I’m going into politics

There are few perks for those in public service. Our politicians have long hours, low pay, and must face the constant whinging of aggrieved citizens all looking for an angle.

Let us then, allow them what few joys they do get. Like free pole dances.

Frances Nunziata asked the Licensing and Standards Committee at City Hall to review burlesque regulatio…  oh, hell, all you want is the picture. Nunziata wanted politics and she got this:

Yes. That’s a pole dancer, showing what pole dancing is, at City Hall, because Frances Nunziata asked for a review of burlesque entertainer regulations. So yes, in a way, Frances Nunziata asked for a pole dancer at City Hall. Is that a stretch? Not compared to Viviana’s! That’s her name. She’s from Ecuador.

Cesar Palacio, my old councillor, said the “demonstration was important to understand the industry.” Sure, Cesar. Sure.

So far, it’s made news in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver… hey! Eyes down here! It’s news everywhere.

Move along. You’ve seen enough.

No charges in police shooting at Crosswinds Plaza

No officers will be charged in the police shooting at the Crossroads Plaza in January. A 38-year-old man, who the SIU calls only “John Doe”, was shot four times. He survived.

The SIU says that the man was rummaging through dumpsters behind the plaza when the police approached him in their car. As they got out of the cruiser, he threatened them with a large butcher knife. The officers backed away and called for backup, who arrived soon after.

The man waled some distance away as the police followed. He approached them wielding the knife even as they shouted at him to drop it, and, when he drew within 2m of one of them, was shot.

The director of the SIU said in the press release that “In my view, the subject officer was justified in the use of potentially lethal force against Mr. Doe; he represented an imminent threat to the subject officer because he was armed with a large-edged weapon, was not complying with police commands and was continuing to advance toward the subject officer.  Further, the subject officer was in a very difficult position to retreat due to his proximity to the roadway. Accordingly, I do not have the grounds to cause a charge to be laid with respect to this incident.”

Guest editorial: Our Full Civic Duty by Clarke Slemon

Dr. Clarke Slemon is the Secretary of  Ontario Progressive Conservative Constituency Association of York South-Weston. 

Real civic participation

In October, Roy Murray reported in WestonWeb that in the last provincial election the voter turnout was just 45% , the lowest in history. Our riding participation rate was 7% less than the provincial average of 52%. Many citizens doubt how useful voting is, and the evidence is in their favour. As Roy Murray wrote “The winning candidate only seemed to come to life and muster up some fighting spirit for the election and will no doubt slip back into obscurity once the dust settles.” I think a little more than simply casting a vote is needed to resuscitate participatory democracy: more people need to join political parties and help select candidates.

A political party is like a municipal bus

A political party is a lot like a municipal bus—and that can be very frustrating. It doesn’t go as fast as you would like it to. It doesn’t take you by a sensible route. It doesn’t match your personal day-to-day needs. It never seems to get the details right concerning the way things should be run. Nevertheless, sometimes taking such a bus, for some distance, is useful. At other times, one needs to transfer and move in a different direction.

Political parties are not super smart authorities. They are just tools that voters like yourself can use to try to make Ontario, or Canada, or York South-Weston, a little better. Sometimes you may decide that Ontario should be nudged more the way Conservatives promise, sometimes the New Democrats have something to offer, or the Liberals. Without fail, every choice leaves something to be desired on some policy issue. Like the law itself, politics is a blunt instrument. It is likely to feel a lot like trying to perform brain surgery with a wrench and pliers, but it is the only equipment we have to try to keep Ontario, or Canada, or York South-Weston, evolving in the direction we think best.

Dirty Politics?

People say that politics is a dirty business and there is certainly plenty of evidence that this is often true. Yet, have you ever thought that part of that dirtiness might be because most ordinary citizens pay so little attention to the nuts and bolts of democratic participation? As my wife says, “Politics is a bit like laundry; you don’t want to take it up as a profession, but if you don’t do a little bit every week, things get dirty.”

Certainly there aren’t many people who want to devote much time to politics and I don’t suppose you are going to be that exception. Regular folks have lives to live, problems to solve, places to go. So what’s the scoop? Why am I writing this?

