WVRA hosts AGM in Weston Hub

On Tuesday May 14, the Weston Village Residents’ Association held its annual general meeting inside the new Weston Hub. The Hub interior still needs some final touches but is essentially complete. Landscaping is a work in progress but it’s coming along nicely and will be ready for next year. The official opening is on May 25th and 26th.

WVRA Chair Dave Bennett opened by talking about some of the ‘heat’ encountered when the Hub was proposed. This was later echoed by Councillor Nunziata.

For some warm reading go here, here, here and here.

You’re welcome Dave and Frances.

This area will house the Farmers Market next year. (click to enlarge).
Landscaping work has been done at the Hub entrance. Note the bridge connecting the multi-storey parking lot to the rental building.

The new space easily accommodated the 50+ people in attendance. LoriAnn Givran from Artscape, talked about the new facilities, Marlene Mackintosh from UrbanArts and Michael Kelly from Shakespeare in Action introduced themselves and the programs that they offer.

The highlight of the evening was to be a presentation from former Toronto Chief Planner Paul Bedford but because of illness, Mr. Bedford was absent but ably represented by colleague and Urban Lands Institute Executive Director Richard Joy. The presentation dealt with the ULI Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) Report tabled last August.

From the TAP report (Click to enlarge).

Richard dealt with the five big ideas from the report, namely,

  • Promote and plan Weston as a riverfront community
  • Market Weston as an affordable commercial and residential location for airport workers
  • Bring a brewery to Weston
  • Build partnerships with Universities and Colleges
  • Establish a co-op grocery store.

Later, Councillor Frances Nunziata spoke and talked about local issues including the upcoming paving of Weston Road and widening of sidewalks in the stretch between Lawrence and Little Avenue.

Sidewalks along this stretch of Weston Road are being widened.
Sidewalks along this stretch of Weston Road are not being widened. Go figure.

During the break, some mouth-watering goodies were available (well done Suri) and attendees enjoyed a tour of the new facilities.

A conference room.
One of the two large event rooms.
The lobby of the Weston Hub; WVRA Chair Dave Bennett (3rd from R) talks to residents.
The lobby – entranceway.
Michael Kelly of Shakespeare In Action speaks to the audience in the main presentation space.

Some aspiring politicians were in attendance including Yafet Tewelde and Chiara Padovani.

Chiara Padovani and brand new WVRA member Ryan Demchuk chat during the break.

It was a busy evening with lots of information – to hear a recording of the full meeting click the two links below:

Audio Part 1

Audio Part 2

Council to ask AGCO to yank licences after shootings

City Council will ask the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to pull the liquor licences of establishments that have “been the scene of gun violence or where patrons have been in the possession of handguns or where the police have found handguns on the premises”.

Frances Nunziata said that his measure is necessary because

They’re open all night, it turns into a booze can or it turns into an after hours club, and they party on the streets and the next thing you know there’s guns and there’s gun violence….

They suspend their license for two or three weeks, and then they reopen….

People are afraid to walk down the street when they have that amount of violence.

Start video at 1:24:00 if it doesn’t do so automatically.

I’m pretty sure none of this is true. I come home pretty late on Friday nights, and I often ride my bike from strangling class. Of course, I’m not everywhere all the time, but I’ve never once seen a party on the streets. (Nor have I seen guns or gun violence).

The data, such as they are, back me up. There have been two shootings in Weston in 2019. Neither happened after hours. One happened in broad daylight, outside a convenience store—perhaps we could pull their lottery-tickets?

Nunziata’s efforts to clamp down on gun violence should be applauded. But this is neither a real effort nor clamping down. It’s a waste of time.

Worse, it’s an embarrassing slander against our town. Nobody wants to live in a place like she describes—but her riding is nothing like she describes it.

If Nunziata were serious about preventing crime and keeping kids safe, she could have funded after-school programs at libraries.

 

Nunziata votes against youth hubs

Frances Nunziata voted against building 18 youth hubs, including one in Mount Dennis, at City Council this week.

Library
Image from torontopubliclibrary.ca

The hubs already run at 10 libraries across the city. Each costs about $130,000 a year. Included are a dedicated staff member, and “laptops, iPads, MacBooks, digital cameras, DJ equipment, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, gaming equipment (PlayStation, Xbox and Wii), board games, and more!”

They offer homework and employment help, workshops, and a place to de-stress.

According to The Star:

“The youth spaces that exist now have proven to be wildly popular.

A briefing note released by library staff earlier this year showed the number of visits to its youth hubs nearly doubled from 2016. That bump, staff said, is because new hubs became available — meaning the more youth hubs the city built, the more youth showed up.

A 2016 survey of participants found more than 70 per cent felt the program increased their feeling of safety and that they felt comfortable asking staff for help, the briefing note says.”

City Staff developed the plan for 20 new spaces in 2018, a year of record shootings.

The annual Toronto Police budget, by way of comparison, is about $1 billion. The cost of repairing the Gardiner will be about $2.3 billion.

Torontonians pay the second-lowest taxes in the GTA. The average residential tax bill in Toronto was $3906 in 2018; across the GTA it was $4773.

Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.

If Doug Ford hadn’t screwed everything up, this would be an easy choice. But he did, and now it isn’t.

For the first time I can remember, we are spoiled for choice in York South-Weston. We have four strong contenders, and three of them are worthy choices.

The recent amalgamation of the ward brought Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata into close combat. Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye are attacking their left flanks.

Me, I’m going to vote for Lekan Olawoye. I won’t pretend I have good reasons for doing so, though.

