On Thursday night, Rob Ford, the mayoral front-runner, said that he “hasn’t seen the benefits” of money sent to Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods. Weston–Mt. Dennis is one of those neighbourhoods.
In a debate with the other mayoral candidates, Ford said “I haven’t seen the benefits from these initiatives. As you know, I coach football in a priority neighbourhood and I haven’t seen the benefits. I wouldn’t commit to anything… If we aren’t seeing results…. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to keep throwing money away at an issue that’s not getting results.” According to The Star, he said “that as he has not yet seen any proof the initiative is working, he has trouble committing millions of city dollars to the program.”
Outgoing mayor David Miller says that scrapping the investments would be a “tragedy”. He says “the mayoral candidates should be competing to say how much more money they’ll put in. That’s how important it is”. He watched the debate with “incredible frustration and distress because what I see is candidates who want to tear this city down”.
The priority neighbourhood plan was started in 2005, and Weston–Mt Dennis was added to the list in 2006. The idea is to strengthen the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in Toronto by improving their community groups and social infrastructure , things like parks and play areas. The Jane St Hub, which will open next week, came to Weston as part of the initiative.
Joe Pantolone said “‘I would extend it, and I would expand it. The 13 neighbourhoods project has been very successful.”
George Smitherman extolled the community health centres he helped start as Health Minister and criticized the instability of funding to the neighbourhoods. He said, though, that funding shouldn’t be restricted to the 13 neighbourhoods: “I support priority neighbourhoods…. But I’m interested in priority people. I think you have to sustain those funds for priority neighbourhoods. But don’t stop there… It’s not good enough to tell those young people that are struggling to find community space [in other areas] that because they’re not on the list, they don’t matter”.
Rocco Rossi criticized Ford to loud applause and said “the programs are working and need to be expanded.”
The new social-services hub on Jane St will open on Tuesday, October 12 after years of delays.
The Hub makes it easy for clients to access many social services in a central location. Health care, counselling, employment services, and settlement services are all available in the same place—the old Food Basics store at 1541 Jane near Trethewey. An article in today’s Globe and Mail extols the virtues of the hub philosophy: the proximity of the services creates synergies for both clients and staff. Clients are able to do ‘one-stop shopping’, and staff are better able to track and provide for their needs.
Weston got the Hub because it is one of the 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto. It was conceived in 2007, and had been originally (and optimistically) planned to open in 2008.
There will be an open house on Thursday, November 11 between 4 and 6 pm.
Are you dreading a steep increase in the number of diesel trains rolling through Weston when the Airport link is completed? The Clean Train Coalition would like to see electric locomotives instead and is holding an ambitious music festival on Sunday, September 26 in Sorauren Park (just south of Dundas on Sorauren Avenue).
The festival kicks off at 1:00 p.m. and will feature a charity barbecue, music and family activities. Keynote speakers will take to the stage at 3:00 p.m. For more information see the Clean Train Coalition website here.
The Weston Village Residents’ Association is organizing a night out at the corner of King St and Elm this Monday. The gathering is to “show support for Helen and John [the proprietors of Olympic Variety], to send out good vibes and to let the community know that we will not stand for our neighbourhood being bullied in any way.”
That intersection has had a fair bit of drama over the past few weeks. Olympic Variety was robbed last week, and there was a shooting the week before. Helen, a proprietor of Olympic Variety, was hurt in the robbery.
Weston is one step closer to having a digital arts and computer skills centre. The centre will let youth explore “digital arts (animation, web design, digital photography, audio and video editing) and Microsoft curricula”.
In the last City Council meeting, UrbanArts, a neighbourhood arts and development organization, was given a green light to top-up the finding for the “Pro Tech Media Centre and Youth Arts Hub”. The city was responsible for the bulk of the funding, but the program required that partners make contributions. Microsoft contributed $1 million citywide for the ProTech projects; UrbanArts contributed $95,000.
There are several ProTech Media Centres elsewhere in Toronto. Rexdale, Malvern, and the Eglintion East-Kennedy Park neighbourhoods have them already; the Weston-Mount Dennis centre is the last of the planned locations. The city says that the centres will “introduce youth to potential careers in new media while providing computer literacy skills and creating opportunities for self-expression.”
The first phase of construction will begin this fall.
UrbanArts held its 6th annual Culture Shock festival today. Poets, visual artists, musicians, and dancers entertained audiences all through the afternoon and into the evening.
Artists performed in several places around the high school. Highlights included a fashion show, the York Lions Steel Drum band, and performances by local dance groups.
UrbanArts is a youth arts organization on John St in Weston. It is one of four ‘local arts services organzations’ in Toronto; LASOs work in priority neighbourhoods to make “the arts, in all its diverse forms, broadly accessible and affordable.” As well as preparing for the Culture Shock festival, this summer UrbanArts has been hosting camps and running a graffiti prevention project.
Weston’s new ‘hub’ will open in September, according to Matt Brubacher, the Community Engagement Coordinator.
The hub will be a place where the community can find help with employment, women’s and youth issues, parenting, and health care. It will be in the old Food Basics on Jane St, and has been planned since at least 2008. York Community Services, the agency behind it, had said that the centre would open in June of this year.
Brubacher says that the hub is opening in Weston because it is one of 13 ‘priority neighbourhoods’ identified by the United Way. The United Way has plans to open eight hubs in total; the first one opened in January in Scarborough. When it is completed, Weston’s hub will be only the second or third.
Brubacher said that the priority areas generally have “higher levels of poverty, lower levels of service, and safety issues as well. Hubs are one thing that they’re doing to support the neighbourhoods”. The United Way says that these priority neighbourhood are in the inner suburbs, and are characterized growing levels of poverty, few services, growing numbers of youth, and an increasing need for newcomer services.
Brubacher said that they’ll be having events and “holding monthly gatherings to start talking about what [the community] would like to see happening at the Hub and once we’ve been open for a little bit, we’ll have a big opening celebration as well.”