of everyday life.
Green space is an urban amenity as essential as libraries and clean water. Aside from parks’ importance for health and the environment, they are valuable in their own right as public space. They’re places where you can loiter, sleep, relax, exercise, cool down, picnic, socialize, drink covertly, collect beer cans…all without having to buy anything. For many city dwellers, parks are our backyards.
Public-services-as-philanthropy leaves less glamorous needs by the wayside. Currently playground equipment is only replaced every 30 years (up from 60). Not to mention other things than parks, as Danny Brown notes on Twitter. No one is donating to reduce the TTC or TCHC SOGR backlog.
The whole thing is part of a larger trend towards valuing public services only insofar as they make money. Financial worth may seem more tangible, but it is not the only kind of worth. There are many things—public transit, parks, and more—whose value can’t be measured in dollars. They should not have to turn a profit. People freaking love parks and libraries. It should be possible to fund them sustainably, by increasing the City’s main source of revenue—property taxes—instead of relying on occasional windfalls.
In this pared-down vision of city government, services that cannot pay for themselves must be shuffled off to beneficient private donors, corporations, charities, or non-profits. It’s not because these things would be better off in someone else’s hands. It’s just an attempt to make it Someone Else’s Problem. “Screw you, I got mine.”
It’s a small, mean, insular way of thinking and I hate it. Enough said.
Refined from Twitter. Thanks to Ed Keenan for the shout-out!
Hello, friends. We’ve crawled out of post-budget recuperation to bring you this guide to the next City Council meeting. On this month’s agenda: SmartTrack, the East Gardiner, bees, tennis, ca$h for gold, Black Lives Matter, and more.
I am going through a bit of a Thing and almost considered skipping this month. I’m not, obviously, but please forgive me if this month’s preview is a bit lackluster. Anyway, without further ado, my picks from this month’s agenda. Continue reading The Cheat Sheet: June 10 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