An Extended Civic Duty

I would like you to ‘dip your toe’ into politics and buy a one year membership in one of the York South-Weston political party organizations. The cost will be about $10.00. It is important because your once yearly contribution will make you eligible to vote for future delegates to party policy conventions and elegible to vote in the selection of future political candidates in York-South Weston.

In an entire year, this will not take more than a few hours of your time, but I believe that those few hours can incrementally improve the integrity and responsiveness of our governors, federal, provincial and municipal.

After you select a party as your political vehicle, if it fails your expectations, switch—like you change buses when their route veers away from your unique destination. It is your right to direct the politicians. Political parties are just tools for that job. You are empowered to guide public policy. It’s just that some social elitists don’t want to tell you how it is really done. Having a vote within a political party provides more power than a vote in an election ever will.

To join one of the York-South Weston branches of any political party all you need to do is go to the party’s website and by entering your area code, as instructed, you will be directed how to join the York South-Weston Association.

In a few weeks you will receive your membership card in the mail from the provincial office in Toronto. Then you can participate as much, or as little, as you want. What is key though is you will be informed when those few hours arrive and a few key decisions beg your attention: electing delegates to the party convention and choosing the party’s candidate for the election. We may not get all we want but we’ll start to get at least what we need.

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Metrolinx says Kodak lands to be a ‘Mobility Hub’

Last week, Frances Nunziata said that she would not support Metrolinx’s plans for the disused Kodak lands on Blackcreek Drive, although she had supported building a TTC yard there in the past.

Nunziata says that she opposes the new TTC yard because Metrolinx is planning to use the entire site for a TTC yard where light-rail trains would be maintained. She said this “removes the possibility of having complementary uses on the site that could bring employment opportunities to the area. I do not believe using the entire site of the former Kodak lands for a maintenance and storage facility is in the best interest of the community and as such do not support the current plan to use the entire site.”

Malon Edwards from Metrolinx says that this is not entirely accurate; she says the “Kodak site has been identified by Metrolinx as a mobility hub”—a mini-Union station. Mobility hubs are a key part of Metrolinx’s plans for transit in the GTA. They are supposed to be, according to Metrolinx,

places of connectivity where different modes of transportation – from walking to biking to riding transit – come together seamlessly and where there is an intensive concentration of working, living, shopping and/or playing.

Edwards also says that “the yard is more than a repair yard. The site allows for overnight storage of up to 165 vehicles, daily cleaning and inspections, scheduled maintenance, and repairs and heavy maintenance and vehicle overhaul.”

However, several details are still unclear. While mobility hubs are supposed to provide seamless interconnection between transit modes, the Kodak lands are quite far from the ARL and GO trains, which will be at the new Weston Station at Jane and Lawrence.

Recently, Jane and Eglinton had been proposed as a location for the mobility hub; that was opposed because the station would be far from the train line and because there is low population density in the area. Your humble correspondent is puzzled that the Kodak lands are not an improvement.

Mount Dennis gets the boot.

The current sad state of the Kodak employees building (c 1941).

For many years, there have been high hopes about future development of the Kodak lands site. The site was sold to Metrus in 2006 for $19.5 million but for decades employed thousands of Mount Dennis and Weston residents directly and indirectly. In recent years came the disquieting rumour that the TTC would like to purchase the site from owners Metrus in order to install a marshalling yard. Residents were not happy about this because it would be the worst possible outcome. They have consistently told politicians that the site should be developed so that a balance of housing, parkland and top notch industry would occupy the site. A marshalling yard will be noisy, create few jobs and destroy the natural potential of the site.

Well, it’s official, except that Metrolinx quietly bought it last month and will use the entire site, presumably to shuffle and store light rail vehicles. It seems that in spite of ample warning of this looming disaster, no politician at the city or provincial level has been able to invoke the will of the people.

As long ago as 2007 the city was hoping for ’employment density’ on the site. Now the last hope is that City Council and the Provincial Liberals can act to encourage Metrolinx to be a good corporate citizen and do something to mitigate this disaster.

Is it too much to hope that Councillors Frances Nunziata, Frank Di Giorgio and MPP Laura Albanese can do a little marshalling of their own and derail this worst of all outcomes?