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.

Nunziata retains Speaker job.

Brand new mayor John Tory released his ‘cabinet’ list yesterday and some of the councillors on the list have people scratching their heads. As expected, there are many right of centre appointments.

The good news: Giorgio Mammoliti was not mentioned. While there are others in Tory’s new inner circle for whom the term ‘clown’ might be a bit harsh, there is no denying that people like Denzil Minnan-Wong, Cesar Palacio and Vince Crisanti seem more interested in self-promotion than improving the fortunes of their constituents.

Our own councillor Frances Nunziata has been removed from the Toronto Police Services Board but retains the post of Speaker. Perhaps with one fewer Ford in the chamber, the circus atmosphere that prevailed for much of the past four years may be replaced with one more collegial.

Maybe we shouldn’t be too harsh when judging Mr. Tory’s selection. after all, he never hid his political views and he is entitled to appoint whomever he wishes. Perhaps his selections are being guided by the philosophy of U.S President Lyndon Johnson when referring to J. Edgar Hoover:

it’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

See the full team list here.

Nunziata to Tory: Pick me.

York South-Weston councillor Frances Nunziata has let it be known that she would like to be appointed to the role of Council Speaker for the new term. She has dropped large hints that if given the nod by Mayor-elect John Tory, she would be happy to serve again.

To put it kindly, Ms. Nunziata was not an unmitigated success in her four years as referee and minder of 44 councillors and a mayor. It was her job to ensure that civility was the order of the day and to see that politicians respected her decisions and indeed the office itself. What we got was a seeming inability to control the more outspoken members of council leading to some shenanigans that were a boon to American talk shows. According to Desmond Cole in a December 12, 2012 article in the Torontoist,

Nunziata’s indifference to rules and inability to maintain order carried serious consequences this year. During a wild debate on the civic appointments process, the speaker asked Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) to retract potentially intimidating and impugning statements towards city ombudsman Fiona Crean. When Mammoliti refused, Nunziata suggested that he leave the chamber, as council rules require, but didn’t actually enforce her decision. Mammoliti’s ability to remain despite his behaviour was a message that Nunziata either didn’t know how to enforce the rules, or didn’t care to do so. (He later chose to leave of his own accord.)

In June 2013, another blogger, known as cityslikr wrote about Ms Nunziata:

Aside from the mayor and his brother, no one exemplifies the aggressively partisan and divisive nature of city council more than the speaker. Dumping her and elevating Deputy Speaker Parker to the position would set a much more civil, productive tone than we’ve been witness to for the past two and a half years.

In December 2013, after she abruptly ended a particularly raucous council meeting, The Globe and Mail reported,

… Mr. Minnan-Wong responded: “I think if she wants the rest of council to act with a certain level of decorum, leadership starts from the speaker’s chair.”

But on Monday, Ms. Nunziata denied that she was to blame for council’s behaviour, and that she allowed the mayor and Councillor Ford to get away with bad behaviour because of her relationship with the Ford family.

“I called the mayor and Councillor Ford numerous times. I asked Councillor Ford to apologize and the mayor to apologize. Both of them,” she said. “I think I’m being very fair to all members of council.”

Now it’s not as if York South-Weston is humming along as a bastion of prosperity. There are parts of Ward 11 that are as deprived and needy as any in Toronto. The ward needs a full time councillor who will spend every moment dedicated to making things better. The role of council speaker is an onerous burden. It might be a good idea to allow someone else to take on the role and for the councillor to devote more time to lobbying for the people of York South-Weston.

Airport workers to get a break on UP Express

The Toronto Star says that a new agreement between the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Metrolinx will allow for an (as yet undisclosed) discount for airport workers using the new train to get to and from work. The GTAA was previously attempting to charge Metrolinx $1.85 for every passenger delivered to the airport in lieu of lost parking revenue. Now it’s beginning to look like a bargaining ploy because the $1.85 is off the table in exchange it seems for the worker discounts.

Incidentally, it’s nice to see MPP Laura Albanese fighting for lower fares for the rest of us. Her timely letter adds to the pressure on Metrolinx to re-think the whole endeavour. It’s hard to imagine the traveller on a business account wandering through Union Station, schlepping their own luggage in and out of a train while they could get door-to-door service with a limo or taxi. Free Wi-Fi means nothing to people with unlimited data accounts.

As pointed out previously in WestonWeb, the capacity of the train is quite limited and while Metrolinx is under increasing pressure to make the fares affordable, they know that if fares are too low, with limited rolling stock, the train will be unable to meet demand.

What you can do about $30 fares

On December 11, Metrolinx will announce the fares for the UP Express.

If they say the fares are more than $10, you lose. Your tax money went to build the train, your community was torn up to build it, and you won’t be able to use it to commute—taking the kids to see the Santa Claus parade downtown would cost $80.

If, on the other hand, Metrolinx does the smart thing (for once) and makes the fares affordable, you’ll get great express public transit to downtown. Your property values will go up¹, Weston will be reinvigorated, it’ll be great. This isn’t impossible or insane: Vancouver has a $7 light-rail train to the airport that they built for the Olympics. It’s fantastic. I took it.

So what can you do?

And, if you’re really devoted, rally: TTCRiders will be having a rally on Thursday, December 11, 9.30am–12.00pm  outside the Metrolinx meeting at 97 Front St West.

 

——————————————————————

¹If you even think of moving, I’ll find you.

Albanese asks for “Fair Fare” (again)

Laura Albanese took the gloves off yesterday and released a letter asking for a “fair fare” for the UP Express. While she had asked for smart pricing of the train in August, this letter comes before the December 11 meeting of Metrolinx, where the fares are likely to be announced.

The letter is pretty scathing. She says “Metrolinx has not engaged in any meaningful and transparent consultation with the public” and that it should consult on “something so important as a fare that affects hundreds of thousands of transit users”. The train, she says, was once designed “exclusively for airport customers with no apparent concern for the communities surrounding it.”

Albanese is in favour of using the UP Express as public transit. She notes that the CEO of Metrolinx has said that there will now be six stops on the line: Union, Bloor, Eglinton, Weston, Woodbine, and Pearson. $30 fares would take the public out of the transit.

The fares should be priced differently for students, seniors, and those not travelling the full distance, she says, and,

To reiterate, the fare should reflect the fact that the UP Express is a publicly owned service, built and paid for with public tax dollars.

 

She closes with “Now is the time to seize the potential of the UP Express to serve multiple transit demands and the greater good.”

The letter is worth reading in its entirety if you have the time.

Leaf collection creates stir

Who knew? Only parts of Toronto get mechanical leaf collection. In fact, only parts of Weston get leaf collection.  Few streets north of Church get it, and no street south of the village does. Now Frances Nunziata is pushing the apparent unfairness of this; she and InsideToronto are saying that the city needs to be more equitable.

From Nunziata's office
Leaf collection in Weston

Nunziata told InsideToronto that “It would make sense that the city should implement it city-wide…. There are some places that you can’t because of on-street parking. But maybe the city should go out and collect the leaves.”

Nonsense. This is great politics, but it’s terrible economics. It would be silly, for instance, to collect leaves on Dundas St W, where I used to live: There are very few trees. It makes much sense to collect them in the Weston where flooding has been a problem (leaves clog catch basins) and there are many trees.

Even my kids know that fairness doesn’t mean treating everyone the same (if it did, we’d have a subway). Fairness means treating people right. It might make perfect economic sense to clear the streets of Weston.