City facilities reopening

The city is re-opening many sports, recreation, and library facilities. In Weston and Mount Dennis, you should be able to

  • Use the dog parks
  • Golf at Scarlett Woods
  • Fish at the Humber and Topham Pond
  • Play tennis

For the time being, playgrounds, pools, and splash pads remain closed. The Weston Farmers’ Market will not open until mid-summer, at the soonest. The soccer field at Weston Lions Park, which had attracted players in violation of distancing rules, remains closed.

The Weston Public Library will reopen for curbside pickup of book holds on June 1. Borrowers will be able to return their loans through the drop box. The library is asking that you hold onto any large or fragile items.

 

 

New bike shop in Weston

There’s a new little bike repair shop in Weston: Cheel’s Wheels.

Mark Cheel says “I was recently let go from my project management position due to COVID-19 and I figured, while I was on the job hunt, to get back to my roots and jump back into bicycle repair”, an industry he has more than a decade of experience in.

His prices are very fair: $30 for a tune-up, which includes a lube job, gears and brakes, wheel truing and a safety check. For $15 he’ll pick up or deliver, too.

And, because you can’t be too safe, he wipes down the bike before and after any repairs.

Call or text Mark at (416) 951-8950 if you have any questions.

More thoughts from the lockdown.

It’s hard to get our heads around this pandemic. Let’s start with the important stuff instead of (note to self) watching the gong of doom all day.

How to avoid catching Covid-19.
Knowledge is power. For starters read this excellent blog post from an epidemiologist, it’s well worth the investment of your time as well as this article by Jonathan Kay that inspired it.

Bottom line: “Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.”

Wrong advice:
We were first told that face-masks were ineffective. Canadian medical officers of health are still tepid as to their protection value. Despite that, it appears that masks are very effective in containing the spread of Covid. Look at this comparison of jurisdictions and their use of masks along with testing and contact tracing.

from #Masks4all. Click to enlarge.
From #Masks4all.com
Frequent wearing of masks and better masks drives virus transmission towards zero (blue zone). From Researchgate.net.

Despite the evidence, health experts continue to twist themselves into pretzels and argue that their conflicting advice was correct each time.

Long term care homes:
The infection and death rate in profit-making homes is significantly higher than in non-profits  and it’s even lower in civic-run homes.  Legislation from an earlier P.C. government and low funding from Liberals along with decreased inspections has cost lives. Legislated staffing ratios and more frequent inspections are needed for all facilities. This is something that the Ford government doesn’t seem interested in. All Personal Support Workers – even those from agencies – should be paid well with benefits and restricted to one location only. Do we want anything less for the most vulnerable members of our society? (ambiguity intentional)

Paradox:
Isn’t it odd that many of our (now) most important workers were stiffed by Premier Ford when he blocked a minimum wage rise back in 2018. Now he’s offering some of them a temporary (4 month) $4 an hour raise, no doubt until it’s safe to ignore these essential workers once more.

B.S. O-Meter:
We’re hearing a lot more from politicians and health officials these days. The B.S. alarms should go off when any public figure says:

  • …thoughts and prayers…
  • You won’t believe…
  • We’ve made historic investments…
  • Each and every…
  • Let me be clear…
  • We’re gonna be laser focussed…
  • We’ll put an iron ring around our seniors…
  • Don’t go to your cottage to check on the plumbing…
  • …my career
  • Sentences using the first person pronoun (I).
  • No-one likes _____ more than I do…

Things that will never be the same again:

Office work:
Many office-based businesses have discovered that work can carry on from home quite efficiently with the added bonus of employees ponying up the accommodation and utility costs. Will we need as much office space in the future? Probably not. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Some friends work from home and hate the lack of social contact with colleagues along with the intrusion of work tasks into all hours of the day and night. If business can solve these issues, there will be a lot fewer commuters and less need to live in the city.

Spitting athletes:
The act of spitting can carry huge virus loads. If basketball, golf and tennis players can go a whole game without spitting or firing snot rockets, hockey and baseball players, cyclists (and everyone else) can and must.

