Litter plagues Weston Village

Looking towards Weston and Lawrence.

Looking towards Weston and Lawrence.

In the future, Weston Village could be a showcase of how to do retail but currently it’s a showcase of how not to do it. In the GTA, Bloor West Village, Roncesvalles and Streetsville come to mind as old established neighbourhoods whose stores have successfully made the transition into the post-big box and shopping mall era. ‘What’s holding Weston back?’, you may ask. Well, there are many things – one is the stubborn refusal of the citizens of Weston to shop locally and another is the filth and litter that seems to pervade the place (perhaps the two are linked).

Near the bus stop on Weston Near Lawrence.

Near the bus stop on Weston at Lawrence.

Part of the problem is that the intersection of Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue West is a transit hub. Many people are coming and going and as a result lots of litter is generated. Let’s not dwell too much on the people who do the littering. It’s a fact of life in a big city. What is obvious though is a tolerance for litter that exists on the part of shopkeepers and also the people responsible for removing it. What’s also obvious is that the same litter stays in place for days if not weeks on end. This attracts yet more litter.

The guano may have been washed from the seats but Weston's own experiment in composting proceeds apace.

Recent rain may have washed the guano from the seats but Weston’s own experiment in leaf and litter composting proceeds apace.

While it is Winter and litter is sometimes difficult to remove at this time of year with salt and snow everywhere, thats an excuse you won’t hear in the places mentioned above. It’s certainly no excuse in the current snow-free spell.

Five minutes with a good broom should take care of this.

Five minutes with a good broom could take care of this.

If retail establishments find that the City isn’t taking care of the litter problems, they should complain. Property taxes go towards street cleaning and transit hubs need more of it. It also might be an idea for businesses to spend five minutes daily to clean up around their properties. It might be another idea for our councillor and the Weston Village Business Improvement Area to tackle this problem. This is something that can be implemented quickly with beneficial results.

Even the Royal Bank's entranceway is dirty.

Even the Royal Bank’s entranceway is dirty.

As citizens, we too can play a part. 311 is the Toronto City Council number to call about litter (and many other) issues. Calls from several people about the same problem may mean quicker action.

To discuss the matter more directly call Councillor Nunziata at 416-392-4091 or Weston Village B.I.A. at 416-249-0691.

Post Script. Not having seen any action on the clean-up, I phoned 311 on Thursday 22nd January to report the mess and was assured that there was nothing to do as the area had been cleaned up. On walking through the intersection today, it was clear that nothing had been done.

Thursday January 23: problem reported to 311 and this time I have a reference number. Apparently it takes about 3 business days.

 

Speed bumps to nowhere.

Hickory Tree Road looking towards Lawrence Avenue West.

Hickory Tree Road on a typical afternoon looking towards Lawrence Avenue West.

Torontonians have a love-hate relationship with speed bumps. In their own neighbourhood they are life-saving, civilization-restoring child-protecting humanitarian structures. In other parts of the city, they slow down emergency vehicles and are a shock absorber-destroying menace that keep people from getting home to their families. They bring traffic to a crawl and because of this, allegedly reduce accidents and injuries. There is a political process for the installation of these traffic calming devices and part of that consists of a residents’ survey to determine if the bumps are actually desired by a majority.

The ball started rolling on this project in 2007 but nothing much seemed to happen until this year for some reason. Eventually, a survey was held last September and tellingly, the issue wasn’t deemed important enough by residents for a majority of them to make the effort to respond. In fact, out of 378 eligible voters, 55 stalwart citizens mustered the indignation needed to participate: 52 voted in favour, one was opposed and two people were somehow able to spoil their ballots.

So the project was doomed to fail you might think. Not so. Mathematical wizards at City Hall turned these dismal polling numbers into a positive by saying that even though the threshold of 50% of resident participation wasn’t met, 94% of those voting actually wanted speed bumps. In the real world though, there’s no disguising the dismal reality that only 14% of affected residents were sufficiently motivated to vote for speed bumps.

As is often the case, regardless of the rules and the survey’s validity, our fearless leaders at Etobicoke York Community Council consistently propose and vote in favour of speed bumps regardless of the process. In spite of Transportation Services recommending no speed bumps on Hickory Tree Road, Councillor Nunziata and her colleagues didn’t fail to disappoint. Cost to the taxpayer: $12,000. Plans are here.

Democracy at work; gotta love it.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

There is a saying that ‘All politics is local‘. Here in Weston, we are blessed with politicians and three levels of government that don’t neglect to tax us in various ways yet seemingly invest little in our neighbourhood.

This is my personal list for our politicians and even for the citizens of Weston. Readers are encouraged to add their own contributions.

