More on the Mount Dennis Generator

From: insidetoronto.com
Image from: insidetoronto.com

Steve Munro is a tireless blogger who is an authoritative voice on transit and politics in the GTA. He recently posted an article about the proposed Mount Dennis generator and some interesting points have emerged in his article and also in the comments section. As an aside, comments sections are IMHO as interesting and sometimes as informative as the articles to which they are attached.

Readers are no doubt aware that late last year, Metrolinx and its partner Crosslinx Transit Solutions proposed that an 18MW gas-powered generator be built to supply electricity in the extremely rare event of a Toronto Hydro outage. Later proposals designed to soften the blow claimed that heat could be recovered from the generator and used for heating purposes.

Steve maintains that the heat recovery idea could only be useful if the generator was operating regularly rather than the claimed (by Metrolinx) use as a standby. Also, according to Metrolinx, only one of the 6 generators would be used for heat recovery while the other 5 would be untouched.

He received information from Metrolinx stating that:

An alternative (to the gas powered generator) would have to provide the same basic functional requirements as the proposed natural gas powered facility.

The gas-powered facility was proposed in order to provide the ability to maintain service when the power goes out and improve transit resilience, lower the cost of power by eliminating any contribution to peak power demand from the new system, and ensuring it does not contribute to the need for more transmission or generation infrastructure.

Steve notes that there are several electric train systems coming on line and Metrolinx stated that there is already an ample electrical supply for these trains. He concludes that the main goal of the generator is to reduce electricity costs rather than provide an emergency backup.

In the comments, one reader suggests that in a true emergency, gas supply is only guaranteed for 3 hours. Another points out that the natural gas supply relies on line pumps which need electricity from the grid. Yet another states that running the whole line from one generator is impractical because of the voltage drop that would occur over the 19km length of the Crosstown Line.

Apparently the generating system at Pearson Airport sells power to the grid at peak times and this income pays for its operating and maintenance costs. The generator is fired up every week to ensure that it is reliable (i.e. at least 52 days a year) and supplies the airport with power on those days. Because the airport covers a relatively small area, transmission losses are minimal (unlike along a 19km transit line).

Incidentally, the last time power was knocked out to Terminals One and Three back in February, the emergency system failed to operate, leaving much of Pearson in the dark.

Read Steve Munro’s article here.

Mount Dennis Library opens Sundays

As part of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Mount Dennis Library along with these others, has been granted additional funding to allow it to be open between 1 and 5 p.m. from now until June. The idea is to be open on Sundays during the school year to support students who may otherwise have nowhere to study or access a computer.

Unfortunately, Weston’s beautiful Art Nouveau, Carnegie-built library will remain firmly shuttered on Sundays. At one time it was common for all library branches to be open on Sundays. The rot started with former Mayor, David Miller in 2007 when he needed to find some money in a budget crunch. Libraries have suffered ever since and workers treated more and more shabbily as the video below explains:

Readers may remember with a nostalgic fondness the random brain farts of former Councillor Doug Ford who once falsely alleged that there were more library branches in his ward (2) than Tim Hortons Coffee shops. Apparently that would have been a bad thing.

But meanwhile (emphasis on mean), Mayor John Tory still wants Toronto Public Libraries to cough up a 2.6% reduction in spending. Like the Ford boys, Tory believes the right-wing mantra that there is lots of waste in the system and that hard working taxpayers must be protected from increases. Instead, despite his protestations that services to the poor will be untouched, Tory will be passing the buck to the poor through increased fees, reduced service levels and a weaker library system. It’s not as if Toronto residents pay high taxes in comparison to their neighbouring citizens.

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Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s property taxes are considerably lower than those of other municipalities. The result is great for the wealthy but because of a services squeeze, not so much for people trying to escape poverty.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-5-44
Click to enlarge. From: www1.toronto.ca

Toronto’s biggest expense is the Police Service and Board whose spending has steadfastly resisted all efforts to be reined in. The Toronto Public Library system is well down on the list.

Ward boundary changes: citizen input requested.

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The late Rob Ford always chafed at the number of councillors at City Hall and thought it was an unmanageable (and expensive) number. He thought that Toronto should have the same number of councillors as federal ridings; i.e. one councillor per riding instead of the current two. From what I gather, the current number of councillors (44) may actually be increasing slightly as a result of population increases and needed boundary changes. By way of context, between the baseline year of 2011 and 2030, Toronto’s population is predicted to rise by 500,000 and the extra people won’t be evenly distributed.