Handshakes and hugs:
The ancient custom of bowing or the namaste hand clasp is looking better and better. “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” – Dr. Anthony Fauci.

From Osho News

Transportation:
TTC ridership is down 80%. Many people are fearful of travelling on any form of transit. Projections are that when numbers recover after the pandemic subsides, they will climb to less than 50% of pre-pandemic levels. This includes airplane and cruise line traffic.

We need more:

Pedestrian and park space:
We need more and it seems that Toronto is cautiously (what else) moving to improve pedestrian space so that people are able to occupy more of the road space since they are now in the majority in many parts of Toronto. How great would it be if Toronto restaurants could occupy patios outside their establishments with a minimum of red tape? Then again we live in Toronto the Careful™.

Cycling expansion:
When Toronto Council right-winger Denzil Minnan-Wong proposed to “…direct the General Manager, Transportation Services to explore the feasibility of implementing new technology including heated pavement to promote year-round cycling., our own Councillor Nunziata voted to defeat the motion. Doncha know there’s a pandemic on?

Oddly Mr. Minnan-Wong voted against his own motion. Toronto Council never fails to entertain.

Vote (Adopt Item)Apr-30-2020
Result: LostMajority Required – IE12.8 – Infrastructure and Environment Committee Recommendation 9 only
Yes: 8Brad Bradford, Joe Cressy, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, Jennifer McKelvie, Gord Perks, Anthony Perruzza, Kristyn Wong-Tam
No: 16Paul Ainslie, Ana Bailão, Mike Colle, Gary Crawford, John Filion, Michael Ford, Mark Grimes, Stephen Holyday, Jim Karygiannis, Cynthia Lai, Josh Matlow, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata (Chair), James Pasternak, Michael Thompson, John Tory
Absent: 2Shelley Carroll, Jaye Robinson

Bless the Diavolitsis family although it’s sad that we need to raise charitable donations for our hospitals.

Local Weston and Mount Dennis business needs our patronage more than ever.

Canadian inventiveness and ‘Made In Canada’ labels may become a more common sight as we realize the sense of supporting local industry.

Education:
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has got his wish of increased distance learning and almost every student in the province is taking part in a giant online / distant learning experiment. The original goal of the Ford government was to cut education costs by requiring high school students to take four online credits. After an outcry the number was reduced to two credits but the pandemic may make online learning a necessity.

Lastly, universities coining gazillions of dollars from overseas students are learning that their golden goose has been cooked by Covid-19. In early 2020, more than 600,000 foreign students made Canada their learning playground. There’s simply no point in overseas students paying top dollar for courses at U of T or McGill if they can’t have the physical student experience of skipping classes and getting shitfaced, which is after all a major point of the exercise. No doubt accommodation and other repercussions will echo across the land when the students’ $22 billion and 170,000 related jobs disappear.

What does a good neighbourhood look like?

From City of Toronto.

Developers have returned to Weston and Mount Dennis for two reasons:

  1. There is an opportunity to make money.
  2. See reason #1

The opportunity has arrived thanks mainly to government infrastructure spending, mainly in the form of improved transit. Developers are not benevolent entities so that’s why we have planning departments and civic government to protect us from their excesses.

Why have developers come here? The city is expanding and transit links have improved. The UP Express makes a trip to the airport or downtown quick and easy. The much awaited Eglinton Crosstown line will be opening in 2021 2022 and with good transit comes increased property prices and investment opportunities. The city will gain from the increased property tax assessments that new buildings and increased density will provide.

Win Win.

Unless…

We have all witnessed first hand the results of bad development. In fact Weston could be called the poster child for corrupt and shoddy development imposed on the community in the 70s and 80s. In addition, community housing has been allowed to deteriorate through bad management and constrained budgets. When Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris dumped responsibility for social housing onto the city in 1998 he promised that the transfer would be revenue neutral. Last year Ottawa announced funding to help ease the $1.6 billion repair backlog.

Anne Hidalgo has been the Mayor of Paris since 2014. The city isn’t perfect and they are looking at an idea that is gaining traction. The idea is that nobody in Paris should be more than a fifteen-minute walk or bike ride to everything they need in order to live well.