There is much that is wrong with Weston and at the same time reason for optimism. Weston looks tired and could be so much more. Nobody likes to shop in a run down area yet customers are the life blood of stores. The type of main street layout seen along Weston Road is the basis of revitalization in Bloor West Village and other parts of the city. It’s one thing to attack political opponents for criticizing Weston’s appearance but as recent Council candidate Dory Chalhoub pointed out, the reality of litter strewn streets, empty stores and dilapidated signage stares us in the face every day.

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Bicycle (and skate) maker CCM went bankrupt in 1983 and yet we still use the slogan ‘Home of the Bicycle’.

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Our slogan could just as legitimately be ‘Home of the Skate’ or ‘Home of Bankruptcy’, or even… ‘Home of the B.I.A. (Weston Village Business Improvement Area is one of the oldest and has been going since 1979).

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Weston BIA Resolutions:

1. Come up with a plan to replace the tired bicycle logos and ‘Home of the Bicycle’ slogan with something more meaningful to Weston – perhaps along the lines of our proximity to the Humber and beautiful parkland.

2. Encourage BIA members to take advantage of the City of Toronto’s financial support for sign replacement.

3. Members should keep their properties in good order and clean up litter on a daily basis.

3. Work on schemes that will boost attendance at the Weston Farmers Market.

4. Stores that sit vacant for months on end do nothing for the community and lower custom in remaining stores. Contact owners and find creative ways of beautifying vacant storefronts and using empty space.

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Frances Nunziata: Resolutions:

1. Focus on the appearance of Weston through the B.I.A. and similar organizations as well as money from the City.

2. Work to reduce litter and visual pollution along Weston’s business areas.

3. Revitalize the Weston Farmers’ Market.

4. Find ways of dealing with empty storefronts that plague our business districts.

5. Continue to look for ways to bring meaningful and well paid employment to Weston.

6. Encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.

7. Encourage 12 Division officers to get out of their cars and walk the streets of Weston.

Laura Albanese: Resolutions

1. Use your position to get the Weston Farmers’ Market in on the LCBO pilot project (even though it’s now beginning its second year). This would surely boost attendance.

2. Continue to press Metrolinx to electrify the UP Express and the Kitchener GO line. Also continue your efforts to lower fares on the UP Express with the goal of creating an above ground commuter line that will serve communities along the way.

3. Look for grants that will elevate the poorer parts of the riding and encourage education and prosperity.

4. Look for a way to establish a government office in Weston. This will boost employment and stimulate local business.

5. Investigate the possibility of attracting a community college or university campus to Weston.

6. Work with Councillor Nunziata to encourage and facilitate completion of the Humber Trail from Mallaby Park northward.

Mike Sullivan: Resolutions

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1. It’s great that you have a constituency office here in Weston. Set an example by freshening the paint and landscaping its exterior. Use the business directly across the street as your model.

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2. Continue to bring matters pertaining to Weston to the attention of the community and the appropriate representative. No, your party is not in government; we get that. Yes, we understand you’re a federal politician, not a provincial politician or the city councillor. As an MP, your mandate is to help and facilitate matters for all your constituents and not be hung up about jurisdictions.

3. Work in conjunction with colleagues from the other levels of government to reduce the levels of crime and poverty in Weston.

4. Call attention to the role of payday loan companies and their predatory effects on the poor.

4. Continue to call attention to the Harper Government’s attack on the environment with particular emphasis on how it affects Westonians.

Citizens of Weston: Resolutions

1. We need to stop lamenting the past glories of Weston and move on. We have an active Historical Society that helps us celebrate the past. The only thing we can change is the future.

2. A vibrant shopping district needs people who will take the trouble to patronize its stores. Don’t expect stores to sell us what we want without actually visiting and spending money.

3. Crime levels in Weston are lower than in many areas of Toronto. Get out of the SUV. The walk will do us good.

4. Politicians have no idea what we think unless we tell them. Don’t be shy.

Weston Business Improvement Area: Phone: 416-249-0691

Laura Albanese: Phone: 416-243-7984

Frances Nunziata: Phone: 416-392-4091

Mike Sullivan: Phone: 416-656-2526

 

Mount Dennis ‘On the rise'; Weston, not so much.

According to BlogTO, Mount Dennis is in the top 5 of Toronto ‘neighbourhoods on the rise’. The reason given for their optimism is the upcoming development of the Kodak lands, the new Crosstown LRT and the emergence of Supercoffee and the Nyctophilia art installation.

Here in Weston, things should also be on the rise – although on Boxing Day, a rather large oaf decided that a Weston Road shop doorway would be the perfect place to waddle from his SUV and vomit in a shop doorway. When the store owners protested, they received a foul tirade for their trouble. Perhaps it is the run-down air of Weston Road that makes people feel entitled to do this. We’re almost into January and there are still leaves and litter piled up under the benches at Weston and Lawrence. Perhaps Weston Village BIA could put some money towards a more regular street cleaning.

