Letter of the Week – January 14, 2018

Another interesting set of  thoughts from Anonymous is our Letter of the Week. Anon was responding to other comments on the image of the new Rockport apartments  but first made a public service announcement which is also worthy of a more prominent airing.

Interesting.

Interesting concerns..
..as always from “Fortress Weston”.

So, if I may, before I weigh in on the high rise rentals issue of concern, here’s some helpful news or at the very least, a public service announcement:

“The Community Police Partnership” group is looking for more members, ahead of an upcoming meeting between local police and community members who have already expressed interest in assisting in our troubled community.

The note comes from Councillor Nunziata’s office – sent out this morning – where she extends yet another invitation to anyone else still very concerned about the safety in our community, saying that there’s still time to join the group, if you’d like.

This call to join, stems back to the last major meeting she organized regarding the ongoing concern about “Community Safety in Weston” – the well attended meeting that was held at Weston Memorial Jr. PS, back in mid-November.

You may recall that this came shortly after the stabbing murder in town, ironically near Central United Church, in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot.

Many agree that it was an odd, tragic event, that appears as though it could somehow be linked to gang related activity, given the odd, unknown relationship between the players in this drama.

Risky business dealings?
Maybe.

But, no matter the reason, it was unsettling for most of us, even though the Staff Sargent and her team assured us that these types of violent crimes are gang related, unlike the nuisance crimes most complained about.

Anyway, the Councillor’s note this morning is an invitation to consider joining a group of like minded, worried or concerned Weston folks who would work with members of 12 Division in something called, “The Community Police Partnership”, which will try and maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding safety and policing matters.

She’d like to know if there’s anyone else interested in joining the group which will meet in a few weeks to come.

Worried, concerned or down right pissed off and want to do something?
Here’s your chance to reach out to her office and assist.

Make no mistake and no matter what, the members of 12 Division will continue to be on guard for our area, trying to address all concerns, even if many are deemed nuisance crimes, relatively speaking, of course.

But, it’s evident that the Councillor has 12 Division’s ear, and they could use some help in an obviously, concerned Weston community.

And, if you’re wondering, no. I don’t work for or represent the Councillor or TPS’s 12 Division in any way, shape or form.

Just hoping to see a better balance in an area that I still call home, amid extreme finger pointing.

Frankly however, I do appreciate it when I see someone who isn’t afraid of some heavy lifting and a little hard work.

No magic.
Often, just hard, thankless work.

Could it be as easy as that?

Well, maybe not cause here’s the problem. And, to paraphrase an ancient French philosopher who once uttered in jest:

“.. The problem with the world is that everyone thinks they know the way, or has the answer.”

(Insert sycophantic, uppercrust, powder wigged laughter here.)

Anyway, somehow despite what you or I think of the Councillor’s efforts – as a politician or person – she continues to reach out in this community which includes a very disparate group of beings. And, she serves, unlike you and me.

“Takes a licking, but keeps on ticking”, n’est pas?

No?

Run against her effort & record.
(She’s bound to lose one day.)

So, in the mean time, consider her invitation to join, if safety is top of mind.

Now, back to the topic of Rentals in this working class area that has longgggg had high rise rental accommodations with numerous precedents paving the way for even more demands for affordable housing, not always pleasing to many of us.

They’re here to stay, and more are needed.

So, given that, how to make them better – for the unit residents and in general, the Weston community which is going through it’s own form of gentrification.

Weston is still a pretty good buy – better yet with improved rail transit into the city.

Clearly, neighbourhoods need a relationship with a strong business and development community.

We understand that affordable housing is intended to assist the less than privileged types among us, who we hope are decent folks, and often are.

But sadly, perhaps too often they are sharing space with lawless types who hide out in their midst. (“Community Safety” issue?)

Now, as we know affordable housing is encouraged & later demanded by social activists in our city and community.

And, these activists are backed by other like minded altruists who attend these very kinds of information meetings, too when organized by the Councillor, which includes interested investors who want to see if Weston is worthy of their consideration, and investment dollars.