Adapted from: Le Paris du ¼ heure. From Paris en commun. Click to enlarge.

Clearly, if people could live close to everything they needed, life would be a lot better. People would be healthier thanks to exercise and reduced fumes from vehicles. Is this a possibility for Weston and Mount Dennis? We certainly have the parks, outdoor exercise opportunities and fresh air (given the constraints of local highway pollution). Access to a doctor / health care is probably reasonable (readers may wish to comment). The things our community seems to lack are cultural opportunities, good produce stores, a decent bakery (mmm baguettes) and a bigger variety of workplaces.

Charlottesville Virginia has become a walkable city. From c-ville.com.

It doesn’t help that in the past 20 years the bike network in York South Weston seems to have grown at the same rate as a sloth’s fingernail. Toronto routinely fails to spend its annual budgeted allocation on bike trails and lanes. In 2016, the City’s 10-year cycling plan was supposed to create 560 km of bike lanes and cycle paths. Two years later, 33 km had been built. The City claims it’s because of the environmental and other assessments that need to be done beforehand. I think it’s a lack of will. On this side of the pond, Charlottesville has made their city walkable. So it is possible if the will is there.

Rio de Janeiro’s version of Lakeshore Boulevard (oh the irony) is closed to traffic every Sunday. File.

We need to impress on politicians that traffic-clogged streets and car-dependent neighbourhoods are harmful to our health. Developers and city planners should be working towards the day when everything is within walking or cycling distance. This is why we as a community should be vigilant and not allow poor design, rampant greed or both to be the deciding factors in what gets built here. We need to be vigilant for the people who will make Weston and Mount Dennis home over the next 50 years.

Toronto Loop Trail – Weston’s missing link visible.

Newly emerged from years of austerity, Mayor John Tory has announced ‘The Loop Trail’; a pedestrian / bike path that will make a roughly round shape as it passes through many Toronto neighbourhoods and along the lakeshore. Much of the trail already exists. Sadly, since becoming mayor, Tory has overseen the creation of a tiny fraction of the promised and budgeted trails in Toronto so we shouldn’t get our hopes up.

The Loop Trail map is hard to decipher as its creators have neglected to label any streets. Luckily for us, our neck of the woods is easy to find thanks to a prominent gap in the trail between Cruickshank Park and Fairglen Crescent.

Our missing link continues to frustrate Humber Trail / Pan Am Path users.

Now that Mayor Tory has provided some impetus, perhaps Councillor Nunziata can do something to speed up negotiations with landowners along the missing part of the trail. We’ve been waiting a long time.

It won’t be a true loop until that happens.

The year in review.

As the year comes to a close, it’s probably a good moment to look back at some of the events and topics that we dealt with in 2019.

TORONTO POLICE:
Toronto Police have had a lot to be embarrassed about this year. It emerged that traffic enforcement has been virtually non-existent since 2013. This could explain why traffic deaths have spiked upwards in recent years. Many people have died unnecessarily since that time. If you ever wonder why there are more entitled idiots on the road, the lack of police presence and enforcement is the reason.

From Toronto Star.

The public is often puzzled by the actions of police. Police have told us that they’re understaffed and sometimes there’s only a handful of cops available for the whole of 12 Division. After a recent and tragic murder at 1765 Weston, 15 cruisers were reported to have appeared but cops are seemingly unavailable for anything less serious. Was every attending officer at that crime scene really doing something useful?

The police also need to stop the knee-jerk reactions when pressure to act is applied. When undesired behaviour reaches intolerant levels, policing needs to change. Chief Saunders seems to think a temporary fix with a fancy title will solve the problem. The Chief needs to understand that shootings and car deaths aren’t going to disappear once temporary programs are disbanded. We need permanent solutions that continue to work. A few extra officers on overtime won’t cut it.

Toronto’s ‘Year Of The Gun’ in 2005 had 262 shootings and 367 victims. So far in 2019, Toronto has experienced 484 shootings involving 764 victims. In 12 Division we had 45 shootings and 77 victims.

Shootings by year 2004-2018. From Toronto Police.