I came to this conclusion slowly—although I was able to eliminate most of the candidates quickly. I started by zapping the outside-chance contenders; I’m sure most of them are fine people, but their relative absence and small chances in this high-stakes race make them non-starters for me.

Frank Di Giorgio was next to go. He is too conservative and was too close to Rob Ford. He votes against Toronto’s interests. He attends council meetings infrequently—and opposes bike lanes—and that alone is a deal-breaker for me.

That leaves three: Nunziata, Olawoye, and Padovani.

I like Frances Nunziata, as a rule. She is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she calls you back. She fixes problems, and she’s given her riding endless hours of underpaid service. Finally, she is an excellent tactician.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Weston has fallen on harder times under her leadership. Certainly, most of these problems are not of her making—she’s subject to decisions made above her pay grade, just like the rest of us. I think, however, that with different leadership, things might have been better. That’s because she is not an excellent strategist.

Take payday loan shops, just as an index of what I’m talking about. We have too many, and they have dubious social value. I think the job they do would be better done by our oligopoly of banks, which enjoy one side of a social contract but are allowed to ignore the other: they get a government guarantee but shirk the social responsibility. Banks are allowed to close, leaving low-income and low-mobility clients (often one and the same) in the hands of high-interest lenders.

I know Frances can’t do much about closing banks. That’s for our provincial and federal masters to tackle. But she could have made Weston, bit by bit, an environment that banks don’t want to leave, with improved streetscapes, better local businesses, and improved transit. She’s been working on these, lately, but too lately for me.

Of course, it’s not about payday loans; it’s about all the things like them—the small, strategic failures that have let Weston down. What happened the long-promised college campus? The Humber River Trail link? St John the Evangelist? Buses on Jane? All are long-term projects; none have happened. Strategy.

That leaves Padovani and Olawoye.

Lekan and Chiara are too close ideologically to fit a card between. I went so far as to create a spreadsheet, and if I recall correctly, Padovani doesn’t have a parks plan but she does want the city to tackle climate change, while Olawoye has a parks plan but says nothing about climate change. Or vice versa.

It really doesn’t matter, because I can’t imagine Lekan (or Chiara) being against the climate or parks.

So, with two equally good candidates, I would normally back the one most likely to win. It seemed, for a moment, that Chiara was in that position. Then it emerged that Lekan had been left off the poll. And Lekan had a handy lead last time… and the polls have been showing wild swings anyway, which is understandable given how small the sample is. Finally, neither Olawoye nor Padovani is likely to defeat Nunziata. So who knows?

That leaves, as far as I can tell, character. Argh. What, really, do I know about character? Nothing.

My interactions with Lekan and Chiara have been vanishingly brief, and both left me with the impression that they were excellent, principled, hard-working and ambitious people. We are lucky to have them volunteering for such a lousy job.

So I’m left peering at the sediments, trying to divine some worthy grounds on which to make a decision.

Here’s what it comes down to: I like Lekan a little more. He seems more grounded, more open, and less partisan. He seems a  little less certain, and I like that. He’s been in the community, working hard, for longer, and he’s had tough positions at MaRS downtown. I like that too.

With so little to distinguish excellent candidates, that’s all I have to work with. We can blame Doug Ford for that—it was not supposed to be like this.

Unless we’re wrong!

Lekan Olawoye issued a press release saying that he was not included on a recent poll of York South–Weston residents. The poll, by Forum Research, showed Chiara Padovani pulling even with Di Giorgio, and Nunziata’s lead slipping.

The published results include long-shot candidates Fred Fosu (4%) and Deeqa Barre (3%), but make no mention of Lekan Olawoye, who almost certainly polls much higher. It certainly seems like he was not included in the survey.

In related news, Frances Nunziata says that she responded to CycleToronto’s survey, but that her results were not included in the published results. CycleToronto said she did not respond.

In Nunziata’s defense, she has been an advocate for cycling of late, and created a pedestrian and cycling committee for the ward.

Padovani support surges

At the end of September, a Mainstreet poll found Incumbent councillor Frances Nunziata with 40% of the vote, fellow incumbent Frank Di Giorgio was at 30%, Lekan Olawoye at 7.2 and Chiara Padovani at 3.8.

In the latest Forum poll, Nunziata has kept her commanding lead over other candidates with 39% but Padovani has built support considerably to 20% with Di Giorgio’s support slumping to 19%.  The margin of error would mean that Padovani and Di Giorgio are in a virtual tie for now.

Padovani’s campaign manager, Riley Peterson told me today that she believes the surge in her candidate’s support comes as a result of intense organizing and canvassing.

The Forum poll is several days old so there is a chance for things to change over the last few days before Election Day on Monday 22nd. It remains to be seen whether Padovani can continue to pick up support from people who want to see change in Ward 5. On voting day it will also be important to persuade people to make the effort to vote. In 2014, nearly half of voters stayed home in what is now Ward 5.

Ms. Padovani should also hope for fair weather – apparently, bad weather favours incumbents. Monday’s weather looks to be partly sunny with a chance of showers.

In other Ward 5 news, Cycle Toronto has released the results of a questionnaire regarding cycling in York South-Weston (Ward 5). Only one candidate bothered to respond to the survey – Chiara Padovani.

Click to enlarge.

Nunziata protests unaffordable housing.

From CTV.

Councillor Frances Nunziata joined an ACORN protest march along Weston Road yesterday protesting against the high cost of housing in Weston. If only she could get the local councillor and the Mayor to do something.

For more, see this CTV news report. The item begins at 09:40.