Fact is, more often than not these are pretty small and poorly attended meetings by the people who actually live in the area.

If we don’t go to meetings, the balance is thrown off.

And then, what we get is this – too much right wing influencing the debate or too much left wing winning the day for their needs.

We perhaps then, get what we earn when we don’t get involved, especially when invited.

And yeah, I don’t always go these meetings either.
(I pick my spots, too. Not good. But, that’s life.)

But, here’s the thing for me when it comes to rentals – I very much believe in something often referred to as “pride in ownership” which is something I don’t think you get from living in a rental space.

And yes, I suppose as a consequence, I don’t much like having my hard earned tax dollars carelessly squandered by politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists or activists, of any persuasion.

Nevertheless, I fully understand that we sometimes have to spend shared taxation monies to improve societal needs, which hopefully benefits most involved & concerned.

A balance, a yin & yang influenced by those who choose to get involved.

So, like it or not, as it stands Weston has always been a working class neighbourhood which has given the have-nots of the world a place and a chance to start. A chance to improve, grow and move on up.

Many very proud Westonites from my past have moved on up & out.
(But, they always remember where they’re from, somehow in a prideful way.)

Some have grown to know the value of an opportunity to gain some ground. And others, will never know it because perhaps they’ve not had the good fortune of proper mentoring which clearly helps and begins in a family, who shows you the way.

My folks were working class stiffs originally from an Eastern bloc country, who bought their Weston home for $21,000 back in the day.

And, my in laws did so too, for about $5000 less, a few years prior to Mom & Dad’s closing date in the 60s.

They worked hard in the factory jobs available to them and knew the importance of saving, as best they could.

And, even though my folks had a real aversion to any left leaning politics given their life experiences in eastern Europe, they were involved in their workplace labour unions, working hard at obtaining some fairness, a balance in their workplace & community.

However, rhetoric goes only so far and like most, they sought better, too.

For them, apart from their mortgage, they never borrowed or used credit. Dad believed in paying cash for everything. Or would flex and consider a “lay away” plan for furniture & luxury items, a pretty much unheard of approach these days of instant gratification.

Life was relatively modest for us and people like us.

We were never middle class, but I never felt we were poor – just perhaps not as fortunate as others, never really coveting what someone else had in comparison.

I just had an awareness through my folks that if I truly wanted something I’d have to work carefully & hard to achieve it.

I was lucky – I had mentoring types from an early age.

Early in their journey, my mentoring types did have to rent many times before they finally could realize the dream of home ownership, and the pride that goes with ownership.

And so, thanks to them I hope I learned some important lessons well, that I might have shared with our kids, by example.

Also thankfully, don’t know what it means to have a good work ethic, but no where to earn a living the way many folks – young & old – are challenged these days.

Looking back, it did seem easier then, where even if you had no inclination for post secondary scholastics and what might materialize from those grand efforts – you could go off to a CCM, a Moffatts, construction trades or an auto mechanics job at a local dealership of which we had all brands represented in Weston.

It was tough then for working class folks and those who aspired to at least that level. But, probably tougher now.

The common denominator between then & now is that the community of Weston was and is more affordable than many other areas in the city of Toronto.

And, given the need for affordable rental housing everywhere, it’s not likely going to change too soon in the Weston area.

It will always be a growing concern.

Now, how to make it better?

Well, our web host once noted that, it is we the people who are the government, and it has a better chance to work & succeed if we people get involved, when these moments arise like they do in Weston.

Community Safety meeting, anyone?

Thanks for your time.

Five myths about Weston / Mount Dennis

There is an old saying that perception is everything. There is a widespread set of beliefs about our corner of Toronto. Let’s see where perception meets reality. Readers are invited to share their own observations on these topics.