On an even less cheerful note, this year in Toronto, you are almost as likely to be killed by a car as by a gun although not so in 12 Division with one pedestrian death.

MAYOR TORY
It took until 2019 for the Mayor to understand that low taxes and service reductions result in a shabby and crime-ridden city. This is widely known so  why the Mayor thought Toronto would be different is anyone’s guess. Since becoming Mayor in 2014, he has followed many of the policies and ideas of his predecessor Rob Ford. During the 2018 election he ridiculed candidates whose platform suggested inflation-busting property tax increases. Now, after promising tax increases at or below the level of inflation he has gained approval from Council for a property tax ‘levy’ that will add to the City’s building fund.

Naturally, the mayor sets the tone for Council and the tone has shifted to the left.

COUNCILLOR NUNZIATA
The councillor has made some efforts to modify her stances on some issues and has moved in tandem with the Mayor’s come to Jesus moment. She pushed for and got bike lanes on Scarlett Road. She still seems unable to tell developers to tone down excessive heights of apartments and presided over continued flooding in Ward 5 along with not seeming to care about a developer putting a slaughterhouse on flood-plain land.

WESTON BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREA
Question: How do you bring a flea market to Weston?
Answer: Start with a farmers market and work your way down from there.

Late in the season, the BIA abruptly booted Joe Gaeta from the Weston Farmers Market (2nd oldest in Toronto) a week before City inspectors found that it didn’t have enough produce sellers to qualify as a true FM. It is now officially a flea market. On  the plus side, the inadequate space at the new Hub location will no longer be such a big deal.

In more positive news, Weston’s Buskerfest and the Weston Santa Claus Parade are popular and continue to strengthen.

People overestimate what can be achieved when a group of retailers get together and try to attract customers to an area. On the other hand, in spite of being partially funded by property taxes, they don’t allow the public to attend their meetings. They also seem to be overly-influenced by Councillor Nunziata who tends to dominate proceedings.

VISION ZERO 2.0
This Toronto Council initiative to prevent traffic deaths has been derisively known as Zero Vision since it produced no results in its first year. Politicians are now beginning to understand that ineptitude in this area costs lives and dozens of people have died unnecessarily in recent years. Despite the urgency to improve safety for pedestrians, Council is moving with glacial speed having only recently made the connection between traffic speed and safety. Speed limits are being lowered in some places, however, the city is supplying only two speed cameras per ward (fines won’t start until they’ve been in place for 3 months – warnings will be issued until then).

Ward 5’s cameras will be at Bicknell Ave. between Juliet Cres. and Avon Dr.; Brookhaven Dr. between Fox Point and Nordale Cres.

Read more here.

DEVELOPERS
Developers continue to propose to put the tallest, ugliest, and cheapest built  structures in the most prominent areas in spite of heritage or building guidelines. This year we lost Greenland Farms whose land may be part of a huge development.

From The Guardian.

In exchange for devastating a neighbourhood, pitiful amounts of Section 37 money are given to local councillors to spend locally. Sadly the money isn’t always spent locally or appropriately and is instead used as a pseudo re-election fund.

Other huge projects are being planned for Weston. More on that in upcoming articles.

What do we want?

Last week, I made a case that we should have a commercial relationship with all the new builders in Weston. They want to break the planning guidelines. I think they should pay to do so.

I also asked how you thought the (as-yet-imaginary) money should be spent. 59 people responded. Thank you! Here are the results. (They don’t add up to 59 because people could vote for more than one option.)

Many people noted that the new-new Farmers’ Market isn’t looking good and asked for a new-new-new one. That wasn’t the most popular option though: the most people voted for a YMCA-style space. I too think that would be just fantastic. Tied for third were a recreation space for young people and a scholarship fund. Damned fine ideas, if I do say so myself.

Peering into the data, I think we could safely say that a YMCA-style space would be just super, because it could provide all of the top options, as well as a few of the less popular ones:

  • Programming for youth
  • A stuff-bank for tools, food, clothing, and computers
  • Another, closer, and perhaps less popular gym
  • Perhaps even a community daycare, which we have been missing for six years