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On a more positive note, the long awaited Perfect Blend Bakery and coffee shop is now hiring.

 

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Weston Village lights up the darkness.

It’s the Winter Solstice today – the darkest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). Last night, WestonWeb did some drive-by shooting through Weston Village in the annual hunt for Christmas / Hanukkah / Kwanza / New Year / Festivus / Shopping Festival lights. Several of the more charming displays are included for your viewing pleasure along with comments from our expert team of know-it-all adjudicators (my wife and I). If your house is not included, its image has probably been rejected, not on the bounds of good taste but thanks to the abject skills of the photographer.

UP Express fare structure announced.

The long awaited and speculated  pricing structure for the Union Pearson Express has been released to the public and as predicted, the price for a ride from Union Station to Terminal 1 is close to the $30 mark. Those of us travelling from Weston will be able to get there for $16.50 and even cheaper when using a Presto card.

From Metrolinx site.

From Metrolinx site.

The complete pricing grid look like this:

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Travelling in the other direction, an adult fare from Weston to downtown and back (2 stops) with Presto would be $30.40 or $44 without. This is cheaper than a taxi and way more comfortable than TTC but at quite a premium.

Airport employees will be able to access a one-way fare of $10 or buy a monthly pass for $300. Read more fine print here.

This of course is all subject to the big rubber stamp to be administered at tomorrow’s Metrolinx Board of Directors’ meeting.

This afternoon, York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan released the following statement:

 

OTTAWA – “First, I am disappointed that the Ontario Minister of Transportation pre-empted tomorrow’s Metrolinx board meeting with this announcement. This turns tomorrow’s meeting into a rubber-stamping exercise which is most unfortunate.  It makes it abundantly clear though that the decision is not a Metrolinx decision, but a provincial government one, as has been the case at every step of this project.

 

With regards to the fare structure, it makes riding the Union Pearson Express beyond the means of many airport travelers. Fares should be comparable to existing GO Transit and TTC fares from downtown to the airport. The UP Express fares are not.  The project has cost nearly $1.5-billion public dollars.  It should be  transportation for the 99 per cent, not just the 1 per cent.

 

As an example, a family of four in Weston — two adults with two school-aged children — even with a Presto card, would pay more to ride the UP Express than they would by taking an airport limo service. (Note: UP Express $42.20; Airflight Services Limo $32 to $36 http://www.airflightservices.com/doc/toronto_markham_richmond_hill_vaughan.pdf.)

 

While I hope I’m wrong, I see a service that is being deliberately overpriced to keep ordinary working folk from using this form of public transit. Consultants told us that their costs to run the service with the trains one-fifth full will be $4.93 per passenger. Charging reasonable fares will fill the trains and still cover operating costs.  At the end of the day, taxpayers built the UP Express and should be able to use it affordably to take advantage of the $1.5-billion that has already been spent on this project.”

 

Ahmed Hussen wins YSW Liberal nomination.

On Sunday, York South-Weston Federal Liberals held their long anticipated nomination meeting at Weston Collegiate Institute. Readers may remember that WestonWeb introduced three of the candidates earlier this year. The full slate was:

Mubarak Ahmed
Anthony Cesario
Ahmed Hussen
Masum Hossein
Monique Rudder
Bill Saundercook

WestonWeb arrived about half-an-hour into the voting which began at 2:00 and it was clear that this was no ordinary political event. Large numbers of people were packing the hallway, moving slowly towards the voting booths. Rumours were that Ahmed Hussen had signed up about 1800 new party members. Candidate speeches began in the dimly lit auditorium at 3:00 pm sharp but were unheard by those lining up to vote.

Voters line up in the halls.

Voters line up in the halls.

Of note, former Ontario Health Minister and (as he took pains to point out) Weston born George Smitherman was there in support of Ahmed Hussen.

Bill Saundercook.

Bill Saundercook relaxes in the hallway.

Supported by Marion O’Sullivan, Masum Hossein, of Weston’s BIA was also a candidate.

Mason Hossein waits to speak.

Masum Hossein waits to speak.

During the speeches, the long line of voters shuffled slowly and inexorably past and down the hall. Mercifully there was only one round of voting (ending at 5 pm) and voters ranked candidates in order of preference.

When WestonWeb left the meeting at 3:45, people were still arriving and the crush in the hallway seemed unchanged.

Results came via twitter before 7 pm.

Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.

Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.

As pointed out earlier in WestonWeb, the Big Red Wave is coming and clearly, local Liberals feel that York South-Weston can be wrested away from incumbent MP Mike Sullivan. While there is an urgency among progressive voters to end the Harper Government’s grip on power, it remains to be seen whether Ahmed Hussen can build support from a wide swath of the electorate. Mike Sullivan will also need to run a good campaign and convince voters he is worthy of a second term as MP.