Farmers’ Market on the rebound

Business is improving at the Weston Farmers’ Market. The season had started slowly, but there were crowds today.

Betsy Liscio from Grandpa Ken’s sandwiches said that the numbers are still down from last year, but “Today is a good day… and there are lots of days left. Sometimes it just takes time to get people out.”

There were two big pushes to get people out this week. The market advertised in the Guardian newspaper and distributed flyers to residents. For a promotion, the market was offering  free samples of fresh-cooked Ontario corn.

The promotion certainly worked. The largest crowd was around the corn guy. He said “It was a so-so start [this year], but now it’s blooming. Now everyone’s coming out.”

‘The Hub’ nearing completion

The paint is drying on a new community centre in Weston.

The long-empty Food Basics at 1541 Jane, near Trethewey, will soon be home to “The Hub”, a satellite office of York Community Services (YCS).

YCS provides “primary health care, legal services, counseling, case management, housing assistance, and community support”. YCS is partnering with five other charitable groups in the 20,000 square foot facility. Together, they will also give counselling, help with parenting and employment, and settlement services. There will also be a community kitchen and available meeting rooms.

The facility was to have opened as long ago as 2008, but final preparations now appear to be coming together.

According to Alan Tonks, YCS is looking for community members to sit on its advisory panel.

Blue22 trains will be new, cleaner, and publicly owned

Metrolinx has broken up with SNC Lavalin, and will now run new, tier 4, diesel-electric trains on the route to the airport.

Metrolinx announced today that the Union-Pearson link will not be operated by its long-time private partner, SNC Lavalin. Instead, it will be entirely run by Metrolinx, a public agency. Until now, the train to the airport was supposed to have been a public-private partnership, and the partnership had been quite controversial. The proposed one-way fare was $20, much higher than public transit fares, and SNC was going to use 50-year old, refurbished diesel trains.

Now all that will change.

Rob Prichard, the Metrolinx Chairman said

We’ll use new, tier 4 convertible locomotives. They could be converted to electric if at sometime the province decides to convert the Georgetown corridor to an electric service. We’ll build the infrastructure and acquire the vehicles to accommodate electrification, if that is to come at some future date.

The deal with SNC Lavalin did not collapse from public pressure, however. Both Metrolinx and SNC blamed the credit market. The Sun says, though, that SNC could not get the government or its lenders to shoulder enough risk, should the trains be unprofitable.

Steve Munro, a transit pundit, is optimistic about the change:

This long-overdue change in the [air rail link] scheme should bring the project into public view where all aspects of its design, financing and operation will be subject to the same scrutiny and openness as other Metrolinx projects.  Issues such as service levels, equipment provisioning and, most importantly, electrification will no longer hide behind the veil of “commercial confidentiality”.

Stimulus programs in Weston

While people have been saying the recession has been over for more than a year, the economic stimulus programs keep chugging along.

There are very few stimulus projects in Weston, though: only four, in fact. Three of the four are quite small, too—only one is more than $100,000.

By a huge margin, the largest project is in Weston Lions Park. According to Laura Albanese’s speech on Monday, the city, province, and feds are building an inflatable recreation dome. The project will cost about $2 million.

Other projects are tiny by comparison:

  • Improvements in Pelmo Park—$99,000
  • Improvements in Pellatt Park—$99,000
  • Resurfacing of a laneway near Weston and Laurence—$80,000

Oddly, almost all of the money in Weston is being spent on parks. City-wide, there are 9 categories of spending, the biggest of which are transit, water, municipal buildings, and roads. Weston did not get any money to build projects within these categories. Your humble correspondent worries that we missed opportunities.

Yet while we might have forgone some government money, our big project was funded much better than the city average. The average park project within Toronto was given about $400,000. The Lions Park Dome was given quintuple that.

Crime down in Weston

There’s little to fear in Weston.

Toronto Police statistics show that fewer crimes were committed in Weston during the first six months of this year than in the first six months of 2009. Further, crimes have fallen more in Weston than in Toronto as a whole.

There have been fewer murders, sexual assaults, break and enters, and auto thefts so far this year. Thefts over $5000 and robberies are up, however.

In Toronto as a whole, 6.7% fewer crimes were committed than by this time last year. The decline occurred across all categories, too.

While some categories of crime in Weston increased, the total number of crimes declined 10%. Of course, summing the crimes so coarsely is a little disingenuous, since doing so does not take into account their seriousness—we would be willing to tolerate many more auto thefts than murders.

The police statistics do not suggest the cause of the declines.

Crimes to date, 2009 & 2010
Percent change in crime, year over year

Grattan Park reopens

“I’d eat that park for supper”, my three-year-old daughter says. “That park is awesome.”

She’s right. The new-and-improved Grattan Park is really fantastic.  Gone are the teetertotters and vomit comets; now kids have spring-loaded surfboards, 10-foot wobbly nets, and other really cool play structures.

The park was officially reopened tonight, and more than 60 people showed up to see the ribbon cutting and unveiling. Councillor Frances Nunziata, MPP Laura Albanese, and mayoral candidate Rob Ford were there to say a few words and congratulate residents, planners, and municipal employees on the new park.

Kevin Bowser, the Manager of Parks for the western district spoke about the history of the park and the old children’s summer camp that once was in it. Nunziata spoke about how it had taken 15 years to have the park improved, and how it had deteriorated in the meantime.

Interestingly, Albanese mentioned the political distance between the municipality and the province. She said “I know that the province doesn’t always participate. But I’m glad to find out that we are at least participating in some improvements in the area of York-South Weston.”

Typically, Rob Ford kept his eye on the bottom line. “This is where money should be spent”, he said. “This is what I call smart spending”.

Man arrested for carrying loaded gun in Weston

Toronto Police are reporting that they arrested a man carrying a loaded pistol in the Lawrence and Weston Road area on Thursday.

Sean Wright, 25, was approached by officers who saw him carrying a handgun. He fled but was arrested soon after. There was a struggle during the arrest, and Wright “attempted to remove his handgun”.

Wright has been charged with 11 offenses, including assault, possession of a prohibited firearm, and possession of a firearm while prohibited.

That he has been previously prohibited from possessing a firearm indicates that this was not Wright’s first run-in with the law. He was carrying a Glock 9mm, a powerful, high-quality pistol carried by many police officers.