The subject of ward boundary changes is a complex one. Dedicated citizens may take some time to absorb this document giving the background to proposed changes and asking for input. Quite simply, as wards’ populations change, the numbers of people represented by one councillor are increasingly out of whack. For example, the number of people living in the downtown core is increasing rapidly as more condos are built there.

It’s beyond most citizens’ abilities (mine anyway) to absorb all the variables as there are so many factors to juggle. Nevertheless, citizen input is being requested and then the boundary review folks will make their recommendations to council for a vote.

Before then, four public meetings are being held across the City in September, from 7pm-9pm:

  • Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016 – Metro Hall – Room 310
  • Thursday Sept. 15, 2016 – Scarborough Civic Centre – Committee Room 2
  • Monday Sept. 19, 2016 – North York Civic Centre – Committee Room 1
  • Wednesday Sept. 21, 2016 – Etobicoke Civic Centre – Meeting Room 1

Have your say about rental apartment licensing

When I was a young lad in some dim and distant past, rental apartment buildings were glamorous creatures. They were modern, had great views, lots of room and everything was included in the rent. Most had a sauna and outdoor pool. For gosh sakes they even had laundry facilities in the basement!

Then in the 1970s, the practice of subsidizing tenants in rental apartments was a cheaper alternative to building public housing. Poor people flooded apartment buildings and with rising incomes, middle-income earners began to abandon rental housing. For the most part, rental apartments became the domain of the poor and were synonymous with shabby conditions and health issues. Conditions steadily deteriorated and ten years ago, in Weston, the two towers at 1765 and 1775 Weston Road were in atrocious condition and the subject of bitter complaints. The federal government stepped in with forgivable loans and millions were spent upgrading rental buildings.

1765 Weston Road in 2012 (file).
1765 Weston Road pictured in 2012 (file).

Nowadays, renting is the only option for many people in the current real-estate market. While conditions have improved, many buildings are poorly maintained and it is felt that legislation concerning these buildings needs an overhaul.

The City of Toronto wants to hear from its citizens about licensing rental apartment buildings. According to the City,

The intended goal of the licensing framework is to build on the current Multi-Residential Apartment Building Audit Program by promoting best practices in building maintenance, strengthening enforcement of property standards violations, and improving tenant engagement and access to information.

The public and stakeholders will have an opportunity to:
• contribute to establishing goals and objectives for a licensing framework
• create recommendations related to current challenges and/or gaps in regulation; rules governing the operations of rental apartment buildings such as maintenance and cleaning plans; enhancement of the current building audit program, including enforcement of property standards; and improved public access to information about rental buildings, and
• submit their own recommendations for improving tenant living conditions.

The meeting for our area will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, August 24: Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Meeting Room 1/2/3, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

iPads stop bullets

InsideToronto has the report on the meeting about consolidating 12 and 13 Division. There is much of interest.

It sounds like 12 will be moved to 13 division—a detail that had been lost on me. 12 is housed at Trethewey and Black Creek. 13 Division is very far away: at Allen and Eglinton. Your corespondent had thought they’d be amalgamated at some third spot.

By closing or amalgamating stations, the goal is to be even more accessible to communities, Watts said.

“Back in the day, police were on foot. Then, technology arrived, with radios and computers. We needed a hub for that,” Watts said. “We want to give every officer a hub, by providing a tablet where information can be sent so that they can get out in the community more. Police officers don’t work in buildings or cars; they work in the community.”

The doublespeak is astonishing: less is more! Farther is closer! Closed is open!

Let me give a word of advice to spin doctors everywhere: much of your business is based on the faulty idea that we can’t handle bad news; accordingly, you dissemble. And then, you wear it. That’s what we have here: Watts won’t tell us what we know: that farther is farther. Hows does that look on him?

Imagine he told the truth: “The Toronto Police budget is a billion dollars. That’s nuts. Crime is way down. We can afford to loosen up a bit and save some tax money along the way. Yes, salaries are the real killer, but Jesus, do you want to take on the police union?”

It’s honest. It’s truthful. It blames the right people: politicians and their employers.

And if I had a dollar for every time I heard that tablets are the answer: to small classrooms, shitty teaching, students who can’t write, and now, breathtakingly, to crime.  

Mr Watts, sir, tablets are never the answer.¹ You are saying—let’s be clear—that an iPad can bring cops closer to people. Have you never talked to someone while they are texting? Screens do not bring people together.

I’m not a criminologist, and I won’t pontificate. Maybe moving divisions will hardly affect policing. Maybe distributed policing is very doable. I get the feeling, though, we’re not off to a good, honest start on an issue that affects our community. I know I’m not the only one still sick from all the spinning I’ve had here.

