Nunziata’s response to gun violence

Frances Nunziata spoke to Newstalk 1010 about the recent spike in violence in Weston and Mount Dennis. She blames street gangs and gang-affiliated bars:

Nunziata says street gangs are a problem in the neighbourhoods she’s responsible for and so are the bars they hang out in.

She’d like authorities to do more to clamp down on bars that attract and allow illegal activity and the people involved.

Nunziata has long loathed after-hours bars in Weston and has fought against them for more than a decade.

Gaeta Farms ejected from Farmers’ Market

Gaeta Farms has been ejected from the Weston Farmers’ market, which is causing great concern and may have serious repercussions.

Gaeta Farms has been an anchor tenant since the market began  38 years ago. The farm posted on their website this weekend that they had been told they had breached the code of conduct and would no longer be welcome. They dispute this:

Breaching the code of conduct they say: My dad has always loved this market, this is where we started. His voice is for the market and what’s best for all farmers and the other vendors who attend, he wants this market to succeed. Is his voice too loud? The community needs to know that the board is giving the farmers a hard time with the move to the new location next year, which doesn’t give us enough space to operate safely. His voice is sticking up for us farmers.

In an email, Sabrina Gaeta, Joe’s daughter, said the issue goes back three years.  “Vendors have left, customers are no longer attending and nothing is being done to promote the market or address the issue that we have less vendors year after year.”

Next year’s  move to John Street has also been very contentious. Sabrina Gaeta says that vendors do not want to move to the John Street location because the space is not big enough. She also says they have not been supported by the BIA.

The Gaetas say the new John Street location will be too small for all the vendors and their wares, and cannot be used safely with the trucks and loading that needs to be done.

Losing Gaeta Farms may have serious repercussions for the market. Several people have told me that an inspector came on Saturday and found the market had too few vendors to qualify as a farmers’ market. This appears to mean it will be downgraded to a flea market.

I’ve emailed Frances Nunziata and the BIA, but I haven’t yet heard back.

Sabrina Gaeta said, in closing:

After 38 years my dad just wants to retire peacefully from the market and move on to spend time with his grandchildren. He doesn’t want me to pursue this, but the community needs to know how unfair we were treated. Out staff lost their jobs on Saturday, income they rely on. What hurt us the most: they took away the opportunity to say goodbye to the community, our customers who have become friends. We deserve the right to say goodbye.

 

Nunziata blames distracted pedestrians for getting killed

City Council voted unanimously this week to adopt the Vision Zero 2.0 program, which aims to end pedestrian deaths in Toronto. Version 1.0 was, at best, only partially successful: 47 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in Toronto in 2018, two more than in 2017.

The 2.0 plan will “reduce speed limits on dozens of arterial roads across Toronto, install more sidewalks and implement more pedestrian head-start signals, among other measures”.

Frances Nunziata acknowledged the challenges councillors face: “it’s just constantly people wanting traffic calming, speed humps, they want stop signs, they want lights, because it’s really an issue throughout this city.” And Nunziata has been very good about getting speed humps and slowing traffic. Her office has also been working on a cycling plan for the ward.

However, in discussion, she blamed distracted cyclists and pedestrians for their own deaths.

I think it’s important that pedestrians are educated as well, when they’re crossing the street and cyclists as well. You see so many pedestrians crossing the street at an intersection, texting on their phone, talking on their phone, with their earphones, and they’re walking across the street, red light, or they’re not even crossing at an intersection, and that’s very dangerous  as well. And you know, continues to happen, and you know, I know a few years ago, I put a motion through that they should be fined. The province did not support that at that time, but if you… a lot more of them are not paying attention to the roads, the pedestrians, and I think there’s a lot of fatalities as well because there’s no education and they’re not paying attention and the cyclists as well, when they’ve got the earphones, and they’re not hearing, and  they’re not paying attention the road safety. So I think it’s not just for the motorists, it’s for the pedestrians, the cyclists, all of us have to share in making our streets safer.


In 2016, Nunziata asked the province to ticket distracted pedestrians, an idea that was quickly shot down.  She has also called for cyclists to be licensed, an idea proven to be terrible.

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.