Myth #1: Weston / Mount Dennis is a high crime area

People are notoriously poor at assessing personal risk. When a murder occurs such as the recent stabbing in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot, it (quite naturally) shakes up the community. Because we know the area well and may have at some time walked through that parking lot, it’s only human to imagine that we’re personally at risk from such seemingly unpredictable occurrences.

How safe are we? The answer is very safe. Killings are rarely random and most murder victims have some kind of relationship with their killer. Is the average person at risk of being murdered in Weston? To put it simply, no. Riding in a car, crossing the road or climbing a ladder exposes us to far more risk of death or injury.

An intelligent reaction to such tragic deaths is important. The involvement of police and politicians working with residents in finding solutions to criminal behaviour is essential. If there is a shortage of police on duty, that should be changed – although if 12 Division can only muster seven officers and two traffic officers during one shift (it would be nice to know the time of day), clearly either the police are understaffed or those who do the staffing feel that crime levels warrant such small numbers.

In 2011 we learned that there is considerable overlap in police shifts suggesting that there is still room to maximize police resources.

The press tends to sensationalize criminal behaviour and treat it in isolation rather than look for underlying causes and trends. There is a theory that since we have so many press outlets in Toronto, crime is emphasized more and perceptions are distorted. As a suburb of Canada’s largest city (and the third largest in North America) we do have crime. Incidentally, Weston’s crime rate is no higher than other areas of Toronto which is by the way, the safest major city in North America. When I talk to American friends, they are always astonished that our murder rate is so low. Toronto’s annual murder rate would be a considered a bad month in comparably-sized Chicago.

Myth #2: Weston / Mount Dennis is out in the boonies.

If a short commute to a job downtown or at Pearson Airport is a good thing, Weston is better off than many inner suburbs. It’s only 14 minutes to downtown by UP Express or GO train and a combination TTC/GO-UPX fare is now $1.50 cheaper. Pearson Airport and Bloor Stations are an even quicker commute. Several intersecting bus routes already make Weston a transit hub and the TTC is looking at providing more express buses.

If you like to take in a professional sports game, have a downtown night out or visit the second largest theatre district in North America, UPX trains will take you there and back quickly at all hours.

The new Eglinton Crosstown will open in 2021 providing welcome rapid access to mid-town places like Yonge and Eglinton from Weston GO / UPX Station and the beautiful new Mount Dennis Station. Contrary to rumours, Weston Station is not likely to close once the Eglinton Crosstown opens as it’s far too valuable a piece of infrastructure and will form a stop on any new commuter line.

Although Toronto’s roads are increasingly blocked, we have rapid access to highways 401, 409, 400 and 427.

Myth #3: Weston / Mount Dennis is all apartment towers / there’s nowhere decent to live.

Architecturally, Weston Village, much dating from the early 20th Century, has streets full of residential gems that have somehow survived demolition. Many have been restored to their former splendour along quiet leafy avenues.

Nevertheless, we do have more than our fair share of awful apartment buildings. They were put up decades ago by unscrupulous developers with a wink and a nod from planners and politicians. Are those days over? Planning guidelines written to preserve the character of Weston and Mount Dennis are routinely ignored. We’ll see what happens once the developer friendly Ontario Municipal Board loses its grip on the building process.

Dilapidated rental units close to our newer transit options will find it in their own interest to renovate and improve their properties. That process is well under way.

Hopefully our current politicians along with a revamped approval process will oversee a better quality of new development than in the past.

Myth #4: There’s no natural beauty in Weston / Mount Dennis.

There are few suburbs in Toronto where you can walk to such a variety of beautiful wide open parkland as we have here. Our riverside parks stretching along the Humber are a wildlife and landscape photographer’s dream. There are likewise few places in any city where you can regularly see deer, rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, foxes, coyotes, mink and beaver to name but a few.  Birds are also plentiful ranging from red-tailed hawks, owls and woodpeckers to chickadees and tiny humming birds in summer.

Fishing for Atlantic salmon or Lake Ontario trout is a twice annual activity that would cost a small fortune in other countries. Our parks are able to accommodate large family picnics and there are also places for quiet contemplation. Although parkland along the Humber could still use better accessibility (ignored by Council for more than a decade now), there are parts of Weston where there is nothing but nature.