——————–

¹I retract that: they are the answer to family road vacations.

Developers, start your engines.

Toronto’s new(ish) Police Chief Mark Saunders came to Weston / Mount Dennis on Tuesday with Mayor Tory to gauge community response to the re-alignment of police division boundaries along with the possible closure of 12 Division’s headquarters scheduled for 2018. (according to CP24)

In fact, according to the Interim Report approved at July’s Police Board meeting, 12 Division (along with several others) will disappear as it becomes amalgamated. How that process will work is rather vague.

The boundaries of 12 Division.
The current boundaries of Toronto Police’s 12 Division.

Here’s a look (below) at the affected Toronto police divisions according to CP24.

A look at the future of Toronto's police divisions.
Original map adapted by Roy Murray.

Saunders was no doubt hired with the understanding that the billion dollar police budget had to be trimmed, but like his predecessors has dragged his heels. John Tory, mayor of one of the lowest taxed cities in the country is currently asking for a 2.6% across the board budget cut to every city department so he can bring in ‘an at or below inflation’ tax increase.

It’s well known that when City budget cuts come, they disproportionally affect the poor along with areas where large numbers of poor people live. User fees go up, services get slashed and the TTC is ordered to cut back on crowded suburban routes. Mayor Tory is simply another slash and burn, subway loving member of Ford nation albeit with a better grip on P.R. (Ignore the bazillion acre park across the rail lands; it’s a distraction). The Mayor and his rich friends don’t like paying property taxes on their mansions and so the poor must bear the burden.

A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.
A satellite view of 12 Division HQ.

What’s a police chief to do? Learn from the fine example set by politicians and look for savings from people who don’t make as much of a fuss. The police station currently occupied by 12 Division is on a large piece of real estate with excellent highway connections. Wouldn’t it be a great place for a high rise apartment building or two? It even has enough room for parking. Dress the sale up as a ‘modernization of police services’ and police ‘becoming more accessible’ and you have the makings of a fine sales job.

Developers must be salivating at prospect of owning the site. Toronto City Council would smooth all hurdles out of the way and the sale of police assets would trim the Chief’s bloated budget for now while being framed as greater contact with the community. Win Win Win!

Some key words come in the Chief’s Interim Report executive summary.

In the months leading up to our final report, we will continue to look for responsible measures that can yield additional reductions, savings, and real estate returns.

and more tellingly, The full interim report says this:

Through the redesign of boundaries and facilities, we have identified up to $72 million in real estate that could be returned to the City of Toronto.

As we conduct the next phase of our work we will look for other similar opportunities.

A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise and it even has parking. Photo from Google Earth.
A close-up of the property. Lots of room for a high rise, great road connections and it even has ample parking. Photo from Google Earth.

Given past knowledge of previous public asset sales, developers are no doubt lining up with proposals and part of the deal will have to include a crumb or two for the community.

Make no mistake, without a strong community response, 12 Division Headquarters will be sold.

It may already be too late.

Will this be a bad thing? Who knows. Tim Hortons across the street from the station will certainly suffer.

If the goal truly is to provide more contact with the community, then it may not be the end of the world although we don’t know how that will be achieved. Several storefront locations (if implemented) might be a better alternative than a large fortress of a building, but local residents will have to fight long and hard for these and we don’t even know what exactly is planned since the report is merely ‘interim’. There’s certainly no shortage of empty storefronts in Weston / Mount Dennis. A police presence might revitalize our communities. (Where will all those cruisers go?)

It might be a good idea for Chief Saunders and the Mayor to clarify how the consolidation process will take place and what steps will be taken to ensure that community assets are not being turned over to the private sector simply to protect property owners from a long needed tax increase.

People also need to feel confident that this is not a back of the napkin job like the Mayor’s fatuous SmartTrack plans and that we aren’t blundering into a chaotic future.

Parliamentary Reform Meeting with Ahmed Hussen.

MP Ahmed Hussen (centre) and MP Mark Holland (right) discuss electoral reform with constituents.
MP Ahmed Hussen (centre) and MP Mark Holland (right) discuss electoral reform with constituents August 10, 2016.

Almost 30 residents attended yesterday’s consultation meeting at the 99 Milvan Drive office of York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Democratic Institutions, MP Mark Holland presented the various alternatives to ‘first past the post‘ elections and then the floor was thrown open to residents’ comments.

One thing is clear from the meeting; electoral reform is coming. Currently a non-stacked parliamentary committee is studying the matter. Input from ridings around the country will help determine the best alternative to the current system.