Myth #5: There’s nowhere to eat – restaurants and pubs.

We have many eating places in Weston and while some are very successful, sadly others aren’t patronized as well as they might be. Toronto is known for its huge variety of ethnic restaurants but some local eateries are sadly unpatronized or denied licenses because of vocal nimby groups. On the positive side, successes are growing; one only needs to look at the new P&M, Zeal Burger, Perfect Blend and SuperCoffee to see evidence of people supporting food outlets that have invested in our community. Sadly, the hoops that these new businesses have to jump through are many. It would help if our councillor could ease and speed up the costly and time consuming bureaucratic processes that plague new business startups. Rumour has it that Perfect Blend coffee shop on Weston Road had to delay opening for two years while awaiting various approvals.

So there we have it; there’s a lot more to Weston and Mount Dennis than people give us credit for and the best is yet to come.

Mark DeMontis petitions to recognize Drake

Westonian Mark DeMontis launched a petition yesterday to add “Home of Grammy Award Winning Artist Aubrey Drake Graham” to the Welcome to Weston signs around town.

Aubrey Drake Graham, better known by his middle name, grew up in Weston before becoming one of the world’s biggest stars. Yesterday was his birthday.


DeMontis is running for the Progressive Conservative candidacy, and your correspondent had the chance to speak with him and record WestonWeb’s second-ever podcast. We spoke, among other things, about his memories of Drake, and being in a picture Drake posted yesterday on Instagram.

My bar mitzvah board 😂

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Killer faces $500 fine

A 62-year-old man was charged with an improper right turn, and faces a $500 fine.

That improper turn killed Gary Sim, 70, of Mount Dennis, who was riding his bike on Jane Street. Sim died in hospital on July 2.

Is there a pro-car bias baked into the legal system? Heather Sim, the victim’s daughter, says so.

“If I was walking down the street swinging a lead pipe and hit someone, I’d be (facing an) assault charge … You just not paying attention and hitting people (with your car) doesn’t mean it’s anything more than a Highway Traffic Act charge,” she said.

Even the police think this is wrong. The Star says we could have a vulnerable road-user law, which would increase penalties for motorists who kill pedestrians or cyclists.

The province has been looking into this possibility for more than a year.

 

Who was the man killed by police?

The Toronto Star has an article about the mystery of the homeless man killed by police in Weston last year. It was the second time he had been shot by police in Weston, both times after threatening them with a butcher knife.

The police have little idea who he was.

 

No one knew John Doe.

Not his real name, not his birthday, not where he came from. More than a year after Doe ambushed Toronto police officers with a kitchen knife in a dusty rail corridor in North York, leading one of them to fatally shoot him, all investigators can say is that he was a sex offender with a violent past.

SRO in Weston CI pushes back

One of Weston’s finest has been pushing back against the furore this week surrounding school resource officers. Constable Peter De Quintal has been taking to Twitter, Newstalk 1010, and the CBC to make a gentle case for his role in schools.


The Toronto Police Services Board considered the role of School Resource Officers last week, generating much protest about racism and the marginalization of vulnerable students. One protestor said,

“Police officers in schools have been discriminating against black children, indigenous children and other racialized youth and I just don’t think that there is a world where we need to have guns in schools with kids who are there trying to learn,” Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson told CP24.

Constable Peter De Quintal, AKA “Star Wars Cop” is the SRO for Weston CI and other schools in the neighbourhood. He is famous for, among other things, bike rodeos, Star Wars toast, and the most charming selfie I’ve ever seen—taken when he was being honoured as a Portuguese community leader.

De Quintal told the CBC “I believe the student body in general wants us there, they’re welcoming. I don’t turn the school into a police state, I don’t patrol the hallways. I’m a resource to them, I’m a means of engagement”.

The Police Services Board postponed any decisions about police in schools until December.